A tapping awoke her. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep. When she’d laid down on the grass in a secluded spot by the lake, it had been early afternoon, and now the sun was setting low, leaving shades of yellow, orange, pink and red to streak across the sky. ‘It must be nearly dinner time,’ she thought. ‘Father will be furious if I’m late!’ Hurrying to raise herself from her lying position and get to their new home, she began to wonder if she shouldn’t miss her curfew, simply to spite the old man. Shaking her head at the thought, she told herself she didn’t want to deal with the anger he would surely possess at her tardiness. She began to run as fast as her tight corset and hard boots would allow, holding up her skirts to give her feet more room to carry her.
A low murmuring drew her attention, and she easily lost interest in abstaining from her father’s temper. Slowing down, she listened harder so she could locate the origin of the sound. When she heard the tapping that had awoken her, her curiosity peaked, and she walked down the path through the park, in search of the strange sound. Following the dirt covered trail, she found herself staring at a man, holding a small notepad and pen, tapping the end of the pen against the wood of the bench he was sitting on. He was obviously absorbed in whatever was on the page, because he hadn’t noticed her presence, and he was still murmuring to himself. She watched with intrigue as he abruptly stopped murmuring and rapping his pen, instead using it to scribble something down, while voicing excitedly, “That’s it!”
She smiled at him, amused at his enthusiasm, as he said some more incoherent things to himself. Suddenly, she was overwhelmed with the urge to not be seen by this enticing man, like one who studies timid animals, not wanting to frighten them away by his or her presence. She backed away slowly, hoping he wouldn’t notice. Once she reached a safe distance, she jumped behind the thick brush adjacent to either side of the path. Assuring herself that she was concealed from his sight by the bushes, she moved forward, quietly sneaking her way to sit in across from him, pushing some stray locks of hair from her face that had fallen loose in her rush. Now, sitting only a few feet from him, and able to watch him more closely, she took a better look at him.
She took in his clothing, a tan suit of tweed. From her judgment, she guessed he was of the upper middle class, not that it really mattered to her. His left leg was lifted, hooked onto his right knee by his ankle, with his notebook placed at the bend of his left knee. She realized, with passing interest, that he was left handed, and laughingly thought of all the stories that were told of left handed men. She had been told that dominance must be in the right hand, because that was the hand of God. That because they wrote with the opposite hand, that they were conformers with the devil, and should be avoided at all costs in order to remain pure enough to go to Heaven. Looking at this man, she knew without a doubt, that those statements- which she had never truly believed anyway- were false. Continuing her examination, she tried to look at his face, noticing, with slight disappointment, that it was obscured from her view. His light brown, curly hair fell over his forehead, as he looked down at his paper. The angle blocked most of his face, though she could tell that he was wearing glasses. Frowning, she tried to will him to look up, so she could get a better view.
She didn’t know exactly why she was so eager to see him. Men weren’t exactly her number one priority. She had tried to court an Irish man, Liam, when she had first moved from America to England, but, after a few polite and formal gatherings, she learned that he’d wanted much more than formalities, and that she didn’t want to offer it to him. When she refused him, he’d been more than happy to tell her that he’d been secretly spending his evenings with a bar matron, Faith, who wouldn’t ever say ‘no’. Elizabeth hadn’t given much thought to it, knowing that she’d never have allowed herself to be with a man who was drinking and whoring his way through life. Another man, Riley Finn, had been of her father’s insisting. He’d come with them on their move to London, having worked with her father and become close friends with him. Elizabeth had found him rather dull and, to her extreme annoyance, closed-minded when it came to people who were monetarily beneath him. She had had friends in America who were never as rich as she was, and she had pretended not to notice when Riley would throw nasty looks at them from across the room. His arrogance and bigoted mind had never dissipated, and that was why she’d never actually tried to have a relationship with him. He seemed to think that they were moving right along, but then he found that she wasn’t as taken with him as he was with himself, and left her for a woman named Samantha.
Elizabeth wasn’t heartbroken in the least.
Elizabeth was shaken out of her thoughts when she noticed the man with an unknown face reach into his jacket to pull out a pocket watch. When he opened it, he seemed somewhat surprised at what he saw, because he lifted his head, looking at the sky and frowning. When she finally saw his face, her shock and excitement rose to a point where she couldn’t help but gasp. His lips were full and soft, his cheekbones contradicted them with their high, sharp edges that formed hollows in his cheeks, and her fingertips suddenly itched to trace them. She squinted, trying to see beneath the glasses, to get a better look at his eyes, but she couldn’t see beyond the blocking spectacles. Frustrated at her misfortune, she focused on his face, losing herself in it, while hoping beyond hope that she’d be able to see his eyes before the day went away. Her inner pleadings proved not entirely in vain, as she watched him remove his glasses, only to rub his eyes tiredly with his right hand. Glaring at him, she waited for his eyes to come into view. As he pulled his hand away, and opened his eyes, she was struck with a piercing gaze that made her gasp again, louder. His eyes were so blue, and she could just tell that they had the ability to express every emotion known to man, to any extreme. She watched his eyes looking around, frowning as he seemed to be searching for someone, and when he stood from his seat, she heard his voice, “Is someone there?”
‘Oh, no!’ She thought. ‘Why did I have to gasp?’ She scrunched lower in her place, holding her breath for fear he’d hear it, while he continued looking for whoever might have made that sound. She sat perfectly still for what seemed like an eternity before she saw him shake his head, chuckling a little, and talking to himself. “You’ve got to stop reading so many horror stories, William. They’re making you paranoid.”
William. So, that was the name of this beautiful creature she’d encountered. She’d never really thought that William was a very unique name, or one she’d admire as such. But, this William, he made the name as beautiful as he was. He made it strong, and soft, and… poetic. But, what did it matter what his name was? She decided that she'd like him no matter what he called himself. And, when had she been thinking so much about such a small matter as a name? Or, that the man she’d been watching was left handed, or had shocking blue eyes. Lots of men had all these things. What was it about him that made her quiver at his every feature? Letting a small smile form on her lips, Elizabeth concluded that he was just special. And that she wanted to see more of him.
Concentrating on him again, she found him walking away from her, obviously heading out of the park. She sprang up from her place behind the bush, and started to follow him. As she quietly stepped onto the path, she noticed a piece of paper lying beside the bench. She bent over and picked it up, hoping that it was something that he’d dropped. Her curious fingers opened it immediately, and she found herself reading a few neat scribbles of what she figured to be a poem.
My heart expands
‘Tis grown a bulge in it, inspired by your beauty.
Reading the lines that hadn’t been crossed off, she distinguished with sadness that it was most likely a love poem. For someone he was with? Or possibly someone he’d been chasing. She hoped it was neither, because, after watching him for what seemed like hours, she’d come to recognize the feelings she had toward him were more than infatuation. She wanted to get to know him, and she wanted to be the person he wrote poetry for and the woman that he would fall in love with and marry. ‘Wait… love?’ Her eyes widened. She hadn’t really thought of love so soon, had she? No, of course not. People don’t fall in love that soon… especially not Elizabeth Anne Summers. So… why was she feeling what she was feeling and thinking what she was thinking?
Folding up the paper with trembling fingers, she carefully slid it into the waist of her skirt, and continued on the path that would lead her towards home. Home! Suddenly, her earlier urgency of getting home came back to her, and she began her painful running again, not stopping until she reached the more populated areas of town.
“William, is that you?” Anne called from the dinner table.
“Of course, Mother. Who else would it be?” William grinned as he entered the room, walking over to his mother to kiss her on her cheek before sitting down on the other end of the table. “Am I late?”
Anne smiled at her only son, “Only a little, my boy. Did you go to the park?”
He nodded, answering, “I was hoping to get a little inspiration there. It does wonders for my writings. I suppose I lost track of time.”
“It’s completely alright. I’m glad you have a place to be at peace. Heaven knows you can’t find any peace here, worrying yourself over my health.” She said, looking at him with concern. “William, it’s not right that you spend so much time at home. I know you need your own time and space.”
William sighed, “Mother, I’m content with the life I have. I wouldn’t want to leave you more than necessary for my own selfish reasons. I can get by just fine with the way it is now.” He took her hand in his, trying to reassure her, but Anne only shook her head.
“But, a man your age should be expanding his social circle, not cooping himself up at home day after day. He should be...” she took on a hinting tone. “Attending parties, getting to know the people of the town… searching for a woman to settle down with….”
William rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Now, this is starting to sound like you’re planning to send me out….”
Anne decided not to keep up a charade, and told him. “There is a new family living here in town. The Summers, I believe. They are having a welcoming party, and I want you to go. I’ve heard they have a daughter around your age…” She hinted again, seeing
William’s raised eyebrow.
“Mother, you know very well that I already fancy Miss Cecily Adams. I’m not looking for any other, and I don’t plan to.”
“Oh, but she’s such a proud woman.” She ignored William’s second eye roll of the evening. “It’s perfectly alright for you to broaden your horizons. Don’t limit yourself for one girl. You don’t even know if you’ll be together, or if you are, that it’s what you even wanted.”
William defensively replied, “It’s what I’ve always wanted. All I’ve wanted. This isn’t something that I can just throw aside because I may or may not have a chance.”
“I just want you to be careful, child. She’s been known to be quite cruel when it comes to human decency. I don’t want you to get hurt when…”
“I love her, Mother.” William said in a quiet tone that screamed ‘leave it be.’ Anne took the hint, and decided to respect his wishes for the time being. She didn’t like Cecily. The girl was very wrong for her son, yet somehow, he was smitten with her. Anne didn’t believe that the so-claimed love he had for her was the love she knew him to possess. It was hopeful, and it ignored all flaws of the recipient. He’d seen the girl once, thought her beautiful, and instantly claimed love.
The poor boy was going to be heartbroken when he learned that her beauty truly was skin deep, Anne just hoped that the pieces would be easily mended. She eyed him, sitting opposite her at the table as their dinner was placed in front of them. As they ate silently, she thought of ways to get him away from Cecily and towards someone better. The Summers daughter? An American, she’d heard. Just under twenty-one, and unmarried. That would be as wonderful a match as any, Anne mused. Anyone was a better match than the Adams girl.
“When is this party?” William asked after they finished their meal.
“Tomorrow night, at dinner time. Are you planning on attending?” Anne asked hopefully.
He sighed. “I suppose I should introduce myself to the new family. What can you tell me about them, so I’ll be prepared?”
Anne smiled. “Hank and Joyce Summers moved here one month ago along with their two daughters,
Elizabeth and Dawn, and several of their business employees. It seems that Mr. Summers was a painter, and supported his family by selling his artwork to local merchants. About two years ago, he found oil on his land, and since then has made a fortune from his oil company.”
“So, they’re upper class folk, then. The class of elitists.” William said with distaste. Anne shook her head, thinking how strange it was that William thought of his dear Cecily’s class that way, but not Cecily herself who was the very picture of upper class.
“William, I must insist that you introduce yourself to them. They didn’t come from a higher class to begin with, and I’m sure they aren’t as you say. Rupert says that the women of the family are quite friendly, if not Mr. Summers.”
“Giles knows them? How?” William asked, shocked.
“He tutors the daughters, and their mother often speaks with him at the end of their lessons.”
“Oh,” was all he gave in response. Seeing that he wasn’t going to continue, Anne repeated her request.
“So, you’ll go tomorrow night and meet them? If not for yourself, then as a favor to me.”
William sighed. He could never turn her down when she asked for a favor. He nodded reluctantly. “I’ll go.”
Elizabeth bit her lip as her father once again told her the rules of the house. When she’d finally gotten home, she had walked in on dessert, and then further angered him when she couldn’t come up with a good excuse as to why she had been late. Hank had practically exploded, sending her to her room immediately, without dinner, to await her punishment once he arrived. So, here she was, listening to him remind her incessantly what a disappointment she was to the Summers family line. It wasn’t anything she hadn’t heard before, and, while it stung, she had learned to simply remain quiet, look shameful, and not make eye contact when the storm of a man who called himself her father decided that she needed discipline.
So, while he finished up his speech, she sat on her bed, hands folded in her lap and head bowed.
“You know, Elizabeth, I don’t even know why I bother to deal with you at all. I should have just thrown you to the wolves like I wanted to the first time you disgraced me. I knew that all you’d ever bring me was disappointment.” He looked at her with contempt for several silent moments before shaking his head at her and turning to leave her room. On his way out, he turned back to her one last time. “Tomorrow night is our welcoming party, and you are to show yourself as a respectable young woman to all of our guests. You will wear proper attire, and you will exhibit all the etiquette I know that your mother taught you. Now, there will be young men there. High class, single young men who will wish to meet you. You will treat them each with respect, but there is one man in particular that you must pay the most attention to. His name is Parker Abrams, and he is the son of one of the wealthiest cargo traders in London. With any luck, he’ll take a shining to you and wish to take you as his wife. You have no choice in this matter. I have given you two chances already to choose whom you wish to be wed to, and you failed miserably both times. This time you will NOT disappoint me, you will marry, and be out of my life for good.”
With that, he exited, shutting the door behind him.
Elizabeth raised her head, eyes angrily hooded as she glared at the door her father had just closed. Who was he to tell her how to act around men? They were all after the same thing. They wanted a mistress, not a wife. They wanted a slave, not a lover. This ‘Parker Abrams’ wouldn’t be an exception, she just knew it. He would probably be more arrogant than all the men at that party. The fact that her father was going to force her to marry him if he agreed was sickening. As she got ready for bed, tears brimmed her eyes in frustration. She didn’t want to obey her father at all, but at the same time, felt like she had no choice.
*Just so you know, I have no beta right now. I'm my own beta. Please let me know what you think!