I looked over and watched Lord Arthur dancing with Evangaline,they looked like they were getting on splendidly well.
‘Is your stay in London long Lord Henry?’
‘Alas,I’m afraid not Lady Delessop,it’s only a fleeting visit.I leave for Versailles in the morning.’
‘Pity.’ sighed Evangaline.
‘I can not leave Lady Ana,in charge of Lord Benjamin’s estate for any long length of time.Heaven knows what may happen in my absence? Is the Lady a tad disappointed?’
‘Fear not,I’m sure our paths will cross in the future?’
‘I shall hold you to that Lord Henry?’
‘Pray tell me,are the rumours about your sister the Lady Rickman true? Some say the main reason she caused such a spectacle of herself at Lady Louisa and my brother’s wedding is her feelings run far more deeper and rawer than sheer jealously it’s because she’s secretly in love with him?’
‘I’m not wishing to discuss this matter with you Lord Henry.’
‘I admire your loyalty to your sister Lady Delessop.’
‘To me you’re still a stranger?’
‘In time,I should rather like to be more than a stranger to you Lady Delessop.’
‘Well play you’re cards right,and you behave yourself.Then maybe all of your dreams may come true.’ pouted Evangaline. ‘We can start either in the art of old fashioned way of etiquette.Or breathe a little excitement into this room perhaps? Sorry to disappoint you but if you craved for excitement then you should have chosen to dance with my sister Holly.So we shall start from the very beginning and exchange first name terms.Sorry to disappoint you.’
‘A lady after my own heart?’
‘Arthur.’ He reached out his hand as a symbol of friendship.
‘I think I’ve already established that?’ giggled Evangaline.
Holly was in the corner,she lit up a cigarette seductively.
‘You know Mama doesn’t like you smoking?’ scolded Marianna.
‘What Mama doesn’t know won’t hurt her?’ sighed Holly.
‘I’m sorry to break your bubble Holly,but some gentleman consider smoking to be very unladylike?’
‘In Pareee’ it’s the height of sophistication.’
Lord Arthur Henry kissed Evangaline upon the hand. ‘Forgive me my Lady,but you looked simply beautiful tonight.’
‘Thank you Lord Arthur.’
‘I see you’ve inherited the Delessop beauty gene?’
‘I’m afraid not my Lord,Gisele was the only one that was blessed with real beauty.’
Evangaline you would light up a crowded room,I was drawn to you like a moth to a flame.’
‘Oh please my Lord,I’ve heard it all before…The amount of balls and dinner parties I’ve attended in my life time,litening to dull mundane stories and pretending to be flattered by the attention of several gentleman my Mama has arranged so called arranged attachments,that haven’t worked out.Because quite frankly I’m bored of hearing the same old story.’
‘I assure you Lady Evangaline,I’m nothing like those other gentlemen.’
‘Prove it…Because to me all Henry gentlemen are the same,thet use and abuse…’
‘So something has happened between Lord Benjamin and your sister?’
‘I’ve said too much.’
I don’t know whether I can trust Arthur with my sister,after all the object of my affection is his brother.To me Henry gentleman are all the same,a distraction to female kind,they are afraid of the truth,lie and cheat to get what they want.But perhaps I am wrong about Lord Arthur,he could be the sweet gentleman that Evangaline has always craved for.’
I glanced over to were Oliver was stood alone previously.He was there lost in conversation to a beautiful tall and slender looking Lady.I recall seeing her at one of Lady Isabelle’s many dinner parties.Mama said her name was Countess Tatiana Aleksandrov,russian,educated in London.I didn’t care a jot and she had the front to act all intimate with my husband.’
‘We meet at last?’
‘Excuse me,forgive my ignorance….but have we been introduced?’
Countess Aleksandrov looked my husband up and down,and purred. ‘Tall,dark handsome? Extremely moody looking? You must be Lord Rickman? Countess Tatiana Aleksandrov.’
‘You know you’re cultured lord Rickman?’
‘I was very well educated,but please call me Oliver I insist, Countess Aleksandrov.’
‘He kissed her hand,so is this what it feels like to feel the green eyed monster of jealously? I feel a sick taste in my mouth.He’s aware of my affair with Benjamin,I’m sure of it.He isn’t prepared to confront me,this is his way of getting his own back at me.To play mind games,he’s not physical like Jack he’s much more clever.His method of psychological thinking somehow try as I might he can always get inside my head.Well the truth is I don’t care,he can run off with the Russian doll for all I care.Then I shall be free to live my life like I’ve intended to.See the world,do all of the things that I never thought I’d do.Take up some water colouring,see the world.Why should this woman matter to me? Olly adores me,I shall be trapped forever in this god forsaken house.
‘I have watched you for the past half hour….standing there all alone.Looking so distant?’
‘That’s because I carry the whole world upon my shoulders…But I shall not bore you too much.’
‘You’r’As are you,you are a remarkable woman…I’ve heard by reputation of course.’
‘Of course.’ she smiled.
‘Would the Countess care to dance?’
‘I’d love to.’ she smiled.
He took her in hold,I can not believe I am witnessing this spectacle? I’m relieved to see Esme and Ava are not witnessing their Daddy in the arms of another woman.
‘Who is that horrid woman dancing with Gisele’s Oliver?’ tutted Lady Grace.
‘That is the Countess Aleksandrov.’ whispered Letitia.
‘She’s beautiful.’ sighed Holly. ‘Like a russian princess.’
‘She may be beautiful my dear Holly,but I do not trust her.’
‘Aunt Grace,Oliver shall remain faithful to Gisele until his dying breath.’
‘Unlike Gisele?’ Murmoured Lady Grace. ‘That girl needs a good shake.’
‘Gisele has had a shady past,she’s not afraid to admit it.But that is all a long time ago.’ reassured Letitia.
‘And you take her word for it?’
‘It’s been a terrible year for Gisele,it’s only made her marriage to Oliver stronger.’
‘Such a terrible thing to have happend to Carl,I was always fond of him.’ said Lady Grace. ‘And as for her and Lord Benjamin were the rumours true?’
‘It was just idol gossip Aunt.’ said Letitia.
‘How I miss you girls.’
Lady Grace embraced Holly.
‘Aunt Grace!’ squealed Holly.
‘You’re never too late for a squeeze off your Aunt.’
I looked around the ball room,all familiar faces were present for my home coming ball.But there’s one person missing,it’s like there’s an elephant in the room and nobody wishes to discuss it the subject of Carl.It is like everyone wishes for his memory to fade away without a trace.But how could I ever forget him? He was my soul mate. The truth is,it doesn’t feel right that Carl isn’t present.I should be happy that I am surrounded by my close circle of family and friends.But tonight,I feel as though a piece of my heart is missing.The bottom line is Carl truly knew what makes me tick,he was so caring and considerate.Carl would be by my side,right at this moment in time,squeezing my hand for reassurance.That’s the difference between Oliver and Carl,Carl knew how to ultimately press my buttons and when to approach with caution.Oliver is the silent but deadly type,I can sense when he’s disappointed with me.Like tonight is the prime example,he can’t bare to be anywhere near me.
I closed my eyes ‘Carl,I miss you so.I wish you where here.’ I whispered.
The moment I said this,I could feel chills running through my body.I looked over and the candles in the upper part of the room were flickering.I opened my eyes and standing there before me I saw Carl.I rubbed my eyes,I tried to reach out and touch him.This is a figment of my imagination.I’m experiencing flashbacks when Oliver returned from the grave.
‘Gisele.’ he whispered.
‘Why did you leave me?’ I sobbed.
‘I did what I had to do,I acted out of love.’
‘It wasn’t your place Carl,you weren’t my lover.’
‘If only we could turn back time?’
‘Yes when I was fifteen,only had eyes for you.’
‘How thing’s have changed?’
‘How long have we got?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘So many questions,so many unanswered.’
‘Enough of the riddles Gis.’
‘I’m sorry…I didn’t know it then,but I’m not afraid to say it now.You were perfectly right,all of those years ago.I do not love Oliver…’
‘I feel like such a fraud? You broke your promise to me Carl.You said that you would always be there for me.Come rain or shine? You were my friend,and the only good thing I had in my life.You abandoned me!’
‘You were my first and only true love.’
He touched my face,I closed my eyes once more.I can deny it all I want.But this is just a dream.I’m finally dead and I’m finally at peace floating through the air among the heavenly angels.I’m going to see William,but then it’s all coming back to me now.I remember in the dark and lonely days.I shudder at the memories,the intoxicating way he used to touch me and kiss me.Oh Gisele you fool,if you chose to marry Carl.Then he would still be alive.I shed a quiet tear.I swore that I would never crumble at his feet again.
‘Please don’t cry Gis.’
He kissed my lips.
‘I’ll always remember you,as long as my heart beats…I’ll keep your memory alive.’
And with that he vanished,I sank to the ground.
I heard a familiar voice. ‘Gisele?’
‘Tom?’ I sunk into his arms.
He touched my hair. ‘Whatever’s the matter?’
I must never appear weak in front of a gentleman.Even though is is my dear Tom.I tried to compose myself. ‘I’m perfectly fine,thank you for your concern Tom.’
‘You don’t have to pretend to me,I can see you’re struggling?’
I collapsed into his arms. ‘Oh no you’re not.I’ll go and fetch Oliver?’
‘Please don’t Tom.I don’t want him to see me like this?’
‘I’m taking you to bed.’
‘I’ve never heard that proposition from you before?’ I pouted.
‘Don’t let Reinette hear you say that.’
‘It’ll be our little secret.’ I winked at him.
With that he carried me upstairs.
A few hours after the Doctor gave his diagnosis.The Doctor confirmed that it was a slight fever.Maybe I had picked it up from our never ending journey from Marseilles.Maybe I should have stayed in Marsailles? The Doctor turned to vacate the room,Tom went to follow on after him.I touched his hand.
‘Please don’t leave me.’
‘Shouldn’t your husband be with you right now?’
‘We can’t bare to be around another.’
‘You kiss and make up,you’re strong.That’s what I admire about you.’
‘Not anymore Tom.’
‘The truth is Tom…I fear I’ve outgrown my husband…I confided in Carl before he…’ I sobbed.
‘Is Oliver aware of this?’
‘It’ll break his heart,some homecoming ball this has turned out to be? The guest of honour is in bed with a fever.’ I laughed.
‘It is so good to see you.’ smiled Tom.
‘You too,I’ve missed our long and meaningful chats.How’s life,I want to know every little detail.How’s Reinette?’
‘She’s resting,I’m finally the proud father of a beautiful baby girl Lucille Alexandria.’
‘I named her after your dear sister.’
‘I can’t believe you would do that.’
‘Your sister and I when she was alive,we had a strong bond.If it wasn’t for her then I wouldn’t be where I am now.I have contracts coming out of my ears,italy,france.The world is my oyster.’
‘You truly believed in me when no one would.’
‘Oh Tom,look at you.You have a beautiful wife and daughter.I can’t wait to see her.’
‘I will send photos in our next letter.’
‘I shall look forward to seeing it.’ I smiled.
‘William? I wasn’t thinking.’
‘It’s all right,please do not apologise….I believe that Carl is my guardian angel and he was there Tom.You have got to believe me.’
‘I want to believe you Gis,but I feel it’s you’re guilty about Carl’s death?’
‘He died at Jack’s hands.’
‘Did you pull the trigger?’
‘That bullet was meant for me.’
‘Please stop doing this to yourself.’
‘I keep seeing Carl covered in blood.’
‘The mind can be such a devious thing,playing mind games with the vulnerable.You need some bed rest?’
‘I need a good gentleman in my life to take care of me.Where are you when I truly need you Ben?’ I murmoured. I cleared my throat. ‘Tea and sympathy is all I need.’
Oliver burst through the door.
‘Oliver you’re like a bull in a china shop!’
‘I came as soon as I heard?’
He attempted to kiss me on the forehead,I turned away.
‘It’s a slight fever.’
‘Please don’t lie to me Gisele.’
‘I can assure you what Gisele says is true,I was with her…I can confirm the doctor’s story.’ said Tom. ‘I shall leave you alone with your Wife.’
‘No Tom.’ I begged.
I watched as Tom left the room,Oliver sat down beside me on the bed.I would give anything to be in total isolation.I couldn’t bare the wrath of Oliver,too many questions.
‘Tom was with you?’
‘Oh please Oliver.’
‘Why wasn’t I told?’
‘I begged him not to,satisfied?’
‘Just a sniffle you said?’
‘I couldn’t bare to be around Louisa and Benjamin a moment longer.’
‘You saw how Louisa felt the day we left? She was devastated Gisele.’
‘I felt as though I was imposing?’
‘This is the lengths you would take to grab my attention?’
‘So you’re suggesting I asked for a fever?’
‘I should be with my children,no here getting waited on hand and foot….and as for the attention seeking you do not know me at all? My name is not Evangaline the desperado.’
‘So you object to your sister and Lord Arthur?’
‘You know I do.’
‘And our paths never crossed tonight?’
‘I had my reasons.’
‘Are you embarassed to be around me?’
‘You’re my husband.’
‘You couldn’t even make eye contact?’
‘Oliver I can’t do this…’
‘I bet Lady Isabelle is loving this?’
‘Oliver I do not care what Lady Isabelle thinks about our crumbling marriage!’
‘So that’s what it is now? Crumbling? Are you suggesting that you’re leaving me?’
‘Olly,I can’t do this…Not now.’
‘There’s never a good time with you.’
‘The Doctor said I need a peaceful environment.Esme and Ava need their Mama,I haven’t strength within me to fight you….I saw you with that Countess.?’
‘I wasn’t aware that anyone was watching?’
‘I thought that I was the only foreign creature that captured your heart?’
‘I was merely being polite?’
‘Is that what it was?’
‘Is my Lady being angry?’
‘You made me feel this big.’
‘We both said words we didn’t mean?’
‘You cast a cloud over my ball.’
‘So it comes to the spoilt little rich girl routine again?’
‘How I despise you sometime?’
‘Why are we doing this?’
‘I saw you dancing together.’
‘I’ve never objected to you dancing with Tom and Carl?’
‘Carl is different.’
‘How can you compare dancing with a complete stranger to a gentleman who was truly besotted with you.’
‘Tatiana is extremely beautiful?’
‘She’s not you….You’re my wife.The woman who holds onto all of my hopes and dreams.’
‘I saw you held onto her,a man should only hold his wife in that intimate way?’
‘Are you suggesting that I have feelings for her?’
‘It might make things easier? Go on run off with Tatiana if you wish,she might make you happy?’
‘I could never love another woman,shame I couldn’t say the same about you?’
‘Tonight you said some hurtful things…I was mad at you Olly.Still doesn’t mean I’ve stopped loving you.’
‘You still love me?’
‘Of course I still love you.This ring on my finger wouldn’t still be here if it didnt? It means something to me.But what you said truly hurt.I don’t think we will ever recover from this.Not until we get a piece of our own.Then maybe we can start moving forward?’
‘We can only move forward if you learn to behave yourself.Tatiana was simply bait to make you jealous.She only had looks on her side,obvious she fancied me and I enjoyed humouring her.’
‘You’ve lost me?’
‘All of the grief you’ve given me over the years.All of the lies and deceit,Declan and Jack,Benjamin.’
‘Lord Henry was a one night affair he meant nothing to me.’
‘I’ve forgiven you so many times.’
‘You have no idea how hard it is for a lady to be accepted in society.I’m judged on first impressions,looks before intellect.I have feelings too,it’s a power struggle to survive in London society.’
‘So this is your reason’s behind your sorry little affairs?’
‘I thought you’d forgiven me?’
‘Tatiana was my simple revenge….It’s always been my fantasy to make you wild with jealously.’
‘I admit it,you’ve married a bad girl.Go on you can leave me,see if I care.Go on just pack your bags and leave.See if I care,it’s your choice?’
A months later,and I was still bedridden.We had entered a new year.Finally 1918,I can kiss goodbye to the year that has past us by.I hope this year will be some what different.Losing Carl and William is too much to bare.I can not wait till I can start afresh,embrace my life.Life every moment as if it’s my last.I wonder how Louisa is enjoying her honeymoon? How I envy her she has another few weeks to go.There was a knock on my bedchamber door.
‘How is mil lady feeling today?’
‘Longing to see my children.’ I smiled.
‘I have a letter for you mil lady.;
I opened the letter.
My darling Gisele,
‘It’s from my Ben?’ I said to myself.
I thought I’d write to you,as soon as I heard about your fever?
Louisa got extremely upset when
She thought that we’d cut our trip to Italy short.
Oh I have been so worried about you….
Worried about moi? Worried that he hasn’t jumped into my bed recently? Mind you I admit,I miss all of the excitement,the thrill of the chase thinking that we would get caught.I can still smell his sweet forbidden scent know.
Meanwhile there was commotion downstairs in the Delessop household,a familiar face stepped out of a car.
‘I don’t know why you insist on taking the car Benjamin.’
‘It would have taken longer to travel by carriage .’
‘I like to travel in style Benjy.’
‘Sugar plum deserves the best and this is the best car available.’
‘Oh please this rust bucket. ‘laughed Louisa. ‘And enough of the pet name Benjy.’
‘You never complained on our honeymoon.’
‘I grew frightfully bored of it,I was trying to spare your feelings….And please do not show me up in front of Lady Antoinette.’
‘I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.’
‘Out of my way Hemmingway!’
‘Yes l-l-l-lady Henry.’ stammered Hemmingway.
‘Where did you get this man servant from? sighed Louisa.’I’m here for Gisele,it doesn’t mean I haven’t forgiven you for removing your wedding ring.’
‘I had indulged in too much champagne I merely misplaced it.’
‘Serves you right for being so careless…I shall act polite in front of Oliver and his family,but as soon as we’re alone,you have a lot of making up to do.’
‘You mean the world to me,I will grovel on my hands on my knees if I have to….We shouldn’t be here Louisa,I have a terrible feeling we shall be unwelcome?
‘Since when has my husband turned into a coward?’
‘I’m just speaking the truth.’
‘Hold your tongue Benjamin….I’m her Louisa,of course she’ll see me.’
‘Whatever you say dear.’
‘Hold this for me Hemmingway.’
Lady Henry passes Hemmingway various boxes.
‘Louisa is all of that necessary? We only agreed to staying for a few days.’
‘You can never have too many hats Benjamin.’
‘I didn’t think cutting our honeymoon was necessary? I was going to surprise you with a trip to America.’
‘How thoughtless can you be? Do you think I care about a trip to America over my dear Gisele? I don’t think I recognise the gentleman I married anymore? How would you feel if I said that about your sister the Lady Ana? It’s allright darling Ana is on her death bed,but I’m sure she’ll survive without her dear Benjamin.I imagine you’d think how insensitive and hurtful your wife is?’
‘I hardly say she was on her death door?’
‘You have no reguard what so ever for my feelings.’
‘I’m sorry,I wasn’t thinking.’
‘No Benjamin,you never do.’
Louisa made her way up the stairs,and rang the doorbell.She was greeted by Charlotte.’
‘I’m here to see Lady Gisele.’
‘I’m sorry but Lady Rickman,isn’t up to seeing visitors.’
‘I’m sure she wouldn’t object if you inform her that,it’s the Lady Henry wishing to see her.So be a good girl…’
‘Right away Lady Henry.’
‘Don’t hurry back too soon?’
Charlotte left the Lord and Lady Henry standing on the doorstep.
‘Since when did you get so rude and abrupt?’
‘Acting nice doesn’t get you anywhere in life Benjy,sad but true.’
Louisa started to preen herself,she started to examine her nails,she turned and looked over at her new husband. ‘How do I look?’
‘Pretty as a picture sugar plum.’
I glanced at the words on the parchment page.Benjamin has certainly taken his time,in his best writing too?
…I still feel that it was rather drastic for you to flee Marseilles the way you did? I do hope that your Mama and sister’s are in good health?
Hope to see you soon?
Is that all? The gentleman is supposedly still in love with me? And that is all he he has to say to me? This was hardly a love letter,you’d send to your secret former lover.It felt like more of a friendly and formal.How do you do? I felt somewhat hurt and betrayed.I didn’t have long to dwell on my feelings,when a knock on the door interrupted my inner thoughts.
‘Come in Charlotte.’
Charlotte stood nervously. ‘The Lady Henry is here to see you.I said that you weren’t up to seeing anyone?’
‘I should like to get up today Charlotte.’
‘Is that necessary Mil Lady?’
‘I’m feeling much better today…though I may need your assistance in getting dressed?’
Evangaline,Letitia,Marianna and Holly were gathered in the drawing room.
‘I didn’t know who she thinks she is? Waltzing in our home demanding to see Gisele.’ tutted Holly.
‘Marriage has certainly changed her.’ said Evangaline.
‘What is that smile for?’ said Holly.
‘I received a letter from Lord Arthur.’
‘Another Delessop to be bitten by the Henry bug?’ teased Holly.
I felt like death,clinging onto Charlotte for dear life.It’s amazing what a bit of make up can do to a ladie’s ghostly complexion.Louisa had her back facing me,she slowly turned to face me.She looked different from the last time we met.Her hair was pinned up in curls,a rather grown up look for a girl of her age.On her head she was wearing a lavender and white hat,a white feather attached to it.She wore a perfectly fitting lavender gown,and glamourous white gloves.She was smoking a cigarette,in a holder,only you see actress’s in films do.She was full of confidence and grace.
‘And Gisele darling big kisses. ‘she kissed my cheek.
‘Louisa what a pleasant surprise? You’re looking well?’
‘The honeymoon was so divine,Benjy couldn’t get enough of me.Isn’t that right Benjy?’
He looked at me. ‘Yes Sugar Plum.’ he blushed.
When I heard that you were unwell,I said Benjy,I demand we head to London immediately.’
‘It was only a slight fever.’
‘You look ghastly…I have a present for you I’ve left in the car.I will just be one moment,I shall get Hemmingway to fetch it at once.’ with that she left Benjamin and I alone once more.
‘What are you doing here?’
‘You know why?’
‘I received your letter?’
‘As soon as I heard about your fever.Louisa was heart broken.’
‘Do we have to bring your wife into this?’
‘She insisted that we returned to London…She said Benjy I’ve got to see my sister.’
‘I’d say I was a little disappointed by what you had to say?’
‘Aren’t you listening to a word I’m saying?’
‘It was incredibly sweet of her…I’m sorry I was the cause of all of this.How was Italy?’
‘It was quite an experience to say the least?’
‘I think I established that when she said you couldn’t get enough of one another?’
…You have got to believe me it wasn’t like that all.It’s all in her head.’
‘Have you told her?’
‘She’s incredibly sweet,I don’t want to hurt her feelings.’
‘Judging from her current display I say she has changed?’
‘She’s living inside a dream world,all of these plans that I don’t feel a part of.’
‘That’s what married people do,plan there futures together.They have hopes and dreams.’
‘In Italy she was somewhat different like an excitable puppy,willing to learn,taking in all of the italian culture.We had romantic dinners,a trip on the gondola in venice.’
‘We kissed among the stars.’
‘You’re looking well?’
I was wearing a very demure maroon day dress,I tied my hair in a loose plait.
‘I tried my damdest to forget about you.After all you begged me.But it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped loving you.’
‘You’ve only been married a couple of months?’
‘I should have been assertive for Louisa to even suggest that we should cut short our honeymoon.But I couldn’t stay away from you a moment longer.
He touched my face.
‘Marriage has changed Louisa,I’ve created a monster.’
‘I can hardly believe that my Lord.’
‘You didn’t hear what she said to me,how she treats me.’
‘Oh please,pull the violins out.’
‘She doesn’t love me,it’s all about titles.Power and money are her first and only love.’
‘You are only saying that to drive a wedge between Oliver and I?’
‘I know you haven’t been well and I shouldnt be piling all of this pressure on you?’
‘Yes I should be resting,now if you excuse me I should like to spend time with Esme and Ava.’
‘You and I…we share an incredible bond.I could just kiss you right here,take you up to your bedchamber,though the way I’m feeling I don’t think we’d make it that far.’
I slapped him across his face.
‘How dare you speak to me in that way!’
‘I’ve had my eyes wide open.’
‘Isn’t it a bit late in the day?’
‘How is the ball and chain?’
‘Oliver has met his perfect match,Countess Tatiana Aleksandrov,I’m convinced that he’s going to leave me because I’m not the perfect wife….I even talked him into packing his bags and run off into the night.’
I looked at him all sweet and innocent. ‘Can I give you a little advice you Benjamin?’
I moved closer to Benjamin,we were almost touching one another.
‘Anything for you Lady Gisele.’
‘Benjamin,tell you’re brother to stay the hell away from my Evangaline.’
‘Is that a threat?’
‘I’m sure Evangaline is quite capable of taking care of herself?’
‘You screwed with my life…I don’t want your brother doing the same to my sister.Good day to you Lord Henry.’e wife is beautiful.’