One evening, in the green of May, I walked into the parlor and unwittingly stumbled into my fate. Edward dislikes the word fate – he would say that I encountered God’s will. Aunt Elizabeth would call it overruling providence - but there; I’m getting ahead of myself.
I should begin by mentioning that I am by no means the heroine of my own story and humbly admit that I am at least a wee bit responsible for the hilarity of my journey. I refuse, however, to take credit for the overwhelming irony that concludes this narrative. Nor do I make myself responsible for the behavior of any of those who will share these pages.
To jump to the heart of the matter, this opening chapter finds me disgruntled and eighteen years old, a rather shallow soul contending with the gravely serious matter of “growing up”. Yesterday, I had turned eighteen. Two weeks earlier I had ended what my mother imperiously referred to as my “tutoring”, made available to me through a private governess. The Tinsley family from whence I sprung was not known for having money, but education was paramount in my mother’s priorities, and if a sharp mind meant fewer luxuries, than that was the sum of the equation. So while other girls my age had gone to a public school, I had been kept at home under the watchful and persnickety eye of Miss Medina. My mother had been a bookworm as a girl, and what could not be discovered between the covers of an encyclopedia, she sought out beyond the pages. With the same intensity, she drove all three of her children to learn. To inquire. To take our questions and find their answers. For my elder twin siblings Addie and Adam, her persistence had equipped them with strong aptitudes for independence and self-discovery, and a rich understanding of the universe.
I loathed books. Learning was a chore. Whatever knowledge was handed to me, I accepted. But I had no interest in pursuing anything outside of my little world. I was happy with the simple things…lying under a willow tree and gazing up into cloudy skies of endless blue…romping through the woods in pursuit of nothing in particular…and most of all, I admit it, engaging in harmless flirting with whomever I crossed that happened to catch my fancy. I was something of a social butterfly, not to be encased in cocoons of convention and decorum. As a result of my whimsical nature, I was happy and carefree, drinking life with unbridled joy, and consciously barring anything that would taint its sweet taste.
And now, all of a sudden it seemed, those days were over – finished with the final thump of my textbook being laid to rest. I had resisted an education, squeaked through my tutorials with a happy-go-lucky attitude, and was now reaping the uncertainties of what to do next. Childhood and schooling were behind me and out-stretched before me to the endless horizon, a big question mark. I was getting my first bitter taste of adulthood with its grappling perplexities. Tomorrow had become uncertain, shrouded with that overwhelming confusion of youth squinting through the vistas of time to the unknown future.
For these reasons, I lagged as I walked homeward from a visit at my Aunt Jane’s, calculating my woes such as they were. Being at Aunt Jane’s had only served to deepen my discontent. I had only intended to drop by to deliver some jars for her preserve making, but had been held up for an hour as she laboriously went over every detail of my cousin Mabel’s trousseau. As if I cared how many inches of lace her petticoat had! And with every boast of fashion, Aunt Jane had managed to punctuate it with a reminder of the enviable circumstances of Mabel’s nuptials. My empty basket thumped against my shins in an unladylike show of sulkiness that would offend my mother’s proper sensibilities.
What was I to do?
We all dream at one time or another of finding love and wealth in one neat six foot package of perfection. My own past was filled with such nonsensical certainties. It didn’t seem as unlikely then as it did now, that Rebecca Tinsley’s future was waiting around the next corner agog with riches and good looks. I had simply always imagined it so. I figured that I may not even finish my education and marry at fifteen.
It is hard to explain to anyone who has not experienced it, the agonies of spinsterhood at eighteen. It wasn’t for a lack of men around me that I was without. People called me fickle. I wouldn’t say fickle. Restless, perhaps. I did not mean to tease the boys I strung along. I simply grew tired of their idiosyncrasies. I knew that I would rather be alone then be married to a homely man that was poor and simple. I had seen in happen too often - girls with no choice, forced into matrimony for security sake. I would not bend! I clung to my ideals as one floundering..
On this day, with the weight of decisions hanging from my shoulders like a cloak of inevitably, I wasn’t looking forward to arriving home with any especial eagerness. Mother with her quiet “Well what is it you want to do, dear?” intuitions and Father’s skeptical tabulations of my future. My sister Addie had married a well-to-do lawmaker a month after her completion of scholastic endeavors– Adam was a sea-farer, a brilliant explorer. I came from a family of independent pilgrims. Sitting was a sin and idleness a carnal pleasure. I was not expected, in other words, to sit home and embroider pillowcases. I had counted on discovering my perfect mate – but he had failed me. And I would not settle for anything less.
Life and feet have a habit of taking you where you would rather not be, and I eventually arrived home.
Like its many names, fate has many forms – mine manifested itself in the unlikely shape of black crinoline and grey crimps. Of course this was not obvious to me upon entering the room, though I immediately sensed a diversion from the norm, in the fashion of an elderly women enthroned regally on the high backed chair parallel the fireplace. Two blue eyes that were practically opaque met mine in what seemed to be a gaze of appraisal. Bony hands which were nearly hidden by garish gems of grotesque proportions were clasped together in a tent formation under a chin, which twenty years ago, must have been visible but with age had receded to meet the neck. A plume, which on any other woman’s hat would have merely been described as a stringy feather, spiraled and swayed with the least motion. I kept my eyes on it, fascinated and uttered not a greeting.
A silence hugged the room in an unnerving grip.
“I am Aunt Elizabeth,” she stated at last.
If she had introduced herself as anything else I would have been inclined to disagree. She could only have been an Aunt Elizabeth.
“Rebecca, do you remember Aunt Elizabeth?” Mother said quietly from her perch on the rocker. Mother’s quietness had the maddening tendency to be loud at times. She gazed at me, willing me to conjure a response that would affirm my previous acquaintanceship with this stranger.
I frantically grasped at some memory or occurrence that would suggest an Aunt Elizabeth. There was none available to me. I kept quiet.
“Surely you remember...” Mother seemed almost embarrassed at my lack of knowledge in reference to this person.
“Have I not ever mentioned her? I must have…”
I shook my head. “Never,” I assured the obvious stupidly.
“She’s your great-aunt on your father’s side by marriage. I know that I have spoken of her. Rebecca, you should learn to…”
“Ida,” deferred this most mysterious of aunts, “let the child sit for a blessed moment before you sound her out.” Her tone held more law then grace, and Mother rendered submission.
I sat down as one in dread anticipation under a bar of judgment…although no such a thing had been indicated. But if you could see Aunt Elizabeth and the dreadful significance she implemented in every word and gesture you would understand my apprehension. What’s more, I sniffed a change in the wind, and I wasn’t convinced that I was prepared to meet it.
My grey, unknown aunt charged, arms fired and ready, into my defenseless territory of inferiority.
“Now,” said Aunt Elizabeth unclasping her hands from beneath her chin. “As I see it your parents have brushed me in the closet along with the other family skeletons – hush Ida! I did not foresee you having no knowledge of me. I have quite a large will you see. I do however, forgive the insult.” The plume danced in indignation defying her concession.
Mother seemed desperate to interject an apology but Aunt Elizabeth carried on, undaunted.
“I know much of you Rebecca, for I have asked your mother for obligatory updates of Adele and Adam and yourself throughout the years. I can see you did not know this bit of information either by your visible withdraw. A young lady should not make her feelings so apparent. Remember that in the future. Now what was I saying?”
“The letters?” I said weakly.
“Yes, the letters. One line in particular from one of those letters has prompted my visit.” Clearing her throat she slid a pair of glasses up her nose that had been previously dangling around her neck with an impeccable fluidity that made it unnoticeable. In a motion of painstaking deliberation she reached into her sleeve and pulled out a folded piece of white paper.
Mother looked like agony.
Ever so slowly she unfolded it, taking time at each fold to smooth the crease. She took an eternity to scan the page.
“‘Rebecca is,’ and I am quoting here, ‘directionless as a hot summer wind,’ end quote.”
She murmured and grunted as she omitted my mother’s words until she reached the meat of them.
“Ah, here. Ida states that an indecisive spirit on your part has inhibited you from making plans for the future.”
Eyes gazed at me over the page.
I felt mesmerized under that gaze. “Do I what?”
She seemed annoyed at my lack of a proper reply. “Do you have any plans?”
“No, I do not,” I said a trifle coolly.
“Very well then,” she delicately re-folded the letter, in juxtaposition to her tactless prodding. “You will come to Edenhedge next week, and I will find you a husband.”
I have read in books where the character’s jaw, when taken by surprise, drops. I never understood quite how that could be so. Until now.
“Rebecca, close your mouth. Goodness, Ida, the trap on that girl. More the pity, she’s inherited your large features. Ah, well, it shouldn’t be too hard to marry her off, with that head of hair. Is it all your own?”
“I think so,” I wasn’t too sure of anything at the moment.
“Good. We will find a better way of dressing it. You are too old for pigtails.”
Mother, who had been quiet during our exchange, sprang to my defense.
“Auntie, she is only eighteen.”
“Ida, I was married and widowed by the time I was eighteen.” She countered with a tone that implied that any respectable eighteen year old girls ought to have shared the same fate.
“What’s more,” she said, irrelevantly. “I am lonely. I want someone to live with. My hour-glass is running low, and I do not fancy spending that last bit of it in solitude. I can see at first glance that you are a rather shallow, flighty thing. But if you can overlook my occasional crustiness, then perhaps I can overlook your shortcomings.”Her words dripped with philanthropy and condescension, drenching me in discomfort.
The strange interview ended thus. Mother rang for tea, and I asked to be excused. Aunt Elizabeth shot me a look of disapproval as though my leaving was a slight against her. Perhaps it was. But I didn’t particularly care. Apparently, Aunt Elizabeth and I would be sharing plenty of teas together in the future. For I did not question for a minute whether I would be going – whether Mother and Father would let me, or whether or not it was even what I wanted. Somehow I just knew. Maybe it was Mother’s quiet acceptance, or Aunt Elizabeth’s decisive plans, or my own intuition that change was on my horizon. Whatever the case, I slipped out the back door with a feeling of apprehension and excitement stirring in my veins. Perhaps growing up would not be so difficult after all.
That evening, I sat by my bedroom window, gazing thoughtfully out at the hazy, blue dusk. Fireflies appeared and disappeared, their lights briefly illuminating the falling twilight. Evening’s descent had somehow brought with it the reality of my leaving, and my heart was full. I felt a strange and unfamiliar pang of regret that I could not identify, strangling the joy out of my anticipation. It was not for what I was leaving behind. The truth was I was a friendless creature. My flirtatious ways has isolated me from having many girl friends, and I had always treated boys as temporary fun. I purposely pitted them against each other, and left them vying for my attention, when I honestly did not care for any of them. I wasn’t close to Addie – she was so much older then I, and occupied with her own family. Adam had been gone so long; I almost forgot what it was to have a brother. I had companions – a circle of insincere friends, whose opinion of me was only shared behind my back, and whose company I had little real affection for. In fact, I couldn’t think of anyone who would truly miss me, besides mother and father. And in the secret places of my heart, where my shallowness ended and my vulnerability and lonesomeness began, it hurt. Perhaps this had been the real reason for my restlessness…so in the arrival of something to answer my discontentment, it remained still.
“Rebecca?” It was my father, poking his head in hesitantly through my bedroom door.
I smiled a welcome, and he stepped in.
“Mother says not to stay up too much longer.”
“I won’t, Father. I’m just letting it all sink in.”
He was quiet for a long moment. My father was not a man of many words, and here on the threshold of change, he chose not to shower me with words of wisdom or farewell. He simply stood, hush and sober, lovingly studying my face.
“God will go with you, Rebecca,” he said finally, and then left at quietly as he had come, shutting the door behind him.
Suddenly overcome with emotion, I leaned my head against the glass pane and let my tears fall silently and unobserved, save for the never changing moon outside my window.
Thus far has been a setting to the true crux of my story. As it unfolds in a chrysalis of paradox and humor, it will be forgotten.
The days following Aunt Elizabeth’s intrusion into our lives had been filled with a cavalcade of busy activity – packing trunks, and trimming last year’s hats with new ribbon, buying shoes and making over old dresses to fit the latest fashion. She hovered it over it all like a great dame, giving orders and making endless suggestions that could not possibly be filled in the short time she had allotted us.
And then finally the afternoon came, and in a whirlwind of many goodbyes and a few tears – much to the honest disgust of Aunt Elizabeth – we were off.
I immediately noticed in the dusky light of our transport a peculiar gleam alight in Aunt Elizabeth’s eyes. In anyone else it may have even been called after the fashion of giddiness, but in her it remained merely a gleam that dimmed not, even when an unplanned thundershower held us up in a rural community for an uncomfortable length of time due to slick roads.
Over a cup of weak tea at a gregarious but shoddy hotel – seemingly the only refreshment available during our unplanned little pit stop – Aunt Elizabeth had dropped something of a stone on my preconceptions of life at Edenhedge. Like a pebble breaking through the surface of a clear lake, I felt ripples of unrest disturb my confidence.
“Rebecca, I may have forgotten to mention a little matter,” said Aunt Elizabeth smoothly, indiscreetly removing tea leaves from her tea cup. “There is a small matter I will expect you to attend to once you have eased into life at Edenhedge…a very little matter.”
I did not like her stress on the “little” adjective. I sensed downplay.
But I smiled congenially. “As long as it doesn’t entail math or darning I am humbly at your service, Auntie dear,” I said gaily, and then was taken aback by the sudden flash of doubt in her eyes. It left as quickly as it had come, however and I was inclined to believe that I had imagined altogether. After all, there was no reason to believe that it was anything ridiculous or unexpected– but then who ever guessed that I would be having a tea party, a veritable tête-à-tête with an Aunt that had cropped out from the moldy woodwork of the family tree on a mission to marry me off? My sense of reality had taken a severe blow, and I was safe in assuming that I should be surprised at nothing.
Our driver came in then and suggested that we head home if we wanted to make it there before nightfall, and we were off.
During the remainder of the ride, she said little and me less. My thoughts were now crowded with questions, the new weaving in with the old. The bump of my head hitting the back of the seat with every jolt and rumble of the coach’s wheels kept in steady syncopation with my troubled thoughts.
It was a weary pair that descended from the coach in front of Edenhedge that evening. My first impression of Edenhedge, upon descending the coach, was that it looked rather like an enormous wet rock emerging from pond scum. I withheld this opinion from Aunt Elizabeth, though. It had not gone over well when I informed her that no one wore their hair in crimps anymore. The things one will say in a petulant fit of tiredness!
“This is home.” The pride rang in her simple statement, and I was glad I hadn’t spoken my mind this time.
“It’s lovely,” I murmured - a lovely fortress of drab severity. It was all stone, made dark by the driving rain. There was no trees surrounding it, and it rose like a stark and lonely fixture against a barren backdrop of green lands and grey sky.
I was impressed by the interior of Edenhedge however, though I hid it from Aunt Elizabeth’s scrutiny. I did not want to feel like the pauper relative awed by a fancy chandelier, silk curtains and a Persian rug – even though I was. The decorating surpassed my most wild imaginations of what the house of a rich, elderly aunt would look like.
Down the corridor came flying a head of curls and a shot of yellow muslin.
“Oh, oh are you the one? Are you the one?”
Two chubby arms had been thrown around my waist and I was being squeezed in a vice of affection.
Detangling myself, I wondered in a fleeting moment of terror if this little bubbling bit of white flesh was Aunt Elizabeth’s “little matter”.
“Cherry, meet your governess Rebecca.”
I knew that I hadn’t heard right on two accounts. Firstly, I was not a governess. And secondly, as if to confirm the ludicrousness of this introduction, her name was Cherry. What stoop of madness had bequeathed this child with such a name? She looked to be about six years old, pleasant and plump, but with a wild look of mischief in her eyes.
Aunt Elizabeth calmly removed her hat, swaying plume and all. To my confused expression, she offered a non-apologetic explanation.
“A governess. There is no need for you to be idle in between suitors. The child needs a governess and you need an occupation.”
No wonder she had not told me what it was during our tea – she already knew me well. I would have bolted. Little matter indeed!
Meanwhile, Cherry was running around in circles like a banshee. She grabbed my sash and gave it a tug, and giggled uproariously when it became loosed. And I was to be responsible for this little angel? I, who had despised schooling, only tolerated children?
“Pauline,” said Aunt Elizabeth to the young woman who appeared to be Cherry’s nanny, standing timidly by and watching her subject do a number on my appearance. “Take the child and put her to bed. Cherry, go with Pauline.”
“But I don’t want to,” she said in wonderment, as though to obey such a strange command would be utterly ridiculous.
“You will do as you are told.”
Aunt Elizabeth’s tone, which had instantly rendered me into submission, seemed to have no effect on the girl. I was not experienced with children. But Addie had two young boys, and I knew when a tantrum was in the forecast. I could see it brewing on her pretty little face, about to storm forth in full fury.
“Cherry,” I said evenly despite my dishevelment, bending forward to meet her eyes. “Go along with Pauline like a good girl, and tomorrow we can get acquainted.”
Maybe it was because I was a stranger to her, or maybe I had inherited something of Aunt Elizabeth’s steely eyes, but she surprised me by listening and trotted dutifully behind Pauline to the nursery in compliance to my command. I could hear as they moved down the hall, her voice begging Pauline for a bedtime sweet.
When we were alone, Aunt Elizabeth offered no explanation for the scene that had just occurred, the child, or her startling announcement.
“I’m sure you are exhausted,” she said. “I know I am – rattling around in that coach has given me a headache, or perhaps it was your persistent chatter.” - I had barely said a word from the tea room to Edenhedge – “At any rate, I am off to retire. Come I will show you to your room.”
I followed meekly behind. She took me up the winding stairs, past oil paintings of presumably long-lost relatives, to a dark quiet wing to the right of the staircase.
“Your room will be the first on the left. I trust you will find it satisfactory.”
“I’m sure it will be,” I said.
“Well, goodnight then,” and she was gone.
I came to the first door way on the left and opened. What I saw made me inhale in delight. A four-poster bed, hung with a gauzy white canopy stood against the far wall, flanked on either side by exotic looking paintings of the orient. The wallpaper was red and gold, as was the curtains, the sheets and just about every other piece of furniture that could be draped, clothed and covered. Impressive furniture graced every nook and cranny of the room. It was the most interesting and glamorous apartment I had ever seen. Someone had prepared for my coming, lying on the chest at the foot of the bed, fresh white towels and my nightgown. I slipped into it feeling rich and luxurious and dreamy. When I had finished with my simple bedtime toiletries, I moved restlessly about my room, opening compartments and shutting them, peeking through my curtains at the dark night, then going and sitting on the edge of my bed. As was my nature, I became bored within minutes of exploring my new territory. I was not prone to homesickness, but I felt lonely. Mother and Father were both quiet and even in their company there wasn’t much social stimulus. But I found myself missing their silent presence, and that comfortable knowledge that they were just down the hall if I needed them. I tried lying down to sleep – but sleep would not come. My mind was racing over everything that had happened to me over that past few days, relentlessly keeping me from slumber. Besides, the clock was reading only half past eight. It was far too early for sleep to find me. After a half hour of tossing and turning, I got up.
I wandered aimlessly over to the bureau. A fine piece of furniture – mahogany with brass handles and a mirror so large, it seemed to duplicate the entire bedroom in its glass. I made a face at my reflection. I looked ridiculous. I had knotted every last strand of my hair into rags, as I did every night, in hope of turning my ordinary nutmeg hair into something extraordinary come morning. I smiled, admiring my pearly white teeth. I ran my fingers underneath my green eyes that looked tired and puffy. I looked like a haggard ragamuffin, and couldn’t sleep a wink.
At home when sleep evaded me, I would creep down to the bookcase in the parlor and grab a book. The thickest and dullest I could find – like Father’s book entitled Synopsis on the Revelations of John. Unfailingly, it would put me to sleep within minutes. I vaguely recalled seeing a library before we came upstairs…I wasn’t sure. In any case, poking around the old mansion sounded more exciting to me at the moment then doing a turn about the room for the umpteenth time.
I left the room and crept back around the corner that would take me to the staircase. The portraits of long dead relatives took on sinister life-like form, barely illuminated by the sliver of moonlight escaping from tightly drawn drapes. I shuddered with a delicious thrill.
There was the library…just as I had seen it. The door was partially shut now. It creaked when I opened it and I tiptoed through, feeling like a character from some epic novel. Who knew who could be lurking behind those heavy brocade curtains? Did the crimson and gold hide bloodstains of a dozen slain souls? What ghoulish being would rise from the dust of forgotten memory to haunt my quest of this shut off chamber?
A deep voice from the shadowy corner of the room, made me jump in true, unbridled horror.
Women everywhere, I appeal to your vanity. Is there any dismay, akin to the feeling that crawls over you when you realize you have been discovered in your nightgown with your hair tied up in rags? At that precise moment, I would have borne testament to the fact that there is not. I confess it was not only the voice that caused my heart to leap into my mouth, but also the dreadful realization that I was to be seen in my nightgown and slippers with silly bumps of tied up hair poking all around my face like spades.
The unknown speaker got up from what I now could see was a low settee in the corner of the room adjacent to the massive stone fireplace and came towards me. If there had been any doubt it my mind from hearing this voice, it became irrevocably certain to me that it was a man as he approached.
I drew my robe tightly together with trembling hands.
“You will have to forgive me,” I mustered what was left of my dignity. “I did not know there were any men living in this house.”
“There isn’t,” he replied, seemingly unperturbed by my appearance. “I don’t live here.”
“Oh,” I said weakly, in a tone that implied that being caught by a member of the household in my intimates would have been more embarrassing, then being caught by a mere visitor. “Who are you?”
“Edward,” he replied, leaving me, I suppose, to assume the rest.
“I’m here to be Cherry’s new governess,” I offered even though he hadn’t asked, and then added more boldly, “and to find a husband.”Since I had already made myself ridiculous I saw no harm in making a clean breast of it.
“Two worthy occupations, I’m sure - tell me…which do you foresee as being more challenging? …child rearing or husband hunting?” He said it with a poker face.
He was making fun of me, but somehow I didn’t mind. There was mirth behind his eyes that made me feel comfortable with him – as if given enough time, we might become friends.
He walked back to his corner by the hearth but instead of sitting, remained standing in front of the fireplace. He unwittingly gave me the opportunity to really see him from the first time. When I had first seen him I thought him close to thirty. Now nearer to the fire, the light showed him to be closer to my eighteen years then I originally supposed. The lines in his face bespoke age…but his stance, his rather gangly form and tousled hair bore testament to his youth. I admit at being relived he was homely – imagine being found in such a state by a prospective suitor! He certainly wasn’t handsome after my taste. I liked a man’s man. But he looked rather as if he would make a kind and pleasant acquaintance. Something about him suggested itself to me as being companionable and humorous, and my lonely heart immediately coveted his friendship.
In the firelight, his profile looked like the chiseled face of a stone statue I had seen at my cousin’s house auld lang syne. I remembered the fascination I had felt, and the way the cool stone had felt in my hand. I remembered staring into its vacant face and wondered if it missed the passion, the pleasure and even the pain its cold stone body could not conjure.
When he turned the similarity was shattered. The porcelain statue had never smiled. When he grinned at me I instantly felt warmed.
“So what brings you down here at this hour?”
“I couldn’t sleep. I was coming to get a book.”
“I’ve been reading a book on biology. Do you like reading?”
“No,” I answered truthfully. “I do not.”
“And yet you are to be a governess,” he said. Not rudely, but matter-of-factly.
“I didn’t know it when Aunt Elizabeth brought me here,” I said defensively. “I thought I was finished with scholastic pursuits and here I am, about to dive head first back into it.”
Edward set the book he was still holding down. He crossed his arms in front of him. “I always thought I would like to be a teacher. The imparting of knowledge is fraught with responsibility – but when responsibility is taken on with passion, it is always rewarding.”
When he spoke he seemed again to be much older then I. His voice was deep and his words mature.
“What do you do?”
“This and that,” was his vague reply.
For all his apparent friendliness, he certainly didn’t offer much of himself. I wanted to know more. Like why he was here at this time of night if he did not live in Edenhedge.
“Have you met Cherry yet?”
“What did you think of her?”
I stumbled.” She…she’s sweet…very sweet.”
To my surprise, Edward threw back his head and laughed.
I failed to see the humor but I smiled nonetheless.
“Come by the fire,” he said. “You must be chilly.” I could hear the laughter in his voice.
I lifted my chin proudly. “No, thank you. I am tired. It was nice meeting you. Enjoy your book.” I turned to leave the room.
“I’m sorry; I didn’t get your name.”
He gave a visible start when I said my name.
“I used to know a girl named Rebecca,” he said finally. “I’m afraid she ruined the name for me for time and eternity. Is there any other name you go by?”
“No,” I replied in a rather offended tone. “Just Rebecca.”
After a moment of thought, he said, “Then I will call you Becky.”
“We had a neighbor once, who had a son named Edward. He was pompous and fat, and disrespectful and he put burrs in my braids. Shall I call you Eddie, then?”
He smiled. “If you must.”
I walked towards the doorway, but before I left, I turned towards him once more.
“Yes, Becky?” Becky. I had never been called that before. Somehow when he said it, it fit.
“Who are you?”
There was a long pause.
“A friend,” he answered, finally. “Goodnight.”
When I returned to my room, finally feeling an exhaustion I could surrender to, I snuggled down beneath the heavy satin comforter and felt I was in my native right. I savored the feeling of the plump pillow beneath my weary head, and curled my toes delightedly against the cool fabric of the sheets that smelt faintly of dusk roses. I would sleep the sleep of a queen tonight. This was leisure. This was luxury. This was…
I tossed and turned all night for the two questions that raced through my mind. Where did Cherry come from and who on earth was Eddie?