Chapter XLI

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"Lady Alice?" The boy asked

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"Lady Alice?" The boy asked.

"Yes it is me," I confirmed and the boy gave me a letter.

"Thank you," I proceeded up the stairs after giving him some coins.

"Thank ya miss but the sir said you ought to open it now," the boy stopped me once again.

"Who is this sir boy?"

"I dunno know miss."

"Is the sir called Lord or Earl Bridgeston? Or even Mr. Howard? Where is he? Do you know?" I went into hysterics knowing he was the only man capable of such a stunt.

"Miss read the letter before you go in your house please," the boy ran away frightened from my hand so I read the letter.

Alice,

Get inside.

The boy had been swallowed up by the dark clouds approaching the heavens and then a carriage stopped in front of my house and when the man opened the door waiting for me to go inside there was no one sitting in it. Hesitantly my feet left the safety of my home and climbed in the carriage and my hand sweat from thinking of what would happen next, this was probably the worst decision, who should follow through with such a demanding letter?

In the maze of the London streets and crowds the carriage stopped in front of the church where I previously met with Mr. Howard, though I tried to trick myself to think maybe it was Joseph who wished to talk.

"Just a minute Lady Alice," the coach told me.

"Is it Lord Bridgeston?" I asked to make sure.

"Yes milady," the man responded and left me inside the carriage to go call Mr. Howard which meant I had a minute to escape the carriage or whatever talk we were about to have since Joseph said they were in an uproar.

Then I saw him climbing down the steps of the church, the fog revealed his unmistakable face portrait and he looked around to see if anyone was seeing him and talked to the coach which left me restless to not hear why the coach was nodding. Mr. Howard walked into the coach and tapped the top of the ceiling so the coach would go on and I waited for him to say something but when he stared with a sigh I talked first.

"Mr. Howard this is not right."

"What is not right? Our meeting? Our kiss? Or your sudden engagement to my son?!" He raised his voice immediately taking off his hat and gloves I noticed his face looked dull like a piece of paper as when I worked for him at Stanley Hall.

"Sir you look... weary," too worried I took off one of my gloves to touch his forehead forgetting civilities and he closed his eyes bringing his nerves down. "Well it is not a fever but did you learn nothing the last time you did not care of your health?" I was put off by his disregard for if anything similar to the day where I poured flower water on him took place I would die of guilt and sadness.

"I should be better soon then for it is you who afflict me Alice, day and night," he held my ungloved hand and opened his depressed eyes slowly to see my face.

"Then forget me Mr. Howard," it was not said as a demand but an advice he should heed to, wanting nothing more than to do anything in order to make him better.

"Teach me how and I will obey you," he nuzzled his nose against mine his words were the fire to my candle heart and to which melted at the touch.

"Why am I in this carriage sir?"

"Because I leave for the country tomorrow."

"Why? What's happened?"

"Alice I must go before I can no longer contain the truth that will ruin you, I swore to make you pay for leaving me but this burden is too much to bear, I cannot fight you, you have chosen your way."

"Does this mean you have given Joseph your blessing?"

"No for it is the only thing keeping him from marrying you by dinner time but I give you mine if you choose to marry him."

"Me?"

"I will never participate in your lives no matter how much I love my son but I will be happy for both of your happiness." The stubble from his face rubbed against my soft cheeks and I closed my eyes to feel every movement he made, "bid me goodbye with your lips now before I leave you."

"If I did would it not be something to use against me? To tell Joseph?" He smelled the fragrance on my neck and I was gone like a ship on the horizon of the sea.

"There is nothing to tell or to lose anymore, I told you I would not force you and I intend to keep my word so Alice please, I will have to live forever without you or any human comfort, should this not be the last thing you grant me? Say yes, one last time."

In this honest prayer none of the wicked things I had heard about him held me back I brought his face down to touch my hasty lips. Mr. Howard increased in vigor and we were the worst of sinners for miles in our long goodbye. Kissing him, touching him and accepting it back in doubled intensity was the reward every person on Earth deserved for it felt like a love I had never known and probably never would again.

"Did you ever love me?" I asked wanting to hear this was not all about lust to somehow make it right instead of asking questions of Joseph's mother, Lydia. Since Mr. Howard was to quit his schemes when it came to me and my mother it was best to let everything die right there and ask only of the essential.

"Love?" He let my body slip away changing in mood, "I do not believe you and I will ever know the meaning of the word."

Yes he was right for what could he know of love when he treated me thus? Or what could I after all I had done to my mother's future happiness? Love was too precious for any of us two selfish wretches to lay a hold of it.

"I wish you luck in the London season m'lady," without looking at my face he signaled we were back at the door of my house, the horses stopped and I briskly got out in anger for he dropped me off like an object he was tired of playing. And to top it off with wishes of luck? He always knew exactly where to hit me, exactly where it would hurt and just like that Mr. Howard got what he came for like always. Leaving in his way my disenchanted dreams against the reality of us except this time it was the end.

The rain soon came down as I watched his carriage drive away and I ran up where I locked myself in my bed and muffled my heart wrenching cry for no one to hear. I was not be pitied I deserved the pain of letting my morals and the rules aside because of a consuming passion for the crooked Mr. Howard. I deserved every tear, every punishment that came with the broken heart, to live day after day as he once made me read out loud with the full knowledge I had loved and lost, lost him, lost my heart, lost the game we had played so disgracefully.















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Copyright: All Rights Reserved to A. Sena Gomes.

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