“I’m finished!” Maggie exclaimed, placing the comb on the dresser and stepping aside to observe her work. “I must say that considering the texture of your hair, I did a great job!” Although Maggie seemed to be patting herself on the back, she had a frustrated frown on her face.
Annabelle grinned, before turning her attention back to the mirror before her. Maggie was right; she did a great job considering Annabelle's highly untamable hair. It was a typical morning in the Finley estate; Annabelle would get dressed, Maggie would help with her hair and end up complaining about the texture, and breakfast would be served. Usually, Annabelle would join Elijah on the breakfast table and they would chat about unimportant things. With Elijah's absence however, Annabelle had resorted to eating breakfast in her bed chamber.
“Will you be joining Lord Finley for breakfast?” Maggie finally said after a long pause.
Annabelle paused. Would she? She hadn't been in the dining area since Elijah died, and she didn't know if she could sit through breakfast with his son, who most likely hated her for stealing his inheritance.
“I think it best that I do not go.”
Maggie groaned, loudly. “Why not?”
“Lord Finley most likely does not want to see me, and have you seen the woman he came with?” Annabelle sighed. “She hates me!”
“I did, and the last time I saw her, she was on her way out of the estate with her luggage.”
“What?!” She tore her eyes off of her reflection in the mirror and turned fully to face Maggie, with her eyes bulging. “Lord Finley has left England?”
Maggie shook her head, looking disappointed. “It is unfortunate, but no. Lord Finley has remained but, the white Witch seems to have disappeared.”
“Did Lord Finley give a reason for her departure?”
Maggie shrugged. “I really do not care. Now,” She took hold of Annabelle's hand and pulled her to her feet. “You should go to the breakfast table.” Annabelle tried resisting, but Maggie was already pushing her out of the bedroom door.
Annabelle's anxiety continued to rise as she made her way into the dining room. She fully expected Henry to be absent, and was surprised to find him seated when she entered. His eyes shifted briefly to her, before he turned his gaze back to whatever it was he was observing on the table.
Standing still and maintaining her position by the entry, she all of a sudden remembered the night before. She remembered waking up from a nightmare and seeing Henry standing by her bedside. She had been surprised to see him, but had been fully aware that her loud cries in the middle of the night must have woken him up.
“Good morning, Lord Finley.” She breathed, gingerly placing herself on a seat to Henry's right hand side. Henry ignored her. “I would like to begin by saying how sorry I am for...”
“...my father's decision?” Henry spat, turning eyes of steel her way. “You need not apologize, Annabelle. Now that my father is dead, you are —by his will— his heiress. I fully understand his decision and I have accepted it.” He finished, turning his attention back to the table.
“I am as surprised as you are, about Lord Elijah Finley's will. I neither desired it, nor requested it.” When Henry didn't respond, Annabelle continued. “I have been informed of the exit of your lady friend, and I would like for you to know that it is not my desire that you leave your father's home.”
“Then, you would keep me here?”
“You would keep me here as what, Annabelle, your servant?” His sarcasm wasn't lost on her.
She ran her tongue over her bottom lip. “It is but a request, Lord Henry. I do not wish for your exit either. Yet, it is to be done at your discretion.”
She turned from him then, thankful for the timely intervention of the servants who began entering the dining room with the food. She watched as breakfast was spread on the table before them, and the servants exited the room. She poured herself a cup of tea and took a long sip of it, longing to drown her anxiety with it.
“Do you have nightmares every night, Annabelle?”
She turned to find Henry observing her. “I was told by my lord that I have kept him awake for many nights with my nightmares. I apologize for doing the same to you, Lord Henry.”
A small frown settled on Henry's face, but he didn't speak. Instead, he gave a small nod and turned his attention to the meal before him.
“Perhaps I could take you to Lord Finley's grave? My Lord was buried here in the estate, a short distance from the house.”
“I must decline your offer. I have more pressing issues to attend to here in London, before my voyage to Paris.”
“What could be more pressing than paying your last respect to your father?” His response surprised her, for nothing seemed of more relevance to her than a son paying his last respect to his father.
Henry's face broke into a smile. “More pressing than paying any respect to a man whose death means...”
A sharp gasp escaped her lips, as she sprang to her feet. Knowing full well that he meant to insult the memory of his father, she slammed her fist on the table. The impact of her fist making contact with the table nearly caused the entire tea pot to empty its content on Henry. She felt her body tremble with rage as she glared at Henry. In that moment, Annabelle thought Elijah made the right decision by not giving his fortune to Henry. Henry did not deserve it! A son who hated his father but longed only for his fortune, did not deserve that fortune! Perhaps Elijah had always known that Henry deserved nothing?
It was then, as Annabelle stared at Henry, that she realized that she didn't need to wait a few more weeks to find a reason for Elijah's willing everything to her, for in less than thirty minutes, she already found the reason; Henry was undeserving of not only Elijah's legacy, he was undeserving of Elijah.
The lines that ran across Annabelle's forehead deepened as she hurled the grass in her hand to the other side of the garden. She planted her fists on her hips and released a frustrated groan, even as her tears stung her eyes.
She hated to see the garden she had labored for many weeks with Elijah, turn into a pile of nonsense! Yet, that was exactly what it had become.
The garden was Elijah's idea. Every evening, just when the sun was going down, Annabelle and Elijah would go to the garden together and work on it. They would weed, till, and plant flowers —most of which had managed to die along with Elijah. The longer she stood observing their garden, the more convinced she was that it was dead. It didn't matter how much she fought to keep it alive, it had died! It was the same with Elijah; it didn't matter how hard she worked to keep him alive, he died.
She wrapped her arms around herself and allowed her tears to make their way down her face. A part of her blamed herself for Elijah's death —she should have known, she should have guessed, she should have been more sensitive to the signs. But she hadn't, and her neglect had cost the only man she ever cared about, his life.
Elijah had been a good man, she thought. A man deserving of life, unlike his heartless son! Her fingers curled into a fist at the thought of Henry. It had taken all the willpower in her not to hurl a plate at him for his utter disrespect for his father. Too angry to remain standing before him, she had stormed out of the dining room, and had remained locked in her room for the entire day, grieving Elijah's death.
But the longer she stood thinking about Henry, the more she wanted to make him pay for his insensitive words.
She turned from the garden then, and marched back into the house. She continued to walk through the halls until she found Henry seated in the parlor with a book in his hands. For a short time, she stood by the doorway, watching him. Something in her wanted to throw the book into the fireplace and watch it burn. She wanted to yell in frustration at a man who was opportune to not only be born free, but to be born to a loving father.
“You shall give your father the respect he deserves.” She trembled from head to toe.
Henry raised his eyes to her, surprise clouding his features.
“Tomorrow, you shall come with me to your father's grave, and you shall pay your final respect.”
His brow lifted slightly, as amusement filled his eyes. Furious, to say the least, she turned from him.
“Then, you shall keep me here as your servant?” Henry called after her retreating back.
Pausing by the door, she turned around. He remained seated before her, with a smirk on his face.
“I am not your servant, Annabelle, you cannot command my obedience.”
“Perhaps you are not.” She gritted her teeth. “Yet, I demand you respect your father.”
“And I refuse it!” His voice raised several notches, causing a shiver of fear to race down her spine.
Once she had recovered from the momentary shock, she covered the distance that stood between them until she was standing before him. “You shall respect Lord Finley, or you shall vacate his home, right now.”
He held her gaze. “My father might have been stupid enough to turn his slave into his mistress...”
A loud sound interrupted his words. His hand shot up to his cheek, and his eyelids widened.
Blinded by fury, Annabelle tried to slap him yet again, but he was quick. Springing to his feet, he took her hand captive in mid-air.
“...but I'm not stupid enough to fall into the same trap. You will not command my obedience or my respect, Annabelle!” Anger flashed in his eyes, as his hold around her wrist tightened, threatening to snap it in two. He held her gaze. “You will not order me out of a house that rightfully belongs to me, and to prove this point to you, slave, I am going nowhere until I see to it that you are returned to where it is my father purchased you from; until you go back to being a slave.”
YOU ARE READING
Annabelle's WillHistorical Fiction
Born a slave, made an heiress, Annabelle must battle a society unwilling to accept her and a love that threatens to ruin her in order to keep her freedom. ***** Born a slave, Anna...