French Revolution era story of a teenage girl.
Somehow I knew that this man standing in front of me would be my downfall, he would be my poison. He would taint my lungs, my head and my heart. I hated him for that but it fell on deaf ears for he was coming closer, stalking his prey. That was what I had become, nothing more than a gazelle to a hungry lion. His eyes locked with mine and I couldn’t look away, the flaw of my hopeful escape. I wouldn’t make it very far even if I could run, I was weighed down by my skirts and I had a feeling that he knew that. He took another step towards me and my heart leapt into my throat. Did it feel like this every time? Did your body freeze in terror as his lips darted out to wet his lips? His hands were those of a gentleman, a well-bred member of English society, but would his lips be? Would they crash against mine and leave bruises in their wake? Or would they trick me with faint caresses?
I wanted to be as far away from his potent lips as possible but somewhere in his tracking he had lowered my gaze to his lips. I tried to see if any venom, if any sign of my impending death was noticeable. It wasn’t, much to my chagrin. He wasn’t the monster I had pegged him to be, but that didn’t change the fact that I could no longer breathe.
Could a person be invisible to the naked eye? Could someone press their body against the wall and take the appearance of nothing more than a couple of stones? Apparently, I could. Even with the same crystal drinking glass in my hand filled with whatever sort of liquid the host and hostess favored, I found myself blending into the walls and not the conversation. Nobody had even glanced my way, I wondered if I stood naked in the middle of the room if anyone would notice. Of course, I was hardly the sort to be stripping of my clothing in public; I can feel the blood rushing to my cheeks at the thought.
My mother always told me that there was nothing more attractive than a young woman’s flushed face. It showed that a young woman had the decency to be embarrassed and that she held a keen sense of humility. Personally, I find nothing attractive of a person resembling a tomato. That might just be me, however. It’s like all of the blood in my body pools into my face, smattering across my cheeks and even forehead in the most peculiar display. And yet, even that keeps me invisible.
My first season began last year. It was as though my mother decided that I was “open for business” at seventeen, welcoming me onto the marriage market to be traded away as some sort of chattel. Last year the smallest fluttering of potential suitors would cross paths with me, probably for the sole purpose of attaining the access to the Fawcett family. You see, my mother is – on her worst day – nothing more than a gossip, but on her best day she is still one of the most influential women in the ton. Oh yes, the ton, England’s wealthy gossipmongers. There’s really no other explanation that I could possibly give.
And yet, with all of this gossip running through the same social circles I am meant to be apart of I am the stone left unpolished I am the faded wallpaper, and the dust under the rug; all at once.
My mother is an influential woman in society, as is my father, but that goes without saying. My father is a marquis, which as important as it may sound; he is one of the many viscounts around. Last time anyone counted there were nearly seventy viscounts running around. Unfortunately, this title places my family on a higher level than most, namely the hundreds of earls, viscounts, and barons that have sprouted from the ground like Cook’s vegetables. What does this have to do with the sudden need to marry me off? My mother and father failed to produce any sons leaving my sister and my marriages to other members of the ton, more importantly the peerage, of utmost importance to carry on some thread of the family’s name.
It makes absolutely no sense at all, to be honest. My uncle is a duke, his son is set to take the title after him leaving no room for my father, my sister or I to inherit that title. The only way that we would even get close to becoming a duchess is if my cousin failed to produce a son, however, as his wife is pregnant at the moment and shows all signs of having a son, that doesn’t seem likely.
Of course, none of that matters to my mother and my father. I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re just making excuses to marry me off. I keep reminding my mother that if I become a spinster my job in life would be to care for her but that seems to let loose a string of her friends’ sons loose on her lips.
In my mother’s eyes, there’s no good reason for me to be unmarried. I think that is what’s causing my mother’s daily headaches. I’m the daughter of a wealthy man, I have influential parents, I don’t cause people to have eyesores from looking at me, and above all, our family name has never been tainted by foul rumors. The latter is something that has become increasingly important as gossip can’t spread fast enough these days. Chances are that the word is going to be flying around tomorrow that I have become addicted to wine and nurse the glass in my hand like a child to soothe my nerves.
I can hardly wait for next year, the year of my sister’s entrance into the feeding hole. Emma and I are complete opposites, something that is going to have her matched up with a man before the season is over. She’s a social butterfly, flitting about with polite smiles and courteous hellos. In comparison to her I’m nothing more than a brute. She’s dainty, petite and thin. I, on the other hand, resemble a plank of wood. Tall, gangly and awkward on my feet where as Emma glides along like she’s in a constant dance. The only thing we have in common is our hair color, a russet of all shades.
Emma is my mother’s pet. She’s the doll whose hair you brush, who you clothe in ridiculous outfits and yet never hear a peep from. And when she does talk, she always has something to say instead of rambling on and on about the same thing. She’s the one that nicknamed me Viola, actually.
My mother named me Violet because I was born in the spring. She knew that if she gave birth in the spring to a daughter that her name had to be as delicate as the petals of a flower and yet could hold her own if need be. That’s where the violets came in. They're heart-shaped, long lasting and beautiful. The older I got the less the name seemed to fit. When Emma was just a tiny little child still she had trouble saying Violet so my name became reduced to Viola. As we both got older it just sort of stuck. It even fit better than Violet did. I went from being a flower to being not only a musical instrument but a Shakespearian heroine.
I had hardly realized how lost in my thoughts I had become until I found that I was no longer alone in my stance against the wall. I had been caught, captured by the very evil I had been trying to escape all night -- my mother. She gave me a subtle little glare but I caught her meaning loud and clear. She was going to inquire about my dance card and how many potential suitors I had met. Following that she would chide me about cradling the wine in my hand and hiding in the shadows. Really, I just couldn’t win with this woman.
“Mother, there you are, I’ve been looking all over for you.” I tried to play it off as though I hadn’t done everything in my power to avoid her. If the chairs off to the side of the room had been large enough to hide the skirts twisting around my legs I’m certain I would have found solitude there.
“Have you filled your dance card yet, dear? I heard from Lady Nork that there’s a certain Honorable Thomas Aarons that would love to dance with you.” She even added a little smile to this statement like it was some sort of great privilege. The Honorable Thomas Aarons was a thirty year old man with a bizarre taste in fashion that had been unable to keep a wife for the past ten years or so. If Thomas Aarons wanted to dance with me, then it just went to show that my mother had reached a state of desperation that had no return route.
“Actually, the last spot just filled up, I’m terribly sorry, Mother.” I took a sip out of the wine glass in my hand, noting sadly that it was almost empty. Looking up from the crystal I could tell that my mother didn’t believe a word coming from my mouth.
“He’s chatting with Lord Pembroke at the moment but I’m sure that he would love to spare a couple of moments to dance with you.” She made no move to dismiss me immediately and instead looked at me as though she was surveying a painting. “Violet, there is no reason why you haven’t been married yet.”
Oh no. Not this again. I could quote the whole lecture back to you but I’m certain this isn’t the only time that it’ll come up and it’s really not detrimental to the storyline.
“I believe that Mr. Aarons has finished his conversation.” Anything to get away from the thousand reasons why my mother believes that I should be married. Honestly, it’s like one time wasn’t enough for her. If she wasn’t still in love with my father I’m positive she would have married again and again just for the sake of having a wedding. She’s a wedding fiend.