Author’s Note: It was hard to know how everyone would react to Beatrice’s omission and later revelation, but I had to try and show it.
“I have been trying to decide how I feel all morning.”
“About my aunt’s admission?”
Robert nodded. “Yes, about that. It has been plaguing me since yesterday afternoon. I lay awake contemplating its implications. I should not have accused your aunt of anything, and yet, with her refusal to discuss such a thing over—what, her embarrassment? Is that truly her reason? I know my father is a cad, but what she did… She should have told you when that man was here. Perhaps if he had left quickly there would have been no reason to tell you, but he did not leave immediately. He stayed. He courted you. He asked you to marry him. That’s when she should have said something, and her silence is…”
He let out a breath. “Isn’t it? Why would she hold back something that important? Why should she let you go forward with something that has caused this much pain? She knew there was a chance he was acting just as my father had, didn’t she? Unless she’s lying about what my father did, and if she is… Why is she doing that? Why now?”
“I don’t know. She hasn’t come down at all today. Mother is out of sorts, and she won’t talk about what my aunt did. I…”
“What? What is it, Violet?” Robert asked, leaning forward and taking her hand. She glanced down at it and then back up at him.
“It’s just… I always thought the man that threw my aunt over was my father. If he was, then it might make sense for her to allow me to suffer this way, only why would she use your father or Winston to do it? Why would she lie about that?”
Robert frowned. He did not know that he should say what he had been thinking. He glanced toward the door, let out a breath, and decided that no matter how painful his words might be, he did not think that they should keep secrets, not after what her aunt had done.
“Your aunt might not have been hurt by my father alone. What if it was both of them, not just my father but yours as well?”
“Then I suppose I could see some reason for her allowing me to be hurt, but then I don’t. She… I don’t understand. I thought she cared about me. She never seemed to resent me or my mother. She has been our loyal companion for so long…”
“That could have permitted plenty of resentment and bitterness to fester in her heart over the years. I don’t want it to be that, Violet. While I have never been your aunt’s favorite person, nor she mine, I do not want to believe her so cruel, either. I don’t want to believe she could do that to you. To anyone. It is not something that anyone should be capable of doing to another.”
“They have just had a war they say should end all wars. They have used terrible things in it—you know that better than I, you were there—and so I think that we have proved that we humans are more than capable of doing terrible things to each other.”
“Yes, we are. I worry for the child. This world it is about to enter into…”
She put a hand over her stomach, wincing. “I rather think that the baby will have a hard life no matter what comes in this world. The way that we—that I—came to have this child seems a very difficult place to come from for anyone. I do not think that I could stand it.”
“I’d disagree. You seem quite capable of enduring anything. What you have already been through proves that. You have not given up, and you seem stronger than before.”
She lowered her head. “I do not know that we can say that. I am still the same as I was.”
“Which is stronger than you know.”
“Speaking of strong… How do you feel now?”
“Well enough, I suppose,” he answered, a bit confused as to why she was asking. He supposed they had skipped discussion of that, ignoring his recent injury and her temporary confinement for the matter most on their minds—her aunt’s omission. “I think the concussion has passed. My headache is gone. Why do you ask?”
“I… I should like to go out to the garden. I know if I tried it on my own, everyone would be upset, and I do not want to upset anyone, but I should like to go outside again, be out in among my flowers, and also I… Well, that is to say, I think I should tell you something, but I would rather not do so here, where we might be… interrupted.”
He thought it unlikely that her aunt would do so today, but her mother still could. He nodded, rising and offering her his hand. “I think I should like to see your garden again, and I am always interested in what you have to say.”
She blushed as she took his hand.