Contest #127 shortlist ⭐️

22 comments

Historical Fiction Romance Happy

Bath, England – 1785


If there was one thing Emmeline Sedgewick was good at, it was matchmaking. Her intuition was flawless—all she required was a mere moment in the presence of a hopeful couple before she was able to pass her judgement on whether or not their match was well made. Word of her skill washed through the ton after she had saved her dear friend, Lady Beatrice Lockhart, from what would have been a miserable marriage. Emmeline’s gut feeling had been so nauseatingly strong that she had met with half of the gossips and busybodies of London before finally stumbling upon the proof that she’d needed to convince Beatrice of her suitor’s…well, unsuitability.


That said suitor was arrested soon after was obviously of some help.


In any case, Beatrice began to gently nudge other would-be brides toward Emmeline whenever the opportunity arose. And so, Emmeline’s reputation of being a perfect match predictor was born. As one should never provide their labor for free, she began to charge a shilling for her services. If the woman in question was well and truly penniless and on the brink of disaster, Emmeline intervened for free. Love was, after all, a very serious business.


“Miss Sedgewick?”


Emmeline’s eyes snapped away from the dancing couples—the pair in the middle would make a happy match—to settle on a young woman with fiery curls that very clearly did not care to be pinned down. The assembly rooms were a touch overcrowded, and something in this woman’s green eyes told Emmeline that she’d been attempting to locate her for a good amount of time.


“A pleasure,” Emmeline murmured politely, giving the woman a polite-if-not-clumsy sort of curtsy.


The woman let out a breath of relief. “Thank goodness! I’ve been searching for you for nearly a quarter of an hour. I am Miss Juliana Campbell, and I—”


“Require some assistance?” Emmeline supplied wryly.


“Yes!” Juliana breathed, patting her red curls in agitation. “I simply cannot decide if Theodore and I—begging your pardon, Mr. Oakley and I—would make a good match.”


“Indeed?” Emmeline asked mildly, allowing Juliana to lead her by the hand to the far corner of the room.


“You helped my friend Susanna ever so much, you know,” Juliana said in a loud whisper. “She has never been happier.”


Ah, yes. Susanna Huxley would have married the wrong brother if it hadn’t been for Emmeline.


“Well, as you know—” Emmeline was interrupted by the press of a shilling into her palm. “Where is this Mr. Oakley?”


“He will be here with refreshments shortly,” Juliana said nervously. “You will wait, won’t you?”


“Of course.”


They stood in silence for a moment, examining the dancing couples in the distance. Emmeline felt a honey colored curl slip out of a pin on the back of her head, and she sighed.


“Miss Sedgewick,” Juliana said suddenly, glancing at Emmeline from the corner of her eye, “how is it that you find yourself unattached?” Emmeline raised her eyebrows in surprise as Juliana’s face colored. “That was impolite. I’m so sorry!”


“No, no, it’s quite all right,” Emmeline said quickly, trying to mask the sinking feeling that had begun to take hold in her chest. “I simply have not found the right man.”


Juliana relaxed. “I would think you’d have it easier than the rest of us,” she said thoughtfully. “You’d just know. Wouldn’t you?”


“I suppose one could assume that,” Emmeline said, making every effort to keep her voice even.


The tragic thing was that Emmeline did know. She knew that her perfect match did not exist. She felt it in her bones, knew it in her soul, and was desperate to make peace with it. After all, she had never been wrong, and love was her specialty.


Much to Emmeline’s relief, Mr. Oakley arrived with refreshments in hand before Juliana could continue her prying. He brought with him a Mr. Solomon Honeyfield, whose last name made Emmeline bite back a chuckle. It seemed too whimsical a surname for a man who wore such a serious expression upon his face.


“Here you go, my darling,” Mr. Oakley said cheerfully, handing Juliana a glass. His brown eyes shifted to Emmeline, and she could sense laughter in them. “I see you’ve made a new acquaintance.”


“Oh, yes,” Juliana squeaked. “This is Miss Emmeline Sedgewick. Miss Sedgewick, this is Mr. Theodore Oakley.”


“A pleasure,” Emmeline said, noting Mr. Oakley’s relaxed posture and kind air.


She studied Mr. Oakley and Juliana’s interactions, absorbing the nervous, caring energy that began to blossom in the air. Emmeline could tell that Mr. Oakley was gentle at heart, and that he balanced Juliana’s impulsive, bubbly ways. She would observe them for just a moment longer, but was quite sure that they would make a good match.


As the seconds ticked by, however, she found it increasingly difficult to concentrate. When she finally looked away from the couple, she discovered a pair of solemn grey eyes focused in her direction. It seemed that Mr. Honeyfield had been staring at her quite intensely.


I probably look a touch mad, staring at them so intently, she thought to herself, sidling up to the gentleman in question.


“Do you dance, Mr. Honeyfield?” she asked sweetly, tipping her head to look up at him. She could not make out the color of his hair in the candlelight, but could tell that he was handsome in an expressionless sort of way.


Not that it made her feel anything, of course. Which was entirely expected, given what she already knew about herself.


“No,” he responded flatly. Something flickered in his eyes as he glanced down at her—uncertainty, maybe. He cleared his throat, his voice softer this time. “I’m not very good at it.”


Emmeline gave him a brilliant smile. “Indeed? Neither am I. Perhaps we should leave Mr. Oakley and Miss Campbell to their conversation and join the next dance.” The weak beginnings of a waltz wafted through the air. “A waltz!”


Mr. Honeyfield paled. “A waltz?”


“It seems so,” Emmeline chirped. She turned to Juliana with a pointed look. “You have nothing to worry about. Mr. Honeyfield and I will return soon.”


Mr. Oakley looked between Emmeline and her reluctant dance partner, a smile playing about his lips. “Enjoy yourself, my friend.”


Emmeline caught the quick, withering look that Mr. Honeyfield shot in his friend’s direction. Before she could comment any further, she was being led into the throng of dancers. Mr. Honeyfield awkwardly positioned his hand on Emmeline’s waist, his face devoid of expression.


When the music began, Emmeline was informed of one very critical thing: Mr. Honeyfield was a liar. He was a wonderful dancer. She, meanwhile, almost stepped on his toes less than one minute into the waltz.


“What were you doing?” he asked, voice low.


Emmeline, who had been keeping a close eye on her clumsy feet, looked up in surprise. “I beg your pardon?”


“When you were watching Theodore and Miss Campbell,” he said, taking a quick step to avoid being trod on.


“Oh!” Emmeline felt a terrible heat invade her cheeks. No one had ever noticed her assessing a couple. The women involved knew what she was up to, but the men had always been blissfully ignorant. “I was just watching them.”


“I see,” he responded evenly. “I only ask because you told Miss Campbell that there was nothing to worry about.”


Hell and damnation. He’d been paying entirely too much attention to her.


“I-it was related to something we’d been discussing earlier,” she said quickly, almost tripping on the hem of her dress. “Much earlier.”


“Indeed? I thought you were telling her not to worry about Theodore.”


This time, Emmeline did trip over her hem. “Excuse me. I think I need some air.”


Much to her continued chagrin, Mr. Honeyfield insisted on accompanying Emmeline out of doors. They stood awkwardly in the chilly night as she tried to think of a way to escape his presence. Realizing that the bright moon afforded them much better lighting than the candles had, Emmeline glanced up at her liar of a dance partner.


Oh, she wished she’d felt something in that moment. He was handsome, with a head of beautiful golden hair and a strong nose. His mouth was pressed into an unimpressed line as he surveyed the street. It would have been the perfect moment to be struck with a burst of intuition.


Instead, all she experienced was the weak fluttering of butterflies in her belly.


“You are right, you know,” Mr. Honeyfield said abruptly. “Miss Campbell has nothing to worry about. I’ve known Theodore my entire life. He’s a good man.”


Emmeline started. “That wasn’t what—”


He turned to her and, for the first time since they’d met, she saw a twinkle in his grey eyes. “You needn’t worry, Miss Sedgewick. Your secret is safe with me.”


“It’s not a secret. Women trust my judgement,” she grumbled. “That’s all.”


“Are you a very good judge of character, then?” he asked gravely.


“Not of character, necessarily,” Emmeline admitted begrudgingly. Why tell him anything at all? It wasn’t as if they’d ever see each other again. Despite herself, she continued to speak. “I am quite adept at judging whether matches are well made or not. It’s nothing but a silly hobby.”


One that had filled her pockets with coins. But he definitely didn’t need to know that.


“I suppose we all have our silly hobbies,” he replied, casting her a curious glance. “I’d like to ask you a question, but I fear it is rather inappropriate.”


Emmeline sighed. “What is her name?”


“Her name?” Mr. Honeyfield echoed. “Whose name?”


“The woman you are interested in,” Emmeline said flatly. “Though I will tell you, Mr. Honeyfield, that I have never offered my services to a man before.”


“There is no woman,” he said plainly, shrugging. “I meant to ask if you thought we would make a good match.”


If she had been eating or drinking, Emmeline would most certainly have choked. As it was, she was having a very hard time breathing. “I beg your pardon?”


“I did say it was inappropriate,” he pointed out, sounding entirely unaffected.


“It is!” she burst out. “And—and I do not anticipate ever making a match!”


Oh, Lord. Why had she gone and said that?


He blinked at her, grey eyes impenetrable. “That is rather extreme, Miss Sedgewick.”


Emmeline folded her arms across her chest. “It is not. I will not explain myself.”


He shrugged again. “Very well.”


“I think I shall return home for the evening,” she said shortly. “Good night, Mr. Honeyfield.”


“Good night, Miss Sedgewick. I do hope I haven’t offended you.”


“Not at all,” she said tightly.


Much to Emmeline’s surprise, the following morning brought a caller with it.


“A gentleman!” her mother exclaimed, holding a shaking hand to her chest. “At long last.”


Emmeline frowned as her mother herded her into the parlor.


“Mr. Honeyfield!” Emmeline squeaked. So much for never seeing each other again.


“Now, I trust you will behave yourselves,” Mrs. Sedgewick said mischievously.


“Mama!” Emmeline scolded in a scandalized whisper. “You don’t mean to—”


Before Emmeline could finish speaking, her mother had abandoned her. It was entirely improper, of course, but her mother would risk anything to see her eldest daughter engaged.


Which was not going to happen, of course.


“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Emmeline asked through gritted teeth. She did not want to relive the embarrassment of the previous night.


“I came to apologize,” Mr. Honeyfield said softly, fidgeting with his starched cravat. “I believe I did offend you last night, despite your denying it.”


Emmeline found herself wilting a little bit. “You did not offend me, sir. It is simply something of a sore topic. In fact, I should apologize to you.”


“No, no,” he said, surprising Emmeline by appearing a bit flustered. “Please don’t.”


“Very well,” she said, confused. “Was that all?”


“Well, I—” He paused, clearing his throat. “I also wanted to tell you that your hobby is really—really rather interesting.”


Emmeline raised her eyebrows, feigning nonchalance as the butterflies in her stomach came back to life. “That’s very kind of you.”


“Yes, well, I have something of a silly hobby of my own,” he said eagerly, sitting across from her.


Emmeline felt a smile pull at her lips.


Good God. He just wanted to talk. It was charming and hilarious all at once, seeing the walls around this terribly solemn man crack for just a moment. Words poured out of his mouth, and Emmeline was reminded of the fact that gentlemen were terrible at having such conversations with one another. It was no wonder that he was so desperate to speak with her.


If Mr. Honeyfield was looking for a confidante, then he’d find one in Emmeline. She could not promise him a wedding, but she could promise him friendship.


“Beekeeping,” she repeated.


“Yes!” he breathed, all traces of seriousness gone from his handsome face. “My family has land in Oxbury—do you know where Oxbury is?—that is filled with flowers and trees. It would be the perfect place to keep bees.”


“It sounds lovely,” she said, meaning it. “I should like to visit one day.”


Mr. Honeyfield continued to visit Emmeline after that, no matter whether they’d run into each other at the assembly house or not. Before she knew it, a year had passed, and Emmeline found herself watching Mr. Oakley and Juliana laugh at their wedding breakfast.

She had been right about them, of course. Her intuition never failed. It had never failed, she thought. For whatever reason, she was having to remind herself of that fact more and more recently.


And it all had to do with Solomon.


“There you are,” a familiar voice said.


Speak of the beekeeping devil.


“Just hiding from the sun,” Emmeline said by way of greeting. Solomon joined her under the shady tree. “They look happy, don’t they?”


“Very happy,” he agreed, casting a curious glance at her. “Will that be us soon, do you think?”


“Don’t tease,” Emmeline admonished, keeping her eyes glued to the newlyweds.


“I’m not,” Solomon said flatly.


Emmeline turned to look at him, brown eyes wide. “Please don’t do this.”


“Do what? I love you, and I know you love me. I don’t see what the issue is.”


He said it so matter-of-factly that Emmeline almost missed that it had been a declaration of love.


“I just—” Emmeline felt her eyes fill with tears. Of all times to start weeping. “I just always know. You know that about me. And I-I don’t—I’ve never had that feeling about myself. That knowing feeling. And I don’t want to make you miserable.”


Solomon sighed. “Is that all?”


“What do you mean, is that all?!” Emmeline asked indignantly. “This is serious, Solomon. My intuition has never been wrong. Love has nothing to do with it.”


“Have you ever considered that you don’t know because I do?” he asked in that straightforward way of his.


For once, Emmeline was rendered silent.


“Because I have known, Emmeline,” Solomon said impatiently. “A year ago. At the assembly house.”


“What?” Emmeline whispered.


“You’re not the only one with good intuition,” he said, though not unkindly. “The question you should be asking yourself is if you trust me.”


You do. Of course you do.


“I do,” Emmeline said softly, throat tight. “I so badly wanted to be struck with—with that feeling of knowing when we met at the assembly house.”


“Shall we consider this incident an outlier?” he asked good-naturedly. “We won’t let it ruin your perfect track record.”


Emmeline laughed, though the sound came out as more of a strangled hiccup.


“Use your magic on the rest of the ton,” Solomon said gently, brushing a lock of hair from her forehead. “And I’ll use mine on us.”


“And if it all goes to pieces?”


“Then you can run around Bath telling everyone what a terrible judge of matches I am,” he said easily. “Now, I must ask you again: will that be us soon, do you think?”


“Yes,” Emmeline said, reaching up to straighten his cravat. For the first time in her life, she let go. Sometimes it was necessary to simply surrender to the unknown. “I think it will be.” 

January 08, 2022 00:32

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22 comments

13:13 Jan 15, 2022

This story was so Jane Austen! Also…Emmeline Sedgewick…the most delicious name for a character ever! Great story. What a perfect response to this prompt…a matchmaker who’s intuitive nature doesn’t quite work for her own love life. Things have a way of sneaking up on us sometimes and they are usually the most important things! Loved this and congrats on your shortlist win! Can’t wait to read more of your work!

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Isabella Kamal
19:48 Jan 15, 2022

Thank you for your lovely comment, Heather! I'm a big Jane Austen fan, so I'm glad my story reminded you of her work. I love names that have a touch of whimsy to them, and Emmeline is no exception! 😊

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Dena Linn
11:33 Jan 15, 2022

Hello Isabella and congrats on being a runner-up this time! That is wonderful and your story, an historical fiction, certainly caught my eye and was an enjoyable read. But what does: the ton actually mean? I am afraid it caught my attention twice and I can not figure it out. :)

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Isabella Kamal
19:37 Jan 15, 2022

Hi Dena, congrats on your win! Thank you so much for reading. The 'ton' is a French word that, in this context, refers to high/polite society. 😊

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Kate Winchester
00:47 Jan 15, 2022

Congrats on the shortlist! I really enjoyed your story!

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Katie Kanning
20:13 Jan 14, 2022

Hi Isabella, I really enjoyed your story! Great dialogue and characterization. It reminded me of a favorite movie of mine :) I'm wondering if I could read it on my podcast, "Unpublished, not Unknown"? It's all about giving voice to indie authors' short stories and spreading their reach a bit further. You retain the credit and I find fun ways to promote you and your story. I'll credit you and link your profile in the show notes. People can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Youtube, and 5 other locations. If you're in, just go my website ...

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Isabella Kamal
21:13 Jan 14, 2022

Hi Katie! Thank you so much for your kind words. I'd love to know what movie it reminded you of, because it sounds like something that would be right up my alley. 😊 Your podcast sounds great! I filled out the form on your website. Let me know if you need anything else from my end!

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Katie Kanning
21:20 Jan 14, 2022

Thanks for sending it :) I'll email you soon. Maybe you've seen the movie Pride & Prejudice? Solomon reminded me of Mr. Darcy a bit. Anyways, keep writing! :)

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Isabella Kamal
21:23 Jan 14, 2022

Looking forward to hearing from you! Pride and Prejudice is actually one of my favorite books/movies! So that is a huge compliment. Thank you! 🥰

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Kathryn Mofley
17:37 Jan 14, 2022

Very good story! Love the historical timing and setting.

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Alice Park
14:09 Jan 13, 2022

I really enjoyed your story. Your dialogue for this time period was spot on, and helped propel the story forward. Very nice job on your writing!

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06:29 Jan 13, 2022

Lovely story!

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Wilma Segeren
21:20 Jan 12, 2022

Wonderful story. Well written and a happy ending to boot. Thanks heaps for this.

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Danielle Krasner
20:50 Jan 12, 2022

The story was incredibly heartwarming and cleverly written. I loved it. Thank you Isabella!

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Melissa Balick
20:30 Jan 12, 2022

Excellent story, very well-written, with excellent dialogue. I think you must have left a key line out by accident, though. Copy/paste error, perhaps? This line seemed to come out of nowhere: “Beekeeping,” she repeated. But he hadn’t said anything about beekeeping to repeat! Still, I got what you meant. Well done.

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Isabella Kamal
21:01 Jan 12, 2022

Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Melissa! I'm really happy that you enjoyed my short story! I understand your meaning! My intention was to have that sentence act as a sort of abrupt return to conversation after having implied that Mr. H was gushing about the 'silly hobby' he'd mentioned. I'll definitely keep a closer eye on clarity from here on out - I appreciate the feedback. 😊

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Radha Daya
00:49 Jan 08, 2022

What a beautifully written story! The author really took the simple prompt and created such a multifaceted short story with it. Impressive!

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Erin Olig
16:17 Jan 19, 2022

So glad I chose this story to start my day- grateful for the whimsy and a happy ending! I admire the way you have taken these simple moments and made a story which is engaging without being over complicated. You did a great job of making Emmeline come alive!

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Kevin B
20:08 Jan 17, 2022

This story is right up my alley. I just loved how spot-on you were with tone and style. It was the perfect read to start my week. Thank you!

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K. Antonio
22:12 Jan 16, 2022

I was engaged from the very first paragraph!

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Eliza Villette
21:15 Jan 14, 2022

I actually liked this story more than the winning one. It’s delightful!

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Melanie Hawkes
23:47 Jan 14, 2022

Me too! Well done. I loved the concept, and can imagine it still happening today

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