To Silas Densworth, silence is golden.
Growing up in a loud, chaotic and broken family of fifteen, he learned from a young age to appreciate the finer things, such as personal space, personal belongings, and anything personal. Having ten siblings (whether wholly related to them or not) tends to create a rather territorial adult.
So Genoveave took care of Lynn herself, as she took care of everything herself. She loved Lynn as she loved no one (except maybe Silas, for reasons she could not explain and her friends could not fathom). An arranged marriage, with two people who feel very distorted versions of love. Of course disaster followed behind them like a lost duckling.
Silas claimed Lynn made him uncomfortable. She looked too much like him, Gen thought. The white hair, the porcelain skin, the pale eyes. The same eyes that were cold, calculating and distant on Silas were warm, inquisitive and adorable on little Lynn. But no, Silas didn’t like mirrors. He didn’t like himself, which is an issue all to its own, but he didn’t like feeling inferior, as his older siblings had always pressed him to act. That girl made him feel inferior. That girl made him feel scrutinized. That girl made him feel inspected, open, defenseless, nude. He had no problem with nudity, but defenseless? He survived with defence. That was Silas: strategy, protection, walls, walls, walls. A few of them, Genoveave had managed to break. But a few, a few is not enough.
They did not live together, this family. This one that was silent where Silas’ was loud, orderly where there had been chaos, and even more broken than Gen thought possible. They lived under the same roof, but not together. Silas busied himself with work, which took his time and his patience, and gave him no joy but an excuse to be excused. Gen busied herself with Lynn, social affairs and matchmaking. Not her own daughter, yet, no, she was too young, in her mother’s opinion. There were plenty of offers, yes, for the fresh, icy beauty of the esteemed Densworth and Ainsley bloodlines, but Gen tucked them into a pocket which would be opened at the latest opportunity. No, there were plenty of other young things to pair together, matrimony at its finest: for love, for money, for status, for an unexpected pregnancy that must be covered up. A knack for matchmaking, she thought she had. First comes love, then comes heartbreak, then comes a baby in a baby carriage, and so was the case with Silas and Genoveave. Gen claimed her daughter would never know sadness, but there is a correction to be made: her daughter would never know poverty. Money can’t buy happiness. There is plenty of sadness (among other things) to be found in the world of the rich.
Gen was an intelligent woman. Poised, determined, and well- educated in both subjects of the mind and the court. This along with her beauty and wealth posed to be inviting indeed for other women who wished to reach her same level of whatever they could not find enough of in themselves, and Gen, starved for love as she was, had plenty to give as long as she received some in return, even if it were false, even if it were for the gain of one and not the other.
Silas had no friends, no contact, nothing more than absolutely necessary for his work. He quarantined himself in a way that he mistook for determination, for dedication. His wife saw through this facade; he buried himself from the world, society, burdens, expectations, family. A man who thought that the only way to perfection is through letting no one see how broken you are, by letting no one see you at all. He avoided.
He had never received love properly during crucial developmental stages, so his excuse is sound in that he does not know how to show love or show anything at all. He had emotion, but froze it as best he could. Frozen, cold, secrets, isolation. That’s what could be found at the manor. That’s the barrier that drove Gen’s emotions spilling out of the expensive, exquisite crystal glass in her steady, perfectly manicured left hand. The glass was cold, as was the water, as was the manor.
As is the heart of anyone who stays here any longer, Gen thought. A vacation is overdue. An escape in disguise, just right for this family. Somewhere burning, warm, open, free. Kissed by sun and kind to the soul.
In a moment of what she would later ponder to be driven by desperation, possession, destiny, momentary insanity, or impulse, Genoveave Ainsley booked herself a flight to a tropical island. She doesn’t remember which one, or what part of the ocean it pimpled up from, but she did know this trip was the opposite of her life thus far: inviting, whimsical, exciting, unpredictable and so very, very cheap.
* * * * *
Lynn would be staying with the most trustworthy, most tame and least morally corrupt of Gen’s social companions: Nelith McKinslow.
Positive qualities: curly hair, bright eyes, unique laugh, good with kids.
Negative qualities: unique laugh, thinks she can talk to birds, ‘plays’ the French horn.
Silas would not be informed of her departure unless absolutely necessary (Gen had the favour of all of the manor’s staff so this would play out well if they did their part). A parasite in her skull near her right ear seeded the idea that he wouldn’t notice, and if he did, he wouldn’t care. She scratched behind her ear and packed another pair of socks. One could never have too many socks, after all.
Not only was Silas not informed, but the whole thing was kept as quiet as was manageable, because the public being informed of the Great Lady of the Houses of Ainsley and Denworth taking an inexpensive, solitary flight to an unmappable island off the coast of nowhere would fuel the flames for more rumor and scandal than spark-happy gasoline. Reporters reminded Gen too much of mosquitos: ever so happy to draw blood from others and spread disease for their own gain, oblivious to the consequences and irritation they so enthusiastically and preparedly provided.
Despite growing up not only in the lap of luxury but defining it, Gen had a handful of street smarts obtained from the few adventure novels in the library as well as some murmured from the brighter maids. In clothing borrowed from one of the grounds hands, a spray to ward off predators that for whatever reason contained a sort of seasoning, and a cream to avoid sunburn, disease and apparently misfortune, Gen was not at all prepared, but it’s the enthusiasm that counts (not really). She was fully ready to unwind both her mind and tightly wound hair coils, and to do things she only thought possible between the pages of a scandalous book. Where Silas craved silence, secrecy and solitude, Gen desired sound, sun and sand.
What could go wrong?
* * * * *
“I have to do what?” Gen exclaimed in her most poised possible voice.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I simply do not have enough rooms. It will just be for these two weeks, yes, until we have an availability. We did not expect so many people to sign up, and we only have so much space in the hotel . . . .” the receptionist’s English vocabulary was clearly high, but their accent was difficult to decode. Their words were sorry but their expression was not.
Gen sighed through her nose, and then looked around. None of the people in the poor excuse for a lobby seemed very unsanitary or ominous, and as long as she kept the pepper spray close, she supposed she would have to accept the curveball and think of it as an adventure. She could be adaptable. She could be adventurous.
“All right, but please make sure it’s with a woman.” Better safe than sorry.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Gen wiped wet palms on her suit. Was it nerves or the heat? Or this darned outfit, so hot and difficult. It was one piece and clearly not washed, so soil and the previous owner’s sweat had absorbed into the itchy, stiff fabric. She’d gotten some odd looks, as the rest of her did not fit with the expected look of a gardener.
Much to her surprise and relief, her travels up to this point had gone suspiciously smoothly. The aeroport was nearly empty when she arrived, her flight was crammed but other than one woman’s strong perfume the plane smelt like sterility, despite the state of the carpet, and all of herself and her belongings were still intact. Of course there would be a hitch, and it was too much to hope for a room all to one’s own. Despite her love of people and attention, Gen appreciated a personal space to change and sleep, thank you very much.
“You’re not from ‘round ‘eya are ya?” an amicable, jolly Australian accent piped up. Gen’s chin went up ninety degrees to meet eyes with a beautiful woman who looked like she knew exactly what she was doing. A true adventurer, woman of the world, wearing hiker’s shorts, a tank top with a wave pattern, Birkenstocks on her feet with hiker’s boots strapped to a rucksack as large as she was, and a wise yet peppy expression.
“Me neithah,” the woman continued. She winked. “Us gals gotta stick together, yeah?”
Gen nodded. The lack of formality was refreshing and left her stunned.
The woman put her lips together and her mouth quirked on one side, showing a deep dimple. “Downrigh’ downin’, eh? This sit’iation wit’ the rooms? They need to sort themselv’s out, yeah. Crikey.”
“Indeed.” Gen offered, throat dry.
The Australian tilted her head. “‘Indeed’?” she parroted, trying the accent on her tongue. “A righ’ propah one you are, sure. Eh, where ya from and what you called?”
Gen stood up, her manners slapping her upside the head. She held out a hand.
“England, and I’m Gen-, pardon, I’m Gen Ains- Gen Ains. Gen Ains, if you please. And you?”
The woman took it, expression bewildered. “Parsley Twingough, mate. You’re a real straight one, aintcha.”
Gen gaped, very unladylike, and more caught off guard than ever in her life. “I-”
Parsley laughed, raw and musical. “Straight-proper, I mean. Course, anythin’s fine wit’me. Been ev’ryweyah, seen ev’rythin, ya meet all sortsa folks, hmm? All breeds ‘n colours, all feelin’s an’ thoughts.” She smiled, and Gen felt her mirror her, for some reason. Was this woman’s happiness contagious, as Silas’ coldness had been? Could this wild Parsley of Down Under be the cure she was looking for?
“Anyways. Thought I should in’erduce myself, since we’ll be sharin’ rooms, hmm? Proper mates, you’n-I.”
“Yes, wait-hmm? We’ll be- ah! That’s lovely! I was worried I would be paired with some unsavory character.”
“Hope I’m savory ‘nuff for you, gal, but I find I’ve got more of a sweet tooth, myself.” Grins were exchanged. Gen felt the tension in her shoulders relax. Since when had that been there? This was glorious. Is this what the roots of a friendship felt like? They were happy and greedy and quick, giving more light than they consumed, sprouting from rich, moist humus. How different. She felt more connected to this stranger than she’d felt to anyone she’d ever conversed with in her whole life. So quick, so easy, so fresh.
“Your accent, it’s beautiful,” Gen noted. “I detect some Australian, but where are you from?”
“Born Down Under, raised ev’ry where else. Dad’s from England, Mum’s dead, an’ I’m a child ‘a the world, me.”
“Wow.” Gen’s eyes were wide, the mind behind them working out a reality in which she was free of responsibility and expectation, free to travel and live and laugh and love.
But I love Silas.
Gen dug her nails into her sweaty fists.
“Let’s chat mor’ in the room, yeah? I’ve gotta key. I wanna know mor’about you, miss prim. If’ya like, we’n explore this ‘ere island later, yeah? If’ya like?”
“I’d love that.”
Gen smiled truly for a third time, a new record.
* * * * *
“So you’rea mother, ‘eh? Betcher a good one, gal.”
“I try, but I worry the environment isn’t right. I don’t want Lynn to grow up in the same way I did, you understand? It was so suffocating. I felt free with Silas, but he shut himself out, shut me out, and now Lynn has a decaying father and I feel like my spirit is decaying, if that makes any sense. I don’t think . . . I don’t think I can be a good mother for her, like that, and I want Silas to take responsibility too, but . . .”
“Butcher afraid,” Parsley finished for her, looking her in the eyes, determined and sisterly. “Yer afraid he’s gonna be mad atya, ‘cause he’s embarrassed that it’s the truth, yeah? You think he’ll leaveya for real. ‘An you luv’im, so ya don’ wanna let that happen.”
Gen sighed, the weight lifting further. She curled her toes into the sand. It was cooler now, without the sun to scorch it. The sky bled with the hues of a thousand paintbrushes, following the lethargic remain of sun which blew a loose triangle of soft light over the settling waves.
“I ain’ never been married, never been settled, never had critters of my own. So I speak from experience from other things, yeah? Hmm, so! Since ya don’ seem the type to grab’im by the ear and shout some sense into’um, which is what I would do-” she bumped Gen’s shoulder and grinned, and Gen giggled. “I’d say you should giv’im yer own sorta wake-up call, albeit louder than what’cher prolly comf’table with. Don’ go gentle an’ ladylike, men don’ take them sortsa cues. Be clear, strong, an’ thinka ya Lynnie-lass. She needs’er daddy, Lord knows it. An’ if it don’ work, than ya gotta be two people for her. Be the parents, mate. A girl needs her parents.” Parsley looked out at the sea, auburn hair spilling in gentle waves over her freckled shoulders. “Giv’ yer baby girl a good strong mommy, an’ a good daddy, an’ a place to call home, yeah?” Her voice grew softer with each word, until her husky tone broke with the ‘yeah’.
Genoveave Ainsley is not one for physical touch. She touches only her daughter, because she fears to touch her husband and is uncomfortable with anyone else. She wasn’t cuddled as a child, wasn’t kissed or held or pat, and didn’t understand how much she had wanted it until she saw it in her own daughter. Where moments before she had been a younger sister to this wise woman of the world, recieving words of advice on how to piece her life back together, she was now a Mother, pulling Parsley’s head of silky hair onto her shoulder and wrapping an arm around her, resting her head on top. Genoveave held this woman, who she had met that same day, played on the beach with, was wearing the summer dress of. They had danced in the sun, swam in the ocean, unpacked Gen’s many socks, taught each other new things, and had eaten banana fried in butter and brown sugar. Two strong women with their own problems sat on a beach, watching the sunset, and found solace in one another’s presence, and once the sun was drowned by the rolling sea, they picked each other up, mumbling and giggling and friends and sisters, and walked back to their hotel room, sand between their toes and a fresh lightness to their gaits.
* * * * *
Two weeks later:
With a goodbye brimmed with such sincere sadness you would think they would never see one another again, Genoveave and Parsley parted ways at the aeroport, Genoveave to England, Parsley to her next adventure.
Genoveave was inspired with thoughts of travel and change, the advice of a friend compelling her to do what she thought she’d never have the strength to.
Parsley would continue her exploration, but a new urge to find someone to share the world with grew in her heart, something which she never thought she would feel.
Gen arrived home to a husband worried sick, white hair in disarray and eyes with more emotion than they’d held in years, and after he held her like something precious they had a long talk until they both saw eye-to-eye. For the better of their relationship, for the better of themselves, and for the better of their daughter.
Parsley, who had been alone with the world for so long realized that that might not satisfy her anymore, and went in search of the right person to not settle down with, but to join her on her journeys and to be a prospective parent with.
* * * * *
Genoveave Ainsley left her cold manor in search of salvation, a cure to her ache and a reason to find herself again. She arrived at the island with high hopes, a room she had to share, and skin pale as porcelain, and left with newfound strength, a healthy tan, a smile in her pocket, a penpal and lifelong friend, and enough sand in her socks to last a lifetime.