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 Chapter One

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ohlavash
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PostSubject: Chapter One   Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:50 am

1. Love

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Masen bowed his head respectfully to my father, as he reached for my hand. Father approved of Masen — naturally. He was just the sort of man that they dreamed for me since before birth. My beauty was an unexpected gift to them; I loathed it entirely. I never knew whether someone was talking to me because of my looks or simply to talk to me. Mostly it was just the former and it brought me into myself. I rarely spoke aloud my true feelings. It was all an act.
I wished that I had been born ugly. I had many friends but none of them were in any way people who I could confide in. They were associates meant to increase my social skills while repressing any and all character.
And because of my past experiences I was still adverse toward Masen. I wanted to believe that he loved me for me, but I was certain that it was just my looks or the large dowry that my father accepted from him.
Masen needed a bride. He was the youngest in his family so my less than superior social status did not matter. My looks were the prize in this situation.
Not that it mattered. Arranged marriages weren’t for love, but for money. My family had a lot of money but Masen’s father was quite a bit more prolific than my own. It didn’t make sense why he would want me, besides my face.
Our engagement was tentatively set for just a handful of weeks away and tonight was yet another party to boost our social emergence. I liked Masen, but I wasn’t definite how he really felt toward me. I knew that I was to spend the rest of my life with him, but love just didn’t fit into the equation yet. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel it, because—though I denied it—I did. I was completely infatuated with the perfect green-eyed boy of my fantasies, but I wouldn’t show it. I could not risk it. Not because of anyone else, but because of my own promises to myself.
“Have fun darling.” My mother was very noticeably pregnant at this time.
“I will, mother.” Of course I will. Mother loved to see Masen and I together. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that I was technically in love with him, I couldn’t even admit it myself, but I think she guessed. She was more intuitive than I gave her credit for.
It was because of my mother that I was so intent on learning Masen’s true feelings about me. I was the product of an arranged marriage. While my mother didn't despise my father, she hadn't been in love with him either. I knew that if my situation was no different than my mothers that I would not be able to change it. But I wanted all intentions clear before this marriage took place. Even if it made no difference but to my own incoherent mind.
“I’ll have her home safe, Mr. Bellemonte. Mrs. Bellemonte.” He smiled graciously toward my mother and we headed out the door. His carriage was plain but expensive, pulled by two sleek horses. My father’s was the same color, but looked differently. This would be the only time we would have alone the entire night. And I still didn’t know how to ask.
The coachmen opened the carriage door and helped me inside; I of course offered him no thanks. He was just a servant. As he shut the door behind Masen, I put my hands in my lap, clasping them nervously together. I looked out my window quietly, surveying the afternoon sun as the horses plodded slowly down the road. I restrained from looking at his beautiful face.
“Are you looking forward to the party?” He was probing my silence; I could tell he wanted to know what was wrong.
“Yes, I have been for two weeks.” I could hear the monotone in my voice and I cleared my throat. I was nervous, and I convinced myself not to just blurt out the question.
“What are you thinking?” He reached over and took my hand. My eyes flickered uncontrollably to his.
My face flushed and I looked down at my lap, tracing the silver patterns on my gown with my eyes. I took a breath to calm myself. “Will you tell me something? Not sparing my feelings.”
“Of course, Amelia.” His voice sent shivers down my spine with its sincerity. As such, I paused, unsure of how to word my question; I pressed my lips together and met his eyes once more. His thumb began to make circles on the back of my hand.
“What is it?” He asked, squeezing my hand gently.
“Never mind. I’ve changed my mind.” I turned away from his gaze apprehensively. He wouldn’t tell the truth anyway. A lie would be more sufficient to placate me. I might be high class but still, I was just a woman.
“Please tell me,” he murmured.
I shook my head. “No.”
He didn’t ask again. But after a moment, I could no longer resist. I had to know. “Why do you care about me Masen?” I braced myself for the lie. But Masen didn’t answer right away.
“Besides our obvious class distinction, what is it about me that drew you in?” I added quietly. Masen turned his head to gaze out the window at the uneven landscape that treaded beneath the carriage wheels; he was shocked by my question. Obviously; it wasn’t something he’d expected me to ask. I fell silent, and pressed my lips together tightly. His hand hadn’t removed itself from mine, but it had stopped making the gentle circles on my skin.
“I’m thinking.” I knew that he had to tell me this. Just as I was required to accept it. No matter his answer the marriage date was set and there was no backing out of it. Secretly, I knew that I would love being his wife even if he did not love me as I did him.
“There was more than one reason why I was glad to be the one you chose for your husband,” he murmured, his voice reflective.
“Chose?” I interrupted rudely. I had never gone against my rules of etiquette, but this was important. “I didn’t choose anyone. I woke up three weeks ago, to my mother’s happy little smile as she told me about you.” My voice had been unintentionally sharp and I murmured a quiet apology as my gaze flickered back to our intertwined hands.
“Do you not care for me at all?” he asked, not meeting my eyes. I could hear slight pain in his voice. My hand reflexively squeezed his.
I skirted the question, speaking quietly now and selecting my words carefully. “It’s not that it matters what you say now. The marriage is set. I won’t go against that. But I would like to know how you really feel. Is it just because I’m beautiful—as everyone says? Or because I am not below your social status as the other selections?” He looked at me searching my face before turning his attention back to the trees outside.
“I wish you could understand the complexity of what I feel for you Amelia. I care for you, yes. But it is not only your beauty that I admire. Or simply because status dictates your propriety.” He paused, looking at my eyes. I didn’t believe a word, and he could discern that quickly from the skeptical look I gave him.
“I will prove this to you . . . before we go through with this.”
“Masen . . . I . . . ” I didn’t like his pain. I was very close to coming clean and admitting my love for him.
“Don’t,” he interrupted? “I will make you believe that I care for you. Just because of society’s quiet demands you should not be with me lest it is what you really want.”
I didn’t know what to say—I fell silent staring out the window.
He turned to me and lifted my hand weaving our fingers together. He didn’t speak.
I wanted to make it clear that no matter his choice, I would still be with him. I had no option in the matter. He could tell that I wanted to speak and he turned to me, speaking my name in the way that only he could say it; it was a beautiful symphony.
“Amelia,” he repeated, shaking his head as if he could tell what was going through my mind; there was a careful smile on his face. “If you were one of the most unremarkable females in town, I would still love you. If you lived across town in a tiny shack without a cent to your name, my feelings would not falter.”
I knew that he had to just be saying that. How could he love me? Not even my mother had said that to me. But his eyes burned intensely with what he was saying. His hands moved so carefully over mine, tracing the facets in my skin. My heart was pounding in my chest.
“How can I believe that?” I asked myself quietly.
“No one has ever really been there for you, have they?” I shook my head in response, knowing that he meant emotionally rather than physically. It was not common for women to show their feelings outside the privacy of our chambers.
“I’m here,” he whispered. “As long as you will allow me to be.” He lifted my hand and his lips brushed my palm. When the sweet sensation of his skin on mine abated, I held his chin gently, training his eyes on mine.
“I want you here. I really do.” I had to say that. I couldn’t ruin my future. If he wanted to keep up his carefully refined veneer and pretend that he was all the more besotted by me, then I would allow him to. My face must have portrayed something that my voice did not because his emerald eyes, very close to mine, studied my face. To my own surprise, I did not pull away when he kissed the corner of my mouth. I smiled at him as he withdrew instead. It was the first touch that his and my lips had made. I cherished it secretly and marked the date in my mind.
“Thank you,” he murmured. I didn’t know what to say. He thought that he was in love with me, but he could have been lying. And even while I was thinking that, I could feel myself believing him...
I barely registered him helping me out of the car and was surprised by the bright chandelier when we arrived at Buckingham Palace. This was a birthday party for the King George II and I was determined to enjoy myself. The host had not made his appearance just yet.
“May I offer you a drink?” A servant dressed in expensive garb asked.
“Thank you.” Masen lifted one fluke from the tray and handed it to me. Masen didn’t drink. That was one thing that I liked about him. I mumbled my thanks, but only took a small sip.
Tonight, of all nights, I was aware of his arm beneath mine and his closeness. Normally I would talk with the other women—keeping up the social connections strung together by Father and Masen’s associations. But I couldn’t keep my eyes from Masen’s face. I tried to concentrate on the party, clapping as the King made his appearance and mingling with the other guests. I ate silently at dinner. Most of the time when my mind would wander it was to think only of the corset cutting into my ribs. Breathing was difficult enough without hyperventilating over my thoughts.
Nevertheless my mind continued to return to our conversation in the car. Perhaps he was telling me the truth? I trembled internally at the thought. That would be the most wonderful news, but of course, how could he? I ate just enough to be polite. My stomach was queasy.
I thought of mother, and how I should consult her when returning home. Should I inform her of Masen’s pronouncement that he loved me? Or perhaps about my own realization that I loved him as well? I knew that I would tell her my fears. Fears of getting stuck in this relationship just as she had with Father. I could already hear her reassuring words echoing in my mind.
‘A man does not lie to his future bride, and you would do well to remember that. If Masen proclaims he loves you, then he indeed does love you. Perhaps you should do him a favor and let him know that you feel the same.’ It was the exact words she would say to me, and though she hadn’t actually said them, I took them to heart and began to plan out when to tell him.
The night passed quickly and soon, Masen was bringing me home. He walked me to the door.
“Think about what I said, Amelia. I know that you still don’t believe me, but I think you may later.” He kissed my palm again and moved swiftly back down the walkway. I wanted to call him back. I wanted to say “Masen I do believe you, and I love you too.” But only part of me would do that. The other part wasn’t quite sure yet. Not of my intentions; I knew I loved him, but of his intentions.
Before I could make up my mind, a servant opened the door, interrupting me.
“Miss Bellemonte, Mr. Vitamore. Your father instructed me to — ”
“A moment if you please, Clayton.” I didn’t turn toward him and my voice was harsh. Servants should not interrupt ones day to day lives unless instructed to assist. I was watching Masen walk away.
When Clayton spoke however, Masen had turned back.
“Amelia be kind,” he scolded, turning his attention to Clayton as he made his way back up the walk. Well, at least Clayton had done one thing correctly. I had a bit more time with Masen by my side. “What has Mr. Bellemonte said?” He turned to me once and then favored Masen’s not so angry look. I was appalled. My own servant had just snubbed me! Surely I would have him punished later.
“The message was for you as well Mr. Vitamore. The Master would like me to inform you that Mrs. Bellemonte has given birth to a baby girl.” My hands flew to my face and my breathing halted in its already restricted confines. The baby wasn’t due for another month. It wasn’t unheard of, just dangerous. All thoughts of adequate ways to punish a servant flew my thoughts. I felt Masen’s arm wrap around my shoulders comfortingly.
“When may we visit?” Masen asked quietly.
“Mr. Bellemonte is upstairs with them now. He asks for your immediate presence.”
I took Masen’s arm as he led me upstairs; we didn’t speak. Father was kneeling beside mother’s bed. Her bed curtains permitted my view of his face but by the shuddering motions of my father and the somber way that the doctor was putting away his instruments, I suspected the worst.
I felt Masen’s arm tighten around me, and struggled to compose myself. It was a woman’s job to be strong in these situations. I straightened up and walked to my father, Masen’s arm falling limply to his side.
“Father, come to bed. There is nothing you can do for her now,” I murmured. He stared at me blankly but stood. Clayton, who had shown us in, led him away. I watched the proceedings as the doctor cleaned up the body. When the baby began cooing softly in the corner, I called Nurse Emma to take care of her. She was the oldest of the maids and would know what to do. I could not look at the child who was the cause of my mother’s ultimate demise.
The grief that beheld me was unsettling. I could not think of anything other than my mother’s face—which I refused to behold in death. She had always been so kind. She was excited about the baby, but now she had not the pleasure to enjoy her newly birthed child. I felt resentment grow toward the little girl despite her utter innocence. When she had been taken from sight, I said a prayer and lit a candle, bowing my head before my mother’s enshrouded corpse and returned downstairs where Masen had politely retired.
“Are you going to be all right?” His voice was worried as he searched my face.
“Yes, I’ll be fine. I just need some time.” I couldn’t bring myself to be more than monotonous. I was close to tears. He nodded, and kissed my hand.
“I know the year to come will be trying on you,” he whispered. “I will be waiting.” I nodded silently, his words barely registering. He departed and my eyes watched his back as he made his way down the walk to his car. I closed the door myself.
I rang the bell situated on the front table and Joseph appeared silently.
“Prepare the house for mourning and send Daisy to my bedchamber.” He nodded his head once and disappeared. I made my way slowly up the staircase. I could hear my father’s sobs coming from his room. That small sound alone made me realize how much my life was changing. My own tears poured silently down my face.


Last edited by ohlavash on Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:55 pm; edited 6 times in total
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Saigen
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter One   Sat May 31, 2008 9:36 pm

please write more! man!!!! i like it!
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ohlavash
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter One   Sun Jun 08, 2008 7:01 pm

coming right up!

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