General Fiction posted November 13, 2017 Chapters:  ...20 21 -22- 23... 

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Veronica gets angry

A chapter in the book This Time - That Time 2

Who is Francis' Father?

by sandramitchell

End of Part 21

I laughed when I thought about all the practice it took to master the art in Lady Ann’s time. ‘I was taught by a relative of yours,’ I explained. ‘Like me, she hasn’t been born yet, but she was born long before me. I was sent back in time to help her, too.’
‘A relative of mine?’
I tried to work out exactly what Lady Ann would be in relation to Gwendolyn, but gave up as quickly as I started. ‘Yes, she married your brother’s grandson in the future—’
‘His grandson...’ she gasped. ‘So my brother does marry and have children?’
I could see this revelation worried Gwendolyn for obvious reasons. ‘If he married, then what did he do with Francis?’ she asked.
‘I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps he brought him up as his own after he married,’ I suggested, although I knew it was highly unlikely. The one time I’d seen the current Sir John in the same room as Francis, it was obvious he was petrified of him.
The expression on Gwendolyn’s face seemed to confirm what I was thinking. ‘He would never do that. He must have found a way to get rid of him....’

Part 22 
Gwendolyn rose from the window seat and aimlessly drifted around the room. She was understandably very agitated, and I tried to imagine myself in her position. The thought of that defenceless little lad induced the feeling of icy fingers slithering over my body. I shuddered and stood up, shaking the sense of apprehension from my shoulders.
     ‘It hasn’t happened yet, and I’m sure it won’t,’ I told her gently. ‘You said you would tell me about Francis’ father,’ I said in the hope the question would at least take her mind off her fear for the moment.
     When Gwendolyn ceased moving, and turned to face me, I noticed an air of defeat now shrouded her spirit, leaving an emptiness where moments before there was optimism. It shook me because this wasn’t what I’d expected. Anger, yes, determination, yes, but I was surprised at her giving in so easily.
     ‘What good will it do my son now if I tell you his father’s name?’ Twisting her face into an ugly scowl, she almost spat the words out. ‘How will that save my little boy?’
     Now I was angry. ‘I don’t think I’ve been sent one hundred and fifty odd years into the past, and taken away from my own family, just to fail. If you want to save your son, get a grip and start helping me.’
     She flinched and backed away, making me feel guilty for being so hard on her. ‘Look, Francis is fine at the moment, but if we’re going to help him, then I need to know more about his father. Are you going to tell me? Or are you just going to sink into this quagmire of misery and leave your son to whatever your brother deems fit with regard to getting rid of him? I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but we don’t really have much time, do we?’
     Gwendolyn straightened up and squared her shoulders resolutely. ‘I’m sorry … you’re right. Let’s sit down and I’ll tell you,’ she said as she moved over to the window seat again. Taking a deep breath, she turned and gave me a weak suggestion of a smile.
     ‘It began on the evening of my coming out ball. I was excited and impatient to get there. I’d been looking forward to it all year, and the night had arrived. The music could be heard as we alighted from our carriage, and it was so exciting!’ She paused, her eyes shining with the memory. ‘Because our parents had died when I was a young girl, my brother became my legal guardian, and it was he who escorted me into the ballroom. Once inside, I was overwhelmed by the grandeur that presented itself.’ She swayed back and forth as if she could still hear the music playing. ‘The ladies’ gowns were stunning, and the gentlemen were all so elegantly attired.’
     I could almost picture the scene the way Gwendolyn was describing it, which made me smile back at her encouragingly.
     ‘Once we were seated, it wasn’t long before I was approached by a young man who introduced himself as Randolph Mandeville, when he asked me to dance. He had striking features, and wore a handsomely trimmed moustache.’ A cloud shuttered her eyes for a moment.  ‘There was no evidence of his arrogance, which I would later find out about,’ she added, as though she should have realised.  
     ‘I danced with many possible suitors that night, but each time someone asked me to dance, I found myself counting the seconds before Randolph would tap my partner’s shoulder and whisk me off into the middle of the dance floor. There were many lovely young ladies at the ball, all seeking a future husband, and all vying for his attention, but he only seemed to be interested in me. It was exhilarating, and very flattering. He certainly knew how to turn a young girl’s head.’ She paused again, looking down at her hands in her lap before continuing, a faraway look in her eyes. 

     ‘The following morning, before we’d barely finished breakfast, he came to speak with my brother. He wanted permission to call on me, and John agreed. The next few months were an exciting mix of balls and afternoon tea-parties. Sometimes he would take me riding, which was a favourite pastime of mine, and having several horses for me to choose from, I was able to pick a gentle one out from his stables.
     It was all surreal. I remember thinking how nice it was that we shared similar interests. I knew he was going to seek my brother’s permission to ask me for my hand in marriage. It would be a good match because two aristocratic families would be joining together, so everyone was pleased.’ She paused again and looked down at the floor.
     It dawned on me that perhaps not everyone was pleased about this match. Gwendolyn didn’t sound like a girl who’d just found her prince charming. I waited, not wanting to rush things.
     ‘After our engagement, Randolph became more and more assertive. I wasn’t consulted about anything regarding the wedding, even though my brother would be paying for it all.  Gradually, I noticed he was taking over more of the arrangements, and not agreeing to any of my suggestions. It was my choice of wedding dress that hurt the most. He’d arranged for a top society dress designer to come and create what he said would be the wedding dress of the year. When I told him I wanted to wear my mother’s wedding dress, he was appalled, and told me his future wife couldn’t be seen walking down the aisle in something someone else had worn.’
     I could see recounting the story of her engagement was very painful for Gwendolyn. I just couldn’t understand why Randolph would want to be immersed in all the arrangements as it was so unusual for a man, especially back then.  I was about to comment on his behaviour, when she wrung her hands and continued.
     ‘Our wedding day had been set for April, the following Spring, and although it was only six months away, I found the days began to drag by because I was so lonely.’
     ‘Why was that?’ I asked. ‘I would have thought you’d both use that time to get to know each other better.’
     Gwendolyn shook her head. 'Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. After our engagement, Randolph didn’t come around quite so often. He told me he had business to attend to, so I was left alone a lot. Now I was betrothed, I couldn’t go anywhere on my own until I was married.’ She sighed heavily. ‘Not having much to do now that Randolph had taken it upon himself to arrange the wedding, I began to sort through all the personal belongings I wanted to take with me to my new home after the wedding. It was on one such day I overheard the maids gossiping when they didn’t know I could overhear them.’  
     When her voice faltered and she paused, I guessed she was reliving the scene. I had no choice but to wait until Gwendolyn managed to pull herself together and continue.
     ‘There wasn’t much the servants didn’t know about the goings-on in the houses they worked in, and gossip soon gets spread around. It seemed Randolph’s family had a financial dilemma, and they needed him to marry well or they would have been ruined. I was obviously chosen because I was the only unattached young lady from a seriously wealthy family. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, as many titled families lived way beyond their means. But now I knew it had all been contrived, and I just felt like I was a means to the end of their financial adversity. Any feelings I’d felt for Randolph, which weren’t many, disappeared. I was left with a cold sense of dread when I realised what the rest of my life would be like after I married him.’
     ‘So, what did you do? Did you mention your concerns to your brother?’
     She shook her head. ‘There was no point. There wasn’t much that John didn’t know about our neighbours’ financial situations, so I presumed he was fine about my fiancée’s lack of funds. A good family name was worth more than the money, according to him, because it could open doors which otherwise would be closed. It wasn’t as if I was getting married to a commoner, and we had enough money to sustain both families. It’s just … I’d always dreamt of having a loving marriage like our parents had. My mother had explained to me that they hadn’t fallen in love until after they were married, but at least they were fond of each other when they became betrothed. I wasn’t even sure Randolph liked me. He certainly didn’t behave as though he did.’
     ‘I couldn’t agree more. I know how I would have felt if I thought I had only been proposed to because of my family’s money. Did you decide to break off the engagement?’ I asked. ‘I mean, I’m sure nobody would have been surprised if you had.’
     Again, she shook her head. ‘It was too late … but one morning, I woke up feeling so angry at the position I’d been put in. I was sure my mother would not have allowed this to happen had she lived … but John was my legal guardian, and in him rested my future. Nothing was going to change.
     'I went down to breakfast and found him dressed in his best suit. He was in a jolly mood, so I asked him what he was so happy about. It transpired he was meeting a young lady he had long wanted to get to know. I thought then how wonderful it was to be happy to be meeting someone you cared for. I wondered if she cared for him, or was she like me and had no choice? It does make you wonder, doesn’t it?’
     ‘I expect it would. It’s not like that in my time anymore, thank goodness.’ 

     ‘You have no idea how lucky you are. After John had gone, I irritably changed into my walking clothes and boots. As the anger continued to creep over me, I gave the main door a hefty tug and slammed it shut as I left. I wandered over to the woods where the trees with the squirrels swinging from branch to branch, and all the birds, made me feel at peace. I must have been walking for well over an hour, when I saw someone sitting on the stile, his back to me.
     'I noticed he had the whitest of hair, which hung in a ponytail down his back. I was so intrigued, I went over to say hello, but I think I must have startled him, because he jumped off the stile before turning to look at me. That was when I saw the most beautiful ice-blue eyes staring back at me. When he smiled, it was with a warm hint of amusement that spread into those gentle, disarming eyes, and my stomach flipped in an unbelievable way….'

Characters in: This Time – That Time 2
The Powers that be who are all watching Veronica:
Veronica Russell – time traveller.
Dr James Russell – married to Veronica.
Ann Russell –  Veronica and James’s five-year-old daughter with paranormal gifts.
Michael Russell – Veronica and James’s three-year-old son.
Mildred – Veronica’s closest friend and adopted grandmother to the children.
Daveth Hammett – ten-year-old boy from 1846.
Elowen Hammett –Daveth’s five-year-old sister.
Joe Hammett –  Daveth’s father who disappeared through a time portal
Rosie Hammett – Joe’s wife.
Sir John – Lord of the manor.
Lady Gwendolyne – Sir John’s sister, now deceased.
Francis – Albino child of Gwendolyne.
Meg – Francis’ nanny and carer.


Thank you for reading this part. If you find any errors please tell me as I'm still not feeling right. The brain has slowed down! This is in UK English.
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