Author’s Note: It was hard to know how Robert would react to what he had done in the last part. He’s not really sure about it, either.
Robert felt… strange. That was the only word he could think of for his current mix of emotions and behavior. He had sat alone in the local park, not seeing the people pass by or the scenery around him. He did remember a vague thought passing through his mind that this place did not compare to Violet’s garden, but on the whole he noticed little of his surroundings or the passage of time.
He did not know what to think of what he had done. His words to his father echoed in his head, and he did not think that he regretted them. They should perhaps have been said sooner. Or never. That was what he was having trouble deciding.
He knew the practical thing was to go back to his father and beg forgiveness. He knew that was expected of him. He was supposed to honor his parents, and he’d tried to do that all his life, despite the fact that his mother did little that was not expressly dictated by his father and his father was unreasonable at best. Of course, like any child, he’d had his moments of impudence, of mischief and rule-breaking, but he’d never been so defiant before.
He was no longer a child. As he’d told his father, he’d lost the last of that innocence in the war. He had been old enough to fight and die for his country before he left, and what little exuberance he’d showed as a child—the beehive, the pies, the trickery—all of that had seemed to spoil on him the summer before he was drafted, when he was preparing for college. He had been readying himself to take on the mantle of his father’s business affairs, to learn all that was necessary for the role in management that he would be expected to fulfill. He’d considered running, but he had not. He had gone to school, he had taken his courses, he had passed them, he had been dutiful, and then came the war.
His father hadn’t wanted him to go. He would have paid to have Robert exempted or found some poor boy willing to go in his place, but for some reason, that did not happen. He’d gone, and he’d fought, and he’d lived somehow when he knew he shouldn’t have. When he’d learned the state of his arm, he’d been relieved to know he had that position in his father’s company to sustain him. He’d been fit for little else, not that he felt fit to run the company, but he had that as some small comfort.
Now he did not have it. He did not know what would become of him. He had no money now, and the room he’d rented would no longer be an option. He could not afford to pay for the time he had already spent there, and he doubted that his father would settle any of those debts for him. He had said he didn’t want the money, and he’d meant that.
He had not given enough consideration to those that he should pay, though. He had responsibilities or at least obligations, and he had to find a way to fulfill them.
“Your father left.”
Robert’s head jerked up, and he looked at the innkeeper with a frown. “He… I am surprised. I would have thought he’d wait a bit longer, expecting me to apologize.”
“Perhaps he means to have you do that at your own home.”
“I should not think myself welcome there, nor would I wish to be.” Robert let out a breath. He cast his eyes down to his hands. “You do not happen to know of someone in need of a temporary worker who is half-useless, do you? I am afraid I have no other way of paying you what I owe you. I had not thought of that before I angered my father, and I… I am sorry. My actions were heedless, and I should have given more thought before I spoke.”
“Considering what that man said about Mrs. Winston, I do not know that there is anything else you could have done.”
“Oh. You heard that, did you?”
“The whole town knows of his behavior.”
“I… I must apologize. I have long known he was… intolerant, but I’ve never seen him behave quite so maliciously before.”
“I don’t need the apology.”
“I did speak to Mrs. Winston already.”
“Good. Come with me, then. We’ll get you back to your room for the night, and in the morning, you can see what might be done about the rest of your situation.”