The week my father was home passed so quickly I thought I had only imagined that he had been here. My Grandmother had been preoccupied with writing letters and organising my entry into polite society – although a little late for my age (19) she still felt it was necessary and proper, but although I resisted I knew I could not stay here forever, freedom is not a luxury poor bastard women like me can afford- therefore she was distant. My father and I spent the days making the most of each other’s company; reading to each other, I showed him around my small flower garden that I had planted the month before, he taught me a new card game he had played in London and I played the piano for him. We rode through the gardens and surrounding fields together most days, and on one day we ventured into the village together to run an errand for my Grandmother. I think my father felt that he owed her for our life with them, so he made himself available to her beck and call whenever he was home, and she took it to her advantage. Not in a malicious way, but it suited her to give orders and my father did not mind –despite his joking- following them, I think it gave him something to do when he was there, he never stayed still at home, that was just his nature.
The village is a typical of the English countryside; few shops and a little market on the first and third Saturdays of every month, everyone recognises each other and gossip spreads like wildfire. When my father first brought us here, he told me that we were the scandal of the century. A bastard and his motherless child living with the oldest and with one of the most respected family in the area sparked a great number of rumours, but since then we – well at least I; my father has never been comfortable in society- have been accepted into the community, although the subject of my inferiority is never mentioned. This does however, allow me a degree of freedom not enjoyed by other girls of my situation; I am given leeway to behave and go as I please. As I am not expected to marry well or above my station, whereas girls my age in a family of relative importance have been preparing for a suitable match from birth. I have heard them whispering though, I know they pity me. I overheard one woman tell another that she thought I was “such a waste of a pretty face and sweet nature” and that she “couldn’t bear to be under the thumb of [my Grandmother] indefinitely without the prospect of a good husband and a decent fortune”.
As we rode down the main street my father stiffened and I could sense his discomfort under the scrutiny of the stares from the villagers passing us. Although he barely let it show, nodding politely to each person we met and exchanging pleasantries effortlessly. The village had a large bronze statue of a large stag deer at the centre of the village square which lay at the end of the main street, from which a small network of backstreets and alleys sprouted. The streets were cobbled and worn which made for a hard ride, but it gave the village a tender quaintness which I appreciated. Although, small in size the traffic of rattling carts and trotting of horses was fairly constant, coupled with the chattering of villagers created a bubbling of noise which emanated from the centre and echoed throughout the square. It was bearable for me but after too long I found the constant hum-drum draining and was always eager to return back home.
We tied up the horses and my father left me to explore whilst he carried out business matters. The market was here today, so I found myself meandering through the maze of stalls to pass the time. I had not really been paying attention, except to admire a collection of new books, each of which I had examined carefully as I imagined the stories that they might possess. The idea of a whole new brilliant world squeezed into the pages of a closed book that could fit in my palm was simply thrilling. My eyes drawn to nothing in particular I continued to wander aimlessly, suddenly, not looking where I had been going, I went straight into something. No, someone.