Chapter XXXIII

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"Mr

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"Mr. Howard please."

"Do you insist on it?"

"Yes."

"Then what else can a man do?" Mr. Howard placed his lips on my face lingering a kiss upon my cheek, I did not move scared he would kiss me again but he did not.

"Thank you sir," I meant to thank him for not kissing me again.

"Someday I'll understand why you're thankful but not today," he went away and I walked home alone thinking how could the man who broke my heart still move me to this passion?

I had deluded myself into thinking the time spent away cleansed me of Mr. Howard but it was obvious every time we met he conquered more of my affections even through the unlikeliest of methods of winning a lady's heart. Yet if he was set then why did I fancy Mr. Howard? The exact type of man I was taught to stay as far as possible from.

An invitation for the Winter Ball soon arrived to my hands and mother looked forward to it while I begun to miss the countryside when it was only Martha, Cynthia and our families enjoying each other's company. Mostly I attached myself to singing, playing the piano forte and reading the book which I no longer was afraid of touching for the thing to fear was its previous owner. Mr. Howard was a man of no good intentions for unlike Joseph who offered me marriage several times, he had never approached the subject except to laugh at me. In fact Mr. Howard had started a game where we were the two main players and he wanted to see who could overpower the other, who would fold first. The good part was I did not chance upon Joseph or Mr. Howard at any function for weeks and I begun to think Mr. Howard really had given up on tormenting me so on an uneventful morning mother and I arrived at the shop to order our ball gowns.

"Hi I am Mrs. Stewart, and this is my daughter Lady Alice, we are here for two dresses for the Winter Ball. I heard you are rather good at designs," mother took out two pieces of paper where she had drawn us ball gowns.

"Of course milady," the shop girl took our drawings, mother liked to buy in different places so that every shop owner would get a chance to earn some money.

"Look at this one mother," I pointed to a light purple day dress.

"It is pretty will you take it?"

"I have enough dresses back home."

"Yes we do," she grabbed my hand satisfied with the answer I had given her though she would not say anything against if I had decided to buy it. "I have many memories here you know?"

"Here in this store?"

"Yes I worked here when I was younger except it was not exactly a store, just the place my aunt would fit some ladies for shoes, hats and so forth. She would go to Paris every summer pick up some things she could sell here for the ladies in town and I'd help her sew her dresses to feed me and the rest of her children."

"By then your parents were gone?"

"Yes a long time, my mother was small they said and died during my birth, and well my father was some boy who impregnated her and never looked back."

"You never talked about your father before."

"There is nothing to say about it, he did what any man would do to get a girl pregnant then ran off."

"I am sorry mother."

"Do not be sorry, maybe it was for the best that I never knew him, maybe he would not have been kind unto me. Some things Alice we shall never know what a good deed it was that they happened to us to save us from something far worse than we could predict."

"Maybe like Joseph's mother?" I remembered his agony for news of his mother.

"Like Joseph?"

"Yes he does not know much about his mother."

"The late Mrs. Howard you mean?"

"Yes."

"Well it can be painful to talk about your loved ones when they are gone, I would not judge the mad Earl as I heard Mrs. Trudor refer to him so harshly."

"Of course not," I shook my head but she did not know him as I did, "and what of aunt Isla? She is older than you does she remember my grandparents?"

"She was far too young to remember anything," she said of my oldest aunt Mrs. Isla Green.

"What of Aunt Ophelia? Did she have any pictures?"

"No though Aunt Ophelia did help my mother give birth and then took me and Isla in to her house as her daughters, how fortunate we were to have an aunt as to not end up in the street forced to work in jobs no woman should ever have to do out of necessity." She said of her mother's sister whom we knew as Aunt Ophelia, mother had lost her a few years after marrying my father.

"Aunt Ophelia was a good woman then."

"Yes, did not your aunt talk about her while you worked over there?"

"Not really, Aunt Isla never touched any family subjects."

"That's Isla Green if there ever was one," mother's words were right, my aunt was a tomb, she never revealed anything at all, it seemed since birth I was surrounded by people who never talked.

"Mama is this where you met father then?"

"Yes," she looked around, "never dreamed I would be one of the ladies walking in here to buy one of their gowns."

"Do you ever find it uncomfortable being this rich when the slums are so close?"

"Yes always, so sometimes I still have tea with the women from the factory behind Mrs. Miller's back."

"You do?"

"Yes I am afraid my old customs are very hard to die at such an advanced age."

"If it is good for you Mrs. Miller does not have to know."

"Good for it does me great good but I will do everything in my power so you and your siblings are at good standing in society."

"I never doubted it... mama can I ask you an odd question?"

"Of course."

"Did you like it? Working here I mean?"

"Yes very much, it was easier than factory work but then I was inexplicably let go. Of course it also happened once your grandparents found out about my engagement to your father," she almost cried looking at her wedding ring on her hand where it never left.

"Do you miss father?" I wanted to understand her grief.

"Only every day... But it has gotten better."

"When did it get better?"

"My, my Alice what is with all the questions? Since when are you so... so..." she stopped our conversation and I could not get something concrete out of her.

"Inquisitive?"

"Yes."

"Forgive me."

"I do but remember a lady must be seen not heard," she mocked Mrs. Miller's teachings and we were fitted for our dresses though we could have called the seamstress to our house mother enjoyed getting out for walks as we already did not work and sat in one attitude for too long as the day went by.


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Copyright: All Rights Reserved to A. Sena Gomes.

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