(The war is over, An absence of news, Worries abound, and Kindness from others)
Iris was away at tea with the Pembrookes when the next telegram arrived from Egypt. Mrs Cambridge saved it for her, of course. Another simple message.
Becile defeated. Assisting Babclock in cleanup, rebuilding. Coming back soon.
Infuriatingly absent of any heartening information. Such as whether his children had survived the battle, or how well he had fared. Or if the generic, factory robots had performed as well as their custom-made siblings. Or if he'd been hurt. Or if he was well. Or if he was lonely. Or if he had thought of her at all.
She would have to have a word with Peter about putting important things in his messages. If he survived the return voyage across the Atlantic. If he wasn't already wounded.
The Admiral's words worried her. He could already be suffering an infection. Already be dying. Iris was glad that nobody could see her crying at that thought. He could... He could have found another lover on foreign soil. Someone far more socially acceptable than an Irish maid who had disgraced herself.
She'd be brilliant, of course. Smarter than Iris in every way. More capable and caring enough to woo even the children away from her arms.
The nausea she felt surely had more to do with that sorry fantasy than anything else. Didn't it? And her easy exhaustion was simply from worry. Wasn't it?
The married women of the manor plied her with little cures. Things that helped them in their sickness. Hardly anything worked. And if it did, it didn't do so for very long.
Worry was the diagnosis. For all her subtlety, it was hard for any of the other maids to miss her open affection for Peter. They often accused her of fretting a hole in the floor. And, hearteningly, they did all they could to keep her distracted.
A thin, but necessary balm.
For weeks, she waited for further news. Wishing she had Rabbit or The Spine’s knack for knowing where the other sibling was or what they were feeling. Wishing she could do so with Peter. To know if he was well. To know if he was safe.
But no such knowledge came.