Edwin Huntington hadn’t considered it: the terror he might have crafted for himself as a result of pulling himself, his beautiful wife Cecily, and their young daughter, Jane, so far from the comforts of their country home. At the time of the assignment, he’d been only a young colonel, the only child of a younger son of a nobleman, and he’d been hungry to prove himself. He’d jumped at the chance, informing his wife that honour and wealth would be theirs in all the ways she’d ever dreamed. He’d always known Cecily to be the sort of woman to dream after loftier lives. He demanded of himself to achieve those worlds for her. For Jane.
Stationed so far from family, he and Cecily found themselves whispering to one another that they were all one another needed. It was a constant solace to Edwin, who continually questioned it. His days as a colonel were long, and he felt the ache and haze in his wife’s heart. She missed her friends. She missed her relatives. She missed the people who’d made her laugh until tears squeezed from her gorgeous blue eyes.
Still, the words, “I only need you, Edwin. I only need you and our darling daughter, Jane,” continued for a long time after their initial move—long enough for Edwin to believe they might linger on forever. It wasn’t that he was necessarily an idealist or optimist; he simply had the comprehension of the world that he required nothing but the previous decisions he’d already made. He knew enough to rely on himself, all versions, past, present, and future.
Jane was only six when Edwin began to notice the little changes in his wife.
Previously, he’d returned home to find his wife on the floor with their daughter, playing with dolls and braiding her blonde curls and tickling her till she screeched with pleasure. But Cecily grew despondent. Frequently, Edwin found her stationed at the side of various rooms, gazing out the window with an unopened book on her lap. When Edwin asked her what she’d done on any given day, she ordinarily shrugged her shoulders and tapped a gentle kiss on his cheek. It wasn’t gentle in the kind sense; rather, it was gentle in the, “I know I’m meant to do this, but I can craft no passion behind it,” sense.
Cecily fell deeper into her own little world.
And there were certainly other signs, things that Edwin chose to ignore.
Occasionally, he found her penning long letters, her blonde curls spilling down her shoulders, and her eyes alight. When he disturbed her from this dream-like state, she grew volatile and angry and accused him of spying on her. Of course, that hadn’t been his intention at all. He’d simply wanted to say hello.
He hadn’t known he’d caught her in the midst of it.
A heart-wrenching affair.
On Jane’s seventh birthday, Edwin took several days off and stationed himself at home so that the family could properly celebrate. Several little girls, the daughters of Edwin’s colleagues, came to their estate for the festivities. Edwin was floored with Cecily’s ability to transform herself into God’s perfect wife. She wore a gorgeous dress, with a tightly cinched waist, and her hair seemed bigger and more vibrant than ever. She greeted everyone warmly and insisted they eat as much as they could. Various colleagues approached Edwin throughout the party and said, “I’ve never seen your wife so endearing. You just might be the luckiest man I know.” Otherwise, they said, “She’s terribly beautiful, your wife,” in a sense that to Edwin’s ears, seemed to demand, How on earth did you manage to marry a woman like that?
It wasn’t that Edwin wasn’t handsome. He knew he was. He was broad of shoulder, with black curls that swept past his ears and enormous stern green eyes. When he’d first danced with Cecily at a ball in the county in which they’d grown up, just outside of London, he’d known how nervous she was. Her little hand shook in his. “You’re terribly handsome,” she’d told him, as though this was enough glue to keep them together forever.
When it was time for Jane’s birthday cake, Cecily perched herself beside her daughter and helped her blow out the candles. She strung her fingers through Jane’s glorious blonde curls and made momentary eye contact with Edwin. At this moment, Edwin thought, Yes. She remembers. She knows we created this little girl together. She knows we’ve been through so much that we can never take it back.
She still loves me.
But in only a moment, that glance passed. Edwin was left with the suspicion that, in fact, whatever love she’d crafted between them throughout Jane’s birthday part was purely for show. And indeed, as many of his colleagues and newfound friends left the party later that evening, they mentioned this enormous love—clearly impressed.
“You’ve a marvellous family. Have you considered having more children?” one asked.
“We’ve discussed it,” Edwin returned, his heart filling with longing for this idea. After all, he’d always envisioned himself and Cecily having countless children, all of them filled with laughter—all of them bickering with both Cecily and Edwin and demanding more of them, more love, more conversation, more, more, more.
One evening at dinner, about two weeks after Jane’s birthday, Edwin sat with Cecily and Jane at the dinner table. They ate turkey in silence. Occasionally, Jane’s inarticulate fingers forced the knife and fork to fall from the meat and smack against the plate. At this, Cecily whacked her hands across her ears and said, “Darling, I’ve told you. You must be careful when eating, so as not to annoy the people around you. The way you smack your lips together as well …”
Here it was: another of Cecily’s strange, newfound rages. Edwin baulked at her. He couldn’t remember the woman he’d met nearly eight years ago ever orchestrating such attitude towards her own daughter.
Jane immediately burst into tears. Edwin wanted to cry himself. Jane placed her hands over her blotchy cheeks and allowed her shoulders to droop.
“Darling, it’s inappropriate to cry at the dinner table,” Cecily snarled.
“That’s enough, Cecily,” Edwin returned.
“Are you going to teach her to eat properly? Or does that land on my shoulders, as well? Everything else does. It seems that no matter what, you’re off gallivanting through the countryside, and I’m left here with our darling daughter as she smacks her knife and fork against her plate, again and again …”
“I’ve never heard her do anything like this before,” Edwin blared. “And it’s not as though I’ve missed many dinners. I can’t recall the last one I wasn’t in attendance for.”
Cecily huffed. She swept her napkin from her lap and smacked it across the table. “Are you insinuating that I’m a liar?”
The inside of Edwin’s skull felt as though it was on fire. He swallowed, trying to draw up the courage to push his anger to the side.
But Cecily was in no mood to quit the reckless attack.
“You forced us all the way out here. Miles and miles from anyone I’ve ever known or loved,” she continued. “You destroyed my life. You made me feel as though all I’m good for is to sit here and speak to a six-year-old.”
“Jane is seven,” Edwin returned.
Jane stared down at her plate, clearly confused, lost, terrified.
“Perhaps we could continue this discussion elsewhere, Cecily?” he said, his tone on the edge of anger and sadness. He felt emotionally exhausted.
“I don’t understand why the dinner table isn’t suitable enough for you,” she returned. “Here we are. Set up like a judge and jury. Although—you’re frankly ready to place your judgement, regardless of what argument I make, aren’t you?”
Edwin felt this was entirely unfair. He’d done nothing but dote on his wife, listen to her, attempt to calm her terrified and reckless thoughts.
“Darling, whatever this is about,” he began, trying a new tactic, “I imagine we can find a route back to …”
“No. I don’t want to find a route back to whatever we were before,” Cecily returned. “Perhaps this is a difficult thing for you to perceive, Edwin, but not all of us wish to live in the past.”
“I don’t know what you’re insinuating,” Edwin returned.
“Some of us wish to push forward. Some of us wish to feel as much as we can, live as well as we can, be something other than we were before,” Cecily continued.
“I can’t imagine why you don’t perceive me to want that for you,” Edwin said.
“You’re ridiculous,” Cecily muttered under her breath.
Again, Jane’s howls swirled from her perfect button mouth. Edwin leapt up from his chair, nearly toppling his half-finished plate from the table. He circled around to find Jane, then dropped to his knees to collect her little frame. She placed her chin on his shoulder as he lifted her up.
“It’s going to be all right, darling,” he told her.
“Listen to yourself,” Cecily scoffed. “You sound pathetic.”
“I’m only trying to do what you won’t,” Edwin returned.
“And what’s that?”
“I’m trying to give our daughter just a tiny slice of comfort in the midst of a cruel world.”
“And I suppose in your example here, I’m the element in her current world exhibiting cruelty?” she returned.
Edwin heaved a sigh. “Yes. I suppose so.”
Cecily whipped up from her chair. Her curls danced down her back as she shot down the hallway and back towards the parlour. Edwin continued to hold his daughter in his arms. She shook slightly but no longer cried. Edwin stared at the dark hallway where his wife had just disappeared. He wondered why it felt as though they’d fallen too far from what they’d always been before. He wondered what he’d done wrong.
Edwin carried his daughter to her little bedroom. It was a gorgeous little room, something Cecily had had decorated when they’d first arrived at the mansion two years before, with a four-poster bed and a painting of the starry night sky across the far wall. By the time he splayed her across the top sheet of the bed, Jane had drifted into slumber. It was funny like that with children, Edwin thought. One moment, they were impassioned, enraged, volatile, sad—and the next, they’d abandoned this world for the next.
Edwin stood over his daughter for a moment and watched the rise and fall of her stomach as she breathed. He remembered when she’d first been born. The pregnancy had been a difficult one. Cecily had been in a great deal of pain for many of the months leading up to it—so much so that she’d refused to see him and spent the majority of her time with her sister and dearest friend in her small room. Edwin had stewed over this at the time, frustrated that he couldn’t bring solace to his wife, whom he very dearly loved.
When it had come time for Edwin to hold Jane for the first time, he’d been mesmerized.
He’d never seen a being so small.
He could still remember it. Her eyelids had been essentially translucent. Her fingers had been as thin as little needles, and she’d weighed almost nothing at all. He’d been terribly frightened that he would drop her. But instead of that, he’d held her for far longer than he was meant to, as a new father. He’d felt the eyes of the wet nurse on him, waiting for him to pass Jane over. But he’d felt such a kinship to the baby. He’d whispered to her, “I will keep you safe and well in all things. I am your father, and you are my first. I want nothing more than to give you the world.”
Had he and Cecily been happy during those first few years? Edwin supposed they had been. It had been a busy time; Edwin had wanted to move forward with his career, pushed on from his desire to be the sort of father little Jane deserved.
Still, when he’d spoken to friends and relatives about his family and the prospects of his career, they’d said that their happiness was a near guarantee.
Edwin couldn’t find his wife in the house that night. He searched for her in the parlour, in the study, in the library. Perhaps she’d taken a walk in the garden—something that worried and enraged him, as he felt it wasn’t necessarily safe for a woman to walk about at night. Still, when he opened the door and wandered through the gates, he saw no sign of her.
Eventually, Edwin returned to the bed they normally slept in together. He stripped down, donned his bedclothes, and returned his thoughts to the important matters at hand regarding the operations at his workplace the following day. As he slipped beneath the covers, he assured himself that, although Cecily had grown enraged enough to abandon him and their bed that evening, they would find a way back to where they’d begun on the morrow.
Edwin wasn’t the sort of man to give up. He loved Cecily. He loved Jane. And he knew they’d find a way to make it right.
When Edwin awoke the following morning, he discovered that Cecily had never found her way back to their bed. There was a good chance that she’d found an alternate sleeping solution, that she’d slipped into one of the guest bedrooms and dreamed her dreams alone. With a full day before him, Edwin shoved thoughts of Cecily from his mind, scrubbed himself clean, and donned his uniform for the day.
In the hallway, Edwin had the nagging suspicion that no one had awoken Jane—a rare thing indeed, as ordinarily, they ate their breakfasts together. Was it Cecily who normally woke Jane, or one of the maids? Perhaps it was a lack of service on his part, the fact that he had little to do with Jane’s morning schedule. Had this contributed to Cecily’s anger?
Edwin walked toward Jane’s bedroom. He creaked open the door to discover that yes, in fact, she still remained atop the bedclothes, in yesterday’s outfit. This made his stomach bubble with fear. Why hadn’t Cecily looked in on the girl?
Edwin padded down towards the dining room. Smells of sausages, of bubbling beans, of eggs, swept in from the kitchen. He paused at the doorway of the dining room and blinked at the empty chair, where he’d expected, he supposed, to find Cecily. If there was anything he’d been able to count on over the years, it was that Cecily had a vibrant appetite. Her complaints when her stomach wasn’t filled were loud and obnoxious.
One of the maids hurried out from the kitchen, cast her eyes towards Edwin, then immediately hobbled back into the kitchen. To Edwin, she seemed as though she wanted to race as quickly as she could away from him. He’d never orchestrated any ill will towards the waitstaff; thus, this filled him with confusion.
He felt as though he’d suddenly become an alien in his own life.
Incredulous, he stumbled towards the far end of the hallway, half-chasing after the maid who’d just abandoned him. When he reached the kitchen doorway, steam barrelled over him. Initially, it was difficult to see. He coughed twice and then peered through the chaos.
“Hello? Good morning?”
Nobody returned his hellos for a long moment. Finally, one of the kitchen staff said, “Good morning, My Lord!” in a manner that suggested she did not want to wish him good morning at all.
Edwin swallowed hard. “I don’t suppose any of you have witnessed my wife this morning? I can’t find her.”
Again, nobody spoke. Edwin’s heart banged like a drumstick against his ribcage.
“It really is essential that I find her,” Edwin tried again. “I wish to discuss something with her before I attend to my duties today.”
The silence had grown deafening. Edwin yearned to smack his fist against the side of the doorway and blare that they hadn’t any kind of right to ignore him like this; he was their employer, for goodness sake. But he wasn’t that sort of man. He didn’t wish to frighten anyone.
Finally, the first maid he’d spotted that morning appeared through the steam. She looked meek, sheepish, and she turned her eyes towards the ground as she began, “Begging your pardon, My Lord, I believe I spotted the likes of Lady Huntington in the yonder study this morning. But I haven’t a clue what occurred there. Please, don’t pin anything that occurs on me.”
Edwin baulked. The maid disappeared back into the kitchen steam.
“What do you mean—what occurred there?” Edwin called after her, recognizing that he’d waited too long to ask.
Finally, he forced himself back into the hallway. He spotted the study door and felt his heart drop into his stomach. Whatever had occurred in there, he now recognized that it very well could have changed the course of his life. A million different ideas came to his mind. None of them were entirely satisfactory.
When he pressed open the study door, he breathed a sigh of relief to find it empty. He hadn’t wanted to face her here. As he approached his desk, however, he found a little envelope, on which she’d written in her gorgeous penmanship: Edwin.
Edwin lifted the envelope and placed it against his chest. He stared through the window for a long time. Outside, the last-spring wind rushed across the moors and swept through the trees. The leaves seemed to dance with it, illustrating their optimism for the summertime ahead. It was only in watching this gorgeous weather that he realized just how much he’d looked forward to summer, as well. He’d longed to convince Cecily to have another child. He’d longed to picnic with his girls, to begin to teach Jane how to ride a horse, to feel the sun on his face, and the wind at his back.
With this newfound note, however, he felt as though the reality he’d crafted within his mind had little to do with what would actually occur.
He couldn’t sit. He felt he couldn’t stand, either. He leaned hard against the wall between his two perfectly-curated bookshelves and tore open the envelope. He then tugged a note out from within.
As he began to read, he again acknowledged the beauty of her handwriting. He’d never before seen such handwriting. It was a sort of art form in and of itself.
Still, the poem that she’d crafted with that perfect handwriting was a bit like a dagger.
I write this to you from the depths of my personal despair.
When you first suggested we move so far from family, from friends, from everything we’ve ever known, I thought you had a scheme for us. A plan for wealth and grandeur. But I know the state of things. I know we have little, hardly enough to scrape together a living for our servants. In the previous few weeks, I’ve had to dismiss no fewer than three maids. In the wake of that, I’ve watched the pieces of our life crumble continually—so much so that your continued assurance that we should have more children should really be met with only laughter. How are we meant to support another child, let alone several more?
Darling, one of my biggest regrets was my trust in you. When we first met and married, you had such dreams for us. Such aspirations. I can’t imagine if you’ve grown weak, or if, in fact, your aspirations simply painted themselves differently in my mind. Perhaps right now, you might label your life as having everything you’ve ever dreamed of.
If that is true, then that only adds to my decision.
I am leaving you.
At the time of your reading this, I’m surely already far away. I arranged for a coach to return me to our home.
But it’s not as though I’ve returned to the home of my father.
I suppose it’s best that I recount the true status of my departure here so that you don’t hear it from someone else.
I’ve fallen in love with another.
I almost wish I could say that this man is one of your ridiculous colleagues. I wish I could tell you that it’s someone you don’t care for. I wish I could tell you it isn’t a matter of personal inconvenience for you.
But in fact, I’ve fallen in love with your cousin, Marcus.
I can already hear the sorts of rebukes you wish to throw at me. I know you so well.
You’ll say that I’ve only fallen for him because he’s heir to his father’s title as Duke.
You’ll say that I’ve only fallen for him because of his money.
But darling, that’s not true at all.
Marcus and I have had quite the affair beneath your nose.
Perhaps you find me cruel for admitting this to you. Perhaps you wish to beg me to stop here, not to explain all the more.
But I find it important that I represent myself fully and totally.
You boxed me into this life, Edwin. You made me feel as though I could only be a wife and a mother, and you wished to make the boundaries of that life higher, adding more children to the pile. I found it difficult to breathe. Now, as I write this, and I see the exit opening up before me, I finally have the strength to breathe again.
You’ll tell me that my leaving will impact Jane.
But I don’t perceive it this way at all.
She will see me as the strong and powerful woman I am.
She will see me as the sort of woman who goes after what she wants, regardless of what society wishes for me. I hope she finds strength in that. I hope she becomes the sort of woman she wants to be. And I hope she’s able to fight your patriarchal ideals to find her truth.
Perhaps we’ll see one another again in a different context.
I will write to you when I feel ready for it.
In the meantime, I hope you and Jane keep yourselves well. Tell Jane I love her, that I wish only the best for her—and it’s part of the reason I’m doing this.
Thank you for your time, and I wish you all the best.
By the time Edwin finished reading her letter, his hands shook with rage.
Finally, so many elements of the previous few months of their life together clicked into place. The secrets, the lies, the long letters written to someone else—it had all been a result of his cousin, Marcus, who’d arrived no more than six months before for a visit.
Edwin remembered that visit rather clearly. He’d never been terribly fond of his cousin Marcus, the heir to the title. He’d always seen him to be brash and arrogant and rather irresponsible. He certainly seemed to spend his father’s money willy-nilly, as though it represented nothing.
Goodness, though, he’d been charming. Edwin remembered this fact with a sinking feeling in his gut. They’d sat together, Marcus, Edwin, and Cecily, and drank wine deep into the night. Marcus had recounted the previous few months he’d spent in London: the lavish parties, the women, the gorgeous dinners. He’d met countless members of the royal family and got into a fair bit of trouble, as well. Cecily’s eyes had been alight with excitement.
“You must tell it again!” she’d cried, after a particularly outrageous tale. “I can hardly imagine how you got yourself out of that trouble, darling Marcus. Any other man might have been cast into prison for the rest of his days.”
Marcus had loved her flirtatious ways. Edwin remembered this incredibly clearly. Cecily had tried to stay up as long as possible—a rare thing for her, as she ordinarily dipped out when the conversation turned towards the masculine. She begged for more stories from the outside world, continually stating that her life was over now that she was a mother. At this, Edwin had said, “Darling, it’s not as though you would trade Jane for the world.” At this, Cecily had scoffed in a way that had very much suggested that, in fact, she would have traded Jane for the world.
“You’ve got yourself a marvellous woman,” his cousin had told him over yet another glass of Scotch. “I don’t suppose I’ve ever met anyone quite like her.”
Edwin had felt uncomfortable at the suggestion. He gripped the side of his collar and ripped it out, allowing himself more air. “We’re quite happy here,” he’d said, as though that would somehow change the subject.
“Are you? She seems desperate to get to London,” Marcus had returned. “And I must report, many of the women in London aren’t quite as beautiful as she is. She would do well. Have you considered moving your family?”
“I don’t suppose we can. My career is here. It’s been mentioned that we can return to the county in three or four years, but that’s only a suggestion, not based in fact.”
“I see.” Marcus had rolled the Scotch about on his tongue—seemingly underappreciating it.
Edwin had assumed that Marcus was accustomed to still better Scotch in the outside world. He’d almost heard the thoughts that spun around Marcus’s skull. My pathetic cousin, who can’t keep his wife happy. My pathetic cousin who thinks that having another child and then another will fulfill him—when in actuality, it’s my raucous parties across London, my friendship with the royal family, my affinity for the higher-brand of Scotch, that would make him and his wife happy.
Now, stationed there in his study alone with only a note left over from his marriage, Edwin wished he’d pressed his cousin against the wall and blared that if he ever touched his wife, if he ever looked at her again, Edwin would destroy him.
Edwin walked like a ghost through his home. He felt the staggering weight of Cecily’s disappearance across his shoulders. Everywhere he went, the maids (the ones they hadn’t yet fired) glanced at him with these enormous eyes. It was clear that they knew what had happened. He considered asking one of them to wake Jane, to prepare her for the day ahead. He knew it was inappropriate to allow the girl to slumber deep into the morning.
There was much to do.
He penned a letter to one of his colleagues in the army, explaining that he couldn’t appear that day; really, he needed a week off until he could fully arrange himself. As he’d never taken a day off, not in several years at least, he felt sure that they would honour this request. This, he remembered, had been another gripe from Cecily. She’d demanded that he take time for her, for Jane—but he’d insisted that his career was far too important to skip out on.
Could he have saved them, fixed his marriage, kept Cecily home?
He shoved this thought away. Now that she’d abandoned them, there was nothing he could do to fight for it back. It wasn’t as though he wanted to leap on horseback and drive across the wild night to get his wife back from his cousin. He imagined standing there at the door and insisting she return with him. She and Marcus would laugh the way they had on that horrible night six months before. They would make Edwin feel the fool.
Instead of turning for help from a maid, Edwin took it upon himself to wake his seven-year-old. He walked slowly up the staircase, listening as it creaked beneath him. When he reached her door and cracked it open, her eyes opened on their own. She blinked down at the dress she’d worn to sleep; her cheeks crumpled with sadness.
“Father, why did I sleep in my clothes?” she asked.
It was always remarkable to Edwin, the sorts of things that could make Jane cry. It always seemed she was on the brink of it. Sometimes, it could happen easily, like in the space of time it took for her ice cream to melt on a hot summer’s day.
“You were far too tired,” Edwin affirmed to her. “And sometimes, when we’re too tired, we have to sleep in our clothes. There’s no other way.”
Jane lifted herself up and rubbed her eyes. She blinked at her father several times.
“Mother usually wakes me.”
Edwin felt the words like a punch. He stepped towards her and placed himself at the edge of her bed. It struck him now that Jane was far too small for this bed. The bed was big enough to hold two large adult humans; she looked on the verge of drowning in it.
“Your mother isn’t here,” Edwin admitted.
How was he meant to tell his daughter the truth? On the one hand, she deserved the truth, didn’t she? This was something that had very much happened to her; thus, it was up to him to ensure that she rode through the horror of it without lingering too long on the dark parts.
“Where did she go?” Jane asked. “Is she downstairs?”
“No. She’s gone back to where we came from,” he said—although he wasn’t fully sure about this. He felt it possible that the two of them had gone to London to involve themselves in those dramatic parties.
At this moment, he had a flashing image of Cecily at one of those very parties—her laughter ringing out, her blonde curls shaking. He imagined Marcus beside her, his hand on her back, and his eyes capturing every girlish thing she did.
At one time, when Edwin had first realized that this girl would be his wife, he’d acknowledged these little, unique personality quirks with similar excitement. He’d actually thought, I can’t believe she belongs to me.
The conversation with Jane was especially painful because Jane was the spitting image of her mother. She blinked wide, blue eyes up at her father, and her little mouth curved into a bow.
“Will we go with her?” Jane asked. Her memories of that long-ago world were foggy; she hardly knew her grandparents and cousins, although she frequently asked questions about them. To her, her “family” were the children related to other members of the army.
Edwin had always hoped this would be enough for her.
“No, darling. We must stay here. My career is here,” he said. He felt he’d said those precise words to Cecily a few years before.
Had his career ruined his life?
He shoved this thought as far as he could away, as well. It wasn’t as though it did him any good to linger on what he might have done differently.
Jane placed her feet delicately on the rug beside the bed and slipped down. She walked towards her closet and then strung her fingers across the glossy fabric of the gowns. “I suppose Mother would want me to change my clothes.”
Mother won’t know what you do. Never again, perhaps, Edwin thought. He felt the heartbreak as though it happened to someone else.
“Would you like help?” Edwin asked.
Jane shook her head. “No. I can dress myself.”
Edwin stepped towards the doorway. He felt Jane’s devastation echoing off her shoulders, which were slumped forward. Still, she didn’t cry—not the way he’d expected her to. This surprised him. Was this perhaps the first in a series of horrors that would occur to her that would ultimately make her unable to experience emotions appropriately?
He hardly knew a thing about the psychology of children.
“You’ll tell me if you need anything this morning?” he asked at the door.
Jane nodded, making her curls shake.
“I won’t be going into work. We can meet in the garden. Perhaps we can play a game.”
Jane shrugged her shoulders, the motion similar to one Cecily had done frequently when Edwin had suggested something that seemed outside the bounds of reason. Cecily had always had a way of making him seem far too stupid for her.
Even still, Edwin had always known himself to be far more intelligent than she was.
This entire situation was further proof of that. After all, it wasn’t as though Marcus would bring her eternal happiness. It was very likely that, once he grew bored with her, he would cast her out.
Edwin had to mentally prepare himself for the idea that Cecily might wish to crawl back into their lives.
Would he allow it? He was no monster. It wasn’t as though he wanted Jane to grow up without a mother.
Still, he couldn’t very well lean too heavily on this hope. Yes, he wanted Cecily to come home; yes, he craved, suddenly, to see that sarcastic smile smear between her gorgeous cheeks.
Downstairs, Edwin sat at the dining room table and placed his hands over the antique wood. One of the maids hurried past, made eye contact with him, then whipped the others in a frenzy to deliver tea and breakfast. He heard several of them complain that they’d had it ready for quite some time; that they had to reheat it to ensure that it tasted appropriate. Edwin wanted to tell them that he didn’t actually care what it tasted like. At this level of devastation, he supposed food was only something he knew he had to eat to keep himself going. The plate appeared before him a few minutes later. He dug his knife and fork through the sausages and eggs, listening as the metal scraped against the material of the plate. He worked harder, louder, as a kind of signal towards his departed wife. She wasn’t there; he and Jane would now eat as loudly as they pleased.
He wasn’t aware that his cheeks had filled with tears, not until Jane arrived in a rather beautiful dark green dress (almost too dark, as though she was in mourning), and asked him why he was crying. He told her he wasn’t; he’d only got something in his eye. He slid the rest of his plate towards her and watched her eat the rest. There was so much to do in the next days—so much to patch up to ensure that the two of them could continue to forge their own life.
After breakfast, Edwin and Jane played together in the garden. Edwin had the sneaking suspicion that Jane only played with him because he wanted to, and he only wanted to because he felt it would make Jane feel better. Both of them had some sort of obligation to one another. Edwin imagined that this was the sort of thing that would linger on far beyond this first day alone.
When Jane admitted that she wanted to play with her dolls alone, Edwin busied himself with a letter to his uncle, his cousin Marcus’s father—the man with the current title of Duke. Robert Huntington.
Edwin had always got along rather well with his uncle. He’d never been able to comprehend how a man like Marcus had sprung from the loins of such an upstanding man. At various times throughout Edwin’s youth, his Uncle Robert had verbalized that he wished Edwin was his son—never going so far as to say that he wanted to rid his life of Marcus, of course, although Edwin had always liked to assume that was tied up in it.
A maid brought him paper, ink, and a quill, and Edwin began to scribe.
I write to you today with a heavy heart. I’ve awoken this morning to discover that my wife, Cecily, has left me with our young daughter, Jane. The reason behind this departure is very much tied in with your family. You see, it seems that she and Marcus have fallen in love with one another, and she’s taken it upon herself to seek a life with him elsewhere.
Naturally, I am at the very beginning of my grieving. I hardly know what to say to Jane. She’s only seven years old; she has a great deal yet to learn from her mother.
That said, I know my wife better than to suspect she’s already regretted her decision and decided to return home.
I wanted to report these newfound happenings to you, as I suspect you and your son do not correspond so often, and it may very well be a great deal of time before you learn from them directly.
Marcus and Cecily have put me under a great deal of strain. I know not how to continue. I suppose I look to you, dear uncle, as a sort of council.
All the best to you,
Over the following days, Edwin lingered on at his estate without much comprehension of what to do next. His officers at the army had insisted he take as much time as necessary; apparently, news of his wife’s departure had circled around the area, assuredly due to gossip between maids at the market. When Edwin walked through the village, he saw the pity reflected in several onlookers’ eyes. He hated it. He hated Cecily for forcing this pity upon him.
Throughout these days, he struggled to remember the last time he and Cecily had actually loved one another.
When they’d initially paired together, his parents had told him continually what a smart match she was. She was certainly the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen—and she laughed at his jokes and seemed big-eyed and hopeful about his dreams for his life. She had mentioned several times about her illusions of grandeur, but at the time, Edwin had had those same illusions. They’d been young. They’d been in love. They’d assumed that they could swallow up the entire world if they wanted to.
Uncle Robert wrote back swiftly.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter.
My son has always been impetuous and wild. I’ve never understood his decisions, nor had any comprehension of his personality. I hadn’t assumed that he would have the mind to destroy another’s life—certainly not your own—although I suppose that’s one element of human nature. Humans are always rife to surprise you, both positively and negatively.
I’ve informed my son that he no longer has his title.
He’s given up his fortune in order to be with your wife.
I suppose it’s a decision I’ll never be able to fully grasp.
In the meantime, I hope you find a way to rise to your feet. Know that I think of you and your young daughter, endlessly. I will visit you soon when I conquer this sickness (both of the mind and body), which has plagued me since I received your letter.
I find it ridiculous that I was unable to instill even a modicum of respect into my only son. I hope that you’ll be a better father than I was. I hope Jane knows your truth and your honesty, above all things.
Your Uncle Robert
Edwin was surprised that Marcus had given up his fortune and his title. This seemed outside the bounds of reason. His suspicion was that Uncle Robert planned to take them from him, regardless of his runaway bride—and that this had only put the nail in the coffin, so to speak.
That moment, Jane sprung through the hallway and rapped a hand against his study door. He sensed it was her, as her footsteps had been entirely too light for any given maid. Before he could answer, she flung open the door and lifted her once-perfect hands and cried, “I’ve cut myself!”
Immediately, Edwin had to spring into action. He rushed towards his daughter to acknowledge the ruby-red blood that dripped between her fingers. It seemed that she’d tumbled forward in the garden and ripped her hand over a thorn bush. How was it possible that their garden had such an elaborately painful thorn bush?
Suffice it to say, Edwin wasn’t practised in the fine art of tending to a child’s wounds. He wrapped the handkerchief around his daughter’s fingers and furrowed his brow as she cried on. It was clear that he needed some sort of assistance at the house, especially given the fact that he was required back at work rather soon.
He was miles and miles away from his family. He hadn’t seen a friend in years. He hadn’t a clue what to do.
This left him with only one choice.
Once Jane’s weeping had subsided, and he’d wrapped her mangled hand up in better bandages, he lifted her into a carriage and paraded out towards the homes of some of his fellow officers. They were all married to marvellous, honourable women, all of whom had expressed intense panic towards the idea that Cecily dared to leave her daughter behind.
In Officer Reginald Scott’s parlour, he implored his wife, Lady Scott, to tell him what to do next.
“I have this young daughter, and I can hardly care for her alone,” he admitted under his breath, while Jane played with Reginald’s daughter nearby. “I want to give her the world, but I hardly know what she should eat for breakfast.”
Lady Scott pressed her tongue into the side of her cheek as she scanned through her thoughts. Edwin wondered how many of her thoughts were based on judgement of his situation. Assuredly, people assumed that he’d somehow chased Cecily out of their home. This didn’t take the blame from Cecily; he knew that—but it also placed some of the blame on his shoulders.
As far as he knew, he even kind of deserved that blame.
It wasn’t as though he’d known he should have been fighting for Cecily all this time.
He’d thought that they were committed to one another for life.
“Why don’t you hire a governess?” Lady Scott finally interjected.
Edwin swallowed. “I suppose that’s the only option.”
“Indeed. I can recommend someone for you,” Lady Scott continued. “She comes highly recommended. A dear friend of mine’s children are too old now for a governess, and she’s had to dismiss the poor girl. She’s continued at my friend’s estate until she finds another solution.”
“I see,” Edwin said. “So she hasn’t been fired.”
“No. She’s quite educated. Calm, collected, easy to converse with. I’ve had several occasions with her over the years.”
“I dare say she must be rather old herself?” Edwin said.
“No. I believe she’s twenty-three years old,” Lady Scott affirmed. “She began her governess work at age eighteen so that she could begin to send money back to her family.”
“And she hasn’t found another to marry?” Edwin asked, surprised that a girl aged twenty-three, with such education and attributes, hadn’t yet married.
“I know little of her personal life,” Lady Scott said, her words almost flippant. “Only that she’s searching for another assignment, and you’re searching for a governess. Shall I write her a letter? Or would you like to keep your search open?”
“No, no. Of course not,” Edwin said, suddenly flustered. He hadn’t wanted to seem ungrateful. “I’m clearly in a horrible bind, and I want nothing more than this. I need to return to work, to the reason I moved my family out here in the first place. Every day that passes is a waste without it.”
“Very well,” Lady Scott affirmed. “I will send the letter shortly. Do you have anything important I should include in the letter? Any specifics regarding Jane?”
Edwin pondered for a moment. In his eyes, Jane was a near-perfect child. She paid attention and asked questions, was creative and kind.
“Only that she needs a friend,” Edwin affirmed then, his voice low.
Lady Scott arched her brow, seemingly confused at the sentiment. Still, she agreed to write the note, then fetched the maid to bring them tea and shortbread. Within the hour, Edwin and Jane had been essentially forced from the establishment so that she could return to her regularly-scheduled projects with her own children. Edwin prayed for a future in which his governess built up such a reality for Jane. He supposed that even Cecily hadn’t crafted that sort of schedule for her. Perhaps much of the previous few months had involved Cecily writing long love letters to Marcus and finding new ways to abandon Jane, even before her physical departure.
“For a Governess’ Fiery Kiss” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Even though the alluring raven-haired Emilia came as a governess in Edwin’s estate with a strong recommendation, she is on the run from a horrendous past. She’s newly orphaned and ruined, wanting only the peace and quiet that a governess position for Edwin’s stoic daughter allows. She never expected though her new employer to be so handsome that she can barely resist the temptation. She soon discovers that she is not the only one who is hiding secrets, but that doesn’t stop her lascivious longing. There is a dreadful scandal that has tarnished Edwin’s name and left him broken-hearted… Can a governess full of secrets find a place in Edwin’s house and most importantly in his wounded heart?
Edwin Huntington moved with his jaw-droppingly gorgeous blonde, Cecily, and their young daughter, Jane, across the country, so he could work as a high-ranking military officer. Little did he know that he and his daughter would be abandoned by Cecily for his cousin, the next in line to Edwin’s wealthy uncle’s estate. Since Jane doesn’t seem to take kindly to her mother’s disappearance, Edwin soon realizes the urgent need of a governess. But when the new magnetic governess appears to be more than he ever wished for, he finds himself trying to tame his growing feelings. After all he’s been through, could she really be the one to set his body and soul on fire?
Emilia and Edwin know they are playing dangerously close with fire, but their intriguing lust is too overwhelming to resist. As the story of Cecily and Edwin’s wealthy cousin, Marcus, is not over yet, whatever joy and passion Edwin and Emilia might have found together is at high risk. Can they defy everyone and turn this promising desire into an everlasting love? Or will their passionate affair go down in flames before it fills them with sparks?
“For a Governess’ Fiery Kiss” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.