Author’s Note: So I thought this was a good way to wrap most of this up. It felt like a good place to stop.

One Last Discussion of Names

Violet forced her eyes open again, smiling as she saw Robbie in the chair beside the bed. He looked terrible, and she should not be glad to see him there, so battered and hurt, but even with his face swollen and discolored, she was so glad to see him. She should have a photograph of this, of this moment with him and the child. He might be injured, but he was smiling as well, and she thought that the way he held the baby—he was happy, wasn’t he? Pleased? He did seem to be, and she hoped that he stayed that way.

“He is so small.”

“Shouldn’t have been worth the fuss or the scares he gave us,” Beatrice said, shaking her head. Robbie gave her a look, shaking his head as he turned back to the baby.

“He is worth it. Every child should feel they are regardless of how they came into the world. If my father had given my half-brother that, he would not have hurt so many people. I want this child to know that he is loved. He needs that. We all do.”

“You are loved, Robbie. Lacking your father’s love did not twist you as it did your brother,” Violet said, trying to reach for him. She was so tired that she thought she’d sleep for days if her eyes stayed shut for more than a second. “Not that I think our boy will lack any sort of love. He has so much already.”

“I don’t think anything can prepare you for the moment when you first see them. It’s… There’s something wonderful about it. As worried as I was about you—about him—coming in here was such a relief. I should let you sleep, but I don’t want to leave you.”

“I will rest soon. I fear I will have little choice in that respect.”

“I mean it, Violet. I’m not leaving you. Now or ever. Whatever legal issues we might have, I meant those vows, and I will make sure that I adopt this boy as well. I have nothing to offer—you know my father cut me off. He won’t take me back, and he won’t care about what happened here. I doubt he feels he’s at all to blame for what he did to my half-brother. Me marrying you… He won’t forgive it, and he won’t give me anything. I don’t want it, but I am going to have a hard time finding work in my condition, and I won’t be able to provide for either of you—”

“I have some money, and I know you will find employment. We do not have to worry about that just now.”

“She should be resting now.”

“Mother, please, let me have as much time with Robbie and the baby as I can before I fall asleep. I don’t want to miss a moment.”

“Here,” Robbie said. “You’d better take him back. My arm’s starting to go numb, and I don’t want to drop him. I’d never forgive myself.”

He set the baby next to her, kissing her forehead. She smiled at him, wanting him to stay close. Could it be so terrible if he shared the bed with her? Perhaps they were not quite married, even with the vows they took, but they would be.

“He needs a name.”

“That can wait. Violet should rest first, and there’s all those legal things that lawyer was going on about before the reverend silenced him and went ahead with the ceremony to consider. We can wait. The boy’s name will come.”

“I can tell you one thing it won’t be. Robert John Winston the fourth.” Robbie laughed, and they all joined him. Violet could not help thinking that was the worst thing they could do to the boy, even if Robbie was a good man and his son should be proud of him.

“Is it wrong, do you think, to call him after Father?” Violet asked, looking to her mother. “Not necessarily the whole name, but part of it?”

“I think he’d be very pleased,” her mother said, and her aunt put her hand on her shoulder.

“Come on, Rose. You need rest as well. We’ll let them settle those details. They can tell us in the morning.”

Robbie watched them go, letting out a breath. “I was afraid after all that, I’d lose you.”

“I was afraid it was the end, too,” Violet admitted. She tried to lift herself up. “Help me move. I want… I’d like to fall asleep beside you. It… I had missed having Winston beside me, and it’s not the same, I’m not replacing you with him, and I don’t—I’m not sure what will happen now. To be honest, after seeing him attack you, I fear he may do harm to others.”

“To himself?”

She sighed. “What does he have left, Robbie? I can’t think of anything.”

“I don’t know. I hope the police watch him carefully. I don’t—he attacked me, and he hurt you, but I don’t want him dead. I don’t. What father did to him was wrong, and he deserved better, and that is not an excuse for what he did, but I think I can understand him even if I have trouble forgiving him.”

“I pity him. I’m not condoning his actions, no, but I feel somewhat sorry for him.”

“He’s a fool. Look at what he could have had.”

“I love you,” she said, and then she grimaced. “At least… I think I do. It’s still a bit confusing for me, and you should know that I did rush the decision because the baby was coming—”

“I love you, too. Or I think I do. I know I want to.”

“Perhaps that is the best way to think of what we have.”

“It can still grow. We’ll be certain of it someday. Someday when we’re cross with each other and yelling and all of a sudden we stop because we don’t want to be angry and can’t hurt each other with one more word, we’ll know.”

“That sounds fine to me.”

“It’s got a bit of forever to it. That makes it appealing.”

She felt him settling in beside the baby. A moment later, his hand was up to brush the hair back from her face. She welcomed his touch. “Is it wrong to be glad that he stole your name?”

“No. Strangely, I think I’m glad he took it. I shouldn’t be, but I am. It led me to you.”

She closed her eyes. She felt the same way. “Tell me about the horse trough.”

“He told you that one, too? Damn him.”

She laughed.

Author’s Note: It was almost convenient for me that they used to force the men out of the room when the women were giving birth. Almost.

Waiting, Worrying, and a Warning

“It’s taking too long, isn’t it?” Robert asked, worried. He couldn’t believe they’d shoved him out of the room after the reverend said congratulation—he wasn’t entirely sure that ceremony was any more legal than Violet’s first, but he would make sure that it was—he would resent that for the rest of his life, He had to believe that. He didn’t know that he’d be able to forgive them for exiling him from his wife—fiancee?—when she was so weak and in so much pain. “It must be.”

“Calm yourself, son. Babies are born everyday, and most of the time, nothing goes wrong with the birth.”
Robert looked back at the Millson. He did not know who had asked the man to come, but he was grateful. The innkeeper had been very helpful, a man that Robert would want for a father instead of his own, and he valued the other man’s advice and company, especially now. “I don’t know how I can take any sort of comfort in that given what she has already suffered through this pregnancy. I can’t help being worried about her. She’s so… She saved my life, and that might have stressed her right into giving birth and—”

“The doctor said your wounds weren’t fatal. You’re going to be fine.”

“I know I am. It’s Violet and the baby that I’m worried about. What if I lose her? Or she loses the baby? I don’t know how she’ll feel about that. It’s such an awful mess right now, and I don’t know what to do. I can’t sit still, and pacing doesn’t seem to help—I just become more anxious as time goes on.”

“My mother-in-law, she told me when our son was delaying that babies come when they want to and not a moment before. I heard this was a stubborn one so far, so you may as well settle in for a bit. You could be waiting a couple days.”


“Sometimes that’s what it takes.”

Robert groaned, sitting down. “What am I going to do? I’ll be insane by then. And Violet—can she even survive it if it takes days? I don’t think she can. Oh, hell.”

“She’ll be fine, lad.”

“What happened to my half-brother?”

“Is that who he is?”

“Apparently so. My father got his mother pregnant and married my mother anyway—after trying to have Violet’s aunt first—so he’s resented me and her all this time, and he was—I didn’t even know he existed, not until I got a good look at him and heard him speak. He sounds like my father. He looks like him. I guess my father was… He wasn’t just a cad about what he’d done to that woman he wouldn’t marry. He also made that man feel like he was nothing compared to me—and the stupidest part of it is that my father hates me.”

Millson shook his head. “Shame, that’s what it is. A true shame about all of it.”

“It’s wrong of me to have married her, isn’t it? I’m not sure it was even legal. I know everyone thought I should when he left her, but he did come back, and the child is his, and I shouldn’t take anything else from him even if I didn’t know that I had in the first place.”

“Do you love her?”


“Does she love you?”


“Will you raise the child as your own?”


“Then you should have married her, and I’ll tell them lock you in with your half-brother if you try and back out now. She doesn’t deserve that. You’re lucky, and don’t you ever take it for granted like he did. Doesn’t matter what your father did, what you did, what her aunt did, he could have done right by her and he didn’t. That’s on him, all on him, and he doesn’t deserve to keep her after the way he treated her. Disgraceful, that was, and if there were laws in place about it, they’d make sure he got arrested for what he did. Since there isn’t, I’m glad they’re locking him up for assaulting you. At least he’ll be in prison for a while, even if it’s not for the worst of his crimes.”

Robert nodded. “That was how I felt about it—of course, I was thinking we’d be getting him arrested for forgery, not for what he did to me. I didn’t… Honestly, I never expected him to come back. I didn’t think he would.”

“Not even after you were attacked?”


Millson grunted. “It was probably you being here that made him come back. He might not have cared otherwise.”

“Yes, I think you’re right.” Robert leaned back in his chair. “No, I doubt it was just me. I think it was because my father came. Our father. I bet he wanted to see my father’s reaction to all of this. I don’t know if he had that moment or not, but I know I will never forgive that man for all the harm he caused. He knew it was his son. He knew exactly who’d done this. That was why he wanted to say it was nothing, why he accused Violet… Bastard.”

“Yes, your father deserves to be locked away right with your brother.”

“He does.” Robert closed his eyes. He was sore, but his aches were nothing. He wanted to get to Violet, to be with her and help her if he could.

“Mr. Winston? It’s done. She’s very tired, so you can’t see her for long—she needs her rest—but you can have a few minutes.”

He jerked himself right up out of the chair. “She’s all right? And the baby?”

“Both fine. Exhausted, but I imagine she’ll make a full recovery, though I might caution you against future children—”

“I don’t care if she ever has another child as long as she’s alive.”

Author’s Note: Originally, this was all one scene. I ended up splitting it because it had just gotten so long and a bit out of control. I wanted the explanation and confrontation separate from this part. I think it’s better this way.

A Rescue, Reversed

“Can’t… breathe…” Something had shattered, and Robert thought he’d felt something sting his cheek as it hit. He grunted, not certain what had drawn him back from the darkness, but he did not know that he wanted to know. He did not think it would last, either, not with him bearing the full weight of his half-brother.

“Because he broke your nose or because he’s stuck on top of you?”

“Um… possibly both,” Robert said, shifting so that he could get his stronger arm in a position to push the man’s body off of him. He turned over, trying to sit up. Violet. He’d heard Violet, and that was something worth staying awake for. He would try. He did not know that he would make it, but he would try.

“Did I kill him?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think I could hear him breathing. He’s not dead.”

“Oh, good,” Violet said, sitting down on one of the stones that made the path to the front of her house. Robert should regret walking through the garden, but he thought it might have saved him. “I was so afraid… I thought I’d killed him… Thought he was going to kill you… He was so angry. I’ve never seen him like that, and I don’t… That wasn’t the man I knew. It wasn’t.”

Robert nodded, yanking his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiping at his face, trying to rid himself of the blood. “I think he saw us yesterday, and that was…. too much. After all my father did to make him feel rejected and unworthy, to make him resent me, to resent your aunt, having it appear that you had picked me as well… I think it sent him into a rage. I couldn’t reason with him, though I tried.”

“I know.” She glanced toward the man—her husband, Robert should remember that—and sighed. “I… There is such injustice in his story. I understand him being angry, and I would have been, too, but he… He came here to hurt you, to hurt my aunt, and he only ever used me.”

“We don’t know that. He might have loved you despite his intention to hurt everyone. He might have cared, if only in a small measure. He sounded… jealous, at least.”

She looked down at her hands. “You didn’t steal me. I was never anyone’s to steal.”

“I know that.”

“I did love him until he left me, and a part of me still loved him after he left me. I didn’t want to because of what he’d done, but I did. Then I met you and learned what he’d done, all the stories he’d stolen, and I was confused…”

“Violet, it’s not—”

“Do you think he hurt the lawyer, too?”

“Did he not come? If not, then… Possibly.”

“It would take a long time to get the reverend here and without the lawyer…”

Robert grimaced. “I wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to find out what happened to the lawyer or get the reverend here, but why would he need to hurry?”

“I’d like the baby to have a father before it comes.”

He stared at her. “You… You’re… You’re going to have the baby now?”

“I think so. I hope so. Either that or I’m dying, so it had better be that the baby is coming,” she said, trying to force herself up, but she cried out and stilled. “Oh, very well. I shall stay here until it does. That is good enough for me.”

“I don’t think so. We have to get you inside and get some water boiled and if you’re going to have the reverend marry you to that one then—”

“Oh.” She lowered her head, and he thought she had to be in a lot of pain. He started toward her, hoping to help her before things progressed too far with the birth. He didn’t care how he felt. He’d live. The fact that he could move had already convinced him of that. He already felt better. He would make sure she got everything she needed before the baby came.


“Well…” She looked up at him, biting her lip. He thought she might even cry. “I had meant you, not him. That’s why I need the lawyer, too, so that I would know if it was even possible to do that now, but if you don’t want me or the child then—”

“I want you,” Robert told her, kneeling down next to her. He put a hand on her face. “Oh, Violet, I tried not to, just as you did, but I do think I have fallen in love with you, and I know that I can at least be a better father than mine ever was, even if I am not that good of a man.”

“You are a good one, better than I deserve after—”

“Don’t say that. I think he was wrong about many things, but he was right about one of them—he didn’t deserve you.” Robert wrapped her arms around his neck. “Hold tight. I don’t know if I can lift you or not, but I’m going to try.”


“Don’t argue, child. We already called the police, but your mother is summoning the doctor now. I suppose we’ll have to find someone to go for the reverend in the meantime,” Beatrice said, walking up to them. “Now let’s get you inside before that baby comes.”

Author’s Note: I admit, I had this solution in mind pretty much from the beginning. This was one of those stories where I knew who was behind everything almost from the start. I was getting impatient in wanting to share this part, though, and almost gave too much away before now, but… here it is.

Confronted by the Answer

“It should have been me.”

Robert stilled, frowning as he turned to face the voice. He knew there was something to it, a familiarity that bothered him even as he thought of his father, and then he understood. Standing face-to-face with the man who had taken his name and stolen his memories as well, he at last comprehended the connection, the resemblance, even the reason. His father. He could see his father in the other man—he’d heard him in him, too, same voice.

Damn RJ. He’d known all along, hadn’t he? He’d known that this bastard was out there, and he had known who he was from the moment Violet’s first letter came. His father had lied, had tried to claim that it was unimportant, that this was all Violet’s doing, but he’d known who the man in the photograph was. He had to have known.

Robert and the rest of them, they should have known. Beatrice had said it. She had said there was another woman with RJ’s child, and this was that man grown into a monster.

“You… I… You’re my half-brother, aren’t you?”

The other man glared at him, stepping forward. “You shouldn’t even exist. I am older. She had me first. He lied to her. He told her loved her. He told her he would marry her. He almost married that other, but when she refused him, he was supposed to marry my mother. He promised, and she had me, and then he married your mother and had you.”

Robert took a step backward, convinced that years of resentment had unhinged his half-brother, had made him so unreasonable that nothing he said would convince the man not to hurt him. He might not be able to stop him from hurting any of the others, either. He hated Beatrice enough to ruin her niece, didn’t he? What would this bastard do to her or to Violet? Robert had to admit that he was frightened. In all the ways he had pictured his confrontation with the man who’d taken his name, even after the attack in the park, he’d never quite grasped the danger of such an encounter. He had not thought that the man was the sort of criminal that one feared, not once. He had not believed the man so violent, and Robert had never quite thought of how much the other man would want to end his life.

He should have known better. Such hubris could only end in disaster.

“You come along, and he gives you his name. Raises you as his son. Gives you everything you want. Makes you his heir.”

“Though I very much doubt you will believe me, there was never a time where I had everything I wanted. He is a cheap man, one who does not part with a dime willingly, and he was never all that… pleased with me. I do not think he has approved of a single thing I have done since I was born.”

“Liar,” the other man said, grabbing hold of Robert’s coat and shaking him. “He always talked about you. He couldn’t stop. He told us all about how wonderful his Robert was. How Robert said his first word, how Robert learned to walk. How Robert was always into mischief. He must have repeated that damn story about the beehive a hundred times. Mother would always smile and tell him he was a very fortunate man to have two such fine sons, but he never acknowledged me.”

“No. He as much as hated me, and I don’t believe you. If he was telling stories like that then… Then he was enough of a bastard to do it to hurt both of you, but it wasn’t me. I didn’t—as far as I have ever known, my father hated me. He wasn’t like what you’re saying at all. I don’t know why he’d lie to you, why he’d pretend he was proud of me, but he never was. He wouldn’t let me have honey again after the beehive, and it wasn’t like he didn’t make my backside red for it before he made that decree. He was never pleased. He was not what you think—”

The other man’s fist connected with Robert’s jaw, and he fell, his hand on his face. Damn, that had hurt. If he made it through this alive, he would make sure his father knew just what kind of monster he was—and the monster he’d created in the son he’d refused to acknowledge.

The man’s boot hit him in the stomach, and Robert tried to push himself up and away from him, cursing his arm for choosing now of all times to become numb. “It was never enough. You had him, you had his money, but you had to go off and become a hero. A great veteran of the war.”

“I was drafted. I didn’t want to go. And I am not a hero.”

“No, you’re not,” the other man agreed, and Robert cursed as his foot pounded Robert’s side a second time. He pulled his bad arm close against him and forced himself to his feet. He had not cared much for hand-to-hand combat when he was in the trenches, had not wanted to use his bayonet, but he knew better than this, and he should not be allowing this man to hurt him.

“Stop this. We’re brothers, and even if our father is the worst sort of man on the planet—well, there are worse than him, but what he’s done to you and your mother is reprehensible, what he did to Beatrice as well—we don’t have to fight. We can… we can confront him with what we now know and get you the recognition that you deserve and—”

“You’re the one keeping me from everything that’s mine.”

“What? No. You’re not being reasonable. Think about it. You have so many things that—Violet. She’s carrying your child. You could have a wonderful family. She wouldn’t care about what Father has done and—”

“I don’t have Violet. I never had Violet. She loves you! They all do! She was in love with the boy with the beehive, with the name, and I saw you with her. She’s not mine. You stole her just like you stole everything else.”

“You left her, and she was confused and vulnerable,” Robert said, though a part of him did want to believe that she was in love with him. He shouldn’t, but he knew somewhere along the way he’d gone beyond the admiration that he felt for her and tumbled into something far deeper than esteem. He loved her; he could admit that now.

“You’re lying.”

“I think she could have loved you if you were only honest with her,” Robert said, hating that truth even as he spoke it. She’d been afraid that all the things she’d liked in “Winston” were from Robert, but they weren’t. He knew they weren’t.

The other man swung his fist, and Robert dodged the blow, stumbling as he did. If he hadn’t tripped over a rock he hadn’t seen, he might have been fine, but that fall gave his opponent an advantage, and the other man was on him in an instant, pummeling his face with one fist and then the other. After the concussion the other day, he could not hope to last long, ready to join the darkness that had called to him in those early hours of his injury, called him places free of nightmares and responsibilities.

He was a coward. He wanted to go there.

Author’s Note: Violet is still conflicted. It’s not an easy decision for her to make. She has many things to consider, and she wants to do what is right. That’s never easy. Everyone has a different opinion on what is right and what is not.

Still Trying to Make the Right Decision


“If I were to marry Robbie, would it be a terrible sin? I don’t mean that I won’t discuss divorce or an annulment with the lawyer as soon as he arrives—why is he so late? He should have been here half an hour ago—but divorce is a sin, isn’t it? I know some people don’t think so, and most people would not blame me for choosing that after what Winston did, but that does not necessarily make it right.”

Her mother took her hand, covering it with both of hers. “I seem to recall something about it being allowed only because of the people, that God hated a divorce, but I don’t know that I’m the one to ask. We will have to ask the reverend. You… You’ve made a decision, then, have you?”

Violet lowered her head. “No. I haven’t. I want to say I have, that I know all that I should feel, that I am certain of all my options, my choices, and what they mean, but I am not. At times I am quite convinced that I love Robbie and only Robbie, other times that I did love Winston and have made Robbie some sort of substitute for him, and others that I don’t know what love is at all and therefore love neither of them.”

“That is possible, too.”

“I know.”

“It is not as though you need to make a decision this instant. You can speak to the lawyer and to the reverend and anyone else you might need to talk to. I am not certain you can get either of those things—a divorce or an annulment—without Winston being here, and we may have to face the fact that you will be married to him for some time despite the way that he abandoned you and the baby.”

Violet put a hand on her stomach. “Though I had some minor symptoms before his departure, I do believe he was as ignorant of my condition as I was. He did not know there was a child to leave. I… I suppose it is foolish to hope that, but a part of me does. I hope he did not go knowing that there was a baby. I don’t know what I’d do if he were here now, if we were about to have this child and Robbie came in to say that he had lied about his name.”

“That lie might have been more forgivable had not it been combined with him abandoning you.”

“Perhaps. I don’t think I can say that. I simply cannot know what I would do if things were different.”

Her mother nodded. “None of us can, sweetheart. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about what it would be like if your father had not died. Would we have dozens of other children? Would we be as happy now as we were when we first felt love? Would Beatrice still live with us? Would you? Would your father have refused to let this marriage happen? Would you have eloped and defied him? So many questions, and every time I answer them, I do so in a different way.”

“Do you miss him? Father?”

“Every day.”

“You do not speak of him much. That is… because it hurts?”

Her mother let out a breath. “I thought, when Winston left, that I might offer you some advice on what it was like to have someone vanish from your life like that. I didn’t manage it, not as I wanted, mostly because… I always took comfort in the fact that your father did not choose to leave me, that he would be with me if he could have been, and that was not something you had. Winston left you. There is no denying that.”

Violet closed her eyes. “I think that is a beautiful assurance to have, even if it makes my situation a bit harder. Knowing that he would be here…”

“I should not say it because it is… Well, no, I’ll just say it, and whatever comes of it, however inappropriate, will just have to come. You do have someone who was willing to stay. Who proved that he wanted to even to the point of disinheritance.”

“Mother, that was not about me. That was about the way his father was behaving. Anyone should want to distance himself from that man and his name, should want no part of that man’s legacy, especially knowing what we do about what he did to Aunt Beatrice.”

“Yes, that,” her mother said, her lips pursing into a thin line. “I think it will take some time for all of us to forgive her for her silence, always wondering about the way things could be if she had only said something.”

“She is not the one to blame. She could have been right about me. I might not have listened.”

“No, you still should have been told. I see that now. I know where the fault lies.” Beatrice kept herself stiff as she walked into the room, crossing over to them. “I cannot express the way I felt when I realized that RJ had betrayed me. I entered into our courtship with the expectation that we would work toward him asking me for my hand. He did, but what he did besides that was rather… humiliating. What he wrote in those letters… I believe they were all lies. He spoke of a woman he’d thought he’d loved who refused him, and I pitied him. I wanted to help him over that pain. It was not that woman who rejected him. He abandoned her as he did the other, as he did me and perhaps others. I doubt he was faithful to your Robbie’s mother. I am not sure he is capable of such a thing. When I think of that time, I am ashamed even though he was the one in the wrong. I see so many ways where I let myself be vulnerable to him and his lies. I let him use me. That is what I was ashamed to speak of, and so I let it hurt you instead because of that man that claimed to be his son. Oh, he is more like RJ than Robbie proved to be. Were I to pick the imposter, I would say it was Robbie because that man has more decency than any son of RJ Wilson would ever manage.”

Violet frowned. She rose, walking to the window. “Is it possible that the lawyer’s delay is not intentional?”

“What? I thought—I confess, I have been too focused on what your aunt was saying. Why are you asking about—”

“Robbie was attacked. Winston could be here. He could have hurt the lawyer this time. It is possible, isn’t it?”

“Lord, I hope not. We’d better call his office again and then the police if he does not answer.”

“And the inn,” Violet said, her hand going to her stomach. She knew her mother and aunt were watching her. “Robbie was supposed to come this afternoon, after I saw the lawyer. He could be in danger as well.”

Author’s Note: So I didn’t want to post anything today, but I thought I should post this since the story is getting closer to the end. It’s important to have an end, after all.

Fumbling for an Answer… and a Bit More

“Would I…” Robert faltered, not certain how to answer her or if he dared do so. He was not able to know his own feelings, did not know what to think. So many things about Violet were admirable—beautiful, even—and she was someone he wanted to know so much more of, a person he hated hurting and wanted to see each day, someone he missed when she was not with him. Those things wanted to say one thing when a more reasonable side tried to remind him that he was penniless, that they were strangers, that their situation was too complex for them to expect any kind of uninfluenced decision, and yet he did not think himself all that biased. “Is that what you wanted to ask me when you said we should come outside?”

She shook her head, letting out a sigh. “I don’t… It’s not that, not precisely. It’s a bit more… Oh, I suppose it was rather cowardly to ask you instead of saying what I meant to say. I don’t know why it is so hard to do this. I’m supposed to be strong, aren’t I?”

“You are, though you’re looking quite peaked. Are you certain that you meant to ask me that?”

“I… I didn’t. I was not planning on it. You distracted me. Please don’t tease, not now. This is not something that I can say with… I can’t do it if you tease me, and I need to say it. I have to before this goes any further, before… before I lose my nerve.”

He frowned, taking her hand and placing his good one against her cheek. She trembled, and he withdrew his hand. “Violet, what is it?”

“I kept saying that I didn’t want to marry you, that I didn’t want to make another mistake. I didn’t want to do anything that would… No rushing, no making the same bad choice, even if I thought… It is true that now I see more of the little hints he gave me that he wasn’t who he said he was, and I should probably have seen it, but I did end up making that decision too soon. He kept asking, and I kept wanting to say yes just to stop him, and I did think I loved him, but I know if I had only been a bit stronger, if I’d waited just that short bit longer, then I’d never have married him. I wouldn’t have. That is part of why my aunt’s admission hurts so much. I had doubts. If I’d known, then maybe I would not have made the choice I did. Yet, I cannot blame her. It was my choice. I just don’t…”

Robert put his hands on her arms. “Calm down. You don’t have to—It’s all right. I understand. I’m not expecting you to marry me, and you don’t have to justify why you don’t want to. That is a valid choice. It’s not something you have to explain. Even if I had said yes a moment ago, you would not be under any sort of obligation to me.”

“I know. It’s just that… The more of the memories you said were yours, the more I learned that what I liked about him, what I loved, that it was you and not him—I thought maybe you were the one I loved all along. It was confusing, upsetting, so wrong… I don’t… Sometimes I still feel like that’s what it is, that it’s the parts of you that he stole that I… That am only attracted to you because of them.”

Robert sat back. That was a bit of a blow—not only was it difficult to control his reaction to her being attracted to him, she had confused him a great deal by saying she thought she loved Winston because of… well, because of him. How was he supposed to react to that? What did he say or think? Did he want to be the reason she’d loved that man? He did not know.


She grimaced. “I am sorry. I had prepared a whole speech, but when I started and you teased me, I lost it. All I could do was stumble and stammer. Then we were both distracted by the legal implications of what he’d done, and then you said something and… I didn’t… It… I sound so foolish, so stupid…”

“I don’t blame you for being confused. It… I don’t know how to feel about you, either.”

“About me?”

He returned his hand to her cheek. “Yes, about you. You are a strong, admirable woman, and you are beautiful because of that strength and all your other wonderful qualities. It’s… I didn’t want them telling me I should marry you, didn’t want that feeling to be anything like an obligation.”

“And is it? Is it an obligation?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. I wouldn’t think so, and yet I don’t know if we would have this between us if we weren’t in these circumstances, if it weren’t for him stealing my name and doing this harm to you. I’m still trying to be sure, but it’s…”

“Hard. Yes. I know.” She rose, crossing with her uneven gait to the bush and taking a flower in her hand, closing her eyes. “That is why I almost wish that we could make that all disappear for a moment. That we could forget Winston and what he’d done. My aunt and what she didn’t say. The baby. That for a moment it would just be me and you in this garden…”

He nodded, standing. He thought perhaps he had better get her back to the bench before anything happened to her or the child. “That would make things seem so… terribly simple.”

She turned back to look at him. “Kiss me.”


“I know what it was like to kiss him. I think I had better know what it is like with you.”
He feared it would be too easy to acquiesce to that request. He would like to know what it was like to kiss her. This would not be some rushed kiss as he tricked a poor girl out of pie, no. He would be wanting so much more from Violet, taking so much more.

“This could be more confusing than what we were discussing before, you know. If we don’t do this, we might have an easier time ending our confusion. I think that we might not want to do this. I do want to, I want to more than I want to admit to, but I am afraid if we do, then we won’t know if it is love or not.”

She sighed, coming back toward the bench. “Yes, I suppose you are right. I don’t want to make this more confusing or to make another mistake. I can’t let that happen.”

He started to nod, but then he did the worst thing possible. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers—or he tried to. He bumped her stomach and missed his target, not sure if he had touched her cheek or her ear. “I’m sorry.”

She laughed. “No, no, that was… It was sweet and funny all at the same time.”

“How is it sweet that I somehow forgot you were pregnant when I tried to kiss you?”

“I think you are rather appealing when you are clumsy. It is honest and rather rare for a man to let himself be seen in such a way. You always have to be so strong and confident and not at all hesitant or clumsy. Or am I wrong about that? The only man I knew well before was… Well…”

He wrapped an arm her waist, stepping just a bit behind her, trying to make certain he accounted for her stomach this time, before he bent to meet her lips. He caught that scent of flowers, taking a deep breath as he prepared to see how she tasted. Sweet, perhaps like honey, though he would not know what that was like after being denied it for so long.

She pulled back, licking her lips. “You were right.”


“It is more confusing now.”

He smiled, caressing her cheek with the back of his hand. “Yes, it is. It’s probably the most confusing thing I have ever felt. I want to say that should make it love, but I think that is… That’s not an assumption that we should make right now.”

“No, it is not. Let us… We should take time and distance to consider this and all of its implications,” she told him, glancing back toward the house. “Tomorrow I shall speak to the lawyer. I should have waited, not asked for that before I did speak to him. I… I don’t know that I’m not married, and even with all Winston did—”

“You are not the only one who faltered. This is not your burden alone, and while I cannot help but think we have biased whatever decision you might have made after speaking to the lawyer, I cannot regret it as much as we both know I should. Even if that is all I ever have, I shall hold onto its memory—and yours.”

She blushed. “Oh, Robbie. If I were only certain—”

“As much as I think I’d want to hear that, we should stop now and go our separate ways. You have a great deal to think about, and I don’t want to bias you further.”

She smiled. “It might be too late for that.”

He returned her smile, knowing as he did that he shouldn’t. They had already taken too many liberties, come too close to things that they had no right to do, and he did not want that guilt for either of them.
“I will see you tomorrow. After you’ve seen the lawyer. Not before. Or… I think I should wait for the day after. That is better, isn’t it?”

“Come tomorrow,” she said, stepping up to kiss his cheek. He felt her stomach bump him, but it just made him smile. “Promise?”


Author’s Note: It wasn’t easy to find an answer to this particular legal question. Most of what I did find ended up being lawyers saying to consult with them if this were the case (that is, if one party married under a fake name.) I did find that it was probably a question of divorce or annulment, though some people insisted that the marriage wasn’t valid at all. I have no idea what they would have said about it back around the first world war, though. It was hard enough finding a modern answer.

Legalities and Other Hard to Answer Questions

“I have a confession to make.”

“I didn’t know that you were Catholic.”

“What? No, we’re not. I…” Violet shook her head, wringing her hands together. He’d had to say something like that, didn’t he? She didn’t know how to compose herself again. She’d been walking with him for long enough, trying to gather her courage, and now, when she needed it the most, it would not come. “That wasn’t what I meant, and even if it was, you are not a priest, so it does not matter.”

“True. I should make a poor priest, I would think, and I do not want to try. Religion has been difficult for me since the war.”

“I understand. I admit, I have struggled to have much faith since Winston left. I thought I had done the right thing, behaved as I should, and yet he left anyway and—”

“That was his mistake, his wrong, not yours. I don’t know why he started this, but I do know that he was a fool to leave you,” Robbie said, touching her face. She blinked, aware that she was very close to tears. If he did not move his hand, if he kept speaking that way, she would cry. “He was. If he was out for revenge, if your aunt was… It doesn’t matter. He should have given it up and stayed with you forever. Your love was a gift, one he did not deserve. He should have stayed and held onto it with everything he had. You gave him your heart, and you will give him a child, and I don’t know how he could think to turn away from those things.”

She frowned. “I am not sure that you should say that. It’s not like you were one to rush in and say that you wanted those things.”

Robbie lowered his hand. He let out a breath. “Violet, you were a stranger to me, and you loved a man that was not me. I have been reconsidering, and it is possible that some would consider you still married to him. Even if the name he put on that paper was a lie, the rest of it could be binding. It’s not the sort of thing I can be free to ask for, and I am in no position to, being rather… poor at present. I have nothing to offer you.”

She swallowed. He almost sounded as though he would offer something if he could, and yet how could he do such a thing? She did not understand. This whole thing had gotten so convoluted, so out of control. She didn’t know what to think or feel all over again.

“I suppose no response came from the lawyer, did it? Do we know what the legal standing of the marriage is? We should contact a local lawyer, one here in town that knows the laws of this state and see what he can tell us about the situation. I guess I thought waiting for your family’s lawyer was best. I don’t know why.”

“It seemed best to me at the time, but you are right. We should go speak to one tomorrow. I think that you need to know your options.”

She frowned. “My options?”

“If they determine that the marriage is valid because you did marry him even if he lied, then… you may need a divorce or an annulment to separate you from him. You’d have to decide if that’s what you want or not. I mean, I think he doesn’t deserve you, but that isn’t necessarily a good reason for a divorce. Yes, he’s lied, and he’s abandoned you, and it’s possible that he’s even been unfaithful to you while he was gone, but he’s the baby’s father and perhaps his reason for this deception might earn him some leniency. I don’t know.”

“Leniency. You mean… forgiveness.”

Robbie nodded. He took her arm, leading her over to the bench. “Were it me, I do not think I could forgive him. What he did was cruel and so unnecessary… If he didn’t want to be married, he didn’t have to be. If he didn’t love you, he should not have said so. If he didn’t want to be himself, he should have made efforts to be a better man, not steal a name. A name doesn’t change who he is or what he was. It doesn’t make him me, and goodness knows that I don’t know why anyone should want to be me.”

“I think you a better man than you believe.”

“I don’t know that it would be that difficult to achieve such a state. I have a rather low opinion of myself.”

She knew that. She didn’t understand why, not truly, unless it was the war or possibly something from his father—not standing against the man’s behavior sooner or perhaps allowing that man to make him feel less than worthy, as he had tried to do to Violet. “That should improve with time. Perhaps with guidance.”


“Yes. Well, no, perhaps love is a better word for it. We need our friends and family to help us see reasons to love ourselves when we cannot summon those reasons on our own.”

He studied her for a moment. “I… I almost wonder if…”


He shook his head. “No, it is—it does not matter. It was a foolish fancy. Would you like me to go see the lawyer now or at least arrange for an appointment?”

She wondered if he had been close to thinking that she might love him, that she might offer him reasons as a friend or more, and she wished he’d not stopped himself from saying so. “Robbie, if I were free, if there was no Winston and no baby, would you want to marry me?”

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.

Reactions, Worries, and Requests

“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.

Author’s Note: So I was up late last night finishing this story. I knew what was supposed to go in there and what needed to be done, even had bits and pieces of it written. I added what was missing, edited what I had, and I think it is now finished. Of course, I won’t put it all up at once just in case an issue might arise, but I should be able to have it up first thing every day until it’s complete.

Disquiet, Distrust, even Accusation

“I… Of course not,” Aunt Beatrice said, shaking her head as she backed toward the window. She let out a breath and leaned against the wall, her hand going to the beads around her neck. She turned them around in her fingers. “That is not—why would that matter? It doesn’t. That was so long ago that none of it matters at all.”

Violet could not agree with her aunt on that point, and she doubted that Robbie or her mother did, either. Beatrice should not have held that information back. She could not hide behind any sort of excuse. Perhaps before Winston left, silence might have made sense. After he left, after Robbie’s first letter, all of that should have been told to both of them.

“Why should he need revenge upon Beatrice, though? That is absurd. Beatrice did not marry your father. I cannot see why anyone would want that man, personally,” Violet’s mother said, sitting down in one of the other chairs. She seemed as upset by her sister’s admission as the rest of them, and Violet had to wonder if this would be the final strain, if it could force the two of them apart after all these years. The secret had been kept for too long, even from the person Beatrice was closest to, and it had caused Rose’s own daughter pain. That might prove too much even for their bond. Or perhaps Violet was making too much of it.

“I agree with you that no woman should want my father. My mother is… She married him for position and money and because it was expected and because she is a dutiful woman, nothing more. I have never known her to defy him in anything, but I would never claim that she loved him. I am not certain I can claim that she loves me,” Robbie said, looking at his hands. He let out a breath, shaking his head. “That is not important. I don’t even know why I said that.”

Beatrice studied him. “Your mother is…?”

“Is what?”

“It is hard to say because she was understandably distraught at the time when she confronted RJ, and perhaps you are correct about him wanting me to break it off instead of him, since I assume your mother had a much better… dowry than I could have hoped to have—but that woman was by no means meek.”

Robbie nodded. “My mother’s family is… rather affluent. They always have been. Not quite like my father’s. His grandfather built a company and turned it into an empire, and that made it possible for them to enter good society—to a certain point. My mother’s family elevated ours further.”

Violet grimaced. “I have always thought that the most distasteful part of marriage arrangements these days. Why should social status have so much impact upon them? People do not suit each other simply because of how much money they have.”

“It’s supposed to give them the same sort of values and certain level of understanding.”

“Did you feel you had that with RJ?”

Beatrice lowered her head. “We met on a train. I was coming home from visiting relatives, and he was on his way west for business. He was not the sort that… Our other companions fell asleep, and we began to converse. We had a pleasant conversation about a great many things, and he decided to stay in town that night. He said he wanted to keep talking. It was… I thought it very romantic at the time. He did not linger, though, and I had thought it was over. He surprised me by writing and asking to continue to court me. At first it was just letters. Then when my aunt became ill and they asked me to be her companion and nurse, he was able to court me in person. I thought we had something truly special. It had lasted despite distance and grown deeper with his return to my side. He had just placed that ring upon my finger when that other woman came up, her stomach about the same size as Violet’s, and demanded he do right by her. He did not deny having fathered the child. He did not offer me or her any sort of apology. He showed a side there I had never seen before. I realized I’d seen nothing of the real man at all. His son appeared to be the same as him.”

“I am not,” Robbie said, rising. “You have no right to assume that about me. I don’t know what lies my father told you or how he could have passed himself off as a kind or generous man. That’s not him. He was… He’s always been a hard man with little sympathy in him. I almost think—were it not for the fact that Violet is your niece and I would hate to believe you capable of that, I would think you arranged this so that she would see men as you do, be betrayed the same way you were.”


He put a hand to his head. “Forgive me. I did not mean to upset everyone. I don’t—my head hurts, and I am not controlling my temper as I should. I fear I have not been able to restrain myself, not after what your aunt concealed from us. This whole situation makes me so angry. I do not understand why it has happened, and I feel as though everything has been ripped away, that I have nothing of what my life was before I came here or even before the war. My name was taken and misused, allowing someone to hurt plenty of people, and then I quarreled with my father and lost my home and now this is my father’s doing? It is because of him and his past with your aunt? I feel as though there is a nightmare here that I cannot wake from, not for a moment.”

Violet reached for his hand. “I admit, I have had similar thoughts. Yours are perhaps more distressing after your injuries, though.”

He looked at her hand and smiled. “I do not think I can argue with that. I think I should go. Maybe with more rest or even just some fresh air…”

“Of course,” her mother said, glancing toward her sister. “If there is one thing that I believe we could all use now, it is some time to think, to rest and stabilize our thoughts and emotions. This has been a rather upsetting couple of days, hasn’t it?”

“I am not certain that upsetting is the right word.”

“Let us not debate that,” Beatrice said. She shook her head. “I, for one, would like to be alone. Excuse me.”

Violet bit her lip. She did not want to ask her aunt to stay. Having Beatrice make that admission had done more than upset her—everyone. Her faith in her aunt had been shaken. What else had Beatrice failed to tell them? Was she lying now? Was that terrible accusation of Robbie’s right? And yet, if it was, why do that to Violet? To Robbie?

“I think it best we continue tomorrow,” her mother said. “You both need rest, and all of us must have time to consider what we have discussed today. Tomorrow we may be able to have all the answers.”

“If that is not too much to hope for,” Robbie said. He rubbed his head. “Nevertheless, I would like to believe that. I want to know that this nightmare will end and that things will finally make sense again.”

“We all would,” Violet said, giving his hand a squeeze as she tried to prepare herself for his departure. “We’ll see you tomorrow, then, Mr. Winston?”

He smiled. “Yes, Mrs. Winston.”

Author’s Note: So… In case anyone was at all wondering, this one is drawing close to an end, and they are very close to answers.

An Important Omission

Robert stared at Violet, not certain that he had heard what he thought he had. Perhaps he was still concussed. What if he had never woken up at all, and this was all delirium? That was not impossible. He could still be thrashing about in his bed, unable to know what was waking and what was dreaming—he’d been there before, after he’d been shot, and he always thought that he would fall there once more if he made the slightest misstep, and he feared it. He feared it more than anything.

Damn it, why was he such a coward? Why did he have to be locked inside his mind and the war when he needed to be in the present? He had other concerns now. He didn’t have to fear bullets or armies, and this one man should not scare him so much.

Perhaps it was that small doubt, deep within him, that there was a Winston at all, that he hadn’t done this and somehow twisted it away and forgotten it, but that was impossible. He did not know how he could have—and she had not acted as though he had, not since he came, but yet… The stories were the same, weren’t they?

How shell-shocked was he? How badly was his mind destroyed?

“Are you… You must be mistaken. It is not possible. It could not have been my father.”

Violet’s aunt snorted, a derisive look on her face before she turned to her niece. Taking hold of her arms, she sat the younger woman back down, almost forcing her into the chair. “You are being foolish. At least sit if you must be difficult.”

“Difficult? I am the one being difficult?”

“You are upsetting everyone—and perhaps for no reason,” her mother told her, crossing the room to her side. “You need to sit and allow us to handle the subject with as much decorum as is possible.”

Robert frowned. “I don’t know that decorum is an option at present. This seems like something out of—I am not certain if my concussion has worsened or if any of this is real. It does not seem… How could it have been my father? Why was this not discussed before?”

Violet nodded. “Yes, exactly. Why didn’t you say anything when he was here, Beatrice? Why didn’t you say something when Winston was?”

“I said plenty when Winston was here.”

“Yes, but not that,” Violet said, shaking her head. “If Robbie’s father was the one who threw you over, then why didn’t you say that in all your warnings? Why didn’t you know the man that was pretending to be his son to be an imposter?”

Beatrice stiffened. She glanced toward Robert, shaking her head. “Your Robbie said it himself—there is a resemblance. That first one looked enough like RJ to be his son, and had I told you that his father was a deceitful rake, you would only have insisted that he was nothing like his father and ignored me anyway.”

Robert leaned back in his chair, feeling ill. He did not think it was the concussion only that caused him distress. He did not understand how this was possible or why it was happening. Who was this woman that she had concealed such an important detail? How had she known his father, and why had even his father failed to mention it?

Violet lowered her head. “I didn’t know that I wouldn’t have said that, but I might have taken more time before I agreed to Winston’s proposal, might have been more cautious than I had been, and perhaps he would not have wanted to wait long enough to marry me. I do not know. I wish you would have told me. Even if I had been headstrong about it, I should have known.”

“You always called him John in the past,” her mother said, her eyes watching her sister with hurt and suspicion. “Why should I think now that this is the truth? Why would you not speak of it before? This has become a disaster, and it does seem to me that you could have prevented part of it if you ere only honest.”

Beatrice sighed. “I have no desire to dwell upon those days. I behaved as a fool from the moment I met him to the moment I discovered him with another woman who carried his child. Mercifully, I had not compromised myself so much, but he could not have married us both and yet he asked me after he had already acquired a family for himself.”

Robert frowned. “I don’t understand. I was born years after my parents married. Perhaps that was an act, a way to have you break off the engagement so that my father didn’t have to, but that child was not me.”

Violet rubbed her hand over her stomach, and he couldn’t help thinking the child was as upset as the rest of them were. “Are we now to think that the reason that the false Mr. Winston pursued me was because he knew that RJ Winston had almost married you?”