Chapter 13

21K 756 29

Elizabeth slowly opened the door to Lydia's bedroom and stood in the door jamb for a moment, looking into the space with a reverence. Memories flooded her mind as she glanced around the room before entering and pushing the door to behind her. Lydia's room remained just as it had been the last time the beautiful mistress had occupied it; each day it sat, as if ready for her arrival home, waiting for a reunion which never came.

Every day the room was thoroughly cleaned by a maid, right down to the changing of the bed linens weekly; Elizabeth knew her father had ordered it to be done, she supposed it honored Lydia's memory in a special way.

Elizabeth walked deeper into the room, lightly running her hand along a rounded side table with a gilded framed photo of her father when he was younger. She moved to the bed, trailing her fingers across the bed linens and the quilt topping it, then over to a cherry wood chair with a deep purple velvet covering. She sometimes liked to come into her mother's private space and remember her, to feel near to her.

Elizabeth sank slowly into the soft purple chair and sighed. "Mama...I miss you so much. How I wish you were here. I have so much I wish to ask of you; so much I still need you for..."

A lone tear slid down her cheek as she sat quietly in the presence of Lydia's belongings. Elizabeth longed to talk to her mother about Edward, about how she felt about him, to ask her things about love and marriage, how she had met and fallen in love with Papa. Aunt Charlotte was wonderfully easy to talk to, and Elizabeth was so grateful to have her here, but it wasn't the same as having her mother.

After a moment, she rose and crossed the room to Lydia's large wardrobe. Elizabeth longed to touch her mother's dresses, remembering the feel of them as a little girl, when Lydia would sit Elizabeth upon her lap or hug her closely. Carefully opening the door, she gazed at the beautiful gowns hanging within. After softly running her fingers over the array of silk and lace and tulle, she remembered that the heavier gowns lay in the drawers below, and she slowly opened the bottom drawer.

Elizabeth had seen the gown before, but she had never touched it. She carefully lifted a lovely ball gown of delicate pale pink silk so as to get a better look at it. Visions of her mother, preparing for a ball right here at the plantation, wearing this very same gown, danced before her eyes. Lydia's green eyes had shined against the pale pink of the dress, her golden hair curled and pinned a top her head, with a few tendrils falling around her face.

Elizabeth held the gown close for a moment, remembering. As she moved to carefully replace the gown, she noticed something curious. The bottom of the drawer had a crack in it, though she could not see through to the floor beneath. She ran her fingers along the opening, thinking that it felt peculiar. Gingerly laying the length of the gown across her mother's bed, she investigated the drawer more fully, discovering that it contained a false bottom. After pulling and prodding for a minute, Elizabeth managed to ease the secret compartment open.

The only item seeming to occupy the space was an old book, a diary from the looks of it. Elizabeth softly grasped the book and lifted it from its resting place. She ran her hand over the surface; it had a woven burgundy covering with golden leaves and scrolls embossed on it. Elizabeth opened the front cover, immediately recognizing her mother's handwriting. Elizabeth gasped, sucking in a breath, wondering what events and private thoughts of Lydia's were contained within the covers of this precious find. What puzzled her was why her mother had hidden the book, unless it was very private.

Elizabeth stared at the front cover of the book.

Mama, I'm sorry for invading your privacy, I hope you'll forgive me for reading your diary. Surely you would understand why I must read it... I promise to keep its secrets deep within my heart.

An Unexpected LoveRead this story for FREE!