Chapter 5:

"What a charming family." Mary commented as she and her brother made their way back to their temporary house to pack.

"Yeah, all good looking women." I could swear Mariah stepped out of a bikini mag." Henry replied as he started the engine to the beloved Audi.

"Henry! Mariah is engaged! You shouldn't have sexual fantasies about her, that would be plain wrong!" Mary exclaimed, unable to hide her bemused grin; her brother did not reply. "What do you think of Julia?"

"Julia? The younger sister? She's alright, not as hot as Mariah though." Henry thought, after a while.

"Yes, but she is a nice girl, you agree with me don't you?" Mary raised an eyebrow. "What do you think of the two girls?"

"Mariah's a million times hotter, but I like Julia best." Henry stated, pulling into their driveway.

Mary was surprised. "Why the sudden change of mind?"

Henry grinned at her, the same flirtatious grin that he offered to most of the women that he was able to command through his demeanour. "Because you told me to, sis." He said and Mary laughed.

"I'm glad I have that much influence on you then." She replied with a smirk.

***

"What do you think of her Fanny?" Edmund sat on her bed, gazing out the window whilst she packed. In the duration of twenty five minutes, Mrs Bertrum had grown ill and Edmund had decided to stay home with her.

"Of who?" Fanny asked as she zipped her duffle bag and sat down beside him.

"Of Mary Crawford of course!" He said. "Fanny are you even concentrating?"

Fanny was taken aback by the confronting accusation in form of a question. "I shall tell you when I get back." She replied coldly.

Edmund realised his mistake. "Fanny, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"

"Edmund!" She cried amongst his begging for her forgiveness. "It's okay. Leave it at that!" With a smile, she slung the duffle bag over her shoulders, gave him a shy peck on the cheek before leaving.

Edmund was left standing in the doorway of her bedroom, feeling conflicted, and the skin where she had kissed him was burning.

***

The journey interstate was filled with excited anticipation. Angus, though intending to drive his wife alone, had instead received the company of Mrs Norris and Mary Crawford.

"Darling, you know I get car sick; I wouldn't want to make a mess in your car!" Mariah had exclaimed dotingly, causing Angus's horror filled eyes to caress his beloved BMW.

Mariah, Julie and Fanny were driven by Henry Crawford, though he, for more of the journey sat in the passenger seat, showering Mariah with pretty compliments whilst the endeavoured the highways.

"You're a pretty good driver for someone who's never driven before." He remarked and she giggled, taking her eyes off the road to shoot him a flirtatious grin. Fanny felt her heart slam against her chest in absolute fear. There had been a reason to why it took so long for Mariah to acquire her licence. Julia, sitting beside Fanny was green, but not from carsickness. She was green with restrained envy.

Poor girl. Fanny thought and hoped that they would make it to Selsbury alive.

"So Julia, can you drive?" Henry's casual question was much welcomed by the youngest Bertrum sister.

"Of course! I've been driving for a while now. I don't want to sound conceited but I fancy myself a good driver." She answered quickly, eagerly.

"Oh really? You should drive for a while then. I'm sure Mariah would not mind." Henry said and Julia looked hopeful.

"No! Not now girly. Maybe on the way back. We can't just stop in the middle of the highway!" Mariah exclaimed and the man's attention was returned solely on her.

Julia slumped back into the sulky demeanour, her arms crossed and a pout adorned her lips. Every time Mariah giggled, the poor girl would grind her teeth to save herself from lashing out extremely rude remarks to her sister. Fanny wondered why they hadn't fallen off yet, Julia's teeth, that was.

Selsbury, though a dreary place, full of muted chatter, provided Fanny with an exhilarating experience. She had never been outside of the boundaries that Mrs. Burtrum had set for her, and now, climbing quickly out of the car, she was beyond belief.

Mariah's future home was, despite resembling another mansion, was considered by the buoyant girl, quite charming and quaint. The city was a busy metropolis that offered only the latest in fashion – couture brands of clothing were displayed proudly in the crystal clear windows. Mariah however, had been expecting something entirely different from what she saw. She had read in magazines, boasted to what friends that would listen, that she were to marry into a family that will give her all that she desired. That they would be living in the newest penthouse in the middle of the city and that limousines would be the daily ride offered.

"Darling, where's the Jacuzzi?" She asked and was disappointed when Angus replied reasonably that he had replaced it with a small basketball court.

***

The estate of the son of one of the wealthiest men in England was extremely vast and although Fanny had quite enjoyed horse back riding in the fields, racing in Go-Carts on the track and venturing into an intense game of snooker, she could not help but find all the unnecessary features of the house impractical.

Of course they were always fun to play with, but she guessed that was what amusement parks were for.

"Fanny!" Henry's sharp call broke her from her chain of thoughts and she pulled the hair away from her face.

"Yes?"

"We're all going for a walk; would you like to join us?" Henry Crawford, always the smooth, polite man had extended a hand and offered it to her.

"Sure." She replied, unaware of the gesture and sped up to catch to the group. Angus and Mariah were already ahead, Angus telling his fiancé of a story that consisted of his last year of college and Mariah was looking impatient.

"So tell me about yourself Fanny." Henry said casually, starting a conversation to ward off the silence that plagued the air.

Julia was too slow and the poor girl was captured by her aunt's pestering, forcing her to slow her steps in order to keep Mrs. Norris company.

"What would you like to know?" Fanny replied to amuse the man. He was a plain person, Henry Crawford was. Neither tall nor handsome, what he lacked, he made up in unrequited charm. It was impossible not to laugh at his jokes or succumb to his will. Fanny however, had seen through his plans, and had, fortunately, found a way to counter his constant attacks in forms of playful flirts.

"Well, for one thing, why you do no have a boyfriend." He stated and Fanny felt her cheeks colour.

"Well…" She paused to choose her words carefully. "I haven't found the right person yet."

Henry was not entertained by the question and came forth with another. "You've just finished high school am I correct?" Fanny nodded. "And from what I've heard, you're quite the intelligent woman."

Fanny shrugged. "I try." She responded shortly, she knew where this conversation was leading. She had seen him practise it on Julia, only to leave her broken hearted – again – after he saw Mariah enter the room.

"Ah, the brains and the intelligence." He smirked and Fanny rolled her eyes when she thought he wasn't looking. "So have you ever-…"

There it was. One of those have you ever questions that would result in disaster if the wrong answer was supplied.

Fanny held up a finger before answering her mobile. "Hello? Oh Edmund, hey! Yeah, I'm taking to Henry. Oh I'm sure he won't mind, it doesn't matter." To Henry, she mimed that she would be on the phone for a while, and that he should proceed to catch up to the other two without her.

Uninterested in her conversation with Edmund that did not involve him, he nodded, flashed her a grin before quickening his strides to catch up to Angus and Mariah.

Sighing with relief, Fanny pretended to speak to Edmund over the phone for another fifteen minutes before she slid it back into her pocket with an almost sad sigh. Whilst she could pretend that Edmund had called her, she knew that he had never done so in the five years that she had owned a mobile phone. Sometimes he texted, but that was only when he was in need of advice, or when he was simply bored and required someone to temporarily cure his boredom.

***