Another Pretty Nothing — Chapter 2

19 Feb

Author’s Note: I have changed Thomas’ name to “Edwin.” Thomas was originally just put in as a placeholder name as it is the name of one of my favorite cats I ever owned (yes I was very creative, shut up). I’ll be going back and changing it in the previous chapters later. Anyway, I’m not entirely sure why this chapter is the way it is. It’s sort of a filler between what happened at the party and what will happen at their house.

Their carriage left early the next morning. Edwin had claimed urgent business called him home early. If anyone had heard a whisper of Rue’s behavior, they had all been polite enough to keep the intelligence to themselves in his presence, although the farewells this morning had been a touch more emotional than Edwin would have preferred. The duchess Elise Weathers, their hostess and Rue’s cousin by marriage, had begged Rue to remain to the end of the party, as she had so hoped to have spent more time together. For her part, he had to admire Rue’s complete composure as she begged off, claiming she simply couldn’t bear to be separated from her dear husband for so long. If he hadn’t been inside their marriage these last five years he’d almost have believed her himself.
Edwin wasn’t sure keeping Rue in her room over dinner last night hadn’t been a mistake – he probably should have been the one to feign illness. He wasn’t a social person by nature, but sitting in a dining room full of people hours after catching his wife in the embrace of another man who just happened to be seated nearby and flirting loudly with any woman within earshot had seemed to him to be a special sort of hell. He almost wished he hadn’t ordered Rue to stay in her room – she had always tried to smooth things over for him in these sorts of situations. It was one of the three reasons he had asked to marry her in the first place.
Thinking of Rue, however, just triggered his imagination into more of the same dark places it had been in earlier – images of his wife pressed against a wall, moaning and writhing. The thought simultaneously enraged and aroused him. He glared across the carriage at her, sitting quietly and looking out a window. She looked sad, but it occurred to him that Rue always looked sad, as long as he’d known her. No, he amended, she hadn’t always looked sad. There had been a time in the early days of their marriage when she seemed honestly happy. That had been a different time, though. They had both been different people.
“Are you alright, my lord?” it was only her voice snapping him back to reality that made him realize he had been lost in a daydream. He nodded, and made a study of his walking stick as he spun it between his hands but she didn’t look away.
“Did you need something?” he snapped, travel had never agreed with him at the best of times and under the circumstances he found his patience tried. She looked startled for a moment before settling her face back into her usual mask of sadness.
“No, I’m just…” she looked around as though she could pull her words from the air of the carriage before sighing and resuming her staring out the window. Edwin decided to take advantage of Rue’s distraction to study her. She was a lovely woman, really. She’d always been pretty if not head turningly so, but she’d always had a spark in her eyes that men found attractive. She had been barely 18 when they married, and in the intervening years, she’d filled out some. He wondered why she had married so young – she was still a child in many ways at the time, and headstrong as hell.
She just didn’t seem the type to have wanted to be tied down so early and, more to the point, didn’t seem the type to want to be tied down to him specifically – in fact, the entire rest of society found the very idea that anyone would marry him shocking. That part of the equation still boggled him slightly. At the time, he had found it wisest not to look a gift horse in the mouth and the longer things went on, the more awkward he thought the question would seem.
He thought about asking now, he was unlikely to have a better opportunity, but the words wouldn’t form in his throat. So instead he sighed and went back to examining his walking stick. It occurred to him as he spun it in his hands and watched the light play off the top that he hadn’t seen that spark in her eyes in a long time. He imagined it probably went away at the same time she became so sad, but he honestly couldn’t remember. He had the sudden urge to kiss her, but thought the better of it. His brain was still prone to inserting images from yesterday at random intervals and then elaborating on them, generally in the vein of what would have happened had he not walked in when he did, and he didn’t want to confuse the issue when they reasserted themselves. He didn’t want to lose hold of his righteous anger and she’d always had a way of making him forget those types of things. He wished he could forget now.
He heard her sniffle and looked up in time to see her brush a tear off her face. Her red rimmed eyes informed that she’d been crying silently for awhile now.
“Oh, don’t cry, Rue.” he admonished, he almost added ‘what in Heaven’s name could be wrong?’ but thought the better of it. Emotional displays always made him uncomfortable.
She didn’t speak, instead she dabbed her eyes softly and he could see her working the tears back down. At the sight of it, he almost lost his resolve to be angry at her, but recalled himself at the last minute. He imagined they must make quite a spectacle to an outside observer – her barely containing her tears and him staying aloof. Of course he looked like the villain in this little melodrama of hers, he somehow always had in the past, why should her being the one at fault change matters?

By the time they finally arrived home, Rue was just about at her wit’s end. The last few hours in the carriage had strained her almost to the breaking point. Aside from scolding her for crying, Edwin hadn’t spoken a single word to her the entire trip. He’d never been a particularly warm husband, but he’d never been cruel before. She wasn’t sure she could live like this, frankly.
She excused herself to her chambers before his mother, the dowager countess, could accost them over their early return. She wasn’t quite sure she had it in her to face his mother – the woman was a trial on the best of days and Rue was nothing but a frayed nerve. By the time she finally got into her chambers and dismissed her lady’s maid, she was far too on edge to relax and instead took to pacing the floor in front of her bed.
For one thing, she knew Amalthea wanted grandchildren. And oh, if Rue wasn’t sick to death of hearing about grandchildren. There were days when she wanted to throttle the old woman. If she had the most fertile woman in Christendom as a daughter-in-law, it wouldn’t have made any difference. Her husband rarely claimed his marital rights, and when he did the matter was usually over fairly quickly. She couldn’t remember the last time they’d shared a bed, in fact.
Suddenly the righteous indignation drained out of her and she felt exhaustion creeping in as she sat on the edge of her bed. Maybe that was the problem? She had, on occasion, gone to Edwin’ bed rather than waiting for him to come to her – usually only when his mother’s nagging too overwhelming, but it occurred to her that when she attended him he had never once refused her. Perhaps that would be the key to getting back into his good graces. Well, she realized, she couldn’t really lower herself any further in his estimation.

Later that night, when Rue found herself standing before the door to her husband’s chambers, she surprised herself by being excited. She felt like the girl who he had married again – the one who engineered a collision to force an introduction. She felt like she had her fate in her own hands for the first time in a long time as she took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
He was sitting quietly, staring at the fire. He didn’t notice her as she stepped into the room. She wondered idly what he was thinking about, but from the tight line of his lips she feared she knew the answer. As the door clicked into place behind her, he jumped to his feet in shock, his eyes meeting hers.
“Rue! What are you doing in here?” he exclaimed, his eyes darting around as though looking for an escape. Finding none, his voice softened, “I thought you were already in bed.”
“Is this a bad time, my lord?” she feigned confusion and took a step further into the room. “I was hoping we could talk.”
“I suppose so.” he gestured towards the other chair, waiting for her to take a seat before sitting himself, probably more out of habit than anything else at this point.
They sat quietly for a moment, both pretending not to look at each other while examining the other one intensely.
“Well?” he finally said.
“My lord?”
“What was it you wanted to talk about?”
She had nothing she wanted to talk about, she just had not wanted him to kick her out immediately. Her mind raced for a safe topic – the weather wouldn’t justify a visit in the middle of the night, her infidelities were definitely off limits, and nothing in between came to her.
“I think we should have a child.” she finally blurted out, regretting the words as soon as she said them. The blood seemed to have drained completely from his face as he sat in a state of dull shock. “I mean…what I mean to say is – not that I’m placing blame on anyone, it’s just – ” and here, for the first time in her life, Rue’s many charms abandoned her.
“Been talking to my mother, have you?” he finally said grimly.
“I wouldn’t say I have been talking, no.” the words slipped out before she could stop herself, but he actually smiled at that.
“I should have known.” he finally sighed, “I suppose you’re right, my dear. I’ve been remiss about begetting heirs.”
They sat in silence again, only broken by the crackling of the fire and their own breathing. It was then Rue realized, deep in some part of her, that she was about to have an abominably long night.

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2 Responses to “Another Pretty Nothing — Chapter 2”

  1. mPapaya February 20, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    (hey, it’s @ChaiMaya from Twitter) I love it Charlotte! I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment 🙂 I think letting the pressure off of yourself really helps improve writing – NaNoWriMo taught me that in a big way – so you’re really on the right track here. Well done!

    • Charlotte St. Claire February 20, 2012 at 12:58 am #

      Thanks! I’m glad someone besides my best friend is actually reading this!

      But yeah, I kind of love this story because there’s no outline, no research, and no rules! And next chapter there might be some making out!

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