Some embarrassing visions cannot be un-seen.
As Anna undressed, they checked each piece of her clothing as she took it off with Hetty’s help, inspecting, admiring, pointing out the care of the stitching and the decoration; the light braiding, and the overall weight of it. An accomplished seamstress had spent many hours on that dress.
Anna did not bother to undress behind her screens as she usually did when she bathed. This time, she was not afraid to stand in the full light of the window to inspect each item as she took it off, careless that others outside would be able to see her doing that.
It was as though she no longer cared. She’d changed in at least that one way, but Hetty was still shy to look at her directly, in this unusually confident state.
This, was not the same woman that had ridden away two weeks earlier.
“Where could this dress have come from? I have never seen such fine stitching. Whoever did this was asking to be driven blind.”
“Nor have I seen such care either, Miss.”
They laid each item of clothing out across her bed, and put each piece of jewelry on her bedside table after inspecting each of those too, before Anna got to her ablutions. A small fortune was laid out in front of them. Someone would be sure to miss those pieces, and wonder where they were. There was also a small, ornate pistol in one of the pockets of the dress. It was the kind of pistol that a lady might carry.
Hetty watched as Anna took out the priming cap, rendering it safe. She did not like pistols.
Samson stretched out on the carpet in her room, his head resting on his front paws, watching everything as his mistress stripped down to nothing.
Hetty was not sure she liked even that dog, too obviously a male with those... male things hanging there, to be observing her friend and companion in such a dishabille state, with not a stitch on her.
Samson seemed to have accepted Hetty already, and others in the house, so that was one good thing.
Hetty was curious what had happened to Miss Anna but did not choose to say anything. Miss Anna would open up soon enough when she remembered anything, and it were better if it came back to her as she wanted to remember it, and not through any prompting that might send her in the wrong direction.
She could see that Anna was different; changed in her manner, and her poise. Anna was visibly infused with a new confidence in everything she did. and it would be obvious to everyone when they saw her and spoke with her. She was less shy and more directly matter-of-fact about things; self-assured more than she had been; curious, more than ever before, and showed a decisiveness that had not been there before she’d gone; but Anna herself would not be aware of any of those differences.
Something had definitely changed her, but Hetty was not sure she should say anything about what that could have been, though she had her suspicions that nagged uncomfortably at her.
There was usually a man not very far away when a woman was changed like that, and no doubt there were other changes waiting to be discovered, though one could hope not.
Before she’d ridden away, Anna had been nervous about meeting with Mr. Crabtree, the lawyer, but he seemed to have been pushed out of her mind already. That, would not be an easy thing to do, considering that their very future here, depended upon the success of that meeting and fulfilling all of the requirements laid out three years earlier when they had first come here. A lot had changed in those three years, but not nearly as monumental as had changed in the last two weeks.
Wherever Anna had been, it had strongly influenced her in what seemed to be a positive way, so she’d not been too-obviously harmed by her experience, no matter the worry that everyone had suffered. But…. There was always a, ‘but’.
Hetty could even see another one of them that she would never dare speak openly about.
For a change, Anna was not even shy to bathe openly in front of her window, standing there with not a care in the world, using a cloth, and soap and hot water as she inspected her body, with Hetty watching her, pulling it this way and that, with the full sunlight pouring in on her; able to see herself in her mirror; pulling her breasts around as she never had before; curious about them now—where she never had been before—as she stood on a towel, wiping a damp cloth over herself. Then, she had no hesitation in walking about her bedroom the same way, just as naked, without embarrassment, and not like her former self at all as she talked to Hetty, and sorted out other clothing to wear, but nothing of the quality of the dress she had just taken off.
Hetty put her thoughts into words.
“You’ve changed, Miss. You was always shy before.”
That comment seemed safe to say. Hetty had never seen Miss Anna so confident handling a pistol before either. Where had she been to have learned about them?
Anna smiled back at Hetty, unfazed by any of it. “Was I ever shy? Yes, I suppose I was. I wonder why."
She turned this way and that as she looked at herself in the mirror.
"The human female body is such a strange thing when you think about it; quite ugly and ungainly; out of all proportion, but also is very wonderful. I wonder why some people are so ashamed of it.”
She responded further to her companion. “I have changed, Hetty; for the better I think, but in what way I do not properly know yet, nor do I know what caused it.”
Hetty had her suspicions that kept building.
“What is it that you see about me?”
Hetty could tell her some of what she saw and suspected, but only some of it. There was something she could see that she would never dare speak about, and Miss Anna must know had happened.
“You was never this confident to walk around like this (naked) before, with anyone else in the room with you, Miss, not even me, and you and me was always close, with few secrets from each other.”
“Why should I be shy with you, Hetty? We have known each other forever. Little girls might be shy, but I am not a little girl anymore, and neither are you.”
No, she definitely wasn’t a girl, not with proud breasts sticking out like that and with her nipples...! They were hard, and standing out!
“You are the only one here, and Samson may be a male, but he doesn’t count. I won’t tell, if you don’t. Why should I be ashamed or shy of my own body? It is the one that God gave me.” She considered. “Yet… I seem to recall that I was once much more shy than I am now; afraid even to get undressed in front of anyone very close to me; even you. How strange.”
Hetty would say nothing about that other obvious change. She would soon wake up to that for herself, though Anna didn’t seem conscious of it or was likely even to think about it, so it could not have been a recent thing in just the last few days, but older than that. It was even more shocking than her coming back on that saddle, and riding astride as she had; like a man, and with her legs... the way they had been.
Ladies, did not remove that particular hair at the top of her legs unless…? But it had gone! Every last hair of it.
The only women who did that, were those who plied that other trade; Covent Garden Nuns! Common strumpets! and Hetty knew why they did that; those damned crab lice, scurrying through that pubic hair. But that light thatch of hair that had been there, not so very long ago on Anna's mount of Venus, and covering much of that private area, had gone. All of it! She was as smooth there as a baby’s bottom, and with nothing hidden now! Nothing! Anna must know about that, and how it had been removed, and by whom! And recently too!
Hetty had to close her eyes.
She couldn’t have done that for herself but had needed some help with that. A man’s help!
Hetty was fond of that expression.
What else had he not done to her while her clothes had been off her? And him likely to be just as naked too, as men always wanted to be when there was a naked woman close by. There was not a man alive who would do that—or a woman let him do that for her either—and for them both, not to be interested in doing much more with each other after that. What is worse, Anna must have let him, with her legs wide apart, for that tricky venture into that snug space with a razor, and as closely attentive to her there as he would have to be. Nothing respectable had happened after that! That was sure!
Hetty could not stand to think about it, never mind say anything.
Whoever had done that for her would have needed a special razor; one, cut down short especially for that purpose, and he would have taken painstaking care over it; pulling and pushing, stretching the skin, not to have nicked her, focusing his entire attention there.
His entire, undivided and singular attention! Before, during, and after.
Hetty began to panic and to get palpitations, and was hot under the collar just thinking about it.
She had to close off that thought, or to think about Anna actually tolerating; even inviting a man to do that for her, touching her so intimately there. It gave her goose-bumps to think of that.
Her mind was running away with her.
Anna was a good girl. None better. Except.... Hetty’s eyes did not deceive her. It had gone; every single hair of it from those delicate and tenderly swollen nether lips of hers, so clearly revealed now, and to think that a man...had... interfered... had been there too, and so damned eager to help, as they always were once the clothing was off!
She remembered that, clearly enough for herself. She could go no further with that thought, but began to feel envious.
Anna had trusted him with everything, that meant anything, to a moral young woman, and no doubt she had paid the ultimate price for that. Hetty's innermost feelings cried out for her, thinking of the discomfort, the pain, the trauma.
But who was Hetty to judge? When the right man came along—and a man had done that even for her, once; just once, regrettably only once—a lot of things fell by the wayside, but never fell quite-that-far, or so quickly.
Hetty’s ears were burning just thinking about it. She should not go any further with that disturbing thought to cloud her mind.
Hetty considered the calendar in her head.
Miss Anna had also been at that wrong time of the month. Oh lord! She’d have to watch her, and say nothing, but it would need a lot of tongue-biting not to say anything or to ask.
If he’d interfered with her in those two weeks… and how could he not have done...? He must have interfered, to have achieved that change? And then there had been yet another more intimate interference after that; the one, followed from the other as night, followed day, but even more regularly after that first time.
Miss Anna’s breasts had changed too, undoubtedly being just as well-attended-to as that other tenderly-bruised place with her nipples still standing forth. But she should say nothing about that either. She didn't look sore, from what Hetty could see.
Hetty would never mention any of it, and was determined to try and ignore everything.
If Miss Anna could ignore it, then so would she. Who else would notice it? No one else was ever this close with Miss Anna, and her naked… except a man had been; there was no escaping that reality, and not in a gentleman-like kind of way either. They never were when it got to that sticking point. No wonder Anna didn’t want to remember any of it.
Anna sat on her bed and pulled on some new hose, unconscious of Hetty closely watching everything she did, and wondering at the change in her as she held back other observations that she wanted to make, about what she could see of her mistress now that she could see even more of her, and questions she wanted to ask. Observations and questions that would be too shocking to speak about openly, or for Miss Anna to have to think about either, except it might jar her memory a bit.
She hadn’t been like this before she went, but had been modest, reserved, and protective of herself and her privacy; never comfortable being seen even partially undressed before, even in Hetty’s company, never mind parading about completely nude.
Now everything had changed again.
She had been influenced by someone, and not just anyone; someone special, and it was doubtful that Miss Anna would choose to speak openly of it even if she remembered.
She would have to keep an eye on Miss Anna; a very close eye.
Anna stood up, looking at herself and her stockings in the mirror, turning to consider other things about herself and to make sure that her hair was not too untidy, before retrieving a hairbrush to see to it. She paused in her perambulations around her room, searching for something, before picking up the necklace she had been wearing, making her breasts stand out even more as she stretched to fasten it behind her head, and then put those rings back on, as though those few items were all she needed to feel properly dressed.
Properly dressed indeed!
She looked out of the window again, looking far out over the grounds without a care in the world, though no one could see her, fortunately; with her room being at the side of the house. Could she have become so used to being naked that it didn’t even register with her?
“I think I see my parents’ carriage, and I believe my brothers are riding behind them. Yes, I would recognize them riding, even from here. That will likely mean a full count for dinner if Mr. Frith gets back too. We shall soon be complete again, Hetty.”
She pulled a dress, out of a selection of them.
“Come, Hetty, help me dress, and I will go and see them as they pull into the stable yard and set their minds at ease. I shall help with the evening meal as the others come in, and out of the fields, then I shall go and…”
“No, Miss, you won’t be doing any of that! You should greet them. They are your family and they were worried for you, as we all were, but you shall attend to them, and only to them while they are here. They will insist upon it and so do I.
“For once, we can manage without you, just as we did for two weeks.
“They’ll have a thousand questions for you (which Anna wouldn’t be able to answer, or would never choose to answer, even if she was able to remember any of it), and you need to be with them tonight. You will all have a proper meal for once, though it will be relatively plain fare I’m afraid. We had no warning of you coming back as you did, or to prepare anything better, or we would have killed the fatted-calf to welcome you back.”
She thought for a few moments. “Do you think it wise to wear any jewelry, Miss? They are sure to ask about it, knowing how you never wore any like that before, or of such value.”
Anna thought about it. “You are right. I shall not wear any of it and invite more questions.” She took it all off, and then reconsidered.
“...At least not all of it, but I shall wear this ring.” She picked up a relatively plain looking gold ring again, and slipped in on her finger where it fitted perfectly. She let out a satisfied sigh. It looked too much like a wedding ring to Hetty's mind; raising yet another discomforting thought to deal with.
“Anything more will have them asking too many questions.”
That single ring, would be enough to set them off anyway.
“They will ask enough as it is, especially when I have Samson by my chair. He is as essential to my comfort at this moment as anything could be; aren’t you, boy?”
The dog wagged his tail, hearing his name. He wanted to get back to that bone.
Hetty would not argue with her, but she would be close by, to listen to what Miss Anna would tell them about her absence; what she remembered, and they would be sure to ask.
She dropped a petticoat over Anna’s head, seeing Anna settle it on her body, and then followed it with her relatively plain dress.
Anna continued speaking as Hetty pulled down the dress upon her, and then brushed at her hair to settle it down again.
“I am sure they will be itching to get back to London, and to their own families. Tell the others in the kitchen what you need to tell them, to explain my not helping them for once, though I have been absent for two weeks as you say, so one more evening will not matter, and I shall greet my family."
No one would begrudge her that time off. She worked twice as hard as anyone else.
“Later, I must go and see to my horse and see what I can learn from him. He must find it strange to be in a farm stable, with all of its strange smells, and not knowing where he is, though he did seem to make friends with Jarvis.”
Anna thought of something else.
“Hetty, please say nothing of my horse, or of those clothes. Leave me to tell them everything, as little as that is. The less they have to concern themselves with, the better.”
They would still worry.
“Yes, Miss, but what about the dog? Dogs and dining rooms do not mix.”
“They do now. Samson shall be with me. Where I go, he goes. I fear that if I do not have something familiar with me to fall back upon that I might think it to have been nothing but a dream—which is what it seems to be anyway, with my remembering so little-- remembering nothing of it really-- and I do not want that to happen. I shall think of something to explain his presence by my chair, or I shall just ignore what they say.”
She looked at herself in the mirror and turned as she smoothed her dress down.
“Now, I shall go and greet them.”
Samson went with them outside, still wanting to get back to that bone, but Anna kept a hand upon his head and held his collar as the others came into the yard. She was not sure how he would meet them when they rushed over to greet her.