Lita and I told her parents right away about our betrothal. We walked back to her house – after I secured my cloak around her – and Lita took me to her parents right away. Lady Evencort clasped her hands together in delight and asked when we wished to marry, so she could begin making plans.
Lord Evencort fixed me with this very steady gaze and then turned to Lita, who was smiling next to me. "You sure?" He asked her in this very even voice. Lita nodded. Lord Evencort sighed. "Fine, then."
"Can I go on making plans now?" Lady Evencort inquired calmly.
Lita and I decided the wedding would take place within a month. We didn't want to wait; even when we knew the gossips were going to flare us alive, but we decided that was a minor inconvenience. Surprisingly, when Lady Featherington reported our impending nuptials, she didn't make one sharp-tongued remark. Just limited her self to comment that the wedding would be a small affair at Penhollow Hall instead of a grand wedding in Town.
The very same afternoon of our betrothal, I accompanied Lita to tell Mr. Brixton that she was most definitely not going to marry him. She was kind about it and even step on my foot twice to prevent me from adding a sarcastic comment to what she was saying. Brixton didn't take it kindly but with me standing right next to Lita, there was nothing he could do but curse out loud a few times.
After that it all happened in a wind whirl. Lady Evencort and Mother went about planning the wedding; Michael Evencort paid a call to my house just to let me know that if I ever made his sister unhappy, he would tear me apart. I told him that if I ever made Lita unhappy, he had my permission to tear me apart and we left it like that.
I returned to Cornwall two weeks before the wedding, and Lita arrived a week after. She accepted my invitation to stay at Penhollow Hall, so she could get familiar with the house and the servants and the comings and goings of the estate. Her parents, however, chose to remain at the town's inn.
"Can I open my eyes now?" Lita asked as I drew her into the room she would be occupying until our wedding. It was the one in which the Penhollow brides usually stayed. It was a big room, with plenty of light and a set of French doors that opened to the garden, with a lovely view of the fountain.
"Well, I suppose you can." I said crisply. Lita laughed before she opened her eyes. Then she was quiet, looking about in wonder. "Does this meet with your approval?" I asked.
Lita nodded. I took her to the window.
"Maybe it's silly, but I could swear I've seen this garden before." She said to me in tones of disbelief.
I thought about it for a moment, not sure of what she wanted to say. Finally I leaned down and kissed her cheek. "Some things are better never understood, Lita." She nodded again, this time with a smile. "That's my room." I said pointing to a window in the second floor. "Well, our room in a week."
"Can you see the garden from there?"
"Yes, you can see the garden, the stables and the ocean." I answered, thinking of the three massive windows that covered practically three of the walls of the master bedroom.
I moved her to stand before me and wrapped my arms around her, to keep her back to my chest and rested my chin on the top of her head. "Must be like being on the top of everything."
I kissed her head; it was so soothing having her here, at my home, and knowing that she would be my wife in mere seven days. "It is. You'll like it."
"I already like it here." She said, leaning back and snuggling closer.
"So this is how I find myself without my sister." I muttered to myself as the wedding reception closed to an end. My parents had already taken Maddy, Sophie and James back to the inn, so it was all me.
"Now, you didn't lost a sister, you gained a brother." A laughing little voice said. So it wasn't just me, it was Jenny and I. I grunted something, to let her known that I had heard. "Besides, Lita did look happy."
That was right, Lita was positively glowing. This was, I guess, the point of this entire ordeal. She had begged me to delay my trip to France for another two weeks so I would be present at her wedding. The next day we, the Evencorts plus Jenny, would be relocating to Plymouth. Lady Annabelle had been going on and on about how lovely the beach in Plymouth was, and Mother had gotten to her head that she wanted to spend a couple of days there so Sophie and James could enjoy the beach – never mind that it was winter and the water was probably un-swim-able.
"Michael, do stop grunting, you sound rather like a bear." Jenny teased.
That was the other thing. Jenny. Was it really that weird that when I was with her I felt the less like going all the way to France for a woman that, though I loved –and had compromised- my family detested?
I turned to see Jenny, in her marine-blue maid of honor dress, all made up and looking quite grown up. I had to smile; there was a part of me that would always see her like the little seven-year-old girl that had run around with Lita and me at Riverside Hall, but I couldn't deny that she had grown up quite nicely while I wasn't looking.
Jenny's brows went up, expecting me to say something. I swallowed and then a glimmer of gold caught my attention, a fine gold chain hanging from her neck, it was the pendant I had given to her. "Do you like butterflies?" I swear that's what she asked.
"Of course not." I grumbled, snapping out of my train of though. Why would she ask if I like butterflies?
"Then what's wrong?" She asked, looking concerned.
"I asked if you were all right. You said 'Of course not', so I'm asking what's wrong?" She was all concern, too. And it wasn't fake.
"Um, nothing. I thought you asked something else. Never mind" I cut before she could question what I had thought she had asked. "Are you staying in Plymouth with my parents?" I asked suddenly.
"No, actually, I'm going back to London. I've missed enough of my lessons as it is." She said cheerfully. "And no one would hire a governess who failed out of school."
"Well, I guess we'll keep each other company then."
Michael has definitely been acting weird.
Maybe he's just freaked out because of Lita's marriage. They are very close after all, and it must hurt –especially since they are twins – to depart with a sibling. But then again, Michael was going to marry soon, as well, so it didn't make a great deal of sense.
The train ride from Plymouth to London had been fun, it really had been, and we had talked and read out loud and even played chess. And then we got to London.
One of Lord Evencort's carriages had been sent to pick us up. Michael gave instructions to the driver to take the carriage to my school before going to his house. And that was the last thing he had said.
And he hadn't even said it to me.
"Oh, I almost forgot." He said as we neared the street of my school.
"Uh?" I started.
"I have the book I told you about." He said as if that explained something, he had told me about a lot of books. "Oscar Wilde one." He went about looking for the book I dimly remember he had mentioned. "I read it already; I think it's rather good, regardless of what people say of the man…" He trailed off; probably they said something unsavory of Mr. Wilde and if it was unsavory, we didn't hear a word of it at Ludlow Academy. "Anyway, it's his first novel, he's better known for short stories and plays."
I nodded and he handed me a leather bound book, The Portrait of Dorian Grey, "I made a few notes at the margin. We'll talk about it when I return from France in two weeks." He said with a smile. I nodded again, though a little more hesitant. "What is it?"
I frowned, thinking on what I was about to say. "I don't think your fiancée will like that you and I are friends. Certainly, after your engagement, it will not be proper that you and I keep spending quite so much time together. It's not seemly."
Michael laughed, waving the thought off. "I don't see what's wrong with us being friends, Jenny." He said.
And though I could see many reasons why it was wrong, I didn't voice out any of them. I just nodded and smiled. And when the carriage stopped in front of Ludlow's and I got down and wished Michael good-trip… I was struck by the oddest feeling that it would take more than two weeks for me to see him again.
My wedding was everything I had ever dreamed of. It wasn't big but it was fun, and full of warmth and in the end that's all what a girl needs. I had to beg Michael to delay his trip and it took a good while to convince the headmistress at Jenny's school to allow her yet another week away from school, but in the end I had both my brother and my best friend with me on my wedding day.
I almost did cry then, when they all waved me goodbye, delivering me to the man with whom I would start my own family and my own set of memories away from them.
After my parents left, Derek showed me to his – our – room. The first part of it was a private sitting room, the walls were pale yellow and it had heavy, masculine furniture. I looked around, not sure what I was going to say, that's when I noticed that the framed print over the settee looked rather familiar… it had to since I had drawn it. "Oh!" I exclaimed going over to it.
Derek smiled. "I had it framed. It's one of my favorites. You left it at the house in London, I brought it with me." I turned to Derek and hugged him close. Those little gestures always reassured me that I was well loved.
Derek smiled down at me and hugged me and swept me into my arms. "May I show you to the bedroom?" He asked softly after he planted a kiss on the tip of my nose. I nodded amid a fit of giggles.
The first thing that caught my attention was a huge, canopied bed. The bed curtains and spread were marine blue. The walls of the room were painted on beige and the entire place seemed to shimmer with light. Our bedroom was located at the end of the wing and the walls featured one window after another on three sides so the room was filled with late-afternoon, pink-orange sunlight.
To my left the windows overlooked the stables and the pasture, to the right the garden and off, in front and in the distance, the ocean and coastline. "It's like being in the top of the world." I told him in a whisper.
"I always feel like that when I'm with you." Derek said as he gently settled me down in the bed.
Let just be said that we didn't left the room for a week… perhaps more. I was getting used to living so intimately with him and I rather liked it.
A exact week after our wedding, I was woken by the first shafts of light that flirted by the windows – Derek never closed the curtains, luckily we were so far up that there were no chances of anyone spying on us while we… er… you know. Anyway, I pulled on Derek's robe- though I hadn't bothered on wearing anything for the best part of the last week, but there was a slight chill on the air – and walked to the window to watch the sunrise. It was really something.
Just as the sun was rising high over the coast I head Derek sleepy rumble. "What are you doing over there?" He asked. His green eyes trailed over me. "It's that my robe?" He asked lifting an eyebrow.
"What's yours it's mine." I said, just as the robe slipped off my shoulder. He was a great deal bigger than me. I let my own gaze rake over him, his muscled chest and his hard abdomen and took a great deal of pleasure in knowing that he was mine.
He nodded and smiled that boyish smile that always made me melt. "True. And what's yours is mine, so come over here and let me get a better look under that robe."
I acted as if I was giving this a great deal of thought. And then just smiled and ran back to him and jumped into the bed.
Derek caught me in his arms and began to kiss me, slowly, tenderly.
And I knew that no one could ever love me like Derek did… that my life would be happy and full of light.
And I knew there was no other place I'd rather be.
End of Epilogue
End of The Wallflower
Okay, here's what's to come!
...Thank you, sister dear, for your remark that I had surprised you with my kind heart when you found out I had taken their child in and had the heart to forgive Adam and Adele. You must know I didn't do it for them. I still remember all too well their casual betrays, however the child - Nicole I believe she's called - has no blame on this. And, as you must recall, our parents didn't raise me to be a bastard.
At any rate, I must admit it was quite genial of you to suggest Jenny came here to help me deal with the child - mother already told me it was your idea, don't deny it - you quite saved me the trouble of looking for a governess.
I haven't seen Jenny in quite a while - since your wedding actually, now that I think of it - hopefully she's still as amicable as she used to be...
From Michael Evencort, Marquis's of Danforth to his sister Gabriela, Countess of Penhollow.