For this Monday’s Inspiration For the Book post, I thought I’d put up another scene for Kent Ashton’s Backstory.
This was the scene I had in mind when I started this novella. 🙂
That evening as Kent’s parents headed out of the house, his father knocked on Kent’s open bedroom door. Kent glanced from where he sat by the window, trying to lose himself in the book he was reading.
Reluctant, he focused on his father. “What?”
“Your mother and I are going to the opera. We let the servants have a night off. Mr. Johnson will be here soon to get the book I borrowed. Make sure you’re waiting in the parlor so you hear him when he knocks.”
It wasn’t like he had anything better to do. As much as he tried to forget the miserable day he was having, he kept rereading the same passages in the book because he couldn’t focus on it. He tossed the book aside, rose form his chair and followed his father to the parlor.
“Your mother and I will be home in a couple hours.” His father set the book on the table in front of the couch. “This is the book you’ll give Mr. Johnson.”
Kent nodded and plopped on the couch. After his parents left, he kicked off his shoes and settled onto his back. He stared at the ceiling for a long time, aware of how quiet it was when all he could hear the ticking of the clock in the corner of the room. He took a deep breath, blinking back his tears.
His gaze went to the liquor cabinet.
Drinking wine at dinner was no longer as common as it’d once been since his father lost most of his money in a poor investment, but they still had some on hand for special occasions. Granted, this wasn’t a special occasion, but he’d heard alcohol could dull any man’s pain. And he wanted nothing more than to be numb, even if it was for one night.
He glanced at the clock. Mr. Johnson hadn’t shown up yet, but since he’d be coming by soon, a little wine wouldn’t hurt. Then after Mr. Johnson left, he could drink more and go to bed. He’d find another bottle to replace the one his parents bought and no one would be the wiser.
His plan in place, he went to the cabinet and selected one of the bottles toward the back. Once he was settled back on the couch, he started drinking it. He sipped it at first, mindful to listen for Mr. Johnson’s arrival but the clock ticked on and he sipped more and more.
By the time the knock on the door finally came, he felt lightheaded. He wasn’t sure if Mr. Johnson would realize he’d been drinking, but at this point, he didn’t care. His life had been singlehandedly destroyed because a stranger stuck his nose in where it didn’t belong. He placed the bottle on the table and grabbed the book. He stumbled once on the way to the door but managed to answer it, surprised when he didn’t see Mr. Johnson.
“Rebecca? What are you doing here?” he asked.
“My father had to meet with a business partner,” she replied. “I came to pick up his book.”
He held it out to her. “Here it is.”
She took the book but didn’t leave. “Are you alright?”
“I’ll be fine.”
She hesitated but nodded and headed back down the porch.
He shut the door and returned to the parlor, glancing at the clock. His parents wouldn’t be home for at least another hour. Picking up the bottle, he plopped down on the settee and drank more wine. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. The wine did a good job of dulling the pain. By now, he hardly felt anything.
Someone sat next to him, and he looked over in time to see Rebecca’s concerned expression. “Kent, what’s wrong? Did I speak out of line at the bank yesterday?”
He shook his head. “It wasn’t you.”
None of it was her fault. His father manipulated so much of his life. Why he thought his life would be any different after leaving New York, he didn’t know. His father had made up his mind, and he was determined to use him to get as much money as possible.
She took the bottle from him. “Even so, I feel like I did something wrong. You were so nervous at the bank.” She glanced around the room. “If you’re going to drink, it’d be better if you did it from a glass.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” he assured her as she carried the bottle to the decanter and glasses on another table and poured some wine into a glass. He closed his eyes, aware that the room was beginning to spin around him. “It’s my father. He lives to make my life miserable.”
“Yes. All he wants to do is control everything I do. I don’t know why he even let me believe I could marry Ann.” He bitterly laughed. “He’s the one who told your father I wanted to be with you instead of Ann. That’s why it’s not your fault. How could you have known differently?”
“Oh, so then you didn’t fancy me at all.”
Noting the disappointment in her voice, he winced. “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me for lying to you yesterday?”
She sat next to him and handed him a glass of wine. “There’s nothing to forgive. You were in an awkward situation. What were you supposed to do? Be rude and tell me in a public setting that you didn’t care for me? I would have done the same thing if the roles were reversed.”
“It’s not that I don’t care for you at all.” He sighed and ran his thumb along the glass. “You’ve always been kind to me.”
She smiled and clasped her hands in her lap. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wished you cared for me the way you do for Ann, but I know we can’t help the way we feel. And Ann adores you. She’ll be very good to you.”
He shook his head, uncertain of the future. Would Ann be willing to give up everything to be with him? There was no way her father would give him her dowry now, and he couldn’t afford to give her the things she desired until the investments matured. A year seemed like such a long ways off to wait until he could marry her. And would his parents even wait that long to see him secure a wife?
He drank his wine and glanced at Rebecca. “You can have a glass if you want?”
“Oh, I’m not thirsty.” After he finished the glass, she asked, “Would you like some more?”
“How much is left in the bottle?”
“About another glass worth.”
“Might as well finish it.”
Before he could go to the bottle, she took his glass. “I’ll get it for you.”
When she returned, he took the full glass and stared at the dark liquid. It was definitely soothing to drink alcohol. His body had relaxed to the point where he no longer cared about the day’s events. He glanced at Rebecca. “Thank you,” he lifted the glass, “for giving me more.” He drank half the glass. “I don’t deserve your kindness.”
“Nonsense.” She touched his knee, giving it a light squeeze.
His body responded to her touch, the alcohol only intensifying the pleasure from her simple action. There was no way she could be aware of his reaction to her. And that was why he had to send her home, before he did something they’d both regret. With a yawn, he placed his glass on the table and wobbled to his feet. “You should go home.”
Though she remained seated, she grabbed her father’s book and said, “You’re right. It’s not wise for me to be here when no one else is in the house.”
He yawned again and blinked to clear his vision.
“Help me up?” she asked, raising her hand.
“Of course.” Had he been sober, he was sure he would have remembered his manners. He clasped his hand around hers and helped her to her feet. He blinked again and his vision blurred to the point where he thought he saw two of her. He needed to get to bed.
She placed her hand on his chest. “Kent, are you feeling alright?”
“I,” he blinked again, “feel,” the room spun, “fine.” Then everything went black.