Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Shadow 9

Marissa woke up with a stitch in her side and realized she had slept in her ball gown, corset and all. She rolled out of bed and undid the buttons of the dress allowing it to slide to the floor. She noticed the tear stains on the front and realize it would have to be cleaned so she draped it over the back of a chair to await Eliza’s expert care.
She removed the corset and underskirts and put on a silk wrap with beautiful chinese flowers on it and sat at her window staring out at the park. It was much too early to be awake, but she couldn’t go back to sleep with everything rolling through her head.
She knew few of the servants would be up since it was Sunday. She looked forward to a day with few distractions and annoyances. She got up and started downstairs to get a cup of tea when she remembered her appointment with the American Simon Anderson.
With a groan she continued down to the kitchen surprising the cook who had just started breakfast. 
“Oh, your Ladyship, I didn’t know you were up or I would have had breakfast ready for you,” the cook mumbled.
“It’s all right, Clarice, I just wanted a cup of tea for right now. Breakfast at the usual time is just fine,” Marissa soothed.
She poured herself a cup and left the agitated cook to work in peace and went into her office. Despite the previous evenings argument she curled up in her usual chair to drink her tea and read the morning paper. She would attend church later that morning and then have tea with Mr. Anderson.
She was a little annoyed at the interruption this would be to her day, but in lieu of her fight with Sean she hoped the visit would prove an excellent distraction. The ridiculous news of the day held no interest for her and after a few minutes she tossed the paper aside. 
Everything felt out out of sorts when she argued with Sean, but this time she refused to back down. He had insulted her deeply and until he apologized she wouldn’t budge. She finished her tea and returned the cup to the kitchen then headed back up to her room to dress for church. 
She refused to follow with the silly practice of dressing in something different for every activity of her day. All of her clothes were well-made and sturdy enough to withstand anything the day might throw at her. Her church dress would suffice for breakfast, church and tea with Mr. Anderson.
After eating she let the cook know about their guest at two and decided to walk the two short blocks to the church she attended. On her way back from services she was joined unexpectedly.
“May I have the pleasure of walking you home from service, Lady Edgington?” Mr. Anderson asked with a proper bow.
Marissa colored slightly. “Yes,” she replied hesitantly half hoping Sean would observe this, but then remembering he had been absent from his usual place at the services.
Simon offered his arm and she took it with a silent sigh. Simon’s presence would be a good distraction for her disgruntled feelings. It was a beautiful morning with the promise of a warm day and she wanted to enjoy every moment of it.
“I saw you at church and just had to jump at the chance to share in your inspiring presence,” he drawled.
“Mr. Anderson, please contain yourself,” Marissa chided. A part of her was starting to tire of his endless flattery.
He ducked his head, but she could see that he didn’t care about his manner. In fact he seemed almost proud of his extravagant behavior.
“Did you enjoy the service?” she asked more gently.
“It was as beautiful as the morning dawn,” he replied sincerely.
“The reverend does give an excellent sermon,” Marissa agreed. “So may I ask what brings you to London, Sir?” 
She is curious as to why this man is even in the city.
“I have a few business adventures I have been pursuing. A friend of mine has recently done some research that intrigues me and I am hoping to invest in his findings,” he answered vaguely.
“What research? Perhaps I have heard of it,” she pried.
“Oh I doubt it, nothing a Lady such as yourself would be interested in. Now tell me about yourself. I heard you recently inherited your father’s estate?”
She was instantly on her guard. She wanted no part in a fortune hunter.
“Yes, it was a surprise for all of us when Mr. Doveday found me,” she replied carefully.
“Found you?”
“I had been working in a factory here in London when I was informed that I was the only living, named, heir to Lord Edgington’s estate. I was completely unaware of the connection. Apparently he was going to tell me when I turned twenty-one, but didn’t live long enough.” She knew the information she shared was widely publicized and anyone could find out how she had come into her estate.
“What a wonderful thing for you,” Simon cried. “You should be careful though. There are many a fortune hunter out there that would be more than happy to take it away from you.”
“Oh I know. I have a trusted friend who managed the estate for my late father and continues the work for me. His concern runs deep and he will investigate anyone who could threaten my standing,” Marissa answered honestly.
That should scare away any ideas of marrying her for money. If someone didn’t want to be investigated they would disappear quickly.
“That’s a good thing, dear lady. I’m happy to hear you have such good people looking out for you. A woman such as yourself can never be too careful of the people around her,” he warned.
By this time they had reached her home. It was just lunch time, too early for tea, but Marissa wanted to get to know more about this man than he had shared.
“Would you like to join me for lunch, Mr. Anderson?” she asked carefully. “I know our appointment isn’t until two, but I have enjoyed our conversation these past ten minutes and would like to continue it.”
“I would be honored, Madame.” He bowed and she showed him inside.
The butler took Mr. Anderson’s coat and hat as well as Marissa’s coat and bag. She told him of the addition for lunch and he nodded and left to inform the cook.
They went into the parlor to visit until lunch was laid out.
“Tell me about yourself, Mr. Anderson,” Marissa requested formally.
“There isn’t much to tell. I made my fortune in steel in the eastern United States and I recently decided to pursue other interests overseas,” he began. “I have a passion for all things exciting and interesting and mysterious.”
He raised his eyebrows in Marissa’s direction. She blushed slightly.
“There isn’t much that is exciting or mysterious here,” she replied coyly knowing full well her statement was a complete and utter lie.
“Now I don’t believe a word of that, Ma’am. Just your history and position in life begs to differ,” Simon replied grandly.
“Well the mystery is all out now. I dare say there are some in our little circle of friends who don’t appreciate my background and parentage,” Marissa said.
“A pox on those who do, My Lady, I’m sure you are worth more than all their gold and jewels.”
She lowered her eyes at his flattery. She wasn’t used to this kind of attention from any of her gentlemen friends. Simon Anderson seemed much more sincere than any of the men who attempted to court her.
“You said you made your fortune in steel?” she encouraged.
“Yes, my grandparents were immigrants from Italy and my father was a worker in the steel factories in Chicago. I learned all about steel from my father and used the knowledge to invest wisely. It has been quite a challenge, but I have returned to my parents everything they gave me and more.”
He spoke with a smile, but there was a darker undertone that made Marissa cringe.
“And now you are here in London,” she added lightly.
“Yes. I do rather like the city. It is charming in the least.” He gestured all around and then let his eyes rest back on her. “So you mentioned that you worked in a factory. Did your family also work there?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I was raised in an orphanage since I was a child. I had never known who my father was and my mother had never shared the information with me before she disappeared.” She paused thinking about how literal that last statement was. “When I turned fifteen I got a job at the factory and worked there until I was brought here.”
“I bet it was quite a shock for you to be dropped in the world of aristocracy and wealth,” Simon murmured.
Marissa nodded. “It was at first, but I know how to read and I used that to my advantage. I see no reason for me to not understand my status in life. I think it is silly that some women pay no attention to the financial situation they live in.”
Simon chuckled. “Feisty and educated. You really are amazing Lady Edgington!”
“I’m sure most people think I am crazy, but I have spent enough time poor and alone that I don’t ever want to be there again. I think I’m just as smart as my steward or any of the other men out there that run the world,” Marissa declared haughtily.
“Here, here!” Simon cried.
Marissa blushed realizing that her outburst could be very offensive. “That’s not to say that everyone should participate in these weighty matters, it is just an interest of mine,” she qualified.
Eliza quietly entered the parlor at that point and announced lunch. Marissa stood and led the way into the dining room. They ate a simple meal of cold chicken and stuffed potatoes followed by tea and biscuits.
Simon raved about everything and Marissa found herself enjoying his praise. When the visit was finished he asked to call again and she agreed. She was intrigued by this outward American gentleman.
After he left Marissa made her way to her study and pulled a book from the vast shelves, but her thoughts continued to follow Simon and evaluate the feelings she felt in his presence. She knew she had to be careful with her emotions. Even though he seemed very transparent there was still something that he was hiding, of that she was certain.
She got up from her chair to find Sean. It would be best if he did some background checking on Mr. Anderson. She tried his study, but it was empty. Next she tried the library and the billiard room, but still no Sean. Usually on Sundays he spent his liesure time in those places.
Perplexed she called the butler.
“Yes, Lady?” John asked.
“Have you seen Sean?” she asked casually.
“Mr. Doveday left yesterday evening,” John informed.
“Left?” Marissa questioned.
“He had a suitcase so I assumed he would be gone for a day or two on business.”
“Oh, thank you, John,” Marissa replied disappointed.
Sean had never left without telling her before. His actions were another barb in the already open wound. She returned to her study and shut the door trying to think calmly about the situation.
They had argued and he had said some things that hurt her deeply, but at the same time her actions had concerned him and on more than one occasion he had asked her to give up her life as the Shadow. Yet she refused to do so. Now she was certain her actions had hurt him. It was one continuous round of hurt that never ended. She knew there was one way to stop it, quit being the Shadow, but she knew she couldn’t do that, at least not yet.  

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