20. Sunday Morning

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1921

The next day was a Sunday and everything at Cloud Hill that could rest, did so. At least until the early afternoon.

That included me. I lay in bed for a long while kicking at the bed sheets and biting my thumbs, attempting to put everything together in my mind. But it only resulted in a jumble of facts and suppositions, uncomfortable truths jutting out like rusty nails.

Would it have been better if I'd only taken James as a lover? If I had not attempted to experiment with his psyche, as well? But, hadn't that been what had attracted me to James in the first place? My interest in delving into the psyche?

I'd not done anything similar with Theo or Heath, my last lover during the war. Theo had been too early for it and Heath, well, Heath had been more a man of actions than words.

James had been my experiment in two ways. That was clear to me now. He had been grateful to talk out all of his emotions, yes. But had the physical part, the sexual part, been too much for him? Was that where he'd been most vulnerable, when I thought it would have been his feelings?

I didn't know.

And what role did Mother's. . . difficulties. . . play in my own actions? Had I inherited an unhealthy trait from her? Was I tainted in some fashion? Was that why Father had made me into an Oliver because he didn't want to deal with an Olivia? 

I didn't know.

Becoming thoroughly bored with not knowing, I slid out of bed, threw on my dressing gown and set myself down at my desk to write back to Charlotte about all the things I did know. Namely, about all the recent events in the humming hive that was Cloud Hill, both the interesting ones and the ones I knew she'd only skim.

I didn't breathe a comma about my dangerous slip with James, but I did include the information that he'd been cheeky and I was now of a mind not to allow him to stay. That would please her. I also mentioned I'd discovered a few things about my mother and was looking forward to discussing the gruesome details with her at length. 

I underlined gruesome twice.

Chewing on the end of my pen, it occurred to me that if anyone would know how to interpret Mother's actions, it would be Charlotte. If anyone knew exactly what the words too far meant, it would also be Charlotte. She would know what to say. Even when we were young and silly girls, flirting with men twice our ages at garden parties and summer outings, she seemed to already know where the invisible lines were drawn that I blundered over without noticing. 

As a girl, you can always get what you want. You just might have to take the tradesman's entrance every once in a while, she was fond of telling me, as she eyed a new challenge from across a summer croquet lawn. Your problem is, you think the front door is the only door and when you find that locked, you start rattling the windows and waking everyone in the damnable place up. How masculine of you!  

And she would wallop the ball straight past the man she was interested in, making sure he saw her -- and her figure -- as she strolled past, ignoring him. 

They'd be turtle doves within the week. 

I sighed. That was another burden off my shoulders and one less thing I had to expend mental energy on. Charlotte would know. I could trust her judgement completely.

I took out another sheet of stationery and penned a brief letter to Mrs Thrower, the housemaid searching for a new position, saying that I unfortunately had no position for her currently and wished her the best of luck. 

I felt a terrible hypocrite writing that, but I had no other options. It would be pointless to engage her for a season, only to have the harvest fail and have to let her go again in the autumn, regardless of how much we could use her services. 

After addressing the envelopes and sealing the letters inside them, I picked up a novel for some light reading but soon found myself flicking the edges of the pages with the tip of my index finger and not being able to connect the sentence I was reading to the sentence I had just read. 

After attempting the same paragraph three times, I put the book down. Concentration was clearly not on the cards today, as practical questions and concerns began to swarm like bees inside my head.

Field Rabbit's spring season needed to be organised, the salesmen's routes planned, catalogues sent out. The only department we wouldn't be touching until mid-summer was the Christmas items, which was a small consolation. Then there were spring repairs to the outbuildings and the main house to be overseen, and I also need to prepare some legal paperwork for my solicitors. Carter had approached me about having seen signs of poaching in the forest areas and I need to consult with him and possibly the local constabulary. I made a mental note to ask after Montgomery whenever the occasion arose.

These and even more details became so loud and pressing, that I finally decided to leave off  malingering and  get myself downstairs to pick at any breakfast I could scrounge before getting stuck in.

I relegated the problem of James to a back shelf of my mind and got dressed. 

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