It was raining the day Robert Brighton met Fiona Moore. He was taking a business trip to Emerald Isle, which had been one of his favorite places since he was just a scrap of a boy. She was only a young girl, half his age, and lived in the small village that neared the mansion of Brighton's business associate. He fell in love with her dark hair and green eyes, which he claimed Ireland had been given its nickname after. She had no objections. He was rich and her family desperatley needed money.
It was raining the day Fiona Moore became Fiona Brighton. It was a small wedding, but after, Robert showered her with gifts and jewels and a carriage that was custom designed for her own personal use. She sent money to her family regularly, a part of the allowance that Robert gave her, because she had no need for the extra money anyway. Her family lived well, and she was happy for that. And then came her happiest moment.
It was raining when Fiona Brighton realized she was pregnant. And it was raining when her two month old son died from pneumonia. She wore black after that, always, a tribute to her beloved Jason. She would never stop mourning for the loss of her wonderous child. But soon time dulled the pain. And then she felt joy again. And it rained the day that Fiona Brighton gave birth to a girl, a girl she called Faerie, after the aes sidhe and the good people and the cunning folk that the surperstitious never dared to talk about. Fiona named her child Faerie if only to remember her life in her beloved Ireland, and how, as a young girl, she had laughed in the face of superstition.
Fitting, it was then, for it to be raining on Fiona's funeral.
My breath came out in short, bright puffs and I held onto my black parasol with diligent black-gloved hands. The patter of the rain on the top of the parasol was a welcome relief to my ears. These were the ears that could hear nothing but the eulogist proclaim how good and wonderful my mother was. How kind and charitable she was. How she would soon join the Lord in heaven. Oh, but kind sir, I wished to say. Mother never took us to church. She never believed in heaven. She was what you called a sinner. You only are saying nice things about my mother because my father is important and wealthy. My lips remained sealed, though. I was a lady now. Not a child.
A few cold, wet drops fell through my parasol onto the tiny part of exposed skin where my sleeves and gloves failed to meet. They chilled me and I looked up to the top of the fabric. It was soaking wet. I gave a large sigh of unhappiness, but Father must have heard it, for he nudged me just a little with his elbow. Ignoring him, I turned back to the coffin my mother now lay in. She was wearing the dress I picked out for her...the ball gown she wore on Christmas Eve last year. She'd been so beautiful and so perfect. But when I'd seen her, only a few short hours ago, I'd been aghast. The woman who lay in the coffin looked her.
I'd run away with unshed tears in my eyes, but had been scolded by my father only moments later. Ladies did not cry in front of others. Ladies did not cry, ever.
Mother was a lady, though, and she cried. I saw her.
The funeral was a sea of black gowns and black coats and tophats. Opposite of me, I met eyes with Rupert Townshend, who nodded to me once. I looked away quickly, heat on my cheeks. Not from flattery, or flirtation. I did not want to be misunderstood. I'd never marry him, no matter what my father wanted. Mother didn't want me marrying him, he was a foolish prig, she'd said. But father argued that it'd be a savvy business move. Rupert's father was even more wealthy than mine, and to have such an alliance would suit everyone well, he said.
As long as mother had been here, I'd been able to escape from marriage of Rupert. Now with her gone, I knew what my future was. So I looked down at the ground, to my black boots that stood in the rolling fog. The sweeping gray tendrils lapped at the hem of the long skirt of my dress, and I felt a sudden breath of cold at the back of my neck.
Looking up quickly, I surveyed the people. Nothing looked out of the ordinary. We were just a funeral procession, paying our respects to the wife of Robert Brighton. That was all. But as the coffin was lowered six feet into the ground, I felt another cold breath on the back of my neck. I turned my head. Nothing. I could feel it though.
Death was sweeping through me, and as I looked to the other people, I saw a few of them shiver uncontrollably, as if they'd just felt the same chill I'd felt. Blinking, the tears that I'd forced back earlier resurfaced faster than I could have ever imagined. My mother was being lowered, lowered down. I'd never see her radiant smile or hear her beautiful laugh. I'd never hear her scold me for not listening to my governess or my father or her, ever again. I'd never feel the touch of her hand against mine, ever again, or the feel of her soft lips on my hair. She'd never run a comb through my unruly locks, tsking, again. She was gone. Gone, gone, gone.
And then I was being pushed, pushed along by my father, and everything seemed to blur together. The faces and people melted into each other, become watercolors of black and white and gray and brown. I looked back to my mother's coffin, but there were men throwing dirt over her now. She was buried along with the earthworms, who would pick and eat at her skin. She'd become part of the earth, which even though she said she always wanted, and even though she said that was the natural order of things, I couldn't believe she could be gone so early. I'd only had her for sixteen years and now there were only memories left.
I was ushered into the carriage and Father and I sat on opposite sides, on opposite ends. He looked out one window and I looked out the other. Ladies and gentlemen walked casually through the rain, but of course, this was London, it always rained. And it was now the waning of Autumn, Winter was almost upon us. It was obvious from the leaves. They became brown and they fell off the trees like dead weights. I'd seen, sometimes, the trees change color, but not this year. This year it was just wet and grey and brown and terrible. And it was my home and now that my mother was gone, I could never leave. But even if I'd had a choice, I didn't think I'd ever leave anyway. There was nowhere else to go.
After funerals, I knew, there was always a feast. To honor the dead, they said. I knew the truth, though. It was to praise the fact that it wasn't they who were buried. Toasting to life, but not to the idea of life, but the materials of life. Another day older but another day richer and another day alive. They kept hanging on, and no one really, ever honored the dead.
We were not the first carriage to arrive at our townhouse. There were others before us, and they all told us, when we arrived, how sorry they were for our loss. Each time I'd glare at them, biting back a remark I knew Father would deem unlady-like. I wanted to tell them all that they were vile for even coming here. They should be home, crying over my mother. Crying the tears I could not cry because I was so constricted. And because my life was whirling around me. I could catch nothing. I could feel nothing. But they kept saying they were sorry, they kept telling us what a terrible loss it was. Why, why were they saying it? I knew how most of the people in our social circle hated my mother. They called her Irish filth, they scoffed at her beautiful, lilting accent that had sung me to sleep many nights. They didn't understand why she didn't go to church, they called her a hedonist, a sinner.
My mother was the farthest thing from a hedonist I ever knew, and the only sin she'd ever commited was loving me too much.
"Fiona was such a gem," Samuel Townshend said with a sigh. He and Rupert, his son, had approached us and I wanted to spit on their feet. Rupert was eyeing me casually, as if I was something to buy. I knew, though, that's all I really was to them. A business transaction. And now that my mother was dead, all they needed to do was work out the details.
Father exhaled a deep breath. "Yes she truly was. You have no idea what a horror it was to watch her as she fell down the stairs...straight onto her head...just a terrible, terrible sight." I shied away from this and looked to the fire. I only spoke when I was spoken to, which right now, was actually very helpful. I did not wish to join in on this conversation.
Samuel Townshend looked at me carefully. "Well, now it will be much harder to look after little Faerie. What will you do with her now?" he asked and my father was about to reply and I just wanted to run away because I didn't want to hear Father tell Townshend that he would now very much like to honor the engagement that they had been talking about for so long. It would be such a nice chance for Father to just toss me off onto someone else. He wouldn't have to deal with me, then.
But something, or someone, as it were, happened to catch my father's eye. "Ah!" he exclaimed. The three of us looked to where my father was looking. A man had just come in and was giving his tophat to Georg, our butler. As he straightened up, I was hit with the strangest feeling. His face was so perfectley beautiful. He was, it was true, much older than I, but I could not stop the blush that came to my cheeks as he greeted my father with a hearty handshake. Father then turned the man to the rest of us. "Sam, Rupert, Faerie, this is Charles Wainwright, an associate of mine who lives in Northumberland."
I made my polite curtsy and Townshend and Rupert gave a grave bow with quiet a "How do you do?" The man, Charles, replied with a bow. He then turned to me and picked up my hand.
"Faerie...you have no idea what a delight it is to finally meet you. You are even more beautiful in person than your father told me in his letters." With that, he kissed my hand chastely, but it made my cheeks burn from flattery.
Father turned back to Townshend. "Charles and his wife, Lily, own Deathcreeke Manor and deal with all my Scottish partners."
Charles chuckled. "Ah yes, but of course, as of late, we are talking about a different sort of transaction."
Father smiled to Townshend and Rupert. "Charles and I were talking, just before the funeral, about Faerie going up to visit Deathcreeke for awhile." He turned to me then, and I only stared at him. This was the first I'd heard of his plan. "I truly believe that the clean air of the country would do wonders for you, Faerie. Fiona died but a week ago and already you are a changed girl."
"Uh-" was all I could say. I didn't know if I was happy or sad or angry or joyous. I did not want to be married to Rupert, but I did not want to leave London and my mother. The two sides fought with me and I wasn't sure what to say to my father. Fortunatley, though, I didn't need to say anything. Townshend was turning about four shades of red, and even Rupert looked increasingly uncomfortable.
"I don't understand this, Brighton. Weren't we just talking about the marriage between my son and your daughter? Didn't we agree upon that?" Townshend was flustered, angry, and desperate. I'd never realized that maybe he wanted this alliance as much as my father did.
My father did not look too uncomfortable. "Fiona never did wish Faerie to marry Rupert. I only thought it was a good business move. But now...with what I hear about Townshend and Associates, what with your plethora of financial crises and the scandals of the adultrous affairs of your wife...I really don't see Rupert as a suitable match for Faerie anymore." As shocked as I was to hear all of this (for ladies never were supposed to hear things like this, it was supposed to be sinful, or some nonsense like that), I was not shocked at my father. This hadn't been about me. He didn't want to save me from Rupert, I was just not a good choice for him now. My dad was still hoisting me off on some other family. He probably hoped that I'd marry up in Northumberland.
But what did it matter? My future was dismal either way. If I stayed here, my father would just find another terrible, stuffy, obnoxious batchelor and I'd marry him. Rupert wasn't terrible, I knew that, he was actually quite nice, and could be very romantic when he wished, but I did not want to marry him because I just didn't know him. If I stayed here, if I stayed just to be with Mother, I'd give up any chance at trying to find my own little happiness. If I obliged my father and went with Charles - Mr. Wainwright, at least I might have a chance to find my own husband, and marry someone I could at least tolerate, someone I liked as a friend. I remembered my mother telling me, "Marry someone who will love you forever," and it hadn't taken a genius to figure out that she was really trying to say "Don't make the mistake I did."
If I couldn't find someone that would love me forever, at least with Mr. Wainwright, I'd have the chance to find someone I could tolerate. So it was that I looked up to my father. "I will gladly go with Mr. Wainwright," I told him. Glad wasn't something I felt, but it was all I could say.
Father laughed and patted me on the back and looked to Townshend, who was still angry, Rupert, who was sulking and Mr. Wainwright, who was smiling serenly. "Isn't that charming! She thought she had a say in the matter! Faerie actually believed she had a choice!"
I would miss Mother terribly, so I knew I must take everything from the house that reminded me of her. But I would not miss Father.
And on the day that I left my house, one week later, it rained.