Amanda St. James closed her bedroom door and walked silently down the hall. It was early in the morning, and she didn't want to wake anybody. She was up earlier than normal, but she wanted to get her morning ride in before the guests and her parents awoke.
She started down the marble staircase when she heard her father say her name. "Amanda Leigh St. James, what do you think your doing?"
Amanda only paused for a moment before she finished walking down the grand staircase. "Going for my morning ride, Father. What are you doing?" She knew that question would anger him, and she didn't care.
"Ordering you back up to your room. You are not going out till you put on something more appropriate."
Amanda looked at her wardrobe. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing? I've been wearing the same riding outfit for five years now."
"You what?" Andrew St. James turned red with anger. "You've been wearing pants to ride in since you were twelve? And where did you get them?"
Amanda raised her chin. "Well, Father, the pants are yours, but Aunt Connie gave them to me before she left for New York City with Uncle Skitts and Jack."
Andrew turned even redder at the mention of his estranged sister. "I told you you are never to mention her name to me. Go to your room and change. What if one of our guests would have seen you? They wouldn't think you are lady ready to enter society."
Amanda raised an eyebrow. "This is so ironic, Father, because I'm not ready to enter society. I don't want to be married to the stuffy men of my station." Amanda turned on her heels and ran up the stairs. She didn't want to argue with her father any longer.
She gave up all hope of her daily ride. The guests would be up soon, and several of them would want to ride with her. She wouldn't have minded normally. She usually hated riding alone, but that morning she had wanted to go where her Aunt Connie had called 'Central Park'. It was a small clearing in the woods that had reminded her of New York's Central Park.
Amanda walked over to her desk and picked up the last letter she had received from her Aunt Connie. It had been four years since she had heard from her. At the time she and Skittery had moved to a bigger apartment because she was pregnant. Amanda looked at their new address on the page. She wondered why she hadn't heard from her aunt in so long. She also wondered if they still lived at the same address. "There's one way to find out," she said aloud. Amanda spent the rest of the day going about her normal business. With only twenty-four hours till her introduction into society, she was busier than normal. She was so busy, that she didn't get to talk to her mother till after dinner that night.
Veronica slipped her arm in Amanda's as they left the dining room. "You're father tells me that you were seen wearing riding pants this morning."
"I'm sorry if I've disappointed you, Mother, but the proper riding habits are too restricting."
Veronica smiled and squeezed Amanda's arm. "I'm glad you have your own style. Did I ever tell you what Connie said about you while she was here?" Amanda stopped walking and looked at her mother.
"She said that no matter how hard Andrew tried, she would not let him break your free spirit. I'm glad to see he hasn't done that."
"No he hasn't. And I'm afraid that because of it our lives will change tomorrow forever."
"Tomorrow will change your life and it will turn ours upside down. After tomorrow, you won't be our little girl any longer."
Amanda looked at her hands. She didn't want to hurt her mother, but she had no choice if she was going to live her own life. "Mother, is it all right if I retire? I'm not feeling well, and tomorrow is a big day."
"Yes. I'll see you in the morning." Veronica kissed Amanda's cheek.
"I love you."
Veronica smiled. "I love you too." Amanda slowly turned and walked up the grand staircase.
Amanda pulled her hair up on top of her head and slipped the hat that Skittery had given her for her thirteenth birthday. It was just like the one he had worn when he had been in England. She put the letter she had written her mother in an envelope and laid it on her desk. She looked back at her room one last time before she threw her bag out the window. She followed the bag and climbed down the trellis.
Amanda ran as fast as she could for the stables. It was midnight, and the ride to London was five hours. The ship she wanted to catch left at eight. She had to hurry. She saddled the horse and strapped her bag behind the saddle. She mounted the horse and started it off in a full gallop. She knew it would probably kill the horse, but she had to run it in a full gallop most of the way to London if not the entire way.
By the time she reached London at five that morning, she was covered in dirt and dust. She looked more like lower class than she did when she left Wentwroth. This was exactly what she wanted. The less she looked like the Marchioness of Wentwroth the better. Amanda found the docks rather easily. She was at the ship's registry by six.
Amanda approached the window for ticket sales. The man behind the window looked her up and down. "May I help you, Miss?"
Amanda nodded as she pulled money out of her pocket. "Yes. I would like one third class ticket please."
"Your name?" Panic struck Amanda. She had never thought about needing to give her name. She couldn't very well give her name because when Andrew finds her missing, he will eventually think to check the ships that had trans-Atlantic routes. Suddenly two names popped into her head. Jack Kelly and Joseph O'Connell. Amanda snapped from her thoughts when the man behind the window asked her for her name again.
"O'Connell. Kelly O'Connell." The man wrote her name down. Amanda handed him the money, and he handed her the ticket. Amanda looked at the ticket and her excitement was obvious. She walked toward the ship.
"Lady Amanda, you have to get up. You have a busy day today." Amanda's maid opened the door to her Lady's bedroom to find it empty. She shook her head as she realized that she had gone for her morning ride. She began picking up the clothes from the night before. She picked up the corset from the back of the desk chair and noticed an envelope with 'Mother' written on it. The maid laid all of the clothes in the chair and left to find Veronica.
The maid found her in the parlor. She entered the parlor and bobbed a curtsey. "Your Grace, I found this in Lady Amanda's room." She handed Veronica the envelope.
"Thank you, Elaine." The maid bobbed another curtsey before she left the room. Veronica opened the envelope and began to read it. "Dear Mother, I'm sorry for you to find out this way, but I can't stay here. Father is forcing me to be someone I am not. I'm going where I can be me. I love you. As Always, Amanda." Veronica closed the letter and wiped away the tear that rolled down her cheek. She left the parlor to go find Andrew.
"God, I was on'y ten minutes late, Mandy! Why are ya gettin' so upset? Ya know I had to stop by Connie and Skittery's place. Yer gettin' upset for no reason." Jack ran his hands through his thick brown hair in frustration.
"Jack, I was just worried."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Ya get worried if I'm ten minutes late? Ya know dat I always talk ta Connie or Skittery, an' that never on'y takes a minute." Jack sat down at the table. "Mandy, ya need ta give me some space. If I say I'm gonna be 'ere by a certain time, den I'll be here. Ya don't hafta start worryin' till after thirty minutes." Jack was livid. He hated it when his space was cramped.
Mandy moved closer to Jack and kissed him deeply. Jack gently pushed her away. "Why'd you do that, Jack?"
Jack looked Mandy in the eye. "Because if I stay, I'll do somethin' I don't mean." He stood up and walked to the door. He grabbed his coat and hat. "I'll see ya in a few days." He left the townhouse in a rush. He walked back to the store he half owned. His apartment was above it.
He opened his apartment and threw his keys on the table by the door. His coat and hat were quick to follow. He sat on the couch. He was still frustrated. He had been seeing Mandy for six months now, and every time he thought he was in love with her, she would pull something that smothered the space he needed.
Jack was beginning to think he should have taken Sarah back five years ago when he had the chance. If he had he would have been married by now. For the first time in his life, Jack felt like the odd man out. He had always been the leader in everything, but now he was the one being left behind. He was twenty-four and the only one of his friends that wasn't happily married. Up until four months ago, Spot had been single too, but then he married his childhood sweetheart. Now Jack was the only single one.
He got off he couch and went into the small bedroom. He thought if he took a shower, he would feel better. He began unbuttoning his shirt when he looked at a framed picture on his dresser. He looked at it as if it were new. When in all actuality it was six years old. The picture had been taken at the reception of Connie and Skittery's wedding. In the picture he was holding a small girl as he twirled her around the dance floor. Jack smiled warmly at the memory.
"Amanda," he said her name softly. He had grown quite fond of her in the short time he had been in England. For the first time in several years, he found himself wondering how she was doing.