Chapter 15- A Wanted Woman

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'Make sure you don't flick too much, you'll get ink everywhere if you do. That's it, perfect."

Eliza watched as Rose practiced her calligraphy. It was an art that was very much encouraged at Whitehead and Eliza intended to pass it onto Rose. She remembered first doing it at school and how the art room was full of ink. The girls had been overzealous in flicking the quills and as a result, the ceilings and walls rained black.

It was a truly lovely memory.

She was so proud of Rose and how she'd turned out. Nobody could ask for a better sister. When Rose finally came out in society she'd outshine them all.

"We should let it dry, we do not want it getting on the clothes. I think the maids would be very cross with us if we did."

"Is it hard to get ink stains off of clothes?"

Eliza paused.

"I can't say I know but I'm sure that they would not thank us for the task. Hello Hannah."

Hannah smiled as she entered. The argument they'd had was long behind them, but there was still some tension in the air. Eliza and Hannah would never understand one another. They would have to live with that.

"Eliza's teaching me calligraphy," Rose proudly stated.

"I can see that," Hannah looked over their shoulder, "Looks nice. Is anyone else home?"

"They're all out."

"I ran into Alice, she asked if you would be one of her attendants at one of those events she has to go to."

"That sounds delightful," Eliza smiled.

"I am so jealous that you get to go to all these things while I'm stuck with a governess."

"I was the same at your age Rose," Hannah chuckled, "I could not wait to be out of childhood and become an adult. Then I had to start doing teas and balls and marriage markets. Don't wish your life away."

"I want to go to balls though."

"You will have plenty of balls in your life Rose. Just enjoy being young."

"Hannah was always the wise one," Eliza laughed, "Oh, I hear mother and father."

Jonathan and Marianne entered, both grinning from ear to ear.

"We have some news," Marianne sang.

The girls looked expectantly at their mother.

"The Duke and Duchess of Rutherford have invited your father and I for a 'discussion.' I think we all know what that means."

A proposal.

Well, it wasn't guaranteed, but it was a huge indication. When the elders of a family wanted a discussion it usually meant that a betrothal was possibly imminent. They'd need to feel the other side in order to ensure that everything was right. The other family needed to have similar wealth, position and rank.

It was still something.

"It might not be a proposal," Eliza shrugged.

"Oh come now darling, we know it is."

Eliza knew she should be excited. A proposal! A proposal from the Earl Cotillard of all people. All she'd ever wanted was a proposal from a loving man, to be a wife and mother. She should be thrilled. The Earl was the finest catch one could ask for. He was kind, handsome and well-mannered. His family was second only to nobility. Everyone liked him

She just didn't love him.

Maybe she'd grow to love him. No one had love marriages. If she didn't love him, she would at least be fond of him. Her life would be content and comfortable. If they had children, he'd be a fine father.

It was perfect. Except it wasn't.

He wasn't the person she wanted.

Eliza forced a smile.

"Well, let us hope for the best then. I just do not want to get anyone overexcited. When is the meeting?"

"We will arrange something," Marianne was about to burst with joy, "Oh isn't this amazing? I knew that Eliza would get the best suitor possible. You could well be a Duchess someday and outrank us all."

"Mama, please," Hannah could see Eliza looked flustered and decided to help her, "Like Eliza said, let us not get too excited."

"What are we getting excited about now?" Eddie entered the room.

"The Rutherfords have invited us for a discussion," Jonathan informed his son.

"Well they'll need to queue up because Captain White approached me at the social club earlier and asked for a meeting with the family. It looks like our dear sister is very much in demand."

Eliza turned beet red.

"Two men!" Marianne clapped her hands together, "Oh this really is exciting. You're going to have to choose."

"You must go for the Earl," Rose encouraged, "He is just so handsome and kind."

"The Captain is a really stand-up guy too," Eddie defended.

"You'd be a Countess though, then a Duchess," Rose jumped up excitedly, "That's the highest rank you could get without being a princess. Imagine being a Duchess someday."

"I do like the Whites though," Marianne jumped in, "They're such a lovely family. Besides, I think the Captain may well be knighted one day and you'll be a Lady."

"She already is," Hannah reminded her mother.

"You know what I mean."

"Excuse me," Eliza stood up, "I need to relieve myself."

She rushed out of the parlour and into her room. Shutting the door, she collapsed against her bed.

It was everything she planned for. Eliza would return from Whitehead, find a loving match in the season and be married. The Earl was a wonderful man. The Captain was a good person. If Alex wasn't in the picture then Eliza would be thrilled. She knew she couldn't be with him, yet she yearned for it.

Eliza thought it would be so simple yet it was the opposite.

What if she hadn't been in the town that day? Alex wouldn't have noticed her. She would have been another faceless debutant and life would be simpler. She'd marry the Earl and be satisfied with her lot. Her life would be happy. She'd be Countess Eliza, a fine title to have.

Alex was yet to leave Eliza's mind.

Hi all, hope you enjoyed it.

Next Time: Alex has had enough and decides to tell his parents just where his heart lies. The consequences, however, are really unexpected. What do you think they will be?

Thanks again and don't forget to like and comment x

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