Leopold flicked through the racks of clothes and then turned to Kate in disgust as he held up a pink tshirt with the saying 'Spoiled Brat' embossed across the front, "You cannot possibly expect me to approve of any of this attire for the children."
Kate had her hands full, Levi's for the boys and the cutest floral print Oshkosh overalls for Emily, as she smiled at Leopold, "Just wait til we get to the junior department. You are in for a shock when you see what your average teenager is wearing these days." Placing the pile of clothes in his hands, she headed down the aisle, "Come on, Leopold. We still have a lot to do." As she walked she picked up a couple boys tshirts and plopped them on top of the pile in Leopold's arms.
Readjusting the pile, he followed behind her, "I was actually pondering the fact, that Emily might be causing Stuart and Charlie a large amount of stress about now. I will gladly head back to the apartment and let you take care of this. You hardly need my assistance."
"Emily is fine. You aren't getting out of this. Now come on."
He reluctantly followed her towards the other side of the store where Kate spotted a pair of jeans with a flower design on one leg, "These are perfect for Charlotte."
"You are joking. Kate, I am putting my foot down on this. Maybe the young people of this century enjoy flaunting their bodies in an inappropriate manner but not my niece. Do you want her to attract every young ruffian on the street?"
"Let her see what it's like here. Let her enjoy being young and carefree, something she can't do when we get home."
"Pray tell what good will it do her? She is already headstrong and this freedom will only cause me more grief once we are back in England. And have you even contemplated the fact that she might very well not want to return to her own time after she has experienced this freedom?"
"I am quite serious. You have already told her she can be anything a man can be."
"And she can."
"Not in her position, Kate. Not in her time. Her situation is nothing like yours."
"I just don't want her to think that all there is to life is marriage and a family. She doesn't have to settle for that. She has choices."
"Is this conversation about Charlotte, or yourself?"
"And what is that suppose to mean?"
"Did you make the wrong choice, Kate?"
Kate was shocked by his question. "I can't believe you just asked me that."
He did not want to start a fight, that wasn't his intention but as usual he spoke before he thought. He moved over to one of the racks full of brightly colored tshirts, desperately wanting to change the subject, "Charlotte is quite fond of yellow." He thumbed through the rack with his free hand and pulled one out.
Kate took a deep breath, knowing that it would be just as easy for her to sprout off something to rile him up. She looked at the tag to make sure of the size, "That should be fine." She took a quick check of the items in his arms, to make sure the kids were taken care of clothes wise. " Well, we've made a good dent in the things we need, so maybe we should get back to the kids."
"I think that is a wise choice at this time."
Laden down with bags they made the trek back to the apartment, but there was a strain between them that hadn't been there earlier. As they reached the door to the apartment, Leopold paused before knocking and turned to her, " I was out of line earlier." It was always hard for him to admit he was wrong. Taking a deep breath he continued, "You have sacrificed a whole life for me and not many women would go to such extremes as you have."
"I don't consider it a sacrifice, Leopold. It's the life I chose because I love you. Yes, there are times when you are stubborn and argumentative and I want to get as far away from you as possible, and that's when I wish I was here. But those moments quickly change when I watch you sooth Emily into a peaceful sleep or the sight of you coming in from a long ride on Merlin. It still takes my breath away, that I have the white knight on the horse always at my beck and call. It's not wild and exciting but it's wonderful. Our life together is wonderful."
He put the bags down and took her into his arms, "I needed to hear that, Kate. There are times I require that reassurance. Our life has not been as idyllic as I hoped it would be."
"Leopold, nobody's is."
"Well, I suppose if I must have an imperfect life than I am extremely grateful I have that existence with you."
She smiled, "You do have a way with words."
He leaned in to kiss her and the apartment door opened nearly knocking him over. Charlie holding onto a struggling tearful Emily looked slightly embarrassed but relieved to see them, "Ooops, sorry. Emily's been at the door the last hour, listening for you."
Leopold took her into his arms and the tears soon subsided, "What am I to do with you, young lady?"
"Hug me, Papa, hug me." Emily wrapped her tiny arms around his shoulders and squeezed.
Kate picked up the bags and moved past them into the room raising her eyebrows. "I am competing with a 3 year old. It's hopeless."
He followed behind her, Emily attached, "Kate, I have this situation under control. I promise you that by the time we return to England Emily's attachment to me will be non existent."
Kate laughed, "I didn't realize we were going to be staying in New York until Emily turns 21."
"Ah, yes, Kate, you continue to find this subject amusing when I, on the other hand, am taking this problem quite seriously."
She shook her head as she sat the bags on the couch and began to empty them. The children gathered around her and Leopold stood defeated, he gave Emily's hair a tousle, " Emily, darling, do you not have any desire to see what your mother brought you?"
She shook her head, "I busy hugging Papa."
"You can hug Papa at anytime."
"Yes. Now. I can hug Papa now."
Kate turned back towards him smiling, "I can see how seriously you are taking this. You really know how to take charge and use your authority. It's very impressive."
Frustrated he sighed, "You are her mother."
She stood up and moved over to them both holding up the outfit she bought Emily, "Look, Emily. New clothes for our special trip. Should we try them on for Papa?"
Emily loosened her grip on Leopold and eyed the outfit, "For Papa."
"Yes, for Papa."
She struggled out of Leopold's arms and reached for the clothes. Then pulled her mother's hand towards the bedroom. Charlie watched the whole scene in awe, "Wow, she can be a mom. It's amazing."
Leopold feeling somewhat baffled by the ease Kate took over the situation, straightened himself up and then smiled at Charlie, "Yes, and a fine mother she is, Charles."
Kate just inside the bedroom door, turned back and smiled at Leopold.
Stuart sat in the library with his papers spread in front of him. He wasn't the neatest person so there was no order to them and it was often hard to find exactly what he was looking for without going through them 2 or 3 times, but today it took one shuffle through until the name Blackmore sprung out at him and he felt the dread resurface.
A few days ago this name meant nothing. He only recently come across the information and was still in research to find out many of the details but this morning Charlotte had brought it to reality. Before these names had been just that. Names only. Now he could place names with faces. Innocent faces and that made everything more difficult for him to grasp.
Now he had the knowledge that the Blackmore family were acquainted with Kate and Leopold's family and they were friends. Childhood friends, best friends. It was so much easier when the name meant nothing. It was so much easier when his ancestors were back in their own century where there could be no repercussions and history would go on as it should. Now there was the chance that it could change. If this information ever became known to Leopold, it would.
He glanced down at the paper and looked over it to make sure he had the data correct. A child born, out of wedlock, to Emily Mountbatten and Colin Blackmore in the year 1893. A girl. Emily Mountbatten dies in childbirth minutes later. Stuart slammed down his fist on the paper. 15 years of age. Emily will die at the age of 15. The same age Charlotte is right now. The thought of that sweet little girl, the apple of Leopold's eye, not reaching her 16th birthday was too much. He could hardly imagine the devastation it would cause the family. There was no way a father, especially one like Leopold, could sit by and allow this to happen to the child he adored. Leopold could never find out and that meant that Stuart was going to have to put on a good act. But how? He was useless at hiding anything. And hiding anything from Leopold was next to impossible. The man wouldn't let up when he realized something was being kept from him. He was stubborn and persistent and had the charm to extract information often without one knowing it.
Stuart weighed his options. Columbia's library was open all night. He could stay and curl up on one of the overstuffed chairs and tell the others he had a deadline and it was unavoidable. They would easily accept the excuse. Or he could head back and put on the act. Pretend everything was fine. How could he? . How could he look at that child again without breaking down? He couldn't do it. Leaning on the desk, he buried his head in the papers. He couldn't go back, not now. That overstuffed chair was sounding pretty good right now, anything to avoid facing them tonight.