A vision, and a moment to remember.
Henry picked up the Ewer of hot water, with a folded towel under it to protect his hand, as Suzanne draped a light green dress and petticoats over his arm, along with additional towels, as she smiled up at him.
“She missed you.”
They had been talking about him.
He would be a nice surprise for her, from what Anna had shared of her feelings with Suzanne, when they’d sat together and talked that previous evening. They had shared so much of their feelings; with each, ready to begin a new phase in both of their lives. It was beginning for them both, but was also ending, in another way for Suzanne, when they lost all that she valued and was familiar with, when the bank foreclosed, and Anna was afraid that is Henry did not soon find her, she was not sure what she'd do, with the new life growing in her.
They also soon learned that they were both in the early stages of pregnancy; something that no unmarried, respectable woman would ever admit to, yet they had managed to share that revelation with each other, being so very similar in every way, and both women being denied, by life's little exigencies in what they both, most-needed; Suzanne, her home, and Anna, her Henry.
There would be a breakfast waiting for Miss Anna when they came downstairs, which, she realised, might not be for some time. Suzanne knew about those absences that fired up a man’s intimate interests, to get back to what they knew about each other and could share, as they got those momentary emotional difficulties cleared out of the way. And after a month’s absence, they would already be heightened to fever pitch.
They would need some time alone together to catch up. No one would disturb them where they were.
Henry walked in, seeing Anna standing in the window embrasure, looking out over the grounds. She may not have heard him enter.
She was a vision to take his breath away, with the light, framing her in the window, the sun in front of her, and even shining through her light nightdress.
Through it! He remembered other times when that had happened, and times when she had worn nothing and had stood like that. He began to feel light-headed.
He paused and reminded himself where he was, and what he was carrying before he dropped everything in his excitement.
He closed the door behind himself with his foot and put the Jug down on a small table to the side of the chaise, saying nothing, laying the clothes along the seat to avoid becoming wrinkled, the towels over the back, and walked over to her to stand close behind her.
She was lost, looking out of the window but slowly leaving her reverie, and becoming conscious that someone had entered her room.
He spoke, seeing her tense up in surprise.
“Anna!” It was almost like a whisper on a breeze.
She whirled around in surprise hearing that voice, scarce able to believe it.
“Henry!” She reached out for him.
He caught her before she fell over in surprise, and pulled her to him, kissing her.
“Anna! Anna, my love! I so like that name. I must now get used to it, instead of that other that I made up for you, ‘Beatrice Angelica’. It is nice to know that you still remember me.”
“Of course I remember you, Henry. How could I forget? And yet I did forget you, for a time." That thought disturbed her momentarily. "No matter, you are here now and with me once more. Now, I remember almost everything. What little I don’t remember, cannot be important, and David told me a few things about you, but not as much as I would have liked to have known.
“Is David with you? I sent him back to Appleton to get some things started. You must have been there.”
“I was. I came late in the morning, yesterday. They seemed to know who I was, and did not chase me off; but I was leading your horse, so they would know who I had to be, but I did not know what my reception was likely to be. Their welcome to me may have been guarded, even cool and reserved; as that was how it felt to me, but seeing you now, more than makes up for it."
He touched her by her face, seeing her turn into his hand. They looked steadily into each other's eyes, liking what they were seeing and feeling, kissing often between words and phrases, relearning about each other, and realizing that it was like they had not been parted for even an hour, never mind for a month... except... there were other urgencies between them that needed to be addressed.
“David told me everything he could, in the little time we were able to speak. He is downstairs. We rode here together and shared our tales and our adventures… some of them. I find he has secrets of his own to keep from me.”
So he already knew about those.
His feelings for Molly would not long be hidden. Nothing stayed hidden for long out in the country, where everyone knew everyone else’s business and what they were doing.
“How I remained sane on that ride over here, and held my horse back, I do not know. I worried about how you would greet me; if you were having second thoughts; regrets.” He sighed heavily and added more.
“Would you even know me, or want to acknowledge me after what I did…? Though David said that you already were recalling some of it, after losing nearly all memory of what we’d shared (David seemed to know too damned much about what they'd actually shared, if he’d read his diary and seen all of those drawings) and that you seemed to be still madly in love with me. But he’s a lad, and what does a lad know of love?”
A lot more than Henry might give him credit for.
He should see him with Molly, as she had, and understand what they had been getting up to, and he wouldn’t be asking that question.
It would be obvious quickly enough, if all three of them; Molly too, were pregnant, all at the same time!
“It came back to me in pieces, Henry; usually as I rested and dreamed. Why would I not acknowledge you? I may have… misplaced your name for some time, but I knew I was married when I saw that ring on my finger, needing to feel it there. I felt, married. You are my husband, Henry. At least I think you are my husband.”
He would soon be able to demonstrate that properly for her, and convince her of that, but the talking would have to be pushed to one side, first.
“I am, your husband. We married; though not in a way that is recognized by the church; but we did marry. We are certainly, married.”
“Good. And it is not a case of what you, did, Henry. But what, we, did!” She emphasized that word, ‘we’.
“I was just as much, if not more to blame than you. I remember that so clearly now.” She was blushing. “But most of that, is private and will not be spoken of other than between us. Most of it, but not all of it.”
She touched him gently on his arm, resisting touching him anywhere else just yet, but she was getting almost as breathless as he was. “Was I such a temptation to you?”
Henry laughed. “A temptation? Much more than you can ever know.”
She’d known! She still was. She could feel that!
“David carried my diary and my drawing book with him. He’d read the one, to try and find some clue to where I had gone, of course, and must have seen enough in them both, to make the decision not to leave them behind for my mother and sister, Georgiana, to find. I would guess that he certainly knows what we got up to from those. I did not pull any punches in what I wrote each evening that you slept, as I watched over you.”
Anna came back at him.
“Hetty knows what happened too, Henry. She woke me from a dream I was having one night. I think I shocked her with what I was doing in that dream-- with your assistance of course-- from the noises I was making and writhing around as we… as we made love…you and I, even if I couldn’t put a name or a face to you. She also soon became aware--we both did at the same time-- that there was another surprise that caught up with me. I came down with morning sickness. I should have known it would happen, considering what I recalled us doing so often.”
He was pleased to see that Anna did not regard having been caught that way, with any embarrassment or shame. It was a common failing when two young persons fell in love, and they could not resist the demands of nature.
They had not resisted them, but had given in without a moment’s hesitation.
They would have a lot of memories to go over when they were alone, tonight. However, there were other, more important things to get out of the way first. They both needed that more urgent release, and now.
“Hetty mentioned your condition to me, my love… much more politely than I deserved. I suspect her first inclination was to swear at me, and show me the door, but, fortunately, she relented. She may never forgive me for that, but at least she was able to talk to me, and to tell me what I most needed to know about you; where you were, and how you were faring... what you had related to her about your returning memory.”
They both chuckled in embarrassment. They really seemed to have few secrets from anyone now.
“What did she tell you about me, Henry?”
“That the two weeks you spent with me, was a total blank at first, as though it had never happened, which was not at all comforting for me to hear." He shook his head, not liking that thought.
“What we shared from that first moment, changed my entire life forever. I could never rest until I found you again and claimed you."
She wanted to be claimed, again.
It was nice to feel Anna in his arms again.
"She told me that it seemed to slowly come back to you in dreams, and certainly when you learned of that… this, other.” He moved closer to her, and rested his hand briefly upon her belly. His hand was warm, and was trembling.
She knew what, and how he was feeling. It was reassuring.
“I think Hetty was deciding how she could ever make me welcome into your home after what I had obviously done to you. Please tell me. Did I really…? I suppose it should not be so hard to believe, but I had no way of knowing that we could have… so soon… though not for lack of trying if I recall.”
“Did you really, what, Henry?” She was playing with him, wanting him to speak more plainly.
He said nothing, so she continued, and saved him. He would soon get over it and be able to admit it.
“Yes, you did make me with child, you naughty boy.” She blushed. “You know you did! You can say it, you know. How could you not, with what we did so often? You started a new life within me. We both did. Are you shocked? Do you mind that I am pregnant? It is usually the consequence that follows, when a man puts that eager part of his into the corresponding part of a very willing woman.” And she had been more than willing.
“Shocked? No. Other than in a nice way. Do I mind? No. I am ecstatic.” He kissed her and held her closer.
She could feel his hot breath down the back of her nightdress and knew how he was feeling. She would need to rescue him, as he seemed afraid to make that first move that they both needed.
She may have to take charge and draw him down to the floor with her, as she sat back beneath him, bringing him down with her between her legs as she moved her nightdress out of the way and helped him....
“I hadn’t actually thought about it, but I suppose, after what we did with each other at every opportunity we were together; and there was never a time when we were not together like that. I should not be surprised. Though that was not something I could tell Hetty about.
“She must have sensed my sincerity when it came to my feelings for you, and she relented. She allowed me to stay the night, and did not poison me, drug me, physik me, or sneak in, to open a vein as I slept.”
He kissed her, resting his hand behind her, pulling her closer to him. She knew exactly how he was feeling for her.
“She even allowed me to spend the night in your room, in your bed, and what a torment that was, sensing you there in every way except how I most needed you; physically with me.”
He had barely slept, of course.
She was still a torment for him, and it was becoming more obvious and worse for him by the minute. She could feel that about him.
“I’ve waited for what seems like forever for this moment, where I could hold you in my arms again and tell you how much I missed you, and loved you.”
“And I, Henry. I am the same way for you. Thank god, you found me. I knew you would, but with each passing day, and then with each week, I began to despair, seeing all of life, changing around me and you still not here, but I never lost hope.”
“Nor did I.”
He pushed his face into her neck and took a deep breath, feeling the same heightened feelings creeping over him that she’d always caused when she was in his arms.
“The long wait is over my love. I am here. Furthermore, I will not be leaving.”
They just held each other. Happy to let these long-remembered sensations wash over them.
“Is that hot water, and a dress for me to wear to Suzanne’s wedding, Henry?”
He recalled why he was here.
“I am to see that you get ready in time for the wedding.” He hesitated. "But first…."
She smiled, sensing his eager mood for her.
“But first you must undress me and bathe me, which is why you brought that hot water. Yes. I suppose we will do something like that." If they allowed it to go so far before they gave in to those other, urgent feelings. "I think you should allow me to bathe you too, Henry, as we get back to what we need to feel of each other once more.”
She could feel his still-growing excitement.
“In that case….” He walked over to the door and locked it, then returned and helped her off with her nightdress, raising it slowly upon her body as they looked into each other eyes, stripping it off over her head; then buried his face into her neck and then into her breasts; kissing them sucking upon them, holding them, as she sighed.
Soon. Very soon.
“I love you, Anna.”
“I know you do, Henry.”
She began to undress him too.
They paused often, to touch, and to kiss; already breathless with each other.
He put his hand on her belly. "And I am responsible for this.”
“You were responsible for a lot more than that Henry. Changing me, educating me in strange and exciting ways as you did.”
“Yes, I was, wasn’t I. And I did.”
His hand dropped lower and caressed her there.
“Now this also feels interesting. This brings back good memories too; it is a little stubbly though through being sadly neglected for several weeks, but it is still excitingly shorn. We should correct that; get it smooth again, except… no razor; damn.”
“We don’t have time anyway, Henry. It took you two hours, when you did that for me. You will have to be patient and to wait until this evening. We have other things, far more necessary, to do at this time," and becoming more urgent with every second.
“It took you almost two hours until you were satisfied with what you achieved, but, if you recall, we had many interesting distractions and necessary interruptions of an explosive nature, as we saw to this, that first time, which also explains this other item, growing within me.”
"Many interesting distractions! I must remember to count those pebbles laid out along all of the window ledges all through the house when I get back there. If I get back there."
“Very well, my love, we will save that for this evening, but that word ‘wait’, I do not know that word. It is a word that has blunted the eager amour of many men, and blighted their warmer ambitions with the woman they love. Telling me that I must wait; throws cold water on a man so much in love as I am. I am glad that you did not use it on me those weeks we were together. I'd had enough of cold water by then. I do not want to wait.”
“But you must, this time, for a little while longer anyway, Henry. You came to bathe me, and bathe me you shall, and then I shall bathe you-- among other things-- as we learn all about each other again, and then we can consider this other.”
“I accept.” He gave in without a fight.
“And as for that furze of mine, why not let it grow again, Henry?”
She became coy. “Because I remember how much you enjoyed curling your fingers into it, teasing at it, playing there as you talked to me, revealing all of your inner-most thoughts, as well as revealing all of those other, much warmer, external signs.”
“That was not why I was teasing at you there. I was wondering how soon I would dare to ask you if you would mind me taking if off. It was always in the way.”
She laughed. “How could it be in the way? It didn’t stop you the first few times.”
Nothing, would have stopped him the first few times!
“But you did seem to become much more excited and demonstrative after that. I remember that you were very persuasive in your argument, telling me that it should come off, but without giving me any particularly good reason that I can remember.”
“I was persuasive, wasn’t I? And then I kissed you afterward in that same place, several times, in case I’d knicked you with the razor. You were so smooth then, and it was so very exciting to play there after that.”
He was nuzzling into her neck.
Getting bathed first, was obviously not going to work, considering the eagerness they both felt, and what was already happening to them both, and especially to him. He was too close to the edge; she could hear that, from his breathing, and could feel it against her.
Never mind getting bathed first!
She cooperated, helping him get closer to her, raising her leg to his side to assist him in what he clearly needed to have happen as she raised herself on to the ball of her foot to make it easy for him.
She adjusted her position. “Yes, Henry. There! Exactly there! Now, push!"
As if a man needed to be told to 'push' once he was started into her. It was instinctive. He pushed.
"There you go. Don't stop, you are not hurting me. I will not break.”
He couldn’t have stopped, even if his life had depended upon it.
He held her close, and tightly.
“Bring your legs up onto me, put your arms around me, and hold me very tightly as we did at the altar, before I lose it, my love, and I will lower us to the sheepskin in front of the fire.”
She laughed in a way that always excited him. “I remember this part very clearly, Henry. This was what was happening in my more pleasant dreams, as you lowered me onto those blankets, just like this, impaled upon you, as you pushed hard into me by the fire.”
She was the only one who could speak at this time. His mind was somewhere else.
“You were kissing my eyes, my nose, my face… my mouth, then my… everything. I was warm, and never had I been so close to anyone, or held so securely and firmly... or felt... so full, or so well loved. That first time was quite shocking for me.”
As it was for all women.
“I remember everything." She had the grace to blush, even as he groaned and stiffened up on her, pushing hard, snorting like the stallion did, just after he’d driven into the mare and was doing the same thing as Henry was doing.
They laid like that for several minutes to recover, never wanting this to end, never wanting to leave each other.
She caressed the side of his head as he laid helplessly on her breasts, still pushing into her, recovering his breath, ready for the next time.
This would happen a few more times before they left each other.
They revived some time later.
“There is a wedding soon, Henry, and we should get ready. I will definitely need to be bathed now.”
“And I will do that for you, but we should talk first, and consider something else.” He kissed her eyes.
“I was thinking that there will be vicar here, sometime close to noon, from what David said. It would be a shame to let him go to waste when we are in such dire need of his services.”
She laughed. “You seem always to be in dire need of something, Henry! Usually from me.”
He smiled. “I see you are remembering, my love.”
“I remember everything now. Our rides; our walks in the moonlight, splashing in that stream. Our adventures in that meadow, fresh cut, and before anyone was there to see us, disporting ourselves, as we did, usually without any clothing; our drawing each other as we relaxed. Did we really do all of that?”
“We did, my love. That, and more. And we will do it again, whenever we get chance."
She held him close, no letting him lose any ground with her. “That vicar thing and being properly married, Henry. We can remedy that today, if Miss Suzanne will not mind. After that, I will feel more assured about what we will always be doing with each other. But this is Suzanne’s day, and I do not want to diminish that for her.”
"I know, but I have another reason for suggesting that. There is a matter of providing for our offspring and a few other considerations. You know you will be one of the wealthiest women in London, after you legally become my wife, don’t you?"
“I didn’t know that Henry, but I am already wealthy, with everything I want in life, and I am happy, and complete, now that you are here, even if am not as awash in money as I would like to be. What use is money if one is not happy or does not use it for something worthwhile?”
She considered for a moment.
“How wealthy, Henry?”
She was sounding mercenary, but he knew that was not part of her character.
“Very wealthy. Filthy rich, as they say.”
How could they carry on a conversation with them as they were with each other, with him lying upon her and still gently pushing into her, building, for the next time.
“It sounds obscene.”
“It is obscene. All that I possess is yours.”
“I already have everything you could possibly give me, Henry. All of it; every single inch, again. I can feel it, and you keep coming back to me, pushing, needing to remind me of it once more as though I had forgotten. However, no matter how many times we do this now, you cannot do any more damage to me; make me any more pregnant than I already am.”
Her mind was working in other directions too, except Henry kept interrupting the flow by what he was doing yet again before dying upon her once more.
“Henry! So soon? That was the second time!"
He caught his breath. “That was the third time, my love. I don’t think you noticed the second one.”
They could hear the old clock on the landing chiming out the hour. They still had plenty of time.
“We should get ready, Henry, and not leave any evidence here of what we did. This is Suzanne’s bedroom, where they will be spending tonight together as a married couple.”
“They won’t even notice us having been here. It is not as though we are in their bed and leaving damp areas behind.”
She vividly remembered those.
He slowly and reluctantly left her, knowing that he would soon return, then came back to kiss her breasts, her naval, even kissing her on her belly, planting his lips there, and blew, making an impolite noise as she squirmed laughingly beneath him.
“I wonder if he, she, they... in you here... can sense that.” He was looking up at her to see what she thought.
There was an almighty clatter from downstairs, bringing them both back to reality.
They heard Samson barking, until David quieted him.
“The dog got free and followed us. Damn! It sounds like he knocked over that suit of armor in the hall.”
There were other voices too.
“The guests are arriving. But it cannot be that advanced an hour.”
“We should dress, Henry, before others wonder where we are and why we have not appeared.”
“We will, soon enough. But why do we need to dress? I like where I am. We have time for one more.” He kissed her.
“But others will soon come looking for us if we do not go down.”
He rolled with her on the sheepskin in front of the low fire.
“Let them. I locked the door.”
He heard other voices.
His mother and his sister? Here?
Damn! They could not wait.
“You are right, my love. I will bathe you and then get you dressed, even though I don’t want to, and then we shall go and face the inquisition from my mother. David, may need rescuing.”
“What will your mother say of me. Of this? What we just did? What we have now created in me? And us not yet married. She doesn’t know anything about me.”
If only that were true. She probably already knew too much.
“We don’t have to tell her anything, Anna. She will not be able to say anything, my love. I shall defend you."
"Of course she will have a lot to say, Henry. She is here. Why is she here? What brought her?”
He groaned. “That settles it. We will need to be married immediately, no matter what she says.”
“But what if she disapproves of me, Henry?”
“She will not be so foolish. She will love you as soon as she lays eyes on you, just as I did. What if your parents disapprove of me?”
“It’s not the same. Your brother knows too much about me too, to my discredit. And….” She fidgeted at a strangely recollected sensation.
He helped her, seeing that look on her face.
“Stand still my love. You are losing me. Better let the towel catch it all and then we will leave nothing behind. I shall have you bathed in a trice, and then we shall dress each other and make our appearance…. If we can. If we dare.” He laughed and kissed her as he looked up at her, holding a towel close up, under her.
“My mother is not an ogre. She is only that way, sometimes.”
Anna put her hand on top of his head as he knelt in front of her doing this very personal thing for her.
“Before we dress and go downstairs, Henry, I have a very large favor to ask of you.”
“I thought you would. David told me some of what you’d planned, and he was willing to go along with it too. That was why I told you something of how wealthy you are. My answer is, 'yes'."
He smiled up at her. "You know what is needed and how to accomplish it without ruffling feathers or embarrassing anyone, or offending anyone about such a delicate, but important matter, as, money. I’ll let you arrange it. It can be a welcome wedding present from us all.”
“Thank you, Henry.” Suzanne would be happy.
“How nice that we understand each other, and never do things in half measures”
She was robbed for words, feeling more of him running from her, setting her blushing. How much more of him was there? But there always had been more than she realized.
He felt like being humorous. “Are you sure you are not carrying twins, my love? We were very eager with each other, those two weeks we did have together, and just now.”
She could say nothing, concerned what he would say to his mother and his sister about what they were already doing together. It would be too obvious and written all over her face when she appeared on his arm.
“Should I tell my mother about your personal condition too, as well as that we are getting married again, do you think?” He rested his hand on her belly again, leaning in to kiss her.
"Let's go and face my mother, and find out."
Anna knew that it was going to be a difficult meeting.