As the day of the ball drew nearer, Julia got more and more nervous about dancing, regardless of the fact that Mrs. Williams said she was a natural. Julia knew as well as everyone else that Capt. Bordon would want to have several dances with her and she didn't want to embarrass him.
"I only wish that your sister would take things as serious as you do," Mrs. Williams said," I don't like that she asked for my help and only attended one lesson. The only reason it wasn't a complete waste of my time is because you are so dedicated to making improvements to yourself, and Mrs. Proctor agrees."
Julia and Abby looked at each other and smirked. Once Mrs. Williams was finished with her daily Kay rant, the two friends excused themselves from her company and went wandering down by the stables. They leaned against the fence and stared around as Abby talked about her gown that she was going to wear to the ball. It was then that Julia noticed Kay walking by herself with a flower and what looked like a letter in her hand. She walked by a group of ladies and tried to say hello to them, but they simply pointed their noses upward, turned their backs and walked away from her.
"Abby." Julia said," Why do all the ladies shun my sister? I have noticed it happening ever since the Dragoons returned."
They watched Kay as she stared after the ladies and sat down to read her letter.
"I didn't want to tell you about it, but people are upset with her."
"Well I had it from my mother and her friends Mrs. Jenkins and Mrs. Collins that Kay was seen flirting with Capt. Bordon while you were resting the other day."
Julia fully turned to Abby," What?"
"She was supposedly throwing herself all over him then pulled him into the manor to Lord knows where."
"There must be a mistake. Kay came and woke me up to tell me he had returned. I'm sure she meant no harm."
"Well it's not only that. I had it from Mrs. Jenkins that she seems to be sneaking around the property a lot. And every time she goes back to the house she has a flower or a letter or some kind of gift from a mysterious gentleman."
"Yes...I know she said she had met someone, but I have not met him yet. But is it wrong for her to accept a gift from a man?"
"It is frowned upon to see a lady sneaking around to see a man like that. The other women here are not looking at her with a friendly eye. They call it scandalous."
Julia looked back at Kay, who stood up and walked back into the house,"Should I speak to her about it?"
"For her own good I think you should. Perhaps you are right and it's a misunderstanding. But it never hurts to make sure."
A fearful thought suddenly struck Julia," Abby...is her behavior reflecting on me as well?"
Abby smiled at her," Not at all, Julia. You are spoken very highly of around here, and your relations with the Capt. and especially Lord Cornwallis only add to it...plus I think that if anyone spoke ill of you the Capt. would have a thing or two to say about it, and the Col. too."
"Of course. He and the Capt. are close friends. You being an interest of the Capt. makes you a friend to the Col. I guarantee you that he will be looking out for you. It only adds to your reputation, for rarely do either of them get along with a lady. You know how the Col. is. He takes more pleasure in driving women up a wall then being friends with them."
The two of them laughed. Julia definitely believed that because of how many times Kay had come into her room steamed over something the Col. said. The two friends changed the subject back to their ball gowns. After a time a servant came to fetch Abby at her mothers' request. Julia went inside and straight to Kay's room. She knocked on the door. No answer.
"Kay?" Julia knocked again. Still no reply. She tried one ore time and finally gave up and walked away.
Kay had waited for Julia to go inside before she snuck downstairs and out the other doors. She kept her eyes on the ground as she went, only looking up to see if anyone was around. As casually as possible, she faked a sneeze and jerked her body to the side and into the trees, then continued to the spot that Samuel had written to her to go to.
"Kay," Samuel's voice made her jump.
"Samuel," Kay ran into his arms and he kissed her deeply," It's too long since last time. I feel like I have been waiting an eternity."
"We can change that so easily," he replied.
Samuel stepped away from her and dug around in his pocket," I have something for you."
She watched him as he pulled a shining gold ring from his pocket. She gasped and covered her mouth as he kneeled before her.
"Kay Villani, will you be my wife? Come away with me and we will go somewhere where the only loyalties we will have or need is to each other."
"Samuel...I...oh my god...I don't know. I..."
His smile widened and he slipped the ring onto her finger," I will return on the night of the ball. It will give you time to really think about it. But I hope that you won't need that much time."
He drew her into his arms and gave her a long and passionate kiss before he hurried away. She stared after him for a moment then looked at the shining ring on her shaking finger. She took it off and headed out of the trees and collapsed on the nearest bench as she examined the treasure. Did she want to get married? Sure...but...
"Miss Villani?" Kay's face went cold as she saw the Lord Gen. and Col. Tavington walking towards her. She stuffed the ring in her pocket as she stood up and curtsied to him.
Cornwallis stared behind her then back at her," What were you doing in there?"
"I..nothing, sir," she said," I was simply walking."
"And why must your strolls be so secretive?" Cornwallis asked.
"They aren't, sir," Kay invented," It's just that I have walked the grounds so many times...it started to bore me..so I walked through the trees to make a new scenario."
She could tell by both men's looks that they didn't buy it.
"There are several rumors floating about the grounds, Ms. Villani," the Col. said," That involve you."
"Yes," Cornwallis replied," And given your behavior with Mrs. Williams they are not hard to believe."
Kay straightened up, trying to hide her fear," What rumors, sir, for I have heard none of them."
"Perhaps because they are about you," Tavington growled. He respected women for the most part, and was very keen on keeping the ladies around Middleton safe, but Kay was very quickly destroying her reputation, and was seen almost as low as the camp followers, and the Col. had no respect for them..at all.
"It is said that you have been seen several times sneaking off to see a man. I have had it from your own sister that you claim to have met someone, yet we all have yet to see this..'officer'. I tell you child, tongues are wagging ferociously."
"I am not seeing anyone," Kay snapped," I had an interest at one point but that has long since vanished. I tell you that my excuse is true. Perhaps I just prefer to be left alone. I still have yet to have anyone tell me that is not allowed."
"I do not wish to argue with you further on the subject," Cornwallis said," I am simply here of my own accord to warn you."
"You need to put yourself in check Ms. Villani. For your actions could lead to more than just your reputation being harmed."
Cornwallis looked behind him and Kay followed the direction of his stare. Her chest went numb as she looked into Julia's eyes. Kay stared pleadingly at her, but Julia only shook her head and walked back inside the house.
"I think you should take that scene into consideration as to what I am talking about," Cornwallis said. He and the Col. turned and walked away as well.
Julia had expected Kay to come crashing into her room, but did not expect to see her in tears as she shut the door, approached her and slapped her face. Julia held her aching cheek in shock.
"How could you subject me to that?"
"You brought it on yourself Kay. Don't you lay a hand on me for your own mistakes."
"I haven't done shit, Julia!"
"Why do the women talk of you sneaking around then? Where are all the letters and gifts coming from? Don't think me ignorant of those!"
Kay sat down on Julia's bed," They are from a friend...only a friend-"
When Kay shifted on the bed, Samuel's ring fell from her small pocket and clanged loudly on the floor. She made to pick it up, but Julia beat her to it. She held it up for the both of them to see.
"Julia,"Kay said quietly," Give me that."
"Just friends?" Julia asked.
"It's none of your business-aah!"
Julia was not as subtle as Kay had been. Her blow was with a fist," Are you fucking crazy? Are you seriously Fucking crazy? That's an engagement ring!"
"I haven't taken the offer-"
"Bullshit! You took the ring. You are sneaking around to see a man and he has proposed. Damn it Kay this can ruin you forever! What the fuck is wrong with you!"
Kay pushed Julia to the floor and grabbed the ring as she went down. Julia stared at her from her landing spot.
"For the last fucking time I didn't answer him. You are supposed to be my sister, but you are getting brainwashed by all these pasty face snobs. Maybe you seriously do belong here."
She walked towards the door," They are watching you Kay."
She turned back to Julia.
"They are watching you now. One wrong move and we are both finished. I am your sister...and always will be. But I refuse to take part in this insanity. For once I'm not going to be judged because of the way you act."
Kay could not speak. She wanted to cry. She slammed Julia's door. Cornwallis watched as she stormed to her room and slammed and locked the door.
Kay cried for hours, her heart broken at her sisters' words. It was things like that which made her want to say yes to Samuel and leave Middleton Place. But then she would think about her life and relationship with her sister, and Kay knew that she could never abandon Julia no matter what they did or said to each other. They were sisters after all, and she would choose her sister over any man...always. Kay sat up and stared out the window, her decision made. She had to fix her reputation.
Julia stayed close to the Capt, throughout the majority of the ball. Dancing had turned out to be a lot of fun, especially on finding that other ladies were nervous about messing up just as she was. Kay had shown up to the ball as well and had requested to follow Julia around for a while. Julia silently agreed, and even tried to get her sister included in conversations with any group that came around them. Lord Cornwallis had noticed it as well as others.
"I have never seen her so...refined," Mrs. Williams said.
"I had it from Mrs. Jenkins that Julia gave her quite the talking to the other day," Mrs. Collins replied,"And according to her servant, Julia blacked Kay's eye."
Col. Tavington and Cornwallis snapped their heads in her direction.
"What ever were they fighting for?" Tavington asked.
"The same thing that everyone else has been gossiping about," Mrs. Collins replied," From the sound and look of it, Julia has put Kay in her place."
"I did not think it possible," Mrs. Williams said.
"Julia," Kay tapped her sister on the shoulder," I need to powder my nose. I will be right back."
Julia nodded at her and turned around. After a couple of seconds she looked again and saw Kay go outside. Powder your nose my ass, she thought, this ends tonight.
"Capt. Bordon, would you hold my drink for me," Julia asked,"I wish to speak with my sister."
Gen. O'hara tapped Cornwallis on the shoulder and pointed at Kay who was disappearing through the doors, Julia followed soon after.
"Col. Tavington," Cornwallis said,"See where they are going."
Tavington grabbed Bordon and took him with him.
Kay raced through the trees not noticing that she was being followed by several people.
"Kay! Over here."
Kay paused when she saw that Samuel was not alone, but accompanied by two other men.
"Kay. Have you thought about it?"
Kay pulled herself from her thoughts,"I love you Samuel...but I can't."
Samuel was frozen in shock as Kay approached him and put the ring in his hand," I'm sorry, but I have risked too much already. One thing being my own sisters' love. I would not sacrifice that fr anything."
He stood staring at the wedding band in his hand.
"I have risked my neck coming here to see you...and this is my reward?"
"I'm so sorry," Kay whispered.
He did not look at her as he pocketed the ring and turned away.
"Samuel please. Don't end it this way. Surely you must understand-"
"I will never understand a thing about you. And I did not end it this way...you did."
His companions spat on the ground before following him away.
Kay turned away and stopped abruptly when she saw Julia standing there. The look on her face was not of anger, but of concern, and Kay could not hold back as she burst into tears and ran into her sisters' open arms. Tavington and Bordon came crashing through the trees and bumped into each other as they skid to a stop at the scene before them.
"What happened?" Tavington asked.
"She is alright," Julia spoke quickly,"She has been upset about the way she has been acting. She tried to come here alone to say goodbye to the soldier she has been visiting, for she wishes for a clean slate. As you can see the gossiping as of late has humiliated her greatly, and has also opened her eyes to the fact that her puppy crush has caused her to lose herself."
Kay sobbed harder into Julia's shoulder.
"So she has been seeing a rebel?"
"Indeed that is not the case, sir," Julia had tightened her grip on Kay to stop her replying,"I saw him at last. He is a private with the Regulars, and just as much a rebel as you."
No one said anything for a short time.
"I see," Tavington said,"I know your character well enough, Miss Villani, to know that you would not lie."
"If you please, Col., I am going to take her to her room. I shall return shortly."
The two officers nodded and let the sisters pass.
Julia said nothing to Kay, except that they would talk when she was ready.
"Julia," Kay stopped her when she was headed to the door,"Thanks...your smooth tongue has saved my ass again."
Julia smiled slightly and put her hand on the knob.
"Julia," Kay stopped her again,"You won't tell anyone the truth...will you?"
Julia kept her eyes on the door, then turned to Kay and looked her straight in the eye,"About what?"
Knowing her meaning, Kay nodded and let her leave.
Bordon was waiting at the bottom of the stairs for Julia.
"Is she alright?"
"She will be," Julia replied,"She just needs rest. Tomorrow is a new day...a perfect one to start over."
Bordon slid a hand down her cheek,"And what about you? You seem upset as well."
Julia smiled,"I'm fine. Just thinking about things."
"I don't suppose a dance would take your mind off things?"
"Well Capt., perhaps we should have one and find out."
They smiled as they locked arms and went back into the ballroom.
Kay cried and cried, but it was not enough for her. She needed something else to blot out the memories; something that her subconscious could not offer her. She needed a retardant to the flame in her heart that was pure hurt. It was her only solution. Since she had first gotten her hands on it, Kay had used it for every emotion she couldn't control; for every thought she didn't want to think; for every situation that she didn't want to deal with.
She snuck downstairs while the guests and servants were outside enjoying the air and splendor of the grounds of Middleton, and went into the kitchen. She made a bee line to a cupboard on the far left side where a small store of brandy was usually kept...and refilled each time she had gotten into it. Kay grabbed one of the large bottles and tore back up to her room...
It burned her throat and numbed her stomach. She loved the feeling and always has.
"I'm sorry, but I have risked too much already. One thing being my own sisters' love. I would not sacrifice that for anything."
She raised the bottle to her own statement and took a swig. She remembered the emptiness in Samuel's eyes as he turned away.
"I will never understand a thing about you. And I did not end it this way...you did."
She raised the bottle again and took two large gulps.
"Well, Julia," she slurred,"I did it for you-hic...fuck. I-hic-did it for-hic-me too. I-hic-'m gonna...hic-die here if I do-hic-n't behave."
She belched loudly and chugged more alcohol.
"It'sss m-my-hic-turn to live in-hic-your shadow."
The room was spinning around her as she spoke to the darkness. Of what, she would never know, because she didn't realize that she was doing it...
She was leaning against the window laughing...at her desk scribbling with the feathered end of a quill all over a piece of parchment, then rubbed ink on her face and pressed the parchment to her cheek...more swigs from the bottle...she was on the floor...the bed...on the floor again...
The last thing she saw before passing out was herself in the mirror, sucking obsessively on the empty bottle...