A Victorian Legacy - Chapter 23.2 Time Marches On
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A Victorian Legacy - Chapter 23.2 Time Marches On

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Chapter 23.2 of my Victorian Legacy in which there are teenagers and music and a letter.

Chapter 23.2 of my Victorian Legacy in which there are teenagers and music and a letter.

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    A Victorian Legacy - Chapter 23.2 Time Marches On A Victorian Legacy - Chapter 23.2 Time Marches On Presentation Transcript

    • Hello all and welcome to chapter 23.2 of my Victorian Legacy. I admit, I was planning on having this chapter out sooner, but I realised that I needed to do quite a lot of building in preparation for the next chapter and so did that instead. Anyway, as always, I recommend that you read the previous chapters to avoid being incredibly confused by what is going on. As a very quick reminder, the last chapter saw Alexandra’s family completed when her and Anthony adopted Zane Devereaux, Vicky revealed that not everything was right with her marriage, the Harrison children met up with some old friends, William and Beth passed away leaving the family to face life without the two people who had lead them for so long, and Eddie and Carmen’s daughter became a musically precocious toddler. There, I think that’s all there was to it, let’s see how things are progressing in the main house now.
    • The music room of 1 King’s Square, always the most light and airy room of the house, basked in the spring sunshine as Eddie practised one of the pieces the conductor of the Simdon Symphony orchestra had handed out the night before. It wasn’t an especially difficult piece, but it was one he was unfamiliar with, and thus he was concentrating so hard, he didn’t realise that his daughter had crept through the open door, and was sitting on the carpet, listening to him. As he started to play a faster passage, Emmi clapped her hands excitedly and started to bounce on the spot. At the new noise, Eddie stopped playing and looked down at his daughter. He gave a wry smile as she started to pout at the silence. “Hello Emmi. Are you enjoying the music Papa is playing?”
    • Her face split into a wide grin and she started to jabber away at her father, conveying to him exactly how much she liked it, without using one understandable word of either Simlish or Takemizu. As Eddie stood there smiling down at her, he was struck by a thought. “Emmi, stay here for a minute, Papa is just going to fetch something for you.” He hurried out of the room, ignoring the way her little face fell, as she watched him go.
    • He returned in less than a minute with her glockenspiel and placed it in front of her, chuckling when she made grabby motions with her hands at the sight of the mallet. As soon as she had the mallet in her hand, she brought it down on three plates, repeating, as close as the little instrument would allow, the last three notes her father had played. Smiling, Eddie left her banging away, picked up his violin, and started to play a nursery rhyme. After a brief pause, Emina started to play along with her father, her enthusiasm making up for the fact that her instrument didn’t have all the notes she needed.
    • Eddie wasn’t the only one of the family who was finding their planned activity suddenly disrupted by the youngest member of the household. Having quickly overcome his initial doubts and fears about having another younger sibling, Bertie had found himself charmed by his little sister, and unable to deny her anything, even if he was meant to be doing something else when she made it clear she wanted him to read her a story.
    • Carmen spent her time with her daughter, playing or teaching her how to walk and talk. She met with varying degrees of success, depending on the mood Emmi was in.
    • As for Stuart, he never complained if he had to look after Emmi, and in fact looked forward to his time with his baby sister.
    • Even Sally and Billy’s puppy was not entirely averse to the times Emina wanted a cuddle from him in spite of the fact that her hands were often sticky, and she liked to shower him with kisses which made him all wet.
    • As the months went on, Bertie and Stuart soon found that the best time to concentrate on their studies was when Emmi was being occupied by one of their parents, or napping. It was one such afternoon that Bertie found himself staring at the figures in front of him, trying and failing to make sense of them. This was happening more and more, and he wasn’t sure he liked it. Finally tiring of tapping his pen on the page in the hope that it would help him to focus, he sighed and turned to his brother who was sitting doing his assignment on the floor. “Stuart?”
    • “Bertie.” Replied Stuart, his pen flying across the page as he worked out the answer to the calculation in the question.
    • “I appear to be having a little trouble with my assignment tonight.” “Oh?” Replied Stuart. “Yes. I cannot quite remember what it was Ol’ Snood said about geometry yesterday and therefore I am having difficulty working out this calculation.” “Well, if you will spend so much of your time thinking about football, and not paying attention in class.” Replied Stuart jokingly. “I am the captain of the team; it is my duty to think about the team and how I can get the best out of my fellow players. Anyway, that is besides the point. I think I would have difficulty with this, even if I could not kick a ball to save my life.”
    • “Bertie, I am three years below you, your assignment will be at a level far above my own.” Pointed out Stuart. “I highly doubt that since you understand mathematics far better than I do. I am not asking you to tell me the answer, but if you could perhaps point me in the correct direction so that I can calculate the answer myself.” Stuart scratched at his head with the end of his pen. Both of the brothers knew that he would help Bertie. It was what he’s always done, and what he always would do, and truth be told, despite the frustration he increasingly felt, Stuart didn’t really mind. All he wanted was for his brother to be the best he could be, and if that meant Stuart had to encourage Bertie to push his boundaries, or show him how to do something, that is what Stuart would do. “Very well,” he said eventually. “I will have a look once I have finished my own equation.” “Thank you Stuart. I do not know what I would do without your help.” Stuart just grunted non-committedly as he worked on the next part of the question he was in the middle of.
    • That night as Carmen and Eddie were talking before retiring for the night, she brought up a subject that had been on her mind since Emmi had celebrated her birthday. “Dearest Eddie, now that our beloved is growing up, my thoughts have turned to the fact that I would quite like to have another child.” She looked at her husband, waiting to see how he would respond.
    • “You would like another baby?” He asked surprised. “Yes. Do you not want another child? You believe three to be enough?” Asked Carmen quietly.
    • Eddie pulled her close. “My darling, I would love to have another child with you.” His hand slid down her shoulder. “Besides, I certainly can think of no objections to trying for another. Can you?” She kissed his cheek and snuggled closer. “None whatsoever anata.”
    • Afterwards, as always, Eddie held Carmen close and kissed her forehead gently. He loved her so much, and still had difficulty believing she was his wife. She was so, so different to Marielle, not least in the fact that she wanted to be physically intimate with him, and didn’t turn her back on him afterwards. “I love you.” He whispered. “I love you too.” She answered back, before turning her head to kiss his chest. “I love you so very, very much.” Each word was punctuated with a kiss as she worked her way across his chest. ***
    • It was a sunny Saturday morning in Simdon, and Alexandra was just making her way to the dining room to make sure that all of the breakfast things had been cleared away. As she passed down the corridor leading to the room, she saw Anthony there, playing with their youngest son. She watched for a little while, a fond smile on her face, before she said, “you do realise Anthony, that it is probably not wise to keep Mickey sitting on the cold tile floor for long.” Anthony looked up and grinned. “Mickey is fine, are you not?” Mickey giggled and responded “yes Papa.” “Besides, my darling, it is not as if I have not had any experience with raising a child. We do have six of them.” Alexandra grinned, her husband had a point after all. “Oh, there is a letter for you from David and Christopher’s school. I have left it in your study.” She said, sweeping past. “Thank you my dear. I wonder what your brother has been up to now Mickey?” Mused Anthony.
    • Alexandra didn’t hear him, but she had been wondering the same, ever since she had seen the school crest on the envelope. Her eldest son was always ending up in some sort of mischief, but, she reflected, she would not have him any other way. In fact, she was proud of and loved all five of her children, even when she had to reprimand them for some misdemeanour, or tell them to watch their attitude. She loved Zane as if he were her own too, but she took care not to press her affections on him. Her mother’s intuition told her it would not be a prudent thing to do just yet.
    • The subject of her thoughts, was at that exact moment, knocking on the door of his oldest adoptive brother. “Come in.” Called Christopher through the door. “Oh hello Zane.” “Hello, I was wondering...what is that you are painting?” Asked Zane, forgetting all about his lost socks when he spotted the painting Christopher was working on, and the colour sketches laying on the floor by the easel.
    • “My final art project.” Replied Christopher, putting his paint brush down. “I call it Cerulean Anteater at Rest. Do you like it?”
    • “I do.” Said Zane smiling. “It is very bright and colourful. How did you know how to paint it so that it looks so lifelike when anteaters aren’t normally cerulean.”
    • “Hmm,” said Christopher, thinking. “I suppose I could tell you, but you have to promise to keep it a secret and not tell anyone, not even Mama and Papa.” He paused. “Especially Mama and Papa.”
    • Zane looked up at Christopher, his eyes wide. He didn’t think anyone had ever confided in him before, and yet here was Christopher asking him to keep a secret from everyone, even Mr and Mrs Smith. It made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. He nodded. “I can keep a secret.”
    • Christopher smiled. “Good, I knew I could count on you.” At these words, the warm fuzzy feeling in Zane’s stomach intensified. “Well, you see, the biology department at St George’s Public School has several stuffed specimens of different animals, including an anteater. Of course, it was not the correct colour for my painting, so my friends and I, snuck into the biology lab and...dyed it the correct shade of cerulean.” “You dyed it blue? Won’t the school masters be cross?” “Oh they were. There was a big hullabaloo about it all when it was discovered, but of course they do not know who did it, and they are not likely to find out.” Replied Christopher laughing. “But,” said Zane slowly, “is this not your final project? Will you not have to show it to your art master in order to get credit and pass your exam?”
    • Christopher’s face fell. “Bugger. I had not thought of that, and it is too late to begin a new project.” “Sorry.” Said Zane twisting his fingers together. “Do not be, you cannot be blamed for my lack of foresight. Oh well, I guess I will just have to take the blame for it when the time comes. If you could still refrain from informing Mama and Papa about this, I would be grateful.” Zane nodded before heading out of the room. Christopher had asked him to keep a secret, and that is exactly what he was going to do.
    • Not fifteen minutes later, Alexandra pushed the door to the morning room open and smiled at the little boy who shot up from the settee and stood to attention before her. She glided over to him.
    • “There you are Zane. You left the breakfast table before I was able to talk to you this morning.” Zane’s eyes clouded for a moment, before his mouth stretched into a wide grin. “You. you wished to speak to me?” He started to twist his fingers together as he spoke. “I did Zane yes,” She sat down on the settee and patted the seat next to her. Obediently Zane sat, his grin never leaving his face.
    • “As you are aware, Christopher will be leaving for university in a couple of months, meaning that there will be an empty bedroom. Would you like it?” Alexandra smiled kindly down at Zane as she spoke.
    • Zane’s grin grew even wider and he continued twisting his fingers together. “I don’t want to be a bother.” he said quietly.
    • “It is no bother. The room will be empty, and I am certain that David would prefer to remain in the room you currently share with him.” She looked at Zane, smiling encouragingly. He continued to stare into space, grin still firmly in place, and his fingers twisting together as they rested on his lap. Alexandra sighed inwardly. Zane had been living with them for nearly eight months now, and all her attempts to draw him out of himself and make him feel comfortable in their home, had fallen flat. He always retreated behind a grin that was far too wide and didn’t reach his eyes, all the while twisting and steepling his fingers. She was about to break the silence, when he nodded and said quietly. “If I’m not going to be a bother, I will move into the room.”
    • Alexandra smiled. “I am glad to hear that. Since Christopher has defaced the wall with his drawings, it will have to be repainted, and papered. White wash is so boring, do you not agree, so I would like to know what colour you would prefer the room to be. Your favourite colour perhaps would be nice.” As Zane opened his mouth to reply, Alexandra expected to hear the phrase “I don’t want to be a bother” again, but he surprised her by uttering “why?” “Because this is your home now Zane, and Mr Smith and I want you to be happy and comfortable here.”
    • “But why? I don’t deserve it!” Zane’s eyes widened in shock at the words he had just uttered. Words he had long though, but kept buried from everyone.
    • “Oh Zane.” Said Alexandra quietly. “Is that what you think? Nothing could be further from the truth.”
    • The compassion in her eyes and kindness in her tone, caused the floodgates to open and Zane found himself telling her all about his life before he had been adopted. As the words tumbled out of his mouth, Alexandra listened in silence. She suddenly understood this little boy a lot more and was glad she had been so patient with him. “When I got home, she had gone! My own momma left me! She told me she was the only one who would ever love me, and she left. What sort of a horrible monster must I be that own mother doesn’t want to stay with me?” This last question came out as a whisper as he looked down at the floor, tears sliding off of his nose.
    • “Zane you are not a monster, far from it. If your mother could not see how wonderful the son she had produced was, then it says more about her own short-sightedness and failings than yours. “You are a lovely, kind boy Zane, by far the nicest and kindest of my children. You deserve to be happy, and we all care for you very deeply. Why, does not Sarah Jane always want you to play with her, and does not David always want to spend time with you? The two of you are always heading to the park to play football or go fishing. I can assure you that they would not want to spend time with you, if they did not like you. As for Mr Smith and myself, we care for, and even love you as much as we do the other children living in this house. That will never change.”
    • Zane nodded slowly, what Alexandra had said about Sarah Jane and David was true, and then there was the fact that Christopher had entrusted him with that secret earlier, and Bethany had asked him to assist her with winding some wool the other day too. He sat in silence as he thought about how the members of the Smith family acted towards him, and how Alexandra had said she loved him.
    • Alexandra sat there next to him, making no move to say anything more. Her patience was rewarded when eventually he said very quietly “blue. I like the colour blue.” Before sliding off of the sofa and heading towards the door of the room.
    • Alexandra watched him go, unable to see the small smile on his face, but knowing that she had made a breakthrough with him. ***
    • Six weeks later, the Smith children, (minus a grounded Christopher and Sarah Jane, but including Mickey who had celebrated his birthday the week before) were gathered in the study of their cousins’ house with Bertie, Stuart and the Harrisons. Although they had been chatting about several different subjects, there was one main topic of conversation. “You are very lucky that the masters of the board school let you form football teams, those at St George’s will not entertain the idea at all.” Said David. “I am envious enough about that fact, never mind the fact that you captained your team to victory over all the other forms Bertie. Well done.” *** The Harrisons are the children of Eddie’s cousin Theo and his wife, the simself of DrSupremeNerd, writer of the Vetinari Dualegacy.
    • Bertie smiled. “Thank you, but I do not deserve...” “You were a brilliant captain Bertie, and are sure to be asked to retain your position next year. Do not even think about denying it.” Interrupted Peter. “There is no way we would have been victorious without your leadership.”
    • “But we would not have won without the rest of the team either.” Pointed out Bertie. “It took all of us to lift that trophy, thus I do not deserve all the praise. I did what I could, but you and Andrew were just as important, as were the other eight players.” “You were the one who inspired us to play to the best of our abilities though.” Replied Andrew.
    • Stuart listened to the conversation as it went back and forth between Bertie and the Harrison twins, a smile on his face. It was true that Bertie had proved to be a fantastic team captain (as Stuart had known he would), and the confidence Bertie had gained in his leadership abilities was something that a delighted Stuart had noticed transferring to other areas of his life too.
    • Zane was also happily listening to the conversation. He had started to settle into his place in the Smith family better since his talk with Alexandra, but he still found himself very pleased when he was asked to join in with his siblings and cousins. It didn’t matter to him what they were talking about, what mattered was that they wanted to talk about it with him in the group.
    • Eventually the conversation moved onto the next big event happening in their lives. “Are you and Christopher ready to move to Simbridge?” Asked Andrew, referring to the fact that Bethany and Christopher were about to leave Simdon for the Acadamie and university. “I personally cannot wait until next year when Peter and I will start.” “That is because you are at the top of all your science classes and arithmetic.” Said Celly. “You are bored because the school is not teaching you anything more complex.” “This is very true, but with our parents, is it any wonder I excel at science. Peter is no slouch either, and I am willing to bet that you could find your way around the periodic table if given half the chance.” “Of course I could. The thing is ridiculously simple to understand and I believe that if I wished to be a bluestocking and study chemistry, I would find the subject just as easy as you do. However, I do not. I am content to dazzle people unexpectedly with my knowledge if the occasion should ever arise.” She smiled brilliantly at the group “But I fear we are veering off topic.” She continued. “Bethany are you ready to leave for the Acadamie?”
    • Bethany smiled. “I am. I realise that it is going to be very different living at the Acadmie, as opposed to home, but I am looking forward to broadening my horizons and meeting new people. As for Christopher, I know he is looking forward to getting out from under Mama and Papa’s watchful eye. They have not forgotten the incident with the stuffed anteater, and although Papa could easily afford to pay for a replacement, they do keep bringing the subject up at opportune moments, and Christopher is still not allowed out of the house.”
    • “He does have the most rotten luck at times.” Said Bertie, just as Sarah Jane entered the study. “As usual it is his own fault.” Bethany replied. “He forgot that he would have to turn the painting in to be marked, so of course, despite his protest that he painted the anteater after it had been dyed and had not been involved, the masters knew he was the one who vandalised it.” She paused as she noticed her sister standing there. “Hello Sarah Jane, did you need something?” “Mama sent me to fetch you. It is time for us to go home.” She replied. “But I am certain we will see Bertie and Stuart next weekend for my birthday and Bethany and Christopher’s going away. You will come, will you not?” The tone of voice she asked the question in, told the room that she would be most displeased if they declined to be present for her birthday, and so, as they got up from the floor where they had been sitting, both Legacy boys promised her that they would be there. Satisfied with the promises, Sarah Jane led them all out of the room, so that the Smiths could take their leave for the night. ***
    • The next weekend, as promised, Bertie, Stuart, Eddie and Carmen arrived at the Smiths’ townhouse in Simdon for Sarah Jane’s birthday. As she looked around at her extended family, Sarah Jane couldn’t help but feel extremely pleased that so many were there to witness her become a teenager, now if only they would give her their undivided attention. Giving a small cough, and raising her voice slightly, she called to the room “a-hem I am about to blow out the candles on the cake, and so you should all be giving me your undivided attention.”
    • The announcement had the desired effect, and soon everyone was gathered around, watching her as she blew out the candles. What she didn’t notice was the way Eddie had raised his eyebrows at her demand. He couldn’t help but be reminded of his oldest sister as a teenager. Alexandra had once spoken with that exact same tone, demanding that she be the centre of attention. He stole a glance at his sister and her husband. She had long ago started to put others before herself, but he hoped that his niece wouldn't have to go through what her mother had, in order to learn the same lessons. As everyone clapped and cheered, he tried to put such thoughts out of his head and focus instead on how happy his niece was as she became a teenager.
    • The very first thing Sarah Jane did after growing up, was look down at her dress and declare that neither that, nor her hairstyle were suitable now that she was a young lady. The second thing was rush from the room in order to fix it. When she returned, with her hair newly styled, and wearing the dress Alexandra had had made for her, everyone agreed that Sarah Jane looked every inch the lady. *** Sarah Jane rolled Fortune, and has the LTW to become a business tycoon, which won’t be happening.
    • Following her return, there was cake, and singing and dancing around the piano in the drawing room, but the party soon came to a close. A carriage was due to arrive at half past eight, to take Bethany and Christopher to Simbridge, and so Eddie and his family took their leave early in order to give the Smiths time for farewells. This was not something that particularly pleased Sarah Jane, but that her older siblings had prolonged their departure in order to be present for her party. As the clock ticked round to quarter past eight, the family could be found in the hall, a pile of trunks stacked by the front door. “Take care Bethany, write as soon as you can.” Said Anthony, hugging his daughter tight. “I will do Papa, I promise.” Replied Bethany, surprised at the tears threatening to fall. She hadn’t thought that she would get this emotional about leaving home, after all it was not as if she was going far, or was never going to see her family again.
    • Alexandra, meanwhile was talking to Christopher. “Christopher, please try to keep out of mischief at university. Your father and I will be most disappointed if we have to hear that you have been expelled from the institution.”
    • “Mother, I am sure I have no idea what you mean.” Replied Christopher, with a cheeky grin. Alexandra sighed, knowing full well he did fully understand what she had just said. “All I ask is that you do your best, make friends and try not to dye any more animals striking colours.” Christopher surprised her by hugging her. “I will endeavour to do my very best Mama. The last thing I want to ever do, is disappoint you and Papa.”
    • After Bethany apologised to Sarah Jane for the fact that she had had to cut her birthday party short, the twins bid the rest of their siblings farewell and settled down to wait for the carriage.
    • They didn’t have to wait long, and, with one final goodbye and, on Bethany’s part at least, promises to write lots of letters, the twins set out for the Acadamie and New Simbridge university. ***
    • The fact that his oldest cousins were now at finishing school and university, made Bertie very aware of the fact that he did not have long before he would be expected to join them. He had therefore redoubled his efforts with his schoolwork and quickly found a way to balance the demands of his studies with those of his sporting commitments. One evening, as he was exiting the study having completed his essays for the next day, he was surprised to see his father and kasan sitting on the drawing room settee. Normally both were kept busy during the evening, practising for the orchestra, or looking after his sister. They looked up and smiled at him as they heard his step on the floorboards. “Ah Bertie, we have been waiting for you.” Said Eddie. “There is something I wish to discuss with you. Please, sit.” He pointed to the wingback chair next to himself and waited for Bertie to sit. “Yes Papa. What did you wish to discuss?” Asked Bertie as he made himself comfortable.
    • “Bertie, you do not have long before you are due to leave for New Simbridge. When you return from university, you will be expected to take over from me as head of the family.” Bertie nodded slowly at this. It was not something he liked to spend his time dwelling on. “I therefore feel,” continued Eddie, oblivious to his son’s hesitancy over the heriship, “that it is high time I started to consult with you over decisions I have to make with regards to the family, and ask you for your honest opinion.” Bertie nodded again. “I will of course respond honestly Papa.” Eddie smiled. “Thank you Bertie. There is something I have been considering for a little while now, and I would like to hear what you think about it. It concerns your grandfather’s shops, or rather one shop, Beth’s Boutique. It is true that business has started to wane there of late, and, before he passed away, your grandfather confided in me that he was distressed about how the part of Simdon it is in, has deteriorated since he opened the shop. I am therefore considering moving premises. You enjoy working in the shops, and I was wondering what you think about opening a new shop in a different area of the city.”
    • Bertie thought about what his father had said for a moment, before smiling broadly. “I think that that is a very good idea Papa. I am sure that you can find a suitable property elsewhere in the city, and that it will revitalise the business. In fact, perhaps you could introduce a new range of fabrics and patterns to coincide with the move, or some sort of opening offer.” Bertie’s grin grew even wider as he started to see more and more possibilities that moving to new premises would open up, and the sort of things his father could do to promote the shop in its new location.
    • “I am very happy to see that you are so enthusiastic Bertie.” Said Eddie. “I have yet to engage a property agent, or start to make more than preliminary enquiries, but would you care to join me viewing possible premises when I start to do so?” “I...yes Papa I would.” Replied Bertie, inordinately pleased by Eddie’s suggestion. It was nice to be valued by his father he decided.
    • Having spent a bit more time talking to Eddie about what sort of location he was thinking about for the shop, and sharing some of his own ideas, Bertie decided to retire to bed. Unfortunately as soon as he got in bed, all he could hear was the ding, ding, ding of Emmi playing her glockenspiel. With a sigh, he got out of bed and made his way to the nursery next door. There, sitting in the middle of the floor, was his little sister, playing away without a care in the world.
    • He picked her up, ignoring how she squirmed and tried to make him put her back down. “I am sorry Emmi, but it is time for sleep now. You can play more tomorrow.” “No!” Emmi shook her head and screwed up her face. “I want to play now!” “Well you cannot. It is bath and bedtime now.” Replied Bertie as he took her out of the room for her bath.
    • It was a rather messy bath time, with Emmi continuing to show her displeasure at being taken away from her favourite toy, and so it was a rather damp Bertie who finally got her into her nightdress and took her back to the nursery “No sleep!” She protested as he lowered her into the cot.
    • “Yes, sleep.” He said, bending down to kiss her, noting how her eyelids were starting to droop, despite her protests. “I promise that you can play with the glockenspiel when you wake up.” “Promise?” “I promise.”
    • Bertie had stood watch over Emmi for a short while as she had drifted off to sleep, before making his way to his own bed, where he soon succumbed to a dreamless sleep.
    • The clock had not yet struck four when Emmi roused from her sleep. As she yawned and stretched, she looked around expectantly. There was usually someone about to let her out of her cot when she woke, and Bertie had promised her that after she had slept, she could play her music.
    • She frowned as it became more and more obvious that no one was going to suddenly appear and let her out. She pulled herself to her feet using the top bar of the gate and let out a shout, and then another, but still she couldn’t hear anyone stirring in the house. In frustration, she started to shake the bars as hard as she could.
    • When the gate suddenly clicked out of its catch and lowered, she nearly toppled head first out of the cot in surprise.
    • Steadying herself, she looked around. No one was coming to let her out, and it didn’t look a long way to the ground at all.
    • Carefully she swung her little leg over the top of the safety gate, and dropped nimbly to the floor.
    • She looked around the room in triumph. She’d done it, and there in the middle of the floor was her glockenspiel. On slightly unsteady legs, she made her way over to it, plonked herself down and started to play. She soon realised that she had found a sure-fire way to make her family come running in the middle of the night. ***
    • Over the next couple of months, Eddie engaged the services of a property agent in Simdon, and started to read the property section of the Times and Telegraph with care, looking to see if anything caught his eye.
    • His list of properties to view soon began to grow, and thus most evenings he was to found in Simdon, often with Bertie in tow if there was no football practice, liaising with property agents and touring different shops. There were some shops, such as the one that was already occupied by a dressmaker, that he found it easy to see the potential in.
    • But there were also others that he knew were completely unsuitable from the moment he stepped over the threshold. Although in no hurry to find a new premises for the boutique, he soon found himself getting despondent as he dismissed potential property after potential property.
    • After another fruitless afternoon, Eddie and his sons found themselves outside the last potential property on his list. “As you can see, this is another shop currently occupied by a dressmaker.” He explained. “I must say that Mr Hopkirk appears to have been very thorough with this property and I was impressed with the file he sent me on it. The location is good, and it is a good size.” Bertie rubbed his chin as he contemplated the shop front. It was certainly in a prime location, near Holy Cross, and there were plenty of other shops around it. “I agree Papa. This is certainly one of the best premises we have seen so far.” Stuart merely looked in the window. As far as he was concerned, it was a shop.
    • Once inside, Bertie looked around, his broad smile matching that of his father’s as they both saw the potential of the place. Stuart meanwhile, looked around slightly bored. As far as he was concerned a shop was a shop was a shop, but then again, he knew that he didn’t enjoy helping out in the shops as much as Bertie did.
    • “What do you think Bertie?” Asked Eddie after they had toured the back rooms. “I think that this is by far the best property we have seen, and I do think that you will be extremely lucky to find better. The location is ideal, the shop floor is a good size, as are the stockroom and the room currently set up by the dressmaker as a workroom. I think you should see if you can buy it.” Replied Bertie after a moment’s pause. “I agree. I intend to call upon Mr Hopkirk as soon as I can tomorrow and see if I can negotiate a good price on it. If I am successful, I fully intend to put in an offer.” Said Eddie before leading his sons back out of the shop.
    • Later that same afternoon, Bertie and Stuart joined the Harrisons, David and Sarah Jane in one of the parks near the Smith house.
    • Bertie was still buoyed by the visit to the shop, and was keen to tell his friends all about it. “Papa and I am very happy with it. It is in a much better location than the current boutique, and should provide ample scope for expansion. Do you not agree Stuart?”
    • Stuart didn’t answer. He hadn’t been listening to a word Bertie had said, instead his attention was directed towards two young ladies walking along the Sierra Street edge of the park. “Stuart, are you listening?” Prodded Bertie. “Hmm?” Stuart started as his brother addressed him again. “I was talking about the shop and how perfect it is.” Said Bertie exasperatedly.
    • “Oh yes. I think you and Papa have made a good decision.” Replied Stuart at last as he watched the two girls continue to walk along the street.. “It is a nice shop, and I am sure that it will be a success.”
    • Bertie had been watching his brother with interest and smirked as he saw Stuart following the girls’ progress. “Yes I am certain it will be. We should also expand our clientele in the new location and, you never know,” he nodded towards the two sisters, “maybe they will be amongst the new customers. I am certain you would like that.” Stuart rolled his eyes. “I do not know what you are talking about.” “Of course you do not.” Bertie’s smirk grew even wider, and he ducked to avoid the tuft of grass Stuart threw at him.
    • “How was your trip to the cemetery with Dean?” Asked Stuart, turning to the Harrison twins and changing the subject. “It could have been more successful.” Admitted Andrew. “We spent all night there, but did not come across anything remotely, oh what was the word Dean used? Supernatural.” Peter grinned. “No, the only thing which made you jump all night was that cat.”
    • Andrew threw his brother a withering look. “The thing walked along the wall I was leaning on, and the tail brushed the back of my neck as it went. I defy you to stay calm, cool and collected when you feel something tickling the back of your neck in the dead of night in the middle of a deserted and silent cemetery.”
    • Celestia laughed. “I highly doubt it was silent with the two of you and Dean crashing around.” She pointed out to snorts from her brothers. “I still contend that you had more chance of coming across a ghost if you had stayed at home.”
    • Sarah Jane listened to the Harrisons bicker and the Legacys interject with a bored expression on her face. She did like spending time with her cousins, but did they have to speak about such boring subjects? And why could they not sit on a bench somewhere? Sitting on the ground was so...undignified.
    • As the subject of the unsuccessful ghost hunt petered out, Celly turned to David. “Have you heard from Bethany or Christopher lately? I received a letter from Bethany about, oh well over a month ago now, but nothing since.”
    • David smiled. “Yes. Christopher very rarely writes or calls, but Bethany writes at least once a week, often more. From what I can gather, both are enjoying their classes.”
    • This was very true. Over the months the twins had been in Simbridge, they had soon adapted to life there. Bethany found herself learning the importance of being able to produce pretty watercolours and operate a sewing machine, as well as competently play the pianoforte and starting to learn the basics of precedence and table planning.
    • Christopher meanwhile, was enjoying his classes enormously, even if he was sometimes unable to believe that he could spend all day painting without any reprisals. He was also enjoying being introduced to new acquaintances.
    • In fact, with their studies and new social lives keeping them busy, Bethany and Christopher often went a week or so without seeing each other. Always used to having her brother close to her, Bethany had suggested that they meet each Saturday afternoon in one of the many tea rooms, if only for an hour, just to catch up. One Saturday, after having tired of waiting in the tea room they had agreed on for well over an hour, Bethany made her way across the town to the Prince William Halls of Residence. As she walked up the steps, she wondered just what has delayed her brother, but she was sure he would be happy to see her anyway.
    • Once inside, however, she started to debate the wisdom of her decision to come to the halls. A couple of the other residents wondered past her, and turned to look at the unheard of sight of a lady in their halls of residence increasing her feeling of wariness. She had no idea where Christopher’s room was located and the thought of wondering the corridors looking for him did not appeal in the slightest.
    • Just as she was contemplating leaving, another student, Ezra Howard exited the drawing room, and stopped dead as his heart skipped a beat. In front of him was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. ‘Breathe Ezra, breathe.’ He chided himself as she turned in his direction. *** Ezra Howard is from Cait (charris) Regacy.
    • Seeing her look at him, he forced his limbs to start responding and walked over to her. “Can I be of assistance miss?” He managed to ask, stunned by the striking combination of her green eyes and ebony skin.
    • Bethany smiled at the very handsome man in front of her as her heart began to pound. “It is very kind of you to offer sir. I made plans to meet my brother for tea, but he did not arrive at the tea room. He is living here this year and I believe he may have become distracted by an art project or some such thing, but want to make sure that all is well with him.”
    • Ezra nodded. “Then perhaps I can see if he is in his room for you. What is his name?”
    • “You are too kind sir, and I will gratefully accept your help if I may. His name is Christopher Smith.” Replied Bethany. Ezra nodded. “Ah yes, I know Mr Smith. If you would like to wait here, I will be back momentarily.” “Thank you sir.”
    • Up in his room, Christopher had indeed become distracted by an art project. He had been on his way out of the door, when he had thought of something to add to one of his current paintings. He had picked up the brush, fully intending to get his idea down and then leave to meet his sister, but had become completely engrossed in the painting and had lost all track of time. When he heard a loud knock at his door, he barely paused as he called out “come in.”
    • Ezra entered the room. “Christopher, there is a young lady who appears to be your sister in the entrance hall. She says you had made plans for this afternoon.” “What is the time then?” Asked Christopher distractedly, still dabbing paint on the canvas. “We are meeting at three.” “It is coming up to half past four.” Christopher turned and looked at Ezra, stunned. “It is? Bugger, I had no idea. Thank you Ezra.” He quickly put his palette and brush on the table next to his easel and hurried out of the room, leaving Ezra to follow him.
    • Christopher hurried down the stairs and allowed himself to be pulled into a hug by his twin. “Bethany, I am so sorry. I became engrossed in a painting I am working on and completely lost track of time. Do forgive me.” “You are forgiven Christopher. I wondered if you were painting, but wanted to be certain that nothing untoward had happened to you.” Replied Bethany.
    • As they broke apart, Christopher noticed that Ezra had followed him downstairs. “Thank you again Ezra.” He said. “You have met Mr Howard?” “We have not been formally introduced.” Responded Bethany. “Indeed we have not.” Agreed Ezra. “In that case, Bethany, may I introduce Mr Ezra Howard, Ezra, this is my sister, Bethany Smith.” “An absolute pleasure to meet you Miss Smith.” Replied Ezra as he dropped into a bow. “Likewise Mr Howard, and thank you again for your assistance.” Replied Bethany smiling.
    • “It was my pleasure Miss Smith, but now I am certain you and your brother have much to speak about, so I will take my leave of you.” “Must you really?” Asked Bethany, surprised at how disappointed she felt at the thought of him leaving. “I...was going to ask you if you wished to join us.” “You were?” Ezra smiled, making Bethany’s heart flutter. “If I will not be intruding I would like that very much.” “You will not be intruding at all, will he Christopher?” Christopher looked from his sister to his friend. He would have to be blind not to read the attraction between them. “Not at all.”
    • The three of them retired to the drawing room, where Bethany and Ezra spent the next hour talking, while Christopher occasionally joined in.
    • That initial conversation set the tone for their meetings. When Bethany invited Christopher to one of the parks in Simbridge and suggested that Ezra might care to join them if he was free, Christopher barely said more than two sentences to his sister as she and Ezra walked arm in arm through the park, leaving Christopher to trail behind them.
    • By the time Ezra was regularly joining them for their Saturday afternoon tea, Christopher was wishing that he would travel to Simdon and formally declare his intentions towards Bethany, so that their mother could arrange proper chaperonage and leave him to get back to his painting in peace. It wasn’t that he disliked Ezra, far from it, he considered him a good friend, but he was bored with feeling as if he was invisible when he was around Ezra and Bethany. He watched as Bethany laughed at something Ezra had just said, but he had missed. Yes he was very fed up with this now. ***
    • Back in Regalton, it was time for the Legacys to celebrate Emina’s birthday. As she brought her daughter to the cake, Carmen looked at her with a fond smile on her face. Despite trying, she still had not fallen pregnant, but she thanked her lucky stars everyday that she had been blessed with one child of her own. “Time for you to blow out your candles and become a big girl.” She said to Emmi. “Then I can play the big ins’raments?” “Yes beloved, then your dearest papa will teach you to play the big instruments.” Said Carmen, kissing her forehead,
    • This news pleased Emmi greatly, and Carmen had to struggle to keep hold of her as she leant forward in her arms to blow out the candles.
    • The very first thing Emmi did, after changing her dress and suffering Carmen plaiting her hair, was head for the drawing room piano. She had seen her father and brothers play both this one, and the one in the music room, and had long since wanted to try it herself. Almost hesitantly, she brought her hands down on the keys, and sighed as the notes filled the air. She moved her right hand up the keyboard, playing a scale, and smiled. This was so much better than her little glockenspiel, and instinctively, she started to pick out the notes of one of the melodies she had played on that.
    • While she did so, the rest of the family and guests scattered to enjoy themselves and catch up with those they hadn’t seen for a while.
    • In the end, only Eddie was left in the room with his daughter. He went to stand next to her and listened for a little while to what she was playing. “That is very good Emmi,” he said, “but I have to ask, how do you know which notes to play.” “I just do.” She replied. “I know it sounds like this,” she hummed a few bars of what she was playing, “so I hear what this sounds like,” she played a note, “and listen until I find the right one.” Eddie nodded. “Well each of these notes have a name, A,B,C,D,E,F and G, and they each have a unique mark here, on the sheet music. This is how a musician knows what to play if they have not heard the piece before.” Emmi looked at him, interested. He leant over and played middle C. “This is middle C.” He said, before pointing to a note marked just below the stave, with a single line though the centre of it. “This is what it looks like on this piece of sheet music. This,” he pointed to a swirly mark on the left hand side of the stave, “is the clef. It tells a musician how the notes fall on the stave. This clef is a treble clef, which means that the note that falls on this line here,” he pointed to the second line up, “represents the G above middle C. That is this note here.” He played it. “The note in the space between the bottom two lines is the F above middle C.” He played that one too.
    • “Does that mean that the note on this line,” Emmi pointed to the bottom line of the stave, “is this one.” She played the E. “It is,” affirmed Eddie, “and it is called an E.” Eddie continued to teach Emmi the basics of reading music while the party continued around them. It was only when he saw his daughter smother a yawn that he realised how late it was. He knelt besides her and put his hand on her back. “Emmi, it is time for you to go to bed now.” She shook her head and started playing a new melody. “I am not tired.” “Yes you are. The pianoforte will still be here in the morning, and I promise I will teach you some more about reading music, but it is now time for you to go to bed.” Grumbling, Emmi eventually allowed Eddie to take her up to her new bedroom, where he read her a short story and tucked her into bed.
    • His daughter sleeping soundly, Eddie headed back downstairs where the guests were starting to leave. As he bid the final guests goodbye, some with promises that the family would make the journey to Simdon for dinner soon, others with promises that he would be down the Bull later that week, Eddie reflected about how lucky he was, and how he wouldn’t change the circumstances he found himself in for the world. ***
    • Both Eddie and Carmen found the fact that the house was now devoid of all children during the day very odd at first, but they soon found that they settled into a routine whereby Carmen would see to her duties in the morning, while Eddie practised, and then they would spend the afternoon together. He smiled up at Carmen as she entered the drawing room from the study one afternoon.
    • Then put his paper down and got up to greet his wife with a kiss. “I was thinking that we could perhaps go for a walk this afternoon.” He said as they broke apart.
    • “That is a lovely idea Dearest Eddie,” replied Carmen “but there is something I wish to discuss with you first.” “Oh?” He was intrigued and hoped that it would be good news.
    • Carmen pulled away from him and reached into a pocket to draw out a slightly yellowed envelope. “Yes. I was attending to some correspondence, when I found this letter addressed to you, tucked behind the back of the letter rack. You have not opened it...” Eddie, who had been looking at the letter as his wife spoke, suddenly interrupted her. “And I have no intention of doing so. I have no desire to read anything my uncle might have to say to me. I should have destroyed it the moment I received it.” “But since you have not, perhaps...”
    • For the first and last time in their marriage, Eddie turned his back on Carmen. “I have explained, I do not want to hear anything that that man may have to tell me!” Carmen ignored the fact that Eddie’s voice had risen as he had spoke. “Yet you have kept the letter for the past three years. You would not have done so, if you did not entertain the idea of one day reading it Dearest Eddie.” He opened his mouth to respond to her, but checked himself as he thought about what Carmen had said.
    • Very slowly, Eddie turned to face her, all anger gone. “You are, of course, quite correct.” He said after a pregnant pause. “The very fact I have not destroyed it yet, must mean that I am somewhat curious as to its contents, even if I was not aware of the fact.” “Then you will read it?”
    • Eddie reached out and took the letter from Carmen’s hand. “Yes, I will read it.”
    • Read it he did. Then again, and then for a third time just to make sure he had not misunderstood what Henry had written. When he had finished, he lent forward, his head resting on his hand. He had no idea what to make of what he had just read. He knew that Henry Legacy was not the most trustworthy man on the planet, and therefore what he had written could be a pack of lies, but if it wasn’t...he felt sick at the very thought that the letter could contain the truth. “Dearest Eddie?” Carmen reached out for her husband, but he didn’t respond. “What did the letter say?” She tried again,
    • Eddie looked up. “Something that if it is true...but it might not be...” He sighed. “I apologise, that makes no sense to you. My uncle,” he spat out the word, “claims that he had the help of a young lady he was stepping out with when he planned to kill Father. He says it was Marielle.” Carmen looked at him stunned. “Bertie and Stuart’s mother?” “Yes. I do not know if he speaks the truth. He is far from being the most trustworthy individual so I hope he does not. To think that the mother of my sons could have plotted to murder their grandfather...”
    • “I have to go and speak to her, to find out if there is any truth in this accusation.” He shot up and started towards the door. After a short moment, Carmen followed him.
    • The mild winter and spring had suddenly given way to a cold spell, and Carmen slipped on the icy path as she hurried after her husband. “Dearest Eddie, please wait. How do you know where to find her?” Eddie paused as he waited for Carmen to catch him up. “It is I who arranged with Farmer Jones the rental of the cottage where she has been living. I may not want her in my life any more, but I could not have the mother of my sons be homeless.” “You are the best of men.” Replied Carmen, slipping her arm through his. “Humph. We will see about that once we have visited her and spoken to her about the contents of my uncle’s letter.”
    • Fifteen minutes later, the two of them were in front of the little stone cottage Marielle had called home since she had been thrown out of 1 King’s Square. As Eddie pounded on the front door, Carmen picked her way through the overgrown garden and peered through the window. “The cottage looks deserted.” She said to Eddie. “It does not look as if anyone has lived here for quite a while.”
    • “Aye, that’s because they haven’t.” Said a voice. Carmen and Eddie looked over to see a blond man standing by the gate, with a curious look on his face.
    • Eddie hurried down the garden path to him. “Farmer Jones! I am sorry, but what do you mean by that?” “Exactly what I said. This cottage ‘as been empty for nigh on seven years now, ever since Missus Legacy was taken away.” Replied the farmer.
    • “I am sorry, but I am not quite following you. Mrs Legacy was taken away?” Asked Eddie. “Aye.” “But to where, and by whom?” “’S not my place to say where, an’ I don’t know exactly by whom, but Missus Di ‘as continued to pay rent and asked me to make sure the cottage doesn’t fall into disrepair.” “Miss Di?” Asked Eddie. “Aye, Missus Di.” “Thank you Mr Jones, you have been most helpful.” Said Eddie, before he turned and started making his way towards the western edge of the village and the large house owned by Mrs Meeeee-Vetinari.
    • The doorbell startled me when it rang that afternoon. I had been reading in the drawing room, and savouring the quiet of the house since Indy was at work, and the friends that lived with us had headed into Simdon for a shopping spree. Half wishing that I employed a maid or a butler who could tell the visitor that I was “not at home” I made my way to the front door.
    • “Eddie, Carmen.” I exclaimed when I saw who was standing there. “How pleasant to see you.” “Miss Di.” Replied Eddie looking distressed. “Eddie, what is it?” “I need to speak to you about...Marielle.”
    • My blood ran cold at his words. He had found out. I had tried so hard to make sure that my Punishment of Marielle did not affect the family in any way, and had insisted on discretion from everyone involved. It looked as if I hadn’t been as successful as I had hoped. “The two of you had better come in then.” I stood to one side to let them in.
    • I showed them into the drawing room and sat down. I forced a smile onto my face and turned to my heir and his wife. “You wished to speak to me about Marielle?”
    • Eddie nodded and I steeled myself for his recriminations as he started to speak. “On his death, my uncle sent me a letter, but I have only just read it. In it, he makes serious accusations towards Marielle. Very serious accusations.” I nodded, surprised by the direction the conversation was taking. “What sort of accusations?” “He writes that he knew Marielle as a young man, and that she actively encouraged and helped him when he tried to steal the heirship from Father.” “You mean when he tried to kill him.” I stated. “Yes.”
    • “THE BITCH!” I exclaimed, ignoring the sharp intake of breath from my guests at the profanity. “I cannot believe that she could do such a thing! I mean, I know that she is an immoral whore whose laziness nearly destroyed your family, but attempted murder? The absolute BITCH!”
    • “We do not know if the accusations contained in the letter to Dearest Eddie are founded.” Pointed out Carmen, calmly.
    • “Carmen is quite correct.” Agreed Eddie. “I do not think it is wise to believe a word my father’s twin has to say, without question. He claims to have proof, but gives no particulars beyond saying that it is with someone he trusts implicitly. I need to speak to her myself, and hear what she has to say on the matter.”
    • I thought for a moment. “You could just lie to you. Deny the claims, even if they are true.”
    • Eddie nodded. “I realise that, and if I choose to believe that the mother of my sons is not a murder, would that make me a bad person?” I shook my head. “Of course not Eddie.”
    • “So in order to speak to her, Carmen and I visited her cottage, only to find that she is not there. Farmer Jones said that she has gone, but does not know where. All he knows is that you are paying the rent for her. Do you know where she is?”
    • I looked at him. So he had come to find out where she was after all. I nodded slowly. “Miss Di, where is my ex-wife?” I took a deep breath. “Simdon-Leys Home for Irrational and Insane Women.” “Where?” “Simdon-Leys Home for Irrational and Insane Women.” I repeated. “It is a residential home for mentally imbalanced women.”
    • “She is locked in an asylum?” Asked Eddie. I nodded. “Yes. I had her committed.” “But why?” Both Eddie and Carmen were appalled.
    • “After everything she did to you, how she betrayed you and caused Beth’s accident? I wanted her out of the way for a while, and given how morally reprehensively she has behaved in the past, an asylum seemed the logical solution.” I lapsed into silence as I thought about what Eddie had told me about Henry’s accusations. If what Henry had said was true, then we should get the police involved, and for this crime, she would hang. I had interfered to stop Henry being hanged and didn't think I could do it again. Perhaps it was for the best that she was already locked away from society.
    • We sat in silence for a while, each of us lost in our own thoughts. Eddie was the one who broke it. “I...cannot condone this.” He didn’t look at me as he spoke. “I cannot condone what you have done.”
    • “I wouldn’t expect you to.” I said quietly. This was not a conversation I had ever wanted to have. I had hoped to be able to deal with Marielle without Eddie finding out. Trust Henry to go and throw a spanner in the works yet again.
    • “I have read stories...those places are vile.” Said Eddie. “The things those poor inmates are subject to. And if it were to get out that my sons’ mother is locked in one...the damage it could do to their reputations, to the reputation of our family...”
    • “I know.” I said. “I thought through all the possible consequences before I embarked on this course of action. I have insisted on absolute discretion at every step of the way. There are only two other people who know where she is.”
    • We were silent once more. “You have done your best to make sure no one finds out about this?” Asked Eddie at last. “I have.” He paused. “Will I be able to speak to her about the accusations?”
    • I looked at him as I thought about what he was asking. “I do not know. I can speak to Dr Gavigan and see if he will grant you access to her, but I make no guarantees I will be successful.”
    • Eddie nodded. “I know you will do your utmost, thank you.” He looked at Carmen. “I think we should take our leave now, do you not agree?” Carmen did, and so we all rose so that I could show them to the door.
    • I watched them walk down the path with a heavy heart. What Eddie had told me worried me a lot, and to be honest, I didn’t want to believe that Marielle had helped Henry. I knew she was lots of things, and I was convinced that she had damaged her two children for life, but helping Henry plan to commit murder was too much even for her. I also wasn’t sure how I was going to handle Eddie’s request to speak to her. Robert had been to see me the night before and had explained that one of his colleagues, an Archibald Wilson, had launched an investigation into Simdon-Leys, and it was possible it would close. Maybe the best thing to do would be to wait and see if it did. If Marielle came back to Regalton, Eddie or myself, no, Eddie and myself, could speak to her and then decide what to do about the accusations Henry had made. If it didn’t close, then yes, we would go and see her. My mind made up, I closed the door and went back inside.
    • Eddie made no move to speak to Carmen about what they had just learned as they walked home, which worried her; throughout their marriage, he had always shared what was on his mind with her, so this silence was unsettling. “Dearest Eddie?” She asked quietly after they had arrived home and taken off their coats. “Yes?” “Are you alright?”
    • He turned to her. “Oddly enough, yes. I confess that I would have liked to speak to Marielle today, but I know that Miss Di will do her best to get me a visit with her. As to where she is...I sincerely hope that that never becomes public knowledge for the sake of my sons, but the notion that she is locked up somewhere... “I am a horrible man for saying this, but after all she did to my family, it is what she deserves.”
    • “You are not horrible at all, you are the best of men. It is natural that you want some form of justice for the damage she caused.” Reassured Carmen. Eddie smiled at her. “Perhaps.” “No perhaps. It is the truth.” Responded Carmen confidently. Eddie leant forward and kissed her. “Thank you.” ***
    • The academic year had flown by for Bertie. He had once again captained his form football team to victory over the rest of the school, and with Stuart’s help, he had also achieved good grades in his subjects and secured a place at New Simbridge. He was reading in the study after dinner only a couple of nights before he was due to leave when Stuart joined him.
    • “What are you reading?” Bertie looked up. “It is a text on the reading list the university sent. It is rather boring but I thought I would have a look at it.” Stuart nodded. “You are feeling happier about going to university then?” He asked. The closer they had got to the day Bertie was due to leave for New Simbridge, the more his lack of confidence had come back and the more anxious he had become about it. Stuart, as always, had been doing his best to help him overcome that anxiety.
    • Bertie put down his book. “No. I am seriously thinking about giving up my place. I am reading this in order to gauge if that is the correct decision.” “What? You cannot do that!” Stuart was appalled at his brother’s words. He had never mentioned such a thing before, and in fact it had never crossed Stuart’s mind that Bertie would flat out say he did not want to go. “But, I do not want to go, I cannot go.”
    • “You can Bertie, why would you think you cannot?” Asked Stuart patiently, ignoring that Bertie had said he didn’t want to go. He had found that when Bertie didn’t want to do something, the reason was normally rooted in why he felt he couldn’t do that thing.
    • “What if the subject matter is too difficult for me?” Said Bertie. “I chose to read history because I enjoyed the subject at school, but what if I am no good at it? That is why I am reading this,” he waved the book in the air. “If I cannot understand or analyse this, then the subject is clearly too difficult for me. “Then there is the fact that I will not know anyone. I would much rather stay here, with you and Papa and all my friends instead.”
    • Stuart suppressed a sigh as he thought about how to reply to him. “Bertie you achieved good grades in history at the board school, I am certain you will be do the same at university. Besides, if you find that the subject is not for you, you do not have to suffer through it, you can switch degree courses. “As for not knowing anyone, for a start there is no truth in that. Christopher is already there, and Andrew and Peter are starting this year too, in fact the three of you are travelling there together, are you not?” Bertie nodded at his brother’s words. “And anyway,” continued Stuart, “Simbridge is not far from here. You will be able to travel home whenever you like, and we will be able to visit you. It is not as if you are travelling to Sierra Plains, hundreds upon hundreds of miles away. Thirdly, you are a very likeable person, and I am sure you will soon make friends in Simbridge. There might even be a football team you can join.”
    • Bertie mulled over what Stuart had just said. He was right of course, he always was. “You are correct about it not being far. As you say, Simbridge is hardly as far as Sierra Pains. What made you think of there anyway?” “Nothing.” Lied Stuart, thinking of the literature he had seen at the Board School about the scholarships Sierra Plains University was offered to students who wanted to read engineering. “And you think there may be a football team there?” “It is possible.” Replied Stuart with a shrug. “The Football Association’s standardised rules have become very popular and I think that a university such as New Simbridge will have some students who want to play by them. You could even make captain again.” “I doubt it, we were but a small form of sixty and thus I became captain almost by default. I should like to play though.”
    • The two brothers continued talking, with Stuart pointing out that Bertie had been appointed captain by merit, not lack of numbers, until well past they had to light the lamps. They only stopped when their little sister entered and sat on the sofa next to Stuart. “Hello Emmi.” She smiled sweetly at her brothers. “Hello. Did you hear me practising the pianoforte earlier?” “I did.” Replied Stuart. “You are very good at it.”
    • “Thank you. Papa is teaching my how to read music, but I find it strange that people need it all written down. Cannot everyone hear the music in their head and know how to play it?” “No Emmi, they cannot. Writing the music down means that everyone can know how the composer wished it to sound, and can allow people playing different instruments to play the same piece at the same time. “Oh. I did not think of it like that.” She paused before getting to the point of why she came in to see her brothers. “Will you read me a story? Papa is not here, I think he is with Uncle Stanley and Uncle Theo at the Bull, and Kasan is feeding the dogs, so will you read to me?”
    • “Of course.” Replied Stuart. “Who did you want to read to you?” “Both of you,” Replied Emmi without hesitation. The two boys looked at each other. “I think that we can do that, can we not Stuart?” Asked Bertie. “Anything for our little sister.” Replied the younger boy.
    • The two brothers followed Emina up to her room, where they read her a story, sharing the roles of the characters between them.
    • While his sons were reading his daughter her story, Eddie was explaining about the contents of the letter and where his ex-wife was now, to Theo and Stanley over a pint. “Do you believe that there is any truth to what Uncle Henry alleges?” Asked Theo as Eddie finished his tale.
    • “Truthfully? I do not know.” Replied Eddie after taking a sip of his drink. “I know that she is a manipulative cow, who cared more for my position as head of the family than anything else. It is conceivable that she encouraged him to seek the heirship if he told her it was as good as his, but as to whether she could be privy to attempted murder? That seems far fetched, and besides, I do not want to believe it.”
    • “Well, you know her better than I,” agreed Theo, “and I do not fault you for not wanting to believe it.” “Yes, she is still the mother of two of my children, and nothing will change that. It is bad enough that she has already tarnished the name of the family and their reputations with her shenanigans before our divorce. If it turns out that she is guilty of this as well...” Eddie finished his drink while Theo and Stanley made sympathetic noises.
    • Sensing that now would be a good time to change the subject, Stanley started, “speaking of your sons, when is it that Bertie, Andrew and Peter leave for New Simbridge?” “End of the week.” Replied Eddie. “Ah, they are going to enjoy it so much. I still look back on our time there with great fondness. We had a lot of laughs.”
    • “We did, did we not?” Agreed Theo. “Late nights at the Campus Lounge, staggering back through the town, dances with the ladies of the Acadamie, that time you fell into the river, Stanley. We had a lot of fun, and now our sons are going to experience the same.” Theo’s face suddenly fell and he looked at Eddie in shock.
    • “Eddie, our sons are going to university. They are no longer children.” Eddie stared back at him. “Yes. When Bertie returns, he will take over from me as heir.” He lapsed into silence.
    • Stanley looked from one friend to the other as they sat there stunned. “I believe it is my round. Drink old chaps?” He asked. “YES!” Came the unanimous reply. ***
    • The morning of Bertie, Peter and Andrew’s departure soon arrived. Bertie had changed his mind so many times about whether or not to go the night before, that one of his trunks had been partially unpacked and repacked to the point where his clothes in it were no longer folded nicely and he had had to ask Stuart to sit on it in order for him to be able to get the lock closed. He was now pacing the hall, waiting for the carriage that would take him to the train station to arrive.
    • “Bertie, you will be fine.” Stated Stuart, stepping into his path as he made his way towards the French windows again.. Bertie attempted to smile at him. “It is all going to be so different.” Stuart nodded, and tried to keep the frustration out of his voice when he spoke. It had been a long night. “Yes it will, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Life cannot stay static, things have to change. You were worried about having another sibling if I recall, and look how well that turned out”
    • Bertie’s smile became genuine. “You always know exactly what to say to make me feel better.” his smile faded again. “I am really going to miss you not being in the next room.” “I am going to miss you too.” Stuart pulled him into a hug.
    • Seeing Stuart hug Bertie, Emmi decided that she also wanted to hug her oldest brother, and soon the rest of the family were saying their farewells to him.
    • “You will be fine Bertie. You will soon settle into the halls, and start to meet the other residents. I know you are going to do me proud.” Said Eddie. “What if I do not?” Asked Bertie quietly. “You will. You always do.”
    • A warm feeling blossomed in Bertie’s chest, but almost immediately it was replaced by an icy chill as he thought that what if this time, he failed his father?
    • He didn’t have time to dwell on it though, since almost as soon as Eddie pulled him into a hug, Stuart announced that he thought the carriage had arrived.
    • It had indeed, complete with Andrew and Peter who had been picked up first. The two Harrison boys leant a hand with loading Bertie’s trunks into the carriage, all the while chatting away. “The journey should not take long at all, and we are all in the same halls which is nice. You alright there Andrew?” “No, I could do with a hand, this is heavy, what have you got in here Bertie?” “Good.” Peter skilfully ignored what his brother had just said. “Papa has already given us directions to the library as well as the science department, oh and once Mom had intervened the Campus Lounge and Student Union too. I am certain that we will soon find our way around the college and the town though.” As he listened to his friend chat, Bertie’s nerves and worries lessened, and he felt far happier than he had believed possible when he finally clambered aboard the coach.
    • With Bertie’s trunks loaded up, there was time for one more farewell, before the three friends squeezed into the carriage as well. The driver cracked the reins and the coach lurched as they set off on their journey.
    • As Stuart watched the coach drive down the road, he suddenly felt completely lost. In that moment, all the frustration he had ever felt towards his brother melted away to be replaced by an emptiness. For as long as he could remember, he had supported and encouraged Bertie, but, even though Simbridge and the university was not that far away, it was far enough away that he would not see his brother everyday, or even once a week. He did not know what he would do with himself without Bertie around.
    • This is where chapter 23.2 ends I’m afraid. Although I’m not really because you see that ^ that means that only two years and one month after I sent his father, my generation five heir is finally at university and I can start to get on with the plot I’ve had planned since he was born. This makes me very happy. Thank you all for reading, I hope you have enjoyed it. Thanks also to the creators of my cc and extra thanks goes out to those of you who have leant me sims, whether it be your simself or a legacy sim. (If you didn’t catch it, the two sisters in the park were Azula and Elle Fitzhugh from Marina (smoothiequeen84) Villainous Apocalypse. You will be seeing more of them later). HUGE thanks go to Cait, (charris) for Bethany’s beautiful, beautiful dress (pictures do not do it justice, I tell you), and the perma-loan of Ezra too. Join me soon for fun at university with Bertie and the gang. Until then, happy simming. =>
    • Adorable Emmi is adorable.