We held each other there in the unquiet night. We lay on the carpet, I with my head clutched to his chest, him with one of his torturously blue-veined hands stretched out slightly to the side, the other clutching me to his chest. I rested against him for I don’t know how long. I didn’t talk to him much, for I didn’t know what a lady should say to her husband after such a tumultuous moment of colossal feeling. All I could do was lie there in the candlelight which flickered over our naked forms and stare and him and wonder if this was where my duty ended. Had my duty to do good ended now that I was in love? Had my need to look beyond myself and my own personal desires met its conclusion now that I was wed to the most wonderful man I could imagine? Was love the death of duty? No. It was the start; for now, I had become one with someone, and I had to uphold that. Until death do us part.
“I suppose that was that then.” Valentine said with a soft tone in his voice.
“What do you mean?” I asked quietly.
“Well, we consumed our love.” He said.
“Yes. We did.” I smiled.
“It was different from how I had expected. Very different.”
“Oh? What was different?”
“I didn’t know it’d feel so, well, emotional.” He said, his piercing blue eyes narrowing slightly.
“Really?” I asked. He nodded. “Well, then you clearly haven’t been reading enough romance novels.” I giggled.
“Was it like you expected?” he asked tentatively. I noted a slight whisper of apprehension in his voice.
“No. Well, I didn’t know what to expect, so that’s not surprising.” I laughed.
“Really?” he paused. “Well, did you like it?”
“Yes.” I smiled.
“Good.” He laughed to himself.
“What is it, Valentine?”
“I think I must have listened to too many stories at boarding school.” He sighed. “I was informed that you need to half kill a girl to get her to say you did well in bed.”
“Well, we can try that too, if you like.” I smiled, turning to him.
“Maybe we ought to one night.” I smiled. I nodded. The candle fluttered and blew out in the subtle breeze, and Valentine and I fell asleep there on the Persian carpet. And the next thing I knew, we were awakening with the bright light of the dawn was streaming in from the still open double doors. My dark curls flowed over my bare chest, and he blinked subtly in the light.
“I love you, Theodosia.” He whispered softly.
“I love you – “ I was cut off by the sudden hurried footsteps of a maid coming into the Boat House. She caught sight of us at about the same moment we caught sight of her. We were still lying in situ, naked. She stared down at us in shock.
“So sorry.” She said. “Lovely to meet you, Duchess Ravenswood.” She blushed. I burst out laughing. This was the life of the lady of the manor, waking up naked on the floor. It all seemed rather ironic to me that for the first time in my life, I had had sex, slept on the floor, and this was the highest I had ever been in rank and privilege. It was all so very ironic.
“Come on, Theodosia.” He said abruptly, “Come inside.”
“Okay.” I whispered to him, surprised by his sudden change in tone from the young man who had been laying down beside me. It was just his fire, I suppose. He held my hand firmly, and I felt in the veins upon his hand which glowed in a way which made the bearer of the hands appear to me so tortuously masculine that he was descended from great men. Cruel men, no doubt, but still undeniably great men.
And he was my husband. This man who stood before me was married to me. He pulled me into the manor, and for the first time, I was afforded a privileged insight into what a man did all day. He ate breakfast with me, then disappeared off into his study to read a while, then told me he was going off to the plantation. I watched him gallop off on Hermes out over the hill with the vineyard where we had spent the last evening, except now the thick green grass with the fragrant morning’s warm dew.
And he was out of sight. Valentine had galloped out of my view, and it was at that precise moment that I realised that I didn’t know what I was going to do. He had his day as he would always have his day, out in the plantation. But for me? Well, at Ceasebury, I had spent my days with Gabriella in our lessons, reading, writing, smuggling erotic novels in my underskirts to the Creek. Even after she had married Captain LeBolt (a man I still hardly knew), I had spent my days reading and writing and trying to steal newspaper clippings from my mother about the Revolution and writing letters to Valentine. Yes, in my life, until this point in, almost everything I did held an element of secrecy. My own clandestine nature had made that element all too enjoyable and easily performed, of course, but now, now there was nothing to hide and no one to hide it from.
It was strangely unfulfilling to have nothing to do. Most married ladies spent their days organising the household, but Valentine’s household seemed to largely organise and manage themselves, perhaps because they had lacked a mistress for so long. They had gotten used to just assumed Valentine wanted his bedding changed and knowing that if they asked him, they’d most likely be replied to by a soft questioning expression that lacked comprehension into such little, meaningless things. And in any case, I didn’t suppose that he was ever actually in the manor itself.
And so I made it my business to thoroughly debunk that peculiar dream I had had: I began by writing it down; the movement, how the scene suddenly changed, that man with dirty blond hair and green eyes who was in bed with a lady who reminded me of someone else who I just couldn’t quite pinpoint. The young boy who kept appearing, first with a younger girl and then a few years older, duelling a 15-year-old Valentine, interrupted by a younger, less careworn Charles LeBolt. That same boy that I had seen kissing the dark maid.
Except, now I knew who they all were. Well, all but the man and woman with dirty blond hair I had watched in bed as some vague, disinterested voyeur. And the other man who had watched the blond woman choke, I didn’t know his identity either. I suppose Descartes’ theory of intuition had served me well; I had found the right answers just by thinking deeply – doubting if you will. The tall boy with the dirty blond hair was Dorian; he was giving the younger girl (a 13-year-old Gabriella Kingston) into the care of my mother. But surely, if that were the case, I too would have been depicted in the dream with my mother? Although perhaps one couldn’t be both the vague watcher from beyond the window and a participant – an actress in the drama unfolding. And then, after Dorian had delivered Gabriella Kingston into the care of my mother, he had gone off to boarding school where he had duelled Valentine, only to be stopped by Charles LeBolt, who had been scouting for military recruits now that the Declaration of Independence had been signed. But why had Valentine and Dorian been duelling? It was over Mae, that dark maid I had seen with Dorian; she had also been Valentine’s. And was unhappy at this betrayal.
All that remained was for me to uncover who the older people in the dream had been. That may require some of Descartes’ deduction.
Author Notes: I don't know why this has duplicated so many times, all the copies are exactly the same.