Welcome back to the Norrington Legacy! So pleased you could join us. First I most apologize for the length of this update. But it was either one large installment or two smaller ones. And it didn't make sense to break it in two. During the last Summer rotation, generation three began with the births of Barrington Finch JR, Robert Trace Norrington and Fabiola Victois Davies. There was misfortune as well. Annie Clifford and Olivia Norrington suffered miscarriages due to both illness and ill fate. Here's hoping Autumn brings with it more joyful arrivals. Let's tuck in!
Chapter One The Summer months were gone but there were still warm afternoons to enjoy. Over at the Simself Manor, “The Green Monstrosity” , Simself Cee was taking full advantage of the Autumnal days in the sun. She had near mastered riding astride and spent many days taking Morgana Le Fay for invigorating rides through the country side.
True, she found the time racing the wind to be incredibly enjoyable and freeing. But Cee had other motives other than her own enjoyment for spending so much time out of doors. Her house mates, Miss Kitty Harris and Mr. Sebastian Devereaux had developed quite an attachment to one another. Though they hadn't spoken of it, Cee had caught the two of them making eyes at one another far too many times. She felt that allowing the blossoming couple time to their lonesome only the polite thing to do. (Cee: the simself of Charris, writer of 'The Regacy”; Kitty: younger version of my simself; Sebby: snatched from “the Devereaux Legacy” by Peasant007)
If one were to ask her, Cee could say in all honesty that she was pleased with Kitty and Sebastian's burgeoning romance. She felt the two of them were well matched. Yes, she was pleased for her companions but appeared to have no desire of forming a personal attachment of her own. She greatly enjoyed her independence and had little tolerance for dramatic romanticism.
Not that she was incapable of seeing the appeal. There was certainly something to be said about falling head over heels in love. Imagine meeting someone who caused all reason to completely desert oneself. Someone who's mere presence could make one's body malfunction. The idea of freely sending one's heart out into the world, not knowing whether such an offer would be dearly treasured or callously trampled upon.
The thought of it was all very exciting, true. But Cee was far too practical and level headed to take such unnecessary risks. Love, with all it's trappings and selfish indulgence, was sure to make fools of all whom courted it's favor. And Cee had little desire to engage it's fickle company. Not that she didn't favor her own brand of excitement. Such as galloping through the woods until she felt she might take off and soar over the tree tops.
“ Come Morgana,” She whispered to the mare. “Let's fly!”
Neither of them saw the viper crossing the path. Morgana reared up in a startled panic and sent Cee crashing painfully to the ground. She heard, rather than felt, a crack as her leg folded underneath her body in an awkward position.
After taking a moment to clear the stars from her head, Cee glanced up to see Morgana limping on her back leg. Already the mare's ankle was swelling from the snake's bite. Turning to her own injury Cee attempted to get up. With a cry of pain she crumpled back down and tried to breathe through a haze of agony. It was several minutes before she was able to crawl across the path and lean up against a tree. Her ankle was swollen and looked disjointed. “ Not a sprain then.” Cee whimpered painfully.
With what she was sure was a broken ankle and a lame horse, Cee had no choice but to sit and contemplate her rescue. “ I can not believe that I'm stranded here with a bum foot.” She lamented woefully. “I've become my very own damsel in distress. How horribly cliche. ” The woods around her were deserted. Quiet, save for the hum of forest life and the occasionally splash of lake trout. With the sun setting, anyone who might possibly be of help had already set off for home.
“ I suppose it might be too much to hope that Kitty and Sebastian will take notice of my absence and come looking.” Cee winced painfully at the throbbing in her ankle. The pain was so great and her situation so hopeless that she was close to tears. “ Oh bother,” She sniffed. “Well I suppose it can't get any worse.” And with that ill fated comment Cee felt the first sprinkle of rain. Looking up at the sky she groaned. “ I simply had to say it.”
And just what were Miss Harris and Mr. Devereaux doing while their house mate sat hopelessly stranded in the woods? Why enjoying a warm, crackling fire after an early supper of course. The afternoon warmth was being fast chased away as the night approached and there was a chilly drizzle dampening the air. As Kitty admired the finely shaped backside of her companion, she couldn't possibly fathom just how miserable her friend was, somewhere out in the rain.
So distracted was she by his lovely derrière that Kitty didn't notice when Sebastian sat down and gazed at her, a thoughtful expression on his face. “ Kitty,” His hesitant voice brought her out of her pleasant daydream. “There's something I've been wanting to... talk to you about.” Kitty smiled. “That sounds ominous. What's wrong?” “ Nothing... I think.” He flushed slightly. “It's just, you remember that sense of familiarity we talked about?” A nod. “Well, it's been changing... growing into something else.” Sebastian swallowed. “I think, I think I love you.”
Kitty stared back with a blank expression on her face for a moment. Had she just heard...? “ I'm sorry,” She shook her head slightly. “What did you just say?” Sebastian blushed harder. “I'm in love with you?” Kitty smirked. “Say it again... please.” A tiny frown marred his Sebastian's forehead now. “I'm in love with you.” Kitty leaned with a playful smile and whispered. “One more time.”
Laughing now, Sebastian pulled Kitty into his arms and spoke in his most seductive voice. “Kitty, I love you.” Sighing happily, Kitty nuzzled his cheek. “And I'm absolutely mad for you.”
Pulling back Kitty grinned at her paramour. “So, now that we've declared our feelings all proper like, can we get to the making out part?” Sebastian's eyes widened as he nodded eagerly. “Oh yes... definitely!”
The sun had set long ago and Cee was cold and soaked to the skin from the misty drizzle. She had been forced to pull her limbs in close to her body in order to keep warm. With the exception of her injured ankle, which had gone blessedly numb from cold. The only benefit of the cool night air. Morgana, faithful horse that she was, had kept close to Cee, refusing to stray from her crippled rider.
By now Cee had near given up hope of rescue. She imagined that whatever Kitty and Sebastian were up to, they were surely distracted from noticing her absence. It was quite probable that she would have to stay the night in these safe, but somewhat spooky woods. Again she lamented her poor fortune with a weary sigh. Then rallying once more she attempted to distract herself by trying to recite all the kings and queens of England.
It would of course happen that once she'd given up all hope of rescue, that one would come. Mr. Lesley George Elliot, a new resident of Guilford, was taking his usual night ride. His mother and sister had always disliked this strange habit of his, claiming he was only inviting ill will by being out after dark by his lonesome. Lesley in turn claimed he was inviting nothing more than fresh air and solitude for his thoughts. Except for the cold drizzle that threatened to send him home sooner than usual, this night was no different. Imagine his surprise to come across Morgana and Cee on the dark path.
Cee looked up, startled by the sound of hoof beats in the dark. Through the gloom she could see a man approaching on his steed. “ Oi!” Lesley called as he drew nearer. “Are you quite alright? What on earth has you out on a night like this?” “ My ankle,” Cee cleared her throat. “I seem to have broken it falling from my horse.” “ Whoa Pierce” Elliot came to a stop and dismounted. “Broken ankle eh? Well then, let's have a look.”
Despite her inner voice crying out in joy at this mystery man's arrival, Cee wasn't going to allow some stranger liberties with her person. “ Um, who exactly are you?” “ How remiss of me.” Lesley patted Pierce's back end to encourage the horse to walk away some. “Mr. Elliot at your service.” “ Are you a doctor?” “ No.” “ Well then,” Cee hugged her legs tighter. “I don't see how your looking at my ankle will be of any use.”
Lesley crouched down to Cee's level. “ I assure you, this isn't some attempt to impede upon your modesty. I only want to see that the bone is sound.” “ Seeing how it's my injury I can guarantee that it isn't. I wouldn't be sitting here if it were a simple sprain.” Lesley frowned. “Are you a doctor?” “ Of course not.” “ Then you can't be certain.” He softened his tone at Cee's narrowed eyes. “Look, I want to help. Would you prefer to stay out here all night?”
Biting her lip in irritation Cee finally conceded. “Alright. Only, be gentle. It's tender.” Lesley smirked as he gingerly lifted Cee's dress out of the way and took her wounded foot in his hands. Which were gentle, Cee observed. And warm. His touch sent shivers up her leg. She only winced once as he examined her foot. “ Well it's broken alright.” Lesley nodded and carefully set Cee's foot on the ground. “I'd say a clean fracture.” “ Imagine that, a woman correctly assessing a medical injury.” Cee answered dryly.
“ I imagine that being stuck out here for hours on end would make anyone impish so I'm willing to overlook your mood.” Lesley reached for Cee's hands. “Come on. Up you get.” After a moment's hesitation, Cee took Lesley's arm and allowed him to help her to her feet. “ I'm sorry,” She muttered. “It's been miserable out here. I'm cold, hungry and I'm afraid it's made me rather irritable.” Lesley smiled and Cee was taken aback by how handsome he was up close and personal. “ Alls forgiven. Had it been me sitting out here in the rain for hours, I'd be a right nasty bear by now.”
“ I suppose I ought to thank you.” Lesley said as he lifted Cee from her feet onto Pierce. “ You're thanking me ?” Cee asked. “Why ever for?” “ I went out for my ride tonight expecting nothing more than a clear head and perhaps a chill. Instead you've made me a hero and given me something worthy about which to brag.” Cee was incredulous. “I believe you've been out in the rain too long.”
Meanwhile, someone had finally noticed something important... “ Where could she be?!” Kitty cried frantically. “Cee never stays out after dark. Besides, it's dangerous to do that in this day and age. There aren't even any street lamps!” Sebastian watched as Kitty paced the floor before him. He was reluctant to offer any more helpful suggestions considered his previous ones had been shot down. “ Maybe she's visiting some-one. Call Liz and see if she's over there.” Kitty's eyes widened comically. “Are you insane?! I can't call Liz! If she finds out I lost Cee, she'll kill me!”
“ I swear it's Murphy's Law or something.” Kitty continued to rant. “Liz has always called me immature and irresponsible... which, for the record, I'm not ! And yet here I go and screw up the first job she gives me!” Sebastian hid the rolling of his eyes. He may be enamored with this woman but that didn't make her any less of a drama queen. “ It's not that bad.” He offered gently. “I'm sure if you just explain...” “ Explain?! How do I explain that I lost Cee while we were busy snogging ?”
“ Alright, that's it! I've had enough.” Sebastian stood in irritation and rounded on Kitty. “You're being ridiculous.” She stopped mid sentence in surprise. “What?” “ You.” Sebastian pointed. “You're acting like a child. It's like the most important thing about Cee going missing is how it reflects on you.” “ But,” “ Why don't you stop whining about how bad it makes you look and do something about finding her, if you're so worried.” Kitty pouted, completely chastised. “You're right.” He was also rather attractive throwing his weight around like that. But Kitty chose to keep that tidbit to herself.
“ Look,” Sebastian spoke in a gentler tone. “Cee prob'ly just took Morgana out farther than usual. She's most likely on her way home right now.” Kitty sighed. “Maybe. But what if somethings happened to them? I'd never forgive myself. For Pete's sake, I'm supposed to be her companion.” “ Tell ya what. You run upstairs for your coat, I'll get the carriage ready and we'll go look for her.”
“ So,” Lesley cleared his throat after a long period of silence. “You haven't told me your name.” Cee nodded. “You never asked me for it.” Waiting expectantly for another moment, Lesley playfully nudged. “Well?” Smirking, Cee nudged back. “You still haven't asked.” Lesley chuckled. “Oh sweet maiden of the night forest,” He intoned with great exaggeration “I implore thee, please do me the great honor of knowing your name.” Cee suppressed a laugh. “I'm afraid I don't give out my name to strange men.” “ Not even if they rescue you from a cold and wet fate?” Lesley sighed. “Does nothing impress you?”
As promised, Sebastian had the carriage all set to go by the time Kitty made it outside with a lantern. “ It's ridiculously dark out here.” She explained. The drizzle had finally stopped, leaving an awful bone biting chill in the air. Pneumonia weather, her grandmother had always called it. “ Okay, let's get going.” Kitty reached for the carriage door and stopped at Sebastian's stare. “What?” He gestured with a nod of his head. “Not necessary.” Following his gaze, Kitty's jaw dropped too “Cee?”
It was Cee, looking quite reminiscent of Lady Guinevere riding with her Lancelot on his black and white steed. Poor Morgana limped along beside them. “ Home sweet home.” Lesley murmured as the quartet loped into the driveway. “ What's happened?” Kitty called out in relief. “Are you alright?”
“ I'm alright.” Cee reassured quickly. “Morgana and I ran into some difficulties. We've both gone and crippled ourselves.” Both Kitty and Sebastian could now see the swollen ankle that Morgana was avoiding in her slow steps. The mare looked utterly exhausted.
“ You poor thing!” Kitty hurried over as Lesley dismounted. “Have you been stuck out there all this time? You must be soaked to the skin!” Cee shivered. “I'm afraid so. Fortunately Mr. Elliot came along and helped me.” “ And we're grateful to him. You've no idea how worried I've been! What exactly did you do to yourself?”
“ Broken ankle.” Cee grimaced. “The doctor here confirms it.” She added ruefully. “ Well at least you haven't injured your sunny disposition.” Lesley teased. “Assuming you have one, that is.” Kitty chuckled as Cee was placed on her one good leg. “Thank you so much for bringing her home. If there's anything we can do in return...” “ Was my pleasure.” Lesley assured. “Though I would not be adverse to learning the patient's name.” Taking Kitty's arm, Cee nodded to her rescuer. “We're much obliged to you Mr. Elliot. Do be careful on your way home.”
After a much needed soak in a hot bathe, a small dose of laudanum for the pain, a tightly wrapped bandage to secure her foot until the doctor's visit in the morning and a late but satisfying supper, Sebastian helped Cee joined Kitty in her room to curl up in front of the fireplace. “ Ah.” Cee took a blissful sip of her tea. “I felt as though I'd never be warm again.” Kitty observed her with a smirk. “Ya know, you were awfully wicked to Mr. Elliot. After everything he did. Not to mention he's really hot. ” Cee laughed. “Yeah, but I couldn't resist. Though I'll admit he is pretty yummy.” Cee gazed into the fire as she sobered. “I do hope he doesn't get it into his head to try and call.”
“ Why not?” Cee shrugged. “He's just not my type.” “ And what is?” “ I don't know but it's not him. I can tell he's one of those over eager, thinks he knows everything about me types. Besides, I can already tell I'm too opinionated for him.” “ I don't know.” Kitty disagreed. “From where I was standing he didn't seem to mind.” “ No,” Cee shook her head. “No, he was just being polite.”
“ He'll come by tomorrow for his obligatory 'How is your ankle' visit, perhaps a few more; all with the intention to woo of course, realize I'm not worth the head ache and eventually give up. And that'll be the end of it.” Cee stated firmly. “ Okay.” Kitty nodded. “If you say so, I'll stay out of it. There is one thing you should know.” “ What's that?” Kitty smirked. “I told him your name.”
Chapter Two Of all the families inhabiting Guilford, Surrey, there wasn't a happier one than the Finch family. Barrington and Abby greatly enjoyed being parents and were hoping another child would soon be joining their son Barry. Both were also considering adopting as it had been a great dream of theirs for years.
While most fathers avoided the nursery, Barrington liked to sneak in whenever he could. If Abby was preoccupied with some other household chore, Barrington could be found cuddling his son. “ I think someone is in need of a bath. Shall we find your mother?”
Things between husband and wife seemed to be blissful as well. “ I thought we might have Trace and Sally for dinner.” Abby suggested one evening when Barry had fortunately fallen asleep earlier than usual. “I notice that they don't go out together socially.” “ Well you know your brother prefers to keep to himself.” Barrington answered from the wardrobe. “ True. But a night out would do them both wonders. We could also invite Lora and Mr. Davies. Make it a regular dinner party. What do you think?”
Barrington took great pleasure in expressing to his wife just what he thought. Not surprisingly it had nothing to do with dinner party guests.
Lora and Roger were already engaged for the evening but Abby was pleased to see her parents, as well as her elder brother Asher, had accepted her invitation to dinner. They joined Alice, Trace and Sally for a delicious meal of glazed ham. It was most pleasant for the family to get together.
Sally seemed especially pleased to have the chance to be out of the house and away from her son Bobby, bless his dear little heart. She and Abby, with whom she shared a special closeness, talked about all manner of things. Except babies that is. Evelyn's shameless admission that she'd only come to dinner in hopes of holding her grandson had the whole table laughing. (I absolutely love this picture of Alice. She's so full of awesome.)
And as soon as dinner was finished, both Evelyn and Stuart slipped upstairs while everyone else retired to the parlor. Though they didn't like to talk about it, Asher and Olivia's difficulty in having children had worn their spirits. So any opportunity to engage the company of one of their grandchildren, was a welcomed diversion.
Asher, having helped himself to a tour of house, came upon his parents in the nursery. The sight of them cooing over his nephew was striking. Asher, who believed he was dealing with he and his wife's misfortunes quite well, was surprised at the stab of pain in his heart. When Barry babbled back at his cooing grandmother, Asher gasped, bringing the attention of those in the room to him. Evelyn gave him a soft look. “Asher, come here and hold your nephew.” “ Wait, I don't know how to hold one of these. What if I drop him?”
“ Nonsense.” Evelyn foisted the child into her son's trembling arms. “With all these wrappings you'll do little harm. Just mind his wee head.” Asher nervously held the warm bundle and marveled at the very feel of life contained in one so small. Barry, clearly used to being fawned over, yawned and blinked up at his uncle. He hadn't any idea that with such a simple act, he'd caused a grown man to fall completely in love. Asher couldn't speak for fear of crying. Fortunately, his parents understood and said nothing of their son's watery eyes.
The rest of the evening was a pleasant mix of music, conversation and dancing.
Needless to say it was a successful evening. “ Thank you so much for coming Alice. Do give Mr. Buckley my regards.” “ I will. Dinner was wonderful of course. Tim will be sorry he missed it. The kid's quite good looking by the way.”
With another child on the way, Abby was back at her sewing machine. She felt it was the mark of a true mother to make all the clothing her children would ever need to wear. In the meantime, Barry was growing like a weed. It wasn't long before he was crawling all over the nursery looking for trouble. (holy rusted metal batman. When I first saw him, I literally cringed for the rest of generation three. But after a little bit I realized that while awkward looking, Barry was pretty cute. His parents seemed to love their potato headed spawn just the same. Abby was especially pleased with the little mutant. I mean child .)
Barrington Finch JR was an obnoxious, screaming Pisces. He couldn't stand to be stuck in his crib and would rally a rather serious pout when unable to run around the nursery, discovering new things. Fortunately his endearing sweetness made up for all his short comings. (4, 5, 7, 2, 8)
Barrington SR was soon promoted to President of his business firm, following in his father's footsteps. “High five!... anyone?” That same afternoon, he was surprised to see his father in law waiting outside their small courtyard. A solemn expression on his face. “ Mr. Norrington!” He greeted. “To what do we owe the pleasure?” Stuart forced a small smile. “I was simply out for a ride and thought I might pop in on my grandson.” Hearing the melancholy in Stuart's tone, Barrington nodded. “Of course. I'm certain Barry will be thrilled. And Abby I'm sure will thank you for your company. Not to mention the reprieve.”
“ Full of energy and mischievous, I take it.” Stuart chuckled as he followed his son in law into the house. “ Like I've never seen.” Barrington confirmed with a laugh. “His poor Mama. I'm afraid he's run her ragged. Not that she complains mind you. “ She does her best to tucker him out. But I find at the end of the day, Barry is still wound up and it's Abby who is in need of sleep.”
Speaking of, Abby was taking a well deserved nap while Barry was safely tucked away in his room. She was quite pleased to be woken by her father. And even more so when he ordered her to see to her own needs while he entertained his grandson. “ I shall feed and put the mite to bed.” “ But Papa,” She protested. “You're a guest. You can't be expected to...” “ To what? Spend time with my first born grandson? Nonsense. I have done this a time or two myself.” “ Very well.” Abby gave in graciously. She was in desperate want of a bath before dinner. Who was she to cross her father?
Both Barry and Stuart had a marvelous time in one another's company. The toddler was ecstatic to have a new face crawling after him as they played hide and seek. Stuart felt as though it had been ages since he'd had the chance to let loose in such a childish fashion. It was refreshing and relieved a great weight from his heart. Grandfather and grandchild also thought it best not to mention to Mother the times when Barry's head made actual contact with the ceiling.
And when those tiny limbs wrapped around him in an affectionate hug, Stuart inhaled Barry's sweet baby scent and felt as though he might weep. This... was bliss.
(note: Stuart thinks my simself Liz is a M.I.L.F! And Barrington agrees. while I'm exceptionally flattered gentlemen, might I just point out that Abby can hear you! discretion Barrington dear, discretion) music plays... I only like black girls, the brown girls, the cafe au lait. Caramel girls and Mocca girls just blow me away. If you are Nubian, I want you to be in every fantasy. But if you're a whitey, say nighty nighty you're just not the girl for me... “ Vanilla Ice Cream” by Stephen Lynch
At dinner Abby mentions that she and Barrington have been invited to the theatre by Lora And Roger. Barrington admits to eagerly looking forward to a night in their pleasant company. Certainly a welcome diversion. This gives Stuart the idea of bringing Evelyn to a concert in Simdon. “ Your mother is in need of something cheerful after such dark days and she does so enjoy music.”
Afterward, Abby bid them goodnight as she retired to bed early. Barrington asked if Stuart would care to join him for a drink or a game of chess in the study. “ I think I'll pass, thank you.” He declined politely. “Mrs. Norrington will be waiting up for me.” “ Another time then. Good night Mr. Norrington.” Stuart set off for home, a new lightness in his steps.
Though he was a sweet child, Barry was most incorrigible. Some nights, after his exhausted parents had dropped into bed, He would escape his crib and wander the second floor in search of adventure. The bed chamber beside his own was outfitted for when he grew too old for the nursery. But Barry saw no reason not to enjoy the toys he found in there now. Especially the pirate ship which was a gift from his uncle Asher.
On one such evening Abby went into labor for the second time. Barrington, though pleased he was home for this blessed event, didn't particularly enjoy being waken by his wife's painful cries. After what was a much shorter labor this time around, Abby gave birth to a little girl. Bonnie Miranda Finch. She shared her father's chocolate brown eyes with Barry but inherited her mother's fair complexion.
Bonnie's arrival was most welcome in the house. Even Barry didn't seem very bothered having a new addition to their family.
Days in the Finch house were bursting with life and activity. So much so that the family often found themselves all in bed before the sun had set. Barrington was a regular visitor to the nursery which helped in lightening Abby's load. He greatly enjoyed the time spent with his children, watching them learn and grow. Abby of course shared his sentiments.
The Autumn chill finally set in and the family prepared for the sleepy hibernation of winter. Barrington was promoted to CEO, financially securing his family's future. And Barry seemed to sprout up over night. He was quite a tall little boy and practically a spitting image of his father. His first day of school was particularly difficult for Abby.
Bonnie too left infancy behind much too soon for Abby's taste. It seemed that one moment she was just a tiny little creature, completely dependent on her mother. And the next she was crawling after her older brother, looking for mischief herself. Bonnie wasn't very ladylike with her boisterous behavior. She could hardly sit still and seemed to be a very disagreeable child when denied her way. She did, however, abhor getting dirty. Abby had never seen a child so finicky. (10, 10, 9, 3, 1)
Even with Barry in school, Abby found her days filled. Bonnie commanded a great deal of her mother's long-suffering attention. Still, even with two children Abby still longed for a third. She and Barrington had always spoke of having a large family. Barrington, through a rare chance, was promoted to Business Tycoon. Anne offered her employer her sincere congratulations.
That November, just after Remembrance Day and before the sting of Winter settled in, The Finch family sat for their family portrait. It was fortunately one of the last warm days of the season so it was no hardship for the family to gather on their front porch. I believe the photographer did quite a fine job in capturing the merry clan on film, don't you?
Chapter Three Once Sally had agreed to Trace's hiring a nurse for their son, she convinced him to allow her to hire one of her own choice. Merit Gray was a young teacher and former pupil of the Carthwright School for Girls. Ghastly place. Still, she was hardworking, intelligent and quite experienced with children. “ I wonder, Mrs. Norrington, why you're not looking for a wet nurse,” Merit asked. “Seeing as your son is still so young.” Sally explained that not only did she wish to nurse her son herself, but she was looking for a companion as well as a Governess. “ Life in this house can be somewhat lonesome.” She quietly confided.
It was the beginning of a winning friendship. Merit was a tall, plain young woman with a stern countenance. But Sally found her to be warm and full of life. Her company was a great improvement to Sally's previous quiet existence. Bobby liked her as well.
Since the start of September, Trace had been busy writing a novel. Which of course meant no one saw hide or hair of him for days at a time. So it wasn't any wonder, his surprise at seeing Merit for the first time. He had emerged from his self imposed isolation for a rare luncheon. “ Husband, have you forgotten? I've hired Miss Gray to look after Bobby.” Sally patiently explained. Trace nodded at the young woman. He had forgotten. Pleased his wife had sought out company other than his own, Trace graciously welcomed Merit to the household.
Trace was pleased to say that he'd finished his novel (which explained his sudden presence). In the days following it's publishing, the book “Hypothesis of Life” became an immediate best seller and already there was talk of releasing a second edition. Sally was happy Trace's book sales exceeded his expectations. It was lovely to see him so cheerful and animated about anything . It reminded her of when they were back in university.
Some nights later while Trace read a freshly published copy of his novel, he imagined he could be quite content writing for a living. He reconsidered his childhood wish to learn all there was to know about Oceanography and wondered if he should leave such immature desires in the past. Truth was, with a healthy son for an heir and his wife suitably occupied, Trace was feeling reasonably content with his life. He could almost imagine being happy , if he was careful not to dwell on past regrets. It was at this time though, that the past came knocking on the door of his perceived bliss.
Despite the excitement over his best seller, Trace was already too immersed in his second attempt to tell anyone. It was up to his dutiful wife to spread the good news. Not that Sally minded her husband's absenteeism. Not anymore. With Merit around, she no longer felt so lonesome. Not to mention, with little Bobby growing like a weed right before their eyes, there was little time for anything else.
Now that Bobby was older, he thoroughly enjoyed spending warm Autumn afternoons out in the courtyard, his mother and Merit watching over him.
The third floor attic had been converted into a playroom where Bobby and Merit enjoying spending their mornings. Or any time when the weather was being uncooperative. It was a childlike sanctuary in the house where noise and imagination could run wild. Trace indeed wanted his child to enjoy the same freedoms of expression he experienced as a boy. He simply didn't want to have to hear all the noise that came with it. Though, despite the care and consideration he took to make his family comfortable, Trace spent little to no time with his son. Something Merit found quite disagreeable. (Trace has rolled not one want to do anything with Bobby D=)
Robert Trace Norrington was a overeager little Gemini. He was also the apple of Sally's eye. She didn't mind his need to run around and try absolutely everything . She took great joy in turning his frequent frowns of concentration into reluctant smiles. And she and Merit both had a way of soothing his tempestuous mood swings. (5, 8, 9, 3, 1)
One morning Trace and Sally sat waiting for Merit and Bobby to join them for breakfast. “ My apologies. I fetched the paper and was caught up reading the articles.” “ Anything of interest?” Sally asked. “ Twelfth Night is playing at the Town Square Theatre and all through December, the Kensington Symphony will be performing a series of carols for the season.” “ How delightful. Perhaps we could obtain tickets.” Sally glanced at Trace. “ And there's a special on brown sugar at the Main Market Place. Also Briar Farmers' Market has such an over abundance of apples, they're practically giving them away...”
“ Oh, and the Prescott family has announced the engagement of their son to a Miss Morton.” Sally blanched as Trace choked on a bit of egg. “ Prescott?” Sally queried. “As in James Prescott?” “ Yes, that was his name.” Merit clarified. “Are you at all acquainted with that family?” ................
Trace had excused himself from the table directly after Merit's announcement and been scarce for days since. He decided to title his new book: “Regret Not Me; A Forbidden Romance.” Despite their seeming lack of interest in the affairs of a certain Mr. Prescott, both Trace and Sally knew it was at the forefront of their minds. Sally found him in the yard, deep in thought and completely oblivious to the cool Northern breeze. “ Husband, I wish to remind you of our dinner party with your sisters this evening. I've had your suit pressed.” Trace gave her an absent nod of thanks.
A moment of awkward silence... “ Trace,” Sally hesitantly began. “Are you thinking of him? About his getting married?” Trace's head shot up. “No.” He spoke almost too quickly. “I was simply considering having the fruit trees pruned. Father always said late Autumn was the best time for it.” Sally nodded. “So you're not at all bothered by your... friend's engagement?” Her tone was hopefully innocent but Trace felt himself bristle regardless.
“ Why on earth would such an insignificant event have any effect on me?” Sally shivered at his tone. “I don't know. Perhaps because you were close. And I know the... conflict between you was never really resolved.” Despite her diplomatic choice of words, Trace was still bothered by this conversation. He stiffened when Sally sat beside him. “ If you wished to talk...” Trace stood abruptly. “There's nothing to talk about. Mr. Prescott is nothing to me but a past acquaintance.” He gave Sally a stony look. “I'm going for a walk.”
Sally resisted the urge to call him back. Instead she simply watched him leave, her jaw clenching back words. It would be another half hour before she roused herself to get ready for their evening company.
It was just after sunset and Trace still hadn't returned from his walk. Sally had managed well enough on her own, a dinner of roasted lamb was prepared, her hair was done, Merit had Bobby well looked after and Mr. Edwards had done a fine job of cleaning. She did regret the state of the hedgerow around the house but there was nothing for it now. She would be sure to have a word with the gardener about it tomorrow though.
Still, she had guests to think about. Both the Davies and the Buckleys were on time. Timothy admired the architecture in the house while Roger seemed put off right away that Trace wasn't there to greet him. While she and Lora got on famously, Sally felt awkward around Alice and hoped Trace returned soon in order to help field his younger sister's caustic personality.
As it was, Alice did have difficulty caring about anything Lora and Sally spoke about. It was all a bunch of nonsense talk about hats, shoes and gowns. She quite envied her husband who looked to be having a far more stimulating conversation with Roger.
After dinner Lora and Sally took turns playing the piano. Both women were equally proficient yet with different styles. Lora's playing was spirited and slightly wild, while Sally favored a quieter sophistication. She also had a very pretty alto with which to sing along to the music. Quite annoyed at her brother's absence and what she considered virtual abandonment, Lora insisted Roger ask their sister in law to dance. It was only the polite thing to do. Besides, Lora was quite fond of Sally.
Despite the obvious question of Trace's whereabouts, the evening was well spent and everyone had a lovely time. Sally contented herself with the fact that the humiliation of her husband's absence had only been witnessed by family.
Alone at last, Sally sat at her vanity and stared at her solemn reflection. She wondered if she had noticeably aged since she was a school girl. Had she changed so very much? As she pulled out the pins from her updo she reminded herself of how completely content one ought to be in her situation. She mindlessly repeated the affirmation without really hearing it before stopping suddenly to ask out loud, “ Who are you with Trace?”
Trace's walk took him around the block a few times and then past the Finch household. As he passed his sister's house, Trace smiled for the cheery family inside. Their very happiness seemed to leak from the building, quite like the lights seen through the windows. He turned the corner and decided to mill around the Guilford Town Square. He rarely found himself here, seeing as Sally saw to the household shopping and she preferred the more upscale Market Place Plaza across the street.
Trace stopped into the Grocer's and picked up a children's book about a small rabbit who got into a great deal of mischief. He thought perhaps Bobby might enjoy having it read to him. It was written from a highly intelligent point of view with a mocking sense of humor. It met with Trace's approval so he paid the two pence and thumbed through it as he continued on his way.
His attention was caught by the mournful tune playing out onto the sidewalk from inside “The Captain's Quarters”. A small but respectable pub. Nothing of a scandalous nature was known to happen there, unlike the pub down by the tracks. So Trace thought it harmless to step in for a drink before going home. The sun was nearly set and Sally would be expecting him back soon. The place was nearly empty but for one patron. James Prescott was near passed out at the bar, his condition quite worrisome. Against his better judgment, Trace walked over to James' supine form. He couldn't stop the approach anymore than he could stop his heart from beating.
James seemed both pleased and distressed to see his friend, yet hardly surprised by Trace's sudden appearance. As though he'd been expecting the company, James began to spill his inebriated sob story. His father was marrying him off to a mere child. A girl who had yet seen her sixteenth Summer. A girl who, despite having a less than respectable family name, was recently worth 75,000 pounds. The Prescott patriarch refused to allow his son to turn down such an offer. The Prescott family could accept a minor taint to it's name for that price.
“ Now I understood what it is to put one's family before oneself.” he slurred. He went on to describe just how much he despised his new fiance. “ She's a great chattering... thing . Always talking and moving. She's like some pestering bird!” James moaned. “I can't imagine spending my life with someone so very inane.” Trace listened as James wallowed in his despair. Finally he made up his mind. “ Come on chap, you've had enough. Let's get you home.”
Reluctant to return to his life, James allowed Trace to lead him out of the pub. James was able to maintain his balance and only stumbled slightly as they stepped out into the night. But his good fortune didn't last and it wasn't long before his stomach rebelled and he was forced to purge his indulgences beside a bench. They sat side by side allowing James a chance to regain control of himself. Trace felt his heart ache to see his former lover so broken. This young man whom had possessed such fire and spirit. What had life done to them?
“ I never should have thrown our friendship away.” James whispered suddenly. “It was childish of me, not understanding your position. “ Losing you has been the greatest regret of my life and I've yet seen my twenty-sixth year. How pathetic is that?” “ James,” Trace sighed, at a loss for anything meaningful to say. Truth was, he felt exactly the same way. “I never wanted to hurt you...”
With no thought of propriety, Trace placed an awkward arm around his companion. “ I know,” James leaned into the embrace. “I wish I could go back, do things differently.” Suddenly James turned in Trace's arms and clung to him urgently. “ I need you Trace!” He whispered, desperation in his voice and on his face. “I know I can't have you as I wish but... I could bear all that is expected of me if I have you by my side. As my friend. Say you'll be here for me, please!”
Trace was awkwardly aware that they were in plain view of any passerby who cared to glance their way. But with James in his arms again, none of it mattered. He nodded. “Of course. You'll always have me.” He said sincerely. For a moment with their faces so near, Trace was tempted by the beautiful lips hovering just in front of his own. The lean masculine body that he'd once memorized with his fingertips. There was a warmth, familiarity and comfort in this body, in those lips. It would be so simple to take, touch, taste what he had been missing all these years.
But he didn't. He suddenly remembered Sally. Waiting for him to come home and help host their dinner party. Waiting at home, looking after their son. With this thought Trace pulled back. “ It's late, and you're knackered.” He stood up. “I'll hail you a Hansom.” James nodded and swallowed down his disappointment. With a weak smile he stood and followed Trace to the curb.
As his carriage arrived, the men shook hands. “ May I call on you some time?” James asked. “I'm certain Miss Morton would love being introduced to people of you and your... wife's caliber” Trace nodded. “Of course. I look forward to it.” Just as he was about to stumble into his ride, James turned and gave Trace a considering look... “ Trace, do you suppose if our lives had turned out differently and we were free men to do what we wished,” He paused. “Do you think you could possibly love me again?” He didn't wait for an answer as the Hansom pulled away into the street.
Trace watched him go longingly and whispered to himself, “I never stopped.”
When Trace finally arrived home, after having wandered around in the cold for hours, it was very late in the evening. Obviously he'd missed their company and despite the lights being on, everyone was sure to be in bed. Trace swallowed his apprehension. What did he have to fear? He was the man of his house. He owed explanation to no one. He would face Sally's disappointment with his head held high. Despite the bravado, Trace wasn't ashamed to admit his relief at finding his wife asleep instead of waiting up to question him.
Trace never did offer his wife a thorough explanation. His evening with James left him feeling guilty and more conflicted than ever. He explained that he'd simply grown distracted in his wanderings and apologized for missing their dinner. He ignored the knowing look on Sally's face just as he ignored the feelings reborn from his encounter with James. It was easier. Sally was sad to notice that Trace had returned to his distant self. She could only surmise that the news of James' engagement set this behavior on it's course. That and perhaps the novelty of having a son had worn off.
Speaking of said novelty, Bobby didn't know it but he was fast becoming his mother's one true comfort. Blissfully unaware of the dynamics between his parents, his was a simple and happy existence.
And as children are apt to do, regardless of the lack of communication between their mothers and fathers, Bobby left his toddling years behind. Despite not having a close relationship with his father, who he rarely saw and from whom he hardly received more than an approving nod and encouraging pat on the head, Bobby was doted on and near spoiled by his mother and Merit. His was a quiet and reserved upbringing but Bobby was not lacking spirit or intelligence.
Bobby did often wonder why his father spent so much time hidden away in his office. And why was his mother so suddenly quiet whenever his father entered the room. He wondered why Miss Gray seemed to be giving his father the evil eye behind his back. And why his Aunt spoke of his father in a disapproving tone whenever she and his mother took tea. Bobby wondered many things. He was a smart boy after all. But on this day he mostly wondered why Father commissioned two portraits of their family. One with Trace, and one with out .
Trace watched his family pose under the tree for their portrait with a secret smile. Those three were so full of life and laughter. He felt it was only right for Merit, who was clearly a part of the family now, to pose with those whose lives she helped improve. His son was turning into quite the young man. Someone who made Trace very proud and he owed that to his wife and Miss Gray. He didn't begrudge their closeness. Both Sally and Bobby deserved a reason to smile. And when he told himself he didn't envy them, he almost believed it.
Chapter Four Per his wife's wishes, Roger succeeded in purchasing a country estate by the water for his beloved. Lora was of course ecstatic. Even more so when she was allowed to rehire Parisian interior designer, Antoine. Add in the fact that Miss Henson was a most competent governess. Who unlike others in her position, managed Fabiola without any bother to the parents of the child left in her care.
All of which left Lora in a most pleasing disposition as Autumn began. So pleased was she that Lora found it no hardship to lie with her husband in the hopes she would birth him a son this time around. It was no trouble at all trying for a baby, seeing that Scarlotte was as capable of looking after two babies as well as one. Roger was certainly pleased having been invited once again into his wife's chamber. It put him in the best of moods and could perhaps be attributed to his promotion to Master Architect at his firm.
All that space took some getting used to. Especially for the servants who ran themselves ragged keeping the house in it's best state. Due to the square footage of the new estate, Roger employed Mr. Caleb Mover to keep the grounds. Caleb, though not a handsome man, was welcome company for both Scarlotte and Marguerite.
It wasn't long before Lora was once again reminded of the very reason she had originally banished Mr. Davies from her bed. Determined to handle this imposition with greater fortitude than she had the last time, Lora made a point of keeping her grievances to herself. She was sure to keep as comfortable as possible. Spending cool afternoons in front of a warm fire, napping at the first sign of fatigue. And being sure to change her employment when ever she felt she'd spent too much time in one attitude. It indeed helped improve her mood... a little. She could only hope this new parasite was the boy she and Roger desired.
Life by the water was indeed cooler than in town and Lora wasn't the only one who enjoyed lounging before a roaring blaze. Scarlotte made certain the nursery fire never went out so that her tiny charge could play without catching a dreadful chill. And when Fabiola was napping, Scarlotte quite enjoyed a kip before the hearth in her spare time. Often with Caleb's soft voice reading aloud.
Despite her efforts in maintaining a cheery disposition, Lora's good nature was sorely tested as her pregnancy progressed. She was uncomfortably aware of her expanding waistline and found herself unable to sleep through the night without waking. Her muscles ached and she found she was either too chilled or too warm at any given time. All of which only encouraged her most sour of moods. Roger was fortunately tucked away safely in his own chamber and saved from being made aware of any of this.
In short order Fabiola outgrew infancy and blossomed into a toddler with the makings of a true beauty. A lovely child, quite like a porcelain doll. She was a Capricorn with all the potential to become a well bred lady. A sweet disposition, demure and always in good humor. She was also content to sit still and play quietly until called upon. Most certainly a credit to her parents. Despite their having almost nothing to do with her. (8, 4, 4, 7, 6)
One morning before leaving for work, Roger asked that Mr. Mover see to his office typewriter. Something had jammed and Roger wished it repaired by his return. While the typewriter in the Grand Salon was as serviceable, he preferred to work in his secluded office. And Caleb could see why. Roger's study was one of the few rooms not drowning in blue, gold or ornamental dressings. It was a calming space compared to the busyness of the rest of the house. Caleb was quite envious of this cozy sanctuary Roger had set up for himself in the large glittering estate. After fixing the typewriter, Mr. Mover tinkered around a bit with the toy bench.
Meanwhile Lora, in a fit of loneliness sought out the company of those who worked for her. It wasn't ideal but since none of her familial acquaintances were available to visit, she would have to make do with Miss Henson. She found there was far less pressure when entertaining the company of those beneath her. Scarlotte certainly wasn't going to remark on her Mistress' increased appetite and appalling dining habits. And the young woman offered far more intelligent topics of conversation than Ms Delacour did.
That particular afternoon Lora was feeling especially deprived of company and relatively amorous. So she requested Miss Henson bring little Fabiola to her mother for tea. “ I think we might both benefit from one another's company on such a gray Autumn day.” “ Of course.” Scarlotte nodded in surprise. Such a request was extremely odd in the Davies household. Usually Mrs. Davies spent her afternoons practicing her French enunciation with Marguerite. “I shall bring her to you right after her nap.” “ Thank you Miss Henson.” Lora smiled amicably. Yes, an afternoon with her child was sure to keep her in good spirits. If nothing else, it would prove an adequate distraction.
As promised Scarlotte woke little Bee from her nap and prepared her for tea with her mother. “ Well my precious, it seems you've an audience with the Queen.” She teased affectionately. “And we can't have you looking like a commoner. Let's get dolled up in one those ridiculous gowns hanging in your wardrobe.” After a not so quick and simple change... “ Now that's more like it. Far too long and completely impractical for one so young. Now do remember your manners luv. It isn't everyday that one is invited to tea with Nobility.”
Lora was most delighted to see her daughter, who seemed to have grown up overnight. “ Is that my darling girl?” She gushed. “Why, she's absolutely lovely. What a pretty child you're becoming my love.” She pat the sofa cushion. “Come sit beside Mother dearest and I shall give you a sweetie.” Scarlotte was a bit apprehensive of leaving the child she cared for in the incompetent hands of her birth mother. But realized it was not her place to voice such concerns. If Lora saw fit to stuff the poor dear with sugar biscuits, than Scarlotte would be the one to soothe Bee's sore stomach later.
For her part, Fabiola didn't quite know what to make of the beautiful dark haired woman called “Mother”. She did know that the new taffeta dress she wore was itchy and made it difficult to move her little legs. Also, the cake she was given was good but she wasn't at all pleased when her Scarlotte left the room. Lora though had a marvelous time sitting with her miniature doll of a daughter and sharing pointless, idle chatter to wile away the chilly day. In the end, Fabiola was no worse for the wear due to time spent with her mother. And Lora felt as though she'd spent her day doing something worthwhile.
Roger was pleased to come home and find his wife in high spirits. He ate his dinner in silence, content to listen as Lora told him all about her day. Most importantly, her enjoyable tea spent with their daughter. “ Oh you really ought to take a look at her.” Lora gushed. “She's such a pretty little dear. She's much improved over the months. Quite a beauty.” “ Has she now?” Roger nodded amicably. “Then I dare say she shall be a credit to us.” “ I've not doubts on that score.” Lora agreed. “I was thinking that perhaps we should throw a party for her. After the arrival of this one of course.” She patted her swollen stomach. “Perhaps this Winter.”
“ A holiday ball?” “ Yes. Oh it would be a delightful excuse to exhibit the new house and show off the children. It's been ever so long since we've thrown a decent party. It shall give us something to look forward to in the coming cold season.” “ Indeed.” Roger dabbed at his mouth with a napkin. “I'm assuming a shopping trip shall in order.” “ Only a small foray dearest.” She reassured sweetly. “Proper dress robes for the children and ourselves of course. And a bit of décor to make the manor more festive.
Roger considered for a moment. “I suppose the timing might be used to my advantage. There is an account I've been trying to land for some time. “ AR Tolend Abbey are wanting to expand out into the country by building a shop here.” A his wife's vague but interested glance he explained. “They specialize in assorted baked goods but wish to build an Eatery.” “ I see. How delightful. There are never quite enough high quality places to eat out in the country.” “ Indeed. I tried to convince them to hire our firm for the construction and break ground this Spring. But they would be difficult. This party maybe just the event to win their favor.”
“ Of course,” Lora soothed. “I imagine you shall have them eating out the palm of your hand dearest. Ah, I've a splendid idea. We shall make it a masked ball! People are far more agreeable and likely to let down their guard when they've a facade behind which to hide.” “ Capital idea love.” Roger nodded eagerly, already looking forward to this holiday ball of his wife's. Meanwhile in the servant's dining room, Scarlotte quietly ate her meal while listening to Marguerite pour utter nonsense into Caleb's most unfortunate ear. He was of course dutifully attentive with a polite smile on his face.
She was surprised when the usually quiet young man asked about Fabiola's tea. “ I heard the little Mistress spent a pleasant afternoon with her mother.” He commented softly. “Do you find her much altered having been in the presence of greatness?” There was silence before Scarlotte realized he was teasing. “It's most definite. I'm certain the excess of sugar, inane and pointless conversation are both responsible for her nearly comatose state. And I doubt even Ms Delacour will be able to remove the stains of chocolate from her dress.”
Caleb chuckled. “And what a great loss that must be.” “ Not for long I'm afraid. I'm certain the Mistress will have ordered a new, equally ridiculous frock in short order.” Marguerite scowled at their quiet laughter. “You are a vicked pair.” She scolded, her accent thickening in irritation. “So young and arrogant. You should both be pleased being employed by such a family as zees!” With that she left the table in a huff. Chastised, the two finished their meal in silence.
Afterward Caleb's offer to help clean up was rebuffed. As Scarlotte finished and started down the hall, Caleb blocked her path. “ I ought to apologize to her.” He blurted out. “It was all my doing.” Scarlotte shook her head solemnly. “It's not you with whom I believe she's upset. I shall see to it.” She shook head ruefully. “She's right. I was impertinent and should watch my tongue. The Davies are generous and relatively benign. There are far worse situations in which I could find myself.”
“ Agreed.” Caleb nodded. “Though I've always believed that if you can't poke fun at those above you, then where is the fun in being below?” He chuckled. “I shall endeavor to keep my wickedness away from Ms Delacour's sensitive ears.” Scarlotte smirked. “See that you do. Goodnight Mr. Mover.” “ Goodnight Miss Henson.”
Completely unaware of any tension under their roof, Roger was pleasantly surprised when his adoring wife invited him to her chamber. Where she could further thank him for agreeing to her ball.
In the nursery, Fabiola had a miniature Salton's tent in which to play. It came in most handy on nights she awoke and managed to get herself out of bed. Though she preferred her time to be spent with Scarlotte, who was most attentive, she was content enough on her lonesome for a short while. That is until Scarlotte would hear her little charge babbling away and get up to tuck her in again. Not that Bee minded. Any attention from her beloved governess was good attention indeed. (though beautiful, I've begun to think Bee inherited her dad's limited intelligence. She's such a slow skiller it's a throwback to Roger's college years)
Despite the lack of parental concern or affection in her life, Fabiola was a content child. Her Scarlotte provided all the hugs and kisses she needed. Not to mention a great deal of entertainment. Bee had little understanding as to the importance of the people called “Mother” and “Father”. For she scarcely saw the former and the latter might as well not exist. It was her Scarlotte who helped her become steady on her feet. Scarlotte who took the time to under-stand her babbling and changed her soiled nappies. Scarlotte who sang, smiled, comforted and laughed. To Fabiola, Miss Scarlotte Henson was her whole entire world.
The next evening Caleb attempted to make peace with Marguerite by complimenting the delectable Crepe Suzette. It was a wise choice as Ms Delacour was immensely proud of her cooking skills. And even later that night, just shortly after one am, Lora found herself finally in labor. Nearly a month later than the doctor had said.
The sweet creature born with identical looks and anatomy as her sister wasn't what had been desired. Still, Lora gave the poor dear a kiss before chuckling to herself. “ I suppose I shall have to give this another go. My poor husband.” “ Shall I wake him?” Marguerite asked as she and Scarlotte cleaned up. “ Oh please don't.” Lora tried to smile. “He'll be disappointed enough come morning. No need for him to lose sleep over this too.”
Once mother and child were cleaned up and Marguerite had changed the bed clothes, Lora handed the baby over to Scarlotte. “ Have you given the little dear a name?” “ I had thought to consult Mr. Davies in this matter, but I'm certain he wont be bothered. I shall call her Belle Nicolette. It means beautiful. Do you think I've chosen well?” Scarlotte smiled. “If she's anything like her sister, she will honor the name.” “ Come lie down Madame,” Marguerite implored. “You'll be needing your rest after all zat fuss.” “ I'm tired, but not certain I could sleep.” Lora admitted. “Perhaps a spot of tea will calm my nerves.”
In the nursery, Scarlotte was not surprised to find Bee up and playing despite it being nearly sunrise. Fabiola was so occupied she barely nodded at her favorite person and certainly didn't notice the intruder in her Governess' arms. It wasn't until Scarlotte was placing Belle in her crib that Bee's interest was piqued. “ Dat?” She demanded. “ That is your new sister.” Scarlotte answered kindly. “Her name is Belle. Isn't that pretty?”
Bee didn't know what she thought of the name. She simply didn't care for anything that took up so much her Scarlotte's attention. “ Up.” She decided. Whatever Belle was, it certainly wasn't taking Bee's place. “Up!” “ Yes, yes.” Scarlotte chuckled as she reached down. “Up you get and back into bed where you belong. Hopefully you'll allow your poor Governess a few hours of rest.” She gave Bee a squeeze, making the child giggle.
Roger was quite nonchalant upon hearing the news of his newest daughter. His response, though dismissive, held a positive tone. “ Let us hope she too possesses fine features. If by some misfortune she turns out a plain piece, we may be consoled that she shall have my money purse in which to rely on when making a good match.”
Shortly after, Fabiola reached a very important milestone in a child's life. Five years of age. Scarlotte couldn't believe her little charge was entering childhood already. Out of respect she of course offered Lora the choice of doing the honors. She was the child's mother after all. Not that said child seemed aware of that. Lora though was quite content enough to leave Bee in the care of her beloved Governess. Cake was messy after all.
Despite that, Lora was determined to make her daughter's special day as pleasant as possible. They sat together for tea and shared fun conversation over cake and treacle. Now that Fabiola was on her way to becoming a young lady, it was time she learned how to behave as one. And whom better to learn under than the lady of the house? Lora would be sure to spend a great deal more time with the little Mistress. There was so very much for her to learn between now and boarding school. Lora would not allow her precious child to miss out on a single thing.
That week Roger engaged the time of a popular Simdon photographer and painter to take his family's likeness. Lora suggested they sit in the garden. Neither Mr. or Mrs. Davies seem to acknowledge the irony of posing as the perfect family when this was probably the only time Roger had even given either of his children more than a passing glance. Still, they certainly looked the part. Which was all that mattered.
Abby and Barry came to pay a visit and bring Bee a belated birthday present. Lora was most pleased to spend the afternoon with her sister. And of course Bee was delighted to have a companion her age with whom to play. Barry was very impressed by his cousin's great house. There were so many hallways and doors. Even two sets of staircases. He couldn't imagine how Fabiola managed not to become lost all the time.
Bee admitted that she had yet to explore the entire house. So much of it was still off limits to her. But she swore that someday she would escape the watchful eye of her Governess and see just what was hiding behind all those closed doors. She was especially eager to try the Billiards table she heard talk of. So similar in looks were Barry and Bee, one could easily mistake the cousins for siblings. What with their matching freckles, black tresses and chocolate brown eyes. Not to mention their mothers' shared preference for the color navy blue.
Abby and Barry of course stayed for dinner, much to Lora and Bee's delight. The sisters spoke fondly of politics and common acquaintances while Barry asked about his uncle's toy making hobby. Meanwhile Roger came home in a somber mood. The novel he'd been writing in secret, “Financial Freedom: An Intellectual Look at Man's Dependence on Money.” had turned out to be a flop. Poor sales, bad reviews. He was disappointed in the response to his first book, but Roger was still proud of his attempt. He had set his mind to task and stayed the course. He celebrated this pseudo success with a glass of fine scotch.
That evening after being tucked into bed, Bee slept blissfully unaware of her Governess' worrisome thoughts. Scarlotte knew that these peaceful childhood days of Bee's were short. In a couple years, Fabiola would leave the nursery and move into a room more fitting for a young lady. Not long after that, boarding school, where she would learn to behave in a way expected of her class. Scarlotte was sadly aware that the dear child she loved would altogether forget her Governess in the face of proper society. Eventually She would be nothing other than a servant in Bee's eyes. No more important than a cast aside plaything.
Chapter Five So fall began in the Buckley household with far less excitement than the others. After spending his morning in meditation, Timothy decided to make courtesy calls to his circle of acquaintances. Alice, now with child, had yet to suffer any great discomfort. She had also decided not to share their great news with anyone. At least, not yet.
What Alice had noticed was just how voracious her appetite had become. She simply couldn't get enough to eat. It was ridiculous. Alice was certain, should this continue, she would be far too large to get around by the time her child made it's debut. Unbeknown to either Tim or Alice, their maid, Jane Barrett, found the Buckley household to be most unorthodox and strange. They thought nothing of allowing their filthy cat up onto any piece of furniture, no matter how fine or how very unsanitary. And Ren always seemed to spit and swipe at Jane when they were alone. Never under her beloved “Mother's” eye of course. Alice believed her feline companion to be an angel.
Alice finally began to feel the first bit of evidence (aside from her changed eating habits) that there was indeed a child growing inside her womb. She found herself somewhat humbled by the discovery. Timothy too was quietly pleased to see his wife's form slowly fill out with his child. He felt greatly blessed in the act of creating a life. But until the arrival, both parents to be continued to live their quiet and calm life. Passing their days pleasantly in one another's company.
They also spent a great deal of time brushing up on their Japanese. Though born in Japan, Timothy spoke English without exception, having moved to Manchester before his tenth Summer. He thought of himself as British first and foremost. While Japan was a part of him, it wasn't his greatest influence. Aside from his mother, his memories of growing up a halfbreed in Okinawa were unkind. It was Alice who convinced him to teach her about his mother's culture. She wished to truly know and teach it to their children. He might be comfortable hiding behind his English father but it didn't change who he was.
For her own rebellious reasons, Alice chose to keep the secret of being with child close to her heart. At least until she couldn't possibly disguise her growing belly. Perhaps it was silly to keep such a thing from her family. But Alice couldn't help relishing the deliciousness of having the secret to keep. She and Timothy finally discussed how they should go about sharing the news with their friends and family. Though regretting the loss of their private secret, they agreed a small evening party would be the most pleasing environment in which to tell all of the expectant arrival.
The day of the party Alice spent the day readying the house for company. Her ankles were swollen by the time she was through but the house looked great. The extended family arrived not long after dinner. Missing from the merry party were Annie, still confined to her bed in recovery; and Olivia, who feared a celebration was no place for her self imposed solemnity.
As the family converged upon the house, both Abby and Barrington noticed a spot of tension between Trace and Sally. Sharing a look, they carefully insinuated themselves, interceding the conversation of clipped tones and provided distraction from a potential argument.
Evelyn was ever so excited when she saw her daughter's extended belly. “ Gracious me!” She cried with a great smile on her face. “So this is your big secret. You sly thing.” Alice grinned. “Are you pleased?” Evelyn scoffed. “Am I pleased? What a question. I could not be more contented with this development. This is unless you are carrying twins.” Though she smiled, Alice inwardly cringed and hoped her mother's teasing words didn't prove true.
“ Oh your father will be delighted. This shall make it five grandchildren.” Evelyn confided, unaware that soon Lora would be giving Fabiola a sibling. “He says it does not matter how many you children give him, but I know he's hoping for a small tribe at the very least.” “ You talking about me love,” Stuart approached and grinned at his daughter's belly. “I knew it. Another strapping grandson to add to my collection.” “ I think it shall be a little girl.” Evelyn contradicted cheerfully. “A sweet darling girl who shuns convention, refuses to wear dresses or ride side saddle. Then you shall see dear.” She teased Alice. “Then you shall see what I had to put up with.”
Though she was secretly hoping for a daughter who followed in her footsteps, Alice smiled graciously. “ Then let us hope that I may handle her with the same grace and forbearance that you did me. For you were the very best of mothers.” “ Indeed,” Stuart agreed heartily while Evelyn tried to hide her pleasurable blush. “Well said my girl.” Meanwhile Sally found herself alone while she tried to reign in her temper and jealousy. If only Trace could be more like his brother in law Mr. Finch. Barrington, it was well known, was a most attentive husband and father. He spoke passionately of his children and openly showered his wife with affection.
Still, she remembered herself enough to smile as Abby entered the parlor. “Mrs. Finch.” She greeted. “ Sally please.” Abby smiled. “Let us have none of this Mrs. Nonsense. We are sisters and this is a family gathering. There's certainly no need to be so guarded with our conduct.” Abby took a seat on the settee. “Not only that but I count you among my closest friends. I wouldn't dream of standing on such ceremony with you.” “ Of course, you are right.” Sally nodded. “I'm not feeling entirely myself. Forgive me.” “ There is nothing to forgive. Now tell me all about my nephew and his exploits.”
In the next room, Trace discreetly listened to their conversation feeling ashamed of himself. He knew that he was responsible for Sally's melancholy. Ever since that evening of his walk about, things between husband and wife were cold. Trace felt it was due to his shame. Perhaps he hadn't actually done anything but he still felt guilty. Seeing that James had awaken emotions long thought dead inside his brittle heart. He couldn't face his kind wife knowing he longed for the smile, gaze, and touch of another. So, not knowing what to do with this plethora of emotion, Trace did the only thing he could: he constructed them into a wall of cold indifference placed between himself and the people he loved.
Alice noticed her brother's melancholy and managed to engage him in a cheerful conversation. Afterward she challenged him to a game of Mahjong. Maybe there was a strategic game out there she could best him at. Asher joined them in short order. Outside Barrington and Roger spoke of their business investments. Barrington's firm was in direct position to assist Roger in landing certain accounts. The two often collaborated and sent work in one another's path.
It was a fine party. Everyone having a delightful time. The Mahjong game had to be relinquished as a scratch. It seemed the three competitive siblings were entirely unable to outwit one another. But at least Alice had succeeded in putting a smile on her brother's usually stoic face.
Aside from having to stop her sister in law from cleaning up, Alice felt the night had been a success. The baby rolling around within her womb expressed it's approval with a series of kicks to her ribcage. “ Not yet love,” Alice cooed and rubbed her belly. “Though I'm just as eager to meet you.”
“ Talking to yourself?” Timothy entered the room with a smile. “Going mad now are we?” Alice giggled. “Your child is making a nuisance of itself. I think it needs a stern talking to. Now go on, practice your fathering.” Timothy bent close enough to mutter to his wife's abdomen. “Now see here. Kicking your mother out of her perfectly good mood is badly done. It's time for sleep, little one.” At the sound of his calm voice, the baby's frolicking subsided making both parents grin. “Watashi no shonen desu.” Timothy whispered gently. (Japanese: that's my boy)
As Tim led the way upstairs, there was a cry of pain. “Timothy!” He turned to see Alice doubled over in the hall. She felt as though her lower abdomen was splitting open. It was pure agony!! While reassuring his worried wife that all was well, Timothy helped Alice up to their room, into her nightdress and into bed. “ Somethings wrong!” She cried at the sharp irregular cramping of her muscles. “ I'll send for the Midwife.” “ No, no.” Alice panted. “A physician. This feels wrong. I don't think this is how it's meant to happen!”
Knowing next to nothing about childbirth, Timothy decided sent for the town Surgeon as requested. Dr. Richard Hamilton arrived promptly with his sister Adeline, a midwife, in tow. Adeline explained that she was there to see the birth through. She reassured Tim that even babies that came early had a fine chance of survival. But in case of any complications, her brother was there. Timothy was uncertain. Alice sounded in a great deal of pain and she'd begged for the doctor only. “ Let me take a look at her progress Mr. Buckley.” Adeline placated. “If I sense anything at all amiss, I'll call my brother.”
Finally Timothy agreed and showed Miss Hamilton the way upstairs. He gingerly led her into the room that held his laboring wife. Gently Timothy tried to tell Alice what was happening. “ No!” Alice shouted. “I don't want her! I need a doctor. Somethings the m-m-m-matter!” She finished with a pain filled shriek. Tim was about to acquiesce to his beloveds wishes when Adeline ushered him out of the room. “Leave her to me, Mr. Buckley. I've no fear of her bark.” “ Perhaps but it's her bite I'm concerned about.”
It didn't take Adeline long to calm her patient down. She'd seen many a first time mother begin to panic long before it was necessary to do so. The longer Adeline managed to keep the birthing mother focused, the more efficient her energy and the better the odds of their being two healthy, breathing souls there at the end. As the night wore on however, Adeline began to worry that Alice may be one of the unfortunate about to face a complication. Despite the strength of Alice's contractions and her efforts in pushing, there was little progress .
Adeline could now see that 1: Alice's hips were too narrow and 2: the baby was breach. Furthermore, she was positive that Alice was carrying twins. In a calm yet stern voice, Adeline explained the situation. “Your position is precarious. Your children...” “ Children ?!” “ Yes, children. They need help from both of us to get born. At least one of them is turned the wrong way. Now I need you to brace yourself. I'm going to attempt to reposition your first child. Alice gulped and nodded. Her painful scream soon after echoed through out the house.
After another hour, Adeline was forced to admit that Alice and her children were in grave danger. Alice had grown exhausted and was weakening. The children themselves had spent far too much time in the birth canal. The time for medicinal intervention had finally come. Timothy and Richard anxiously looked up and were stricken by the look on Adeline's face. “ Brother.” She said simply. “ What is it? What's wrong?” Timothy asked fear in his voice. “ Mr. Buckley, your wife's twins are breach and if Dr. Hamilton doesn't proceed to cut them out, both they and your wife will die.”
Timothy was speechless. Richard didn't want for the shocked father to regain his ability to speak. He set out after Alice immediately knowing the difference mere seconds could make. Adeline stayed behind and poured the distraught man a hard drink. “ I wont pretend it isn't serious.” She admitted. “You need to prepare yourself. If it goes ill, her last words with you should not be fraught with sorrowful tears. She needs you to be strong. As she has managed to be all these hours.”
Dr. Hamilton's bedside manner was less brusque than his sister's but Alice couldn't help the fear that welled up in her heart at the sight of him standing before her. “ I shall need to put you under so you'll feel no pain.” He explained. “There is no other promise I can make you. Do you understand what I'm telling you?” Alice swallowed back a sob and nodded. “Yes.” She whispered. “Is Timothy alright? Do you think my children will survive this?” Richard didn't answer as he gave his patient a bitter smile. “This will pinch slightly.”
There was a painful sting and suddenly Alice was overcome with euphoria. She no longer felt worry for her husband or children. It would all turn out fine as long as she could go riding. It had been so long since she'd felt the wind in her hair as she rode over the hills. She smiled at the thought of galloping fast and free, her vision growing dark.
The house was silent as Richard worked to save three lives. Adeline was in and out to assist but Timothy couldn't move. He sat there in his study and prayed to both God and Buddha to spare his wife and children.
Finally there was a weak cry. Paralyzed by both hope and fear, Tim waited. Then Adeline joined him with a tired look on her face. “Your wife and son will live.” “ My...” Timothy needed a moment. “I-I thought there were two?” Adeline shook her head sadly. “I'm afraid your daughter was too weak.” She left and quickly returned to place his son in Tim's arms. Timothy couldn't believe how tiny and fragile the boy was. “So small.” “ Yes, but he has a strong heart.” “ My... my daughter?” “ I have prepared. If you should like to see her...” “ I would... please.”
The midwife nodded and left the room quietly. Holding his child, Timothy concentrated on the quick beat of the boy's heart between his tiny ribs. “ Watashi no musuko.” He whispered brokenly. He resembled his father more than not. Similar skin, brown eyes and of course black hair. “ Undoubtedly your mother will wish for you to have both a Japanese and a family name. So I shall name you for my father and grandfather. Nathan Botanichi.” (my son) (boh-tan-ee-chee)
Finally, just as the sun was rising, Dr. and Miss Hamilton felt comfortable enough to leave both Alice and the boy. Despite catching snatches of sleep, they were all exhausted. “ Thank you both, for everything.” “ You're most welcome. Now I've left her some tonic for the pain on the vanity. One teaspoon every few hours or as needed. She's to stay in bed for at least two weeks but I advise she nurse if she feels able. Be sure to change her dressings once a day and sponge bath with tepid water. And unless complications arise, you'll hear from me within the week.”
Alice startled awake at the sound of the front door closing. The house was silent and she was still so very tired. Curious about her husband's absence and vaguely aware that she'd forgotten something important, Alice slipped back into deep slumber. Outside, Timothy was preparing his daughter's resting place.
It was night before Alice awoke, coherent enough to notice the tray of food with an obvious vial of pain tonic left on the bedside. When Tim came in she was thinking of getting up. “ You're awake.” He stated quietly as he entered. “You've not touched your food.” “ Not hungry.” She whispered gruffly. “ Did you drink your tonic?” A nod. “Are you feeling any pain?” He moved the tray and settled on the bed as she shook her head. Alice watched him solemnly. “The children...” She managed to choke out.
Timothy sighed. “I thank you for our son... our daughter has been embraced in the bosom of our ancestors.” Alice felt her heart stop a moment as all her facilities readied themselves for a good cry. Fortunately she found herself much too exhausted to indulge. So she swallowed her grief to be dealt with later. “ I wish to see him.”
It wasn't until later that night that Alice was finally able to cry for her lost little one. There was guilt for the happiness she found in her son. Guilt she hadn't been able to deliver them both safely. Timothy lay by her side and provided a silent but strong support. Long after she'd sobbed herself to sleep, Tim too wallowed in his own grief.
But life has a strange way of moving on, even past the most sorrowful events. It wasn't long before Alice found herself well and able to care for her son without the sting of guilt and loss to hinder her. They held no service for little Evelyn, as they decided to christen her, and chose to keep her life a secret for only themselves. It seemed wrong to invite others to share a grief they knew nothing of. The baby had only been known and loved by the parents who lost her. So they alone would mourn her. (In memory of Evelyn Keiko Buckley. Daughter of Timothy and Alice Buckley. Autumn 1860)
Their extended family and friends were only told of their son's joyous arrival. Little Evy's birth and subsequent death were discreetly marked in her mother's bible. Botan, as his mother secretly called him, was a quiet and content baby. Never caused his parents a moment's concern. Alice never considered herself a natural mother. Certainly nothing like her older sisters who had dreamed about having children of their own since they were little girls. But with her son, Alice found that seeing to his needs did indeed come naturally.
How was Ren adjusting to no longer being the baby of the Buckley family? I think her majesty is still unaware of the change in status. She most likely thinks of the baby as another of her loyal subjects. I'll leave her to such delusions. For now.
These were peaceful days in the Buckley household.
Chapter Five Annie still had her bad days. Hers was a slow recovery, despite her attempts at maintaining a cheerful disposition. While being on mandatory bed rest bored her to tears, her body was thankful for the reprieve. When not asleep, Annie spent the time in contemplation. It occurred to her that she had nearly died. Only Annie felt no great fear of death. Dying was simply another great adventure. Where one was not bound by earthly concerns. And to die while producing life seemed only the poetic balance of nature. Her only regret was the loss of the child.
Despite the harrowing experience, Annie was quite eager to feel life growing inside her womb once again. Only she was well aware that her husband would see things differently. Nicolas had taken his wife's brush with death quite badly. He swore to himself that he would never feel such fear again. Even if it meant he must refrain from the pleasures of their marital bed. He would not risk his Annie for feeble desires. Such vices could be overcome. Especially for one who had lived as long as he.
While his wife healed, Nicolas took to arranging a room in which Annie could spend pleasurable amounts of time. Her very own study. He'd noticed that she'd taken to hiding away in what she'd named “The Gold Room” when she was with child. Apparently it had a calming affect on her nerves. So as a present, he'd be sure to have it ready and waiting for when she was well enough to venture downstairs again.
With a forced celibacy upon the lustful couple, Annie and Nicolas were obliged to interact in ways that didn't involve sins of the flesh. Nicolas felt himself compelled to talk to his wife, share stories of his adventures. In Annie he found an eager listener. A youthful mind that absorbed his every knowledgeable word with light in her eyes. There were times during their talks that Nicolas felt as though he were confessing his sins and therefore forgiven his every poor decision and transgression.
In Annie he found solace, a confidante. She was his equal, in more ways than he'd previously realized. Though young, she was far from the child in need of protection that he'd initially fallen in love with. The first nights of their marriage had been spent in carnal pleasure. Now they were spent getting to know the one to whom they had committed themselves. In this Annie and Nicolas found a new understanding. A deeper, more substantial foundation on which to base their love.
Though slow, Annie's healing was steady with her feeling a bit better every day. Having been confined to her bed for weeks, it was not a small delight being allowed out of the suite once again. Even if she only had the energy to spend a couple hours reading in the parlor, Annie took great joy in her new freedom. On the days her health cooperated, Annie made it her mission to get back in touch with her family and friends. A great chasm of silence had formed between she and her loved ones during her illness. While she had been comforted by their letters and well wishes, Annie preferred to hear their voices and looked forward to seeing them all again.
Still, she had her evenings with Nicolas to look forward to. Though quieter and less active than they used to be, both Annie and her husband enjoyed their newly discovered intimacy. Annie loved piling into their bed, curled together like a small pack of pups. Listening to one another talk or perhaps falling asleep to the steady reading of the other. Annie hadn't felt such security since she was a child within the protection of her parents' arms.
She decided to take up painting again. Despite being naturally good at it, she'd never taken the art seriously. It was time to put her talents to use. Annie also enjoyed spending time in her gold study. Oft times she could be found sitting in there, simply gazing blankly at her surroundings, clearly absorbed in her thoughts. All the while with a contented expression playing on her face.
Sometime later Annie was granted her wish when her family surprised her with a visit. She couldn't have been more pleased by their arrival. Especially Olivia, this being her first venture out of the house since her self imposed state of mourning. She apologized about Nicolas being unavailable to entertain. She claimed he was once again away on a day trip to Simdon. If the family was at all suspicious of their son in law's frequent absences they kept it to themselves. Stuart of course had no trouble making himself at home and made mention of the pond out side. He asked if she might oblige him to make use of it for the afternoon. Asher too thought this a more promising way to spend the day.
While the men enjoyed the great outdoors, Annie led the ladies to the parlor, where they were served wine and cheese, and played the piano for them. Evelyn was greatly appreciative that her girls had the opportunity to learn. She herself had once been proficient. But it had been many years since her fingers danced on ivory. Annie finally talked her mother into playing for them. With her child's gentle prodding and subtle reminders, Evelyn found she remembered far more than she thought. As she hesitantly touched the keys she felt as though she were a young girl again. Learning under the insistent but kind tutelage of her uncle.
While Evelyn entertained them, Annie and Olivia found themselves engaged in their first real conversation. They quickly discovered they got on more than reasonably well, despite their differences. Annie was a fearless optimist with an almost reckless thirst for life. Olivia was brave but cautious and steady. Still they found one another's company quite enjoyable. Having been through similar ordeals, they shared a level of understanding others did not.
This was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. Olivia found herself taken with Annie and related to her far batter than any of Asher's other sisters. They began to spend a great deal of time together, Olivia calling on Annie for tea at least twice a week. Annie in turn enjoyed the company greatly. Unlike her siblings who saw her as nothing more than their baby sister who must be looked after, Olivia treated Annie as her equal. They walked the grounds together, often taking tea afterward, discussing anything that either could think of. There seemed no boundaries, no mistrust.
There was only one secret Annie kept to herself. The fact that Nicolas was actually upstairs asleep in his sarcophagus and not away on business. She felt no guilt for keeping silent on this score. Olivia was proving to be a kind, trust worthy friend but Annie's loyalty was to her beloved. She could only imagine the repercussion of his secret becoming known to people full of fear and ignorance. While her family might under-stand, she wouldn't take that chance with Nicolas' life. She told Olivia about the manor having been previously owned by a horse breeder, hence the training grounds. These being no longer necessary, Nicolas had plans for their removal in the Spring.
Annie even introduced Olivia to a special sort of pipe weed from India. Olivia could not help being impressed by the large pipe that sat in the Solarium. “ It's a great indulgence, isn't it?” “ Come now,” Annie coaxed. “If one must have a vice, be sure to indulge in the most extravagant way possible.” Yes, under Annie's effervescent and sometimes wicked influence, Olivia felt the cloud of her grief disperse. The dark shadows under her eyes began to fade and her cheeks were once more their healthy rosy hue.
Annie insisted on painting a likeness of her friend. Olivia was so flattered that of course she agreed to sit for her charming sister in law. While she sat, she wondered at Annie's enthusiasm for life. Annie had no fear of the unknown, no regrets and had confided that as soon as she were able, and could convince her husband, she was to try for another child. Such radiant determination had Olivia thinking of her own fears and reluctance. Perhaps Annie was right. Perhaps all the worry and heartbreak was worth it if she managed to birth a healthy child in the end.
After weeks of portrait sitting, the likeness was complete. Olivia was in awe of Annie's talent. “ Oh Annie, it's lovely! How remarkable.” “ Tis nothing.” Annie blushed. “I've only ever learned the basics.” “ It's better than anything I might have done.” “ Didn't you study painting as a girl or at school?” Olivia shook her head “I began my studies far too late and I possess no natural talent. I'm fortunate enough having learned the simplest of domestic skills. Your mother has been a great help in that area.” Annie nodded. “Well, perhaps you may still learn.”
With her illness a thing of the past, Annie was feeling quite ready to share a bed with her beloved once again. And not to engage in stimulating conversation either. But knowing her husband's disposition, she would need to tread softly. Nicolas greeted his wife at dinner as always, a pleased smile on his face. “Good evening dearest. You're looking lovelier than usual.” “ Am I?” “ Yes,” Nicolas placed a napkin in his lap. “There seems to be... a glow about you.” “ I spent a pleasant afternoon with Olivia.” “ Ah, you two have been spending a great deal of time together. You must enjoy her company immensely.”
“ I do.” Annie nodded eagerly. “She and I are the very best of friends. I finished her likeness today. I've placed it in my study.” “ I'll be sure to take a look at it. I'm certain it's beautiful.” “ I don't suppose you would agree to sit for me?” “ What on earth for? Who would wish to look at my likeness? I'm not nearly as pleasant to look at as Mrs. Norrington, I'm sure.” “ No, you're not.” Annie admitted in a teasing tone. “But I would still like to have your portrait hanging in the hall. I imagine there are those who might find it fascinating.” “ Pray tell, whom?” Annie hesitated. “Our children perhaps?”
Nicolas choked on his bass and Annie took the opportunity to continue. “Imagine their surprise in seeing their father is so unique that he's hardly aged a day in the whole of their lives. It's only proper to have a father's portrait hanging where his family may gaze upon it. And in such a great house it's a must. All these blank walls.” Nicolas recovered and cast a serious eye at his wife. “Annie, I thought we had already spoken of this. There are to be no children.” “ And how is that to be managed, love?” She implored. “Are we never to lie with one another again? Am I not your wife?” “ Yes, but I will not risk you.” “ So, am I to be nothing more than a glorified companion?”
“ Am I never to touch my husband? Never feel his embrace? Never to hold children with his eyes and my smile? Forever denied what I desire because of your fear?” Nicolas sighed “Annie we tried. I nearly lost you and that nearly killed me. I'm not the sort of man who can simply cast you aside in the hope of spreading my seed. Diseased as it is. I learned that lesson long ago. “ I count myself ever fortunate having found you and won your love. I will not lose that due to foolishness.” “ But Nicolas, I want your child. I don't care about the risks.” With a huff Nicolas stood, dropping his napkin. “I've lost my appetite.” He strode to the door. “I will not speak of this again, Annie.”
But Annie was not to be deterred. Of course Nicolas couldn't stay upset with his beloved. It wasn't long before he was seeking her out to apologize for his short handedness. But this meant that Annie continued to insist he rethink his decision. Though she refused to give up, Annie was charming in her tenacity. So much so that Nicolas found it difficult to maintain any temper. Annie was simply so earnest in her pleas. Her emotion was true and honest. He understood what she wanted from him and knew he was being somewhat selfish and unfair. But could he truly bring himself to risk Annie's life again? Did he want to risk feeling that helpless fear while he watched her slip away?
Annie wouldn't give up in her crusade. Yes, it was a risk and true she might have lost her life. But she hadn't. Annie had regained her health and she would not waste that good fortune by letting fear to dictate her life. Nicolas would simply have to accept this about his wife. Nicolas never dreamed the day would come when he'd wish to avoid his beloved's company. But with her incessant talk of children he knew of no other way to keep from discussing the subject. Why couldn't Annie be like other wives and submit to her husband's will? She would be difficult in the one thing he couldn't give into her. Nicolas shook the dark thought from his mind. Annie wasn't like other women and he wouldn't wish her to be.
As they met for dinner yet again, Nicolas couldn't help but regard his love with a wary eye. He was therefore pleasantly surprised when Annie made not one mention of children. She was all sweetness and light and looking absolutely lovely in her new Winter frock. She spoke of her family's happy news and passed on Martha Benny's grievances. Afterward they took a walk and cuddled under the stars. It was a chilly evening and Nicolas could smell snow in the air. Annie lay tucked in his arms in her Winter cloak while he was impervious to the cold bite in the air. This was just the sort of peace he craved.
Soon though he became concerned by the chill of Annie's skin and in the flush in her cheeks. “Come love. Let's get you inside and in front of a warm fire.” Once indoors, Nicolas sent his wife upstairs to get comfortable while he fetched a tot of whiskey to warm her. He was therefore greatly surprised to find Annie lying on her bed in blatant invitation. Nicolas felt his throat go dry. “ Annie?”
She gave him a small smile and implored quietly. “Give me your child? Please?” It was the please that broke him. Spoken so softly and undemanding. How could he deny this beautiful creature anything? He knelt on the bed and gazed at her, his mind in conflict. “ And if I lose you?” He whispered, his throat tight. Annie sighed. “Then I suggest we make the time we have, worthy of remembrance.” When put so eloquently, Nicolas found he was out of excuses. And truthfully, having denied himself the pleasure of his wife's sensual delights for so long, he had no fight left in him. He would not only take what was on offer but also do his damnedest to give Annie what she wanted. A child and memories worth treasuring.
With the cold weather keeping most civilized folk indoors, Annie and Nicolas sought refuge in one another's arms. Needless to say, they shared many a pleasurable moment worthy of remembrance. Whether or not they succeeded in creating a life was still to be seen.
Chapter Seven As Autumn began, the Norrington household lived life beneath a cloud of melancholy. Olivia chose to devote herself to serious study during her time of mourning. She didn't receive company nor go visiting. She kept to the house and grounds, maintaining a thoughtful silence. Unlike before she was careful not to alienate her family in her grief. Still, the rest of the Norringtons were respectful of her disposition and left her to her contemplation.
Stuart found the grievous atmosphere smothering. He longed for the new life of a child in the home. The sound of you