The dance ended and I caught between one too many choices and utterly lost on what to do, got away from Joseph and the ball. Joseph's mother, who should have been Mr. Howard's wife was alive until days ago and he was never to know her, or to bury her like children should have the right to do. As for Mr. Howard he had destroyed Lydia all the way into anonymity and then lived on making some story of how she was dead and he was a poor widower. Exactly like he had done to Lydia he could very well be looking for the next love blind woman to do the same, it had to be the very reason why he preyed on the weak. Why he scoffed at marriage with promises of a kind of love that did not suit any respectable woman to accept against one own's conscience.
Up in the night sky sparkled the North Star which I once claimed to be alike, certain and sure of its position, no longer I was it but through the blur of my tears the star was now unclear.
"Alice we need to talk," Mr. Howard had followed me to a room covered in leftover flowers from the ball upstairs.
"No do not come near me!" I wiped my tears.
"What is this? There are tears on your face," he could make it out from the light coming in from the window.
"Of course there are how could I look at Joseph, when you sir, you... This is what you do sir."
"What did Joseph say?"
"Nothing, he is only the unknowing victim of your depravity."
"I know you now sir and I despise you, if there was ever any thought of mine which cultivated affections for you it is gone."
The crying tired me and I needed peace from Mr. Howard, from Joseph, from everything which called me to make a decision.
"Gone?" He finally became angry and I knew it in the way he held me as if he could kill me for the words I said.
"Yes," I answered wanting to faint in his arms.
"Are your affections for me so easily changed? What type of girl are you Alice? What are you really made of?"
"Do not what? Tell you the truth?"
"The only truth is you sir have damaged me more than anything else ever did."
"Why are you words so harsh? What have I done to deserve this treatment from you? You whom I thought were the pinnacle of goodness."
"Do not speak to me as an innocent for you are not! I know you and how you twist things but you will not change my mind with your words ever again," I stopped trying to scream.
"Then you are but a silly and inconstant child who will jump ship as soon as the tides change!" He screamed at me and I slapped his face for trying to turn it around on me.
"I..." I could not believe where the fight had led me to and he stood like a stone with his face turned.
The loud arguments died down and he talked looking into my eyes, "one proposal in a letter was all it took for you to quit me."
"How do you know about the letter?"
"He told me he wrote you the letter after you had received it, of course I fought him on it insisting he could not propose to you against my wishes but he did not back down from it, saying I should not avoid his happiness a second time."
"And will you?"
"Of course I will, Joseph cannot understand what is at stake if he were to marry you but we do!"
"At stake? Like my mother?"
"So you do not deny it, you are interested in her?"
"Is this jealousy I hear?"
"No you must answer me! How can you marry him? How can you marry any other when here we stand? What of us?"
"There is no us sir."
"Oh really?" He gave it one big mad laugh and then like a rumbling of a train departing he exploded.
"Then nothing ever happened! No secrets, memories or history passed between us! Nothing Alice!? You simply extinguished it!"
"This is the way of secrets Mr. Howard, they turn out to be very unreal and so I must insist, there was never an us."
"If that is what you wish then whatever actions I may take you will know it is my revenge, as you have denied me I shall deny you and I shall measure no consequences to forget you the same way you did away with your feelings. Good night m'lady," he said outraged with my negation of the facts.
Mr. Howard left me in such a hurry back to the ballroom I had to follow closely behind to watch what he would do, when I saw he was going right back to my mother I reached Joseph first who was in the company of Cynthia and Martha.
"Alice are you alright?" Joseph asked.
"Joseph I accept," I said in a impulse to stop Mr. Howard from making his intentions clear to my mother tonight.
"You were right to hope now please announce our engagement to your father so you may ask my mother please," I hurried him.
"Of course I will tell him tonight."
"No please do it now before it is too late," I knew he would do as it pleased me.
"As you wish," he went over to Mr. Howard and I stayed with Cynthia, Martha, Arthur and Henry while Joseph did what I asked of him.
"What is Joseph doing?" Cynthia questioned.
"Let's find out," Martha said and we three walked closer to hear what was happening.
"Excuse me father but there has been an emergency and I am afraid we will have to go," Joseph said to his father.
"Whatever it is I am sure it can wait until I have danced with Theresa." Mr. Howard looked clearly annoyed from the interruption and Joseph read my mind, he wanted to stop them too before it was too late.
"I am afraid not but we should discuss it at home," Joseph insisted.
"Is everything all right?" Mother asked Joseph concerned.
"I believe everything will be fine in time I am sorry Mrs. Stewart for taking my father away but it is urgent."
"Theresa I am sorry for my son's behavior but he would not say such a thing unless it was true." Mr. Howard looked at Joseph to see if he would flinch but he did not. "May I call on you this week?" Mr. Howard did not give up trying to engage my mother.
"Yes please do, I hope things turn out for the best," mother finally said her goodbye to Mr. Howard.
Joseph rushed him out of there to tell him the news before Mr. Howard did what I feared the most, proposed to my mother. Leaving Mr. Howard looked back at me almost knowing whatever he was about to hear had to do with me. I had come to interfere with his plans, I was the pebble in his shoe, I would be the one to ruin whatever wishes he had of continuing any obscure relationship with my mother or with me yet no part of myself was at peace with it.
Copyright: All Rights Reserved to A. Sena Gomes.
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The Greatest JourneyHistorical Fiction
Miss Alice Stewart is a poor girl, recently fatherless with a mother and two younger siblings to take care when she finds a job in service as a maid with her aunt Mrs. Green. Soon the family she works for loses money and lets go of her, in need of w...