|My Life Now
Author: AmyWolfe PM
When her mother dies and her father gets sick, Charlotte is sent to live with her mother's upper-class family. When she isn't learning the etiquette of the upper-class, she has to deal with balls, scandal and suitors. Previously Charlotte's Story. RevisedRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Friendship - Chapters: 39 - Words: 136,772 - Reviews: 113 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 24 - Updated: 04-13-13 - Published: 12-13-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2979177
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I hope you like this chapter. Also, on a side note, if you go to my blog (link in my profile) you will see a tab that says 'My Life Now'. It has some stuff that has to do with this story, like pictures of characters, character sketches, etc. If you have any questions about the story, you can leave a comment there, pm me or leave a review and I will be more than happy to answer it for you. I do love questions :)
8 June 1883
I stood in the seamstress' shop wearing the same dress that I had two years before when I was presented to the Queen. It was custom, Mrs Chattoway told me, for a woman's coming out dress to be altered to a wedding dress.
The seamstress added folded lace to the top of the dress to make it less revealing and she also took some of the train off so it would be easier for me to walk down the aisle. She added sleeves to the gown, ones that went down to my forearms and ended in lace. A wide collar was also added, along with black beads making small patterns on the bodice and skirt.
Jane and Gretchen, who were my bridesmaids, stood with me telling me how wonderful I looked.
They were clad in matching dresses of a very light lilac with puffed sleeves. I wasn't fond of the colour, but Mrs Ashmore had picked it out. "You will be the most beautiful bride in London," Jane said, wincing as the assistant seamstress poked her with a pin.
"No," I said in a sad tone. "You defiantly were." It was true; Jane made a lovely bride with the white of the dress setting off her dark hair.
"I am going to be a spinster!" Gretchen cried, throwing her hands up. "Phillip will never ask me to marry him. He thinks we are nothing but friends."
"Phillip was never the kind to do anything drastic," I consoled my friend.
"Yes, you will probably have to propose to him!" Jane said send her and Gretchen into a fit of giggles. I put on a fake smile, but didn't laugh along.
"Charlotte," Gretchen said after getting herself together. "What is wrong with him? Does he not want to marry?"
I bit my bottom lip. Before I would have just made up a lie, but now I was beyond caring. "No, he does not really want to. He told me that we would rather travel than have a wife."
"I love to travel! We could do so together."
"He says he does not want children either," I told her. I was in a sourer mood than usual and if I couldn't be happy then nobody could.
"That is wonderful! I do not want children either. Nothing but brats they are."
11 June 1883
I had only been to two weddings in my life, but I had a good idea of how they went. The bride would be beautiful in her white gown and there would be joy running through her veins. The ushers would open the doors to the church when the organ music started and she would walk inside on the arm of her proud father. Everyone would let out a sigh of pleasure when their eyes fell upon her. As she made her way to the altar, mothers would whisper behind their hands about how lovely she looked. Men would say how lucky the bridegroom was. Daughters would admire her dress and would whose it was, their own future weddings in mind.
When she arrived at the front of the church, she would stand with the wedding party and her future husband. Her father would pass the bridegroom her hand and give her a sad smile; his darling daughter was becoming a woman. She would look up at her bridegroom through her veil and her heart would flutter in her chest.
The groom would smile as if he knew a secret that he wanted to share with her. The Minister would open his book and begin his speech. The couple would say their vows and the bridegroom would take the wedding ring and place it on his bride's dainty hand.
They would finish the ceremony off with a sweet kiss to mark their love and descend from the church with the wedding party.
I stood outside the church with my arm not lopped through my father's, but my uncle's. I had butterflies fluttering in my stomach. They weren't caused by joy, but by a nervousness that brewed inside of me. I was about to marry a man that I didn't love. I suppose it could've been worse, I could be marrying a lazy drunk – oh never mind, I was.
I could hear the organ music start up, signalling mine and Victor's entrance. The ushers opened the doors from the inside and we took our first steps into the church.
All at once everyone in the church turned and sighed. At least something would go right with my wedding. As we moved further into the church, people started to whisper. In any other situation I would have wondered what they were saying, but in this one I already knew. They were wondering why a man like James would want to marry a girl like me. To most of them I was crazy. I was the girl who ran away from home, not Charlotte Whitlock. Not the future Mrs James Ashmore.
When Victor and I reached the altar he gave me a reassuring smile before stepping back. I looked up into James' eyes and was shocked at what I saw – was that love hiding in the blue depths? I blinked quickly and it was gone. No, I was only imagining things.
The Minister opened his book and began to speak to the crowd. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate there two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause, why they may not be lawfully be joined together, let him speak now, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace."
I waited for somebody to stand and state a reason why we shouldn't marry. I wanted to look at the audience and silently beg them to say something. Anything. Even against me. Surely someone would say that I was mad. Nobody did. I looked past James and my eyes locked with Phillip. I challenged him to say something, but he only broke our eye contact by looking at the Minister.
The Minister looked at me and James. "I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured that if any persons are joined together otherwise than as God's Word doth allow, their marriage is not lawful."
I opened my mouth. I wanted to say that we didn't love each other, but since when was love valued by the church? I glanced over my shoulder at Phillip's family. Victor gave me a small smile. Sir Thomas looked downright displeased, but didn't say anything. Hazel glared at me as if daring me to say something and face the consequences.
The Minister turned his attention to James. "James, wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?
James smiled charmingly at me. "I will." There was a quiet sob from the audience and I assumed that it belonged to Mrs Ashmore.
"Charlotte," the Minister said to me, "wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?"
I swallowed and looked him and James. "I…I will."
"Who giveth this Woman to be married to this Man?"
"I do," Victor said stepping forward. He lifted my right hand and gave it to the Minister who placed it in James' right hand.
The Minister started to talk with James repeating his every word. "I James take thee Charlotte to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, o love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth."
James let go of my hand and I took his in mine. "I Charlotte take thee James to my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth." My voice was weak and fell towards that end of the vow.
I let go of James' hand and noticed that mine was shaking. The Minister took a plain golden ring and held it in front of him for all to see. I turned to Jane who stood next to me and gave her my left hand. She pulled the special seam of my glove so it gave way and the forth finger on my hand was showing.
The Minister passed the ring to James' who said near perfection as he slipped it onto my bare finger, "With this ring I thee wed, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
There were a few more sobs from the audience as the Minister said the Lord's Prayer. When he was finished he joined our right hands together and said, "Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder." He looked at the audience and his voice boomed. "Forasmuch as James and Charlotte have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring, and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are Man and Wife, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
He turned his attention to James and me one last time. "God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with his favour look upon you, and fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace; that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen."
I let out the breath that I had been holding. I was married. To James Ashmore. I felt sick and dizzy. Oh Lord, what did I get myself into?
James took both of my hands in his and leaned forward. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine and processed in a kiss that could have been deemed inappropriate for church. James took my hand and led me to a small table off to the side where we would sign the parish register. James signed his name and I followed suit with my maiden name.
We walked out of the church followed by our wedding party and then the guests. They all took a handful of rice from the bowl that was being passed around and threw it up as we made our way to the lovely carriage pulled by four white horses that waited for us.
Once settled in the carriage I shook my head causing pieces of rice to fall from my hair. James brushed some off of his shoulders as the carriage took off towards the Blackburne's townhouse.
"You look wonderful," James told me as I stared out the window.
"Thank you." This was the first time I was alone with James since I came back to London.
As we passed by people going about their morning duties, I saw that a handful of them smiled when they saw the carriage. A carriage pulled by four white horses signalled a newly married couple. They probably supposed that we were happy newlyweds.
"After the reception, we will change into our travelling outfits and leave for our honeymoon."
I looked up at this. I knew that a newly wedded couple left for a honeymoon after their nuptials, but I hadn't really thought about it. "Where are we going?" I had never been outside of England.
"I cannot tell you that right now. It is to be a surprise. Only Phillip knows." I would have to ask him at the reception. "And he was sworn to secrecy."
We arrived at the Blackburne house which was only a short ride away from the church. James helped me out of the carriage and we made our way inside.
After the reception, I stood in my bedroom with Jane and Gretchen. They had helped me peel off my wedding dress and change into a plain brown travelling suit. I stood in front of the full-length mirror with them on either side of me like we were earlier that morning. They were both still dressed in their bridesmaids' dresses.
A small tear trickled from my eye and was followed by even more. I tried to blink them away, but there were too many and they stung my eyes.
"Charlotte, what is wrong?" Jane asked her voice full of concern.
I blindly reached to my left and groped for her. My hand landed on her arm and I took a step towards her to place my head on her shoulder. "I made a mistake!" I howled.
I felt Jane wrap her arms around me while Gretchen patted my back. They led me to my bed were we all sat down. "What mistake?" Gretchen asked.
"I married James." I rubbed the sleeve of my dress over my eyes. "We have not even been married for five hours and I am already regretting it. Surely this is a bad sign!"
"I do see how you could be regretting it," Gretchen said. "But the past is the past."
"We do not love each other – we can barely stand each other!"
Gretchen placed a hand on my arm and gave me a small smile. "If Phillip and I were to marry, he would not love me. I somehow know it and accept it. Well, not as a wife anyways. Truly, I do not know if I love him. I care for him, but it is not passionate. He treats me as one should, which is all I ask."
"If James ever harms one hair on your lovely head, he will have to protect himself from your bridesmaids," Jane said half serious. We all laughed at this and stood.
"Let us get you down to your husband so you can go on your honeymoon," Gretchen said, picking up one of my carpet bags.
"Do you know where he is taking you?" Jane asked.
I shook my head. "Phillip is the only one who knows."
"Ben took me to Ireland."
"I want to go to Rome," Gretchen said with a dreamy look on her face. "I am sure wherever he takes you will be beautiful."
We headed down the stairs and met James by the door. Most of the wedding guests had taken leave and only a handful remained. Hazel was nowhere in sight, but Victor and Sir Thomas were smiling from a small distance away.
I put a smile on my face when Sir Thomas walked over. "I am happy for you, Miss Whitlock." He kissed my cheek and hugged me. Victor hugged me too, wishing me well on the honeymoon and shook James' hand.
We bid our friends and family goodbye before going to the carriage with Phillip and driving away. We went to Charing Cross station and got on the train while Phillip looked after our luggage.
He came to our window and I kissed his cheek. As the train pulled away, we waved until we couldn't see him anymore.
The train left the station and took us to Sevenoaks where we switched trains to go to Folkestone. We got off the train and took a carriage to the edge of town. I could see the ocean and a thrill ran through me.
"Are we going to the seaside?" I asked excitedly.
James scoffed. "Lord no. We will be going on a steamer."
"A ship, really?"
Our carriage stopped and the driver jumped down and opened the door for us. He helped us out and the salt air tickled my nose. James took my hand and led me towards a huge ship.
"This one is ours."
I stared at it with amazement. "I have never been on a ship before."
"They really are not anything to be excited about." James pulled two tickets out of his coat pocket and held them out to a nicely dressed man. The man took them and stepped aside, letting us go up the ramp to the boat.
Once everyone was on the boat, the horn blew and we pulled away from the dock.
"Will you tell me where we are going?" I asked, looking down at the water lapping against the side of the boat.
"France," was James' simple answer.
"Were you ever there before?"
James nodded. "A few times."
"Did you enjoy it?"
"Charlotte, what is with all of the questions?" James went to walk away but then he stopped. "Your maid will be meeting us in France."
"My maid?" I gave him a questioning look. I suppose since we were newly married I would have my own staff.
"Yes, what was her name? Emma, that is it. She is your wedding gift from me."
Excitement ran through me. James had brought Emma back for me? I wanted to hug him. "When will Emma be in France?" I asked, hoping to see her soon.
"She will be arriving tomorrow with my valet. For now we will have to see what the hotel has for staff."
The boat ride was nice and soothing, although James thought different. He spent most the ride with his head settled between his knees or in our cabin sleeping. I spent the ride out on the deck, watching the waves as we sped towards France.
We landed in Boulogne-sur-Mer and took a train to Paris. When we got into the carriage that would take us to the hotel, I was so excited I could hardly sit still.
"Charlotte, you are worse than a child," James said, shaking his head and flipping through a French newspaper he bought at the train station.
"It is beautiful!" And it truly was. The buildings were clean and the sky was blue. The dresses that the women were wearing looked much more stylish than in England. "Where will we be staying?" I asked, eyeing all of the beautiful buildings.
James sat down his newspaper. "We will be at Hôtel d'Alsace in the heart of St Germain des Pres," James said pulling some papers out of his breast pockets. He focused on them, leaving me to my own device.
I was glad to be there, but I was also nervous. I was in a new city filled with people I could barely understand.
From the very start the hotel was beautiful. When we first walked in the floor caught my attention. There was a large sunburst in the round entrance and I instantly fell in love. I stopped and looked up in awe. I could see all the way up to the ceiling, past all the floors. I spun slowly while looking up to see the whole view.
James grabbed my elbow to steady me when I started to become dizzy and leaned down to whisper in my ear. "Really, Charlotte, you have been acting like a child ever since we arrived. Do act your age."
James pulled me over to the reception desk. "Ashmore," he said, smiling at the woman behind the desk. She nodded and said something in French that made James laugh. I had been learning French for the past few months, but the woman spoke too fast for me to understand.
"Come, Charlotte," James said as a steward appeared. We followed him up the stairs, around and around until we finally stopped at a door.
The man opened it and we stepped inside. I gasped at the beauty of it all. The walls were beige as was the thick carpet. All the wood was dark and the fabrics gold.
The steward told James that our luggage would be here momentarily and wished him a wonderful stay.
I walked over to the fireplace and ran a hand over the mantle. There was a mirror over it and I studied my reflection. My hair was slightly out of place and there were bags under my eyes. Did I look this terrible at the wedding or was it the long trip that had made me this way?
James sat on the settee and watched me explore the room. Next I went to the table by the wall and admired the vase of fresh flowers on it. Even the flowers matched the room's colour scheme. There was a small card next to the vase and I picked it up. It wished for us to have a wonderful stay and that if we needed anything, just to ask.
There was a knock on the door and James opened it to reveal two men carrying our luggage. They left it next to the door and James gave them each a tip.
After the men left, I went to the doors towards the back. I pushed open the large double doors and exposed a spacious bedroom. There were two large wardrobes, one on each side, and a writing desk. In the middle of the room stood a large canopied bed. As much as I wanted to lay down on it and go to sleep, I was too excited and wanted to finish exploring the room.
I moved to the wall to my left and to a highly decorated door. I opened it and saw that a lovely bathroom was there. I closed the door and went to the other side of the room to the French doors. I opened them and stepped out onto the balcony. It overlooked the streets and a beautiful sunset. I walked back into the room, promising myself that I would go back out later that night.
I eyed the bed thoughtfully before laying down on it and closing my eyes. My muscles screamed as they relaxed, letting out the pressure. I sighed in relief and heard a laugh. I opened my eyes and saw James standing in the doorway. I tried to push myself up, but my skirts and corset prevented me from doing so.
James laughed again. "No, no, do not get up. You look quite becoming like that." In three long strides, James was next to the bed, looking down at me. He had a wolfish grin on his face and I felt nervous.
He slowly lowered his body down onto mine, keeping his weight balanced on his elbow and knee. Lowering his head, James placed a kiss on my cheek. I shifted under him to try to get free, but it didn't work. "If you keep moving like that, I might not be able to control myself."
James took my earlobe between his teeth and started to nibble on it while running his hand up my side. I closed my eyes and waited quietly for it to be over. After a minute or so, James pushed himself off of me and straightened his jacket. "We have no time for this now, I am starving." James took my hand and pulled me to my feet. "Do not worry, we will have more time tonight."
I sat on one of the chairs on the balcony, the cool soft breeze stirring my hair. My robe was pulled tightly around me and a blanket covered my lap. It wasn't cold out, I only felt exposed. Nobody had ever seen me so intimately.
When James had finished with me, I laid awake staring at the canopy overhead. I wanted to weep, but no tears would come out. After I was sure James was sleeping soundly, I slipped out of bed, grabbed a blanket from the foot of the bed and headed out onto the balcony.
I watched the stars tinkling in the dark sky, wondering if Jane and Phillip were watching these same stars back in England.
A ping of jealousy ran through me. Jane was probably lying in bed with the man of her dreams right now while I am sitting on the balcony wishing myself anywhere but here. What sort of cruel game were the gods playing? Hadn't I already suffered enough?
A flash in the sky caught my attention and I looked up to see a shooting star. Mother always told me that if you made a wish on one, it would come true. I wish something good would come out of this marriage.
10 July 1883
Our first week in France was different from what I expected. I had supposed that James was only going to leave me to my own device, but the whole week he only left my side for short periods of time. We went to the opera and to all of the most important stores. James had bought me a new wardrobe and sent it back to England for when we returned.
After that week, things fell into the way I expected it to be. James spent most of his time off entertaining himself and we only saw each other at night and the odd morning. I took this time to do the things that James didn't want to do with me with Emma. We toured Paris and admired the galleries. I thought once to ask James to accompany me, but when I put this to words he only snorted and told me he did not come to France to look at old paintings and buildings.
I didn't ask him where he went as I knew he wouldn't tell me so I asked his valet. No, he didn't come here to look at art; he came here to go to all the best gentlemen's clubs.
The fact that James didn't want to spend time with me did not bother me as I preferred Emma's company to me. What did bother me was that he was wasting his money on drinking and gambling. This led me to the thought that I could spend just as much on the things I wanted.
One bright morning, the last one of our trip, I awoke with a smile on my face knowing that the day would be lovely. I stretched and almost screamed when my hand hit something solid, I sat up to see James with his eyes closed and a smile on his face. I was shocked to see him lying there. He usually left before I awoke or he didn't come back until after I left for the day.
I brushed my hair out of my face and pulled the loose top of my nightgown up.
"You are much too modest," James said snaking his hand up my leg and massaging my thigh.
I let out a sharp sound and his smile grew wider. "What are you doing here?" I asked, batting his hand away.
"I am your husband – or did this past few weeks mean nothing to you?"
I blushed much to my dismay. "What I mean is, what are you doing here right now? You are never here in the morning."
"I only wanted to spend the morning with my lovely, blushing bride."
"Oh." I did my best to make sure that my nightgown was covering my body, but it was all in vain as James grabbed my hand and pulled me towards him. He wrapped his arms tightly around me so we were chest to chest.
"What are our plans for today?" he asked in between placing kisses on my neck.
"I-I am going to do some shopping today with Emma." I tried to move away from James, but he held fast.
"Shopping? Are you planning on spending all of my money already?" James loosened his grip on me and folded his arms behind his head. "Very well, do as you like."
"Are you going to the clubs today?"
"No, I plan on sleeping all day. Be back early tonight and we will go to supper – somewhere fancy."
I only nodded and climbed out of bed. I rang for Emma who quickly came to the room and helped me dress. I left the room with her and we went into the front room to ring for breakfast. As we ate the delicious fruit the servants had brought we discussed our plans. I didn't need to buy anything else, but shopping was better than staying in the hotel all day.
We left the hotel at eleven and returned back at six. I instructed the bellhops to leave my purchased items in the front room while I popped into the bedroom for a moment.
James was sprawled across the bed on his front with the sheets tangled around his waist and his head buried in the pillows. I shook my head wondering how someone could sleep for so long.
I softly called Emma into the room to help me change into another dress. After she left I went over to the bed and placed a hand on James' bare shoulder, shaking him gently. James only grunted and dug his face into the pillow. "James, do you plan on sleeping through supper?"
James lifted his head at the sound of my voice and stared at me with out-of-focus eyes. "What are you talking about, woman?"
"You had told me to be back early so we could go to supper."
James groaned and laid his head back on the pillow. "I do not want to go anymore. Just order something and get it brought up." With that he closed his eyes and quickly fell back into a deep sleep.
I shook my head as I left the bedroom and called for Emma. If James wouldn't take me to supper, then I would go without him. Emma came hurrying into the room asking what I needed and I told her our plans. As I helped her change into one of my gowns, I furrowed my brow. If this was a glimpse of what our married life would be, I would have to get used to the company of other people.
On a side note, the vows are what I found on the internet, with my own edits. It was from the 1800s so that is why I used them. If anyone has any ideas about this, please let me know if I did something wrong.
Ahh, I probably let a lot of people down with this marriage. I kind of feel… evil.
Leavesfallingup – I totally agree with you. Society back then was sickening.
Katie-and-alexox – James is a creep. When people hate your character (and they are supposed to) you did a good job. When you hate your own character, you deserve a metal. Phillip is a pretty sweet guy… but is he the right one for our girl? Is anyone the right one for her?
Please feel free to bash me as much as you want now. I deserve it. :p