Monday, October 19, 2009

Lizzie and Wesley - Chapters 1 -11

Disclaimer: This story is a historical story. It is set roughly in the mid 1800s but it is a general setting. You will have to suspend your historical knowledge and assume that anything "wrong" is due to the limitation of the Sims 3 game/content or that this is how history happened in the sim universe. Whatever suits you. ;)

Chapter 1: Nursery Mates
I don't remember a time when he wasn't there. We grew up in the same nursery and played together as children.

He, Wesley, came to live with us when his father was hired as a coachman and general handy man for the grounds.

Wesley was two at the time; his mother had died of influenza the winter after he was born. I know this, not because I remember - I was only two myself, but because my sister Catherine remembers it well. As a toddler, he stayed in the nursery with me and my mother took to him practically as her own son.

When he was older, he moved to the servants quarters with his father. He was expected to work along side his father and I was expected to learn to paint and play the pianoforte like other girls my age and station.

Still, we saw each other often. I taught him to read and write. He taught me about the animals and nature, I taught him to dance like a "gentleman" and he showed me the stars.

We were best friends from the day we met as toddlers.

When I was seven, my mother gave birth to a baby boy named James.

He was a sickly baby and my mother was ill for several days following the birth. My father practically stopped eating as he spent every moment by her side.

She woke one morning and seemed to be better but she collapsed that afternoon.

She died that night and baby James followed her to following day. One day he was there and the next he was gone.

My father withdrew from everyone. My sister tried so hard to be strong - she refused to cry. She was only twelve at the time, five years my senior. She thought it would be improper to cry. More importantly, she thought our father would recover himself if we seemed unaffected. She kept herself busy with painting like nothing had happened.

Wesley held me and cried with me when my family wouldn't.

We crawled into my mother's bed one evening and he held me as I cried myself to sleep that night.

After awhile the gloom seemed to lift. My father still hid himself away but life went on. My sister Catherine began going out into society.

This left Wesley and I free to play "childish" games as she called them.

We rode out together every morning and read together in the afternoons. We plotted tricks on Cook together and Wesley's father almost always caught us.

When Wesley wasn't busy with chores, he'd sent and listen to me play or watch me paint.

Or I would watch while he brushed the horses or tended to the plants (I tried helping once and it didn't go well).

We snuck out at night to stargaze and tell ghost stores in the garden.

More than once, we'd fall asleep in the garden and Alex - Wesley's father - would find us early in the morning and shoo us back to bed.

The seasons changed and years passed and we were still happy just being with each other.

End Chapter 1

Chapter 2: Child's Play
Seven years had passed since my mother's death. My father had aged beyond his years in the intervening time and he spent much of his time hidden in his study. And so it happened that Catherine found herself involved with with a scoundrel of a man.

She met him at a dinner party and believed herself in love with him. What's more, he convinced her he was in love with her. He knew, despite our father's apparent disinterest, that he would never consent to such a marriage so he persuaded Catherine to elope with him.

When she returned husbandless and pregnant, father sent her to live with a distant aunt.

Being only fourteen at the time, I was not out in society much and Father made it clear that that was not likely to change due to Catherine's actions. Her actions had not only affected her own reputation, but that of the whole family.

Society and balls held little appeal for me regardless, so Father's restrictions didn't concern me. I was happy to stay home and spend time with Wesley. He was my dearest friend, more so than any of the neighborhood girls. The older we got, the more that was expected of Wesley so we couldn't spend as much time in each others company. But when I could slip away to a window, I would watch him working and sometimes would catch his eye.

We also grew closer every day. In the back of our minds, we both knew there could be no future for us if my father had any say - not as anything more than friends at least. So I hid my feelings even from myself. I believed I could be perfectly happy as long he was in my life somehow.

But even in a crowded drawing room, I sought him out - even if it was just for a smile. As my 16th birthday approached it became obvious to my father that I would have to go out in to society at some point. On the eve of my first real social gathering, I sought Wesley out before leaving the house. I had a fabulous blue gown on and felt like princess - a princess who didn't belong. To be frank, I was nervous. I found him in the gardens and resisted the urge to run into his comforting arms. Instead I approached slowly. "Wesley..." I said. He turned and looked, sucked in a breath and then stood.

"Ms. Elizabeth." he said with a slight bow of his head.

I smiled at his formality and then moved closer to him. "I'm nervous." I said plainly. "What if mess up on the dance floor? What if no one wants to dance with me? What if it's all horrible and I'm shunned because of Catherine..."

He glanced around briefly and then put a finger to my lips. "Shh. You'll do fine, they'll adore you and you will have a wonderful time Lizzie."

"How can I have a good time without my best friend?" I asked with a small smile.

Wesley chuckled, "You know I don't belong there. But I have no doubt you will find ample entertainment without me."

For a brief moment he looked like he was going to kiss me - at least on the cheek - but instead he took my hand and laid a gentle kiss on my gloved fingers. "Enjoy yourself Ms. Elizabeth." and he turned and left the garden. I watched him go and had to dab at my eyes.

My fears were unfortunately founded. The two years since my sister's scandal had changed nothing. No one asked me to dance and even most of my friends seemed to avoid my company in such a public gathering. I made my way out to a quiet balcony and tried to hide from everyone after the first hour. My father, seemingly unbothered by my shunning, was engrossed in cards. As I looked out toward home, I wondered if Wesley was stargazing at this moment as well.

Finally the evening ended and Father and I returned home. Like so many times, he was oblivious to what had happened - or seemed as much. He said nothing about it as we rode along. I didn't want to talk about it so stared out the window of the carriage. I looked for Wesley when I got home but he'd already retired so I made my own way to bed. Most of the next day, he was busy and it wasn't until later that evening that I was able to tell him about my horrid night. I found him in the conservatory. He sat with me on the bench and put his arm around me for comfort as I recalled everything about the night before. "I'd have much rather have stayed at home Wesley."

"But if you do, how will you ever find a husband?" Wesley asked. He seemed to regret his words almost instantly but he didn't say so.

"I don't want to find a husband, I don't want to marry any of those people." I said, not saying what felt so obvious to me - that I'd already found the one person I wanted to be with.

Wesley nodded, understanding. "But that won't do Ms. Elizabeth...." He took my hand to pull me to my feet and then dropped it. "Will you come look at one of the cows with me?" he asked with a small smile.

"I don't know anything about co...." I started to say and then looked at him and nodded. "Of course." I followed him out toward the quieter fields and area of the grounds. He led me to a large hill, with no cows in sight - or people for that matter.

He took both my hands in his and gazed into my eyes. "Ms. Elizab....Lizzie - I think it would be better, for you - if I left Highland Park.."

"What?" I asked startled. "No! You can't! I...."

Wesley gave me a knowing smile. "Yes I know. I....I feel the same way. I don't want to go Lizzie but...."

"But nothing. You have to stay. I need you! I love you." I said startling myself as the words slipped so easily from my lips. I had tears in my eyes and I clutched his hands tightly, afraid he'd slip from my grasp and from my life.

Wesley tried to turn away from my but I held firm. He sighed heavily, "I love you too Lizzie. Which is why I should go. You and I, there can't be anything - your father would never allow it."

"I can wait, eventually, someday he won't have a say." I said still fighting tears. "Tell me you'll stay. Tell me you'll wait. Please?"

Wesley hesitated for a moment and then leaned in and gave me a kiss, our first kiss - with only the night as our witness and chaperon. "As you wish." he said.

As the weeks passed, my father didn't try to force me on society any more and resumed living almost entirely in his study. I'm not sure how he occupied himself but it allowed Wesley and I to steal away together often.

I convinced him to stand still so that I could paint a portrait of him.

In spite of being a social outcast, life was happy. As ever, we refused to talk about the future. The fact was that short of eloping, we could not be together until my father passed away. While part of me was perfectly willing to elope, Wesley refused. He refused to put our families - particularly my family - through another scandal like that. We simply enjoyed the present as long as we had it.

Another year passed and my seventeenth birthday came and went with little notice from my father - though Wesley brought me roses from the garden and his father gave me a new book. I was beginning to wonder if my father remembered anyone existed outsider his own study when he appearing in the sitting room one evening. "Dearest." he said approaching me. He didn't seem to notice Wesley sitting at the table in the corner.

I set my book down and stood to greet him. "Father."

"I have wonderful news for you Elizabeth." he said with a proud smile on his face. "Lord Umbridge has asked for your hand, and I've consented."

"Lord Umbridge..." I said trying to remember any young man by that name. My eyes widened as I figured out who he was referring to. "Lisa's father?" I asked startled.

"Yes I do believe he has a daughter." Father replied.

"She's my age, older in fact. Meaning he's...." I trailed off.

"His age is of no matter. By agreeing to marry you, he will secure your reputation in society again. Your sister's scandal will be forgotten." he said with all practicality.

"But I don't love him, I don't even know him!" I argued back.

"You'll get to know him. And love; it's hardly a requirement in marriage. You'll be comfortable and appreciated." he said.

"Father please! No, I can't....I don't want..."

"You will marry him. It has already been determined." he said coolly

And then walked away, ignoring my continued pleas. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched him retreat, once again, to his study.

I turned back to Wesley who had been a silent observer of the whole thing. The tears spilled over my cheeks as he stood and came over to me. "What do I do Wesley?" I asked through tears.

He pulled me into a hug but said nothing. Aware that anyone might spy us and report back to Father, he quietly led me away from the house and back to the hill, our hill - with no cows in sight.

We didn't speak, neither of us knew what to say but simply being together was enough for tonight. Lord Umbridge, my father, my potenial marriage -all dissolved as he pulled me into a kiss.

End Chapter 2

Chapter 3: Duty and Desire

The weeks that followed my father's declaration passed in haze. I spent the days entertaining Lord Umbridge and getting to know him either at our house or around town.

Often Father would sit with us, I suspect to ensure I wasn't sabotaging my chance with Umbridge.

And after awhile, the gentlemen would leave me to play cards together.

I'd like to say the Lord Umbridge was a bad man, but he wasn't. In fact, he was a very good sort of man. He sought my hand due to my circumstances - he hoped his name and influence would be able to restore my reputation. His own sister had eloped much like Catherine and had brought shame on his family - particularly the females. Of course he didn't know about Wesley - no one did.

Weeks had passed and I could honestly say I liked Umbridge - as an older friend. He had two daughters my own age and his first wife had passed away years before. While he did want a male heir for Rotherton (his estate), he did not seek out a new marriage to secure one. The day came for us to visit Rotherton so that I might see it. My father came along as a chaperon and was eager to see the estate as well.

"This...this is Rotherton?" I asked gazing up and up at the large house.

Umbridge couldn't hide his amusement and smiled. "Yes, do you approve?"

"What is there not to approve?" I said still taken in by the house and the grounds. "It's lovely - larger than I imagined. But lovely."

"Good, I'm glad you like it. I understand you dearly love to read - there is a large library at your disposal. All manner of books." Umbridge said as he walked with me around the lake.

"Thank you my Lord." I said with a slight bow of my head. "What kind of fish do you have in your lake?"

"It is well stocked with many types...." Umbridge said startled by my question. "I'm sorry, do you fish?" he asked with a small smile on his face.

I laughed. "Oh no, not at all." my smile faltered and I gazed at the water. "A friend does." I replied simply and more subdued.

Umbridge was upset to see my spirits falter and offered his arm to escort me into the house for the tour of the inside. "This house has been redecorated many times of course, to stay with trends, but I must say - this is my favorite part" he said as he led me into the courtyard where a large fountain sprouted clear water.

"I can see why my lord. I think I should find the sound of the water very peaceful and calming." I said taking a seat on the fountain.

Several moments passed in silence. At some point we'd lost track of my father so they were alone in the courtyard. I trailed my fingers over the surface of the water.

"Ms. Renfield," Umbridge started, he paused a moment and continued, "I know I am more than twice your age and I suspect this arrangement is not particularly agreeable to you..."

I looked at him startled. "No, my lord..." I stopped as he held up a hand.

"I only wish to help you Ms. Renfield. I have no delusions of immortality so I daresay you'll be free of me rather early in our marriage." Umbridge said with a chuckle.

I couldn't laugh but gave him a small smile. "Lord Umbridge, I thank you for your offer and I'm sure we will be content together for many years." I said dismissing his notion of dying soon. I could see no other alternative.

Umbridge merely nodded. "Care to see the rest of the house?" he said offering his arm once more.

"Of course my lord." I said standing and taking his arm. The rest of the day proved tolerable and the house was beautifully arranged, a fact Umbridge attributed to his wife and fore bearers.

I returned home confused and sad. Lord Umbridge was a good, sweet man and I could be content with him but I could never love him as a husband. I sought Wesley out, as I always did when distressed and found him in the conservatory.

He stood as I approached and made a small bow. "Ms. Elizabeth." he said. I suspected he'd been trying to put distance between us in the passing weeks but I never allowed him to. I ran up to him and instinctively he opened his arm and caught me. "How was Rotherton?" he asked as he led me to the bench.

I snuggled against him. "Very grand. It is a beautiful house."

"And it's master?" he inquired.

"He's a good man Wesley, he really is." I said trying not to cry. He place a finger on my chin and turned my face toward his. "Don't cry dearest." he said and laid a sweet kiss on my cheek and then our lips met.

We both looked up when we heard a noise but could not find a source. Nevertheless, we broke our embrace and stood. He leaned in and whispered. "Come on, let's go for a walk." We slipped out of the conservatory and gate together and walked across the fields.

We crested a hill and I came to quick, startled stop. Wesley turned back to look at me. "Lizzie?" he followed my gaze...

"That's it. That's Rotherton." I said quietly. "I never realized it could be seen from here. It could probably be seen from everywhere"

"It is a grand house." Wesley said looking at the house in the distance.

I turned away and hurried away from the sight. It took Wesley a moment to realize I'd walked away and catch up. He caught my arm. "Lizzie! Stop."

I whirled on him. "What do I do?!" I asked through tears. "I can't marry him but I have to, if I don't - father will cast me out and...."

"We can't elope, both our families would be embroiled in scandal - my father would be fired...I know, Lizzie, we've been over it." Wesley said sadly. And we had. Many times. More than anything, we both wanted to protect our families from the scandal.

Neither of us had come up with a solution that wouldn't hurt anyone and the more I got to know Umbridge, the more confused I felt. The wedding was quickly approaching and I had no means of escaping it. Wesley pulled me closer and kissed me on the cheek.

"I love you Lizzie" he whispered in my ear. It was the only thing he could give me right now but it was enough.

End Chapter 3

Chapter 4: Lost

Weeks passed and Wesley and I still escaped to the hills when we got the chance. Many nights we'd stay up there into the early morning hours. We'd both gone back and forth on what to do before settling into the notion of enjoying the time we had together.

Just days before the wedding, we'd spent most of the evening just laying in each others arms not talking. Everything had been said and it was quite clear no stroke of genius was going to enlighten us now. I turned my head toward Wesley. "I don't want you to be there."

"Where dearest?" Wesley said, his eyes closed.

"The wedding." I said sitting up. "If you're there - if I see you..."

Wesley's eyes popped open and he sat up as well. We both stood up together.

"Please Wesley, just promise - I won't be able to go through with it if you're there." I said as tears started to tumbled down my cheeks once more.

Wesley swallowed and nodded. "As you wish." he said sadly.

"And I want you to find happiness, somehow..." I went on quickly before I lost my nerve.

"Impossible" Wesley said with a pained smile. "You are my happiness, but if you are safe and content, then I will be content. Wherever we are." he said leaning closer to me.

We stood gazing at each other for a few more minutes before we both looked to the Eastern sky. The sun was starting to rise and we'd both be missed if we didn't get home. We turned and walked back to the house without saying anything more.

That afternoon, as I passed through the sitting room, I saw Wesley writing at the desk and caught his eye. Neither of us said anything and I continued toward the piano and he returned to his writing.

I saw him get up awhile later and stick his letter in a book and disappear from the room.

Later on, I sought him out but couldn't find him so I retreated to my bedroom to dress for the evening. I spied the book sitting on my end table and picked it up. Sitting on my bed I open it and a letter falls onto my lap.

I spy Wesley's handwriting on it. I set the book aside and break the seal on the letter and open it.

"My dearest Lizzie,

I hope this letter finds you married and installed at Rotherton. As you requested, I won't be at your wedding as I sail with the tide on your blessed day. I am bound for America, where, with some assistance from my father, I hope to settle on a small farm. You bade me to find happiness and I couldn't possibly find that remaining at Highland Park with you absent. To walk through the garden or the house, to look on the piano and not see you - it would be too hard to bear...."

I struggled to hold back tears as I could tell Wesley's hand got more shaky at this point....

"I wish you every happiness my darling Lizzie. Should you find yourself free, my father will know how to find me. I promised you once that I would wait for you - and I intend to keep that promise, even now. My heart belongs to you dearest, as it always will.

With love,

The tears flowed freely down my cheeks then as I stared numbly at the letter. I stood and wiped the tears from my face only to have more replace them. I ran out of my room and down the halls until I found my way to the stables. He wasn't there....somehow I knew, in my heart, that he'd left the house already. I spotted Alexander and rushed up to him. "Where is he?"

"Ms. Elizabeth! You've been crying, come let me take you back to the house." Alexander said

"Where is he?! Where is Wesley?" I screamed

Alexander looked startled. "He's gone, he sails in the morning"

"To the docks then, he's at the inn." I deduce. "Will you take me?"

"You're getting married in the morning Ms. Elizabeth, you should be in the house! Besides it's pouring outside."

"Please! If you won't take me, I shall go myself." I said determined. "I shall have an easier time of it in the carriage but I am determined."

"You will catch your death if you ride out in this weather! Alright, alright. Let me hitch the horses." Alexander said. I stood back restlessly as he worked. Finally we were underway.

At the docks I saw Wesley coming off a ship, having helped load luggage, before he saw me.

When he saw me and met my eyes, I could see sadness cross his face for a moment...

Before he ran down to meet me.

"You were going to leave....without saying goodbye." I said simply - not angry, just honestly.

"What would you have me say Lizzie?" Wesley asked.

"I don't know" I said as tears returned to my eyes. "I don't know, I can't imagine living in a country where you're not."

"Lizzie, I love you but I can't stay here and see everything I've shared with you - only you won't be there anymore. You are for Rotherton and I am for American - perhaps someday...." but he trailed off

I turned my head away from him to wipe my tears and the rain from my face. "I love you too Wesley."

After a moment I felt slightly recovered and leaned in to him "I love you very much" I said in a whisper.

I cupped his face with my hands and gave him a long, final kiss. "Someday" I whispered

"As you wish" he whispered back. After the kiss broke, he pulled back and stepped away. He bowed his head deeply. "Goodbye Ms. Elizabeth." he said as he laid a kiss on my hand. He turned to walk back to the inn where he'd stay for the night.

He turned back as he neared the door and I was still standing, rooted in the rain. "Goodbye Wesley" I said into the loud wind.

End Chapter 4

Chapter 5: Love Follows

The morning of my wedding, fog lingered over the whole of the countryside. My father insisted that it meant nothing as we rode to the large cathedral. In the small chamber where I got ready, I felt so alone though half the country was seated in the pews. I missed Wesley already and I missed my mother. I fingered the locket at my neck - a gift from her so many years ago and nearly dissolved into tears.

I took several calming breaths and tried to push them from my mind as I turned toward the window, I still had half an hour before the ceremony and there were few amusements in this room. As I gazed out the window to the grass below I almost through I saw Wesley gazing up and me.

I closed my eyes and looked again. He was gone. Of course he was gone - he was probably breakfasting at the inn getting ready to sail...I gave in and let a few tears fall as I thought of him. Finally someone knocked at the door to let me know it was time to go. I took another longing look out the window toward the sea and turned away.

As I walked down the aisle toward Lord Umbridge, I had to fight the urge to turn and run away. Even without Wesley here, I was sure I'd lose my nerve.

And suddenly I felt like I had him by my side, whispering in my ear and giving me the strength to do my duty. I glanced around in the pews, wondering if he come despite my request but I didn't see him.

Wesley gazed down filled with pain and love at the same time. He didn't hear her approach him, so he was startled when Catherine spoke.

"I would have expect to see you down there." she said quietly so as not to give us away.

"She asked me not to come." Wesley said simply. "And you?"

"HE asked....rather not to come." Catherine said looking down at her father.

Wesley nodded. "He's good at telling." he muttered and returned his attention to Lizzie and Umbridge.

"I can't do this." Wesley said to no one in particular. He turned on his heal and left Catherine watching the start of the ceremony.

Umbridge gazed happily at me as I approached. He tried to ignore my sullenness I suspect.

"Dearly beloved..." the preacher started to say but I didn't hear most of it. I focused my attention on a candle so I didn't cry as I felt Wesley's strength leave me. I almost looked around for him again, I was so convinced he was here.

Unaware of where we were in the ceremony, I was a little startled when Lord Umbridge took my hands in his.

"Elizabeth...." I heard him say my name and made myself look at him. "You're not happy, and that won't do at all." he said. I was startled and Father Brian seemed startled as well.

"I'm sorry my lord...." I said trying to figure out what to say to him. He cut me off and smiled as he leaned in to kiss my cheek. "Go, I suspect would be happy to be your husband" he said knowingly. "Go!" he said

"But..." I said sneaking a glance to my father, Wesley's father and the rest of the assembled crowd.

"I'll handle them as best I can." Umbridge said with a wink.

I looked again at Wesley's father and leaned closer. "The man beside my father, his name is Alexander Roberts - he's a very good man and I suspect he may need employment soon. Please?" I asked and when Umbridge nodded I turned toward the pews and with deep intake of breath, I ran....

I saw Father and Alexander stand as I passed them but I didn't stop to explain.

I summoned the nearest carriage, which thankfully was one of ours and directed them to the docks. I glanced anxiously at the sun several times trying to gage when the ship would sail but I didn't know enough to be sure. I only hoped it wouldn't have left yet.

As I reached the dock, I saw Wesley standing on deck and the ship was ready to sail.

Wesley saw me from the deck and hurried down toward the dock to meet me...

I was above him as we met where the plank meets the dock. I smiled, though I was crying a but for happiness. "I couldn't do it. And Lord Umbridge...he's such a good man. Oh Wesley..."

Wesley stepped up to meet me and scooped me into his arms. I wrapped my arms around his neck. "I love you, where you go I go." I said into his ear. "Forever if you'll have me."

As he set me down he pulled me into a long, passionate kiss.

End Chapter 5

Chapter 6: A Wedding at Sea

Wesley couldn't take his eyes off me as we kissed and held each other on the dock. The ship was set to sail in less than an hour and there were things we needed to do but I didn't want to let go of him. Wesley had arranged passage on a cargo ship, which didn't take passengers often he needed to go talk to the captain about new arrangements. I hoped to track down my travel trunk that had been sent to dock that morning for my wedding travels with Lord Umbridge. If we had any luck at all, I could arrange to have the truck on the cargo ship and we'd both sail on it right away. And yet I didn't want to let go of Wesley.

Thirty minutes later we had finally let go and hurried about our business. I utilized my father's name to secure my trunk and passage with Wesley.

"The captain was happy to oblige us with the prospect of extra money coming his way." Wesley said with a small smile.

I turned to him "Wonderful. And I have arranged to have my trunk loaded." I said happily. "Oh Wesley. I could not have imagined it would all come out so well."

Wesley leaned in and gave me a kiss and then took my hand. He led me onto the ship and we stood at the bow as the ship left the dock. I didn't look back, there was nothing back to draw my attention.

Once the ship was finally clear of the dock and underway, I turned to Wesley to find him on one knee holding a ring out to me.

"Elizabeth, this was my mother's ring. My father gave it to me when I told him of my intentions to leave. He hoped that one day, I would be able to give it to my wife. I've often hoped that would be you." Wesley said. "Elizabeth Renfield, you are far too good for me but you are my best friend and my heart will belong to you forever. Will you become my wife?"

"Oh Wesley!" I said startled. I knew we'd get married of course but I was surprised regardless. "Of course...." I paused and smiled playfully. "As you wish." I said.

Wesley laughed and slipped the ring on my finger. As he stood he pulled me closer and spun me around. When he set me to rights again we laughed together for some time. Wesley suddenly stepped away and looked around, "Stay here" he said and smiled as he ran down the length of the ship. I watched confused for awhile until I saw him returning with an older gentleman I could only assume was the Captain.

"I know it's not a church wedding..." he started to say as explanation. Suddenly I knew what he was up to and smiled.

"It's perfect Wesley. I've had enough church weddings for today." I said.

"Captain Edwards, this is fiancee, Elizabeth Renfield - and we'd like to be married please." Wesley said and Edwards, a jolly man, nodded and motioned for us to stand together and called over a couple of crew.

"Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God – and in the face of this fine company..." Edwards started gaining chuckles from the assembled crew members.

" join together this man and this woman in matrimony. Into this estate these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together – let them speak now or forever hold their peace." Edwards continued, skimming a few of the more reverent parts of the traditional ceremony. The crew held their peace this time.

He nodded and continued, "Do you Wesley Roberts, take this woman, Elizabeth Renfield; to be your wedded wife. Will you love her, keep her, cherish her and honor her for all the days of your life?"

"I will." Wesley said gazing into my eyes.

"And do you Elizabeth Renfield, take this man, Wesley Roberts; to be your wedded husband. Will you love him, honor him, comfort him and obey him for all the days of your life?" Edwards asked addressing me.

"I will." I said with a smile.

"Then by the power vested in me as the captain of this ship and in front of these witness, I do declare you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride." Edwards said with a jolly laugh. The crew joined him and clapped.

The crew cheered us on for several moments before scattering to return to their duties. Captain Edwards waited for us to finish and cleared his throat. We turned to look at him, "You won't find many suitable honeymoon quarters on this ship, there is only one single cabin - mine - and I'd like to offer it to you two....for the evening at least." he said with a twinkle in his eye.

"Thank you very much Captain!" I said clutching Wesley's hand. Edwards nodded and chuckled as he walked away from us. Wesley and I remained on deck to watch the sun set over the ocean and saw the first stars twinkle into the night sky before we left hand in hand.

When we arrived at the door to the captain's cabin, Wesley scooped me up in his arms and carried him through the double doors.

There were two plates of food waiting for us when we arrived. I didn't realize how hungry I was until I saw it. We both ate quickly.

We both looked from the bed to each other a few times and stood, unintentionally, in unison. Wesley took my hand and kissed it gently. "My dear...Mrs. Roberts." he said with a smile.

"Yes Mr. Roberts?" I replied playfully. I didn't wait for him to respond before wrapping my arms around his neck and leaning into him for another kiss. He scooped me up and laid me gently on the bed and sat beside me.

"I love you." he said simply.

"And I you." I replied as I played with the hem on his shirt.

We leaned back together and as he held himself over me and gazed into my eyes I felt like I would lose myself at any moment. "Kiss me Wesley"

"As you wish." he said leaning in.

And kiss me he did, and so much more.

We had a beautiful one night honeymoon and as the ship sailed on toward growing dusk, we laid in bed holding each others hand and simply gazing into each others' eyes.

The journey took roughly three weeks. We saw no other ships during the crossing, which Captain Edwards told me was unusual but not unheard of. On the the eighteenth day, we heard a commotion from the deck and went above to see what was going on. I heard someone say land and clutched Wesley's hand as we ran to the front.

"It wonderful Wesley." I said quietly.

"Do you think we'll be happy?" Wesley asked.

"I know we'll be happy." I said taking his hand in mine as we both stared at the large land mass in front of us. "If we are together, we will be happy."

He turned toward me, away from the approaching land. "Even we're poor?"

I nodded reassuringly. "Even if we're poor."

"I know it won't be the life you're accustomed too. The land to the west is rough in so many ways I understand. But I will take care of you Lizzie." Wesley said.

"I know that Wesley. And I will take care of you. Though you may need to teach me how to cook." I said with a laugh.

Wesley laughed as well and the tension that had crossed his features dissolved. "Perhaps I shall." he said squeezing my hand.

End Chapter 6

Disclaimer: This update is all text, no pictures. Because I am building a town, I am not going to build New York, a train or any of the other locations they could stop in from the docking of the ship until they reach their destination. BUT I wanted to include this part of the story anyway. So reading is good for you I promise. ;) And as before, I am trying to make this story as historically accurate as possible but anything not "right" according to American History you will just have take as correct for the purposes of this story.

Chapter 7: New Beginnings
New York, 1870

When we arrived in New York, we were first taken to Castle Garden. This was the immigrant processing center where newly arrived immigrants were registered, could purchase train tickets, exchange their foreign currency for American currency and find work if they intended to remain in New York. It promised to be a building filled with chaos and disorder as I watched many steerage passengers unload from a ship. To my surprise, however, the place was kept in order as much as possible. Although it was a babel of languages, at least some of the clerks had learned many of the more common languages in order to process faster. The ill could find care at Castle Garden as well.

Wesley's father had given him 300 pounds when he expressed his intention to travel to America. Wesley tried to refuse such a large sum but Alexander had saved much of her salary over the years to retire or settle on his son someday. Between the 300 pounds and what little money Wesley and I had on us, we exchanged it all for a little over $1500. We secured train tickets for the following week to Kansas, where we could catch another train depending on where we chose to settle. While Wesley arranged for us to stay at a boarding house and sent my trunk on toward that same house, I addressed three short letters back home. The first, to my father, explained that I was well and in America. I attempted to explain my actions but could only tell him that I was married and intended to settle in the American west. I wished him health and happiness. The second I addressed to Wesley's father. I told him of his son's good health and a few details of our passage. The final letter I addressed to Lord Umbridge to thank him once more for his kindness and tell him I had arrived safely in America. As I signed each with my new married named, I hoped Lord Umbridge would keep his word regarding Alexander. I posted them with a clerk and then found Wesley waiting with a teenage boy who was to convey us to the boarding house.

Our train to Kansas was not due to leave until the following week so we secured a room for the time and spent much of the week exploring New York together. Wesley visited the Land Office to determine where it might be best for us to settle. I left this task to him and spent these separate hours purchasing a few dresses that would be more suitable for the West. All my honeymoon finery, while lovely, would hardly be practical to wear everyday. Wesley returned one evening to tell me that we would be going to Colorado. There was a small town that was fairly new and had a lot of open plots of land available through the government. I agreed readily with his decision and that night we packed, for our train left in the morning.

We traveled by train much of the way. When we were to switch to the stage, Wesley visited the Land Office there where he was told he would need to settle on a plot of land and submit an application as part of the Homestead Act. He did as he needed and then we continued our travels to our new home.

End Chapter 7

Disclaimer: Sheardin is a fictional town, based in Colorado. The year is 1871. Historical and political events will effect the town probably during the story and as always I will try to make them as accurate as possible. If you see a stray car or electric street lights or paved roads in the town, you will have to blame EA and block them out. Oh and pretend like there are more horses than there are because EA didn't give me horses lol.

Chapter 8: Welcome to Sheardin

As the stage crossed the bridge into the small, western town of Sheardin, Wesley took my hand and squeezed it. I would later learn that Sheardin was named for the Sheardin River, upon which the town sits. We pulled to a stop outside the telegraph office and disembarked from the coach. I took in the town as Wesley lowered me down and set me to rights on the dirt road. I looked upon the dirt roads and rustic buildings filled with excitement and anxiety at the same time. It was a brave new world for us.

We were directed by a young woman to the boarding house where we could get a room while Wesley built our homestead. OUR home....on OUR land. It still surprised me to think of all the changes that happened in so short a time. The boarding house was run by an elderly woman called Widow Culpepper - I think her first name is Betty - but everyone calls her Widow. While Wesley discussed our staying, I met her grandchildren; Michael and Heidi.

"Yes, yes of course!" Widow Culpepper bubbled happily. She was a jolly woman. She spoke over Wesley's shoulder in the direction of young Michael. "Go on lad and help bring in their things! Go on now!" she said. The boy nodded and scurried away. She returned her gaze to us as I took my place next to Wesley. "Y'all must be hungry! We already ate here but I'll wager Ms. Tessa has somethin' good at the cafe. Ho! There she is now!" she said turning to the road and summoning a pretty young woman. "Tessa!"

She introduced us and I found Tessa pleasing instantly. She had a calm and casual manner to her. Very friendly. Widow Culpepper assured us that our things would be placed in our room and shooed us off in Tessa's company.

Tessa walked us to the cafe, pointing out things as we walked and chatting about the town and the townsfolk. When we arrived at the cafe, it was getting darker out but Tessa lit a few lamps and told us to have a seat.

After eating, we returned to the boarding house and found our room. It was comfortable and would suit us well for the time it would take to build the house. Widow Culpepper had assured us repeatedly that she had plenty of room for us for however long we needed. As we turned down the bed that night. Wesley and I both agreed that the town was nice.

Then we snuggled together and enjoyed the idea of our seemingly endless traveling having come to an end finally.

The next morning, we slept in late.

We returned to Tessa's cafe the following morning for a bit of breakfast - seeing as we had missed the food at the breakfast house. Tessa pointed out her husband - Alexander - to us.

"He's a handy man and blacksmith around here. Does a bit of everything really. He could give you a hand with yer homestead." she said.

As we ate, I saw her chatting with him - probably tell him she'd volunteered his services to us.

After breakfast, Wesley and Alexander left the cafe to go check out the land and make plans. After the breakfast rush was over, I helped Tessa clean up and she offered to show me around town a bit.

"It's a quiet town, only been about for eight years or so." Tessa said as we walked. "Course there are a few families out there that were here before there was a town but the prospect of a railroad brought out a lot of settlers and it just sprang up."

"And where are you folks from?" she asked as we walked back to the cafe.

I smiled. "England." I replied.

We chatted back and forth the rest of the way and I stayed to help some with much as I could without making it worse for her.

Meanwhile, Wesley and Alexander surveyed the land and plotted out where they needed to clear trees for the house and crops.

Over the following weeks, I occupied myself around town while Wesley worked on the house. Tessa and I became fast friends and I discovered, to my delight that she was a gossip and had lived in the town as long as there had been a town so she knew just about everyone.

"Well old Mr. Garrett runs the General Store - he's a bit of a grouch as of late. His wife, Gretchen, died last winter." she said then smiled. "Truth be told - he was a grouch before she died." She leaned in to whisper "She wasn't very pleasant really."

I giggled at her gossip and mostly just listened.

"That Roxy Hart, she's one THE girls" she said with a nod toward the saloon "she and John Garrett have this on again, off again thing...mostly off. Just never know what expect with them..."

"Now Tyson Garrett, old Mr. Garrett's other son, he ans Ms Jenna have been seein' an awful lot of each other..." she said raising her eyebrows expectantly.

And so it went on about many of the people we saw on a day to day basis. Almost everyone came into the cafe at some point and since I spent much of my time there attempting to help (and learn to cook) - I met a lot of them. I learned that Reverend Williams married Isabella Castille shortly after our arrival. Isabella taught at the little school and helped run the small library - fact is she'd donated most of the books to the library. She and the Reverend both had good souls and seemed well suit for each other.

While I was busy gossiping, Wesley and Alexander spent every good day at the homestead site clearing the land.

Tessa allowed me to help around the cafe so I'd feel occupied mostly - there wasn't much to be done at the homestead for me and I could only spend so much time with Widow Culpepper and her grandchildren.

Once the land was cleared, they laid down a foundation which was a very exciting first step. Thankfully they could use much of the timber they'd cleared.

As the house got further developed, Wesley told me start looking for furniture - within limits. He and Alexander had planned to build much of it while they were busy but some things couldn't be built obviously. So I visited the General Store to see what Mr. Garrett had and what needed to be ordered in.

I purchased various fabrics with the intent to put my sewing skills - such that they were - to good use. Tessa helped as well and together we made curtains, blankets and other things for the house. Widow Culpepper was kind enough to give us a place to store anything we needed for the time being.

Finally, one night while we were both laying in bed reading, Wesley told me the house would be able to be moved in to within a week - as long as we were blessed with fair weather. I was thrilled! I gave him several kisses and eventually we both took up our books - his about crops and mine about cooking - again....I fell asleep while reading, dreaming of my new home that awaited me.

The morning we went to the house to begin moving stuff in was clear and sunny. The house was beautiful and should suit us for at least awhile. I'd told Wesley that morning that I was pretty sure I was with child - it was sooner than we'd planned but we were both happy.

Within a few days - with help from Tessa, Alexander and a few other friendly townspeople - we were all settled and moved in. The last of the things I'd ordered from back east had been delivered to old Mr. Garrett's store and Wesley and Alexander drove them out to the homestead. Wesley began working on a crib for the baby before we even moved in.

We settled into a routine and as promised - I attempted to make my loving husband breakfast - despite my quickly growing belly (I had no idea they got so big so fast!).

And despite all my time with Tessa, despite all those cooking books....

It would appear that Wesley would still yet have to teach me how to cook.

End Chapter 8

Chapter 9: And Baby Makes....

Once we were settled into the house, Wesley decided that my delicate condition meant I should do practically nothing. I fought him on much of it - I was perfectly capable of cooking a meal - okay well maybe I wasn't but that had nothing to do with being pregnant. But sometimes I agreed and sat with my feet up with a book while Wesley hovered about making sure I was comfortable.

In spite of his arguments, I found my way out to our growing crop to lend a hand. I may not be a perfect green thumb like Wesley but we had a whole field to get going if we wanted to succeed here. Wesley couldn't do it by himself.

After awhile though, Wesley would catch my eye and insist that I go inside. I think he was humoring me with allowing me to help for those short stretches.

I continued to attempt to make breakfast....and still failed most of the time. I'm pretty sure that oven was conspiring against me or something. But Wesley, being a good husband, ate the burnt food every time.

"It's getting...." he coughed and choked a couple times ".....better." he said once he recovered and gave me a weak smile.

"Uh huh. Right. You're a bad liar darling." I said with a laugh.

As the pregnancy progressed, my belly grew at an alarming rate. I could feel my little belly bean jumping and dancing around all day and all night. I'm pretty sure he (or she) never slept. And while it was uncomfortable, the constant activity was reassuring to me - even at 3 in the morning when I would be startled awake by baby tumbles.

I felt fabulous, considering how large I was getting. I was only about six months along but felt wonderful. I continued to help Wesley in the field despite his growing protests.

Although Wesley would shoo me inside early, I always came out with some lemonade for him to shoo HIM back inside as it grew dark.

On one such night, instead of my routine baby tumbles, I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen as Wesley was heading into the house. I knew it was far too early for the baby to be coming so I was alarmed. I waited several minutes and the pain came and went several times.

Wesley helped me inside and insisted that I lay down. A doctor and his wife had recently settled in town and Wesley insisted that I go see him in the morning. Neither of us could sleep with the continuing pains so Wesley pulled a chair to the side of the bed and read to me through most of the night.

Eventually the pain subsided and I was able to sleep. In the morning I saw Dr. William Rheyer and explained everything that had happened.

"Mrs. Roberts - I think you're husband is right and you need to slow down." he said, when he saw I was about to argue he held up his hand to stop me. "Doctor's orders. Stay out of the fields, stay off your feet as much as you can for now. It's what's best for you and the babe." he said with a smile.

When I told Wesley what the doctor had said, he smiled and nodded but refrained from saying "I told you so". From then on he refused to humor me. I was to stay in bed or on the sofa as much as possible. He refused to let me cook - though I'm pretty sure he was using it as an excuse to no longer have to eat my cooking. Tessa came to visit as much as she could.

"Tessa, tell me something....anything! The walls of this house are getting to me - there's got to be something else going on!" I said desperately.

Tessa laughed. "Well according to Isabella, who heard from Jenna, who is stayin' at the boardin' house - Widow Culpepper and grumpy old Mr. Garrett have been gettin' very close. He's all but stopped comin' to the cafe - I hear he eats at the Culpepper house most of the time. Maybe he won't be so grumpy anymore..." she said with a grin.

I laughed. "If they decide to get married, I hope I can get out of this bed for it. I'd hate to miss that!"

Tessa nodded, "And according to Widow Culpepper - Isabella and the Reverend are very happily married if you know what I mean." she said with a wink. "I suspect Isabella will be carry her own little babe soon!"

I smiled. "Good, then this little babe will have schoolmates his or her own age"

Tessa smiled back. "I hope your babe and mine will be good friends" she slipped in.

My eyes went wide. "Are you?!"

Tessa nodded with a smile and a touch of tears in her eyes. "I think so, I haven't told Alexander yet - all these years and nothin'...."

"I am sure he'll be thrilled." I said with my own happy tears. "Okay, what else..."

And so I passed the remaining months of my pregnancy. Tessa brought me all the gossip, Wesley brought me new books from the library and waited on me hand and foot and my babe bounced around happily.

"So remember how JoJo, the saloon girl, just disappeared and every assumed she got pregnant - well she was!" Tessa rushed into my room excitedly one day. "She just showed back up carrying a babe today and is back at work. Mr. James at the saloon, he did not seem happy to see her!" she took her usual seat and leaned in close. "Rumor has it, he's the baby's Pa!"

"Really?" I exclaimed. "Says who?"

Tessa just shrugged. "That's just what I heard 'bout town today. Jenna says she saw him walking with her and carrying the baby boy himself - he don't seem like he'd be much interested in the kid...unless..."

"Wow" I said laying back. "Anything else from the saloon?" I asked with a mischievous grin.

"Well Jesibel is trying to get her hooks into John Garrett. I think she wants to get out of the saloon but I'm not sure John is interested and I know old Mr. Garrett would object - loudly." Tessa said.

"Oh and I don't supposed you know Crazy Caulder, he doesn't come in town much. He lives way outside of town with a wife - they say, I don't think anyone but the Reverend has ever seen her. Anyway, he came into town today mutterin' somethin' or other. I tried to talk to him and I couldn't make heads or tails of what he was talkin' 'bout but he seemed happy enough." Tessa said.

"So his wife never comes into town?" I asked

"If she does, she doesn't come with him and no one but Reverend Williams knows what she looks like so we wouldn't know her if we saw her. They're a private bunch. They were there before there was a town from what I hear." Tessa said. "I hear if anyone goes out to their place, Crazy Caulder shoots first and asks questions later..."

I raised my eyebrows. "Intriguing."

At long last, when I thought I would go crazy if I was stuck at home one more day, it was time. I could just tell the pains were the real deal this time.

Wesley wanted to go for the doc or even for Tessa but didn't want to leave me alone. So he stayed by my side as I birthed our daughter Sarah. She was perfect...

And then I gave birth to our other daughter Rachel...

That's right...twins! No wonder it seemed like the baby never slept...

End Chapter 9

Chapter 10: News from Home

I was tired - exhausted really. So maybe I was a little...irritable...with Wesley. He didn't deserve it but I had two little infants constantly begging for my attention and he was never there! (And yes, I know that he was out working so I can't really blame him but like I said, I was exhausted). Every morning before the sun rose, Wesley would give me a light kiss on the forehead and head out to tend to the crops or work on something or other that needed working on.

It was just the beginning of his very long days of trying to make a life for us here. Inevitably, his leaving the house would wake one of the girls and start MY long day.

As soon as one was fed and cleaned up, the other would wake up and I got to start the process over again. It wasn't long before I started grumbling as I had to get out of bed or when I'd hear one of the girls crying. They were cute, to be sure, but I was so tired. By the time I got the second baby settled back down, the sun was rising finally which meant Wesley would come in wanting breakfast - which I still managed to burn most of the time.

Being the good husband that he was, he always ate everything I served him and never complained. As soon as he was done, he'd give me a kiss - and the girls if they were awake and then he was gone again - back to work. And that's usually when Sarah would start fussing.

As much as I loved those little girls, I admit that there were times dreaded hearing them wake up. Is that horrible - I suppose it is. In the evenings, Wesley would finally come back in, tired and covered in dirt usually but he would swoop up the girls and play with them. They giggled for him and never spit up on him even as he held them over his head.

Months passed and finally, finally we all settled into a routine where we could happily co-exist. I no longer wanted to strangle Wesley most nights when he would snuggle the girls while being covered in dirt (meaning I needed to wash the blankets and clean up the twins.). And the girls started sleeping through most of the night so I woke up feeling ready to face the long day.

I went into town with the girls a few times a week to chat with people and collect any mail we'd received. And to gossip - always to gossip. Tessa, who had been confined to her own bed for awhile before having their son Drew, was sadly out of commission as my source of news so I had to collect it myself to take to her instead. Not long after she'd had Drew, I received a letter from my sister Catherine - the first since well before my almost wedding to Lord Umbridge. Unsure of the contents, I took it home to read.

"My dear sister,

I hope this letter finds you before long but I understand the mail can be slow to reach you. I'm not even sure I have addressed it correctly. Regardless, please be advised that our father is very unwell. I suspect he will pass on soon and only hope this reaches you before this dreaded event happens.

With Affection,
Catherine Renfield."

The letter fluttered to the floor as I stared blankly where it had been. I was not on good terms with my father but for him to was too much. I sat crying for sometime and was still distraught when Wesley came inside. "Lizzie?" he asked coming around to me. "Lizzie dearest, what's the matter?"

I looked up to him and just stared. After several moments I recovered my voice. "My father, he is unwell...or he was...." I looked around frantically for the letter. When I spotted it, I snatched it up and finally found the date. "Two months! This is dated two months ago! Oh Wesley...."

He pulled me into a tight hug and held me as I resumed crying. "What do I do? I can't go to him...."

"You can if you like. We'll manage." Wesley said although he knew as well as I that such a trip would be expensive and impractical.

The next day, I still hadn't figured out what I should do and was helping Wesley with the crop while I talked about it...

"You should go to him, I'll be here when you can return." he asserted again.

And the next day while cooking...

"I can't go, I'd have to take the girls and I can't imagine making that trip with them alone..."

Wesley didn't reply and simply ate his burnt dinner when I put it in front of him.

I went into town a couple days later and sent a telegram to my sister, hoping for an update and caught up with Tessa out walking. She rode back to the homestead with me while I filled her in.

"Wesley is right, you should go. He's your pa..." she said.

She stayed for dinner with us and I continued to be indecisive. Both Wesley and Tessa told me I should go - and then laughed as they said it simultaneously.


"Lizzie, I love you but you need to make a decision. From the tone of your sister's letter, he doesn't have time for you to go back and forth like this." Wesley said the next day while we were working.

"Perhaps you're right." I said without committing to a course of action.

"Of course I am, go into town and arrange the trip..." Wesley said.

Neither of us heard her approach until the gate clanked. "You needn't bother." my sister Catherine said as she walked in the gate.

I stood and met her. "Catherine? What on earth..."

"You don't need to go to England." she said. "He died."

I gasped and then leaned in and embraced. "Oh I'm so sorry I wasn't there."

"You wouldn't have made it regardless. He passed on long after I sent that letter. I sent another after but I appear to have beat it here." Catherine said. "He asked for you in the end." she said trying to hide a touch of bitterness that I was still the preferred daughter.

A little boy of almost six had been hiding behind Catherine's skirts and I finally noticed him. "Is this..." I started to ask, already knowing he must be my nephew.

Catherine nodded. "Allen, say hello to your Aunt Elizabeth" she said.

"Hello Allen." I said with a small smile. Without much warning, I leaned in and gave him a hug, despite the fact that he didn't know me, he returned the hug.

After, I turned to Catherine, "You'll stay with us right? For a bit at least?" Catherine merely nodded.

End Chapter 10

Chapter 11: House Guests

I showed Catherine and Allen to the small guest room (which was intended for the girls someday) we had upstairs. It wasn't much but it would give them a place to sleep.

"Is this really your life now Elizabeth?" Catherine asked looking around the small quarters. "How can you possibly be happy here?"

"It is and I am." I said shortly. "You and Allen may stay, but please don't be cruel. I love my home now, more than I ever loved Highland Park." I said and walked back downstairs, leaving them to settle in.

Later, Catherine came downstairs and sat on the couch across from me. I was distressed thinking of my father. She didn't say anything for some time.

Finally she spoke up, "If you're happy here, and I am not questioning that, what will you do with Highland Park?" she asked looking at her hands.

I looked up at her surprised. "What?"

"His was never changed after you ran off. It's yours now - or I supposed Wesley's seeing as he's your husband." Catherine said.

"Me? It should be yours, you're the oldest. Without a male heir..." I trailed off.

"Nevertheless, it is yours. You seem settled here, so...." Catherine said not meeting my eye.

"Catherine, my dear sister, you can have it. You can return with Allen and give him a fine home. Please." I said.

Catherine shook her head and I think she wiped away a tear. "I don't want it Elizabeth. Highland Park ceased to be my home six years ago - and the people - I couldn't go back there." Before I could respond she looked up and pushed on. "Lord Umbridge - your....ex fiance... - he recommended a gentleman as a manager or sorts. He can kept it managed and lease it if you like. I took to liberty of retaining his services for the time being."

"I....thank you Catherine. As I said I have no intention of returning to England or Highland Park. I will write to him and ask him to find a suitable tenant for now." Lizzie said.

"Very good." Catherine said and walked off before I could say more.

At dinner that evening, we sat around in an awkward silence for awhile.

"What are your plans?" I finally asked Catherine.

"I am not certain. Allen and I will return to England eventually I suspect. Our great aunt expects us..." Catherine said with a certain note of displeasure regarding their aunt.

I nodded and Wesley stood and directed Allen outside, enticing him with promises of playing some catch in the yard.

Catherine and I continued to sit for a bit, silently waiting for the other to say something. Looking away I spoke toward the living room. "Why did you come? Your letter would have arrived in time..."

"I am not sure I know." Catherine said quietly. "A letter seemed cold, maybe I thought you would come back with me..." she said. Then she resumed her haughty, arrogant manner "This place is beneath you Elizabeth."

I looked at her shocked and upset. I stood and placed my hands on the table, leaning towards her. "This place is my home. I beg you not to insult it sister."

"Your home? Your whole house could fit in the parlor at Highland Park!" she said standing as well.

"I said you could stay, I will change my mind if you insist on being insulting. Widow Culpepper keeps a boarding house where you can stay until you are ready to leave Sheardin." I said glaring at her.

"Elizabeth!" Catherine was surprised that I would not only be staying in Sheardin but would throw her out. She shook her head. "I am sorry...." she paused considering her words. "You're the only family I have left Elizabeth. I am sorry...truly." she covered her eyes with her hand obviously upset. "Please Elizabeth, I just do not understand I suppose...."

"How I could prefer this town to high society of England?" I asked with a small smile, already forgiving her.

Catherine returned the smile. "Yes. I am no longer welcome in high society and the county where our aunt lives is....quaint and limited. It's smothering me and I....I am sorry." she repeated.

I leaned in and gave her a hug. "Stay awhile Catherine - I think you'll find this town diverting. It's certainly not the same as England, but the people are nice and intriguing."

I learned later that Wesley and Allen did not play catch in the yard....they played on my porch. I'm only glad they didn't break a window.


Catherine did decide to stay, for awhile at least she said. Not wanting Allen to get behind on his studies, I tried to teach him from the house.

He easily distracted and tried my patience. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, it became obvious that Catherine had quite easily settled into town and seemed to have little idea of when they'd depart. I convinced her to take Allen to the town school so he could be with other children.

On his first day he met a boy named Miles around his age and they became friends.

Allen thrived in the new school. Under the care of a teacher and around other children, he was able to learn quickly. And he seemed like the town and the townspeople. Catherine was joyed to see him being social and making friends - something he hadn't been able to do in England.

Before too much longer - Catherine and Allen still with us - the twins turned one years old. They had become squirmy, crawling little babies over the months and as their first birthday approached I was surprised at how emotional it made me. Birthdays were natural after all but they were my babies.

Wesley and I invited many of our friends to a party at our house and they came - along with some people we didn't know as well.

Tessa was good enough to bring a cake for them. My cooking skills - while improving - were not up to baking just yet. Wesley helped them "blow out" their candles.

And a wonderful time was had by all. Tessa stayed to help me clean up.

Suddenly - or it so it seemed to me - my tiny little babies were all over the place. They crawled under my skirts and tried to climb into the fireplace. They pulled books off the shelf and gnawed on the pages. I thought they were difficult and exhausting as babies - I had no idea!

Wesley did his best to help me when he could, especially entertaining them and talking to them in the evenings - when they both seemed to catch a second wind. He was very good with them.

And Catherine, though she claimed not to like small children much, helped during the day. It was obvious that she was good with the twins even if she didn't much like small children.

For months we lived in a routine. In the mornings, Catherine and I would have some tea on the porch while the girls played in the yard and Wesley worked on the farm.

Then we would wash and hang laundry, clean up the house, play with the girls. Anything that needed doing. Allen would return from school or Catherine would fetch him in the afternoons and while the girls napped, we would help him with any work he might need to do. Before long Catherine's short visit had turned into a year. I never asked her when she would return to England or if she still planned to. She didn't complain about the house or town anymore. Nevertheless, I still expected her to come in one day and tell me they were leaving.

Wesley and I's third wedding anniversary came around and as my cooking talents had been growing (I only burned the food a third of the time) I decided to make something special. He caught some lovely fish and of course we had a wonderful stock of our own crops.

With some skill and a lot of luck, I cooked the salmon and vegetables and produced a perfectly cooked dinner (if I do say so myself.)

Even the girls ate (some of) their vegetables instead of throwing them all on the floor.

"It's very good Elizabeth." Catherine said trying to hide a not of surprise.

I laughed. "Shocking is it not?"

Wesley and Catherine laughed with me.

After we were done, while I was cleaning the dishes, Catherine cleared her throat. "I have some news..."

"What is it?" I asked turning my attention to her, expecting her to say she was ready to go back to England. I would be sad to see her leave Sheardin, she really seemed to be adjusting and settling in.

Catherine smiled broadly. "I met a charming young man...." she paused. "I think Allen and I might stay awhile longer." she said with a small laugh. "If we can continue to trespass on your hospitality that is." she added teasingly.

"Of course! That's wonderful Catherine - who is it? Do I know him?" I asked rushing over to sit next to her. "How serious is it?"

Wesley took this opportunity to excuse himself with a laugh and Allen went upstairs.

Later that night I was still gushing about Catherine and her gentleman and Wesley had to silence me with a kiss.

"Lizzie, darling. Shhh." he said kissing me again. I stopped and grinned at him.

"You have my attention." I said with a smile.

"Good because I want to say something." Wesley said, stopping between kisses to talk. Soon he had me pinned. "Happy anniversary dearest." he whispered in my ear.

We kissed and more that evening. As I was starting to drift off, Wesley took my hand and I opened my eyes again. "Lizzie...." he paused to make sure I was still awake. "Will you go to the Sweetheart's Dance with me?" he asked with a boyish grin.

My brain took a moment to catch up to what he was talking about and I closed my eyes and snuggled next to him. "As you wish." I said sleepily.

End Chapter 11

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