This is a new work in progress that I’m kicking around. It’ll be a historical romance. Victorian.
The night was bitterly cold, the shutters were banging against the wall, and Charlotte would not stop running around the dinner table. Lord Andrew Howe found it to be more than annoying, all of it, though he couldn’t stop any of it. The wind wasn’t going to stop blowing because he told it to, and Charlotte wasn’t going to go away any time soon.
About a month ago, Andrew’s sister, Lady Margret, perished in a carriage accident. Though he told her that she shouldn’t be traveling during such a precocious winter, Margret was as social as ever, and she refused to stay inside for long. Her buggy slid off the road and into a tree, crushing both his sister and the coachman. They were found a few days later by another daring passerby, out to brave the weather. The cold had preserved Margret’s body, for which Andrew was thankful. At least he could give her a proper funeral, one that would honor his sister’s beauty and ever-social nature.
Margret was a widow as well. Her husband died from a terrible fever while she was pregnant with Charlotte. It was a terrible blow, but Margret didn’t really love her husband anyway, so she suffered little. After her mourning period was over, she was right back to being the life of parties everywhere. She sparkled and had the brightness of a star, but not anymore.
Now Charlotte was Andrew’s responsibility, one that he had no idea how to handle. Andrew could manage his lands and direct his already-small housing staff, but when it came to children, he was at a loss.
“Charlotte – why don’t you…just not do that?” His words were tentative and unsure. Should he be asking a child a question? Shouldn’t he telling her what to do instead? Why could he manage others, but not this five-year-old girl with barrel curls that bounced every lap she skipped around the table. She was all Andrew had left of his sister, and she looked every bit like her too.
“No, thank you!” Charlotte chirped and continued her rounds.
Andrew slid his pointer finger and thumb across the bridge of his nose. The child was impossible, obviously spoiled by her mother during her short, five year life. “Well then, I think it is about time to turn in. Let’s go.” He pushed his chair out, the legs scraping across the hardwood floors. The dining room was expansive, made to host dozens of people, but Andrew never kept it filled. He was the opposite of his sister, nothing like the social butterfly, perching on one flower and then gliding to another. No, Andrew’s dining room remained vacant, and his ballroom, and his receiving room…the whole house had an empty feeling that encapsulated it.
At the mention of bedtime, Charlotte stopped skipping and stomped her right foot on the ground. “I don’t want to.”
“But you will. You must.” Andrew was running out of patience with his niece. He reached out and carefully took her by the arm in order to lead her to her plush quarters, quarters that were meant to be inhabited by a woman twice this girl’s age. He’d give anything to Charlotte, though, even if it’s just to stop her from asking where her mother is, or breaking down in a fit of tears when Andrew has to remind her that Margret is dead.
Charlotte dragged her feet the whole way down the dark hallway. They passed busts of Andrew’s father, and his grandfather, and other notable figures that came in and out of the Howe family’s life. Margret always though they were scary, the way the stared into nothingness. Andrew’s former lover, Lady Elise, demanded that they go upon any marriage that might have come. It never did come, and so the statues remained.
Once they reached the bedroom, Andrew began to unlace his niece’s tiny dress while she squirmed and stomped her feet petulantly. Getting her into her nightgown happened to be an ordeal every night, and to think, how many years would Andrew have to put up with this fight by himself? Lady Elise was now out of the question, run off with some other man who had much more “spirit” than Andrew. He promised himself he wasn’t going to love another woman ever again after Elise stole his heart. It was too painful the first time around, and Andrew didn’t consider himself a man of soft emotion.
“Tell me about mother.” Charlotte demanded as she stepped up onto the stool at the side of her bed and climbed under the covers. “I want to hear a story about mother.”
Andrew sighed. It also pained him to talk about Margret, the only other woman in his life whom he could trust. “What kind of story do you want to hear? Do you want to hear about when she went to Lord Davenport’s ball and everyone admired her for how beautiful she was?”
Charlotte shook her head and all the curls flew about her face. Andrew should probably roll her hair up, but he had no energy to do so. He wasn’t any good at it either, and Charlotte’s curls always fell flat or uneven the next day. Besides that, getting the child to stay still for much more than a minute was mostly impossible. “No, because I already know how beautiful mummy was.”
“And how do you know that?” Andrew soundly tucked her into the bed.
“Because I am beautiful, just like mummy.”
“That you are.” Andrew couldn’t bring himself to kiss Charlotte’s forehead goodnight. Her statement was so like Margret that it pained him. Instead, he patted her on the top of the head and swiftly exited the room.