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This is London, 1883
I walked among the vibrant flowers silently. My black dress swishing around my ankles in the gathering wind. Above me, storm clouds gathered, threatening to pour the rain at an6y minute. I looked back at my large house and turned on my heel, walking back towards my house.
By the time I was about halfway up the stairs, it was pouring rain. I quickened my pace up the stairs and pushed the large doors to my house open then shut them behind me. The entry hall to my house was dark. The only lights coming from the occasional candle. It was dark due to the lack of light from outside and the lack of candles. My mother was probably in her room filling out papers or reading.
I look at the full length mirror in the hall like I always do when I pass it. It never fails to disappoint me. The entire frame of the mirror is intricate gold. Carved into complicated patterns. My red hair and green eyes look totally different in the dim light and the candle light casts eerie glows over my face making me look more pale than I already am.
Without waiting for my body servant, Carolina, to find me, I walk up the grand staircase and to my room. A beautiful red rose sits on my bed, next to the sleeping form of my large dog, Bandit. I picked up the rose and twirled it in my fingers. Again, this room is dark. The only light comes from the burning coal in the small fireplace. I had just taken off my cloak and laid it on my bed when my bedroom doors open.
The small figure of Carolina, my servant appeared. “Welcome home, Miss.” She said dipping her head slightly, “Do you want me to get you anything?”
Carolina was about my age, 17, and she had stringy brown hair. She had been with my family since she was 9 and she had always been my servant.
I shook my head, “No. I’m fine. I will be going to bed so please do not disturb me.”
With another slight nod, Carolina turned and left the room. I removed myself from the tight black dress and put on a simple nightgown. I sat down on the bed, my legs folded beneath me. I started to pet bandits head absently. He was a mutt. No one knows what type of dog he is. He opened one eye and looked at me. He started to wag his tail slightly and closed his eyes again. He was all black except for white on his paws making his feet look like socks and white on his chest.
My bedroom doors open once more and my little sister, Sophia, entered. She walked up and sat on my bed across from me. She had blonde hair like my mother and I have red hair like my father. People rarely guess that we are related. I resemble my deceased father and Sophia resembles my mother. “Hi Alice.” She said smiling a little bit.
“Can’t sleep?” I ask
She shakes her head and her smile fades, “No. I keep thinking about Father.”
I nodded, I knew what she felt. Father had just past away a couple weeks ago and the pain was still fresh in all in all of us. People guessed he was murdered. My family is one of the richer families and town and it could happen. People will do anything for money these days. Taxes were high and no one could stay rich forever. Even my family as struggling, or so I’ve heard.
“I know what you mean.” I say, “Do you want to talk about it? You have been strangely quiet on that subject. I know it’s hard.”
Sophia shook her head, “It’s not Father that I want to talk about. I need to tell you something that you cannot tell anyone.”
I nod, “Of course.”
She took a deep breath, “Mother- Mother wants me to talk to you about our family’s money. She says that you will understand it more if I tell you. But… Alice, we are almost out of money. Father was going to do something before he died but now,” She took another deep breath and continued, “So; mother wants you to marry someone with money. She said that if you did, you could save the family. You are the right age to marry someone.”
That crushed all my hopes and dreams of getting out of here. I was never the girl that wanted to wear her dresses or corsets. I was the one who I always got out of wearing stockings and a suffocating corset. I had always dreamed that I would one day marry someone for love and go off into the country and be happy. Never having to be bothered by the rest of society.
“And Mother said that you can talk to her if you want or need to.” Sophia said
I nodded. Why was Sophia telling me all this? Yes, she did say that mother thought I would understand better if Sophia told me but still Sophia was 12. She did not need to concern herself with all this.
“I’m going to bed.” I announced, “Do you want to stay here or not?”
She shook her head, “No, but have a nice night.”
She flashed a smile and left my room. I laid down under the covers and Bandit, lifted himself up and laid down next to me, putting his head on my stomach.
I looked up at the tall ceiling and then fell asleep.
That night, I dreamed I was on a boat. We were searching for land yet I knew we would never find it. Violent storms rocked the ship and the waves started to splash over the side of the ship. We were sailing into a storm and he sailor’s cries of concern arose over the loud waves of the sea. A wave crashed over the side of the boat and I bolted awake. Bandit was leaning over me, his tail wagging excitedly. He turned after he saw me up and trotted to the door. He sat down and waited for me to follow him.
I swung my legs over the side of the bed and pulled a cloak over my shoulders. I followed him to the door and opened it. He bolted out, running down the hallway and darting down the old servant stairs that no one really uses anymore. The stairs creak with every step and my mother would kill me if she found me on the ‘dangerous’ steps. I pushed on an old door at the end of the winding staircase which opened up to our large, vast, lawn and colorful garden. Bandit burst out and immediately saw a squirrel, sprinting into a full out chase. I shook my head, smiling. I knew from experience that I would be out here for a while. I started walking into the garden. I tend to walk here a lot. It never fails to help me think and right now, I needed to think about what I was going to do. Mother expected me to save the family and marry someone with money. Then, my family would get some of the money and I would bring our family out of poverty. But, why wouldn’t mother talk to me about this? Why did she send Sophia? I don’t know why, but this really bothered me. I guess was because Sophia knew. Since father died, my mother had been in mourning. She refused to go anywhere and she didn’t talk much. So, that left me to take care of Sophia. I was like her mother now. And so, it just bothers me that Sophia would have to worry about something like this.
I was so deep in thought, that I hardly knew where I was going. I tripped over something, but I caught myself. I heard a chuckle. “You should really watch where you are going.” The voice said from behind me.
I turned to see one of my best friends in the world, James. He had dark hair, almost black and sea blue eyes. He was taller than me, but not by that much because I was tall for my age. “James.” I said, “What are you doing?”
“I work here.” He said smiling widely, “Elizabeth.”
I smiled and shake my head, “I meant in the garden.” I said, “I thought you were a stable hand.”
He shakes his head, loosing the smile, “I need more money for my family. Mom is expecting again, her fourth child.”
“So now you are working two jobs?” I asked, “James, you could just ask for a raise.”
I mentally scold myself. Your family is going into poverty, Elizabeth. This is not a good time for a raise. No matter whom it is.
James shrugged, “No. It’s okay. I will just get home later.”
“But you already get home very late!” I exclaimed
“I know.” James said, “But it doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about it, Elizabeth.”
I give him a pitiful smile. “So what’s your new job?”
“I’m a blacksmith. In town.” James said, “I have to get to work. I just finished here.”
I smiled. “Well have fun.” I said, “And I will stop by your house tonight. I want to talk to you.”
He nodded, turned, and walked out of the garden and out of sight. He was one of my best and oldest friends. I met him was I was three and I still was his friend. We tell each other everything and we listen to each other’s problems. But, James’ family was never wealthy like mine. So, he works as our stable hand and now, a blacksmith. He was eighteen. One year older than me yet he had so much more responsibility.
I whistled one, sharp whistle and Bandit came running. His tongue was hanging out and his tail was wagging fast. “Come on, Bandit. Everyone else will be up and it’s time for breakfast.”
We walked back inside and to the parlor. Sophia was sitting one of the chairs, reading. Her cat, Binx, a grey tabby, sat on her shoulder. Binx was looking at the book she was reading with curiosity. Binx, like any other cat was curious. That’s probably why he and Bandit got together so well. Binx and Sophia looked up as we walked in. “Hi Lizzy.” Sophia said.
I smiled. “Hello Sophia. What’s for breakfast?”
She shrugged, “I don’t know. Food?”
I smiled. People said that she was becoming more like me, looks and attitude. I was always sarcastic, a little rude and clever. She was coming into my face shape and build, slim, yet she still had my mother’s eyes and hair. Right when I was going to respond, a maid came in. “Breakfast is ready.”
We followed her to the kitchen and to a large round table where we ate our meals. It was able to fit six people yet it was usually only Sophia and I but sometimes, James joined.
The table was set. We each had a plate, filled with eggs, ham, and bread. And a cup of tea, of course. A maid was just about to leave with my mother’s food to bring it to her room, but I stopped her. “Wait.” I call, “Let me bring it. I need to talk to her anyway.”
The maid hesitated but she gave it to me eventually. I smiled as I took it and then, turned and walked to my mother’s room. I stopped outside the large bedroom doors. Do I really want to talk to her? We haven’t talked much and I guess I was just nervous. I took a deep breath and entered the room. It was bright in the room. All the curtains were open and my mother sat at her small desk, reading. “Mother?” I asked.
She looked up from her writing. “Yes?” She asked
“I brought you your breakfast.” I said walking over and setting the tray on the desktop. “Is that it?” She asked, “Usually a maid brings my food not one of my daughters.”
A part of me is thinking, I should just leave now. She doesn’t want to talk to me. But, another part is saying, just talk to her. She is your mother.
I swallowed, “Yes. But,” I paused, “I need to talk to you.”
She cast a look at me that I can’t quite describe and she sent down the paper she was reading. “Sophia told me about the money problem.” I said.
She nodded, “Yes. I told her to. What is the problem?”
“It’s just… “What do you want me to do about it?”
“I thought she told you. Marry someone for money.” My mother said, a little harsh.
I nodded, “She did. But who?”
“Scott. Scott Labortis.” She said
My mouth dropped. Scott was one of my best friends in the world. I thought as him as just a friend. Not, my husband.