My Broken Heart...
Wake up Rose it’s time to play...
A panicked shock hit her like a jolt, and she found herself sitting up in bed rigid and suddenly wide awake. A cold sweat trickled down her back, and she clutched the blanket tight to her breast. Her heart pounded against her ribs, and she gasped in short burst struggling to breathe. Sinking down lower under the blankets, her eyes flitted back and forth across the darkroom. Terror gripped her body and poured out of her like a trembling flood.
She peered around the room suddenly recognizing she was home and safe in her own bed. Nonetheless, her anxiety remained steadfast, gripping her until her chest grew tight. She gasped for air, and flung herself to the side of her bed, coughing and retching with dry heaves.
The noise and movement caused Lucian to stir in his armchair. He sat up, rubbing his tired eyes, and attempting to recall why he was in the guest room. When he heard Aniela retching, he sprinted to the wastebasket, then carried it to her bedside. “Aniela,” he said, reaching for her to calm her down. “It’s okay, you are safe and at home now.”
She covered her mouth with the back of her hand and a half-hysterical sob escaped her lips. “Lucian?” she gasped, recoiling from his touch.
The room was dark, so Lucian went to the dresser and lit a lamp. When he turned back around, he saw guttural fear in her eyes. “Yes, Aniela,” he said, in a gentle tone. “It’s me, I came to check on you and sent Nettie to bed, giving her a break.” Tentative, he stepped to the bed. “May I sit down?”
Aniela nodded, but then scooted to the far side of the bed away from him. Her eyes wandered the length of him, and an indelible remembrance of his masculine presence took hold. Three years did nothing to diminish that. Even his silk nightclothes did not minimize his virile essence. She peered down at her filthy tattered clothing, and it prompted her to clutch the blanket tighter to her chest. “Why are you here, Lucian?” She demanded as her eyes examined her bedroom. A recollection of the elegant draperies, soft bedding, and exquisite furnishings almost brought tears to her eyes, but she suppressed her tears trying to remain calm.
“I didn’t think you should be alone,” he answered.
She stared at him and shook her head. “That’s not what I meant,” she said flatly. “Why are you here at Matthew’s Hall? Are you visiting my father?” She watched him lower his gaze, and the tightness started to grip her chest again. “Lucian?”
“No,” he answered, shaking his head and reaching for her hand. “I am not here visiting your father.” He picked up his gaze, and he could see the alarm slide across her features. “Aniela, it’s the middle of the night. You should rest, and we’ll talk in the morning.”
Ignoring him, she pulled her hand from his, then shoved the blankets down and pushed up from the bed.
Apprehensive, he stood up. “What are you doing?”
“I am going to see my father,” she said, limping towards the door.
He scrambled to block her exit. “Aniela, you can’t!”
She backed up with her fist balled at her sides. “Lucian,” she murmured, struggling to maintain calm. “Why are you here?“Her fear was replaced by weariness like a knight worn out by conflict.
“Please, Aniela,” he pleaded, taking a step towards her. “Please, go back to bed before you fall over from exhaustion. We’ll talk further in the morning.”
Shaking her head, she went to go around him. But Lucian moved, barring her attempt for the door once more. Her hands clenched into a fist at her sides. “Lucian, let me pass. I don’t care what time it is; I wish to see my father.”
The anger in her eyes startled him and he was suddenly aware of how much she and Jessie were alike. He bowed his head contending for the proper way to tell her the truth. “You can’t go see your father, Aniela.”
Her face paled, but she chose to ignore him and attempted to go around him once more.
“Aniela!” he said more forcibly than he had planned. He fixed his hand on the door jamb, preventing her exit again. “You need to listen to me.”
A renewed panic gripped her insides again. She backed away from him and folded her arms around herself. “W-Why can’t I go to my father,” she stammered, trying to control her quivering voice. “Just tell me, Lucian.”
He dropped his head into his hands and surrendered a deep sigh. “William passed away a little over a year ago,” he confessed in a weak tone. “I’m very sorry Aniela.”
At first, she stared at him as if she didn’t comprehend; then a high pitched wail poured from her lips, and she started to collapse to the floor. “No,” she sobbed shaking her head and dropping to her knees.
Lucian went to her and lifted her into his arms; carrying her to the bed. He laid her down and lifted her hand, laying a kiss on her knuckles. “William loved you so much, Aniela,” he whispered, his voice fractured with emotion. “And, he never stopped searching for you, he was heartbroken when he thought you drowned in the accident.” He wavered, pondering to reveal more. “Then Jaylon came to him and disclosed how you survived, William hired so many people trying to find you.”
She removed her hand from his and stared at him unblinking. “I caused this,” she whispered, feeling numb inside. “If I would have agreed to marry you, Lucian, as my father wished; all of this would not have happened. I ruined, so many lives because of my pride.” Powerless to bridle her emotions, she curled away from him as her sadness threatening to suffocate her. “Please go, Lucian,” she said, with a guarded voice void of emotion. “I don’t wish to discuss it anymore.”
He reached his hand out to console her but drew away at the last moment. “I am truly sorry, Aniela,” he whispered, then pushed up from the bed. As the door closed behind him, he could hear her sobs from inside.
A glimpse of the sun was trying to show itself through the semi-parted curtains of her bed-chamber. She closed her eyes knowing she was going to have to get up and attempt and face the day.
Nettie had entered into her room for the third time and inquired if she was indeed okay or seeking if she desired anything else for her comfort.
“I am okay Nettie,” she said trying to sound brave.
Nettie went to the bed and tentatively sat down. “I’s sorry about your father, Aniela. He wished so deeply to find you and bring you home. Even towards the end, he didn’t give up. He was one of the finest men I have ever known.”
She shook her head and peered down at her hands. “Yes, he was a wonderful man wasn’t he.” She sniffed, her bottom lip quivered thinking about him, and the last time she saw him. “Was Roseanne able to be here with him when he...?”
“Yes, she was here,” Nettie answered quickly. “She had just arrived the day before.”
Not certain if she wanted to know, but she asked anyway, gulping back her anxiety. “How did it happen? Did he suffer in any way?”
Nettie’s reached out to her and laid her hand on top of Aniela’s, searching her face. “Miss Aniela,” she murmured. “You just arrived home; we don’t need to discuss this now. We should concentrate on getting you well again.”
She stared at Nettie and saw the sorrow in her dark soulful eyes. “I will never be well again,” Aniela said in a flat, detached tone. “Please, I deserve to know how my father died.”
Nettie released a distressed sigh, then bowed in understanding. “Do you recall how fragile he had always been? He frequently had a tough time fighting off sickness. Well, this time, when he got a cough,” she said. “His lungs couldn’t take the extra stress. There were moments during one of his coughing spasms his lips would turn blue and he couldn’t seem to draw sufficient air in to sustain himself. I can’t tell you how many handkerchiefs I found stained with his blood.” She hesitated, not choosing to go into the gruesome details. “He couldn’t walk across a room without wheezing and gasping for air. Then one night; he went to bed, and he didn’t wake up the next morning.”
Her stomach tightened at Nettie’s words and finding out how he suffered didn’t help alleviate her misery. “I should have been here for him,” she declared, as her mind sought to conjure up a memory of him. “I should have never gotten on the Ocean Monarch that day.”
Nettie shook her head with almost a determined reply. “No, no, no Miss Aniela,” she adamantly disagreed. “There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, something bad has to happen for good to appear. Your father loved you, and he will always be in your heart. Never forget that.”
Aniela laughed, but not in a pleasant way. “I know he loved me Nettie. But it was my selfishness that ultimately led to his death.” She drew a heavy breath then reached up to rub her tender shoulder, a sense of emptiness took hold of her body.
Nettie scrutinized her movements recognizing her exhausted state. But suddenly her eyes caught a glimpse of the marks on her wrist. “Miss Aniela, what happened to you? H-How did you get those scars? ”
Aniela looked down at the hand resting on her shoulder surprised she briefly forgot about the scars there. She dropped her hand down to her lap, tucking it under her blanket.
Knocking turned both their eyes towards the door. It was perfect timing and a welcome diversion for Aniela.
“That is probably a tub being brought up for you,” Nettie said. “May I let them in?”
Aniela nodded but again felt apprehensive. She wasn’t certain if she was ready to undress in the presence of Nettie as she used to do when she was younger. Anxiety caused her to clutch the blanket and draw it tighter to her chest.
Two men hauled the tub in while three housemaids filled it with steaming water. When they finally finished, she slid her feet to the floor and stepped over to it. She watched Nettie pull a small jar from a dresser drawer, then walk to the tub and dispensed a few drops into the water.
She closed her eyes as a plume of steam wafted up to her nose, and the remembrance of lavender baths filled her head. For a moment, she became transformed back to the moment when she was carefree and happy. Back then she didn’t have a care in the world. But the image immediately faded when she felt Nettie grasp her shirt and move to help lift it from her body.
Aniela’s hand clamped over hers halting her movement. “No,” she said, anxiously. “I will do it myself Nettie.” She turned around and started to loosen the buttons with her good hand. With considerable effort and radiating pain, the shirt slid off her shoulders.
She heard a gasp from Nettie, and she turned, holding the shirt tight to her chest covering her exposed breast. “What’s wrong?” she asked, searching at Nettie’s distressed face. Then her eyes caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, and suddenly she recognized why Nettie had such a troubled reaction.
The pink scars scattered across her back stood out against her pale skin. She glanced at Nettie and watched her struggling to hold the tears a bay. Her eyes sunk to the floor. “I don’t require your help any longer Nettie,” she murmured, sensing the heat rise to her face.
“What... What happened to you Aniela?”
She couldn’t answer her. Not because she didn’t think Nettie deserved to know. It was more because she couldn’t bring herself to put it into words.
The shame she felt, ran deep inside her.
Aniela lifted her chin deciding to ignore her question. “Thank you for your help Nettie, but I can take care of myself now. You can go.”
She waited as Nettie slowly left the room; then she turned and finished undressing on her own. The full-length mirror on the other side of the room beckoned to her and she stepped tentatively to stand before it. She gripped her tattered shirt against her chest using it to shield her eyes from viewing most of her scars. But then she became brave and released the shirt. Her mouth drew taunt as she stared at her image with self-condemning eyes.
The vision of her abused body only caused her to feel worse about herself. With a weighty sigh, she turned and stepped into the tub; allowing the tepid water to engulf her sore body. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. It wasn’t long before sleep caught up with her.
Lucian and Jessie waited in the library, keeping their eyes fixated on the balustrade and staircase to the second floor. They knew Dr. McDaniel’s should be down any minute. The longer his assessment of Aniela took, the more concerned and worried they became.
Over an hour had passed, and they finally heard the door open and closed at the top of the stairs. Lucian waited at the library entrance praying he could read the doctor’s demeanor before he started to descend the stairs.
Dr. McDaniels was short in stature; with a round protruding belly that limited his frock and vest from being adequately buttoned at the midriff. His face was also round and a stubby pig-like nose; which always had bifocals teetering on the edge, ready to slip off at any moment.
He kept his head down appearing to be concentrating on his steps, and his lips were drawn in a thin straight line.
Not liking the look of the physician’s body language, Lucian peered over his shoulder at his wife. The stress he detected in her eyes caused him great worry. He went to her, sitting down beside her and drawing her hand into his own. He lifted her hand to his lips. “Dr. McDaniels is on his way down now,” he said. “Are you going to be okay?”
Jessie nodded her head, but couldn’t bring herself to form words without her voice breaking. Both she and Lucian rose to their feet when the doctor stepped into the library.
Doctor McDaniels set his bag down by the door when he stepped into the room; then proceeded across the library to the well-stocked liquor cabinet.
Lucian and Jessie stared at the doctor, waiting for him to turn and deliver them comfort from their concerns. When he didn’t, Lucian patted Jessie’s hand, then went to stand next to him.
“How bad is it?” he asked, hesitantly.
Doctor McDaniels reached into his jacket and pulled out a handkerchief; lifting it to his brow, he dabbed the perspiration from his forehead. Then he turned and glanced over his shoulder at Jessie. “They do look quite alike don’t they?” he conceded, as he reached for a glass. “If you don’t mind, I drink scotch.”
Lucian’s jaw tightened. “Its kind of early for a physician to start drinking don’t you think?”
McDaniel’s eyes lifted to look up at him. “Pour yourself one too, and if your wife weren’t pregnant I would suggest you pour her one also,” he said, his eyes darting between them.
Pulling a bottle of scotch from the cupboard, Lucian poured about an inch of liquor into two glasses. He observed McDaniels lifts his glass to his lips, consuming its contents in one sudden motion.
McDaniels coughed into his hand, walked over to a chair, then pulled it across the room to sit before Jessie. “My lady,” he said, wavering to take a deep breath. “I know you are Miss Aniela’s sister, but do you truly wish to know the extent of her injuries?” He hesitated anew, attempting to summon the proper words in his mind. “She has been through quite a bit, with some prodigious trauma done to her body.”
Lucian went and sat beside her, offering her support. “Did she inform you of what happened to her?” Jessie asked.
Doctor McDaniels groaned a little under his breath. “Yes, and no,” he said, giving his shoulders a slight shrug. “Her left clavicle was dislocated, and I put the joint back into place. It was quite unpleasant for her, but she handled it remarkably well.”
“Doesn’t it take a considerable amount of force to dislocate a shoulder?” Lucian asked.
“Yes, it does,” McDaniels agreed, bowing his head. “I asked her how it happened, and she alleges she jumped from a second-story window. When I pressed her further, she became quiet and vague. Clearly, she didn’t wish to elaborate on it anymore.”
Jessie rubbed her forehead and fidgeted with her clothes. “Does she have any other injuries?”
McDaniels looked down and cleared his throat. “She has many abrasions and old bruising down her legs and inner thighs. The wounds are quite faded down to a greenish-yellow color, but they seem to be consistent with...” the doctor lifted his eyes and spoke softly. “It appears she has endured weeks if not months of abuse.”
Lucian sat up straight, and his eyes drew together. “What are you saying?”
Jessie wasn’t naïve, and she lifted a hand to her trembling lips. “You mean she’s been raped?” she gasped.
Looking down at his hands, McDaniels nodded his head. “I believe so,” he said. “And I hate to say, most likely more than once.”
“My god!” Lucian blurted, pushing up to his feet.
A sob flowed from Jessie’s lips. She reached for Lucian, and he wrapped his arms around her. “How did this happen?”
“There is more,” McDaniel’s said regrettably and rose from his chair.
“More!” Jessie gasped incredulously. “You mean she has more injuries?”
Doctor McDaniels looked pensive for a moment, then turned and walked back to the liquor cabinet, pouring himself another scotch. His hands shook as he lifted the glass and drained its contents. “Regrettably, yes she does,” he offered, pausing for a minute. “She has roughly eight or nine healed scars scattered across her back. Her wrist and ankles also present with scars. The scars on her back are roughly four to five inches in length and less than an inch wide.” He wavered to push back his anguish. “The wrist-ankle scars are red with lingering abrasions. They appear to be indicative of being bound for a length of time. The scars on her back suggest she has suffered through a flogging... and more than once because they are at various stages of healing. Hence why some are clearly progressed further than others in their coloration.”
Jessie’s head started to swim, and she was quite confident she was going to be sick. Lucian felt her body sway as she began to retch. He ran to the wastebasket, bringing it to her. He rubbed her back, attempting to soothe her. But it did little to ease her anxiety, and he knew how she was feeling because he felt the same way.
“Did she happen to offer up who did this to her?” Lucian whispered, battling to preserve his composure.
“No, she did not,” McDaniel’s offered, shaking his head.
“But she is going to be okay,” Jessie sniffed into Lucian’s chest.
“Depends on what your definition of okay is,” McDaniel’s responded. “Some people don’t bounce back from one trauma. Lady Aniela has suffered many trauma’s I am afraid. It depends on how strong she is mentally. Physically I think she will be fine... eventually.”
“How do we tell her about Jessie?” Lucian asked.
Doctor McDaniels cocked his head to the side as if confused. “What do you mean?”
Lifting her head, she looked at the doctor. “She doesn’t know about me yet. We haven’t had an opportunity to tell her.”
His eyes grew wide with surprise. “Oh yes,” McDaniels said with sudden remembrance. “You are Sir William’s long-lost daughter. But this could be good for her. At least she will have a family now to help her through this.” He poured one last drink, and after emptying it, he walked to the door and picked up his medical bag. “I wouldn’t wait too long to tell her. Lady Aniela might require a reason to remain here... you, Miss Jessie, might be that reason.”
They both watched him leave.
Lucian pulled her into his arms and held her tight to his body. He didn’t like the stress this information put on her and his unborn child, but he knew they had to proceed in order to save Aniela.
But one other thing kept creeping into Lucian’s mind and it poked at him like a nagging headache. It was imperative he get word to Jaylon, so much so, that he planned to leave in the morning and give him the news in person.