Reclaiming his Heart
Captain Fredrick Wentworth eyed the shore as his ship was propelled toward the docks. The sea that gently lapped against the sides had been his home for eight years. The last time he had stood on those docks he was a man with a whole career in front of him full of determination to make his worth in the world, but besides all that he had stood there a man with a broken heart.
He had turned to the sea as a means of escape; his heart and head were divorced for a spell. His heart remained in England – specifically at Kellynch Hall, or at least bits and pieces were lost there. His head didn't know what to make of the recent turn of events. As he boarded that first ship after… well her… he had no idea what course of action to take. Part of him wanted to make something of himself – to become the man that she was expected to marry. The other part – the hurting part told him to never risk the "Elliot pride" again.
Instead he stayed away. He made his fortune and his name in the wars, along with many other men and was offered the chance to return a hero – the wealthy victors over the French. That was how he came to be standing at the bow of the ship as it entered the harbor. His attitude differed greatly from his crew, they longed for shore for loved ones or some of the other benefits shore has to a sailor. Not him. He dreaded his return to her world though he doubted they would ever cross paths again. He was resolute to never tempt his heart again on Anne Elliot- it had taken eight years to put all the pieces back together again and he was not certain they would hold fast.
Wentworth reread the neat script again as the carriage thundered along. His sister's words were well known to him by now but certain phrases still caught him in disbelief. Three days ago he had sworn to avoid the source of all his years of misery and longing yet at this very moment he was racing towards the rooms that had once been her home. His sister assured him that that family had quit the estate for a life in Bath. Indeed their main source of company was a family that lived nearby at Uppercross; the Musgroves were determined to welcome them in to the neighborhood. To be so near the location where so many substantial events had occurred was numbing for Wentworth. At least I will not have to face her, in that at least there is luck, and I doubt anyone will remember the acquaintance. His thoughts comforted him as carriage entered the country and familiar parks began to appear. His sister knew little of the incident only that he had been acquainted with one of the Elliot sisters of which there were three. She had been out of the country at that time and had only recently returned on the Admiral's retirement. She had married a seaman who had enjoyed the fortune that he too had made in the wars. They had heard that Kellynch Hall as for lease and having found the neighborhood suitable decided to take it. Upon hearing that he was soon to give up his military life and settle down they had written to him immediately and invited him to join them in their new home as he reentered society. He had written his confirmation and dates before he had realized the implications of his stay. He honestly did not know what to do if they had chanced an encounter. If his sister's letter proved reliable he had a while to contemplate that event. For now however he turned his thoughts to far more pleasant thoughts as the carriage neared its destination.
It was only as Wentworth turned in that night that he dared allow himself to process the night's events. His sister had initially been misinformed, the Musgroves were closely acquainted to the Elliot's, and indeed the youngest daughter had married in to the family. Even more troubling was the news that her sister joined her for a visit while the rest of the family settled in Bath. Wentworth knew- even without his sister relaying the lady's name that it was her. His sister had recalled the acquaintance and had mentioned it to the lady in passing she told him. Indeed his sister delivered a glowing review of Miss Anne Elliot. Now a meeting seemed utterly inevitable and fast approaching. As the sun began to rise the next morning Captain Fredrick Wentworth was still no closer to a manner to greet the woman who had captured and broken his heart.
He managed to postpone their likely meeting a week, finally resolving himself to greet her as a casual acquaintance. He was faced with a sudden spell of overwhelming curiosity and desire to see her again, to just stand in her presence and look upon her. As he dressed to dine at the Grand House at Uppercross he was full of warring emotions at being once again in her company. His eyes searched the party that had assembled for dinner with apprehension. She was not among them. She was avoiding him. Whether this last part was true it was what he held true, this realization consumed him until he was shaken from his thoughts by a conversation. Charles Musgrove, the eldest living son, the one who married Mary Elliot was apologizing for his sister-in-laws absence. As it had happened one of Charles and Mary's young boys had fallen and dislocated his shoulder and that Anne had offered to stay behind to tend to the boy's needs. Even in his state of mind he could not ignore his familiarity with her character, her overwhelming desire to put others before herself. Of course she had remained behind. Even this acknowledgment as not enough to quell the pang he felt for the first time in very long time.
Having already steeled himself for their meeting the night before it was easy for Wentworth to talk himself in to accompanying the Miss Musgroves and Charles to their cottage before a day of shooting. The apprehension of when and where they would meet had cheated him out of another night of sleep, but he rallied himself, soon his misery would end. She would be there. He was certain of it as he walked towards the cottage. He strained his ears to hear her voice his eyes taking in everything- hoping to catch a glimpse of her before she saw him. It was not until he was inside the same noisy house that he saw her. Charles had run on ahead at his insistence to warn them of their arrival so she had prepared herself as best she could.
She was as she ever was. He had wondered whether he would know her, but in that moment he was certain that he would always be able to remember that face. As he approached though he saw the change. The happiness and humor that had always been in her face was gone, it had not been seen in years. The beauty was still there yet it seemed more worn, the youth had gone faster than it should have and in its place it had left a person who had been aged by hardship and … pain. Her pain was undeniable as she caught his eyes in the first few moments, it faded as the others joined them instead she wore a calm and reserved mask. The few minutes they spent together seemed to last an hour. A curtsy prompted a bow and they stood in each others presence only stealing glances at one another, neither dared speak, and then suddenly it was over.
He was outside the cottage and she was gone. The moment that had tormented him was over. He had seen her and was left with a realization. He did not love her anymore. His heart was safe. This had left him with another realization - he had not forgiven her, not even after all this time. They had loved each other with such an attachment that neither had ever known before. They longed to be married and were engaged, but society - more importantly her connections did not approve. The match was not prudent had been the claim, she was the daughter of a baronet and he was without fortune or anything to recommend him. Thus she was a set upon and persuaded by her most trusted friend and advisor to forgo Wentworth and oblige others. She had done so at cost to herself and to his heart. He could not forgive the way that she had used him and the feebleness she had shown in her own matters of the heart. Her appearance had suffered for it the years apart; he guessed where the sorrow and weariness stemmed from.
He remarked to the others that she appeared to be much changed; his words were cruel yet he never intended to cause her pain. The pain he had lived with was fading, it was replaced with determination to start a new. His heart was his again though he did not plan for it remain as such for long. Captain Fredrick Wentworth had resolved himself to find a wife.