Author’s Note: Grace had a lot of thinking to do.
Grace sat in her room, watching the street below, the people passing by so free, unaware of the kind of prison that a home like this made. She knew that they didn’t see what she did, that they didn’t feel what she did. Most women would tell her she was fortunate. Even with the rumors about Mr. Thatcher, he was young and eligible, not the perfect portrait of manhood, no, but not so repulsive as to turn anyone’s stomach, and he had been rather kind, if not more than that, with all he’d done after she discovered who he was and why he’d done what he had to her. He seemed willing to take her traveling, but was that worth it?
She knew she had no hope of a better match—if it was to have happened, it would already have done so, when she was in the full bloom of youth, since her dowry was not enticement enough on its own. She was still not chosen, year after year, and with seven now gone, she should be grateful for even this disastrous offer. She’d thought she was, at first.
The more she learned of it, of course, the less she liked it. The rumors about his first wife’s death were reason enough to reject the idea, but then there was the fact that she had not so much as spoken to the man. When she added to that his lack of knowledge about the marriage—he’d not been consulted and did not want her—she could not help but think that this could only end in their ruin.
She was tempted, yes, she could let the ceremony go forward, take his second option, but that did not seem at all wise. She was not sure it was the better choice. True, this one meant that she would not have to worry about how she would support herself, she would not have to fear a life of dissolution and disease after living on the streets. She did not have to wonder if she could sustain other employment should she get it, nor be concerned with her mother’s conviction that a working woman was as loose as could be, that all men would see her that way and take advantage of that.
Marriage seemed the safer decision compared to those possibilities, but then she had to think about what happened to his first wife. She had to remember that she did not know or love the man. She would be making the decision only based on her need to feel secure. Some women did that and were happy enough, but if that was why her mother married her father…
Grace closed her eyes, letting out a breath. She was not her mother. Even if she did marry Mr. Thatcher, she would not become her mother simply because she had. She would keep herself from that bitterness. She had traveling, didn’t she? Even if she could not stand his company or he hers, they did not have to stay together as her parents had. She might be able to pick a city and stay there, never to come near her parents and this misery again.
She rather liked that idea.
She still didn’t know that it was worth marriage, though.
She frowned, suddenly aware of eyes upon her. She turned toward the window, eyes back on the street, shaking her head at the figure down by the gate. That coat—was that Mr. Thatcher? She supposed that it might just be, since they had not spoken privately before, and she had not yet given him a true answer, but she was not ready yet.
She could not make up her mind as to whether or not she should marry him.
Now, though, she was reminded of his kiss, of the strange feelings he’d stirred up with it, and she had tried not to let that affect her decision at all, but if he made her feel that way once, she did not know that she didn’t want to feel it again.
That was wrong. He didn’t love her. This would not be that sort of marriage. It was a trade—security and escape from her parents’ home—nothing more.
She saw him drop something in the yard, and then he walked away. She bit her lip, knowing she had to go get it, whatever it was. A part of her wanted him to take the decision out of her hands—let that be a note that said he didn’t want to marry her and would not go through with it—but then she did not. She needed to do this, needed to make this choice.
She would do it. She did not have long before the wedding, but she would not wait for that day to come to make the decision. She would have an answer.