My lavender dress swished as I danced on the ballroom floor of the Leroux Manor. I had been dancing with Jonathon for the past three songs. Even, though, I was weary from dancing for so long, I kept dancing for the reason that anything was better than being next to James, who was standing alone in one corner, watching with a sappy grin on his face.
I was on the verge of excusing myself to go to the ladies room just to get off my feet when out of the blue, there was Matthew…and he was coming towards us. Surprise…surprise.
Dressed in the clothes he had been wearing when he had met only hours earlier, he looked to die for. I wondered if he looked good in anything but blue. Hey that would give me an excuse to see him again!
Moments later, he approached us asking, “May I cut in?”
“Why, Matthew, what are you doing out here?” my future father in-law asked; he was very startled by him asking a question such as this.
“I became uninterested in my studies, and decided to further my discussion with Miss Pendleton.”
“Do you mind, Mary Jane?”
I shook my head in response, sending my blond curls in all directions. Silently, I said, “Thank you, God.”
James’s father took a step back and bowed. “Thank you many times for allowing me to acquire a dance.”
“It was enjoyable, Mister Leroux,” I lied; giving him my fakest smile that he thought was true.
I never wanted to be touched by another Leroux for as long as I lived.
Matthew took my hand in his as the music sped up to a faster song. We began to dance with smiles on our faces. Having him touch me made my heart pace fast and slow at the same time…I liked the feeling. In fact, my feet no longer hurt, nor was I weary. It was as though his presence gave me the energy I needed.
“You are not from around here are you?” I already knew the answer. For when I told him who I was he didn’t mention my being rich.
“No, I am staying a season here with my uncle and his family,” he explained to me. I liked the way he talked, his accent. “I live on the other side of the island with my parents. I will be returning tonight.”
“That is why I have never seen you…I do not spend much time on the other side. My parents will not allow for me to travel without them.”
He nodded in what seemed to be an understanding. Then, smiling, he asked, “Would it be too bold to ask of your years?”
“No…I am eighteen. And you?”
For some unknown reason he smiled even more. What was going on in that head of his? Is he realizing that I am of the proper marriage age or something? I could not decide what it could be.
As another song began to play, as he answered, “Twenty one.” Paused. “Your betroth, you do not like him much do you?”
“Why do you ask, Mister Bromley?”
“Well, you seem to have no intention on spending time with him.”
“No offence but your cousin acts like a female.”
Matthew chuckled at this, then, agreed, saying, “True, he does remind me of my younger sister.”
“Just do not tell anyone I said that okay.”
“I will take it to the grave. What did you say when he became your fiancé?”
“I told my mother that I hoped he died before then,” I informed him as a matter of fact. We began to laugh.
“What was her reaction?”
More laughter. I could not help what I asked him next. “Do you have a betroth?”
This seemed to startle him a bit. At first he hesitated, but said, “No, my family is not of noblemen or anything.”
“I am sorry for bringing it up.”
“You could not have known. Besides, it does not offend me.”
Suddenly, I heard my father’s voice asking, “May I cut in?”
“Oh, Matthew, this is my father, Jacob Pendleton.” I stated, “Daddy, this is Matthew Bromley.”
“Very nice to meet you,” my father mumbled, pulling me away. He danced me away from him, who stood there watching me. I never took my eyes off him either; at least not until my parents had moved to another room.
* * *
“Well, if you will excuse me for a moment. I have to take care of some business, but I will return within minutes,” James told Matthew and myself. The two of us watched as he walked out of the room, then, looked at each other.
My parents and James’s had left the room to talk about some things that needed to be addressed. I knew what those things were, and so did my fiancé. I knew that he was going to spy on them. I could tell, for I was once just like that and had done just the same earlier in the evening.
“Well, Mary Jane…is it alright if I address you by your first name?” the man sitting next to me asked, sitting very close.
“Yes, continue,” I replied, eager to know what it was he was going to say before remembering that he had not asked to address me by my name.
“I was going to say, it looks as though we are alone….”
“What are you trying to say?”
What is going on in that head of his? I wondered this once again. And why was he smiling like that?
“I am saying that if there is anything you want to tell me privately…well, this would be the perfect time to do so,” Matthew answered, smiling. I watched out of the corner of my eye as his right hand began to slide across the satin covered couch in my direction. Could it be that he was falling for me? I slowly edged away from this man that I did not know.
“Would you like want to accompany me for a walk in the moonlight before I set off?”
“No, thank you. I am rather exhausted from a night of dancing.”
“Oh, alright. It was nice to make your acquaintance. Well, good night.”
“The pleasure is all mine. Night.”
I watched as he exited the ballroom and disappeared out of sight. Subsequently, I let out a sigh of relief, lying down on the satin covered couch. I was finally alone to think.
There had to be some way to get out of being betrothed to James Leroux, but how? Could I seriously get him killed? Was I bold enough to do something such as that? Probably not. I would feel to guilty. Maybe I could run off with someone? Perhaps Matthew Bromley.
That thought caused a laugh to escape from my mouth. Me marry him? Ha! Maybe if I ran I could still catch him before he makes his journey back. I would rather rot. Besides I am not dim witted enough to let myself become in danger like that. That would be like making an appointment with the gallows. I am not very fond of the noose.
“A walk in the moonlight does sound like a good plan,” I said aloud to myself. “Maybe there I can think of a way to do away with Sir James. Sir James? Ha!”
Now, that I thought about it a walk in the moonlight did sound soothing. It sounded like just what I needed to relieve the stress of the whole I am marrying a stranger for fondness thing.
Moments later, I was walking through the Leroux garden area. It was nice with flowers and their lovely scents. Then the fact that the moonlight was spilling over me was wonderful. I selected a single red rose from the many bushes and brought it to my nose, thinking about the love I could have if I ended my engagement with the feminine male.
While thinking this, my thoughts began to drift to thoughts of the only man I had ever loved. Jack Lafayette. Jack Lafayette lives with his parents, Susannah and Jessie in the Lafayette Manor. It is on the other side of the island where Matthew exclaimed he lived.
I was fifteen when my parents had taken me to the other side for a few weeks for some important meeting my father had to attend. We were staying at their manor because there wasn’t an inn available. They had been nice enough to take us in. During that time I had gotten to know Jack. We started out as just friends but became even more by the second week of our stay. I was sad to leave him after we had experienced a night to remember. I can remember our departure like it had happened yesterday:
“I shall never forget you, Jack,” I said.
“I hope not,” he exclaimed. “I hope that last night will make you remember me for the rest of your life.”
A few months after the incident in his bedroom, I found that I was pregnant when I got the case of morning sickness. At first my parents just assumed that I had come down with some illness that was going around the island, but when Father called in a doctor to see what was wrong, we found out otherwise. My parents were infuriated. Oh gosh let me tell you. First, they would not let me leave the house until the baby was born. The baby was sent to live with the Lafayette family by the way. Then, I was not allowed to go anywhere without them or talk to anyone that they were not socializing with until I turned eighteen. It was, as if I had to grow up in order to be able to live. I learned my lesson not knowing that things were about to get worse. Right before my nineteenth birthday I find that I am to be married to James Leroux. Talk about a slap in the face. And even worse, he reminds me of a woman. I hate my life. Sometimes I just wish that I could trade my life in for someone else’s; maybe then I could be happy.