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A Love Story in 3 Parts - Part 3
Three weeks had passed since Anne and Carter escaped, and already I had received a letter from them, explaining that they were settled and searching for property. In a month they'd be in business, living together happily and madly in love. It was I who found my position more romantic than theirs.
While they lived in the sunny, bright deserts of Australia, I lived in the cloudy and dark streets of London, under a black veil of netting, feigning to mourn the death of two very close friends. It was then that I decided to visit Blair Rose.
The estate was like something out of a story, with rolling green heels and an abundance of red roses. The scent was simply a luxury in itself, and I wondered what it would be like to live in such a place.
When I entered the mansion, I was greeted by the friendliest staff, the shiniest silver, and the warmest fires. It was as if Blair Rose were home to a king, in fact, I wondered if Walker made more than the queen of England.
"Good evening." Walker said, surprised to see me in his home, "Or a dreary evening, I suppose, since the rain has ceased to grace us with it's presence all week."
"I've come to ask you a peculiar question." I said, sitting down across from him.
"I'm sure I have a peculiar answer."
"Why did you call on me the day after the Stewart's ball?'
"Should I not have?"
"No, no, I just thought it odd, since I never heard of you calling on anyone before. I wondered if I made such an impression on you."
He looked down, then back up at me through dark, thick, and irresistible lashes. It gave me the shivers.
"When we spoke for the second time at the ball, I was shocked at your bluntness. But now I realize that I admired it." He stopped, struggling for words, "Never have I been spoken to in such a manner, for even most men find my presence intimidating."
"I assure you I am not like most men."
"No." He laughed, "I should hope not. But, I also wished to continue that feeling, something I can hardly claim to know of. Your words affect me in some strange way, and I cannot understand it."
"Then we are at an impasse, because neither of us understand each other. I must say that most people are simple to read, but you Mr. Walker, I have trouble with."
"Is it in your nature to read people?"
"It's a pass time that I highly enjoy."
"Then," He said, almost painfully, "please explain the way I feel, because I find that words are not enough, or there aren't any at all."
He moved to the edge of his seat, "In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
"Mr. Walker, how can you?"
"I don't know." He said, running a hand through his hair, "Do you think I understand it? Because I don't. I don't know how you could have caught me, it's never happened before, I've never cared for anyone so much in my life."
He dropped to the floor on one knee, "Please, I ask you to marry me, to save me from the grief of not hearing your voice, or seeing your eyes, or craving your company."
I stood, "I know nothing of you sir, although your reputation is more than I need, to realize how unhappy I would be as your wife. Good day."
Feeling absolutely nothing but anger and resentment towards Walker, I immediately called for the carriage and made my way to London from Derbyshire. I hated leaving such beauty, meaning the roses, behind, but I knew that one day I might return.
As the anger began to dissipate I realized that I couldn't hate Walker, only because it wasn't in my nature to hate, only loathe. It was him that I loathed, loathed more than any person I'd ever met before. He couldn't be in my life, if I were to ever be at peace, because he had a way of affecting me that I didn't understand. My resentment towards him only grew stronger for it.
I arrived at Beauclaire, and upon stepping from the carriage with the help of our new footman, nearly tripped on a poor beggar woman. Her blond locks were matted with dirt, her face covered in soot, and her clothes in rags. I excused myself, then did a double take and recognized the icy blue eyes, suddenly filled with emotion. I couldn't handle it all at once, and felt as if I might explode as I felt my face heat with rage.
"Abigail Stewart?" I asked, and she nodded.
"Please, Ms. Bates, forgive me if you would." She said, "The oil rig my father invested in, I'm sure you have heard, was a fraud. We've been thrown to the streets, everything we own is gone, and I feel humbled beyond anyone."
"The oil rig, why, didn't Mr. Walker invest in that?"
"No, he never did."
The irony of the situation almost made me laugh, if it wasn't so unfortunate. If I were an evil creature, like Abigial Stewart, I would have left the girl who scorned me to die in the gutters, or starve to death. But I was Caroline Bates, and as I better than that. Not in a superior way, but in a way which morality overcomes pride.
"Come in, Abigail. Have dinner with me."
"Thank you, Ms. Bates, I can't express my gratitude enough. I understand now, your words about the beggar population can only be learnt when one is, in fact, a beggar. I only wish I'd done something about it sooner."
"Yes, you are in a peculiar position, aren't you?"
We dined, and I found that Abigail's opinion about most everything had changed. Her thoughts were no longer racist and ignorant, but thoughtful and intelligent. It was as if the city of London had given her a better education than any upper class tutor could. In fact, her opinion and character were so different, that I somewhat admired her, and found her tolerable, almost a pleasure to converse with.
After dinner I sent her upstairs for a well deserved bath, and went to greet a mysterious caller. It was odd that someone would arrive at such an unusual hour, but I received them nonetheless.
"Mr. Barton." I said, surprised but no pleasantly. He could be a bore sometimes, with only a coin collection to his name, although an aspiring lawyer with an inheritance soon to be collected from his dying father.
"Ms. Bates." He said, taking his hat off and standing as I entered, "I've come to inquire about something rather sensitive, I fear."
My face soured, I was sure, because he warned me it wasn't bad news at all, only that he wasn't sure how I'd react, and that he was the only one to worry.
"I was wondering, Ms. Bates, if you were...affectionate to any one man."
"Not at all."
"Well then, it's my opinion that, if we were to be married, it would be a fine match." He said, looking up to gauge my reaction.
I only laughed.
"What's so funny?"
"You would laugh to if you were me on this day."
It was ridiculous to think that two completely different men would propose to me, especially on the same day, in very different ways. I'd never given much thought to proposals, but if I were to pick the man who made the most passionate proposal, Barton would have been sorry. His couldn't even compare to Walker, he was like a watered down version of the other man, with nary a romantic bone in his body. Walker, who had appeared to me so dispassionate and constantly bored, was now the most lively man I knew and, even if Barton had proposed with feeling, could in no way be as passionate as the dispassionate Walker himself.
"I am very flatter, Mr. Barton, but I'm afraid I can't accept your offer."
"Why ever not? Surely there aren't other, why, your family is nearly broke."
"Mr. Barton, I hardly think it's your place to know such things. And if you believe I could catch no one better than you, then you are surely mistaken, for Mr. Walker has just done the same."
"Mr. Walker, proposed to you? I can't even imagine it."
"I mean to say, not that you aren't worthy of his affections, but that no woman has ever caught his attention, that is all. I meant to compliment you on such an achievement."
"Thank you, but I did not accept him."
"Why ever not?"
"I don't return his affections."
"'Tis a shame, then. He's rather loyal."'
We talked of his character, and I learned Barton was a close friend of Walker's, and that to deny his proposal was really something I shouldn't have done. I learned he was loyal, caring, highly affectionate, and most importantly, passionate. I couldn't bare any of it, for I felt the feeling again, the one I had tried so hard to bury. But it was there, and the loathing began to build once more.
Barton left. I took my wrap, my purse, and an umbrella to avoid the lightly falling snow, and took a trip to the graveyard above the city. The air was fresher, cleaner here, and I enjoyed the view, although the setting was grim. Somehow, it was brighter and livelier here than it was down in the city.
I knelt before my father's grave, recalling every memory I had of him. He was so kind to me, only affectionate towards me, always doting, but never showing his love in public. I loved him as much as my heart could love, and he loved me, as much as he was capable of, in return. Loyal, caring, and loving.
I heard someone approaching, crunching through the snow, and I turned to see Walker, who kneeled beside me.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you, your mother said you might be here." He said.
"Not at all."
"I came to apologize. I acted rashly."
"You acted out of love." I said, staring at father's gravestone, "I can hardly blame you for it."
"I hope you don't resent me, and that we can continue our acquaintance, if it pleases you, or cease to speak if it pleases you more."
"I don't resent you." I said, finally turning to him, "I thought I loathed you, I felt that I loathed you, but now I know I never did. Laurence, my father was just like you in character and air, and I loved him dearly, as any person can love another. I find that you have forced me to remember those things I felt, and to find closure for my father's death. It's not that I hated you all this time, but that I loved you. I love you more than I've ever loved a human being in my life, so hard that it hurts my heart, and that I can't bare another moment spent without you."
"Caroline," He said, lowering his head towards me, "I wish to renew my offer."
I leaned towards him, our heads against the other's, whispering between the two of us.
"I accept your offer."
The snow fell faster, our clothes and hair turned white, but even the cold couldn't distract us from smiling like fools.
Fools in love.
Missouri City, Texas
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