Today, I’m posting the scene where Kent begins to discover the truth about that night he was caught in bed with Rebecca. (He’ll confront Rebecca next week. I loved the confrontation. :D)
The passage of time was something Kent hardly noticed. He went through one day to the next, attending dinner parties and balls, playing the doting fiancé to Rebecca. But it was all a blur. In many ways, he’d become numb, mindlessly doing what his father wanted, hardly aware of what was going on around him. His thoughts were with Ann most of the time, but he never told anyone.
Every morning he wondered where she was, if she was miserable and wishing she was back in Virginia. Of course, she had to be miserable. From what he heard, the life Todd had chosen as a farmer was one that would be hard on a lady. Ann had been brought up for better things than that. She had not been prepared for the hardships living out West entailed. It sickened him to think of what she might be going through, probably crying herself to sleep each night as she thought of everything she’d left behind.
The guilt gnawed on him. If he’d only kept his promise to make sure she would end up with him instead of Todd. If only he hadn’t gotten drunk that night. He’d condemned them both. He’d condemned her to Todd and himself to Rebecca.
All he could do was move forward, something that got harder to do as each day passed. In the summer, he declined Mr. Johnson’s offer to work in one of the companies he owned and chose to work for Alex Dawson’s father instead. The pay was less than what he would have made under Mr. Johnson, but his father’s control in his life would be weaker.
One evening in September after he and his parents ate at the Johnsons’ house, he played their piano and Rebecca sang. The only time he could feel anything seemed to be when he was playing music. Tonight, Rebecca sang a happy tune, and he was back to the time when he met Ann. How he missed walking her home from school.
He didn’t realize tears had welled up in his eyes until one slid down his cheek. He quickly brushed it away before anyone noticed.
Rebecca stopped in mid-song and glanced at him, a question in her eyes.
“I missed a note,” he quickly explained and picked up where he left off, hoping she wouldn’t ask anything else about it.
Fortunately, she didn’t and soon enough, they were done with the song.
It wasn’t until October that Kent debated whether or not to burn the letters Ann had written him while they were courting. He hesitated to do it because it was a reminder that they had been together, that they had planned to share a life together. Dreams that would never happen but dreams that often gave him comfort. And as much as he wanted to hold on to the letters, he didn’t feel right marrying Rebecca while he held onto them. It wasn’t fair to her.
With a heavy sigh, he collected all the letters from his desk and carried them to the parlor, figuring he’d burn them in the fire roaring in the fireplace. He stared at them for a long moment then decided to read them one last time. He sat on the couch and unfolded them, his hands careful not to do any damage to them, something which was ridiculous since he’d be burning them soon enough.
He felt foolish when he began to cry. This was a trap of his own making. He couldn’t blame her for running off with Todd. It hurt her to watch him with Rebecca. He knew she did it to get out of Virginia. He pulled the handkerchief out of his suit pocket and wiped his cheeks before anyone could come in and see him. As soon as he married Rebecca, he’d get his own house. It wasn’t New York, but it was better than being in such close quarters with his parents.
He quickly stuffed his handkerchief back into his pocket, and one of the letters slipped from his hand. Placing the other letters on the table, he knelt by the couch and reached under it so he could retrieve it. His fingers brushed something hard. Curious, he clasped the cool object in his hand and pulled it out with the letter.
Setting the letter aside, he inspected the bottle in his hand and noted the date written on it. April of last year. It was laudanum. His parents didn’t use laudanum and neither did he. He thought over the people who’d visited the house back in April. A couple of his father’s friends had stopped by, but he doubted any of them would have brought this bottle over. The only person who might have brought it over was Rebecca, that night that she came to get the book. His grip tightened on the bottle and his jaw clenched.
Bolting to his feet, he retrieved the letters and returned them to his room before he left the house.