OVER THE NEXT YEAR I WAS TO START TAKING TEA WITH MY mother. I was to be socialized. I did not have any more strange voices in my ears. No strange fantasies came to me. I never saw the man from my début after that night.
I started a new type of etiquette training with my mother. I had already been taught how to sit, speak, laugh even eat when I was younger. Now Mother was showing me the way to be a proper a wife. A true hostess not just a girl in the chair. I was learning small points of business so I would be able to follow conversations. Training in what my role would be at dinners I would hold or attend.
I had been to a few balls, was present at some dinners. I would sometimes see the young men from my ball. We would dance or smile at each other during the night. None of them asked for me. Which was okay because I never wished for any of them.
About half a year after mine, there was a début ball for a girl whose father worked with mine. We went that evening to show support for her father. I was excited, it was my first evening out in a while. Mother dressed us up. She was wearing a pale blue gown. She had not designed hers, as she had mine.
I was in green again, but this dress was more concealing. My début dress hung in my room. This was not a night for me to shine. She made the dress to show my beauty, but not so striking that I took attention away from the debutant. A task I did not know could be accomplished, but it was.
The satin of my skirts was overlain with a lace pattern that flowed from my waist on my right side. Then around the front of me to the floor on the left and slightly on the back.
My corset was still as tight as before. Made the same as the skirts, Lace over satin. The satin stopped just above my chest. Flowing to the sides, over my arms. The lace covered all of me from my waist to the high collared neck. Down my arms covering the satin cuffs, ending in ruffles on my wrists. The whole top was very snug fit so the lace touched my skin anywhere there was no satin.
It was a sly way of showing my skin and shoulders, without being bare. The lacy top was the same pattern as the lace on the skirts so they flowed together, looking like one solid dress. The satin was shining out from behind the lace so eyes would be drawn to me, but only when I was close.
Mother should have been a dressmaker. Once when I asked why she didn’t make dresses. She said she didn’t care about anyone else, that’s why she only designed for me. She could only find ways to make me look better.
But the ball, please forgive side tracks my mind takes. These are memories I have not revisited for, in a long time. I may go off track it seems, but I feel if you understand me. My life, then you may understand Adam better. Well, let’s see…
It was very similar to my ball. They also had a stairwell in the hall. It was straight against the wall, no landing, but with just a slight turn at the top to the second floor.
We all stood in the hall, while her father stood a few steps up. He gave his thanks to us all for attending. She stepped out onto the stairs from the second floor archway. She walked down, her father took her to the center of the room for the first dance.
I was able to watch from the side what it must have been like at my ball. I could see all the people smiling, the young men nervously tapping their feet. One finally came forward and the dance started for everyone. I stayed on the sides of the dance floor. I didn’t know what to do really.
I thought about going and sitting down when I spotted a man walking towards me. I turned to my mother. She just smiled at me. I looked up to see the man who had come to a stop in front of me. Surprise made me forget myself.
“Fredrick!” I exclaimed, then blushed and lowered my voice to a proper tone, “How are you?”
“Pleased that you remembered me, Miss Tamson. I had thought that you might not remember one face out of the many you danced with at your own ball.” He stopped and motioned to the dance floor with his right hand. “Would you like to dance again?”
His face was not as nervous as it was before, it was more firm, but not harsh. I missed seeing him nervous, but without it he was amazing. I gave him my right hand and we walked out a few steps and he started to dance. For some reason, maybe because eyes were not all on me, I felt like this dance was more intimate than at my ball.
I felt the graze of my skirts on his legs, the pressure of his hand upon my waist. I felt where his heart beat in his palm, the heat that radiated from him. We didn’t talk during the first dance. We already knew each other so we could just dance. It gave me time to actually look at him.
Fredrick was a bit taller than me I noticed. My eyes were looking right at his chin if I looked forward. His dark brown hair was straight. Except for the front, which waved away from his face. It was very short in the back. However, you could not tell where the hair became short. His longer bangs flowed right into the trimmed hair in a way that made me stare. He had clear skin, a little darkened by being outside. I wondered what he did outside, but I didn’t say anything.
He smiled at me, and then looked at our feet, then past our hands. I think he was just trying not to blush, but I took the chance to look at his profile and face. His nose was straight, tipped up at the end, but only slightly. You would miss it if you weren’t looking, but it was there.
My attention was pulled to his lips. They were not the thin lips I had grown up seeing on Father. He had a full lower lip. His top was almost shaped like a woman’s, just more straight then curved. I was looking at his lips when they turned towards me breaking into a smile.
He didn’t say anything but it was enough that I knew he had seen me critiquing him. It was a polite smile with undertones of laughter. I looked at my feet then at our hands, as he had.
Everyone seemed to be dancing now. I could see on the side of the room, where some of the older women were conversing while the men were all talking business. We danced among the couples simply looking around.
No others came to ask for my hand. I do not know if they were just waiting for the debutante, or if they thought Fredrick had already claimed me. I liked it though. I got to just dance without worrying about boring conversation or false smiles. There was no phantom voice or strange feelings this time. We danced to the end of the song without one word.
“My lady, you are a pleasure to dance with. Would you allow me another dance, or would you like to sit and rest your feet?” He smiled as we stood there waiting for the next song to pick up.
“I would much enjoy one more dance before we rest, Fredrick.” A smile blossomed on his face as I said ‘we rest’. He started to dance right away.
“Were you well after your ball Tamson? I know you were taken to your room. I had not a chance to thank you for the dances, or ask how you were.” I looked down with a shy smile. It was wonderful that he worried about me, but how do I explain fainting from a phantom gentleman caller who waited for me in the maze?
“I was well. I simply became overwhelmed.” I admitted as I looked up at him. He really seemed interested, maybe even upset.
“I went outside to get some fresh air and had a spell. Nothing very dangerous, I just needed to rest. Mother took me upstairs so I could be calm. Not make a scene at my ball as such. It is all rather embarrassing, it was not very proper of me to go out on my own.”
“There is nothing wrong with needing rest. I am just sorry the evening was stressful to you. Hopefully this ball will not see you ill.” He slowed our trot down as we turned in a slow circle.
“I believe tonight I will be alright. I do not have to dance unless I wish to, so I can rest when I need to.” I could see a slight smile brush his face. It made his jaw line stand out. He looked slightly older, but very handsome. I realized that my hand was on his arm. I was suddenly aware of the muscle I could feel through his jacket. I had never noticed before, but my stomach was all light. He led us around the room with a small grin.
We were dancing without speaking but it was pleasant. Although for half a dance I wondered what had put the small grin on his face. Then I realized that I had said ‘I do not have to dance unless I wish to'. Since I was happily dancing with him, it meant I wanted to. I had told him I liked him without even meaning to. Without even realizing that I liked him. As soon as I realized that, I got shy and blushed. His grin turned into a smile. He saved my feelings by leading us to the side. Almost successful at keeping the ego boosting laugh off his face.
“You look flushed, would you like to have a drink and rest a moment?”
We danced almost the entire night. He spoke of his schooling. How he was almost done then would be coming home to take over the family affairs. Near the end of the ball, we went over to talk with his mother for a while. He spoke business with Father for a bit while I went to speak with Mother.
“You seem attached at his arm, little one. I have not seen you with dance with anyone else this night.” She gave me a knowing glance but kept the smile off her face, even though I could hear it in her voice.
“Well, I talked to him briefly at my début, and it was nice to have a longer discussion.” I sipped on my glass and looked out to the dance floor. I didn’t want her to see in my eyes that I had liked dancing with him.
“Really. A longer discussion.” She nodded her head slightly as she thought. Her face was tight as she tried harder not to giggle.
“When I would look at the two of you, I only saw smiles. Hardly any talking at all,” At this she did smile. Mother turned to me as her face was lit up.
“I hope that if he fancies you in return, that we will be able to arrange something. I wonder though. Do you believe he will be able to provide for you, if we were to go further on this? I would not want to talk to your Father about this young man if you were not happy with him.” The shock I felt must have shown on my face. I didn’t want to comprehend what my mother was saying even as I realized that I was of age. Marriage was the final reason for the dances, dresses and social events for a girl my age. I thought about it for a moment as I watched Fredrick.
“Mother I am not saying that I would like to marry Fredrick. I am not saying that I would not. I just have not thought about it. He makes me laugh and smile. This is true, but I have only seen him twice in my entire life.” I looked down into my glass that Fredrick had brought me.
I wondered about what it would mean if I told my mother anything. Would they make me stop talking to him if I said I did not want to marry him? If I said I liked him, would they marry us tomorrow?
“He is still being schooled so I know he cannot provide for me as of now, but later I do not know. We may be happy together, but Mother, we have just met.” I looked at her thinking that was final. W had just met, we couldn’t be married.
“Well, you go and finish off the night. I am feeling worn and will go see how long before we depart. I will take your father away from your young caller. You can think about what we have said.” She turned to walk over to them. I sat down in one of the arm chairs near the window. I stared out into the evening. I could not believe my mother. I knew I was to be married off, but it had never occurred to me that I would be allowed a say in it. I thought they would just choose a caller and tell me I was spoken for. I was still pondering this when Fredrick walked over.
“I hope I am not interrupting anything.” He smiled down at me. I looked at him and was slow in responding. It must have upset him because his face dropped as he sat near me.
“Are you well?” He asked, with true concern.
“Oh yes. I am not going to have another spell. I was simply looking out at the evening. Are you done talking with Father?” I did not joke back as normal. I was trying to see him as a husband instead of someone to talk to. Would he be a good provider, a good Father?
“Oh. I see. Well I hope your mother did not put you in a foul mood. Your smile seems to have faded.”
“Oh we were talking about nothing. She just asked about us dancing.” As soon as I said it I wished I had not.
“Really,” His voice perked up a little. I could hear the teasing tone in it and should have been happy. If he could jest with me then he was not so worried, but I did not know what I would say. “And what did you say to her?”
“Oh nothing really. Just that you were a horrid dancer. I told her I wished for her to rescue me should you force me out to dance again.” I smiled at him. We laughed lightly helping to ease my nerves. He looked out over the crowd and I looked at him.
He was handsome. I allowed myself to see it. Dark hair, with clear deep eyes. He wore his emotions on his face, which meant he was honest. His muscles and slight coloration meant that he did not mind working outside. He was in school. He was a future business man. Wth the land they owned he would be able to provide for me. I looked out on the dance floor. Before I knew what I was doing I blurted out.
“Mother was asking me if I thought you fancied me.” I tried to say it nonchalantly. I feared what he would say, but was curious myself. It came out a little too fast.
“Fancied you? Well, why would she think that?” He did not turn towards me but his eyes stopped moving. He sat still, straightening up slightly. His voice did not have the joking tone as normal. With one sentence I had changed our conversation from a friendly chat into a tense discussion.
“I do not know. She said that we were smiling while we danced, and she noticed. I am sure she is suffering from delusions. I do not believe we were smiling more than anyone else. Were we?” I did not want to upset him. The conversation was too serious for me. I was trying to steer us away from it.
“I am sure no more than others. However, if you do not want her to be concerned, then we can dance with different guests. I am sure there are other gentlemen you would like to dance and converse with?” His tone was still businesslike, but he made the last a question. Something told me that, if I did not answer carefully, he would be hurt, maybe even leave. I realized I did not want either to happen.
“You better think again. If I have been smiling all night, then I see no reason to change my actions because Mother asks about them.” I stared straight at him. He turned with a smile to meet my eyes.
“Well then, Miss Tamson would you like to dance, or would you like to accompany me outside for a breath of fresh air?”
“I would much enjoy a short walk outside.” He stepped over to hold out his hand. For some reason though, I felt very feminine as I took it. His strength helping me stand. As he held open a smaller side door, I turned to make sure my dress was out of the door and saw Mother talking to Father. I secretly hoped they would not see us. After Mothers comments, I was not sure going outside alone was the best idea, but it sounded wonderful.
He closed the door. There were the main ones still open. He took my hand and we walked to the balcony. This house did not have a maze like mine, but a lovely rolling garden. There were high bushes hiding the large white brick wall around the grounds. Trees were spotted around the grounds, planted in the midst of flowers. Each had a small bench underneath for sitting.
In the middle of all of this, was an immense fountain that I would have loved playing in when I was a child. It had a sculpted figure on the top, of a mermaid combing her hair. There were ships carved into the stone at the bottom of the water reservoir.
“Miss Tamson, May I ask you a question?”
I looked at him and laughed. He turned his eyes toward me with a questioning glance. The moon lighting up his face. I stopped laughing.
“You just did.” I explained, rewarded when he smiled back.
“Too true my lady, but would you be upset, if I asked a personal question?” I looked back out to the gardens. They were peaceful and would be wonderful during the day. I wished it was day now. Everything seemed so much more intimate at night, when the birds where quiet and even the air seemed to hold its breath.
“I cannot promise to not be upset. If it is personal then I do not know how I will react. However, you may ask. I promise that I will answer, if I am not upset. If I am upset, I will say that I am and you can think of another topic of conversation. Does that sound fair?” I looked back at him and his face had not changed. I could tell that he was thinking though. He was deciding how to word what he was thinking so I would not be upset. I began to worry. What could he want to ask that was so important?
“I do not wish to upset you. I will ask something else that I was also thinking. I am still at school as you know. I was wondering if you would not mind writing me when I go back.” He looked away, hurried up, and spoke before I could say anything
“Small things about home. Possibly news about my mother if you see her of course. Nothing terribly important, just something to keep my days light while I am away?”
“I would be happy to Fredrick. Although I am not so sure what I could possibly write about that would matter. If I may though, that did not seem very personal. Now I am slightly curious as to what you were going to ask.” I did not word it as a question, but I said it so he would understand I wanted to know. I glanced out over the gardens with a face uninterested, as to not seem so eager to know.
“Well Miss Tamson,” He started, coughing into his hand to clear his throat. He turned towards me. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, but kept looking out as if the topic was nothing to important.
“I was thinking that your mother is a smart woman. She must see people for who they really are.”
I turned my face to him slowly as it dawned on me that he did fancy me. I was a little surprised, a little happy, but a little scared. Was he only being nice to me because he enjoyed my face? Was I just a business venture to the one man who had made me smile all evening? I tried to keep my face neutral as I looked up at him.
“Am I to assume, if you think Mother can see the real person inside, that she might be correctly seeing interest on the dance floor?” I asked slightly amused. I tried to make a joke, but the question was very serious.
He cleared his throat again as he turned to look out to the gardens. He seemed taller while he was thinking. I looked up at him. Realizing that if he did fancy me, if all went orderly, I would be spending the rest of my life with him. A moment ago, we were just friends a few years apart in age. Now it seemed like I was a child looking at a man, but this man did not scare me in any way. I felt that I could be happy if we were married. That I may always wonder what it would have been like, if we were not.
“Miss Tamson, please know that it was not my intention to bring you out here to discuss such things, I truly do enjoy talking to you. It was however, my intention to come to this ball, in hopes of seeing you again.” He paused for a moment. I could see thoughts roll past his eyes, but he did not move. I stayed quiet in case he had more to reveal. I did not want to misunderstand his intentions due to me interrupting.
“I had a wonderful time dancing and being with you, at your own ball. Though I did not know for certain, if you had enjoyed my company. You may have simply been being a gracious hostess. I knew your father would be invited this evening. So when I also received my invitation I came in hopes that you would be here. I wanted to see if you would enjoy my company, when you weren’t being forced to dance with every gentleman that asked.” He stopped just long enough to take a breath.
At first it sounded like he was gathering his strength, but it ended sounding like a sigh.
“I would like to talk to your father about you, because I do enjoy spending time with you, and I find you very beautiful. Your mother was right to see how I smiled, I do fancy you. However,” and he breathed deep again, “I could not imagine speaking to your father without knowing if you could ever be happy with me. I know you have only seen me twice, but I already feel like I could be happy with you by my side. I wanted to see if there was a possibility of that happening. I did not want to bring it up at this time, but since it has been brought up already, I want to just ask.”
He finally looked fully at me. Seeming to shrink down and become softer somehow. He held a hand out, touched mine, curled his fingers around mine as he lifted them between us. I faced him looking up. Not knowing how to react to the question that Mother had helped bring early….. Or had I? If I had not been curious, I would not have brought it up. I could have thought longer.
“Tamson, I feel like I could grow to love you, I already love hearing your laugh and seeing your smile. I do not ask anything permanent of you now. I am asking you just to look in your heart, and let me know if it is just friendship that brings our smiles, or if it could one day be more. I ask much from you, but I promise I will not move any further, except to be your friend, if your answer is no. Should you prefer someone else, that is your heart. I would like to stay friends, but I would know to put my attention elsewhere. I know your father can still say no. Make no arrangements with me for whatever reason he feels. I would like to know your heart though, not his. So,” He sighed once more.
“I put the question to you. If I spoke to your father, and he arranged it, could you find it in your heart to be happy with me, or would you be left wanting in a life with me?” He stared at me, but put no push in his words or eyes. He simply waited.
Although I knew what he had been thinking, I had not thought he would ask me in this manner. I was told that Father might get some talks right away. I was even warned that I might not even see the young man before Father introduced us. Here I was, given a chance to consider my own thoughts and feelings. Before Father even knew. Would ever know if I said ‘No'. I looked down at our hands as I looked inside myself. I felt myself grinning as I looked into his face.
“I had never thought to be asked my opinion. I thought that maybe it would have been dealt with like a business deal. That alone makes me happy if nothing else could. I thank you for thinking about me.” I smiled and stared up at him, his face was cautious. I had said nothing about my heart, just showed appreciation for his manners.
“While I cannot promise that I will always be happy, I am not unwilling to try.”
At this he squeezed my hands. A smile bigger then any I'd seen on his face shined down at me as he pulled me into a hug. I giggled as he pulled apart from me trying to look proper again.
He laughed. I looked down to hide my amusement. I thought that when I was going to be married, I would be afraid. However, I was almost anxious now. I knew my future, possibly. If Father allowed it, then I would be married, but to someone who I chose.
He reached up with one hand to touch my chin. I looked up at him, thinking he was going to say something else.
He just leaned in smiling and laid a kiss upon my lips. Barely a touch. He brushed his lips lightly across mine, my smile froze. I stood as if made of the same stone as the statue in the garden. My eyes closed as I breathed in the night. Everything was crisp and wonderful. I spent an eternity in my mind trying to remember every thing that was happening at the moment. When I opened my eyes, he was just watching me. Waiting for me to open my eyes again just so he could see them.
“Lets us go back inside. I can speak to your father tonight, or we can keep it for us. I will call upon him tomorrow if you would prefer it.” Fredrick seemed suddenly a man who was grown and stronger. I looked up at him thinking, 'I could truly be happy.' I put my hand on his elbow. Starting the walk to the open doors with a light step.
“No you may go in and speak with Father so he knows your intentions. It would not be pleasing to learn that another man inquired of me for business, when I have a man who thinks to ask if I could be happy. I will speak with Mother and let her know that I fancy you as well. This way she can tell Father to agree.” I smiled mischievously at my toes waiting for his response. He pulled my hand slightly and I looked back with an innocent look.
“So ‘she can tell Father’, am I to look forward to being told what to do?” He asked.
“Most assuredly you may.” I said with a smile and I walked inside pulling him up to me as we both laughed.
We went in walking towards my parents. I turned towards Mother as he smiled. Squeezing my hand before letting go and walking to Father. When I told her of his proposal, she hugged me and smiled.
“I knew he fancied you, but I did expect a bit longer before we had any true callers. Well, I hope you will both be happy with your choice.”
The next day my father spoke with him formally. We were scheduled to be married when Fredrick returned from his last year at school. I would be his wife by the end of the year, and my mother started planning our wedding.
Though Adam was nowhere to be seen at that ball, I felt that you should see that I was normal at one point. That I had a life all of my own, and was happy. For Adam did come back into my life. He ruined it all again.
“I guess the proper place to pick up would be after the wedding.” I say to myself as I stretch my arms.
Writing about the ball and Fredrick had made me smile. I do have happy memories still. I thought all that was left was pain and torment but as I wrote, I was giggling with the memories of his shyness. I had closed my eyes when I was writing about our first kiss. Looking back I realize I had truly loved him. That part of me still does.
Now I have to write about our marriage and when Adam came back into my life. I do not want to ruin the memories that have me smiling, but I am not writing to remember. I am writing to inform, my memories are just a lesson.
I take a deep breath, and begin writing about the ruin of my life. I skip the wedding day, my dress, the ceremonies are unimportant to the reason for my writing. What is important, though, is what happened after our union.