Synopsis: What if Royce King II hadn't been in that alleyway between Vera's house and the Hale's? What if he had only gotten stupid drunk that night, woken up the next day, and married Rosalie the following week, and she had her three children, just like she wanted? Wouldn't this be her "Happily Ever After"? What would that look like?

Setting: circa June, 1950, King family estate, Rochester, NY.

Chapter summary: Her again? I thought Royce didn't go in for repeats ... but he does so love his Scotch, doesn't he?


Mrs. Royce King II.

That's who I am now, Mrs. Royce King II, or Mrs. King, or Mother, or, hardly ever at all any more: Rosalie. The only person in my life that calls me that now is Vera, and I rarely see her, given the many social obligations I have.

Besides, she lives on East end, whereas we? The Kings? We have a palatial house on the West End of Rochester on large grounds.

Well, that is our primary residence.

One could say that we practically rule the city from our estate.

Because we do.

There isn't a shop or business that is not owned or beholden to the King family.

So material things? I don't even have to think of them any more, what I desire, I have, and if I don't, it simply takes a look or nod, and then it's mine.

"Money is no object." Not to some, but to the King family, it is an object, and we simply move it around from one account to another. It would be tedious to keep track of it all, but that's what one has accountants and CPAs and wealth management staff for.

Estates? Yes. Money? Yes. Staff? Yes. Servants? Yes. Children?

Yes.

I had wanted two boys and a girl, and when we had our first-born, I was so pleased, for we were right on track. I had wanted to name the boy Walter, after my father, but Royce would have none of that. He had his own familial obligations. So 'Royce King III' it was.

But then we had Constance, which threw me off a bit, so we tried again.

That's when we had Charity.

And then we were unable to have children, and haven't had any for the past ten years now.

Well, to do her credit, Charity is a lovely girl. All my children are beautiful, of course, just like me, Rosalie King, née Hale. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, proper, obedient ... perfect. Just like me, ... and Royce.

And strangely enough, it was my girls with whom I have a much stronger connection. Odd, because Mother and I never had a relationship at all, not even until now. It was always strained before I was married off, and now it's simply just cordial.

For my son, Royce III, and myself ...

I wish I could say I knew him at all. I wish I knew how my son's mind worked, but behind those distant eyes of his was an impenetrable mind.

I, myself, am not of an affectionate nature, but at least my daughters and I, well, at least we relate, at least we have conversations at the dinner table, at least they answer me respectfully when asked a question.

My son? Off in a corner with a book, not hearing one word I say. Ever. Even at meal times, as soon as the food is on the table, he eats a bite, takes a bite with him, and is off in his room, reading.

I had my fears about that boy. He is the heir apparent. He has responsibilities. Responsibilities that are fast approaching him. He's already fifteen, now. So we had sent him off to private school, to strengthen his education, yes, but also to form some kind of character in him.

And one day, he asked about the "one, true church," citing some papist nonsense. I asked him where he got these ideas, and he showed me: the Summa Theologica. He had actually read more than a few pages of it, too.

I made Royce come with me on that meeting with the school's administrator. The idiot spouted ideas about "rigorous thinking" and other things that he may have been talking to the wall about, because I had already stood to take my leave.

We cut that school right off, and had Royce III out that day.

I thought perhaps education abroad? So we considered England until Royce III said something eagerly about studying Fordyce's and Taylor's and Hartley's Sermons.

I thought anything would be better than Popery, but, oh, dear, Anglicanism? The Kings are (just as the Hales are) Presbyters. We need no such episcopal ideas running rampant in our household!

We sent our son to Australia, instead. At least that way he would man up.

Unfortunately, he did. He returned from those wilds a year later entirely changed. And now, here he is, fifteen years old, rebellious, implacable, impenetrable, inscrutable, calm, self-assured, set in his conceits on the inside, and a perfect, chiseled exemplar of manhood on the outside tried and tested in the wilds of the Australian outback.

So like his father.

At least, that what I think he is. He "Yes, Mother"'s me absentmindedly, but there now seems to be this untouchable core to him that I cannot reach.

I do not know my own son.

Yes, I am Mrs. Royce King II, and I have it all.

So why do I feel so ...

I shook my head, freeing them of such trifling thoughts. This night Royce was to do his marriage duty, and I had to be properly disposed, because my husband seemed distracted after having returned from the gentleman's club and at supper tonight.

I sent him off to his study with his smoking jacket where he would savor his Rémy Martin XO to ease whatever was troubling him, but ...

Of course, Royce was a Scotch man, but I had learned his rule though more than a decade of repetition: Scotch is savored before the meal; Cognac, after. It served him well when it was obeyed, and it made everything in the household go so much more smoothly when he wasn't upset.

Royce entered the bed chamber abruptly, interrupting my reflections.

"My dear," he said distractedly, not looking at me. His valet helped him into his night clothes and then left along with my maid.

Royce got into bed, covered himself, and turned from me.

I touched his shoulder, tentatively: "Royce ..." I began.

"Not tonight," he snapped back in irritation, "I'm not in the mood!"

And he huddled into himself more.

Not in the mood? What's not to be 'in the mood'? Today was Wednesday. He did his marriage duty on Wednesdays. It was like clockwork. Wednesday: marriage duty. There was nothing to be in the mood about.

Men.

Well, there was nothing for it. He was being a petulant child for whatever reason, so I would just have to help him along.

And so I did. I had been married to him for more than sixteen years, so it would require no effort from me, really.

And he was a man, so it would require no effort from me, really.

"No," he whined as I began my caresses with hands and lips, "I don't want ..."

But even if Royce seemed to mind, 'little Royce' didn't. I lifted my night gown, mounted Royce, and took what he was required to give me.

It took rather longer than the usual three seconds that it normally does.

But, as usual, he was asleep before he finished emptying himself into me.

I dismounted, went to my side of the bed, and as I thought what this meant, I kept my hips raised. We hadn't had a child in ten years, but I was still in my mid-thirties, there was still a chance for another boy if our heir apparent failed to carry the King name forward into the next generation.

Why was Royce 'not in the mood'?

He hadn't been 'not in the mood' for about a year.

I was out of the bed, Royce snoring heavily, and down the hall, and down the stairs into the foyer, racing, stately, with measured steps, at the same speed that that thought, and the following conclusions, raced through my head.

Then I went downstairs.

"Mrs. Wilson," I called out.

Downstairs was bustling with the servants' activities, but that all stopped at the sound of my voice and with the knowledge that the Mistress of the house was present ... downstairs.

"Yes, Mrs. King," Mrs. Wilson, the housekeeper, materialized out of nowhere right in front of me. Uncanny how she could be nowhere one moment and then right in front of one in the next instant.

I had learned a long time ago what was meant when an unmarried woman, a servant, took the name "Mrs. Wilson." Growing up in the Hale household, we had our own 'Mrs. Wilson' who was in no way related to the woman standing attentively in front of me. She had had another name, a long time ago; I don't remember what it was.

She was Royce's first, of many, conquests in this house.

And, following Mother's advice, she was my first conquest, too.

My first of many.

But if I had paid careful attention to my looks and figure over the year, growing even more beautiful with a very strict discipline and regimen — I'm proud to say that I'm the envy of girls half my age — Mrs. Wilson's hard life was unkind to her. She easily looked twenty years older than her forty years. Rail thin, lined face ... careworn.

Hardworking, unshakeable, yes: indispensable.

For me, now, particularly.

"Mrs. Wilson," I repeated, glaring at her, beginning, but then I suddenly remembered that we had a rather large audience, all staring at us, so I changed course quickly, "I think I need a fag, would you take a smoke with me outside?"

Mrs. Wilson was the perfect servant. Her expression didn't change an iota as she and I left the work area to retire to the rear courtyard. I heard the frenetic cleaning activity and preparation work for tomorrow of the servants renew, but this time with more than a susurration of speculation.

I ignored that; I had other, more important, things to discover.

It was a little bit chilly for a June evening, but I wasn't planning on having a long conversation outside.

Mrs. Wilson lit two cigarettes and passed me one. I broke off and discarded the filter and took a long drag. Actually, the smoke did me a world of good. I was wound tight from the activity from a disinclined Royce and then the following thoughts. After that pull, I felt full of energy. I felt I could take on anybody and scratch their eyes out.

Even Royce. Even his lover from today.

I checked the area ... nobody else decided to have a smoke now ... wisely.

"Mr. King has been downstairs in need of something?" I asked Mrs. Wilson. It wasn't a question.

Mrs. Wilson looked away. "Yes," she began quietly, "He said he ..."

I ground the fag underfoot. "Let's go," I said curtly, barely containing my rage. I was ready to kill somebody right now, but we really couldn't afford to lose Mrs. Wilson. Irreplaceable. Besides, it wasn't her fault.

This time.

Nor even that time, all those years ago. It was Royce and his little Royce then as well, as it was now.

Mrs. Wilson looked back at me calmly, but also with a touch of pity in her eyes. That annoyed me to no end. I had to remind myself that it wasn't in my best interest to kill her right now.

"Yes, Mrs. King," she responded obediently.

She also extinguished her fag, saving the mostly unsmoked cig for later, and we returned to servants area. Most of the servants had retired to bed by now, what with their very early start of on the morrow.

Mrs. Wilson led me to the servants quarters.

Up to Moira's door.

Moira.

Moira was the girl a year ago. A little brown-haired Scottish thing. Royce's type: he liked the spirit (single malt, of course, and aged at least 21 years) and he like the girls (but he wasn't as particular about the age here ... or the malt).

Moira had had a miscarriage as the result of their trysting — very sad — and Royce had lost interest, as he always does, regardless.

It appears he had regained some interest.

I nodded to Mrs. Wilson. She rapped firmly three times on the door. And I prepared to visit something much worse than the Wrath of God upon her.

Me.

Mrs. Royce King II.


[1] This piece was influenced by the movie Gosford Park. I also received inspiration from geophf's MSR "A Bottle of Scotch" chapter. This story departs from the history told in Eclipse, ch 7, and is also heavily influenced by geophf's "Rose by a Lemon Tree," the sub-chapters of "Her Name: Mother," particularly the mother-daughter talk ("Birds and Bees") and the fall-out caused by it ("PS: The Help"). That, as well as the conversation I had with Jocelyn Torrent about Rosalie's happiness now (or lack thereof) as a vampire, conceived this idea.

Yes, geophf's my brother. No, Jocelyn's not my sister. Ideas used by permission.

[2] Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas, freely available in its entirety on the 'net.

[3] Fordyce's Sermons are mentioned in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Mr. Collins seemed to think it an excellent idea to read them out to the Bennett girls.

[4] Smoking is used throughout this story for period accuracy. This writer does not condone smoking, and the Surgeon General says ... blah-blah-blah.