17 - Pleading

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Oscar slid his back against the wall until he sat down under the vault. He wanted to look back, see her for the last time, but he wouldn't be able to move ahead. He'd always go back to her embrace. Fisting his tears away he pulled himself from his piano and sat by his desk. The room felt colder, not with the December chill, but with desolation.

His door opened, but he didn't hear the knock. He was lost.

"I knocked, but you didn't reply," his mother Eliza said, perching lightly on his desk. When he didn't look, she knelt on the floor in front of him. "Dear, what is the matter?"

He looked into her eyes, silently fighting his tears. "Mother, when did you know father was the man for you?"

Eliza blinked several times, not prepared for his question. "Truth be told, I didn't. My parents and his made the alliance and he had the choice marry out of my three sisters. He chose me. I don't know why."

"But did you have the choice. Did you want to be with him?"

"Choice," she said, looking away. "I couldn't shame my parents by rejecting him. He was the most handsome and rich bachelor back then. No woman in her right mind would decline such an offer."

"Two strangers bound into marriage," he whispered to himself. He addressed her. "How did you get along?"

"The first year was difficult. We had to understand one another, discover our likes and dislikes. When you came into our lives, your father and I were closer to understanding one another. But –" she paused. "There are some things your father refused to share with me. Business has always been a man's prerogative and a woman makes sure the house runs as smoothly for him. The last thing she wants is to fail in front of her husband's eyes." She noted the look of sadness smeared like a sunless sea in her son. "You are worried, are you not?"

Shoulders slumped; he released an audible sigh from his contracted chest.

"I wish men and women have the choice of marrying whoever they want. Not constricted by society. I feel as if marriage should be with the right person and – "

"You feel as if you haven't found her?"

I have, he thought, his eyes fluttering downwards. "I cannot marry and I cannot disappoint father."

If Eliza Ashford possessed a special talent, it was reading people like a clean cut mirror. "Who is she?" she asked her voice soft and caring.

"I have to start from the beginning."

As he told his mother in muddled expressions about the vault, Freya and his future, Eliza's caring calming face changed dramatically to her dark eyebrows raised and eye glazed.

"This is absurd," she exclaimed, rising, pacing around the room. "You must have dreamt this."

"No mother," he said defiantly, standing, following her. He turned her around, placing his hands on her elbows. "I haven't dreamt this. It is real. That girl has told me things that could affect our future. I can't possible pretend this never happened."

"You will have to," she blurted,"for your father's sake. If he –"

"If he what Eliza?"

They turned to see anger in the form of Logan Ashford. Jaw tightened in a lock, he marched towards his silly son. His steps would have burnt holes into the ground with the sheer seething anger.

"I have been too lenient on you boy," roared Logan. "I have had ENOUGH! I gave you more than enough time to think about the woman you are going to marry and you are living in some nutty fantasy." He yanked Oscar by his thin arms. "That is it! You are not staying in this room." He pulled him away, out into the corridor. "Three days without food and drink will sort you out."

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