In Which Julia Makes an Announcement
Julia fled the hills and Mr. Donovan as fast as she could with tears already streaming angrily down her face. What have I done? Her get engaged? Her actually be the one to insinuate the engagement? Surely, she had gone mad. Surely, she was dreaming. This had to be a dream...a dream...some sort of horrid nightmare that she would soon wake up from. She stopped her fleeing to pinch her arm, taking the skin between two nails and showing herself no mercy, but all she finds is that the action makes her wince in pain and when she looks around she is still surrounded by hills and the growing feeling of dread. Why in God’s name had she even suggested such a thing? She didn’t want to get married...in fact the very idea of it made her want to throw up in disgust. She stopped walking and looked around for a brief moment before screaming to the heavens in frustration. This was truly the day she felt the most out of control, the most sickened, the saddest, the most frustrated at her life and at her parents, but especially at her mother and the never-ending pressure she had received from her over the years to get married. The pressure of being a nineteen-year-old girl who was being required to save the family by forcing herself into a marriage she didn’t desire.
She had to stop herself though for a moment. Mr. Donovan did not want it either. In fact, he seemed to hate the idea of marriage more than she did, and he had basically promised her that she could keep her freedoms and that he wouldn’t cause a fuss if she fell in love with someone down the road. Love. Julia gave a short laugh at that thought. In her nearly twenty years of existing she had never been in love and she honestly did not think she ever would be. For her, it wasn’t love that made her hesitate, but that feeling of what if? What if she did fall in love? What if she was miserable with Mr. Donovan? What if he was miserable with her? Truly such a marriage, formed between two people who barely knew each other, could only be a bad thing. Right? Was she right though? She stopped her walking again and sighed. She’d be a fool to end things. And she knew it would ruin her reputation if Mr. Donovan were to talk of it, or if others were to find out and talk of it. She was in exactly the position that she’d always been afraid of being in. She was trapped. No matter what way she turned there was going to be disappointment. At least marriage to Mr. Donovan would allow her to keep her freedoms, and he did not seem like a terrible human being. He actually seemed rather easy to get along with for the most part.
Julia realized that she was standing in front of Bay’s house so she slowly opened up the door and snuck inside, hoping to avoid her family for the time being. She knew that an announcement would be inevitable but for now she really just wanted some peace and quiet.
“Julia, there you are. We were just fixing to sit down for some tea,” Edwin grinned at his sister as he walked through. “Come now, Jules, Becky even made those delicious little biscuits you’re so fond of.”
Julia gave her brother a small forced smile. “Did she? Well, I’d be a fool to pass those up.” She motioned for him to lead the way before following behind him with her head down. How could she possibly pretend that nothing was wrong when she felt as if her body was being weighed down by bricks?
“Look who finally decided to join us,” Edwin said cheerfully as he sat down next to Thomas. “We thought she’d been taken by the elves...but alas, it seems she was only on a walk.”
Julia rolls her eyes at that. “I was gone for a couple of hours, not ten years. Calm down, Eddie.”
“Do not call me “Eddie,” Edwin picks up a biscuit and points it towards her.
“Ah, Julia, dear, there you are. Why were you out walking around so much? You do not want your skin to get brown, do you?” Mrs. Blackwell stood up and led her daughter to her seat. “Here, sit down by me and Bay. You look incredibly tired, dear. Why don’t you get a glass of water?” She reached over and poured her daughter a glass of cold water before handing it to her. “Here, sit, sit.” She patted the chair with her hand before retaking her own seat.
Julia obeyed and was soon sitting between her mother and cousin. She gave Bay a small smile though it did not reach her eyes, and she definitely did not mean it. She wondered if she’d ever mean another smile again after the events of that day.
Bay gave her cousin a smile back, although she noticed that Julia seemed. Off? Although she was unsure of what it was about her that seemed off. She shrugged to herself before picking up her teacup and sipping on it.
“Now, Julia, what has kept you away for so long?” Mrs. Blackwell put a couple sandwiches on a plate and passed them over to her daughter. “We really were beginning to get worried.”
Julia stares at the sandwiches for a moment before slowly picking one up and taking a small bite of it. “I am sorry to have caused you all distress. I was merely on a walk. I just got distracted on the way is all.
“Distracted? Whatever by, my dear?” Mrs. Blackwell raised her brows in curiosity before biting into her own sandwich.
Julia frowned before taking a bite of her own food. When she swallowed she replied bluntly, “I got engaged today.”
“Excuse me?” Thomas looked up from his book and stared at his sister in shock.
“Do not tease us like that, Julia,” Edwin chuckles lightly before returning to his food.
“What?” Bay looked at her cousin in utter confusion.
“An engagement?! Oh, Julia! How simply splendid! When will the wedding be? Oh, silly me! Who are you even marrying? Is he handsome? Is he rich? Does he have a nice estate in one of the good parts of England?” Mrs. Blackwell clapped her hands in glee before continuing, “Oh I think this is just the greatest news I have ever received in my entire life!”
Julia grimaced a bit before she answered her mother. “His name is Mr. Donovan, he is handsome, yes, I am afraid I do not know his financial standing, the wedding date has not been decided yet. I do not believe he has an estate, Mama.”
“Oh, well there will be plenty of time to figure out the details later, Julia. For now, you should just be glad that you have received an offer of marriage!”
Julia almost laughs as she thinks about the fact that she had actually been the one to suggest that they get married. A suggestion that still made her want to gouge her eyes out.
Bay gives her cousin a wary look before raising her brows, “Mr. Donovan?”
Julia nods back. “Yes, Mr. Donovan. We made the decision today, and I believe, I believe…” Julia cannot help but tear up again, “I believe that we will both be equal in our shared misery.” She stands up quickly, causing her glass of water to shatter on the floor. “Please excuse me.” She flees the room quickly and rushes up the stairs, taking them two by two until she is safely in her room with the door shut behind her. She falls onto her bed and starts weeping until she feels physically sick.
Meanwhile, still downstairs, the rest of the family is sitting down still somewhat shocked by the usually calm Julia’s outburst. Mr. Blackwell, having heard the entire commotion from the study next door almost nervously entered the parlor. “It seems that our family is having some excitement, boys. I do hope your mother hasn’t passed out from it.” He bowed to the room before grabbing a biscuit.
“Oh, Mr. Blackwell! I could not possibly think of passing out after hearing the news I just did. Our Julia is to be married to a Mr. Donovan. Can you believe it? Why I can hardly believe the news myself. I feel as if I am floating on a cloud!” Mrs. Blackwell stands up and kisses her husband full on the lips, an action she had not performed since Julia had been a little girl and began spinning around the room. “Why isn’t this just the best news any of you have heard in your lives?” She stopped spinning and looked at the other members of the room in turn.
Thomas slammed his book shut before replying. “No, Mama. My sister is in tears; therefore, I do not think this is the best news I have ever heard.” He stood up and bowed before quietly moving from the room.
Mrs. Blackwell’s smile faltered at the sight of her youngest son’s disapproval, but there were other members of the family who would surely be on her side. “Bay? Surely you think this is a good thing.”
Bay raises her brow before standing up. “I do not think that you wish to know what I think, Mrs. Blackwell. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to tuck Ellen into bed.” She curtsied quickly before turning on her heel and making her way up the stairs. She knew the last thing she needed to do was get upset with her cousin right before getting Ellen to sleep.
Mrs. Blackwell’s smile faltered even more and she looked at Edwin and her husband. “Surely you two are on my side. Right?”
Edwin just nodded curtly before slowing walking out of the room, deciding that he might never talk to his mother again. Mr. Blackwell stands up and lifts his brows. “On your side, madam?” His voice grows louder until he is almost shouting. “On your side!? I think I’d rather join up with the French than be on your side, Madam!”
“But this is a good thing, Mr. Blackwell. Why, this is a very good thing indeed. Think of what this will do for us, for Julia, my dear.”
Mr. Blackwell rubbed his eyes and when he finally spoke after a few very long
seconds his words came out quiet and full of contempt. “My only daughter is crying, my sweet, calm daughter whose only wish has been for us to let her live a life without a marriage...is upstairs crying. So, no, Mrs. Blackwell, I do not think that is a good thing.” He sighed before turning around and slowly heading upstairs.
Bay meets him coming down and gives him a hesitant smile. “Is there anything I can do?”
“You can have Mary prepare a bedroom for me, Bay. I do not think I can sleep next to my wife for the present time.”
Bay purses her lips together before nodding, “As you wish, Mr. Blackwell. I will have her get you when it is ready.”
“Thank you, my dear.” He places a hand gently on her shoulder before continuing up the stairs and to his daughter’s room. When he arrives, he knocks on the door. “Julia, it is me, your father. Might I be permitted entrance?”
Julia rolls over from her bed at the knocking and hastily wipes her tears. “Come in if you wish.” She sits up and does her best to look as if she has not been crying, although it is no use with hair now wet and matted to her face, and her eyes as swollen and puffy as they are.
Mr. Blackwell slowly opens up the door and gives his daughter a quick look over. “You seem to have gotten yourself in quite a spell here, Julia.”
“Do not remind me.” Julia grabs a pillow near her and clutches it to her chest. “What do I do, Papa?” Her voice is quiet and scared.
“There is not much you can do now, my dear, I’m afraid.” He stepped forward and sat down on her bed gingerly. “If you marry the man you will be giving up what you want, but if you break off the engagement it could ruin your reputation forever. Then a marriage of any kind, romantic or not, will, quite possibly, no longer be an option.”
Julia made a face at that. “You know I do not think romance is for me, Papa. Why, I am almost twenty and I have never felt anything towards a man like that.”
“But you might very well someday, Julia.” Mr. Blackwell sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I know you do not think that it is possible, but what if you do find someone that you wish to marry?”
Julia pondered over that for a few moments before she shrugged. “Mr. Donovan assured me that I could do what I wished, in regards to anything...romantic.”
“He did?” Blackwell raised his brows. “That is a very interesting idea indeed. Are you sure he is right in the head?”
Julia gives a small laugh at that and nods. “Yes, Papa, he seems to abhor the idea as much as I do. Perhaps even more, but it seems we both cannot escape our fates.”
“You do not have to do this, Julia. If you make the decision to not marry him I will support you, and if you decide that you wish to marry the fellow then I will gladly welcome him to the family with open arms. My concern at the moment, is your happiness.”
“I do not think I have much of a choice, Papa.” Julia sighs before resting her head on his shoulder. “I have to do this. You and Mama keep on burning through the money...we need the stability my getting married could bring.”
“So, this is our fault then, eh?” He sighs before looking up at the ceiling. “I suppose you are right. Your mother and I have not been wise with money matters in the past.”
“You’ve been quite stupid with them if I’m being completely honest,” Julia said, even managing to crack a small smile.
“So, my daughter, what is it that you are going to do?”
“I... I don’t know yet. I think I need some time to decide.”
Mr. Blackwell nods before standing up. He bends down and kisses his daughter’s head gently. “Then I will leave you to your thoughts, Julia. Just remember I will be here no matter what you choose.”
Julia felt tears well up in her eyes as she nodded. “Thank you, Papa.”
She watched as her father left the room and closed the door softly behind him before falling back on the bed. She knows she has a big decision to make but she is unsure of what to do. She closed her eyes as she starts crying again. She’d never been a big crier, so why was she doing it now? She rolled over and clutched the pillow to her chest before crying herself to sleep.