Brighter Than The Sun
It happened at the park; Susie still remembered some of it. It was a cold winter morning, some snow had fallen the night before and the morning air tingled with the promise of even more snow. She and her father, the devilishly handsome Earl of Westman, walked through the park towards their house in Mayfair. There had been loads of things on Susie's mind, like how soon would her Mama be having her baby brother, what name would she chose for him (surely they would let her chose!), if she could get away with staying in bed all day with her mother, cuddled up to her Mama's big stomach, feeling the baby kick and eating the pastries she and her father had just procured. These things occupied her mind until she heard someone call her father's name.
"Westman!" A woman said. Her father stopped and exchanged pleasantries with two very beautiful women, one blond and the other dark haired. Susie looked up at the grown ups and smiled at her father's voice. She then turned her attention to the children accompanying the women; there were two boys and two girls, they all smiled at her, seemingly friendly, but no one said a word. Then, the older of the boys, who was a couple of years older than Susie herself with very dark hair and intense gray eyes, came closer, extending his hand. She saw that he held a few peppermint drops. Susie had always been partial to peppermint drops, which prompted her to get the Cherry twist lollipop she had in her coat's pocket and handle it over. The exchange was made and the boy – whom she would later learn was Robbie or Robert Stapleton the second – shook her hand afterwards, a very firm handshake for such a young boy. Susie smiled, his hand was warm.
She walked back to her father, tugged at his coat and when Lord Westman looked down, she raised her arms above her head and gave one single command; "Up." Her Papa lifted her with one arm and tucked her into his warmth. "I better take her home, give my best to John." Her Papa said stroking her blond curls gently, the same way he did with her Mama when she was asleep. Susie vaguely remembered the ladies' voices as she snuggled in. As her father walked away, Susie looked back over his shoulder; Robbie was still there, looking at her. Susie grinned and waved. Robbie waved back and then ran back to his mother.
Lady Susannah Westman – best known as Susie – was too young to know it then, but the course of her life had changed that day.
Lady Susannah Westman knew she had many blessings to count. Her parents loved each other and loved her; she got along with her little brother Nicholas and they hardly ever fought; she had good friends and she had always felt safe and loved.
There was also the part where she was rich – her father had settled some 50 thousand pounds on her dowry alone – and had inherited her father's blond good looks, Ever since she was a child she could remember people saying things like: "You're such a pretty girl, like a doll almost." Those were the nice ones; there were the others, like her Aunt Arabella who said how fortunate it was that Susie had only inherited her mothers eyes, and not anything else, as Lady Charlotte was universally regarded as a very nice but rather plain woman. Certainly she had only snagged the very handsome Westman thanks to being the eldest daughter of the Duke of Arlington. Susie always hated hearing that. Her mother was the heart and soul of her family and anyone with two eyes could see that her father loved her mother fiercely, but most people of the ton were incredibly blind.
Susie hadn't set out to prove a point, but a point had been proven when, at the age of 14, Susie heard her despicable Aunt Arabella saying mean things about her mother and bragging about how the only reason Charlotte had married was because the late Duke and the late Marquis otherwise known as her grandfathers – had arranged the marriage and how her father had to be dragged, drunk, down the aisle. Then Arabella had gone on to say how it was fortunate that Susie looked like her father, surely someone who was pretty and rich wouldn't have Charlotte's problems and would snag a husband easily.
Well, Susie didn't want to snag anyone, and maybe she had read too many romance novels in her life, or she had seen her parents and their friends love each other, but she certainly didn't want someone to marry her because she had blond hair and a pretty face and much less because her father had lots of money. Next thing anyone knew, (and to Nick's endless mortification) Susie took on wearing plain clothes, as plain as she could without actually being shabby; and she began pulling her hair into thick braids and wearing thick glasses even though she actually only needed them to read.
Overnight, people stopped commenting on her looks, if they did it was only to point out how adolescence was so unbecoming in some people. Her friends had laughed a little but they all took it very well, and they never talked behind her back or were ashamed be seen around her. She went through her first four seasons like that, cheerfully saying that if any man wanted her money he could very well put up with her appearance. "Let him work for it!" She had cheerfully said when a notoriously broke viscount had approached her and, tactfully, said how her looks would be much improved if only she stopped wearing glasses. "Like it doesn't matter I can't see without them!"
Emma, a gorgeous blond with baby-grass green eyes smiled, "But Susie, you see perfectly well without them, I know you do. Whenever we are alone, you keep pushing them off your face."
"They do make my nose a bit sweaty." She confessed. "But, still, for 50 thousand pounds plus 10 thousand a year, he can very well put up with them!"
"Oh, Susie, Susie, Susie, you're so lucky I love you so well!" Emma said with a laugh.
"What is there not to love?" Susie asked and then burst out giggling like crazy.
There was another part of it, of why she never made an effort and kept discouraging suitors and fortune hunters, a part she wouldn't admit to anyone, especially not Emma and Becky (Emma's cousin and another very close friend who had recently married), and that part was the fact that, well, that Susie was sort of madly in love with Emma's twin brother Robbie. Sadly though, Robbie, at least the last time she had seen him two years ago, still thought of her as little Susie, the one who was partial to peppermint drops and was always running around with his sister.
It was sort of funny that, just then, Emma seemed to remember herself enough to say "Oh, didn't I tell you? Robbie is coming back!"
End of Chapter One
Note Added 17/08/08 - I got a Beta, so that's why it looks a little bit different, I hope we go over the whole story soon. Her name is Banana Nut Muffin and she's great!