*Drumroll please . . .* Hello! Welcome to Tessandra's and Moonchild's new story. This is our second co-authored story. This is what happens when we have too much time on our hands (okay, so we really should have been talking with our other friends at the barbeque instead of at the swing set at eight o'clock at night, but who cares.)

The Characters: Lady Virginia Whitehall (written by Tessandra), and Miss Emma Whitehall (written by The Brilliant Fool).

The Plot: At the death of Lord Bertram, Earl of Eastwood, his legitimate daughter is informed she has a half sister, whom she immediately writes to. Through letters, diaries entries, and note passing, the two sisters eventually become friends. The occasional switching places and visits follow. And . . . stuff happens. Romance (come on, you can't resist the cheesiness.)

Okay, okay, we're a little plotless at the moment. But it's a good story. So read and review!


Dear Miss Emma;

It falls to me to inform you of the death of my esteemed father, Lord Bertram. He died three days ago, after suffering for a week after being thrown from his horse during a hunting party. As my mother and I sat with him

Miss Emma,

You have never heard of me, or at least probably not. I know I've never heard of you

Miss Emma,

I very much regret to bring you these sad tidings (Though, if I were you, I might be glad that the man you abandoned his child was dead)

February 23, 1881

Miss Emma;

I have written this letter half a dozen times already, only to find the paper crumpled into a ball and thrown across the room before I reach the second paragraph. I do not believe there is a proper way to write what I am trying to. I will start by saying it comes as a complete shock to me - what you must have always known, by the very fact of your existence - that my Papa has fathered an illegitimate daughter. I have always wanted a sister - though more along the lines of a very small one with no voice to protest as I force her into doll clothes, as my cousins did to me. I'll admit a sister my own age isn't nearly as appealing. Funny, I always thought Papa too noble to take a mistress. I suppose Mama was so bloated in her pregnancy with me that he couldn't bare to look at her. They always say that true love conquers all, but it wasn't true love now, was it?

I'm rambling, and I suppose I ought to toss this sheet and start over, but this is my last sheet of stationary and I refuse to use Mama's, as it is positively horrid. Letter writing is supposed to be one of my best accomplishments, but at the moment if I have to write another polite letter — I've already written hundreds to well-meaning matrons - I shall absolutely perish. I should apologize for going on - but what do I have to apologize for? I'm not illegitimate.

Papa died.

That's what I've been trying to get to in my roundabout way. It's hard to write - there's just something sinister about it, the way the ink curls in those letters. Look at the word, at the quite, wispy sound of it. DEATH. It's disturbing.

Papa died and left you 1000 pounds and his name.

I'm not sure how much 1000 pounds is to you, but I suppose it's a lot. My personal maids only earn 15 pounds a year, plus their allowances. I wager you won't be doing much work in the near future. Wait, I take that back. The money's being held in trust for you until you're eighteen, though that's absolutely ridiculous. Papa knew he was dying (he was thrown in a hunting accident and suffered for a week) and he knew you're barely sixteen (if he didn't misjudge) and yet you can't access any of the money. For Christ's sake, how is that supposed to help you?

(Sorry - bad habit. My cousins - the boys, not the ones who dressed me up in doll clothes - have intolerably bad swearing habits.)

And Papa left you his name too. Emma Whitehall - it certainly looks like a name I ought to know, as half of it's mine. Like someone on the tip of my tongue, a relation - a cousin. Or a sister.

I'm remiss - you don't even know who I am. Well, you know I'm your half sister (actually, you could have assumed I was your brother considering I never actually said, but I rather thought the doll clothes gave me away). My name is Virginia Georgiana Lenora Whitehall, daughter of Lady Marion Isabel and the deceased Lord Bertram Jasper Whitehall, Earl of Eastwood. It's beyond me why he gave you his name, like he thinks it would legitimize you. Who would believe a Whitehall could be an ordinary Miss?

I live in a house far grander then you have ever see, that was built two hundred years ago (by a slightly deranged, though architecturally brilliant man) and has been expanded ever since. I am coming out next year (fourteen months! The agony!) Though I am not a beauty - not plain, certainly, but not an Incomparable - I will still be one of the most sought after girls because I am blue blooded and whoever marries me will immediately be the Earl of Eastwood. Everyone loves a rich heiress, especially young bachelors with gambling problems.

When Papa - dying - informed Mama and me about you, Mama fainted. I don't believe she was so shocked that Papa had been unfaithful as much as that he had had the bad taste to mention it in front of her. And that she's afraid scandal will ruin me.

Ha. I'm an heiress. Rumors can run rampant and I'll still have plenty of offers. I'd rather like to go traveling, actually, and stay unmarried. I could grew up to be an eccentric old maid who takes young serving maids from off the streets, grooms them into proper young ladies and acts like a fairy godmother.

Now that I put that down, that sounds frightfully boring, actually. Mama expects me to marry immediately, but I don't want to do that either. Consider her and Papa - they married Mama's first season out, and look what happened to them. Mama's been bitter ever since, and I can see why if Papa take's his attention elsewhere.

I confronted her about it once. Told her I thought I wouldn't marry right away. She exploded.

"Virginia, I don't know what's gotten into you! Of course you'll marry. It's your responsibility to continue the Whitehall line, as you're the only one able to do it. You wouldn't want the title going to your second cousin Thomas, would you?"

That was low. Thomas was twenty-two, and Mama and I both despise him. (It's one of the only things we agree on.) He's the son of Papa's only cousin, and as Papa has no brothers, he is closest to inheriting after me. He is the most superficial person I have ever met - and I have met many - and I swear, would give up Eastwood if someone promised to have a wardrobe of the latest fashions from Paris. He's appalling.

"Of course I'll marry," I protested, "Just not yet. I-"

"Do you think no one will ask you?" Mama asked, narrowing her beady eyes and glaring at me, like if I did think that it would be entirely my fault. Mama approaches scary when's she being disapproving. She is very tall and has the palest blond hair and icy gray eyes and her face has no expression but is very imperious. (I suppose I contradicted myself there, but it's true.)

"People will ask, but marrying so quickly is hardly any fun-"

"Marriage," she said in the iciest voice you have ever heard, "is not supposed to be fun."

Then she swept out of the room.

Papa said, when I told him, that this was because she was afraid I would win the argument if we continued, but I maintain she was just bored with my obviously insipid wish for freedom. I have never won an argument with Mama. I've held to my own conviction, but I've never actually won. Come to think of it, it's rather depressing.

I try not to argue with her too much. It's rather stressful. And embarrassing. And then I end up screaming at her and she gives me the silent treatment for a week. I suppose the bad thing about having parents is that you want them to approve of you, even though mine usually don't. Or at least Mama doesn't. Papa -

Is gone.

Actually, Mama and I had a fight about you recently. I was getting ready to pay a call on Alison, my closest friend, when Mama entered the parlor, holding a crumbled sheet of paper in her hands.

"What is this?"

Caught by surprise, I answered honestly, which is never a wise thing to do, as Mama will always turn it against me. Then again, if I lie she'll always find out.

"A letter to Emma," I told her, straightening my hat in the mirror. It was lovely for a mourning bonnet - but you don't care. Anyway -

"Emma?" Mama gasped. I watched in the mirror as she sat down, then turned, tugging one of my black curls into place. "That whore's daughter?"

I blinked. Mama isn't usually so explicit. I would have expected her to say Papa's mistress, or a prostitute at the lowest. "Yes," I said slowly, trying not to antagonize her.

"You're writing to her?"

"Someone has to inform her of Papa's death."

"Yes, a lawyer."

"Mama, that's hardly decent."

"And was it decent when her mother slept with my husband?"

I was shocked. Mama was usually icily polite. She must have been more upset then I thought.

I edged a reply. "It's hardly the girl's fault what her mother's done."

Mama threw her hands up in the air. "Next you'll be asking her to live with us!" she said scornfully. "Like she's some lost animal you found on the street and decided to take in. The animal is still wild, and will turn on the hand that feeds it."

I refrained from mentioning that Jasmine, my cat, had been rescued from the streets of London when I was there at five. The only thing she ever did to the hand that feeds her is lick and bump her head against.

"I cannot believe you are writing to her. You disappoint me, Virginia."

(This, by the by, is not new. I always disappoint Mama.)

"Wouldn't it be prudent to write to her now and so stop her before she gets any ideas above her station after gaining the Whitehall name?" I asked.

(Mama loves the word prudent. I interject it in my sentences whenever I can when I speak to her.)

Mama sniffed. She is very good at this, having perfected the tiny noise, arrogant lift of her head, and disdainful eyes. Her hair, pulled back in a tight bun at the time, combined with the black mourning gown she wore perfected it. (In mourning for two years. Mama will go insane, I'm positive of it. I would die if I was only allowed out for church services and couldn't go visiting except close relatives. Luckily, I only have to wear black for one year instead of two, and Alison's so close everyone overlooks it if I visit her.) "If you must, you must," Mama said, which was her version of "All right then, darling, do whatever you like," only with minimally less cheer.

So that's what I'm supposed to be writing. Don't be high and mighty because you're now a Whitehall. Personally, if I was in your situation I wouldn't become high and mighty because of a name, but rather because of the money. That would turn my head a bit.

And . . . Can't think of much else. I probably should have sounded sterner and less rambling, but I'm not in a very stern mood. (On account of my visit with Alison — we spent the time looking at fashion magazines and reading dime novels aloud to each other. I always come home in an inordinately good mood from her house, possibly because her mother is the kind who always is cheerful and doesn't care what's vogue or not and always asks how I am and if I'm feeling all right. If I'd had to break down in sobs in public I would rather it be in front of her then in front of Mama, who would frown instead of comforting me.

What's the point of having children if you're not going to love them? Then again, I was always a disappointment, being a girl. Not like it's my fault, but somehow I end up with all the blame. Pathetic, really — adults go on and on about how unreasonable children are and how melodramatic and then go accusing us for things that aren't are fault in the least.

Do write back. I'm bored out of my mind sitting in my perfect mourning dress (all my favorite gowns — dyed black! The injustice!) and reading condolence letters. Many are from woman with eligible sons - fancy that.

Yours truly,

Virginia Whitehall