Hi all, sorry its been such a long time. Far too much to do and no where near enough time to do it all. Hopefully this chapter wont disappoint you, but I must warn that this chapter deals with infant death. It was terribly common in the days in which this fic is set and I didn't want to ignore that fact. Besides that, I've tried to end on a happier note. - Abbie x

Chapter Twenty-One

The Missing Twin

27th December 1833

A mere day had passed since the birth of her daughters but now she simply lay within her sheets, her body aching beyond imagination as her thoughts drifted toward the nursery. She was still completely stunned by the appearance of the two girls that she had brought into this world only twenty four hours prior to this moment. She found this fact very difficult to digest. They had removed the babies before she could even feel their weight in her arms. Now her daughters were cared for by others. It would always be this way; she had known this but that did not mean that she was prepared for the empty feeling in her chest at their absence.

Her body was stiff from rest; her joints creaked like a rusted hinge on an unused door whenever she attempted movement. Even when she woke, she stayed very still. The doctor had informed her that movement would not be comfortable; he recommended that she stay abed for four to six weeks. How long she would be spending this way would depend upon her health. In truth, she had no desire to stay abed. The idea alone made her feel queasy. She'd spent too long within her chamber, she was tired of confinement. She longed for company and conversation, but most of all she longed for her children. It was not proper to care for them herself; she was off too higher rank to do so. She wished now that she had not been born a Princess, for all its perks there were far too many drawbacks.

Her nightdress was damp around her breasts when she awoke. Her body was crying out for her children and her mind was trying its very best to argue against it. Her internal struggle was in vain as she had known it would be. She needed to see her children, nurse them and care for them. Her body groaned and protested at the movement as she climbed delicately from her bed. If His Majesty should ever know of her visiting the girls, he would likely forbid her to see them until their first birthday. She did not care; she had to see them regardless of any punishment that may be thrown in her direction. Without a care for reprimand, she found her dressing gown and covered herself as best she could before sneaking out of her chamber in search of her newborn daughters.

As she approached the nursery, she was filled with fear. There was a high chance that the wet nurse would report her nightly venture to His Majesty. As she pushed open the heavy door, she could only hope that the woman could be convinced to keep her secret. A beautiful basinet was positioned in the centre of the room. With her newly born daughters only a few steps away from her, Isabella did not care about the woman who watched over the girls. Lady Victoria of Dover, head of the nursery, sat snoring lightly in a nursing chair opposite the basinets. Isabella paid her little attention and moved to stare down into the basinet. It was there that she paused. Beatrice was stirring gently in her slumber while her sister laid still. Isabella frowned at Elizabeth; her tiny face had seemed bright and rosy yesterday morning but now it was pale and almost grey in colour. The Princess knew with one look at her daughter that something was incredibly wrong. Beatrice appeared so full of life even while she slept, so there was no reason for her sister to appear otherwise.

The Princess Isabella stared down at the sickly child with absolutely no idea as to how to assist her young daughter. She could not recall ever being educated in preparation for this moment. She was extremely well read, spoke eight languages and could play three instruments flawlessly, but nowhere in her education had anyone prepared her for the task of motherhood. This was no ordinary situation she reminded herself but still she felt unprepared and terrified of failure. Thankfully, instinct assisted her with this task. Only a moment had passed since she had spotted Elizabeth's odd colouring when she scooped up the child; awakening her sister at the movement.

Beatrice wailed as her mother desperately tried to comfort her sibling and bring her out of her silence. The Princess Isabella was holding her child and patting the small child's back when the twin's wet nurse awoke. Lady Victoria rose from her seat instantly and fell into a curtsey at the sight of the Princess of Wales.

"Do not waste your time with pointless displays of courtesy!" The Princess of Wales exclaimed in her panic, "Something is wrong with Elizabeth, I pray you assist me!"

The older woman hurried over to the Princess and held out her arms to take the child from her.

"When did she fall ill?" the older woman questioned as she assessed the young babes appearance.

"I believe I should be asking you that particular question, Lady Victoria," the angered Princess spoke coldly. Lady Victoria said no more on the subject as she worked on the child.

Silence hung heavy in the room and the Princess of Wales knew that her child's life was in question. Her husband should have been with her but he was not and after many attempts to save the small child, their first born child passed into the hands of God. Many terrible things had happened in Isabella's life but this had to be the worst thing God had ever done to her. The Lady Victoria handed the still child to her mother and moved away to fetch help. Help was a pointless endeavour; Isabella knew this as she sank onto the floor clutching her tiny child. Elizabeth was gone and nothing anyone could do would restore her to life.

19th March 1834

Isabella held her daughter tightly in her arms as she headed for the gardens. It was the first day that the sun's rays had been strong enough to allow the young child to leave her nursery. She had begged the new nursemaid to allow her this moment. After the death of Elizabeth, a thought that still caused her pain even now, Isabella had demanded that the Lady Victoria be replaced. The cause of her infant's death was unknown but Lady Victoria's negligence could not be overlooked. She had left court only hours after Elizabeth's death and another nursemaid had replaced her. The Princess Isabella tried not to think of Elizabeth and focused her attention on her living child. At three months old, Beatrice was still highly dependent on the adults around her and the Princess would not let her out of sight for even a moment.

Holding her precious little one, she wondered through the idyllic gardens until she spotted a particularly sunny spot on the grass up ahead. Once there, she lowered herself ever so delicately onto the soft bed of fresh grass. The smell of roses and wild flowers wafted on the spring breeze as she settled herself down. Her floor length sapphire frock fanned out around her slim figure. The fine fabric of her gown made the perfect place for Beatrice to rest while enjoying her first taste of sunshine. Her daughter gazed up at the clear sky in wonder and her young besotted mother shared a similar expression as she looked upon her daughter.

Tragedy had separated her children from one another, and the Princess of Wales couldn't help but imagine that Beatrice was fascinated by the clouds simply because she could picture her missing twin among them. It was a fantasy, but one that kept her sane. Esme had told her after Elizabeth's passing that the hardest part of motherhood was the real possibility of losing a child. Just because the situation had almost been inevitable, according to her doctor, nothing anyone ever said would cure her broken heart. Isabella would carry that sorrow with her always, even when she was enjoying something as beautiful as the first day of spring, she would not forget her absent child. Beatrice's attention seemed to refocus; a tiny hint of a smile formed and for a moment Isabella wondered at the reason behind it that was until he spoke.

"Hello, my ladies," his voice caused delightful shivers to run down the length of her spine. Her husband kneeled onto the grass beside her, lending over to place a feather light kiss upon their child's brow.

"Your father would scold you, if he saw you behaving like that," Isabella pointed out reluctantly. His Majesty had been very clear that his son was not to pander to the child. Children had their mothers to provide affection and it was not a man's place to offer kisses or cuddles to anyone other than his wife, and even that must be carried out in the privacy of the bedchamber.

"If I cared, even a minuscule amount, as to my father's opinions I would not have followed you," he stated, changing the direction of his gaze from his daughter to his wife. Beatrice continued to half smile at Edward even though his attention had turned to his wife.

"And why did you follow me?" his wife questioned, scooping their child up into her arms. She revelled in the feel of baby soft skin against her own. Her child's tiny heart beat thudded gently against her own stronger beat.

"To tell you something that I do not think will make you happy," he admitted, his eyes dropping slightly. He was ashamed, it was clear from one simple look though why he felt this way, she did not know. She attempted to coax the message from him in a non-verbal manner; she did not succeed however and rose with difficulty from where she rested on the grass.

"Then let us walk," she suggested, as her husband assisted her in rising. He nodded once; suddenly shy, and allowed his wife to set the pace of their stroll.

They took a turn about the garden while Beatrice settled herself against her mother's chest, her father tried to summon the message that his father had ordered him to relay.

"Do you intend to share what it is that troubles you?" his wife questioned as the minutes ticked slowly by.

"I do," he replied, "I am simply attempting to rephrase it in a way that will cause the least offence."

The words continued to turn over in his head, rewording and reforming possible sentences for him to speak allowed. None ever seemed appropriate, however, and after a moment or two he came to a decision. There would never be a non-offence way of wording this. His father's words would cause his wife harm no matter how he said them and Edward did not ever wish to cause his wife any suffering even if it was sometimes unpreventable.

"My father has certain expectations about our union," was his opening sentence. Isabella knew exactly where this conversation was heading and she clung to her daughter to help her through it. She could not find the words to reply so simply nodded in response.

"He noticed a few days ago that I had not visited your chamber for some time and I must confess, he was not at all happy to realise this," Edward explained as delicately as was possible. This was not an easy subject to broach and he was trying hard not to shy away from it.

"And I suppose, he is much aggrieved that I am not already with child once again?" Her question was entirely appropriate as this was exactly the matter that caused his father concern. Edward nodded once in response; His Majesty had made it clear that he had been pleased at the safe delivery of Beatrice and Elizabeth the previous year, and he had obviously mourned the death of his granddaughter as much as the rest of the family, but he craved a grandson more than anything else in the world. Isabella felt tears sting at the corners of her eyes and turned her face away from her husband. The pair fell silent for a moment or two before Isabella spoke up.

"Explain to me because I can not understand, what is so wrong with a daughter?" Isabella demanded, growing agitated by the conversation. Her daughter was so precious to her that she could not see the harm in waiting just a few more months before she reprised her duties to her husband. She could not bear the idea of becoming with child again so soon after gaining her freedom from the ordeal of expectant motherhood. The idea of losing another babe circled through her mind also. There were so many thoughts swirling around her mind that she found it difficult to concentrate on her husband.

"There is nothing wrong with a daughter," Edward hurriedly replied, he loved his daughters more than he would ever admit, "I love both of our daughters and I always shall." Elizabeth may now be with God but he r father still cared for her deeply. A son would not bring him any greater happiness than his daughters had, although it would give his father cause to take a step backwards and allow him and his wife the freedom to live their lives without his continuous input. He hoped for this outcome anyway.

"Your father does not agree with you," his wife stated. Edward was very much aware of this fact.

"There are many things that my father and I disagree on; this is simply one of those things."

Isabella spotted a bench up ahead and made her way over to it. Walking with a child in her arms was proving more challenging than it probably should have. If she was allowed to spend more time with her child then maybe she would not find caring for her so strenuous.

"You may not agree with your father, but I take it that I should expect a visit from you tonight?" she questioned as she lowered herself onto the bench. Edward tried his utmost not to smirk at the idea of visiting his wife this coming evening but failed.

"I promise you, my darling, that should I visit you tonight then I will do so because I wish too, not because my father orders me to do so," he told her firmly. Their eyes met briefly and Isabella could not help but notice that simmering heat that burned beneath his gaze. Maybe she had denied him for too long, maybe it was time to allow their nightly ventures to continue. His longing was crystal clear as his mind journeyed back to their last night time union; it had been several months and he was eager to revisit that wonderful part of married life. One look told her all she needed to answer her previous question.

"So I will see you tonight," she stated before daringly breaking all the unspoken rules and leaning closer to her husband and lightly pressing her lips against his own. Once they had parted, she stood to full height and simply walked away. Her daughter had been exposed to plenty of sunlight for one day. Her thoughts turned towards the night ahead and she shivered in anticipation. It would surely be a night to remember.