Lord Rickman cleared his throat,I quickly composed myself as he began to address me.
‘Lady Antoinette will be expecting my prescence for luncheon.I can not possibly be late…’
‘Oh stop your bumbling around Oliver,you no longer have to impress my Mama.’
‘Gisele,despite you and I going our different ways,Lady Antoinette has been awfully good to me.She didn’t have to,she is such a dear.Picked me up when I was falling to pieces,it’s my simple way of repaying her kindness,I simply refuse to get into her bad books.’
‘Quite right too.’ I smiled. ‘Ever the gentleman.even in these dark times.’
‘Do you recall the time of our engagement dinner?’
Lady Antoinette was making such a fuss,she had beckoned all of the maid servants and footmen of the house.They were quietly gathering in the dining room.Marching up and down as though she were a Colonel dictating orders to her regiment,treating my dinner as though it were a royal engagement.I love,admire and respect Mama but there are times were their actions can be almost suffocating.I couldn’t get a word in edgeways.Lord Olvier was in the shadows.
‘This needs to be perfect.’
‘Not now child.’
‘The staff curtsied and bowed in the appropriate places. ‘Yes Lady Antoinette.’
She circled around the dining room table,picking up the various knives and forks.
‘Is this where a steak knife belongs Emma? Hmm?’
‘No my Lady.’
‘Carelessness will not do Emma,and these two finger marks?’
‘Mama is this Spanish inquisition really necessary?’
‘All cutlery will be polished precisely to my highest standards.I want those glasses gleaming.I wish to see my reflection in them once you have finished.Whatever is it Gisele?’
‘Mama,Lord Rickman isn’t royalty you know.Next you’ll be instructing the napkins to be made into swans.’
‘Why didn’t I consider that? My Gisele what a splendid idea.What would you like them in the pink or the gold?’
‘You are not listening to a single word I’m saying? I am merely being polite by saying that Oliver and I are perfectly happy with keeping things to a small scale.We do not need any of this unnecessary fuss.’
‘We shall have champagne,and you shall play the piano.It will be perfect trust me child.’
‘That is what I am afraid of,as for the engagement gala…things are moving too fast.’
I looked over in Lord Rickman’s direction.
‘Oliver Rickman and I would like to get to know one another first? Don’t we Olly?’
‘I’m staying out of this.’
‘Gisele.I do not want Lord Rickman think that we have fallen into new money.Us Delessops are proud.’
And with that she disappeared,I walked over to Lord Rickman’s side.
‘How could you?’ I lowered my tone,I refuse to make a scene in front of staff.
‘And spoil all of the fun?’
I looked at Lord Rickman.
‘I thought that you were backing out on me?’
‘I could have saved us.That day I was ever so nervous Mama was determined in making an good impression on you.’
‘And that she did?’
‘You didn’t defend me?’
‘I thought it wasn’t my place to come between a mother and daughter conflict?’
‘I was scared you might change your mind? And call the engagement off there and then?’
‘I would never do that.’
‘You and I we could have prevented all of this heartache and pain…I did love you know?’
I composed myself. ‘Mama she had such a unique and some may call it an obsession of taking over.Heaven help Evangaline and Holly if they ever marry? Forever meddling in my life.Feeling that you would think that the Delessop’s were inferior to the Rickman dynasty? Masquarading as rich people,and that were really peasant’s.Poor Papa,what he had to put up with in his life time?’
‘He did dote on her.I could tell the way he looked at her…God rest Lord William’s soul.
‘We once had that special bond?’
‘Despite what you may think Gisele,none of that ever mattered to me? Even if you were of new money.I wouldn’t give a jot.I couldn’t help falling in love with you there and then.’
‘I shouldn’t be here.Benjamin?’
‘Never mind Lord Henry.The truth is I loved you Gisele,and that’s all that mattered.
‘Please I do not deserve your kindness.’
‘The smile on your face was enough,knowing you needed me.The first time we lay together,feeling your heart beating ever so heavily against mine.Your face lit up the night sky.But you knowing you really hurt me…Knowing what I know now.I should have treasured every single breathing moment and not priortised my love of the business.Over the love of my wife.My beautiful complicated,kind and sweet natured angel.And now.’
‘What became of us Oliver? You were always forgiving,to catch me whenever I fell from grace?’
‘Now’s not the time of regrets.You have Lord Henry for all of that now.To kiss your tear stained cheeks.Don’t cry over me Gisele.’
He kissed my cheek.
‘Be happy Gisele.’ With that he disappeared.
Papa once taught me as a little girl when I had grazed my knee.He gently placed me upon his knee.I must have been a sweet and tender six year old girl.All blonde curls and piercing blue eyes. He would look at me,looking ever so wise and say ‘Listen petit Gisele,you are young and so full of life.You will endure many moments of joy and heartache.But what doesn’t kill you my child makes you strong,like an ox so to speak.You will grow into a vibrant beautiful woman and all of this .All you need to do is smile and all of the pain will be a distant memory,it’ll fade away in a heart beat.Trust me.’
Those words shall forever remain with me until my dying day.I feel I aught to brush myself off and start again.Feel happy that Lord Rickman has finally agreed to setting me free.But I can’t help feeling crushed,I should be making plans for the future.Finally getting my true heart’s desire.Marrying Lord Henry is all I’ve ever wanted and I’ve caused a lot of pain in reaching that stage in my life.But I can’t help but quietly grieve for the love I’ve lost.Wherever I shall go,a piece of his heart shall always remain with me.I owe so much to him,deep down I can’t help feeling he has kissed his children goodbye for the final time.
Lady Antoinette was sat at the head of the table.She casually looked over at the old grandfather clock.
‘Oliver is late.’She tutted to herself.
‘So unlike him?’ sighed Louisa.
‘You have a nerve sitting as though butter wouldn’t melt…You’re certainly no Lady of the manor? Lord Henry saw through your little facade.You’re nothing but a she devil in disguise.’ scowled Holly.’Now run along back under the rock you scuttled from.’
‘Mama was forgiving until you came along? It should be Gisele sat in your place. ‘muttered Holly under her breathe.
‘Your sister the ever so sweet Gisele…she only has herself to blame.Destroying my own chance of happiness.Gisele stole the love of my life and the father of my unborn child away.’
‘Don’t tell me he left you with child?’
‘Don’t be so absurd we spoke of the prospect of children in the future…What goes around comes around so to speak?’ Smiles Louisa,admiring her nails.
‘I shall like to go for a walk after luncheon.Would you care to join me Evangaline?’
‘I shall be honoured Lady Henry.’ smiled Evangaline.
Holly kicked Evangaline under the table.
‘Ow that hurt.’
‘It was meant to Evangaline.How could you?’ whispered Holly.
‘I was merely being polite.’
‘You are too nice for your own good Evangaline Delessop,no wonder Lord Arthur took advantage of you.He dropped you as soon as he had his way? I wish Louisa would just drop down dead.’
‘Holly that’s an awful thing to say.’ snapped Marianna.
‘Is Lady Henry feeling better today after her little outburst?’
‘Feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed so to speak.I mean much better thanks.’
‘I was about to introduce you as one of my delightful daughters.The daughter I’ve never had.
‘I’m sorry Letitia,but you’ve got to admit it I’ve never had an easy time with you girls.’
‘How dare she? She palmed us off to nanny’s!’
‘Hold your tongue Holly.’ said Letitia.
‘I painted a picture of you Louisa,being ever so elegant and graceful.You’re etitquette used to be so prim and proper,society admired you and pitied you for falling in love with the wrong gentleman and for my daughter’s ill treatment towards you.’
‘Forgive me Antoinette,I behaved out of character.If I could turn back time,believe you I would.’
Lord Rickman slowly walked into the main dining hall,all attention suddenly diverted to him.
Lord Rickman bowed. ‘Please don’t stand on my account.Forgive me for my lateness.’
‘It is so unlike you Lord Rickman?’
‘I have my reasons your ladyship.I stumbled across something that I simply couldn’t avoid.’
‘Well you’re here now that’s all that matters?’
‘Oliver? Whatever is the matter?’ whispered Louisa.
‘I shall explain all later sister of mine.’
‘Is everything all right my dear? You look awfully pale.As though you’ve seen a ghost?’
I stood there frozen to the spot,I was simply lost for words.I had kissed my husband goodbye.I felt a gentle kiss bestowed upon my neck.No,don’t tell me Lord Rickman has finally rediscovered his hidden unbridled passion for me.Like that day in Serenity Estate,well I’m sorry Oliver but it’s little too late.Memories of where we couldn’t get enough of one another.I was so young,headstrong full of nonsense and empty impossible dreams.I had to speak up find my inner courage.Reach out for all of woman kind and say no.That is one thing I regret not standing up to Duke Matthew, on that fateful Christmas night.When he raped me,even now I can’t discuss it with Benjamin.I couldn’t put up a resistance barrier between us.I felt ever so helpless,begging for mercy in the snow.I refused to be the victim anymore,Iwas just about to turn around and scream no.When I discovered who my mysterious admirer was? I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.For it was only Lord Henry,seeing his face once more caught my breath.He looked ever so rugged and handsome in the dim light,and may I say quite the doting father with my beautiful angels.
‘What kept you so long?’
‘It’s ever so freezing up inside that wretched west wing.’
‘Marianna and I always classed it as an icy fortress home of the white witch.Sorry.’
‘The truth is I missed you,I was just about to send out a search party to look for you?’
‘I was going to find you,I simply lost track of time.’
‘Was Lady Antoinette beastly towards you?’
‘It’s not Mama who has upset,oh it;s nothing Ben.’
‘Tell me who did this to you?’
‘Must you forever be protective over me?’
‘I have my reasons.’
‘I know you mean well but really Ben,if you think that you’re going to wrap me up in cotton wool for the rest of my days? Then you’re gravely mistaken.The truth is I came into the drawing room,because I was scared beyond words…I didn’t want to appear a coward,I mean how absurd scared of my own Mother.Yes I should have been honest with you but I can not hide behind your shadow…I needed some dutch courage,so I was about to seek solace in a glass of my Papa’s secret casket of whiskey.Also to make myself look respectable.I refuse to let Lady Henry to look down at me as though I was some common street urchin.I came in here,only to stumble across Lord Rickman.’
‘Did he harm you any any way Gisele?’
‘Oh please Ben,you know Oliver he would never lay a finger upon me.’
‘Not even in a fit of fury?’
‘No never,he handed me this parchment.The contents is too much to bare.’
‘What does he speak of?’
‘I know that it should remain private between Oliver and I.But we’re engaged and I shouldn’t conceal any secrets from you,I know you have hidden depths and yet to explore them…The letter,it explains his reasons behind it all.All of the women,what drove him to drink.How he despises himself for it.Twas I,his sweet and tragic little wifey Juliet.’
‘Believe what you want to believe,but I drove him to the brink of it.He was so full of regret over the way he had handled his son’s death.We still don’t know the full extent or cause of his death.Dr Bryany,the family physician said it’s common in young infancy.Oliver felt cheated,and spoke venomous words towards me.His heir and one true child worthy of his birth right.Snatched away from him in an instant.He believed I could have prevented it.Society once taught my Oliver keep your enemies close.Never to appear to be weak,stiff upper lip,you know grieve in silence.He was brought up under a cloud of anger and torture.Losing both his parent’s at such a young age.You and I we’re lucky and should be greatful for what we have.’
‘That we may be Gisele,but are you justifying his appalling behaviour towards you?’
‘I’m not saying what he said was right he hurt me more than you’ll ever realise.Today he stood before me,like the tragic Hamlet.Eyes full of fire and fury.Word’s poison,speaking of pure hatred and loss.This is consuming his whole body,I was his wife and I failed to fulfil my duties as a wife.I was so self-absorbed in all of my insecurities and consealing our love affair.That I failed to read the signs that inside my husband was dying too.’
‘Poppy cock! You’re pure as the driven snow?’
‘Oh contrary,there’s nothing pure about me.I’m self-centred,ever choosing the easy way out.Running into your arms time and time again.I could have saved us?’
‘Oh come off it,this isn’t the first time,you’ve strayed from his side? Sir Holmes springs to mind?’
‘Hasn’t it occured to you Lord Henry? That I’ve suffered enough because of that man? I admit that I hadn’t the faintest idea about marriage.I met Lord Rickman and I agreed to a marriage to simply please Mama.I’ve heard so many horror stories of arranged marriages,I didn’t want to be one of those poor ladies I pitied,drinking champagne alone whilst their husband’s waltzed with their mistress’s right under their nose.Lady Antoinette she had a hidden agenda of marrying young,of being blessed with grandchildren.Something Marianna was unable to bare them and Letitia simply had no desire to.I had no idea of what marriage was.I had no idea I would feel as though I was trapped in a prison.At first I had this inkling that it was this unspoilt fairytale.Two strangers falling in love under the moonlight.Cure this restless heart and I had to be ever Olivers Juliet,faithfully bound to him by a precious ring till death.According to my sister’s I was the flighty one out of the six of us.Every evening by candlelight I sought after my sister’s advise,for I could no longer rely on my own suspisions of how to attract a gentleman. ‘Use your eyes to your advantage young Gisele.’ said Marianna. ‘They are a window to a gentleman’s soul..
‘You are beautiful,make every opportunity count.’ stated Letitia.
‘The ball is your stage,you are the star allow the music to take action.Dance with,and kiss as many gentleman you chose.Do not settle or fall for the first frog you kiss.’ said Lucille. ‘And also ensure you play a damn good hand at poker.’ I smiled at this memory,how I miss her naivety.Because of all these statements I was torn,intitally thought in order to be the perfect lady of London society,you had to merely wine and dine people you may or may not like? Whilst holding onto your beloveds hand,gazing into their eyes for moral support.Maybe hold the occasional ball in our beautiful manor house,so all of society can be full of envy and for once of my life to be centre of attention for the right reasons.All wrong I realise that now,I had no ideaa how hard married life would entail.That in order for it to work,it had to be based upon a foundation of trust.No reccollection of what true love was? I only had shakespeare as my reference of text,and my crazy butterfly kind of love.All innocent,and absurd looking back now.Sir Holmes for a time,cured my my boredom,easy on the eye and pleased me in ways my husband couldn’t.As for you Ben,your love took me completely by surprise.All of that unwanted attention you paid,this Lady simply couldn’t refuse.’ I pouted in his direction. ‘You and I we ventured where angels feared to tread.On reflection with Oliver,I had no idea of how I would eventually grow to love,depend,trust another human being.Despite all of this,he looked me in the eye and told me that he still loved me.I admit there was a split second I’d gladly return.’
‘I can’t believe I’m hearing this?’
‘Lord Henry you haven’t allowed me to finish…’
‘Lady Gisele,I do feel I’ve heard quite enough for one day…After walking out on my first wife,my whole family.To embark on a new life in Italy with my mistress to end up returning to London? Are you suggesting that you are going back to him! If you do you will force my hand,god damn it!’
‘No of course not,I love you and if I did return to London with my girls to be with my husband once more.I’d only be lying to myself and it wouldn’t be fair on Oliver nor my daughters.A small part of me,wished that I could take Oliver back into my loving arms,as though he were my lover.Pray that you never existed,to kiss all of his fears away.Be the wife,he’s truly longed for me to be.But I can not go back…not anymore,and as thankfully in the first time in his life he’s finally seeing this too and setting his sweet tragic Juliet free.His words,not mine.’
Lord Henry went to touch my hand.’I’m sorry.’
I pulled away from him. ‘No.’
‘You doubted me…don’t you realise what this means for us? You and I can finally move forward and start making arrangements to be married? That’s if you’re still willing to have me Lord Henry?’
‘Correct answer,you have that look in your eye? I know where this is heading? The look of doubt upon your face says it all?’
‘There’s still the question of Lady Henry?’
‘I’m sure Louisa she’ll find someone perfectly agreeable? She needs to finally realise in her heart of hearts.It’s time to let go? I admit I’m scared and vulnerable to finish what I have started.There’s something I need…But there’s one request I ask of you.You remain in the west wing and I shall call upon you on my return?’
‘But nothing,I wish to visit Papa’s grave alone.’
‘I never for once in my life considered you as a domineering type Lady Delessop?’
I kissed Lord Henry firmly upon the lips.There’s no reasoning with me on this matter.I need my Papa’s blessing,I owe him.’
‘Oliver what’s on your heart?
‘Louisa I wish you wouldn’t fuss over your old brother.’
‘Enough of the old Lord Rickman? I detest what the gentleman you’ve turned into and it’s because of her?’
‘Please Louisa,not now.’
I can see that you’re upset? And why do you still keep your ring?’
‘I have my reasons.’
‘It’s like you’re grieving for your dead wife Oliver.For heaven’s sake grow a back bone and look forward to the future?’
‘Just like you’re holding onto your husband?’
‘I’m trying.’ Louisa vacated the table.
‘Excuse me Lady Antoinette,my brother’s dark mood grows ever so tiresome.Lady Evangaline will you join me for a walk in the grounds?’
‘Yes of course Lady Henry.’
Evangaline and Louisa are alone walking in the grounds.
‘It’s such a beautiful day?’ smiled Louisa.Peace and tranquility were their only friends, trying to spare one another’s feelings.Louisa bravely made the first move in order to break the deadly silence.
‘My it’s such a beautiful day?’ smiled Louisa.
‘Isn’t it just?’ sighed Evangaline.
‘What a perfect opportunity to take in nature’s true beauty…blow all of the cob webs away so to speak.’
‘You’re dress looks simply sublime Evangaline, beautiful spring colours.How it makes me crave for the summer.’
‘Thank you,I have a bonnet to compliment the colours.’
‘Evangaline,let’s stop all of this small talk.Truth be told I’m growing frightfully bored of it.’
‘I’m sorry if you feel this way Lady Henry?’
‘It’s not your company I grow bored of,in fact quite the opposite.I do believe you’re the only one who hasn’t gave me the reason to make me feel unwelcome into your home? No,you’re nothing like you.You’re so beautiful,gentle and full of warmth Evan.But I fear that I put in quite an awkward position with your young sister Holly?’
‘I think you’re eyes are deceiving you?’
‘Please Lady Delessop,do not feel you need to protect me.If that is the case,I would like to offer my sincere apologies.’
‘Really Lady Henry an apology isn’t at all necessary….’
‘Please,allow me to finish.I didn’t intend it to be this way? If I have offended Holly or any of your sisters in any way…I would like to know the truth? All of my married life I have been like I’ve been used,all of my confidence has been removed from my body.Now I’m this empty shell,I feel so battered and bruised.Betrayed by my one true friend.Evangaline,I know I shouldn’t say this as we barely know one another but you are my only confidante.Does she find me superficial? I know that I reguard my looks extremely highly.I try one’s best.I refuse to become Plain jane of london sociey once more.It’s no good to have a reputation,as the one who drove her husband away…Especially the one’s as extremely bewitching and fair as your sister? One can grow to feel paranoid in the world around her?’
‘Holly,despite being the youngest sibling,can not help but feel protective over Gisele.She is quite the feisty one of the Delessop’s…she has fought to have her voice heard.Can not help but feel a tad envious over the way you married the gentleman she stated her intentions towards.’
‘The underline truth is my little Holly,I detect she had a slight crush on him.’
‘I had no idea.’
‘I hate betraying my sister’s name in this way.Speaking ill of her,but she resents any beautiful Lady of society.Who may appear to be a threat to her finding her true love…London is her territory.Mama has tried ever so hard in trying to find her ideal match.But there either ‘too tall,too clean,too rugged,too dull,not enough money’ When she finally finds her perfect match.They always make a bee line,for the opposite direction.Because of all of these reasons she’s against the rest of the world.
Louisa linked arms with Evangaline. ‘When Lord Henry left me,the truth be told I wasn’t well.I kept it to myself until now.I was so lost,my heart crippled,felt nothing but pain and torture.Thanks to you,I feel almost myself again.Last night in the ball room was an exception,despite my disagreement with your sister Lady Rickman.’
‘Gisele never intended to break your heart,she reguarded you as a sister and trusted ally she never meant to jeopardise her position.’
‘Spare me the details,she stabbed me in the back Evangaline! I doubt that I shall ever forgive her any time soon.She twisted all of her words like I didn’t know her anymore.I was so blinded by my feelings for Benjamin.I thought it was love,I didn’t see Gisele twist the knife in my side.I do hope that my feud with your sister,will not affect our friendship.’
‘No not at all.’
Before visiting Papa’s grave,I thought that I was time that I swallowed my pride and paid a visit to my first and only true love Carl’s grave.Despite Lord Henry’s protests of travelling alone.I lied and said I needed Papa,I didn’t tell him of my intentions of longing to be with Carl one final time.I braved the treacherous storm,I slowly walked towards the gravestone and took a deep breath.
‘Hello Carl,it’s your Gis.I’m ever so sorry for staying away for so long.I’ve just been summoning up to courage to see you again.Oh my goodness,I promised that I would no longer shed a tear in front of you.But I miss you,your smile your face the whisper in my ear.The soft touch upon my skin.Living is torture,standing before you I’m no longer beautiful.I feel so cold and fragile.I haven’t the strength left within me to fight.Perhaps if I had accepted your proposal,you would be still alive? It kills me now,that you’re no longer around.Lord Henry and I are planning to marry.I’m so happy,but there are times that the scars within my hearr haven’t yet healed.I wish I could have been the wife you longed for.I would have kept my vows and treasured the ring upon my finger.I’m a tortured soul,suffering in silence.For Benjamin has sacrificed ever so much in life.In order to be by my side.I should have the empowerment to let you go.I have something that I should like to give you.The ring you used to propose to me,when I was fifteen years of age.
‘Carl,I can’t accept this.’
‘Gisele,this ring proves that I will always love you.’
‘I’m merely fifteen just a child.Mama and Papa would never stand for this?’
‘I will wait for you.No matter how long it will take for us to be together.You’re the girl I’m meant to be with.’
He kissed my lips.
‘I think I love you too.’
‘You can say it and mean it Gisele?’
‘All of our secret meetings?’
‘It’s because I want you all to myself.’
I wrapped my arms around him.
‘You’re constantly looking over your shoulder? Are you ashamed of to be associated with me Lady Delessop?’
‘No of course not.’
‘Looking back I wasn’t ashamed,I was worried about Mama and Papa’s reaction.I put my pride before the path of true love.I mean how could I ever be proud of you? Carl you were my one true best friend you never once judged me.I never got the chance to say it to your face,but my darling I would have been honoured for you to become my husband.But this ring I hold in my hand,it’s been ever so precious to me for so long but the truth is….Oh Carl,I can not keep it it’s no use to me now.I shall hold onto the hope and happy and tender moments.But the image of holding you in my arms,your beautiful life fading…Slipping from my fingers,haunts me even now.I need to stop running and not look back.Carl,truth is I wasn’t worthy of your love.I’ve got to go and see my Papa I have put it off long enough.Sleep soundly my precious.I’ll always love you.’
Lord Henry is bracing himself in the West Wing.
‘Mama will be back soon,I promise you.’ he sighed.
‘It’s so cold.’ said Esme.
‘It’s all right.Mama will make it right in the end? Won’t she Papa?’ said Ava.
‘You’ve never called me that before Ava? Do you see me as your father?’
‘You can if you want to,you make Mama smile.Are you still married to Auntie Louisa?’ asked Esme looking at Lord Henry longingly.
‘It’s complicated,but I do love you Mama with all of my heart.’
‘Is she your princess?’ asked Esme.
‘Yes she is my beautiful princess.’
‘And Daddy is the big fire breathing dragon.Mama is sad when she was with him.’ said Ava. ‘Not anymore,you’re her knight in shining armour here to sprinkle you’re fairy dust and make it all better again.’
‘Ava I think I’ve ran out of the old pixie dust,perhaps I could use some of yours?’
Lord Henry warmly embraced Ava and Esme,he tenderly kissed both of their foreheads in turn.
A little while later,I was finally at Papa’s grave.Hair dripping wet and shivering from the cold.I knew I shouldn’t have worn my white lace gloves.I bent down beside the headstone and placed a single red rose alongside.
‘No storm or hail would prevent from seeing you.So sorry,it’s been a while since my last visit.Dear Papa,it’s your petit Gisele.My have I a tale to tell you.I finally summoned up for the courage to visit Carl.I still can’t believe he’s no longer with us.I heard from Marianna how you fight to get Mama to approve of my love for Carl.Oh if only she allowed me to have my wish of marrying.Then I wouldn’t be where I am now.I tried with Lord Rickman,you aught to believe me.I tried to find it once more to love him once more and I failed.I failed my daughters,there has come to point in our marriage where jealously and feeling the urge to breathe drove a wedge between us.My heart has gravitated to another,why is this whenever I see you.I lose the power of speech.Even now why am I ever scared of your diapproval? The man in question,to whom I intend my marriage to be for keeps is Lord Henry.Yes indeed Louisa’s precious little Benny,has declared his love and we plan to marry.I refuse his hand,until I get my Papa’s blessing.You may feel this act of marriage is rash,rushed even? I sometimes question this my self but this love was blossoming at a distance,powerless to stop it.Yes I may have changed in appearance.But I’m still the frightened girl,fighting to gain her Daddy’s approval.I wish you where here to see how happy I am in my new life in Italy.Benjamin is a respectable,sweet and caring gentleman.As for Ava and Esme,despite never been given the opportunity of not meeting you,they’ve heard grande tales and saw many pictures.Oh how they simply adore you,but as the pictures fade.I shall treasure those memories we share.’
I stood up and left the grave yard once more.I shall visit William’s grave another day.There’s been too much heartbreak in one day,he knows I’m still think about him.’
Lord Rickman is alone in the drawing room,an ambience of cigar smoke and smell of brandy circling around the room.
‘Ashamed of our company Lord Rickman?’
‘No,not at all Lady Antoinette.’
‘I was hoping that I would get an opportunity of engaging a conversation alone.As you can see it’s virtually impossible with Evan and Holly ever in my prescence.Is everything ok my Lord.’
‘Yes I am perfectly well my Lady.’
‘Only forgive me I beg to differ,you didn’t seem yourself at luncheon? I know you can not always get a word in edgeways with my girls.But you would tell me if there was something mithering you?’
‘It’s not my place to say Lady Antoinette.My wife…’
‘Gisele is no longer a part of this family and you’re still protecting my harlot of a daughter? Ever the noble man? You do realise my daughter only thinks of herself ever the shallow and centred one there’s no point trying to change her now.
‘Intelligent and beautiful woman maybe? Shallow and self-centred she is not.’
‘You obviously don’t know my daughter well enough?’
‘I can not believe how hateful you are towards your daughter,I would never dream of calling my Esme or Ava a harlot….’
‘You fool,don’t tell me you’re still in love with her?’
‘After our encounter,my opinion has certainly changed,I’m no longer that foolish man and why should I feel ashamed to express my true feelings.Indeed I still love your daughter…’
‘Speak now Lord Rickman,or forever face the consequences.’
‘I fear I’ve spoken too much?’
‘Your Gisele,alongside Lord Henry and her daughters have been hiding in the west wing.’
‘Don’t be absurd I watched her vacate the ballroom that like a wounded cat,she wouldn’t have the nerve to defy me.’
‘Sadly it’s true my lady,ever since you’re incident at your birthday.Marianna,took pity upon her sister.She couldn’t bare to see her sister and niece’s thrown out into the cold,so as darkness fell upon the house,she took the servant’s entrance and….this morning I was surprised to find her in the drawing room.She looked as beautiful as the day we met.Gisele was preparing herself to have a confrontation with you,she needed time to prepare her.Asshe was frightened of you.I mean how can a girl become frightened of her own Mama?’
‘She brought this all upon herself Lord Rickman,she treated you appallingly and still you go back for more.Being bought by her stories?’
‘Words were exchanged for quite some time,I fear your daughter and I are alas parting ways.In order for her to marry Lord Henry.’
‘Don’t tell me you’re surrendering?’
‘Who am I to prevent her from getting her heart’s desire?’
‘I underestimated your intentions towards my daughter?’
‘It’s time Antoinette,that I grew to realise your daughter loves another and it’s my duty to set her free.’
‘Duty it’s a gentleman’s duty to love his wife until their dying day.Didn’t your wedding day teach you that? My Lord William will be turning in his grave.’
‘I understand why you must feel that I aught to despise her.After all she put me through hell covorting with other gentlemen while still being bound to me in only but name.I’m certainly no innocent? The women? Countess Aleksandrov,Duchess Olivia,Lady Viola…the sneaking around,different woman in my bed every night.The drinking.’
‘That’s because she drove you to it my Lord….’
‘I should have spat upon her when she begged for a divorce,cast her out back out into the fringes of society where she belongs.Keep her in an unwanted marriage as punishment for breaking my heart and stealing my daughters away.But I’m sorry I’m a weak man Antoinette for deep down I secretly desire her and want my Juliet to love and want me back.The whole prospect of her marrying another and my girls gaining another father is killing me.I can no longer tell her that,as your daughter no longer loves me.I will have to learn to live with that.We’ve grown to mutually respect one another.Doesn’t everybody deserve to have a second chance?’
‘Over my dead body! Lord Rickman you a nothing but a coward.Lord Rickman you are dismissed!’
With that she left the room.
The journey to my Mama’s estate,seemed so endless.Times like these when I wish I had Quinn for company,I miss my girl.I couldn’t wait to see Esme,Ava and Benjamin once more.I can see it now,being back here in London.Lord Henry was truly born to make me happy.I can not wait to give him everything that he has truly desired a child of his own and I will offer him my world.I realise that Louisa will not surrender without a fair fight,but no matter I shall wait an age if that’s how long it will take to be his girl.
I quietly slipped through the archway leading to the estate,hoping to become unnoticed.Only to be confronted by Mama.
‘Alone at last Gisele.’