Well, it's the end of the road for our fine characters. By the end of this chapter, one character will find their most risky decision to be their best, one secret will be revealed, one girl will give up her stubbornness, and one character will die. Thanks to everyone that stuck to the story (even when I didn't) and enjoy the next 4600 words, because they're the last 3
"Oh Margaret, I'm so sorry." Charlotte whispered, reaching out to touch her friend.
"I don't want to talk about it!" Margaret cried, running out of the room.
Charlotte hesitated for a moment, knowing that being around people would be the last thing that Margaret would want right now. Somehow, she had to fix this. And the first plan that came to her mind was to kill Alexander. So she took off her heeled shoes and borrowed Margaret's everyday ones, running down the stairs and out into the street.
First, she checked the most obvious place, Alexander's house. It was unlocked and completely empty. I hope he was kidnapped Charlotte thought angrily, tromping upstairs. She checked in every room, the only sign that Alexander had even been in the house recently was the clean breeches and jacket laid out on his bed. Charlotte rolled her eyes and slammed his bedroom door shut. How dare he?
Charlotte then walked to the bar, where a miserable bastard such as Alexander should be drowning his regret. Giving up Margaret would be the greatest mistake he would ever make, and being beat up by Charlotte would be his greatest embarrassment. Justice was sweet as both sentences would be served in the same day.
She pushed open the door and sheets of heavy smoke rolled out, clogging her throat. The stench of misery and rum filled the air, pooling at her feet. She scrunched her nose and ignored the wolf whistles that accompanied her arrival, scanning the room for Alexander.
For whatever reason, he wasn't there. He couldn't be out celebrating! If he was, though, he'd regret it soon enough. Where on earth could he be? The sun was beginning to set, for while it was spring, it was still early May, and there were no long summer nights yet. Charlotte scanned the town square around her, looking at the small shops and houses, wondering where on earth Alexander could be! She didn't know of his friends (If he had any. Humph.), so she didn't know which houses to check. And it seemed rather awkward to knock on doors and say "oh hello there, I was wondering if you're friends with a man named Alexander Cotey, because I'd love to know where he is right now."
There's no way that would work.
So Charlotte checked what she deemed to be the last possible place: the general store that Alexander worked at. It was a slim chance, for he was given the day off – for the wedding he ditched. She pushed open the door, and looked to see nothing. She sighed heavily and turned to leave, when she heard a cry.
"Hello? Hello! Is someone there?"
Charlotte turned towards the sound of the cry and ran to the storeroom. "Is someone in there?" she asked.
"Yes, it's me, Alexander!" a panicked voice replied.
Charlotte's demeanor darkened and she leaned against the door. "Oh. Why are you in here?"
"Someone locked me in here!" Alexander said, banging a fist against the door. "Now let me out!"
"Or not." Charlotte replied smugly. "It'd serve you right."
"What did I do?" Alexander said, anxiety filling his voice. "Please, who is out there?"
"Charlotte." She stated, admiring her nails and smiling at her clear advantage in the situation.
"Charlotte! Charlotte you have to let me out of here!" Alexander said, sighing with relief. They were friends, she had to let him out!
"No, I don't have to let you out, actually." Charlotte stated. "In fact, if I wanted to, I could leave."
"No, Charlotte, don't! Please, I don't know what I've done to make you hate me, but I really need to get to my wedding! What time is it? Do I even have time to change? I swear it's been hours!" Alexander pleaded
"Yes, it has been hours! Your wedding should have already taken place, but don't pretend like you didn't know that! That letter you wrote Margaret was awful, and you don't deserve to be let out! I don't know how you got yourself in this situation, but I hope you have to stay in there forever – you'd deserve it!" Charlotte screamed at Alexander, slamming her fist against the door in hopes his head would be pressed up against it.
"Charlotte, I don't understand! What note? I never meant to miss my own wedding!" Alexander quickly stuttered, hoping she hadn't left yet.
"What do you mean "what note"? you wrote her a note telling her that you don't love her and could never marry her!"
"No! NEVER! How could she believe that?" Alexander said hastily.
"Because you signed it!" Charlotte snapped, pounding the door again.
"I would never write that! But think, Charlotte. Who would want to see the destruction of my marriage?" Alexander leaned the door, posing the question.
"Iverson!" Charlotte yelled loudly, the thought only now occurring to her.
"Exactly! I promise you, I would never intentionally do something to harm Margaret! And if I ever accidently hurt her, I would spend the rest of my life making it up to her, I swear!" Alexander pleaded.
"I believe you." Charlotte whispered. "And I'll let you out." She yanked on the door handle, but noticed it was locked. "Oh no!" she exclaimed, alternating pulling and pushing the door. "It's locked!"
"I know!" Alexander said with annoyance. "That's why I'm STUCK in here!"
"Do not snap at me!" Charlotte exclaimed. "Or I'll keep you in! You're walking on thin ice, Mr. Cotey!"
"Yes, yes, my apologies." Alexander mumbled. "But my key has been stolen from me, I suspect Iverson took it after the engagement ball, or else I would slip it under the door to you. I need you to find another key!"
"Another key?" Charlotte nervously ran a hand through her hair. "Where on earth can I find another key? Where would it be in the shop? Would the shopkeeper have one?"
"Well my master would have one, naturally, but I don't know where he is right now, so I guess that's generally useless information. If one is in the shop, and I don't know if it is, then it would be under the counter – in the small drawer with all the papers."
"Gotcha!" Charlotte said quickly, walking over to the counter and rifling through the papers. She looked at the bottom, then rifled through all of them. "It's not in here!" she said, panic filling her voice. "Could it be anywhere else?"
"Not that I can think of!" Alexander said nervously, ramming up against te door as if it would give into pressure.
"I know what to do!" Charlotte cried. "I'll be back, I promise!"
With that, she ran out of the shop and down the street to the blacksmith's, nervous as all else. She pushed her way into the shop, covered in faux confidence.
"Ross?" she cried out, partially hoping he would be her and partially hoping that he wouldn't.
"Yes? Who is there?"
"Ross!" Charlotte cried, running to the fire where he did all of his work. Her heart sunk as she noticed the general distaste he seemed to have as she came into view. "Listen, I really need your help right now.
"What do you need?" he asked darkly. It was clear that he was still furious with her, and rightfully so.
"I need you to help me free Alexander. He's gotten himself locked in a storeroom, with no key to be found. And worse, his marriage to Margaret is ruined – the longer he's gone the worse it gets!" Charlotte reasoned.
"I'm surprised you even looked at me again." Ross said softly.
"Oh Ross, we'll talk about ourselves later! Right now I need your help! Alexander and Margaret need your help!" Charlotte pleaded, walking over to him and grabbing his arm.
Ross looked down his arm and sighed. "Fine. I'll help you out." He grabbed a handful of tools and followed Charlotte out of the shop, copying her quick pace.
It was easy for Ross to let Alexander out: the door had a simple lock with two tumblers, and was easily split. Alexander rushed out of the room, quickly and profusely thanked Ross and Margaret, and then sprinted out of the shop and down the street.
Margaret took another sip of her wine – her third glass so far. She curled up in a plush armchair in front of her bedroom fire, staring into the crackling flames and ignoring her hovering mother. She huffed and wiped tears away on her lace sleeve.
"Oh dear, you're crying again. I don't suppose it matters, you're eye makeup is ruined." Mother sighed, leaning on the chair and pressing her bony index fingers together.
"I'm not crying." Margaret said softly and weakly. "My eyes were watering from staring into the flames for so long."
"Yes of course. Denial." Mother rolled her eyes. "This wouldn't have happened if you married Mr. Iverson."
"LEAVE!" Margaret roared, pointing her finger at the door.
Mother innocently put both her arms up, palms out, and walked out of the room.
Margaret looked down at her wine and sighed, tossing the remains of the glass into the fire, smiling as it turned a deep blue and the flames rose. A puff of smoke sputtered out at her, making her eyes water and clogging her throat. Great, that was the second thing to blow up in her face today.
For one planned on such short notice, Iverson's party was quite a smashing success! All the forty-five people that had RSVP'd showed up, and most commented on the exquisite food and colorful decorations. People seemed to feel that Iverson was rather happy, despite just l"osing his engagement. Not that that was the focus of the night, for too many people were enjoying the fine dining and dancing!
Mary, however, hardly noticed all the other guests, for she was focused entirely on Iverson. He danced with no other women, and made small talk with a few of them. Of course, most, if not all, of the women were married, but Mary still took it as a sign that Iverson was in love with her and could not bear the thought of dancing with someone else.
Now, if one is to truly understand Mary, one must understand how important propriety was to her. Whatever social rule there may be, no matter how ridiculous, she followed it. The rule she followed the most religiously was that of not being forward in any manner. She never greeted a man of her age unless she had just been introduced to him, and would turn down any suitor (if any had come after her) at least once before agreeing to any level of courtship, no matter how smitten she (hypothetically) might be. These rules were taught to her at a young age by her mother, and Mary had followed them religiously.
So that's why it was so strange when Mary got an overwhelming urge to approach Iverson. He had not spoken to her all night, and normally Mary would reciprocate the favor, but she was bursting with passion and wanted so desperately to tell him how much she wanted to marry him, before some gold-digging woman got to him.
For the first few hours of the party, she controlled herself. She kept to herself, and made conversation with some of the other, older women in the room, sneaking quick looks at Iverson in hopes he would approach her with amorous intentions.
So as nine 'o' clock neared, Mary could scarcely take it any longer! She picked up her skirts and walked briskly across the room, her tongue in her throat and her heart pounding harder with each and every step.
As she reached Iverson, she cleared her throat and tapped his arm lightly. "May I speak to you…privately?"
Iverson looked a bit befuddled for why the young child would want to talk to him, but he agreed and followed Mary outside.
"Mr. Iverson, I have something very important to tell you. More than anything, I need you to take me seriously, for what I am about to say I mean with all my heart." To emphasize her point, Mary laid a hand on her heat.
Not knowing what to say, Iverson merely nodded, staring down at Mary.
"I understand you must be very upset, losing you engagement and all…"
Iverson looked down and the ground and clenched his fists.
"But I feel that before you get too attached to anyone else, you should know that I want to become your wife."
Iverson looked up quickly, and his mouth dropped open.
"You obviously approve of my family, so that should not be a problem, and my dowry would be the same as Margaret's. The only difference between her and I is that I am more proper, refined, polite, and generally more fitting to be your wife." Not knowing how to end her confession, Mary merely smiled at Iverson, and waited for his approval.
Awkward silence swirled about them, and Iverson then put his hands on his hips, tipped his head back, and laughed.
He clapped Mary on the shoulder and walked back into the party, still shaking his head as he disappeared into the groups of people.
Margaret whipped her head around at the sound of her name, the most movement she had done in hours, due to her rejection-induced trance. She saw it was Alexander at her door and turned her head back around, holding back tears. Now wasn't the time to cry.
"Margaret, I know you must hate me right now, but I can explain everything!" Alexander rushed to her side and kneeled by her, just trying to make eye contact with her.
"Oh, you can explain writing me a note saying that you'll never be able to marry me, because you don't love me enough? You can explain how you couldn't tell me how you felt to my face, and chose to instead write me a cowardly letter and hide like a scared child? You can explain how you allowed me to send out invitations to a wedding you had no intention of intending? Because I'd just love to hear that!" A sob burst through Margaret's throat, but she still held back tears, buying her head in her hands.
"Margaret, I never wrote you the note! If I had to bet money on who did, I'd say it was Iverson!"
"Right!" Margaret said sarcastically. "So he just knew all of my biggest fears and wrote them down. He's hosting a party today! He didn't even try and beat you up after you stole me away!"
"Well, c'mon. There's no way he could beat me up." Alexander laughed, and flexed his bicep.
"This is no time for your ego!" Margaret slapped Alex's arm and buried her head into her knees.
"You're right, you're right. I'm sorry." Alexander said, lightly laying a hand on her arm. "As for missing the wedding, I was locked in the storeroom. Again, I'd bed money on Iverson's doings."
Margaret looked up at her fiancé and sighed "To anyone else in this world, that would be the craziest, worst excuse on this planet. But, somehow, I believe you."
"Oh Margaret!" Alexander grabbed her face and kissed her. "I was so worried!"
"You should have been. Don't ever do something like this again." Margaret said sternly.
"I never would have done it this time, but fate had a different plan." Alexander kissed her again and said "Now, when can we get married?"
"Not here." Margaret said firmly.
"What on earth do you mean by that?" Alexander wondered, standing up and pulling his fiancé up with him.
"I mean that any wedding we might try to throw here, spontaneous or planned, Iverson will interrupt it to some degree. As long as he wishes to cause me pain, he'll find a way…" Margaret trailed off and looked down.
"So where do we get married, then? Because I want to be married as soon as possible. I can't image my life without you." Alexander hugged Margaret tightly and listened as Margaret whispered,
"Well, I do have one idea…"
It was a perfect plan, really. Within a few days Alexander, Margaret, Charlotte, Ross, and family had loaded wagons up and travelled up to Felicity and Ben's. Far enough away and unknown by Iverson, there was nothing but the best plans for the wedding, and the unanimous expectation for it to run smoothly.
For her behavior, though not without much coaxing, Mother apologized to Felicity for her behavior.
"I'm sorry." Mother kept her apology simple, though it was obvious to anyone that she meant it.
Felicity wanted to keep peace in the family more than anything, and wanted Ben to be able to talk and visit his sisters without there being more tension that pleasantry. So she accepted Mrs. Davidson's apology.
The next thing out of Mother's mouth was "Can I see my grandchild?"
Felicity laughed and led her up two flights of stairs before turning around and smiling, saying "oh, I think you meant grandchildren."
Mary had refused to come to the wedding, still sulking at home. But Margaret and Alexander didn't exactly want her there, so there was no more than the standard necessary objection raised.
Mary sat in front of the living room fireplace, her nightdress and robe pooling around her as she crossed her legs and learned forward, sniffling. She picked a flower out of a vase and picked petals off of it, throwing them into the flower.
Eventually, she had had enough self-pity. She needed a husband, and the only way she was going to get one was by heading out and finding one. So she put on her cloak to hold onto whatever small shreds of propriety she had left, and headed out into the night.
She reached the tavern in only a few minutes, determination in her step. She pushed open the door, and smoke poured out, the smell stifled only by the stench of self-pity that accompanied most taverns at this hour.
She was met with wolf whistles, and smiled at the attention she was receiving, taking the hood of her cloak down and allowing her short hair to fall out over her shoulders.
"Would anyone here like to marry me?" she called out. A stupid plan, it seemed, who would truly marry a man she had met only seconds before?
But when a woman is as desperate as Mary was, who had no faith in herself but endless in others, is willing to do a lot of crazy things to be saved.
The bar drowned in its own silence, dozens of eyes focusing on the pretty young girl asking for a husband.
"Yeah, I will. I don't see why not?" A man stood up, seeming relatively young, though the bags under his eyes and the stubble aged him terribly. He was still capable of fixing his life, but chose to instead let it fall by the wayside. A slacker.
He downed the rest of his pint and walked up to look into the eyes of his future bride.
Mary stood calm in her resolve, even though her mind wavered, wondering if her decision was too rash. But, like a gentleman, the man offered her his arm and the two walked out of the bar, with the plans to wed, despite the fact that a collective total of twelve words had been spoken between them.
Iverson sat in his armchair, looking out the window into the dark, bitter night. He took another swing of whiskey – his eight glass so far tonight.
At his party, surrounded by people, he was alone. At home by himself, he was miserable. All he wanted in his life was the perfect wife – but she was off marrying a storekeeper. No matter what he did, no matter how rich or prominent he was, he still could not have the life he wanted. Oh, how he would have given his fortunes to have Margaret by his side!
He would have made her life heaven. She would want for nothing, and would never have to sew her own dresses or cook his meals. He would staff the home to the teeth, just to make sure that she would be happy in his home.
And he loved her so much. She was beautiful, of course, but that's not all that made her a worthwhile girl. She had this aura of sarcasm and wit that hung around her, making her interesting and so much deeper than every other proper girl around town, all of which felt they were more suiting wives, but none understanding that a proper, stuffy wife was the last thing that Iverson wanted.
Every day would be a new opportunity for Iverson to prove his life to Margaret. Some days, he would buy her little gifts to show her how he had been thinking of her while in town. Some days, he would take her to his other houses in different towns, so he could spend time with her, and make sure that she knew she wouldn't be just a trophy wife to him. But some days he would just tell her. Wake up one morning and just say "I love you".
But, for some reason, she couldn't see that.
Iverson took another swing of whiskey and then threw the glass against the wall, smiling as it shattered.
That night, there was calmness in the air, and everyone slept well.
Charlotte had written a letter to Ross, accepting blame and confessing everything. When she got home, she would find out whether or not he had loved her enough to take her back. She fretted for a few hours, but looking at how Margaret and Alexander still loved each other despite everything they've been through, she felt confident that she and Ross were no different. But she wished on a star…just in case.
Mother and Father slept well, glad that Mother and not only apologized to Felicity, but that her apology had been met with so little drama or scorn. Felicity was truly an amazing woman to be so forgiving, and for one, Mother did not thing that Ben deserved such a girl. Not that she minded that he had her.
Felicity slept well with Ben, the love of her life, right by her side. She rested a head on her stomach, unaware that she was also calming her third and fourth child….twins.
Mary slept soundly, will such firm resolve in the most forward and impulsive decision she had ever made in her entire life. She laid one hand on her chest and one on the stomach of her future husband, who's name she had not even learned. Maybe what she was doing was stupid, but Mary enjoyed being stupid sometimes.
Margaret slept soundly, knowing that her love for Alexander was strong enough to withstand anything fate could throw at them. Through Iverson's meddling, that terrible letter, and a failed wedding, she still managed to love him unconditionally, though it did not always mean she could not be angry at him. She knew that he would never hurt her, and that's why she knew that they would be together forever. Their wedding may not be as soon as she wanted, or the elaborate affair she had imagined as a girl, but as long it was to the man who loved her, then it would be a dream wedding to her.
Alexander slept with Margaret in his arms, smiling knowing that she trusted him enough in order to believe such a story as wild as the truth was. He woke up once during the night, only to consider the future if Margaret ever found out the truth and knew that he had in fact sent the letter to break up with her. But the relief that had come with sending the letter had imploded upon seeing her pain. He could not bear to cause Margaret any level of pain, so he knew that he truly loved her. The thoughts were enough to calm him down and allow him to fall back asleep.
Iverson sat in his desk for a while before he went to bed, holding the letter he had written a few days ago. It was sealed in an envelope, and had Margaret's name scrawled on the front in his elegant script.
It was his plan B, if his plan to push off the wedding didn't cause Margaret to take a step back from her whirlwind romance and take a second look at him, then he would have given her this letter. But it didn't work. By the time Iverson realized his plan hadn't worked, it was too late. Margaret had packed up and left with that unappreciative, unloving, unworthy man, and who knows if she'd even come back!
Iverson slit open the letter and read it aloud, tears running down his face as he realized how hopeless his situation currently, and always, was.
I love you, I want to state that first off. And I want to be with you forever. I've never been good with words, and I'd like to think that's why you don't love me. Somehow, someway, there must be this disconnect that makes you think worse of me than I am. But all terrible qualities of mine, and I'll be the first to admit that they're there, can you not look past all them to see my love for you? I'm not asking you to end your relationship with the apprentice yet, but I am asking you to at least give me a fighting chance.
Iverson felt anger swirl up in him and his eyes filled with tears. He grabbed a nearby bottle of brandy (oh, he seemed to have alcohol in every room) and took a swing straight from the bottle, ignoring the nearby glasses.
The alcohol gave him power and he felt the need to destroy. He smashed the brandy bottle against the floor, and crumpled the letter, throwing it into the ashes of a dead fire. He stumbled down the staircases, falling and crumpling and the bottom. He dusted himself off and proceeded throughout his manor, ripping curtains off of windows and throwing knick-knacks off shelves. Every time he came to an alcohol bottle, he would take several large swings and stumble into the next room, wreaking more havoc.
When he was done venting his anger, he stumbled back upstairs and fell into what looked to be a peaceful sleep. As he dozed, he slipped.
And as the clock struck midnight on the day of Margaret's wedding, Iverson died, peacefully in his sleep.
Doctors knew little of what killed Iverson, though there are only two still-standing theories. One, that he died of alcohol poisoning.
Two, that he died of a broken heart.