Chapter Twenty-One

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Lady Thatcher refused to take no for an answer and within only a few minutes had managed to recruit all of us to attend her ball. James, although apprehensive at first, agreed and the invitation even extended to Christopher and Matthew. Although she had to inform us that Maisie Blacklock and her family had been invited at Mrs Ealing's request, I rather liked the idea of attending my first ball.

I hadn't been old enough when Mother Father would receive an invitation and would usually have to spend the evening with Aunt Molly learning which knife and fork to use at the appropriate time. From her bedroom door, I used to watch Mother dress in the finest garment she owned, pinning her hair up and adorning it with flowers. She always used to look so beautiful before she left, and I wanted so much to look the same when I was old enough. Mother said she would be with me when I could attend my first ball. That would never happen.

"I appreciate the offer, but just under a day is not enough time to prepare for a ball," James said as he thumbed through his wardrobe for his suit jacket.

"We don't have to go," I said.

When we returned home that evening, James made a be-line for his room to try and find his suit which he only wore when he had to. Kitty had decided to go through my things to see if anything would be suitable for a ball. I had my doubts, most of my dresses were for every-day use and my dress for the Christmas party had to be completed. One Christopher seemed prepared for the event at hand, the rest of us were going to struggle.

"It would look bad if we didn't attend, Rosie. The invitation has been extended and we are going to take it, besides, you can celebrate Mathias and Lucy's engagement and they would be disappointed if you weren't there."

"I suppose so."

"What's bothering you? And don't say nothing, I know you better than that."

"Mother always said that she would be there for my first ball, but she won't be. I don't know if I want to go if she's not going to be beside me."

James sighed, dropped the jacket he was holding and walked around the side of the bed to join me. He perched on the mattress beside me and dropped his hands into his life, tying them together as though not sure what he wanted to say. Despite living with him for a month now, we rarely talked about Mother and I felt as though we walked on eggshells around the subject of life before the factory. We never talked about Father or what he did. It was as though that part of lives never happened.

I had wanted to talk about Mother, she had been on the tip of my tongue for weeks and I could never bring myself to do it. What happed would always be a touchy subject, I knew as much when they first found out the truth, but I walked to talk about Mother. After so many years, I had very few memories about her and life before as I tried so hard to block them out in the factory. Memories of back home could be the thing that led to someone being hurt so we ignored them when we could.

Mother had died when I was seven and so I already had few memories about her, but those had faded over time and now I didn't know what was a memory and what I had created in my head. The only people who could fill in those gaps didn't want to mention her around me, but I know they had spoken of her when I had left the room. I just wanted them to talk about her in front of me. Perhaps now they would.

"I know losing Mother was difficult for you, especially after what Father did and you never really have the chance to grieve her, but you cannot let that hold you back from doing everything that Mother would have done. She would want you to go and enjoy yourself, you've earned it after what happened." He paused. "Mother will always be with you, even if she isn't here in person. She's in everything you do, and I see more of her in you every single day. She'd be proud of you for getting on with your life despite everything and you deserve to have a bit of fun."

The Apprentice Girl // Book 3 in the Rosie Grey seriesWhere stories live. Discover now