Finding Her Past

By J.M.W.

::Rated PG (for violence and adult situations)


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                                                                                                               Chapter Three        

            Isabelle felt the soft ground beneath her feet as she stepped out of the carriage. It had been an exhausting three days journey. Her first glimpse of the Orstra Estate was breath taking. It looked like a majestic white castle from the distance but up close, it looked like a beautiful white stone mansion. Large windows peered at her from the second floor, making her wonder what else those windows could see.

            "Miss…" A man appeared next to her, "May I take your bag, Miss?"

Isa blushed and nodded, unclenching her white fingers from her bag and let him take it from her, 'How embarrassing, he probably thinks I'm scared out of my wits,' Swallowing hard Isa thought, 'And he's probably right. What awaits me beyond those large walls? Another prison?'

            "Beautiful, isn't it, Isabelle?" Mr. Richmond stepped away from the carriage and took her elbow in his left hand, "Shall we go inside and get you acquainted?"

Isa nodded and let him lead her up the stone steps to the large wooden door. He easily swung the heavy door open and brought them inside. Isa blinked, it was drastically darker inside and her eyes had to adjust to the dimmer light. Slowly, her eyes took in the marble platform they stood on, the two curling ascending stairs on either side of them and then directly in front of them a simple wide stair leading down to the main floor which seemed to go on forever. She could easily imagine a party happening in the main hall in front of them.

            "Your room is up that way," Mr. Richmond extended his hand to the right stair case, "I'll have Miss Haven bring you-"

"What in the devil is going on around here?"

            Isa quickly turned around at the booming voice. A tall man stood before Mr. Richmond with a menacing look on his face. Isa's eyes widened. 'Who was this man?'

Mr. Richmond remained calm despite the ruffled young man, "Good morning, Darren."

            "There are two carriages outside and people are scurrying around everywhere, you care to explain?" Darren looked stressed, very stressed, Mr. Richmond noted.

            "Darren, may I introduce you to Isabelle Charpon?" He put a firm hand behind Isa's back and moved her a few inches forward. Darren took in the girls' appearance, 'What is he doing with a girl?' Darren looked to his Uncle and then to the short girl in front of him before raising his eyebrow in curiosity. His Uncle was not known to invite… lady guests to the house.

            David cleared his throat, sorely disappointed in his nephew's lack of manners, "Isabelle, this is my nephew Darren Richmond."

Isa didn't like the way he was looking at her. He was looking at her as if she was as strange bug that had wondered into the wrong hole. Nevertheless, Isa extended her hand, willing to greet him, "It's nice to meet you, Darren Richmond."

            Ignoring her hand, Darren had to wonder if his Uncle had gone mad, "What is the meaning of this?"

Isa bit her lip and extracted her hand, feeling as if a snake had just bitten her.

            Mr. Richmond glared at his nephew, "I expected better from you, Darren. This girl is here to stay weather you like it or not. You have been wondering where I have been the last few weeks? Well, this is the reason why, I adopted this girl just a few days ago. She is your new cousin."

            Darren stared, "Adopted?! What in the world for?"

Mr. Richmond did not respond to Darren right away, instead he turned towards a girl standing on the stairs, seemingly appearing out of nowhere, "Miss Haven, bring Miss Charpon to her room please and get her situated, I must speak with my nephew."  He then turned to Isa with an apologizing smile, "I hope you will forgive me."

            Isa nodded and gave him a soft smile before following Miss Haven up to her room. She really didn't want to stick around for the fight over her anyway. Mr. Richmond seemed to want her here but his nephew certainly didn't.

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            Both men walked silently to the study down the hall, giving Darren ample time to calm down and try to understand what was going on under his nose. Taking a deep breath, Darren sat down on an armchair and addressed his Uncle once again, "Isn't she a little old to be adopted?"

            "That's hardly the point. I was searching for a girl her age in the first place," Mr. Richmond, poured him self a glass of brandy. At least Darren was acting civil now.

            "Why? Why adopt in the first place? We certainly do not need help around here and you certainly do not need a companion, you have business partners for that. If you wanted children, you could have gotten married to that Webber woman years ago," Darren smiled ruefully.

            "I want you to treat her with respect and kindness, Darren, how you acted back there was terrible. I want her to be comfortable and feel welcome here," Mr. Richmond turned fully to Darren, "You will apologize for your behavior and make up for your bad manners."

            "What?" Darren's brow furrowed, "I have plans this afternoon."

"Ahhh… with Miss Philisity," David Richmond turned away from his nephew and rolled his eyes, 'Terrible woman… He needs to wake up from fairy land and get back to the real world.'

            "Yes, Uncle, and I don't care what you think of her… I love her."

"Posh, you don't know what love is, boy. You would be making a drastic mistake marrying her," David turned back to Darren, "there are many more beautiful, more useful young ladies to court."

            Darren glared, "I will not listen to you demean my future wife, Uncle." He stood up and began walking to the door, "I have things to do since a certain Uncle of mine has taken an unexpected leave the last few weeks." Darren opened the sliding doors and closed them hard behind him.

            'Silly boy, he does not even know what he is missing,' Mr. Richmond sighed, "Love is like a puzzle, my boy, you have to put every piece together to make it work, not just some of the prettier pieces."

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            Awed, Isa stood in the doorway, "This is my room? Who else sleeps here?" She looked at the large queen-size canopy bed in front of her.

Miss Haven giggled, "Only you, dearie, only you." The maid went about the room, taking things out and unpacking her bag, "There is a wash room over to your right and your dress will…" she looked at that only other dress Isa owned with disgust, "will… be in the closet." Miss Haven hung the old cotton brown dress on a hanger and slipped it into the closet.

            "There are extra blankets in the chest at the bottom of your bed in case you get cold and you don't have to worry about the fireplace, I'll take care of that in the morning. Around here, breakfast is served at seven and dinner is served at six… but only if there are not any guests… when there are guest, we serve dinner at seven," Miss Haven turned to Isa, "Do you have any questions? I'm sure you have lots."

            "Well, um… what am I supposed to do?"

Miss Haven lifted an eyebrow, "Excuse me?"

            "What is expected of me?" Isabelle quickly rephrased.

"Oh," Miss Haven smiled, "Just be on time to breakfast and dinner and don't stay outside past dark, you never know what's wondering around at night… strange dogs and such… That's about it. I'm sure Mr. Richmond will have a tutor come as soon as you're settled in; also tomorrow, I will see about having you sized for new dresses. You certainly can't wear that in high society." Miss Haven looked at her gray dress.

            "Do I have chores? Things to do, things to go to?" Isa was very confused.

"No… of course not, that's what we're here for," Miss Haven filled up the wash bowl, "You will be expected to attend parties, social gatherings and such I suppose when the occasion calls for it, but other than that you're free to roam the house. The yards… oh, and the gardens are partially beautiful this time of year, you might want to check those… oh, my! Look at the time! I must be helping with lunch; I promised Sue I would help her…" Miss Haven started for the door, "Oh, and by the way dearie, you can call me Mini, everyone around her does except for Mr. Richmond. Just make yourself comfortable and you might want to get some rest before dinner. I'll see about bringing you up a bit of something for lunch if you're hungry." With that, Mini left the room in a hurry, shutting the door behind her.

            Isa stared at the room. She was by herself and had not a thing to do in the world. She would have to get used to this.

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            Darren put a hand on the bottom of the stairwell and looked up in the direction the young lady had gone. 'What did Uncle say her name was? Isa… yes, Isabelle. I might as well apologize at least. I was rude to the girl after all…' Taking a deep breath, Darren quickly walked up the stairs until he met her door. He knocked two times before waiting for the large door to open.

            The door creaked slowly, letting in light from her room. Isabelle appeared in the doorway looking at him with confusion and fear. She was still wearing that ugly dress from just a few moments ago, 'What kind of orphanage did she come from anyway?' Realizing that they were just looking at each other, her waiting for him to speak, he cleared his throat, "I have just come to apologize for my behavior downstairs," He gave her an apologetic smile, "It was rude."

            Isa stared up at him as he spoke. He was a good head taller than she was and it made her feel intimidated. Swallowing the dryness in her throat, Isa gave him a hesitate smile and nodded her forgiveness.

            Once again, silence passed over them making Darren feel uncomfortable. She stood there just looking at him with her hand holding the door. She was a petite little thing, he vaguely wondered if she would grow any taller. Feeling stupid standing there, Darren smiled back and linked his hands behind his back, "Would you… would you care to ride with me into town as a way of making up for my behavior?"

            Isa could tell right away that he would rather not ask her to come along. There was just something in his voice that begged 'please do not' about it. Besides, she really did not want to go anyway. He had made her feel unwanted since she first met him and his attitude just then made her feel the same way. She certainly did not want to put herself in a strange position. Therefore, quickly shaking her head, Isa replied, "I would rather stay here, if it is alright with you, Sir… ah, Mr. Richmond. I am quite tired from the journey."

            "Of course," Darren gave her a respectful bow as he arranged to leave, "rest well, Miss."

Isa watched him go and sighed in relief. He made her feel all too uncomfortable with his towering presence and distant attitudes as if he could care less about her.

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            David Richmond stared out the window as he sat in his study, 'This might be harder than I thought. She is shy and unsure of her abilities, she will need to be taught and educated for the role I plan her for. As for Darren… that boy doesn't even know his own mind. He doesn't understand that I have a much bigger role for him to play in this world. He is smart, dedicated and has a good mind when it comes to matters of money and my estate. Yes, my estate… I have worked too hard and too long to let it go so easily. I cannot and will not let it go to some swindler! Nor will I let my name diminish along with me. No, I shall not…'

To be continued…

AN: Kay, that was a short chapter but there will be more soon! Please review and tell me what you think!