Undaunted Love (PART TWO): Banished Saga, Book 3.5 (3 page)

BOOK: Undaunted Love (PART TWO): Banished Saga, Book 3.5
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Martin watched him, the pursing of his lips the only sign of his mounting tension. “I have been fortunate to have loyal customers.”

“Yes, I imagine that is necessary when one is in trade. Such a precarious position to be in, isn’t it? Surviving solely on the whims of the customers and bankers.”

“I repeat, we have been fortunate.”

“All good fortune comes to an end,” Jonas said with a hint of steel. “Unless your daughter returns to me, I will ensure your business loans come due in the next month.”

Martin paled before flushing with anger. “If you think for one moment that would induce me to consign my daughter to even one more hour in your company, you don’t know me.” He watched Jonas with loathing. He rose, tugging on the tail of his jacket. “I wish you a good day.”

“Enjoy your month,” Jonas said as he settled into his chair.

***

“MATILDA, YOU MUST SEE that Savannah cannot return to that man,” Martin said. He paced the upstairs parlor, moving toward the door to slam it shut. The paintings on the wall vibrated, one tilting to one side. He continued to march around the room, pushing ottomans out of his way as he made a circuit from the door to fireplace to piano and back.

“Martin, there is no reason to act as you do,” Matilda said. She sat working on needlepoint, jabbing a needle with lilac thread in and out with precision. “You know as well as I do that Savannah’s tales of abuse are fabrications. She envisions herself some sort of martyr to that horrid cause Clarissa espouses.”

“Do you even listen to yourself, Matilda? This is your daughter, our daughter, we are speaking of. The beautiful, vibrant girl we raised.”

“No need to be so dramatic. She married well, as the women of my family are expected to.”

Martin banged his hand against a side table, rattling it so hard the lamp shook. Matilda looked up from her needlepoint to meet his irate gaze. “Don’t tell me about socially acceptable behavior, Matilda. Don’t tell me about doing what is expected. If I recall, you experimented with your freedom.”

“Yes, and look what it brought me!” She rose from her chair, tossing her linen to the vacated chair.

“What did it bring you, Matilda? Tell me, after all this time, tell me.” Martin watched her with hurt, passion-filled eyes.

“To a husband who will always see me as nothing more than damaged. To the decrepit South End.” She took a shuddering breath. “The one thing I could bring you, Martin, was social respectability. I think I fulfilled my part of the bargain.”

“No, Mattie, no,” Martin whispered. His anger left him as quickly as it had come. He reached out toward her, cupping her face with one of his large palms. “I’ve never seen you as damaged. I’ve always seen you as too good for me. Living above a linen store when you come from Beacon Hill. How could you possibly want a man like me?”

“I’ve done my duty,” Matilda said, blinking rapidly to forestall shedding any tears.

“Is that how you see me, as a duty?” Martin asked, dropping his hand and flinching from her words.

She turned to watch him. “Savannah is our concern, Martin.”

“Yes, she is. But I will not allow you to dissuade me from speaking with you of this. We’ve never resolved this between us, Matilda. I thought—” He paused as though selecting his words with care. “I thought it better to never discuss the reason behind our marriage. To instead work toward forging a successful union.”

“We’ve had nearly thirty years together, Martin. There is no reason to speak of this now.”

“I think there is. I think that because of your … choices, you feel compelled to show your parents that you raised an exemplary daughter. One they would be proud of. I see now that their influence has been harmful.”

“My parents are wonderful people.”

“Only if you do and act as they wish you to. I, for one, am tired of feeling as though a puppet to their bidding.” Martin reached out and encased her slim arms in his large hands, gripping them gently. “Mattie, do you care for me at all?”

“This is unseemly, Martin.”

“I don’t believe it is. If you’re willing to consign your daughter to a loveless marriage, to a man who brutalizes her for the sake of regaining esteem in your parents’ eyes, I think you need to be frank with me. Is it because you’ve lived so long without knowing how I feel that you believe our daughter could live a similar life devoid of love?”

“You’ve never treated me poorly,” Matilda said. “I would never have countenanced it.”

“No, and I never will. I love you, Mattie. I have since I held you in my arms as you sobbed over the loss of your child.”

She hissed in a breath, taken aback by his words. “Martin—”

“Shh … I have, Mattie. I tried to tell you. I sang to you, songs about love. And every time I did, you turned away. I guess I was a coward and lost my opportunity to tell you how I truly felt.” He sighed, squeezing her arms for a moment. “I’ve always loved you, Mattie.”

“Martin,” Matilda said as she shook her head and broke away from his gentle grip. She wiped at her cheeks, as her tears fell unchecked. “You have been a good man to me and a good father to the children.”

Martin jerked his head back as though slapped. “I see. Yes, a good man. And, until now, a good provider.” He turned from her and paced toward the fireplace. He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath.

After a few moments, he spoke. “You are right, Matilda. Savannah is our concern. You believe she is fabricating stories to prevent her return to Jonas. I disagree. I believe her stories of mistreatment to be true. Do you believe any of what Betsy told me?” He turned to meet her gaze, anger lighting his eyes.

“If you believe Betsy, you’ll start espousing her notions for women,” Matilda snapped.

“Well, she may convert me to her way of thinking now that I’ve come to realize all that she’s done for our daughter.” Martin’s voice turned colder as he spoke with Matilda. “When will you accept that Jonas beat Savannah? That all of her so-called illnesses were to recover from his abuse?”

“Martin, I never knew you to believe in fairy tales.”

“Damn it, Matilda, I’m serious!” Martin roared. “How can you not see that our only living daughter was subjected to such hell? How can you not care?”

“She married him. It is her duty to remain with him.”

“If you truly believe that, then you aren’t the woman I’ve thought you were. I will not consign Savannah to an early grave simply because you are unable or unwilling to see sense. That is
my
duty as her father.”

“Have you spoken with Savannah about this purported treatment at the hands of her husband?”

“Of course. Did you never imagine, not even for a second, what it would take for Savannah to leave her husband’s home?” Martin asked. When Matilda remained resolutely quiet, he took a deep breath. “As my wife, I feel it is my duty to inform you that in one month’s time, there is every chance we will lose our living.”

“What?” Matilda gasped, clutching one hand to her heart. She reached for her chair, nearly sitting on her needlepoint. She pushed it out of the way, thrusting it onto the floor.

“Jonas informed me today that, in one month’s time, our loans will be called due.”

“He can’t. He wouldn’t. He’s not that sort of man!”

“He can. He will. And, Matilda, I think it’s time you accepted that, yes, he is that sort of man. He will do whatever he needs to ensure that Savannah returns to his home.”

CHAPTER 4

I STOOD IN SOUTH STATION, my head tilted back as I stared at the main terminal waiting area. Muted light filtered in through high windows although, on this overcast day, no shaft of sunlight brightened the cavernous interior with its multileveled-coffered ceiling. I heard the clicking of a multitude of shoes on the marble floors but remained rooted in place, overwhelmed by memories of the last few times I was here.

I closed my eyes, remembering the moments before Gabriel had boarded his train west. My heart clenched as I heard a conductor call, “All aboard!”—in an instant thrusting me back to that moment when Gabriel had left Boston. A cascade of images came: his piercing blue eyes studying me as though memorizing me; our last kiss; him walking away; Colin holding me in his arms as the train wended its way out of sight. I sniffled, and the strong scent of shoe polish reminded me of the day in early May last year when I had departed with Sophronia and Aunt Betsy. I had searched the crowd, hoping to find a familiar face before leaving Boston—for what I had envisioned was forever—only to find no one had come to see me off.

I jerked as Colin touched my arm, and I opened my eyes, returning to the present. “Rissa, I’ve found a porter. He’ll help us with our trunks. Are you sure about where we should go?”

“Of course. I know we’ll be welcomed.” I blinked back tears. “I can’t go to the house. Not now. Now that Da’s not there. I couldn’t live with her when he was alive, and it would be impossible for me to reside with her now.”

“I’ve no desire to see her any sooner than necessary,” Colin said. “I bought a paper. It will inform us of the upcoming wakes and funerals.”

We boarded a horse-drawn carriage, and I settled into one side of the seat, closing my eyes to the rocking motion. I heard Colin rustling the papers as he read.

“Damn,” he muttered.

I peered at him to find him poking his head out the window and yelling up to the carriage driver. The carriage veered to the right, and I held my hands out to brace myself against the wall and ceiling, to prevent falling onto the floor. “Col, what’s the matter?” I asked.

“Da’s service is right now, Rissa. If we rush, we might make the burial,” he said. “It’s in Dorchester at Saint Mary’s.”

“He can’t be buried there. He won’t be buried next to Mama.” I blinked away tears at the thought of my parents not buried beside each other.

“Rissa, there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ve told the man that we’re in a rush, and all we can do is hope we arrive there in time.”

After what seemed an eternity, but which I knew was really a very fast journey to Dorchester, the carriage jerked to a halt. Colin and I hurtled ourselves from the carriage. He held onto my arm, preventing me from falling into a puddle. “This way, Rissa,” Colin said and began to walk with his long gait toward the crowd in the center of the cemetery.

“Col,” I gasped. “I can’t walk as fast as you.”

“Then run,” he said as he picked up his pace. I trotted next to him. We raced past rows of granite headstones, some listing to one side. My feet sank into the dampened earth, a reminder of a recent rain. The bare-limbed trees provided no relief to the solemn occasion.

As we approached those gathered, I heard disgruntled murmurings. All the mourners were attired in severe black mourning clothes, whereas Colin and I were in traveling clothes. As it was a cold November, Colin wore a dark gray overcoat with a bright green scarf. I had worn my warmest jacket, a burgundy wool with black scrollwork detailing.

I heard the priest speaking in a purposeful yet monotone voice and moved in that direction. We pushed our way forward until we were near the front, standing beside our stepmother, Mrs. Sullivan, who Colin and I continued to call by her first married name, Mrs. Smythe. I tried to focus on the priest’s words, but all I could see was the deep chasm scarring the ground filled with my father’s coffin. Soon it would be covered by dirt and all that would remain as a reminder of my da would be a headstone.

I stifled a sob and leaned into Colin. The priest intoned “Amen,” and a chorus of “Amens” washed over us.

I heard someone gasp and glanced to my left. I met Savannah’s huge eyes an instant before she shrieked. “Rissa! Colin!” She rushed toward us and enveloped first Colin and then me in hugs. “I never thought you’d make it.” She returned her mother’s frown as her exuberant welcome had momentarily paused the burial.

“We’ll explain everything later, Sav,” I whispered. “Stand with us?”

“Of course,” she said, looping her arm through mine.

A moment later I felt a warm hand on my shoulder and heard Lucas murmur in my ear. “It’s wonderful to see you, Rissa, although I’m so sorry.” I leaned backward into him for a moment before standing tall and attempting to focus on the remainder of the burial.

As Mrs. Smythe moved forward to toss dirt on the grave, I knew I needed to also be a part of the ceremony. “Col?” I whispered.

“Yes, I agree,” he said. We walked forward and each picked up handfuls of dirt. As I held mine over the open grave, I thought of my da and mama together at last, and said a prayer that they were reunited in heaven, even though they wouldn’t be next to each other in the graveyard. I opened my hand, watching as the dirt fluttered down to coat the top of his casket.

I rejoined Savannah and Lucas and, with Colin, we formed a small circle of sorrow. After the final blessing, I waited for other mourners to pay their respects. However, they spoke with Mrs. Smythe and then departed, without speaking with either Colin or me. A few nodded their heads in deference, but most filed past without acknowledging us.

“You aren’t properly attired, Rissa,” Savannah whispered.

“We just arrived on the train this morning. How were we to change our clothes and make the burial on time?”

“Many see it as disrespectful to your father to come dressed as you are,” Lucas said as he nodded to an acquaintance. “And many haven’t forgotten the scandal from last year when you ran away to marry a man who’d been banned from your father’s house.”

BOOK: Undaunted Love (PART TWO): Banished Saga, Book 3.5
2.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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