Author’s Note: The whole pick-a-serial deal will continue until at least Tuesday, which is when I’d like to have the new look to the site complete, but we’ll see how that goes. It may take longer.
Meanwhile, there’s more of each story again today.
Violet was relieved to have their conversation come to some sort of an end before her aunt returned. She was not as hungry as she had said she was, but she did not think that she or Mr. Winston—Robbie—could stand Beatrice’s presence for a moment longer. She had not wanted to discuss the idea of marriage around anyone else—it was not the sort of thing that should be discussed in public until it had been settled between the couple, and she did not think that either of them was ready for that conversation when her aunt had forced it upon them. Violet had said what she must, thought there was a part deep within her that was frightened by her own words, wanting to say she had been wrong, repent of all of them and beg him to marry her and restore all she’d lost when her “husband” proved false.
She turned her hand in circles over her stomach. She did not need to be rescued. She did not deserve to be rescued. She had made a poor choice, and like dozens of other women who’d made similar ones, she had to accept the consequences, not expect some random stranger to fix them all for her. Marriage was not the solution that everyone would claim it to be. He had referenced his own finances more than once, and each time, he had spoken of his uncomfortable position—having no real income of his own. He was not in a state to provide for a family. That alone should caution anyone against the idea of them marrying.
“Well, it would seem we are once more the subjects of the most obnoxious and in some cases, rather vile, gossip,” her mother said, walking into the room. She removed her hat and crossed to the other chair. “I do think I should avoid the marketplace again. I cannot be anything but glad that Beatrice was not with me. She would be livid and yet… I do not know if she would disagree with the sentiment that some of the nicer ones expressed.”
Violet sighed. She knew what her mother was trying not to say, but she didn’t need to avoid it. Aunt Beatrice had already made things awkward. “If you refer to her idea that we should marry, she has already been quite vocal about it. It was rather humiliating. I know my reputation will never be the same, but it is not right for anyone to try and force that on either of us.”
“Of course not,” her mother said. “I do apologize—we can hardly assume that you would be willing or even able to marry Violet and accept the child as yours. No, no, my sister presumes too much, and I would hate to do the same.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
Mr. Winston nodded to her. “Yes, I do appreciate your forbearance. I had not considered that when I came, though it was foolish of me not to. I did not—I know it must seem a simple solution to everyone else, but for us, it is not.”
Violet smiled at him. She did like his manners and way of speaking. They were not the same as the man she’d married, though that was for the best. If he were charming, she’d be a fool all over again. She did not want or need that. “No, it is not.”
“I do think that we could find some way to make such an arrangement work, if it were necessary,” he said, coughing as he did, not looking at her. “Still, if we were to marry, I would hope that it was not because of any pressure brought to bear on us, but rather because of… mutual affection. I would hope that any marriage I entered into would have that, and unfortunately, we are strangers.”
“You could change that.”
Robbie—for when he smiled, the name did suit him—laughed. “I expect there is no way to avoid such a change, since we will learn more of each other as we try to resolve this situation for the best and to the benefit of all of us. I need to ask you more about the man you married—when you feel up to it, of course.”
“Perhaps, if the weather holds, you might go out to the garden. There is a bench where Violet can sit, and another chair as well.”
“I assume you wish to go over those details in private, and the garden is the best compromise, as you well know. That way your aunt can see you from the window and know you are not being inappropriate, but she does not have to hear, as you would no doubt prefer it.”
“Yes,” Violet said, letting out a breath. She did not want to discuss anything to do with her “husband,” but if she had to, she’d rather do it where she did not have to see her aunt scowling at her with every word she spoke. Perhaps if she did speak of things in front of Beatrice, she’d know what she missed, what she should have seen in Winston’s actions, but she did not want to know. She would only torment herself with every little moment where she should have chosen differently, and that she did not need. She would not do that to herself.
“Won’t your aunt be mad that you did not eat the food you sent her for?”
“My sister should have known that was a ruse,” Violet’s mother said, laughing as she rose. “I’ll let you see Violet to the garden, Mr. Winston.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Carpenter.”
She stopped in the doorway, giving him a rather pointed smile, and Violet tried not to grimace. “I should hope that soon we will be thanking you.”