Chapter 26

Screenshot-13For a few moments Estelle was lost in his promises. She had no doubt… absolutely no doubt that he would act on them. The thought of being so close, so impossibly close to him, was both utterly terrifying and absolutely wonderful.

Screenshot-12Even now, although she had experienced the acts he had so willingly described, she was fascinated by how easily he had conjured images in her mind; images that made her breath catch, that made sensation spear the most intimate parts of her body.

She looked into the impenetrable dark gaze that was searching her face.

Screenshot-9She pulled away slowly, feeling as if there was not an ounce of energy left in her body.

“I wish you and Marielle happiness with all my heart.”

Screenshot-15Vaughn’s hand fell from her arm.

” … oh.”

Estelle shivered at the cracked edges held in that small word and used the opportunity to back away.

Screenshot-18She left the room without another word. Her back itched and she wanted to turn around so badly it was hard to walk straight, but she kept going.

Never in her life had moving forwards proved to be so hard. Or so sickening.

Screenshot-9As she closed the door behind her, she fought the urge to collapse to the floor. An almost unbearable wave of exhaustion swept over her, as if she had run a hundred miles.

screenshot-97The last ten minutes had been as surreal and arduous to her as the first time they had met. But then he had mentioned Marielle, and suddenly the promises had crumbled into dust, the words had rotted away.

Screenshot-10He’s going to marry Marielle.

Finally, it was happening.

It was really happening.

Screenshot-13He was going to marry Marielle. He was going to kiss her, father children with her. Lie with her. Lie to her.

The thought of him touching her caused a dull pain to grip Estelle’s heart.

Screenshot-15She had made the right choice, of that Estelle was certain. She could never be his mistress. She had already withheld the truth from Marielle for months now; it was time to stop lying.

It was time to stop. It was over.

Screenshot-7I should feel relieved…

But she didn’t, and the knowledge of it only made things worse.

Screenshot-10A week or two after Estelle had officially broke up their… relationship, she realised that she had not been the only one trying, however oddly, to give Vaughn the benefit of a doubt. The first letter arrived a mere two days later.

It was from Charles Landgraab.

ScreenshotIn the letter, he wished her well and subtly apologising on behalf of his dark-haired friend for not doing the same, or so she inferred.

It was… something, though Estelle couldn’t quite define what that something was; or if it made her feel any better, or just plain worse.

Screenshot-11Following this, as was the norm, she sent a short letter back wishing him good health and so on and so forth…

…only to receive another letter a day later.

Screenshot-19As time had gone on, their communication had eased away from the social parameters of thanks and good health, progressing instead to questions of philosophy and literature, the personal thoughts and feelings of both parties.

Screenshot-18His last letter especially had been unexpectedly open about his past. It began:

I’ve mentioned my fiancée of some years ago, have I not?”

Screenshot-106“Her name was Lily, and she was a childhood sweetheart, of sorts. But my love for her was never childlike, nor was it sweet. I was consumed by it, and thusly I was consumed by grief upon her untimely death.

Since that time I have found no real comfort, nor had I reason to seek it.”

Screenshot-18“Most of the time, it hurt to breathe when I thought about it. Upon her death, there was an aching chasm where I’d once stood and the person I thus became.

My sisters tried to console me constantly, but their efforts meant nothing in the face of what I had lost.”

Screenshot-21“I thought about Vaughn a lot during that time, too…. I wondered if this was how he felt when Falcon had died.

Was there, too, an absence of something essential in him now? An estrangement from himself that made everything feel grey and taste of ashes?”

Screenshot-14“Did anyone try to tell him it would be okay? Did anyone tell him it was okay to cry and be weak, when he was so hurt?

Did anyone realise how lonely he was… other than me?”

Screenshot-23“One day, it struck me like a bolt of lightning:

I could have helped him then, too. And I didn’t.”

Screenshot-5That’s why I travelled to Barnacle Bay, even though everybody had warned me that trying to get him back was pointless. After all, getting Vaughn back from Barnacle Bay would never get me back Vaughn, not the Vaughn I was looking for, nor a person I could understand.”

Screenshot-10What I found were mere shards of something I had glimpsed once – a person I would have died for. But I came to realise, over time, that part of loving Vaughn was maybe… accepting that.

A part of him had died with Falcon. That was, perhaps, the greater part of Vaughn.”

Screenshot-17“The ironic part of all this is that the comfort I have hidden from has at last sought me out, regardless of my intent. 

I sometimes wonder whether Vaughn will ever realise it too, and try to take back the pieces of himself he’s scattered. We’re both still alive, and I want – so badly – to believe in that personality I had glimpsed as a child.”

Screenshot-15“I am grateful of our correspondence. I am grateful of our friendship. And I would very much like to continue these conversations over tea.

Yours ever,
Charles.”

Screenshot-8Needless to say, she had not yet replied. She had read and re-read it four times before finally accepting that Charles Landgraab, heir to a dukedom, was inviting her to tea. The very fact he was asking her was… well, it made her stomach do a little flip.

What if the Viscount had put Charles up to this as a sort of… joke?

Screenshot-36

She didn’t want to think about it. So for the rest of the week, she didn’t. Unfortunately not everything she wished to forget was quite so escapable.

“Why, Marielle Harrington! I do believe I am in the company of the luckiest, most priviledged young lady in the entire world!”

Marielle giggled, her barely concealed vanity all but devoured the compliments laid before her. “I am, aren’t I? Is my Lord not devilishy handsome?”

Screenshot-45As the young debuntantes indulged in their silly banter, Estelle and Liddy reclined on the park’s bench. Although once Estelle would have enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with her old friend, she found her heart was not quite in it.

Screenshot-32

Liddy frowned when all the governess did was nod in a vague, non-committal way.

“Is something wrong, Estelle?”

Screenshot-34The governess sighed. “Not really.”

“You’re not unwell, are you?”

“… no.”

“But something is definitely amiss.”

Screenshot-53Estelle inwardly cursed Liddy for knowing her so well, but she knew she to bring it up now. She certainly couldn’t confide in anyone else and thought she might never muster the courage to ask again. 

“How does one know when a woman is with child?”

Screenshot-38Liddy’s eyes darted to the young debuntante. She had heard the Viscount Afonsine was a rogue, a notorious rake, but she had felt, quite assuredly, that Estelle would have been vigilant in the defense of her charge’s virtue.

“Do you think she might be…?”

Screenshot-52In that moment, a maelstrom of emotions flickered over Estelle’s face: confusion, apprehension, out-right fear and then shame.

Ah.

Screenshot-62Liddy made a strange sound at the back of her throat.

“Then… might I safely assume then that you have taken the necessary… steps to create a babe?”

“You can safely assume that… yes.”

Screenshot-51“Then you might well be. When was the last time you bled?”

Estelle’s mind sorted through the layered pain that Liddy’s words evoked. It wasn’t really a new feeling, rather, it was something she hadn’t wanted to consider.

“About… four weeks ago.”

Screenshot-54“Then it’s still far too early to tell.”

“But aren’t there other symptoms?” Estelle ventured, throat tight. “Aren’t I supposed to get sick?”

“Not all women get morning sickness. Some get tender breasts, some get no symptoms at all until their belly starts to swell.”

Screenshot-61She glanced at the young woman’s striken expression.

“Let me guess. You couldn’t bear the thought of porridge for breakfast this morning and wondered if you were pregnant?”

Screenshot-35Estelle looked away, feeling something else crawl up under her defences, an unfamiliar emotion that rattled already upset nerves.

“Something like that.”

Screenshot-33To Estelle’s surprised, Liddy released a hearty guffaw.

“Oh, do not look so glum, my dear girl! You aren’t the first woman to make a mistake when a dashing young man makes his intentions toward you known!”

Screenshot-59“I know I did,” the old widow admitted with a rueful smile. “Why, there was a most charming young Lord once—”

Estelle was shocked. “Really?”

Screenshot-56“As you might recall, Mr. Cook was much older than me, forty years actually, so we didn’t have much in common. Ambrose was a minor Lord of the ton. Now, I’d be foolish to say I was in love with the man, but I was certainly in lust with him.”

Screenshot-26“It didn’t last long – it couldn’t last long; affairs like that are doomed to fail. If the news had leaked out, the scandal would have been much worse than the few moments of pleasure that precipitated it.

He knew it, but more importantly I knew it. I knew I had the most to lose from our trifle.”

Screenshot-49Estelle could not believe it. She found the idea that the perfectly proper Liddy Cook had ever done anything so risky utterly preposterous!

With that one admission, the aging widow had took her world and shook it to its very foundations.

Screenshot-31“There is no need to fret yet, my dear. If there is, we will deal with it. But you must promise me, here and now, to let go of the rest of it now, yes?”

Liddy’s lips were pursed into a thin line that spoke volumes of her worry.

“… yes.” Estelle agreed with a resigned sigh.

“There’s a good girl. Now let us think of it no more.”

Screenshot-47Estelle nodded in agreement, inwardly filled with anguish.

There’s a good girl.

She wondered whether Liddy would be able to say the same in another nine months.

ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

So basically I’ve recently graduated and got a job out of it ~ but it means I have to move to Hong Kong next week!!! Obviously I’m really excited and terrified; unfortunately, this means that the next chapter is delayed until I settle in/arrange my internet etc. But I will continue this story, 100% – you just need to be patient with me!

x

 

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8 responses to “Chapter 26

  • Vinna

    i had not really considered Estelle being pregnant!! oh man! that would really complicate things lol
    Wow Hong Kong! congrats on the new job! I hope the move goes smoothly 😀

  • vampireXheart

    Hong Kong, wow that sounds rather exciting. I wish you all the luck with your move, and hopefully you like the job 🙂

    Ohhh I never thought that she might wind up pregnant :O But it’s quite a twist. Especially if she is.

    And Charles really does seem like a good friend. I do like him a lot. And the letter was very well written.

  • LilyParker

    Wow! Congrats on the new job and the big move to HK! I’ve been there a couple times on business. I guess we’ll have to cut you some slack until you can get settled in. Thanks for giving us a chapter to tide us over until then. Loved it, as usual! Of course, I’m still assuming you’re going to give me my happy ending where Vaughn finally comes to his senses and picks Estelle for his wife. Safe travels! 😀

  • Beth :)

    Poor Estelle! It would be awful for her if she was pregnant. Hopefully Liddy would stick by her. Charles seems like a good friend and I hope they keep in touch. Also, good luck in Hong Kong! I lived there for a few years and its amazing! I’m very jealous.

  • marsar2

    Uh-oh, so Estelle may be pregnant? The plot thickens.

    I love Charles, he’s a very caring friend, and his letter to Estelle was beautiful, and very well written :-).

    Oh, and congrats on your new job! I wish you the best of luck in your Hong Kong adventure!

  • Tiff

    I had a feeling this might happened. I hope she isn’t like her mother and tells Vaughn. Also I would never have thought Liddy and her shared that experience. Congrats on the job btw 🙂

  • LilyParker

    Oh, Beckiiiiii…. Did you know I still check every day to see if you’ve posted another chapter of the Suitor? I’m dying to know what happens next. Is it in the works, by any chance? 🙂

    ~ your totally hooked, impatient reader (lol)

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