Mrs. Adams Saves Miss Linfield In a Manner of Speaking
((This scene is a collaboration between the players of Nadine Adams and Charlotte Linfield. Content warning: Mentions of abuse.))
Though Papa has been intent on keeping Charlotte indoors until her bruises fade more, or at least until he feels she is more under his thumb, Charlotte has managed to slip out. She feels as if she cannot breathe, the air in the house so filled with static between herself and Mr. Linfield, that even her sisters have noticed. Rather than continue to lie to them, she leaves the house far behind her and wanders aimlessly, finally realizing she has wound up at the river. A week ago she would have been terrified to be near it. Now, she can only think of how much easier things would have been had she actually died there. Before she realizes, she is standing up to just below her knees in the shallows, looking out into the place where she very nearly drowned and had to be rescued. The hem of her gown floats up to the waterline, its pale green darkened by the river water that does not feel cold in the least compared to the chill she has felt since her run in with Papa after the masquerade.
Nadine had taken to taking walks alone. As it got nearer to a time when she had to marry Spencer, she found herself feeling suffocated. It wasn't Spencer, no. If anything he helped the feeling, but then she would always remember that he was a Lord. And that she would be a lady. No doubt a very unpopular one. She would have to suppress herself. Her very being. Spencer would insist she would not need to, but she wanted a good life for Rosemary. Hopefully in a few years a greater scandal would occurred and the focus would be off of their family and Rose would have a chance...but that was only if she kept herself quieter. As she walked along the river’s bend she was slowed at the sight of a young woman standing in the water. She approached quietly and observed her. That lack of care for situation, that far-off stare. It was as though her spirit were elsewhere, leaving only its vessel behind. She stopped a bit to her left. "Are you well?" She said gently.
It takes Charlotte a moment to realize she heard something, and longer to make herself turn to look. Finally, though, she shakes herself out of what she was wrapped up in and turns slightly to the sound of the woman's voice. She finds she cannot even care enough to hide the yellowing bruises on her wrists and up her collarbone and throat. What exactly did she say? No, of course she was far from well? Yes, everything was perfectly wonderful and she was just admiring the river? Swallowing hard, she forces a smile, though after a moment she finds it too hard to maintain. "I... I am afraid I am not quite myself. Forgive me." It is the best she can manage, and she vaguely hopes she does not alarm the woman, or seem terribly rude. After a moment, she looks down at the water around her, wondering if it wouldn't have been easier to simply go deeper.
Nadine looks her over once more, noting the bruises, and their placement, but gives no reaction. Instead she looks back up and meets her eye, and walks into the water beside her. "That's quite alright. Sometimes we do not feel quite acceptable for human consumption." She looks at her, head tilted. "You know. Drowning is probably the worst way to die. Water filling your lungs. Suffocation. Being very aware that you will now die. It will be permanent and you can do nothing now to reverse the decision you've made. You die in pain, alone, and wishing you would have lived." She looks ahead again. "Even if you feel life is not worth living, situations change. Nothing is permanent, not even an absence of hope." She looks at her again with a smirk. "Of course...except death. It is the most permanent of conditions."
Charlotte laughs mirthlessly, turning to the woman and shrugging. "I already know what that feels like. Having already nearly died by drowning once, I can tell you it may be terrifying, but there is always worse. Always." It is all she can do not to take another step further into the water. She would feel guilty if she tried now, as the woman would likely attempt to save her and possibly be harmed in the process. Sighing, she shakes her head and lets her shoulders fall in defeat. As if she did not already feel defeated. "I fear that even if things are not permanent, there is no good solution for them at the moment. I do not see how I can go on like this." The only thing that has kept her close to shore is the worry that in her absence, her father's anger will be turned on her little sisters. It is a poor reason to live, but it is one nonetheless. "Do not mistake me. I am not asking for pity. I know very well what my choices have been and are."
Nadine let out a soft chuckle and pulled off her long glove that had gone all the way to her sleeve and revealed her burn scars. "How queer. Fire and water, you and I." She folds her glove and tucks it into her sleeve. "And why should you think I pity you?"
Charlotte glances at the scars out of the corner of her eye, wondering just what might have happened to cause them. Certainly nothing good. The idea of burning sounds far worse than drowning, she thinks. Still, she has not quite enough energy to feel more than slightly curious. "They look as if they must have been painful." At the other woman's question, she frowns slightly and looks at her more fully. "I... I suppose because I am complaining about things. Because things are bad enough that I would consider a permanent end to them."
"Have you ever known fire to tickle?" She smiles and looks forward again. "No...I do not pity you. I understand you." She sighs. "Which is why I am certain that if you were to proceed...today or another day...you would deeply regret it."
Shaking her head at the question, she lets the subject lie. She is afraid to ask if the fire is what has caused the woman to understand, or at least think she does. "I would only regret leaving my sisters at the mercy of my father." Biting her lip, she realizes what she has just said. If Papa knew she had said anything that could possibly put him in a bad light, he would only make her pay once more. "You mustn't say anything, please. I beg of you."
Her eyes cut to her when she outs her father and she looks ahead, expression a bit more angry and determined. "Just as I would have regretted leaving my brother to the mercy of mine." She was silent for a while and took some deep breaths. "He is regularly so cruel?"
Charlotte looks at the woman more fully now, her eyes wide with worry. She does not know her at all, and even if she says she had a terrible father as well, that does not mean she would not somehow cause things to worsen for Charlotte. Even just confronting the man would have a bad end. After a moment, she exhales a slightly shuddering breath and looks away again. Her voice is very quiet when she finally answers. "Yes. But only to me."
"Does he tell you why?"
It takes her a moment to decide if she should answer, the idea of revealing anything else about her father to a stranger seeming like a terrible idea. "Oh, very much so. And loudly. It always starts with shouting." She shrugs and looks down at the water, ashamed of it somehow.
"The neighbors do not notice?" She tilted her head. "Ours always did. But people like to mind their own business and hope things resolved on their own." She rolled her eyes a bit involuntarily.
"If they do, they have said nothing. Then again, neither has Mama." She has always forgiven the woman, who is not truly her mother, for not doing anything to stop it. Has all but convinced herself that she simply does not know it goes beyond the shouting and destroying her artwork. Surely if she did, she would have stopped him. Though, perhaps she is afraid as well that he might hurt the little girls and cannot allow that to happen to her own daughters.
"I see." She says simply and pulls her glove from her sleeve and tugs it on. "What is your name?"
At first, Charlotte hesitates to answer, considering lying instead. But her family is so new to the area, that she thinks it unlikely the woman will recognize her name so it cannot be too dangerous to say. "Charlotte. Linfield." After a moment, she looks to the woman and asks, to be polite, "And you are?"
"Mrs. Nadine Adams. Soon to be Lady Donegal. But you may call me Nadine." She smiles gently at her. "Have you any hobbies Miss Linfield?"
"Lady? Heavens, I feel a right fool taking up your time when you must have far better things to do." Still, something about not hiding her father's horrid behavior is a relief, as if she can breathe for once. She considers Nadine's question, one that should be so easy to answer. Each time her father goes on a tear though, it feels that much harder. "I paint. And sketch. Or at least... I did. Though I suppose Papa will decide to find more supplies for me once his temper dies down. At least until the next time. There hardly seems a point anymore."
She smirks. "I have exactly nothing to do and it is making be feel rather mad. And only a lady by title. I would much rather he was something more plain like a farmer or a shoemaker." She chuckles and shakes her head. "Ah! Art. I was always very jealous of artistic people. I can embroider rather well but I never did pick up painting." She looks at her. "Well I have a spare room in my home. I will have many spare rooms when I am married. Would you like a room to paint in?" She arches her brow.
"You are probably the only lady in the world to feel that way." She considers for a moment before shrugging. "Well, maybe not. I cannot imagine being a Lady." Nadine's offer comes as a complete surprise, causing Charlotte to furrow her brow as she tries to think of how this might be a trap laid by her father. This whole thing could be. The very idea makes her heart race. "I... I could not ask for such a thing. You hardly know me. It would be too big an imposition." There. If Papa had asked the woman to do this, then he would be satisfied she had refused. Though, the fact she had revealed his nature would be cause enough alone. Dropping her head, she sighs again. "This was all very foolish of me. Please do not tell Papa."
"I do not know your father Miss Linfield." She said sympathetically. "Though I would like to." She mutters. It is no imposition at all to me, so long as you do not mind sharing the room with my husband's belongings." She gave a sad smile. "His chair, some of his books. I could not bear to let them go...to let him go." She smiles. "Perhaps, I may pay you to tutor my daughter Rosemary? She is, defying all heritage, rather artistically inclined. I simply do not possess the skill to help her grow it."
Charlotte looks up at Nadine, studying her for a moment as if she can somehow tell if the woman is lying. She has never been the best at reading people though, not even her father, so it is anyone's guess. The damage is done now either way. "I would not mind," she says quietly after a few moments. "And you needn't pay me. Obviously using your space would be more than payment enough, and I should feel quite honored to share what I know with someone who is interested in learning. I would prefer to show you my work before hand, but..." She sighs, and looks away. "Papa tends to do away with my art when he is angry."
"Then you shall keep it with me." She says matter of factly, without leaving room for disagreements. She looked down at the water. "Do you know how to swim? Or is not knowing how you nearly drowned?"
"Are you /sure/? It seems such an imposition." Charlotte looks at Nadine doubtfully. At the woman's question, she looks out at the river again, and to the place where she nearly drowned. "I do. I simply lost my footing and the current dragged me under before I could find a better foothold. The river was rather swift that day."
"Well then today must be our lucky day, we have been standing here quite a while." She smiles at her. "And yes. I am certain. If your father takes issue with this tell him he is welcome to bring it up to me personally, lest I find him first." Her voice was challenging, daring. Bold.
Charlotte's eyebrows go up, and she blinks a few times. "Believe me, Mrs. Adams, you do not wish to cross him. And even were he not to do anything to /you/ for it, I should quite certainly pay the price." She looks down at the bruises on her wrists for a moment before looking back up. "I only wish I were as bold as you are. I have tried, but... I cannot lie and say I do not fear him now."
"Oh I have nothing to fear of him." She smirks. "My brother was a very successful boxer...would you care to guess who taught him to fight?" She tucked a stray curl behind her ear. "You are not weak. Your strength is in your resilience and your self-sacrifice for your sisters. You are very brave."
"You are probably right. I, on the other hand, do." She says this very firmly, to be sure there is no doubt what she means. He has not killed her yet, but that fear is always in the back of her mind. "I do not /feel/ brave. Not when I run out like this and leave my sisters at home. Still, he has yet to hurt them so long as he knows I will be home eventually. And I always do go home."
Nadine thought for a moment. "If ever you fear the worst is coming...gather your sisters and bring them to me. He may come and get you all if he wishes but he will have to convince me first." She nods and turns to look at her. "I do mean it, Charlotte. I do not abide suffering of innocence at the hands of reckless, stupid men. I spent too many years in my own shadows. I will now be a light whenever I can be for others. Come to my home. 44 Low street."
Charlotte closes her eyes, feeling so very tired. After a little while, she opens them again and offers a slight smile. "Even were I to do that, we could not live with you forever. Your offer is very kind though. And if he seems likely to hurt them, then I may bring them if only until I find some alternative." She is unsure what that alternative might be, though she has tried to figure it out in the past. It is why she has yet to marry despite her step-mother's attempts.
Nadine nods. "Whatever you feel you must do." She smiles. "I know, it is important to feel you are in control." She looks back at the river and holds out her arm. "What do you say you make the river work for the rights to your soul?" She jerks her head to the shoreline.
Laughing, without much humor, Charlotte glances at Nadine. "I have not felt in control since my mother died, Nadine. I doubt that will change any time soon." At the woman's suggestion, Charlotte gives the river another look. It would still be so easy, but at least things seem slightly less dire now, even if only just so. Nodding, she hesitantly takes Nadine's arm and leaves the river behind for the moment.
"Control comes in all manner of things both small and large. Do you not control your brush as you paint? Is it not relaxing?" She leans over when they reach the bank and wrings out her dress.
"It is more like the brush controls me, but I take your meaning well enough. I suppose it is something I find joy in when it seems like there might be none. Even if Papa does try to take it from me. I think he only destroys what I make to show me that I have no control even over that, when it comes down to it." Charlotte doesn't bother with wringing out her own dress. It would dry on the walk back to Oakston, and hopefully would show no sign of having been in the river or her father would have yet another thing to punish her for.
"That is what they do, Miss Linfield. They take what they feel is important to you so that they may break your will. Psychological warfare is real. It is the same reason prisoners of war are tortured. It is the same reason the heads of the monarchy were paraded in the streets of France after their executions. Fear gives the fearmonger control." She placed a hand on her shoulder. "This will not be forever, Miss Linfield...if you believe in nothing else at all, believe in that."
"Well, I cannot lie and say I do not fear him. He has come too close to killing me before not to." It is a revelation she has never in her life shared, and it scares her more than a little to have done so. Glancing at Nadine, she lifts her chin, nodding slightly. "Yes, well, I suppose he has to die someday, doesn't he? Am I a terrible person for wishing it to happen sooner rather than later?"
"No. I wished every day my father would die." She touches her arm. "He did this, you know..." She looks at her. "I will not act. For now. It seems it would only distress you more." She nods. "But know that I am on your side and that I am a force to be reckoned with." She smirks. "Hell hath no fury."
Charlotte's eyebrows go up as Nadine motions to her arm, her eyes falling on the limb for a moment before she looks back up. At least her father had not done that, she decides, reminding herself as she always does that things could always be worse. Smiling a little, she says, "Thank you. I wish I could say the same. As it is, I simply do my best to survive. It is enough, I suppose." Looking back toward town, she sighs. "I should go back before he grows too angry." The idea of it makes her shudder.
She smiles at her. "Do not fret. Your voice will be found. Even if it is after you are rid of him and you are in a position to help others as I have found myself in." She bows her head to her. "Good day, Charlotte." She smiles.
"Thank you again. It was very nice to meet you." Giving a small curtsy, she lifts her chin and aims herself toward home, hoping Papa has not noticed her being gone so long.
Nadine watches her go with kindness on her face, but once the girl is far enough away her face falls and rage sets in. She turns and sets her path towards Spencer's house. She would discuss this with him before acting too rashly.