Author’s Note: I’ve been meaning to include the first meeting between Violet and her “husband” for a while now. It didn’t end up fitting in before, but I’m going to get it in now.
“You are quite the… nymph, aren’t you?”
Violet looked up at the man who had spoken, shielding her eyes from the sun. She could not make out much more than a silhouette, but she did not need more than that to know that he did not belong here, not for any sort of delivery, nor were they expecting guests. She frowned, not certain how he had managed to get in here in the first place. She could have sworn that she had shut the gate earlier. She was tired of Beatrice lecturing her about it. “Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry. Seeing you here, surrounded by flowers, a few of them caught in your hair, I could not help thinking of a myth. You are rather like a painting. I should give you the name of a famous one, if only I could think of it. I have seen one before, but I think you surpass its beauty.”
She shook her head. He could attempt to flatter her if he liked, but she was not comfortable with his presence, unexpected as it was, and she would not allow him to stay no matter how fine his apology. “You are trespassing. This is a private garden. Leave, or I will call for assistance.”
He took a step back. She did not think he was anyone local—she did not recognize his voice, nor did she think that someone who knew them would be scared off by such a threat. Almost everyone in their household was a woman, and the whole town knew that. “Again, I am sorry. I got lost. I just got to town, started wandering and enjoying the weather and the scenery—leading me to you, but I assure you—I mean you no harm. My comment was meant as a compliment, nothing more. I hope I have not offended you too much.”
She nodded. “I… No, I am… I forgive you, but I still must insist that you go.”
He gave her a smile, bowing before he took his leave. Violet picked up her flowers and bit her lip. She had to stop leaving that back gate open, especially since the vines had grown over it and the fence. He must have walked through without even seeing it.
“Was that the milkman?”
She looked back at her mother, dusting off her hands. “No, he said that he was lost.”
“Blast. I told him I’d leave the gate open for him and asked for him to come back with extra today. We have that bake sale, and I have so much to do—”
“Oh. I thought I’d left it unlatched.” Violet sighed. She wanted to yell at her mother for not telling her—she was not so overconfident as to spend a lot of time in the garden without keeping the gate shut and locked, not after that scare with the Harrison’s dog, not when she was always getting lost in her work.
Her mother came over to study her. “Did he hurt you or scare you? That dog didn’t get in again, did it?”
“No, it was just him, and he didn’t do anything terrible. I think… I think he was trying to be charming.”
“It’s about time.”
Violet groaned. Ever since she turned seventeen, that subject seemed all anyone could talk about with her, and as the years passed, the obsession with it grew worse. She did not like to hear any of it. She was not that old, and she did not know why she should have to change her life just because they expected her to? Not every woman married—look at her aunt.
Well, perhaps that was a bad example.
“Not again. I don’t need or want to marry. Why does everyone think that is so necessary? I have my inheritance, we can live comfortably, and the war—”
“The war has killed far too many of our young men all across the globe. You have a duty—”
Violet stared at her mother. “A duty? Are you saying that I should throw myself at the first man I see and start making babies?”
“Um, excuse me, I could not help but ask if you could tell me how to get back to Plum street?”
Mortified, Violet dropped her flowers and rushed into the house, shutting the door behind her as she struggled to compose herself. She didn’t know which was worse—that he might have heard what she’d said or that she’d run away from him. She closed her eyes and waited for the humiliation to fade.