It was a cold austere November evening when Lady Rosaline Roberts decided she was better off without happy endings. The clock advertently chimed six overhead her just at that moment the resolution positioned, and her fate was sealed, or so it seemed. Still, a little fire stoked relentlessly in the core of her indifference, apparent by the glare her eyes would emit and the sharp breath she would draw when someone, jokingly smears her with the endowment “sixth thorn.” It was a name she never would consider getting accustomed to, but it seemed pig-headed at stripping her of the remainder of her most indulged assets – her pride, as well as pilfering her person by degree.
Despite her acclaimed preposition to the end of this and that of life, she would rather proclaim herself a glorified polemist than fall victim to the mismatched appellations of men of the ton. They, to the best of her knowledge could not be given the barest regard to matters concerning the mindset of a Lady such as herself.
They could as well leave her be, most especially species of her physical endearment (just to speak nicely). They were all a flock of self-righteous enthusiasts with their shallow fashionable parasols and laughable Basques to match, whispering and giggling at nothing mirthful-worthy. She hated the torture mother subjected her to in their unappealing presence. It would fluster her to weakening anger so that she would wish for nothing more than to be sucked into some realistic world right there, which she found depressingly far-fetched amidst their foul air of fantasy.
Life was rather odd in most context, but she would not by a fair obligatory stroke reckon hers so. That signature was reserved for the suffusing table of Lord Merriweather’s endless balls, and that only. She refused to get acquainted with that school of thought, even after papa died, leaving them irrecoverably broke with enough debts to spend a lifetime paying off. A bulk part of her hated him for the despondent parent he turned out to be but then, there was a fragment that pitied him. For as long as her memory could recover, papa had been a weak, peace-loving man, goaded into the stink of societal prejudice. That he had died peacefully was particularly something worthy of gratitude for her.
Mr. Wright Shepherds, father’s lawyer had long left them to their fate. Epically, it was the very day a gentleman or rather brute, to which papa owed a huge sum, almost beat up her brother to stupor she decided happy endings were for romance literature and unbelievable motion pictures. She would bicker all she could, rally enough calloused flesh as she could afford to get her family out of the situation and that was only because of her cross-natured streak. However, her head would not wish to be happy, and specifically not her heart. Mama had been horrified at her position during an argument earlier and the wind had carried her shouts to Rosaline as she scurried out of their estate to get away from the ruffle.
Turning at a path she had heard tale was prominent to way-layers, she took her chances anyway. The least that could happen was the way-layer breaking a leg after realising she was only a penniless, lost, untitled lady. It was in the midst of this reverie she heard a sound behind her.
Aha, the time has come, she thought.
Her steps did not falter as she walked on, unabashed. Then a shout rent the air, forcing her locomotion to a halt and then consequently, her body mutinied, turning sharply at the intruder, her cheeks already blushed crimson from nothing the sun was radiating.
“Give me your purse now if you don’ wan’ to land on your bottom!”
Lady Georgina’s whiskers!
The thief was but a wee, lanky lad in scrubby clothes and his hands, pensively holding up a wooden sword were inconceivably smelting thanks to the heat wave. Or could it be from apprehension? By the throne, it seemed like he would wet his trousers any moment by the way his face constricted inward and one hand clung to his stomach, his hand squeezing them tightly. She took a step forward and he benched backward, barely standing on both feet.
The peculiarity of the moment would not have found her in more amusing territories. Why! With this bun breathing down her face and hooting in toothless amateurism, what was the accorded adventure for defying propriety and sauntering out for a daring walk down a lonely path?
Determined to don the feeling of having things under control, she launched at him, startling the little boy as a frightful sound escaped his lips and his bottom hit the floor forcefully. So much for the bravery, lad.
“What did you do dat for?” There was fire in his eyes now, the same one she felt her eyes blazing anytime someone tried to par with her on a lady’s propriety. Offering a hand, she gave a cheeky smile while already imagining herself in the presence of her mischievous brother.
“You’re only a lad. What are you doing playing around with a toy and trying to get yourself killed?”
He paused and looked at her objectively, then slapped her hands away before standing on his own. Smiling again, she gave him that hollowing look that would get Lloyd squirming anytime. Amusingly, the boy barely winced before turning his head away like her very sight bored him to death.
You did not just…
“You are not goin’ to have me locked up right? Good. On my way then.”
Her hands blocked his path as he tried to advance and another look from him sent her giggling inwardly. She would very much get along with this lad. He was a pleasurable breath from the gnawing boredom of poring over the family account in attempt to discover a remediation for their plight after she returned home every noon from her job as governess to Lord Anton’s son and heir. The kind widower had taken pity on her and offered her a job despite her lack of experience and bleak reference.
“Tell you what, I’ll keep you. Tell me, how would you like living with me?”
Had she gone bonkers? She barely knew the lad. He was going to steal from her just now for the love of decorum!
“How do I knew you don’ want to sell me off to the first bidd’r?”
“Know.” She automatically corrected from impulse and inwardly mocked herself at the way his face creased, and his head hoisted slightly at her. Coughing and swallowing, she resumed, going on one knee before him. “It’s very smart of you to know of such flitting things as the nations affair little one. I only want to be of some assistance. Forget my last statement and tell me at once, do you have a family?”
His shake of the head rumpled her forehead for a bit and her lips tightened thoughtfully as she quickly retracted a swear. Could his parent have met the war too? Like her father?
“Father says I’ve got to fend for myself and sister if he does not return from the war and he did not, so, it’s only me n’ Lucy.”
“Lucy err? Hmmm… We would see what to make out of this situation then. What’s your name?”
He looked less untrusting than when he first accosted her as he responded, “Patrik. I'm ten. Lucy's four. The little friends I have call me Pat.”
Mozart’s chamber piece, Eine kleine Nachtmusik permeated from the music box as Lord Anton Kendrick IV rubbed his chin thoughtfully, smiling devotedly at his five-year-old globing over his toy ships collection on the cotton rugged floor. A grumbling sound filtered the air and he threw his head backwards to roar out in laughter. By his world, Lucas was hungry again, after consuming a plate full of crisps with a large mug of warm fresh milk barely an hour ago.
“Father, can I have a pie please?” His eyes beamed brightly, his hands clasped tightly together before his face and his lips stuck out in a manner that Anton considered heartily amusing. However, he could never bring himself to laugh. The last thing he wanted was Lucas feeling mocked by his own father. The little one was already too sensitive for his age.
“Of course, you can son. I’ll ring for your nanny at once to have a plate brought up.”
“Thank you, father. Say, will Rosaline be coming in today father?”
A growl escaped his lips automatically at the sound of that name before he could think to retract it and he winced as Lucas took a step backward, alarmed.
“I’m sorry Lucas. Father only made that sound on impulse; it was never directed at you.” He reached a hand and heaved a sigh when Lucas advanced towards him. Then his little boy as his nature was squeezed himself between his father’s thigh, with a hand, shoved his fringes out of his face before bringing it to meet the other around Alton’s neck, his eyes articulating understanding not bespoken of a little boy.
“Does you heart still hurt father?”
“My world, where did you get such ideas from Lucas?”
“Rosaline says the window of the eyes is a man’s heart.”
“Well my boy, Rosaline was right if I should give her a tiny bit of consideration. And it’s rightly said as the window of the heart is a man’s eyes Lucas.”
The blond lass was squarely biting more than she could chew. Why, with putting such ideas in a six-year old’s head who barely knew his way around the world. What had she been thinking? How dare she invade their world and try to bring them into her ramshackle kind! He had heard more than was begrudgingly uncharacteristic about her societal preferences. She was riotous, rude, pompous, yet, God save him, alluringly beautiful. Her unbecoming tongue was a sharp contrast to her springy beauty. It gave him too much to sit up at night over. Now what was he thinking?
“Does your heart really hurt that much father?” He irked an eyebrow, his forehead creasing in confusion.
“I beg your pardon?”
“That sound, father. It just escaped your lips again.”
Great, she was making him less of a father and more of a specimen before his son’s eyes now.
“It’s nothing you should dilly dally over son. Father is perfect.”
“Great father. Can you ring for nanny now? I’m about to make one of those sounds any minute now. I’m famished!”
Again, tipping his head backward, he let his dark wave dance loosely as another bolt of laughter escaped his lips.
“Are you mad? We can barely feed and yet you appear with two lanky ones with mouth the size of the ivory tower itself. How you lost it completely Rosaline?”
That was the exact response that descended on her a month ago after she appeared in front of her doorstep with Patrick and Lucy. Consequently, she had put in a ramming hour to inflect her opinionated mother into acceptance.
“Be gone with them Rosaline. Please, if only for some time to afford me licence to catch my breath. I cannot bear their thrills anymore. They are almost like a pest around here. Lord Anton will not possibly turn you away because you appear with two little fellows. I know the man has the heart the size of an ocean just like your father, only he has enough sense in his head to provide food for his family. I reckon it would be a pleasurable companionship for his little lad.” Thus, her mother had tied her hands right there, shoved the children into them and shooed her out of the house. Sometimes, she looted her mother so much she wanted to pull her hair out. But all in good time. She would be off like heels on fire right after she sorts out the family’s expenses. A bereft feeling dropped in the pit of her stomach as she realised that pleasure would be afforded her only after she was old and bended like her Great Aunt Agnes.
“Come along children, we haven’t got time for loitering. Speed is of the essential. Now quick with you.”
Scooping a chunk of her undergarment at the hem to expedite her pace, she shoved her parasol between her left armpit and took their hands as she hasted towards the Kendrick’s massive estate already coming into sight. Time was of the essence. She could not afford Lord Anton the pleasure of breaking her contract, for his countenance towards her the past few days has been a brooding concern to her. For some reason, he would snap at her unnecessarily and find fault in every breath she took.
“I’m hungwee.” Lucy stuck out her lips and Rosaline sent a look that sat propriety into the little girl.
“Hush my dear. Any moment now, we will be sorting out your gutfoundered state. Just a minute longer, so hush my dear.”
“What’s gutfound…” Patrick, always the inquisitive one asked beside her just as they entered the lands after emerging from the woods.
“Let’s just say it tells what state Lucy is in now.”
They finally got to the doorstep and as soon as the butler Mr. Paul Nitschke opened to her, she heaved a sigh she did not realise she held as the door shut behind her. She ignored the middle-aged man’s confused look and made quite an affair of hurrying the children towards the west wing of the house where Mr Anton had suddenly ordered the lessons be undertaken a week ago. Prior to this, one of the spaces in the east wing containing Lucas’s nursery as well as most of the rooms, his and Lucas’s included, had been their tutelage location. One more apparent reason he wanted nothing to do with her. Perhaps he was now regretting reaching out a helping hand. Perhaps he…
“By my world! What’s the scuffle all about?” Her pace died and she was sure her heart stopped in concession as the familiar scowl rent the quietness.
“Have you lost leave of your senses? Where do you think you are taking…”
“Uncle Antom… Look Patwick, isn’t that uncle Antom.”
A dead, recoiling silence cut through the air as all party gaped at Lucy in dread. Then Lord Anton hollered in anger, causing her to jerk backward in shock from the intensity.
“What is this?! You bring miscreant into my house now to blackmail me?” Rosaline had never been more embarrassed in her life. However, given the circumstance, she could only swallow her pride and blink back the angry tears already padding up around the bridge of her eyes.
“Look Patwick, it’s uncle Antom. Father had his picture in his locket Patwick and one time I… I… he calls the man in the picture his brother many times when he thought I was sleeping.”
“Shh Lucy, you’re going to get us in trouble if you don’t keep quiet.”
However, the little girl was resolute by the repeated shake of her head at proving her point which gave Rosaline reason enough to start worrying. Lucy was never one to speak carelessly despite her age. Rosaline had seen her wisdom in action more than ones. She was indeed careened in a mess by these two. One was a baby whizz and the other a curious lass to a fault.
“It cannot be. You two. You are not by chance Philip’s children, are you?” Lord Anton’s voice surprised her to her core. What was he on about now?
“Yes, father’s name was Philip. Do you know my father?” Despite the peculiarity of the moment, she smiled at the glint of interest she caught in his voice. This lad was well on his way to becoming a detective in the future. She could never have guessed the Lord’s response.
“He was my brother. Christ! Your eyes, you have his eyes and your little sister is his spitting image as a boy.”
“But how is this possible? How can you be their uncle?” Rosaline finally found her tongue unclasping.
“Our father was angry with Philip and disowned him. For years, I never heard from him, until last year when I learnt he died in the war. I did not know he had children. I would have sort them out but you… you brought them here, to me. Fate brought them back to me. Tell me at once, how did you happen upon them?”
Then for a whole hour, she recounted how she met the children and brought them under her umbrella.
In the weeks that followed the coincidental encounter, Lord Anton rewarded her and her family handsomely despite her stanch refusal and went as far as taking it upon himself to pay off her family’s debt. Mother on the other hand was most obliging and rather appalling by the way she clung greedily to him, much to her chagrin.
Anton, as he told her to call him a week before, did not seem to mind. His countenance toward her had become much devoted and she began to imagine he cared a lot for her. At this rate, she could not trust her heart not to stray. It had started to roam territories ancient to her. Though, in its wake came a beautiful feeling like butterflies crooned heralds in her stomach. However, that did not matter, she would soon become acquainted to that new emotional pedigree with time. All in good time. It was always like that for her.
Now, she only wanted to bask in this new realisation. Happy endings might not be so bad after all.