My blood ran cold, I have tried to protect my girls from the revelation and true terrors of Esme’s real father.Lord Rickman and I have strived to bring Esme up as his daughter,treat them as equals.They are both my angels,I swore on my life that Esme mustn’t know the true nature of her father’s misdoings.I bent down towards Esme.
‘We heard you and Daddy.’ said Ava innocently.
‘Please.’ I answered calmly. ‘Esme I will not shout at you,I shall answer every question you ask of me in a calming voice.I shall repeat the question ask what is it that you heard?’
‘That he’s not my Daddy.’
‘That you’ve been pretending to us.’ sobbed Ava.
‘Oh how silly of course he’s your Daddy oh Esme sweetie,he loves you so much.’
‘If he loved me? Then why would he say such a thing?’ cried Ava. ‘Esme was having a bad dream,I wanted to tell you so much.We followed the raised voices,Es was so scared she couldn’t find her blanky,so we quietly hid behind the door.’
‘Mammy are you upset with us?’ asked Esme.
‘When Mama and Daddy are feeling angry and hurting,there are occasions when we may say some things that we don’t mean.But that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped loving you,far from it you girls mean the world to me.’
‘So Jack isn’t my real Daddy?’
I took a deep breathe,Esme she looked up at me,her perfect little eyes beaming full of love.How could I deceive her a moment longer? If I was in her shoes,I think I would like Mama to be fully honest to me.No matter how hurtful it may be.Tears streamed down her cheeks.All right Gisele aside from breaking the news of William’s death,this is the hardest piece of news that you are about to deliver to your dear girls.I have got to chose my words carefully and wisely.I took a deep breathe and swallowed my pride.
‘The truth is Es,Daddy wasn’t very kind to Mama,Mama ran away she was ever so lost until your Daddy Oliver saved me,raised you as his own.He loves you so much to the stars and back.Jack means nothing to me,don’t you understand Esme? You’re a Rickman and don’t you forget it. ‘I kissed Esme’s cheek. I can not believe Esme knows the truth,not the whole extent of Jack’s reign of terror thank heavens.I forbid to tell them the whole truth how he left me for dad on one occasion and he came back the night of Lady Isabelle’s dinner party to finish the job off.They are too young to learn how their Uncle Carl really died. For as long as I have breath in my body,I can never forgive Oliver for this.There is no going back in our marriage.I am going to wait for the right moment and announce that I am leaving him.This whole revelation has ripped my whole family apart.This is not how I intended her to find out the truth I had it all worked out.On the night of her twenty first birthday I would sit her down,as she has come of age explain things through, she would be able to understand.Not like this,Esme is never going to forgive me.I can not wait until the day is over and I can rest my weary head,for it’s been such a long and trying day.
‘What was my daddy like?’ asked Esme.(Flashback)
This was a happy time in my relationship with Jack,we had finally found it in our hearts to reveal our affair to my family.We were alone together in the hall way.
‘Is that a clear enough message to let you know that I’m not ashamed to be with you?’
‘I’m so proud to be with you Jack,and that is my way of showing it.’
I kissed Jack upon the lips.
‘There were times when you’re father was caring and kind.He would lay down his life to protect my heart and soul.You see Ava’s daddy.We thought that he was dead.
I’m sorry Ava it’s true.Your father went to war and he went missing,for the whole first year of your life.’
‘No Daddy would never leave me! He promised he wouldn’t.’
‘ Mama was truly sad,my heart was broken and you don’t like to see me when I’m sad,can you remember you begged me not to cry when William died!’
Ava nodded her head. ‘Well Mama for a time learnt how to smile again you see..It wasn’t easy and I never ever forgot about your Daddy.Wellthat is when she met Esme’s Daddy,Jack.He was a sweet natured man,took me into his home.I was in love with him,happy….But none of that matters now.No matter what happens Esme nothing is going to tear us apart,I love you so much to lose you.I would rather die than give you up.’
‘What if Daddy comes for me?’
‘I refuse to let that happen,you,Daddy and Esme we are going to be together as a family.You have my word.’
Benjamin and Louisa were alone together.
‘I thought it was extremely sweet of you to accompany Gisele today?’
‘I only did what I thought was for the best?’ smiled Lord Henry.
‘Don’t act so modest Benjy.’
‘I thought we were spending some time together,not talk about your sister-in law?’
‘I’m sorry, but you’re a sweet kind and generous man.I don’t say it very much but I’m so lucky to have you in my life.’
Louisa kissed Benjamin.
‘I am so sorry for my current behavour.’
‘You have nothing to apologise for sugar plum.’
‘I would like to explain it all to you,it’s just I didn’t know how to behave as a wife.It’s all new to me.Hence all of the buying of the new clothes and hats.I feared that you would leave me.I feared that I would be a disappointment to you?’
‘You’re my Wife you could never disappointment me.I can not believe we leave for Versailles in the morning.’
‘The sooner we return there better Louisa.’
‘Have I missed something?’
‘How do you mean?’
‘I thought you like staying at Lady Antoinette’s?’
‘ I do, the Dowager is simply a delight.’
‘Since when have you called Lady Antoinette the Dowager?’
‘I refer to her as the Dowager all of the time.I’m not brave to say it to her face?’
‘Tell me what’s on your mind is my Benjy upset?’
‘I sense that Gisele is rather unhappy.’
‘She seems to confide in you a lot more? Why is that?’
‘I fear that she is in a difficult position,being married to your brother.She feels that you may feel as if she’s failing you.’
‘Whatever gave her that impression?’
‘What went on before,the business of Declan she’s drifting about from Oliver.She feels as though she will lose you as a sister too.’
Evangaline and Holly interrupted their time alone.
‘I can not believe it!’ squealed Holly.
‘Hello to you too?’ smiled Louisa.
‘I apologise for my sister intruding you?’ apologised Evangaline.
‘Wow you’ve made quite the miraculous recovery Holly?’ smiled Lord Henry.
‘Evangaline is going to Versailles with Lord Arthur for the weekend.’
‘Isn’t this all a little sudden?’ asked Lord Arthur.
‘Not at all Benjamin.Im accompanying you in the morning,Arthur sent a telegram over he is so sweet. He just can’t bare to be parted from me a moment longer.’
‘I should imagine that he will take you to the finest masquerade ball’s in Versailles,it’s so unfair.’ sobbed Holly.
‘At least Ana will have some more female company?’ added Lord Henry.
‘And what is wrong with my company?’ sighed Louisa.
‘Nothing is wrong my dear.’ said Lord Benjamin.
‘I must find my custom made gown that Gisele bought me from Paris.’ gushed Evangaline. ‘Do inform Mama,I might be late for dinner tonight.’
A little while later,I was locked in the library,haunting memories running round my mind.I had visions of Jack.What would happen if Esme asked to see her father? The very thought of that is killing me.I need to lock these thoughts out of my mind.I immersed myself in literature,I need to get out of this living nightmare.There was a knock at the door.
‘Come in Mari.’ I smiled.
‘Why are you hiding in here?’ asked Marianna.’What are you ashamed of? You’re nose being constantly stuck in a book,doesn’t make you’re problems go away?
‘I have to hide myself away from the world,for I am ashamed to cry…I do not wish my Mama to see me this way.’
‘I thought you’d be the first to know Evangaline is leaving for Versailles with Louisa and Benjamin in the morning.’
‘Have I missed something?’
‘It turns out that Arthur can’t bare to be apart from our delightful Evangaline.’
‘I’m so happy for her.’
I started to sob.
‘Gis,has something happend?’
‘Get back to Mama she will be wondering where you are?’
‘I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s going on?’
‘Please I beg of you,just leave me.Make use of your time,write a letter to Edward.Just please Mari,leave me be.’
‘Gisele Tara Anastacia Rickman I am finally putting my foot down.I may act all sweetness and light,the perfect and calm Delessop sister.Judging by first appearances.But I am being assertive and refusing to leave this room god damn it! Until you tell me what is going on? I do not care if Mama,sends me out for a public flogging in the streets for slipping out like that.But please I’m really worried about you.Weep,wail throw something at the door if you have to
Just talk to me like we used to,we dont do that anymore.
‘Oliver he has broke my heart.’
‘Are you saying he has left you for Countess Aleksandrov?’
‘I think that I would recover quicker, if he had left me out in the cold for that wretched woman.’
‘Tell your Marianna,what has Oliver did that was so wrong?’
‘He has tore this whole family apart,Esme knows the truth about her father.’
‘Esme and Ava overheard Oliver and I arguing,in the heat of the moment Oliver revealed the truth about not being Esme’s biological father…Esme confronted me about it,my sweet little girl who I want to protect from this world.This is not how I intended it to happen.This is it,it’s finally happening god is finally punishing me for all of the terrible things I’ve did in the past.There is no going back from this.’
‘What did you tell her?’
‘On the lines of I thought Ava’s daddy was missing,as he went off to war.That Esme’s father was sweet and kind at first and helped look after her Mama by taking him into her home.I can’t not remember the full extent of our conversation,its all such a haze.I’ve failed them Mari and for that I am never ever going to forgive my husband again.’
‘You can not wash your hands of him Gisele,it’s not as simple as that?’
‘Because he has taken you back so many times…Olly has made one simple mistake and I can imagine he’s pretty upset right now.’
‘Great so my sister is defending my husband’s honour now?’
‘I think you need to be in a room together,sit down without yelling at one another and get everything out in the open.That way you can move on from it,in order for your marriage to survive.Marriage is a learning curve,it’s not all hearts and flowers.It’s about compromise for one another,accepting one another’s faults.I have every faith in you Gisele.’
Out of the corner of her eye,she noticed Oliver walk into the room,she kissed my cheek and left the library.
‘If you’ve come to say you’re long over due apologies then save your breath?’
‘Is Esme all right?’
‘What do you care? She’s upstairs sobbing her little heart out,you aught to be ashamed of yourself.’
‘I wasn’t thinking.’
‘You never do think of the consequences,the poor little mite,has barely got over William’s death.Now she has this to contend with.Tonight she is going to stop believing in everything she stood for and it’s all of your fault.’
‘How can I ever start making ammends?’
‘You can bend down on your knees and grovel.Say you’ll offer me the moon and the stars…But it’s that little girl that you should be apologising too.’
Oliver sat down beside me. ‘We’ve got ourself into a fine pickle haven’t we?’
‘It’s all thanks to Marianna,that I am giving you the time of day,she has taught me a valuable lesson.’
‘We have to try and resolve things in our marriage,by sitting down and talking about them.Not holding back what is really on our minds,but act in a civil manner.’
‘You shall be needing this again?’
‘I thought I lost that?’
‘I found it in the drawing room,you threw it at me in a rage.’
‘Oh you know me,I like to make the dramatic exit?’
‘One of the reasons why I love you,there’s never a dull moment.’
He placed my wedding band onto my finger.
‘For better or for worse?’ he said.
He kissed my lips.
‘Honesty is what our marriage needs.’ I smiled. ‘It’s been tainted with fair too many lies.’
‘I couldn’t agree more Gisele,It breaks my heart what I did to poor Es.’
‘I tried to conceal it from her until her twenty first for a reason Oliver.’
‘I realise that now.’
‘We shall have to deal with the consequences together.Let Esme know that she is very much loved little girl and nothing is going to split us up.I wonder if she ever wondered why she looked so different to Ava?’
‘I don’t think the thought ever crossed her mind?’
‘I do wish that Esme was your daughter.’ I sighed.
‘I’m sorry that I kept the business from you a secret.I just wanted to protect you.’
‘Oliver,I am not with you for the money,that wasn’t my intention of marrying you for that.Despite what people may say? If all of the money ran out in the world, I wouldn’t care….for we have our health and our whole life ahead of you.’
‘I didn’t mean to call you a spoilt little rich girl.’
‘That remark certainly struck a chord….Have I ever gave you the impression to make you think that was all that was mattered?I may have the finest clothes,dine in the finest restaurants.Indulge in french champagne and attend the royal ballet.But I wasnt born with a silver spoon in my mouth.All of my sister’s took to it like ducks to water.I was the difficult one.Struggled in my elocquition lessons.I only thrived in my movement classes as I attended ballet.I didn’t want to be born into the world of the rich and high society.I would have been quite satisfied living a simple life in the country,with only horses as my company.
‘I think you would have been well suited marrying Tom?’
‘Please do not say that Oliver.’
‘I see you two together,and how much you have in common.You both share a love for fine archtechture?’
‘What are you saying?’
‘We are world’s apart Gisele,no wonder you grew bored of me.’
I held a finger to his lips. ‘I love you Oliver,I mean why am I still here after all of this time? Weve had our ups and downs,but the bond we share we share with one another,it always brings me back safely home to you.In time I may feel ready for us to have another baby of our own?’
‘Only if you’re sure?’
‘I’m so ready Oliver.You’re right,I’m ready to move on with with our lives.’
‘After dinner there is something that I would like to show you.’
‘It’s a surprise.’
‘Please tell me now?’
‘All will be revealed.’
‘I’ll hold you to that shall I?’
At evening dinner,Esme made her announcement.
‘Not all of you are aware…But I shall be departing to Versailles in the morning.Accompanying Lord Henry and Louisa.’
‘The house will be a much quieter place without you around? All of my girls are leaving me!’ sobbed Lady Antoinette.
‘I’m still here.’ sobbed Holly.
‘Yes,you are certainly a lost cause Holly.’
‘Lord Henry,I never did thank you for accompanying my wife today.’
‘Not at all Lord Rickman,the pleasure is all mine.’
I noticed Mark was at the dinner table,but yet again no Edward,how does Marianna carry on living like this? Not knowing when she will see her beloved.
‘It’s nice to see you again Mark?’ I smiled.
‘Lady Rickman,it must be years since we last saw one another?’
‘I do recall the last time was before….’
‘Before the death of your son,Lady Gisele I hope you are well?’
‘I am very well thank you.’ I smiled clutching onto Lord Rickman’s hand.
‘Is there something that we should know about?’ said Louisa.
‘Oliver and I haven’t been on the best of terms lately,some unforgivable things have been said.But that is the past,we are finally moving forward.Maybe in time we may have another little one to add to our perfect little family.’
‘You’re not?’ Holly spat out her meat.
‘Holly!’ scolded Lady Antoinette.
‘Not as yet.But we have been discussing our future together.’
‘Raise your glass to the future.’ said Lord Rickman.
‘And whatever it may bring!’ I smiled.
After dinner Oliver whisked me away for my surprise.
‘Oliver where are you taking me?’
‘All in good time my sweet pea.’
‘The suspense is killing me….Can I please open my eyes Olly?’
‘Now you can open them.’
I pulled my hands away from my eyes to reveal the breath taking view ahead of me.All I could see was acres and acres of land with a beautiful house at the bottom of it.
‘What am I staring at?’
‘The house it’s ours.’
‘But the business how can we afford it?’
‘I am sure if I do a few figures we will manage to stay afloat.’
‘It’s everything I’ve ever dreamt of and more.’
‘There’s more stables at the pack,maybe you could have you own little riding school?’
‘Now who’s living in a dream world?’
‘You’re ever so good at teaching the girls on Misty and your so good with Quinn?’
‘But that’s different?’
‘Gisele,I wish you would stop putting yourself down.You’re an intelligent woman,you have the brain and your contacts I’m sure you’re business will thrive in no time.’
‘That is very sweet of you.think of me in that sort of a way,but a woman working? Isn’t that a little uncalled for?’
‘Times are evolving Gisele,women are becoming more independent.’
‘Well thank you for believing in me.’
I kissed Oliver.
‘I can not wait to show Esme and Ava,a place to call their own.’
Oliver gave me the grande tour inside.
‘It’s called Nightshade Manor.’
‘Hopefully not deadly?’ I joked.
‘You don’t like it do you?’
‘It’s very spacious.’
‘I’m sorry appearances can be deceptive? You’re disappointed aren’t you?’
‘No not at all Olly,I do like a challenge .I am sure Tom will be more than willing to help,he does like a challenge and I think he is in need of some extra money with little Lucille.
‘I’m so sorry I had to lie about having business,but you caught me quite unexpectantly.I know realise that I should have put your feelings first.’
‘I forgive you.’
‘I promise never to let you down again.’
‘I can imagine myself living here,the piano can go over there in that corner.We could host dinner parties and balls.’
‘Now who’s keen?’
‘I can’t wait to tell the world that Lord and Lady Rickman are finally back on top we’re we belong!’
Lord Benjamin and Louisa kindly offered to take care of Esme and Ava.
‘It’s so sweet that Oliver has taken Gisele to show her their new family home.’
‘Oh? She didn’t say a thing to me?’ said Lord Benjamin.
‘Since when does she have to reveal every single detail of her life to you Benjy?’
‘I’m just a little disappointed that’s all? The whole world and everyone in it is moving forward and we are standing still.’
‘Are you saying that you don’t love me anymore? I know I can be a pain sometimes.’
‘Not at all my love,it’s time that you and I should be shaping our own future?’
‘I see Esme and Ava and my heart aches.’
‘Why is that sugar plum?’
‘Oh Benjy,we aren’t always open and honest with our feelings.As I know how uncomfortable you are at expressing your feelings? But one day Benjamin I should like to have children of our own?’
‘You think of those things?’
‘I have since the day we married? Is that what’s wrong you don’t want children?’
‘I feel that we aught to be enjoying our company before we consider children.’
‘Are you ashamed of me is that what it is?’
‘We’ve only been married five minutes if you get my drift?’
‘If you were married to a beautiful woman as Gisele,and she mentioned the prospect of children.I’m sure you will jump at the opportunity? Well I’m sorry that I’m not her….’
‘It’s not that at all,Louisa my darling.Your like Afrodite,Gisele is like Helen of Troy,Gisele has her looks but she’s nothing compared to you.She’s complicated,you’re a beautiful sweet girl and I can’t help but feel protective over you?’
‘Don’t be so patronising,I’m your Wife not your prized canine pet.’
‘I didn’t mean it in that way.In time Louisa…I can’t wait to have my own children.You are the only woman for me.’
‘Good recovery Lord Henry.’
‘Am I forgiven?’
‘Of course.’ Louisa smiled sweetly.
Skip to the evening.
I needed to be alone after visiting Williams grave,confessions of the heart and visiting our new house I felt overwhelmed.Not knowing which way to turn.I leant against the balcony,looking so forlorn into the distance.Admiring the stars,Benjamin came behind me.
‘I had to see you.’
Benjamin touched my waist affectionetely,I pushed him away.’
‘Whatever is it?’
‘I wish you weren’t leaving?’
‘What’s this about you and Oliver making plans for another baby?’
‘It’s only words.’
No Benjamin you have got to believe me? There merely words he wanted to hear.’
‘Look in my eye and swear it!’
Benjamin I swear on my life.I can’t stand it in there,I’ve never felt so out of my depths…Life is so cruel….Evan making plans whilst I’m trapped in there.Oliver took us to our new house.’
‘I already knew about it before you announced it? The hardest thing out of it all was that I had to hear it from Louisa.’
‘I’m sorry my Lord,I wanted to tell you.I truly did.’
‘I believe you….I don’t know how to tell you this Gisele.But Louisa and I are making plans of our own.
‘This new house will be the making of you?’
‘It’ll live up to it’s name Nightshade Manor.Deadly Nightshade more like.’
‘I could stand here in front of you Gisele,say what you long for me to say.Then I shall end up looking like Romeo…For I am fortune’s fool.’
‘When has it come to that?’
‘It’s always been like that with us G.We make plans for us to be together,you gather up all of your courage to write a letter and leave Oliver.Then you act cold and we are back to square one.’
‘Things were different,I had to have help I was going into labour in the gardens.I was so cold and desperate that is why we had to admit defeat and for I to return to Oliver and look where that lead me?
I looked at the vines climbing down from the balcony,my precious roses that Carl gave me as a gift,all withered and dying.
‘Mama has been neglecting the garden,that will not do.Take a look at the vines,squeezing the life out of my precious roses? That symbolises how I am.My marriage is choking the life out of me.’
‘Louisa wants a child.’
‘ I knew that this wa going to break you?’
‘You cant do this Benjamin,what about us?’
I’m facing facts I can never have you the way I want you…Never going to cradle your newborn baby in my arms,so I’m afraid this is the next best thing,I was reluctant to the idea at first.But I’m slowly coming round to the idea.Maybe having a child would bring us closer together.’
‘I’m really happy for you.’
‘Please don’t lie to me,you’re not happy?’
‘You’re so right the thought of you two having children is killing me.’
‘Now you must understand how I felt when you boldly announced about trying for other children? And that you are ready.’
‘I said what I wanted him to hear,and to make you jealous.Of course I’m not ready for another baby.But like you said previously I know in my heart of hearts that you and I have no future together. I’m hating the thought that you two are married and there’s nothing that I can do about it.’
Lord Henry moved an inch within me,I could barely breathe.A shooting star came over ahead of us.
‘It’s not that exciting.’
‘Please don’t lie to me.’
‘It’s beautiful a magical moment.The last time I saw one was with Oliver.I was so happy.’
He clutched onto my hand. ‘Make a wish.’ he whispered in my ear.
‘I can’t because the truth only hurts…I wish that you weren’t married and that we were together in Versailles.I wish William was alive and I never set eyes upon Lord Rickman.’
‘Are you sure you really want this Lady Gisele?’
‘You know I do Ben.’
‘Well then you’re wish is my command.’
‘But you’re leaving?’
‘I won’t see you for a few weeks.’
‘I can’t bare it.’
‘Keep my distance from you.Make Oliver believe you’re happy in Nightshade Manor.While I write to you.’
‘I can’t wait.’
‘Gisele I’ve waited so long for you,pinch me am I dreaming?’
I hit him playfully.
‘You’re dreams are finally coming true Lord Henry.’
‘I will write to you…Gisele this is only the beginning.I can’t wait to build our foundation together.I can see having children with you.I am laying my heart on the line for you.This isn’t going to be easy for either of us.But we will get through this together.’
‘Can’t I come with you?’
‘We’re playing the long game,act the dutiful Wife Gisele.Please him do what you have to do.
‘What about Louisa?’
‘Put your feelings first for once in your life Gisele.This is about us.I don’t care if Louisa breaks down and cries begging me to stay or Oliver tries to kill me in the process.I’m coming back for you.’
‘You promise me?’
‘You never discovered the true reason of why I’m afraid to express my true emotions.That’s because I have been cursed with beautiful women such as yours truly.Why I was reluctant to marry Louisa.As I thought that she was the only chance I could have of true happiness.There was one lady in my life called the Duchess Rachel Lewisham.’
‘You’ve never mentioned her before?’
‘That’s because I’ve kept it buried within my heart until now.Louisa doesn’t even know of this…I trust you with my whole heart that is why I’m telling you now.Until one day she disappeared,no one knew what happened to her.All of those years later,I found it extremely difficult to trust women until you Gisele.You’re my one true love.Gisele Rickman,I lost you once before when you kissed me goodbye on my wedding night to Louisa.I know that it was wrong,but I was a broken man of course I’m coming back for you asI’m not prepared to lose you again.’
I started to cry.
‘Whatever is it?’
‘Louisa was right never to trust me,I’ve destroyed everything in her life.’
‘It’s best to be cruel to be kind.’said Lord Henry.
‘She let me into her life,poured out her heart and soul,she was perfectly in her rights never to trust me all of those years ago.Are you sure your wife isn’t a beautiful sorceress she predicted that I would break his heart?’
He looked down at my wedding finger.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Because one day my Queen,there will come a time when I want to marry you….’
‘You know that Louisa would forbid that to happen….she would refuse you a divorce and you’ve slept together haven’t you? So they’ll be no chance of an annulment?’
‘Hush Gisele,do not speak of my wife.You are ruining the moment.’
‘I’m sorry…I’m just nervous about the future.’
‘For now I want to give you this.’
He removed my wedding ring and replaced it with a beautiful ring which had a flower on it.I do not care what people have said of him in the past.Having the fear of expressing himself freely,it was a sweet and tender moment.I tried my hardest not to hold back the tears.When all the while I was scared that we were going to be found together.My heart was beating faster and faster.
‘It’s a promise ring,I promise that I will always love you.’
I kissed and embraced him one final time.
‘I love you.’
‘First there is something that I should like to do first?’
‘Kiss me goodbye.’
I wrapped my arms around Benjamin’s neck and kissed him goodbye.
‘Come with me.’ I whispered.
‘Go and lay with your husband.Knowing that you and I are going to end up together I think I can bare with sharing you a moment longer.’
Our hands brushed past one another,and we went our seperate ways.’