Howard sat in the Capitol building at the end of Duke of Gloucester Street, his feet propped on his chestnut desk. He wore his signature, red waistcoat, and his long, gray hair was tied in a ponytail. He tapped his finger on the desk, up and down, up and down. The pace of matters was definitely slower than in England, but at least he got to call the shots.
It had been two weeks since they arrived, and Howard took every opportunity he could to show his superiority. The people of Williamsburg looked at him differently. In London, his fellow townsfolk saw him as an equal. Here, however, people saw him as powerful, intimidating even. He enjoyed that, but there was still too much trouble brewing for his liking. There was constant talk in the newspaper of various rebellions happening around the Colonies, and local Patriots were voicing their opinions. It didn't scare him, though. He took the task of setting the Americans straight and managing his regiment in Virginia with great pride. If he planned to be promoted to general, he needed to display every bit of experience he possessed.
And if becoming general meant devoting more time to his work, then so be it. His career had always served as a way to forget the rest of the world, even as a young man, and he wasn't about to let that outlet fall from his grasp. It would continue to distract him, to numb the parts of his heart that had been all too hollow.
His new assistant, Edward Taylor, burst through his office doors. His red coat flew behind him as he did so. He was a young fellow and had a great deal more to learn about war and politics. Even over the past two weeks, his incompetence had driven Howard past his bounds many times.
"Colonel Marlborough." Edward tilted his tricorn hat in his direction. "I have a pressing matter to discuss with you."
Howard brought his feet off the desk and motioned for Edward to pull up a chair. He let out a sigh. "What is it now?"
Edward sat down. "I've just received a dispatch from a contact in Pennsylvania, sir."
Howard picked up a feather pen and flipped it in his hand. "And?" He stared at him blankly.
"Well, I am sure you are aware that delegates have been meeting for the Continental Congress." Edward moved in his seat, a little uneasy.
"Who doesn't know that, Edward?" Howard scoffed. "Get on with it."
"Alright…" Edward folded his hands. "There is talk of a formal declaration being drawn up and announced this summer."
Howard stopped flipping the pen and stared at Edward. "God damn it." He stood immediately and threw the pen on the floor, huffing.
"It isn't for certain, though." Edward stood up, too, and tried to meet his gaze. "Nothing is confirmed, it's merely talk. There is still a chance that-"
Howard shook his finger. "No. I know how these fools operate." He paced around the floors. "They feed off one another. They're desperate to create a spectacle of themselves."
"That doesn't mean that a declaration will actually come-"
Howard stalked closer to Edward. "Do you not know anything? These Patriots are gaining more and more momentum by the moment, and they don't acknowledge anything we do." He breathed a heavy sigh. "They will have a declaration, Edward. Give it time."
The young man swallowed and stared at the floor.
"You seem to believe that there is a way we can stop it," Howard said. "But there isn't. The true matter is how we will handle the aftermath. Any sort of secession will merely propel them to resist us more. They will think they are invincible, that they are the majority. That is where the problem lies."
Edward nodded slowly. He avoided looking at him.
Howard sat back down. "So listen here." He motioned for Edward to lean in. "Don't you ever come into my office and tell me something I already know. We've no time for it."
"Yes, sir." Edward began to walk out of the room. He was scared to say much else.
"Oh and Edward?"
"Tis probably in your best interest to actually start reading your war books."
Edeline ran her hands along the blue, silk fabric. It was a beautiful shade, almost similar to that of a sky with no clouds in sight. She held up a bolt of cream lace to the edge. They created a soft, feminine blend when placed together.
"We just received that lace last week," the owner of the dress shop chimed. "Isn't it lovely?" She smiled.
Edeline looked up from the pairing. "Indeed it is." She picked up the pastel fabric and took it into her arms, walking over to the wooden counter at the entrance to the store.
"Now do we have your measurements on file?" the lady asked.
"Oh." Edeline let out a small laugh. "I'd prefer to purchase the fabric if that is alright. I make all of my own dresses."
"Is that right?" The lady looked her gown over. "Well, if you made the one you're wearing, you did a splendid job."
Edeline held out her arms to look at the work she had done on the sleeves. "Thank you very much." The dress she wore was fashioned out of a sage green pattern, and her stomacher was covered with a light pink, satin trimming.
"Where did you learn to sew so beautifully?"
"My mother taught me…" Her smile dropped. "Since I was a young girl we would spend a lot of time designing patterns, picking out fabrics…" She trailed off and stared at the floor.
"We'd love for you to come and show us how it turns out." The lady grabbed a piece of parchment and picked up her feather pen, dipping it into a bottle of ink. "And who shall I make the bill out to?"
"Oh yes, if you could send it to my father that would be wonderful. Colonel Marlborough, please." She gave a small smile. "On Palace Green Street."
The woman stopped short. "Colonel Marlborough?"
"Yes, please. If you wouldn't mind."
The woman gave her a puzzled look and pulled the fabric and lace trim closer to her. "I'm sorry, but…" She trailed off.
Edeline began to blush. "Is something the matter?" She let out a nervous laugh.
"Well…" The woman put the items under the counter. "My husband doesn't allow me to sell to… Loyalists…"
Edeline's expression dropped. She felt as if she had been hit in the gut, and her stomach dropped just as much as her smile. "I… I don't understand…"
"I'm sorry, miss. It used not to be that way, but..." She shrugged. "My husband has other ideas."
"I can pay you more for the fabric. Would that help?" She shook her head in disbelief. She leaned forward, hoping to catch one more glimpse of that perfect fabric. "I'm a customer just as anyone else."
"Yes, but… I can't. We can't."
Edeline felt tears burn at the rim of her eyes and headed to the door. "Tis no matter…. Thank you." She closed the door behind her, although she had to fight the temptation to slam it in rage. She closed her eyes, trying to hold in the tears. Maybe it was from remembering the times she and her mother spent in heaps of fabric, laughing and having fun; maybe it was from being refused to a purchase just because of who her father was, who she was.
She sniffled and went down the steps, picking up her skirts as she went. The clicking of horse hooves and carriage wheels drowned out in her head. Of course when she tried to find normalcy and pleasure here in Williamsburg, it was taken out from underneath her. She stared at the brick path upon which she walked, watching her feet go left, right, left right.
She looked up, and Thomas Wood headed in her direction, a box of vibrant vegetables in his arms. He gave her a smile and stopped.
"How are you?" He set the crate down at his feet and noticed her expression.
Edeline tried to give him a smile. "I… I'm fine." She pushed her blonde hair behind her ear.
"You seem a bit shaken up." His face grew concerned. "Are you sure?"
"I… I would hate to bother you with my problems, Thomas." She let out another nervous laugh. "I don't want to waste your time, but thank you for being so kind." She started to head off back in the direction of home, but he stopped her.
"You aren't wasting my time at all." He kicked the crate of vegetables next to him. "Someone with my physique needs a break from delivering boxes all day." He motioned to his stomach and heavy frame, chuckling.
Edeline laughed, and this time, it wasn't out of anxiety or the need to make an uncomfortable situation less awkward. She moved back closer to him.
"What's the matter?" He gave her a soft smile, and Edeline immediately noticed how deep his brown eyes were. They were just as kind as his grin.
"I was going to purchase fabric from the dress shop to make a new gown," she explained. "It was a…. lovely shade of blue with white lace. I went up to the counter to receive the bill, and they refused to sell it to me. Once they heard my father's name, of course."
Thomas's eyes filled with sadness. "I'm so sorry, Edeline… Tis no way to treat a lady such as you, even if you aren't a Patriot."
"I suppose it won't bother me as much the longer I'm here," Edeline said. "I didn't know something such as that would actually happen, but I was wrong."
"Not everyone here is like that, though." Thomas gave her another smile. "I promise."
"Thank you for the assurance."
Thomas moved the box of vegetables closer the nearest building and stood back up straight. "I have an idea." He motioned her to follow him and headed in the direction from which she had come.
She trailed after him, suddenly feeling a bit lighter on her feet.
Thomas stopped at the steps of the dress shop. "Here we are."
"What are you doing?" She motioned to the sign above the door.
For a moment, Edeline hesitated. The thought of going in the same shop again, to be humiliated a second time, wasn't at all appealing, but she was curious about Thomas.
She lifted her skirts and went inside. When she appeared, the lady behind the counter stared at her, her brows scrunched together and confusion in her eyes.
Thomas led Edeline over to the counter. "I'd like your very best blue fabric, Madame. Oh, and the very best white lace you have, as well."
Edeline grabbed Thomas's shoulder. "What are you doing?" Her heart began racing.
The lady gave them both a stare as she hesitantly pulled out the blue fabric and lace. "She's not buying it, is she?"
"I would like to buy it, if you don't mind." He gave a smile. "You can send the bill to Thomas Wood. On Duke of Gloucester." He looked back at Edeline and chuckled. "You know, I think a dress in this shade would really bring out my eyes. What do you think?"
Edeline laughed out loud. "Maybe so."
"I don't think there would be enough fabric here to make a dress for me!" he laughed.
The lady behind the counter continued to stare at them suspiciously as she wrote down his name. When she finished, she handed the bolt of fabric and the lace trimming to Thomas. And then he handed them to Edeline.
"There you are."
Edeline stared down at the fabric, then up at him, wonder in her eyes. "I… I don't know what to say… You didn't have to do this, Thomas. I feel horrible. Please let me repay you somehow."
Thomas ushered her out of the store, and the two went back down to the sidewalk where they once stood. "You needn't pay me back, Edeline. I'm happy to do it."
She shook her head in disbelief and met his eyes. His expression was pure, happy. Despite the roundness of his face, she was lost in his stare and suddenly aware of the handsome features she hadn't noticed before.
"Thank you…" she muttered. "Thank you for your kindness. I won't forget that you… have helped Williamsburg feel more like home."
"You're very welcome." He smiled at her for a few seconds, and then he remembered the box of vegetables. He picked it up, his white shirt billowing in the wind. "Now… I must go back into the fray." He chuckled.
"Thank you again," Edeline called out to him as he continued down the sidewalk. "I appreciate it more than you know."
"I'm sure you'll work wonders with it!" He faded from sight as he walked.
Edeline stood there alone, somewhat in awe, clutching the fabric and lace. She situated it in her arms and headed in the opposite direction, her heart full. She didn't quite notice it herself, but a grin was plastered on her face all the way back to the Marlborough home.
**Note from the author** Hey ya'll! Maren here :) This is as much as I'm going to share publicly as I finish up the second draft (and prepare for the third), but if any of you would be interested in being a beta reader for that second draft (which should be done in about a week or so) or just want to read more, please feel free to let me know in the review section with your email address, and I'd be happy to send it to you! Also feel free to send me a message on here! Ya'll are the best, and to those of you that have read/left reviews, I really appreciate it!