It started, as all these things start, with a carriage ride.
At nineteen, Edith, daughter of Lord Granville, made her official debut in society after a carriage ride that felt far too fast for her liking. Her mother, Lady Amelia Granville, had chattered the whole ride to the palace, providing little reminders and helpful hints that made her daughter all the more nervous.
How can one not be when presented to the queen?
Seven years later, Edith was not easily riled any longer. At twenty-six, unmarried and with a face that was difficult to look at, she had gotten harder over the years, her skin becoming a thick, steely armor that few could penetrate.
Sadly, one of the few who could worm his way through was sitting across from her.
Her father had always been a distant man, and once or twice she suspected he simply had no idea how to treat a daughter. But while distant, he was not cold, always happy to see her, always complimenting her drawings when she was brave enough to show him. That had stopped once Thomas Haken left his mark on her.
Now, Edie was made to suffer with her father's silence, the way he would not look at her. He hadn't properly set his eyes on her face since the physician had showed him the damage. While her mother's strangled sob still echoed through her ears, the slamming of the doors as her father left her hurt worse.
For as she laid there in her bed, knowing her life was forever changed, neither of them made to soothe her. Embrace her, offer a word of comfort, a hand to hold. Nothing. It was Lucy Granville who crawled into her bed later that night when her sobs echoed down the corridor.
Her mother grieved the pain of her daughter, and her father grieved the loss of opportunity. Edie resolved many years ago that their reasons did not matter. Neither of them could look at her, so much in fact that after that first and only season had ended, they had left her in London with her uncle.
Again, she resoled not to care. Henry Granville was a delight to be around, and he had been the first to make her smile after the Incident. Indeed, her uncle had been a soothing, gentle balm to her broken heart, and now she could not bear to leave him behind.
Speaking of leaving…
"I beg you reconsider it, Edie." Lord Granville spoke, still looking out the window to watch London pass by. "You mother has been missing you. Richard and William, too. The country air will be good for you. Country folk are a kinder lot, anyhow." At the mention of her mother, Edie felt nothing but a distant pang of hurt, one that was soothed over by time and understanding. But mention of her older and younger brothers, Edie found herself gripped with longing.
Richie, the eldest of the three of them, was married now for three years with a pair of boys, much to his pride. Edie had attended his wedding, much to his new bride's vexation. Richie had sworn to her that his bride, his Agnes, would not change his mind about keeping her close, but Edith was not entirely convinced. Willie, on the other hand, was the youngest and her favorite. Currently, he was still single, but had his eye on a lovely girl named Helen.
The three of them had always been close, even after the Incident. Richie promised never to shun her from Granville, and Willie had sworn he would duel any man who insulted her. She was thankful for her brothers, even if time and pain had created a distance.
"When you can look at me and ask, papa, I shall decide to consider it." She spoke it gently, for although the man across from her had been twisting a knife in her gut for the past seven years, he was her father still. She wanted him to look, wanted him to ask while taking in the damage a madman had caused.
Disappointment should have not tasted so bitter when Lord Granville huffed, and continued to study the outside world.
Her brothers had written now and again about the state of their parents. Whenever mama smiled at a party, or whenever papa would join them for a hunt or a day of fishing at the pond. Sometimes it pained her to know they were so happy without her, but other days she remembered how Richie said papa was quieter now, leaving his estate less and less.
Over the years, anger faded and understanding set in, but that did not take the pain out of knowing the reason for their distance. She was their only surviving daughter, and was ruined to them. They could see little else but the scar on her face.
"I…I hear you're becoming quite good at portrait paintings." Her father complimented after a moment.
A beat passed. "Yes," she replied. "I suppose it is fitting that I enjoy portrait paintings most of all."
Lord Granville bristled. "Do not joke, Edith. Especially about such things. It is unbecoming." He said the last part more quietly.
"Well, I need to have something." She grumbled to herself. "Why not a dark sense of humor?"
Father ignored that. "I am to return to Granville House tomorrow. Should you change you mind, send word beforehand."
I won't, Edie thought. She was already thinking about her next painting.
Finally, the carriage pulled to a stop. Peeking out, Edie did not grin at the sight of Henry Granville's home though she was more than relieved to see it.
"Good-day father. Thank you for the tea and cake." Before he could reply, she stepped out and rushed to the door.
"How was it?" Her uncle called a moment after hearing the front door slam shut. He heard her groan as he continued to drag his brush across the painting before him.
"Well enough." She called back, removing her coat and tossing it over a chair. Her uncle was not a immensely wealthy man, and so a footman was not in his employ. However, he did have a cook, a pair housemaids, a scullery maid and a valet. "We had tea in his suite but it wasn't too painful." Lord Granville had come from his country estate to London for an important meeting with his banker, and only called upon his daughter for tea the day before he was due to travel back.
"Was your mama in attendance?" Another soft, gentle stroke of the brush, and the portrait was nearly complete.
"Papa said she had taken ill. He did not wish for her to suffer the travel." With a soft groan of relief, Edie reached up and carefully undid the necklace that was currently choking her. She didn't understand the current style. She much preferred her long chained lockets and pendants. Mindful that some of her uncle's guests could have sticky fingers, she slipped string of blue beads and white pearls into her purse. "Honestly, it is rather a relief." She admitted, walking into the drawing room of her uncle's studio. "I had prepared for the stern presence of Lord Granville, not the soft, sad silence of his lady."
Henry laughed at this, but was quick to stifle it. "Say that five times fast." Edie smiled back, the deep scar that ran from above her eyebrow, down across her soft cheek, and ending at her lower jaw, just beneath her ear, pulling tight.
She did it freely, and Henry was grateful each and every time she gave him that smile.
He turned back to his work, gesturing carefully with the end of his brush. "What do you think?"
Edie stepped closer to look over his shoulder. It was the portrait of a young woman, she was plump and ruffled looking, a blush running across her cheeks, hair loose. She looked to be a working class woman, a coin glinting in her hand, one of her small breasts exposed.
"She's holding a coin, staring right back at the one viewing her." Edie tilted her head, thoughtful. "She looks sad. Reserved, as though this has been her fate many times before." Edie grimaced, her mind immediately retreating to the one possibility of why a woman would look so sad to hold a coin just given to her.
Henry drew back, frowning. "I was thinking she looked rather cheeky."
Edie hummed, turning away. "I suppose it is up to the viewer. Anyway, don't mind me. I always think the worst." She hummed, reaching up for her hair.
"But would you call it cold? Lacking of spirit?"
Edie frowned, returning to his side for another look. She tilted her head once more. "No. Rather, I fear I see too much of it to look terribly long. It is an uncomfortable feeling, but one I can control, so I continue to look." A most curious feeling indeed.
"Worthy of being skied?"
Edie scoffed. "Not at all. Though I cannot say the same for that rather dour portrait of that marquis's daughter."
Her uncle laughed aloud once more, setting down his palette and taking up a rag to wipe his hands. "You want to know something amusing?"
"Always." She replied, still fiddling with her hair, trying to get it out of the complicated array her aunt Lucy had prepared for her. It was not that she did not enjoy her aunt's attention to her hair, but the tight updos made it difficult to concentrate.
"I was rather pointedly critiqued about that same portrait at Somerset House."
"Oh." She hummed, sighing as she finally released her hair, allowing it to fall down her back. "By a worthy eye at least?"
"I should think so. His barbs were so…"
"Eloquent." He said at last, a sly smile tugging his lips.
"Well," she flopped down on the chaise lounge, kicking her feet up on the footrest with a contented sigh. "Who was this eloquent pointy critique?"
Edie grimaced, confused and trying to work out how a Bridgerton earned such praise from her uncle. "Well that's something you don't hear everyday. Bridgerton's are beautiful, worthy of being placed on a mantle or a wall to be admired for all time. I did not think one would have an eye for art that went beyond the surface."
HEYA! I'm hoping this story finds you well, and if not, I hope your day gets better :D
thank you to Darkwolf76 who took time out of her day to make me comfortable with publishing this :D
I do not claim to be a historian, but I will try my best.