Isabella and I were sitting in the garden at the side of the house when it arrived.
We were in the middle of discussing the Valentines' Annual Charity Ball that was coming up in a few weeks, when a horse and buggy came down the driveway.
As we talked, Willie groggily sat on his mother's lap, head resting on her chest, his little mouth opening wide with the occasional yawn. He had been calling for his mother after he woke from his nap.
"So we'll have to organise a day to go gown shopping," Isabella said. "Father said I can come out of half-mourning early. I know it's because he wants me to remarry, but still, at least I can officially wear colour again." I was only half listening to her, watching with interest as the man hopped out of the buggy. "No disrespect to William, of course. But I know he would want me to wear colour instead of dull grey. He used to buy me the most gorgeous gowns for these balls." The man reached into the buggy and pulled out a large, rectangle package. It was wrapped up in brown paper, but I was certain I knew what it was. "What colour gown do you think I should wear this year? Tilly? Are you listening to me?"
"Sorry?" I stared blankly at her.
"What colour gown? I'm thinking pale pink. Or should I go brighter?"
"You would look good in any colour," I replied, not really interested. My focus shifted back to the man, watching as he carried the painting to the front door, knocked, and patiently waited. "Should we go greet the delivery man?" I asked her.
"The what?" She had been so absorbed in talking about the ball, that I don't think she had even noticed the arrival of the delivery man. Her eyes glanced over to where I was staring. "Oh. Mrs. McCulloch will answer the door. Father must have bought something," she said, uninterested, turning back towards me.
"It looks like a painting. Maybe the cottage painting is back?"
She shrugged. "We'll have to go shopping in Hobart Town. We won't find anything suitable around here. Maybe Robbie can take us?" Her eyes lit up at the mention of his name, and I wasn't fully convinced that the ship had sailed.
"Maybe." I watched as Mrs. McCulloch let the man inside, the painting disappearing from my sight.
Part of me wanted to run inside this second, rip the paper off of the painting, and dive through it, finally landing back in 2019 where I belong.
But I knew I couldn't. I had to wait for the right time. Mr. Valentine wasn't even home, and it was none of my business to open up the parcel. And I couldn't exactly vanish in front of witnesses, either.
I had been here this long, another couple of hours wouldn't hurt.
"Tilly? Did you hear what I said?"
"Hmm?" I hadn't even realised she was still talking. "Sorry, what?"
"You're miles away. What were you thinking about?"
"Um, I was just thinking about what colour gown I should wear."
That got her excited. "Of course!" she squealed, nearly deafening my right ear. "I'm so sorry. I was making it all about me. Let's see, with your brown hair and green eyes, definitely wear a green gown. Gosh, you are going to look so beautiful! So many men will be asking you to dance, you will fill up your dance card in no time! Just think, you could meet your future husband at this very ball!" She clapped her hands together in excitement, grinning from ear to ear.
I faked a smile, not having the heart to tell her I may not be around for it.
When I first landed in 1869, I described my experience as a nightmare. But now after being here for almost four weeks, I had come to actually like the life I had made for myself here. I was loving my governess job, made friends that I will remember forever, and lived with a family that welcomed me with open arms. Not to mention being able to experience the 19th century first hand, and I will have enough inspiration for my books for the rest of my life.
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Clay's Cottage (Book 1)Historical Fiction
[COMPLETED] Seeking inspiration for her next historical romance novel, Tilly Fletcher visits a mysterious 19th century Tasmanian cottage, abandoned suddenly over a century ago by a sad and lonely recluse. As Tilly steps through the still and silent...