She woke to the sound of carriages - always carriages - floating in on the morning light. The noises of the city rushed in to greet her every morning and, as always, only left her eternally puzzled over why her husband, a fine respectable man, would be as imbecilic as to move them out of the fine country air and into this smog infested collection of noise. The metal rims of the carriages skipping over cobblestones, the baying of horses held just outside her window instead of inside a stable, and the constant murmur of people buzzing all around her, all grated on ears that longed for peace.
If she turned from the window, blocking what she could with her mounds of bedding, she could focus instead on the noise within her own house, the tall townhouse that reverberated sound in a way her father's country manor never had. She could hear the gentle cluttering of china in the kitchen below where Mary was preparing breakfast. She could hear the heavy footfall that was her husband crossing the hardwood floor, heading, no doubt, to his private study. And there, stringing them all together, was the gaily lilting voice of her daughter Helen, a squeal or giggle of delight adding punctuation to the general din of the household.
Patricia sighed and settled back into her bedding for a moment's indulgence. She had hoped, for her daughter's sake, to spend more time back home. Helen was a beautiful child, possessed of her own grace and adored by all who met her. Yet, for all her charm, she was a spirited girl, outspoken and intelligent for a girl of six - and all too willing to share opinions on all and sundry with whomever would listen. Even at this young age she showed signs of inheriting her father's wilful and unorthodox manner of thought. And while this may have been tolerated, even respected, in a man, it was not well thought on in a woman - even, or especially, in one of the standing to which Helen would rise.
It had been her hope to keep young Helen away from the bustle of the city for a few more years, to oversee her education herself, perhaps arrange a good match, a good life. But now, each day made that hope a little more distant. Each day spent talking to Robert, the young man her father tutored, who bought her pamphlets of all the lectures he attended. Each day she spent with her nose pressed to the glass of the front window, watching and wondering at all who passed. Each day spent glued to her father's side, or tucked into one corner or another with whatever volume she had managed to liberate from her father's library.
As if her occupation of Patricia's thoughts called her into being, Helen bound into her room, bouncing up onto her mother's bed. Her skirts flew askew, the pink ribbon on her tiny crinoline flashing from under the white of her dress, as she leaned in to place a kiss on her mother's cheek. Ever an affectionate child, Helen pressed herself into her mother's side, snuggling into the still warm bedding. Patricia patted her daughter's soft check and collected the blonde curls that had tumbled free of their restraints, pinning them back in place. She bit her tongue, resisting the urge to tell her daughter, for the third time this week, that that was not how a young lady entered a room.
Instead she rested her cheek on the cushion of her daughter's curls, smelling the faint lingering scent of infancy and letting Helen trace the lines of her hand. This was their time, and there were few precious moments a day when her daughter was her own.