Westbury Falls: Episode #10

Good morning friends. In today’s final ‘blog’ installment of my upcoming Vella series, a whirlwind of emotional tea spilling and the true nature of characters revealed.

Side note: If you happen to be in Denver this weekend, the Fan Expo is happening and I will be there, signing books, and participating in panels about writing, character development, series tips, and how sex changes and filters through time and genre. There will also be a lot of great speakers, some famous actors, tons of cosplay and nerding out all over the place. I hope I can see you there!

Here’s the link to that: Fan Expo Denver

And now, this:

Lillian knew what her proper place was supposed to be, knew the reaction she should give, when a man, the man who was promised to be her husband, the man she was to obey and cherish spoke to her in such a commanding tone. She knew the decent and right thing to do if she were to keep up the façade long enough to escape.

She knew all of these things and chose to open her mouth anyway.

“I will walk,” she began quietly without looking up at him. “When and where I please, in any and all manner of weather.”

Mr. Sutton’s shoulders tensed to his ears as if he’d been struck in the back. He turned on his heel, spun to confront her, his face red with anger. He breathed heavily out of his flared nostrils and his voice boomed so suddenly that it shocked Miriam into dropping the sugar dish on the carpet, spilling out the perfect brown cubes and they clattered like dice at Lillian’s feet.

“I will not tolerate a wife who dares speak back to me or deliberately acts against my wishes!”

Lillian stood, “How dare you speak to me in such a manner—” she grabbed a spoon from the tray and pointed it at him. “You, who had not one thread of common decency to visit me in my time of need! Now standing there issuing commands at me like a common dock worker? I will not be treated with such disrespect!”

Mr. Sutton leaned back in shock.

“I had business to attend to, more important than your bumbling down a few stairs. Proof in point that you should not be trusted to walk alone, lest you further mar that beautiful face. Though perhaps a good belting would help you remember just who is in command.”

Lillian let out a growl, held the spoon aloft dramatically and threw it to the floor. He watched with an astonished scowl and she refused to take her eyes from his. Miriam righted the sugar dish, grabbed the dropped spoon, and left the room quickly. Lillian watched her scurry out and felt the fear of being alone with Mr. Sutton. She didn’t know if the faithful maid would indeed go for help or if she had lost her nerve in the face of his anger.

“I will not tolerate such childish behavior from a woman who, by all accounts, should be lavish in her gratitude towards me at her great fortune in our soon to be union!”

Lillian tried to calm her breathing and looked squarely into the brown eyes that seemed to swallow her hole into their cold darkness.

“You will lower your voice, sir,” she said, both commanding and calm. Mr. Sutton took an angry breath and glared at her. Not in the way Dr. Blackwell would, as if he were trying to decide if her obstinance was charming or simply maddening. He looked at her coldly, as if he had no qualms about harming her, and in fact, might feel it was his duty.


It was then that the thought occurred to Lillian, that perhaps her great aunt’s death was no accident at all. That perhaps…a man of such a temper, and a woman of her own mind would not be able to occupy the same household for long without something disastrous happening. Mr. Sutton took a deep breath, tucked his anger inside like a pressure that would blow at any given moment and offered her a cruel, sharp toothed smile. She saw through its feigned sincerity immediately as it did not reach his eyes.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Byrne. I have had a long journey and I—forget that you have indeed sustained a serious contusion. Perhaps it is causing you to forget your—previous conversations and affection towards me. While I should permit you more patience as you heal, I think it is only fair for you to be aware that I enjoy the challenge of a strong spirit. In my horses, in my workers… in anything that I own.”

Lillian’s nostrils flared in anger and her cheeks grew hot. She opened her mouth to speak but he came at her, with brazen and overwhelming speed, threw his arms around her and locked her arms down by her sides. His breath was hot and smelled of onions as it blew across her neck and décolletage. He pressed his flaccid lips against her and forced his tongue into her mouth. Lillian yelled in outrage and struggled, biting her teeth down just as he pulled back, triumphant.

“I’m not above breaking such a spirit by any means necessary, whether it be by starvation, a strong hand, or a riding crop,” he whispered, into her ear, and pulled away to smile. The sharpness of his teeth seemed made for tearing, and his gaze fell to her neck hungrily, as though her throat could be torn out with nary a problem.


“Mr. Sutton, it would not do you well to threaten me thusly,” she said though her voice shook and she felt the cold sweat start to seep into her clothing. She wondered if she could push him away, if she stood any chance in a physical altercation with a man his size, and wearing the layers she did. Before she could chance the idea, Fitzwilliam burst through the doorway of the parlor; her calvary delivered by Miriam exactly at the right moment. Mr. Sutton let go of her quickly and backed away to a much more respectable distance.


“Mr. Sutton! Such a wonderful surprise to see you again! I hope I’m not late for tea, I do love tea.” Fitzwilliam said charmingly, flashed his dimple and shook Mr. Sutton’s hand in a firm grip. “Hello darling, feeling better?” he asked and looked at Lillian before planting a kiss on her scar gently. “Well, you look absolutely pale! Don’t you think she looks pale, Mr. Sutton? As though she’s been through too much in her delicate state?”


“She is quite unharmed I assure you,” Mr. Sutton blustered still red faced and seemingly befuddled by the sudden appearance of her brother into their intimate meeting.


“Oh! I’m sure she is quite safe, but in her delicate condition—” he sighed and looked at Lillian with a sly wink, “perhaps it best if she retires to her quarters. I’m sure seeing you has given her more excitement than she’s quite used to. And after a good rest this evening, I’m sure you’ll be much improved, won’t you my darling?”


Never before had Lillian felt sibling affection. It was more often the case that Will, her brother back home, had done very little to help her in any way. In point of fact, he had always made it quite obvious that his sole purpose in life was to make hers more difficult. But she felt such a warmth spread in her heart at Fitzwilliam’s appearance and apt reading of her distress. The sudden relief shown on her face and she felt as though she might leap into his arms and kiss him. She promised herself that she would him to help him win Kitty’s affection right there on the spot.


“I think it best I take your very good advice, sweet brother. I will repay the kindness for your concern over my health.” She bowed slowly and both men snapped upright to bow. She bowed first to her brother, who placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. Mr. Sutton stepped forward and offered to take her hand. She could tell he was much put out by the interruption and their argument. Perhaps it was enough to make him reconsider their arrangement. But then again, he said he loved a challenge. Perhaps she should have tried to be more boring. She reluctantly slipped her hand into his and he bent to kiss her it as he squeezed her bones hard enough to crack one of her knuckles. She bit back the small cry that formed in her throat.

Photo by Kseniya Kopna on Pexels.com


“Miss Byrne, it is always a pleasure to be in your company. I look forward to the day when we shall share all of our moments.” He kissed her hand again, this time with his teeth out and she pulled away quickly. Remembering a small curtsey before staggering out of the room, she made her way up the stairs two at a time. She wished she had someone she could talk to. Someone who would be on her side, to really listen to her fears and misgivings.


But she was alone. Her parents were dead, her guardians seemed distant, and probably were in strong favor of such an advantageous union if it meant taking her and her financial needs off of their hands. Her brother could be swayed to be certain, but he had little power to change the outcome. He was, after all, an orphan too.


She remembered Matthew’s words on that rainy hill. He had seen what poverty would do to young women. He begged her not to choose that course. But what could be worse than marrying such an abrasive and horrible man, whose only intent was to parade her as some child-bearing trophy and beat her if she did not comply?


She wished she could talk to Matthew right then, to tell him while it was fresh in her mind, but it wasn’t as though they had instant messaging or texts. She closed the door to her room and stared at the small writing desk beneath the window, it’s ink well, quill, and paper at the ready.


“I wish I would have taken greater care in Miss Denning’s cursive classes,” she whispered. She hadn’t written a letter in over three years, not since her grandmother had passed away. And certainly nothing so formal as he would expect. But then again, he knew her to be strange and not entirely proper, so perhaps he wouldn’t expect her language to be as poetic and perfectly formed as ladies of the era. He would, hopefully, remember their vow of honesty and respond with some other solution to the horrible matter at hand. Despite his affirmation that she was the bane of his existence, at the very least, as his patient, and a lady, her well-being must mean something to him.

Dr. Blackwell,


I hope that you will pardon my horrid scribbling. It is rather dark and my eyes have not yet grown accustomed to the strain since the fall. Please know that I would not dare to write but it is with great fear and concern that I take pen and ink to you now. I have just had a meeting with Mr. Sutton. His temper is quite pronounced and he demanded that I obey him, but not in the lovely caring way you teased in the rain. In a frightening, horrible way that makes me think he means to do me great harm should I not do exactly as I am told. He says I can no longer walk as I am accustomed to, by myself in the fields and narrows of this blessed land, though it brings my heart such joy and calm. He says I have forgotten myself and am a threat to his reputation. He threatened to beat me with his hands if not a riding crop should I not comply. I fear that I cannot marry him.


My dearest friend. You once swore a pact to me and I to you, that we would in all things be honest. I know that I’ve upset you the day of the picnic and it was my own fumbling mouth that over spoke and caused your good and noble heart to flee. I cannot apologize enough (I am presently running low on ink and candle light), but I would spend every day doing so if you could help me devise a solution to this situation.


I have put so great a pressure on you in asking, and only ask that you know, I do not do so lightly. It is just that you’ve become the one confidant I’ve met, with whom I feel my heart can express itself most fully. Please, Matthew. Understand, that I cannot marry your cousin, or I shall surely live a life of regret, pain, and solitude.


Your Lily

Lillian sealed the letter carefully with the wax and metal stamp on her desk and pulled the bell chord next to her bed. She never used it, always finding the maids more attentive than she cared for, but tonight, she needed an ally and Miriam had proved her worth as a true and faithful friend. When she arrived, red cheeks and asking if the missus was alright, Lillian handed her the letter.

“First, I must thank you for sending Mr. Byrne to interject, you are a one and true friend and I owe you a large debt,” Lillian paused and took Miriam’s hand in hers and pressed a kiss to her cheek. The older woman blushed but looked pleased, as if she’d never received such affection from her charge nor children. Lillian pressed the letter into her palm.

“But, for now, I must ask of you one more favor. Please see that Dr. Blackwell, the young Dr. Blackwell I mean, gets this as soon as humanly possible, Miriam. I will owe you a great debt for your help in keeping it secret and safe. I assure you it is not improper, it is…something I can only speak to with my physician,” she lied. Miriam looked as if she really didn’t need so much explanation to deliver a note to the handsome doctor.

“Aye, Miss Lillian, I will see to it that the young doctor gets your love note.” She winked and giggled. Lillian tried to argue but ended up just sighing.

“It is not a—”

“Sure’n it’s not,” Miriam nodded. “An no woman would blame you even if it was.” She turned then on her heel and left the room. Lillian sighed and paced in the room, watching from her window as, minutes later, Robby, the stable boy took one of the fastest stallions down the road, lamp in hand at the encroaching dark. She watched the small yellow light disappear over the hillside and wondered if all her hope of survival was going to disappear with it.

Westbury Falls #9: The Wretched Mr. Sutton

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today, we have the next installment of “Wesbury Falls” and an announcement that the series is in the works for publication to Kindle Vella this fall. So, unfortunately, I will only be running the next two chapters. I hope you’ll be able to follow it on that platform and will give you the links as the project gets ready to run. If you’ve followed this far, know that the series on Vella will contain more details and bonus chapters not given on The Beautiful Stuff thus far. I hope you’ll all be able to continue the adventure.

And now, this…

Lillian was worn thin. The difficult conversation with Matthew, the afternoon of people and the lack of any progress in her plan to leave this god-forsaken time, and hopefully save herself and her Aunt from certain death all cumulated in her having what Miriam described as “a bout of horrible exhaustion”.

Her feelings for Matthew especially had distracted her from the purpose of her being here, or what she thought was the purpose. He made her want to stay. He made her consider living the rest of her short life out in horrible yards of linen and under the control of a man she knew nothing of except that he might very well be the one responsible for her future death. Simply because it meant she would still see him in the same social circles even a few times before her untimely end.

As she lay in bed, watching the mid-morning sun crossing the horizon, she thought through the options that were limiting themselves with every day that came closer to the day Lillian had disappeared. But while her rational mind beat itself against the still injured skull it was trapped in, like an angry bird yearning to be free, her heart commandeered its power to dwell on the hurtful words of Dr. Blackwell, and the fact that he had not spoken to nor seen her since that sunny afternoon on the blanket a three days ago. It was the longest she’d ever gone without seeing him since her arrival.

The door creaked open, even as she was drying her eyes yet again and thinking herself a foolish and stupid girl for wanting something so ridiculous. Miriam poked her round, cheery face in the crack and whispered.

“Pardon me, miss.”

Lillian sniffed and quickly dried her eyes. “Yes…I’m awake, I’m sorry. Please don’t bring me breakfast, I’ll come down soon.”

“Mistress, begging your pardon, but you’ve a gentleman visitor, waiting down in the parlor.”

Lillian’s heart leapt, and she threw the covers from her legs, exposing them to the coldness of the room, but barely noticed. Her heart tripped to life.

“Has Dr. Blackwell—”

“Begging you, no miss!” Miriam looked at her confused before continuing. “Tis your fiancé, Mr. Sutton. He’s asking if you are well enough to be seen?”

Lillian sat back down, deflated. Of course it would be her fiancé. Dr. Blackwell had no reason to see her. If any indication could be made from their last meeting, he had officially deemed their patient and doctor relationship over. Any relationship they may have held, as friends, as co-conspirators in the dangerously strange game of honesty that never passed between two of the opposite sex in this era, was over. Lillian sighed and nodded.

“Of course, I—” she smoothed her wayward hair. “If it would not aggrieve him to wait in the parlor while I dress, I shall be down presently.”

“If you are not feeling up for such a visit, I have no qualms about letting him know you are not yet recovered.” Miriam said and her eyes softened.

Lillian rose again and walked to the door. She smiled sadly and took the older maid’s hands in hers. She felt the calloused and hard worked hands and the appreciation for such loyalty, not just for her as a charge but as a woman forced into a situation against her heart’s will.

“I appreciate that, more than you know. I shall make his acquaintance…er meet with him. It would not do—” she sniffed, “for a woman to refuse to see her betrothed after so long an absence.”

“Shall I serve tea? And if, you are feeling unwell, you may signal me by dropping your spoon. Then I shall make sure to devise a distraction. So that you may take your leave.” Miriam offered boldly. Lillian smiled widely and placed a kiss on her cheek with childlike warmth.

“Yes please, Miriam, that would be lovely, thank you.”

After Miriam left, Lillian dressed herself in a pale blue, cotton dress, tying it as tightly as possible on her own, and feeling that her ribs hurt from the deep drawing of breath. It made her think of the run she’d so brazenly taken on the day of Matthew’s leaving. She had wished she would have caught up to him. Or that he had come after her. But she hadn’t. And he hadn’t. And it appeared, by all accounts that the universe was reminding her that Dr. Blackwell was not to be hers. Her hair was an absolute horror, but she tamed it with a comb and water and put it back into a simple bun, something Kitty had shown her she could do herself in a pinch. It certainly wasn’t the same spiked pixie she was used to. Lillian still found comfort in toying with it. And she needed comfort now.

Taking the stairs and deep breaths very carefully, she descended and thought through all of the possible questions, comments, and conversations she might have with Mr. Sutton. What would he wish to speak of? What if she wasn’t able to pretend to know about their previous interludes? What if he found her much changed, so much so that he deemed her mentally unsound or worse, an imposter?

What if—she turned the corner of the parlor and saw him standing, stoically against the fireplace. He was a large man, hands clasped behind his back and reserved as he stared over his long and straight nose down at her. The nose was akin to Matthew’s but the eyes that stared at her above it were cold and brown; disinterested but for the slight shock at how quickly she had rounded the corner. His brown hair was trimmed neatly to the staunchly pressed and tight collar around his thick neck

She made a small surprised sound before remembering herself.

“Mr. Sutton, it is a pleasure to see you again,” she lied as she had never met the man, but bowed her head and knee low, curtsying far longer than necessary in order to gather her wits.

“Miss Byrne, the pleasure is all mine,” he said in a clipped and authoritative voice and came nearer. “Forgive me for being away so long,” he bowed and she offered her hand. He kissed it with cold lips quickly and in a perfect example of withheld emotion. “I hope I am not interrupting your convalescence. I would have offered to—come sooner—” he paused, blushed and cleared his throat. “But I’m afraid business in London has kept me from your bedside these long weeks.”

She could not see this large and reserved man, his jowly face and barrel chest sitting at her bedside calling her Angel and Lily. Her heart fell and she smiled despite the pain. She must maintain the act if she were to buy herself the time and opportunity to save her ancestor. The bigger picture had to come first.

“I am much improved, and am happy that you’ve given me a joyous reason to leave the confines of bed.” Now she blushed and turned away as he looked at her. “That is to say—I am much rested and anxious to return to my normal tasks.”

“I am glad I could inspire you,” he said and sniffed. He looked at her forehead. Studied the wound and shook his head. “Tis a shame you shall be scarred from the event.” Lillian tried not to scowl and used her strongest effort to not reply the way she would have with Matthew. She had no such pact of honesty with this man, he was, after all, her soon to be husband.

“With some skill, I can learn to arrange my hair to hide much of it, and you can make the effort to always stay on my left.” She said. It was the closest thing to polite she could manage and she wished she’d held her tongue a bit harder. He turned his head to the side and studied her and she wondered if she were about to be found out for the liar she was.

“I suppose your right. In any case, our sons will not inherit it.”

“Sons—“? Lillian choked on her response and fell into a fit of coughing.

“Do you find my assurances too forward?” he said and put his hands behind his back. “But, of course our future will hold the blessings of male heirs to the Sutton name!”

She smiled demurely above clenched teeth.

“Of course, my—dear—Mr. Sutton.” She forced herself not to throw up in her mouth. The strangest thought of being too forward, and Matthew’s intimate comment to her on the day of the picnic flashed in her mind. How she had wanted to be alone on a blanket with him in the afternoon sunlight and feel his warm strong fingers trailing up her thigh.

“You are quite flushed, my dear. I see you are as impatient for our future nuptials as I.”

Lillian took a step back and her thoughts were brought back to the present. The gall of the man. It was one thing for Matthew, who knew her best and felt genuine affection for, to make inappropriate comments. This man was, by all accounts a stranger and she felt sick to think of what was running through his mind. He watched her face turn downward. Probably attributing it to the necessary outward propriety of young women in the era.

“Though you are ill, you are still quite beautiful. I shall be the envy of all the men in the hunting club.” He tumbled through the backwards compliment and turned quickly away.

He’s a bumbling idiot and vulgar, but I won’t have to marry him if I can figure out a plan of escape quickly, Lillian thought and sunk down to the couch as her legs grew noticeably weaker. Mr. Sutton came to sit in the chair beside her. He was studying her now, as if trying to decern if she had changed in other ways. His brow scowled at the scar. As if his favorite statue had been gashed in transit.

“How has your business been?” she said suddenly in an effort bring his attention off of her face. “I hope that you are not too weary from your travels.” She said “The weather has been quite unpredictable and I know not enough to understand how that must affect the ships in your care.”

He looked at her as if she’d grown a second head and it occurred to Lillian that women were probably not allowed or expected to talk of business, even with their husbands. At least not this husband.

How she wished Dr. Blackwell were here.

“You musn’t worry for the boring details of running a shipyard, my darling. Let us talk instead of Dr. Blackwell.”

Lillian’s eyes shot up at the mention of his name. “I beg your pardon? I’m not sure I quite comprehend the subject.”

“My cousin!”

She feigned ignorance and shook her head. “I’m not sure there is much to speak of.”

“Well, I understand I have him to thank for saving your life? Though he could have used a lighter hand on that stitching.” He added. Lillian’s mouth turned down in anger.

“He…his first stitches were quite perfect. I tore out the others accidentally while slipping up a hill in the rain. He—aided me in getting back to Westbury Manor and had to repair them with wet and cold fingers.” She defended quickly, remembering every detail of the moment and the way he’d found her, wanted her, held her. Her eyes filled anew. Mr. Sutton watched the tears with a glint of something sinister within his eyes. An understanding…a need to stake claim on her as his property.

“I cannot fathom a reason why you’d be out walking in the rain to begin with, let alone up hills on your own. Nor why you thought it acceptable to accepting such aide from an unmarried man.” His voice was thick with disapproval. “When we are married, you must know that kind of behavior will simply not be tolerated. You do know that you are to remain at home, I will not have my wife traipsing about the countryside like some common bumpkin. Did anyone see you? Besides the doctor? Scrambling through the rain like a witless peasant?” Mr. Sutton’s voice rose, and a strange darkness took over his features. His rounded cheeks clenched into hard lines and he rose to pace before the fireplace.

“I am quite fond of walking.” She said simply.

“I am quite fond of a complacent wife,” he said back in a tone that brought a rising of bile into Lillian’s throat. The door burst open unannounced by a knock and Miriam stepped in with rattling tea service tray and a face quite flushed itself. She looked once at her young charge and her beady, hard eyes landed on Mr. Sutton.

“Beggin’ your pardon, sir. Miss Bryne requested serving tea after your long journey.”

Lillian loved her for the complete lack of respect in her tone and she smiled even though her eyes stayed downcast to the patterned rug beneath her feet.

“Fine,” he acknowledged with a curt nod, and held his tongue while the woman, whom he felt far beneath the benefit of his words, set the tea service down in front of Lillian. Miriam began to pour him the first cup and looked up at Lillian’s pale face.

“When we are married, you will find everything you need in our family’s grounds and shall have no reason to leave. Ever. I assure you. You will be quite content.”

Content. No reason to leave. Complacent.

“As for my cousin, you will no longer cause him the grief of maintaining your propriety as he is leaving in short time to seek his fortunes elsewhere. You shall have no reason to leave when we are happily betrothed. Walking or otherwise.”

Lillian knew what her proper place was supposed to be, knew the reaction she should give, when a man, the man who was promised to be her husband, the man she was to obey and cherish spoke to her in such a commanding tone. She knew the decent and right thing to do if she were to keep up the façade long enough to escape.

She knew all of these things and chose to open her mouth anyway.

Westbury Falls: Episode #8

Well, here we are, Episode #8 and if you recall, our dear Ms. Byrne has just been…byrned? (Hooooly shit, sorry I’ve been writing and working like a maniac this week and the brain cells are a little punchy. Ahem… moving on). In the last chapter, Dr. Blackwell and Miss Bryne had a rather scandalous-for-the-time convo on the grass and he instantly felt guilty and took his leave. Such was the age of prudery. Is prudery a word? Spell-check says yes.

Now we get to see what Miss Byrne does with this slighting and gain a bit more insight (I shy from using ‘foreboding’) about our dear Colonel Mayfield. Keep your hands and legs inside the cart at all times, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

“Home!” Kitty shouted in despair. “But my darling Lillian! First you have not partaken of the cooling waters and second we’ve only just begun the afternoon of merriment. Surely a little sustenance would improve your countenance! Thirdly, and most obviously, a young lady cannot simply walk back all the way to Westbury Manor! That is at least half a day’s journey! You will surely expire before you reach the gates!”


“Please calm your worry, Miss Katherine, I shall talk with her in private.” The Colonel said and eased Kitty’s frantic tone.


The Colonel studied Lil’s pallid face and shook his head. It felt familiar to her and she attributed the motion with that typical of a father figure. She hadn’t had one of those for a long time. The Colonel leaned over, saddened, and extending his hand. Lillian took it and allowed him to help her up. His warm hand in hers made her memory jog loose and the fatherly premonition hit her solidly she staggered a bit and thought that the constant dance of want and denial that Dr. Blackwell had put her through, combined with the trauma of traveling through time, and a significant head wound were conspiring against her to make her quite crazy. The Colonel was not her father.


Maybe her heart and her soul just wanted a father figure, now more than ever. Someone to be solid and strong, and there for her. Not like her own father who’d disappeared from the face of the Earth when she was eight. She followed the Colonel docile as a lamb and they took a short stroll to the water’s edge where Lillian’s tears began anew.


“My dearest, what has vexed you so, please. Allow me the honor of helping you to sort out any muddled feelings. Is it Kitty?” He said quietly and looked back to the blanket now being spread with delicious luncheon things. Lillian stared past her to the blank hillside where Matthew had climbed and disappeared beyond.


“No, dear Colonel, I’m afraid our Miss Darlingwood is not so insensitive as to cause such a bereavement.” She sniffled and tried to control the tears that sprung up as her mind relived the cause of her bereavement. Ever coming to her aid was the paramount regret of his life. Her dearest friend in a strange and unfriendly world wished he’d never met her.


“Then it is to be the young Dr. Blackwell that we accredit such distress.” The Colonel said it so matter of fact that she wondered if a judge and jury might spring up from below the water of the lake and apprehend the criminal at once.

“It is of no fault, of his own, my dear Colonel.”


“Not his fault? Please explain. No gentleman would dare leave a lady in such a state. How could a man of honor cause a woman to cry such bitter tears in the middle of such a fine day?” Lillian shook her head, not knowing how to respond when Matthew’s leaving had everything to do with a man of utmost character.


“It is all my fault, I’m afraid. I’ve behaved very poorly and put the noble Doctor in too great of a quandary to find a righteous path. I’m just so—unaccustomed.”

“Whatever to you mean child?” The colonel responded with a hand on her shoulder briefly.

“I am not used, to…to feeling this way about a—a man. To feel so–lost and affectionate and–He—” she gasped for breath and felt the tightness of her corsets constricting even further as she tried to breathe. No wonder women in this era fainted so easily, the wires and metal served to keep them from barely breathing at all, let alone in any kind of crisis.

“What is it dear, Lily?”

“He upends me, sir. He makes my head and my heart spin until I have no rational thought at all and I am torn between what I know I must do and should do and what I want to do. What I ache to do.” She burst out suddenly. Lillian quickly covered her mouth. “You must think I am of a horrible moral character, to have—these thoughts about a good and honorable man.”


The Colonel smiled softly and lowered his head. He checked the unaware guests still engaged in other conversatiopns.

“My dear girl, one could be of the utmost character, the model of propriety, a human shining in the eyes of God and still the heart is a wild and beautiful beast. It wants as it does, and it rarely asks us for our opinion in the matter.” He smiled as if he’d been waiting a long time to give fatherly advice. “Sometimes, the question our heart poses to us, is exactly the one that holds the right answer for us.”


The question her heart was posing, the sheer ridiculous idea that she wanted him, to be with him to stay with him, though she knew him not, though she did not belong here, though she should be expending her energy on the plan to get herself back home to her own timeline…was that maybe all she really wanted was to be with Dr. Matthew Blackwell in any time, in any space.


“It’s merely stupid, irrational, female frailty,” she burst out, reprimanding herself and her wild beast of a heart. Lillian turned away from him, headed straight for the road and the way back to Westbury Manor.


“But my dear! You cannot make the trip on foot! You simply cannot! Please take my carriage!”


“Thank you, good sir, but I assure you that the exercise will quite calm my nerves,” she managed to croak before cresting the hill. Once free of the view of the lake side picnic, she broke into a run back down the shoddy dirt road. She lifted her skirts in the heat and the dust and let her poorly slippered feet run as though the mere thought of such an activity was inconceivable and would turn her rightly into some sort of mythical creature. Maybe she could just fly away from it all if she went fast enough.


In her own time, Lillian had been varsity on her cross country team and had accomplished a sub 1:30 half marathon not two weeks before. With skirts lifted she paced over the dirt and rock, the uneven ground and hot sun drenched fields for the next seven miles, sweating profusely in the heavy cotton gown and undergarments, her slippers torn to shreds before she finally made her way back to the gates of Westbury Manor.


“My mistress!” The gateman called, shocked at the sight of her, dirty and sweating, pink in the face and her bonnet trailing from her hand as she had torn it from her neck around mile two. “Are you quite alright, what has happened?” The old man stepped up to help her.

“Are you with fever? Are you in need of a doctor?”

Lillian shook her head, too exhausted and dehydrated to cry at the thought of the Doctor who would no longer be coming to her aid. She sighed, put her hands to her knees and gulped breaths of air through her tight corset.

“I assure you, good sir, I am quite fine. I will be set right in a few moments when I have caught my breath.” she said, lying as much to herself as to him. She was not sure she would ever be set right. The gateman stared at her as if she’d gone quite mad. She stumbled inside, shedding her ruined shoes at the door and continuing up the stairs on shaking legs and bare feet, until she collapsed into her bed.