In the Face of all Odds.
He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it in a way she had come to expect. She had said all that she needed to say and got it off her chest. Now, it was his turn. He took a deep breath and smiled at her. He spoke carefully, but with undeniable feeling. Never had so much hung in the balance for him.
“If you will allow me, I shall think for you and try to put into words what we both feel. You say you would not wish to trap me in any way.” She nodded, unable to speak.
“Why not? I would not mind. I would not feel trapped. I was more than ready to ensnare you into marriage with me so that I could maintain this so-necessary illusion for us all. I was afraid that you would wake up, all-too-soon to what I was doing, plotting, planning, and with the household’s collusion. Then you would castigate me for being so cruelly immoral, without concern for anything except my own selfish feelings. But, however little time I might have had with you before that ax fell, it would have been worth it to me. I even managed to persuade myself that what I was doing might never be discovered. I could hope.
“I came to realize that the only immoral thing about what I intended, considering how much I love you, was if it were not to go forward out of fear of my being discovered.”
Selena had gradually straightened her shoulders as he spoke, gaining strength from his honesty with her, of his real feelings for her. She was not sure she could believe what she was sensing and hearing. She looked up into his eyes. Nothing had changed. He still looked upon her with the same love she had always seen, even though his name had changed.
“Do you really want this to go forward, Robert?”
“Yes, Selena, my love. I do. I want this to go forward with all of my heart.”
“No matter what anyone in this household might say of us? About this deception, this abandonment of morality?” She scrutinized his face and saw nothing to cause her any concern.
“What deception? What abandonment of morality? I am Charles, remember? Or I was. They still think that you believe that I am. I do not care what others might say of us. I never did. You and your children are all that matter to me. They will put it all down to me anyway; my moral weakness, taking advantage of a poor, vulnerable, and helpless invalid. They believe, or did at first believe, that I intended to seduce you and take you to my bed so that I would not lose any of this”—he waved his hand toward the window—“that I grew up with.”
Had she just chuckled at his so welcome and exciting words? Yes, she had.
“Imagine what I shall be surrounded by, in just the blink of an eye and with so little effort. Three beautiful young daughters, whom I love unreservedly; a wife I have dreamed of for the last ten years; and you are also carrying again. Charles’s son. Our son. My son. I shall soon be surrounded by four beautiful young women, and shall have a son too, and all with such little effort for such a grand reward.” He smiled at her, pleased to see that her look had changed.
“There are those who will say that I desired to marry you to see that any son you might give birth to, shall not inherit and displace me. They will think the worst of me and will convince themselves that I am capable of anything to see him removed in some way from the lineage. Just as my uncle tried to do with me.” She could not speak.
“I can assure you that I will welcome your son, our son, as my heir, my first-born son, which is what I will feel for him, and then we can work on adding to our family.
“Yes, they will say what they will of me. They already are. I cannot stop them. Marry me, Selena, and I will be happy to remain Charles, for the rest of my life if that is what you would like. Or, if you tell me that I presume too much and that I should go, I shall do that instead.” She touched his hand reassuringly.
“I could never tell you to go, Robert. I do not want this to change either. The children don’t want it to end. I have seen and heard them. They half think that you are a reincarnation of their father, which you are, and they are happy as I never expected either them, or me, to ever be again. They have studiously maintained this deception around me that you are Charles. I do not want to see anything change.” She became thoughtful.
“But you, Robert, why would you wish to continue this deception now that I know who you really are?”
He made himself more comfortable beside her and explained the ingenuity of what he intended, knowing that he had won not only the battle, but the war.