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this should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
As Rita undid the buttons at the back of Emerald’s dress, Emerald stared at the letter lying on her bed, at her name written in her mother’s hand. She had let them push her mother’s body over the side of the ship today. She would never see her again and already the memory of her mother’s face was fading, the details were not there and behind her, her mother’s bunk was empty, shouting it should not be vacant.
It felt as though the cabin walls were crushing her.
Emma fought to keep her breathing steady, and fought not to slip into insanity.
She had to be strong. There was no one else but herself to rely upon. Yet she wanted to scream, to throw things about the room, to upend the trunks and strew the contents across the floor. Why had Dr Steel not told her!? Why had her mother not told her!? Why? Why? Why?
Emerald kept breathing as she stepped out of her dress. Then Rita began unlacing her corset. In. Out. She would not go mad. She would not fall to pieces. She would be strong. In.Out. She was the Governor of Calcutta’s daughter, the great-granddaughter of a duke. She could not let her father down. She only had to reach England. Once she reached England she could plan how to get home.
But… I just want to go home. The words whispered through her thoughts repeatedly as Rita removed her corset. Then the tapes of her petticoats loosened. In. Out. In. Out. She stepped out of the pool of her petticoats.
So much for adventure. So much for something more to be found in life. She wanted nothing more than what she’d always known.
Rita lifted Emerald’s chemise and pulled it over Emerald’s head and then Emerald took over, untying her drawers, feeling like a fraying rope. She slipped them off and took her nightgown from Rita’s hands. The cotton was cool and it smelt fresh as it tumbled over her head and slithered down her body. “Thank you, Rita, you may retire.”
Rita was now Emerald’s maid, her responsibility. “Can you change by the moonlight? If so would you turn down the oil lamp?”
“Yes, Miss.” Rita was distressed too, she had been crying half the day. She had been with Emerald’s family all her life. She turned her back to Emerald as she started to undress.
Emerald sat on the edge of her bunk, facing her mother’s empty bunk, and picked up the letter, then broke the seal. For a moment Emerald just looked at the writing illuminated only by the silver moonlight now that Rita had turned down the oil lamp. Such familiar writing that would never be formed again. Emerald looked at the empty bunk with sadness flowing through her heart as her eyes adjusted to the dark.
She could see to read the words her mother had written when she looked back down. They explained what Dr Steel had said, that she was ill, she’d been ill for months and that was partly the reason for this journey to England; she had wanted to see Emerald married before her passing. But since boarding the ship her illness had worsened. She’d spoken to Dr Steel but asked him not to speak of it because she hoped to reach England.
The letter said, if Emerald was reading it, her mother had not succeeded in reaching England. She wished Emerald to know how much she was loved, and how sorry she was for making this foolish journey and leaving Emerald alone. But Emerald was to trust Mr Farrow, he would take her to her family in England.
Rita lay down on her mattress on the floor to sleep.
Tomorrow Emerald would tell Rita to use the other bunk. But not tonight. Tonight she could not bear her mother’s place to be taken by someone else. Emerald read the letter over again, absorbing every word.
Rita’s breathing changed, implying that she’d drifted into sleep.
Emerald read her letter again. She read it a dozen times, her fingers shaking with the pain of holding in tears. But she could not let the tears escape, it would wake Rita. A part of her wished to go outside and walk about the deck in the darkness, to be alone with the sky and the stars, but she was in her nightdress and she would not be alone there would be sailors on the deck. Yet… Pain and grief screamed within her. She wanted to do what Rita had done this morning, to fall on the floor and wail out her misery, and this small cabin was trapping her in.
The day cabin.
The day cabin would be empty. She’d heard the men retire, saying goodnight to one another. No one would be in there and there was a key among her mother’s things that would open the door from her cabin into there.
She set aside the letter, then slipped quietly off the bunk and knelt before her mother’s bunk. She slowly pulled open the drawer beneath it. Rita did n0t stir. Emerald’s fingers shook as she turned over her mother’s clothes searching for the feel of a key.
There. The cold awkwardly shaped steel caught on her finger, she grasped the key in her fist, then pushed the drawer shut.
When she stood, her legs felt as wobbly as aspic, and so she stepped carefully over the corner of Rita’s mattress. The key fitted in the lock and turned easily. Emerald pushed the door open, then stepped into the day cabin that was full of the shadows of night which the moon threw about the room as the ship swayed on the waves.
The only sign that the cabin had been occupied an hour previously was the white tablecloth that still covered the table.
Emerald shut the door and gave in to her grief; leaning back against the wood and sliding down. She needed a moment, just a moment, to allow this to overwhelm her, then she would hide it away again and pretend it was not there.
Her knees bent up before her and her hands pressed over her face covering it as she cried, letting the knot of pain which had been tied about her throat for hours loosen…
To be continued…
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all
Capturing The Love of an Earl ~ A Free Novella #2.5
The Desperate Love of a Lord ~ A second Free Novella #3.5
The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4
The Persuasive Love of a Libertine #5.75 now included in Jealous Love, (or free if you can persuade Amazon to price match with Kobo ebooks) 😉
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback and, yes, there are more to come
Go to the index
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
- another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
- the prequel excerpts for book #3 The Scandalous Love of a Duke
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark