Author’s Note: I’m not really sure why Grace’s mom turned out so evil. She just sort of… decided she was.
Grace hid her bag back in her room, hoping that her mother had been so flustered by Thatcher’s announcement that she had not noticed that her daughter intended to flee. She wished he’d not swayed her by talk of taking the money. She did not understand him at all, and now that she hesitated, she was stuck. She could not escape now. She might not be able to make the same attempt that she’d almost made today, and if she did not, they’d expect a ceremony. If she did not marry, then she would be homeless.
She should just have gone when she had the chance.
“So, you had to meet him, did you?”
She turned back to her door, facing her mother with as much bravery as she could summon, though the thought of dropping at the other woman’s feet and begging for mercy did cross her mind. “It is not so unnatural a thing, is it? To want to know the man I am suppose to marry?”
“I do find it strange that you would seek him out when you seemed to fear him so much. You would not marry a man you thought was a killer, yet you would confront him about such a thing in person?”
“You said I had two choices—marriage or the streets. Faced with those options, why would it be so fearsome to ask the man for the truth? If I could judge that he was sincere in his grief or his denial, than I should be able to go forward with the marriage, shouldn’t I?”
Her mother studied her. “I do not know that I believe you are inclined toward proceeding with the wedding. I wonder at his bringing you home, and I wonder what schemes you may have concocted while you were in conference with him.”
Grace swallowed. “I made no schemes, nor was he that forthcoming with the answers to my questions. He said he was not there when his wife died, so that should be enough to reassure you that he is no danger to anyone. He behaved very oddly, and he confuses me.”
“All men are confusing. It is not our place to understand them, only to obey them.”
That thought made Grace’s stomach twist, and she hoped she would not vomit. Obey men. As though they were always right when they made no sense at all, and for her to contemplate a life of obedience to Mr. Thatcher, who was so mercurial as to change from one moment to the next, no, she could not do it.
“Goodness, child, are you pregnant? Is that why you would not go to your fitting today?”
Grace winced. “I might be nauseous, Mother, but I assure you that it is not possible for me to be ill in the way you fear.”
“Is it? You were alone with Mr. Thatcher today. I don’t know how many times you have left the house without my knowledge or consent, and you have protested this marriage enough to where I cannot help but wonder if there is some other man you hoped would present himself as an alternative to our plans.”
“There is no one. I objected because I do not know him and because I’d heard he might be a killer. I do not see why we must do this again.”
“If you have thrown away your last chance for marriage…” Her mother crossed over to her and placed her hands on Grace’s cheeks. “Look at me very carefully, child. I know you are not so foolish as to fail to understand your situation. You know what is at stake here. You know where you will be if you do not marry.”
“Then do not lie to me.”
“I am not lying. There is no one else.”
“Then you will marry Mr. Thatcher. No more arguments, no more games or protests. No nonsense. All that is to be put behind you. You will do what you must, as every woman does. Now put on your dress. We need to see if it fits.”