It was a wonderful visit, surprisingly so, we laughed ‘til our sides hurt and there was music mostly played by me and to think I had dreaded the idea of going to the Dowager’s, of seeing Benedict again, but the evening had taken a rather strange turn of events and I owed it all to a woman I had yet to meet. A young woman from what Benedict had said, but a good woman and one who knew how to keep him in line, something I understood.
We arrived home, and my father bid us goodnight after he helped carry the children to bed. We got them changed and then tucked in and then I joined Leo in his studio. I sewed whilst he painted. It was his little secret that I was his assistant, it was how he could get so much done, but I didn’t want people to know, I loved helping him win his customers over. He was working on the portrait of the Prince Regent; he had been instructed to make the background be black so to make him stand out, so Leo had a lot of black to paint. He cracked the windows open so the fumes from the paint didn’t get to us. Then when we were done, we went outside to look at the stars. It would forever be our favorite pastime. I rested my head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat.
“Trina! Trina look, a shooting star, make a wish.”
“You make a wish, I have everything I could ever want,” I said sleepily, so he made a wish on the star.
“What did you wish for?” I asked.
“If I told you that, it wouldn’t come true.”
“That’s a silly superstition,” I teased him.
“Oh, is it?”
“Yes, it is.”
“You want me to tell you what I wished for?”
“Yes, I want you to tell me what you wished for,” I said.
He looked down at me, the light twinkling in his eyes. They smiled along with his lips as the corners turned up. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him. “Have I told you yet how much I cherish you today?”
“No,” I teased, laughing. He was framed in starlight and moonlight, and I loved the way his hair fell into his eyes. I reached my hand up and ran it through his thick hair. I smiled and he ran his hand over mine. It was pulled back in a braid and up in a bun in the back, but there were whisps that had escaped and he tucked a strand of loose hair behind my ear.
“We’ll have I told you how much I love you today?”
“No.” I laughed and laughed.
“Well, I do, I cherish you and I love you.”
“I cherish and love you too.” I kissed him again. “We have a good life, a happy life.”
“Yes, we do. We’re very lucky.”
“Lucky? We fought for all we have. You earned what you have.”
“Yes, I did.” He nodded.
“Have I told you how proud I am of you today? You’ve done so well for yourself. For us.”
“No,” he teased.
“Well, I am. I’m so proud of you. You’re amazing. I will always be proud of you, I hope our children are more like you than like me.”
“Oh, I don’t agree with that. You have a mind, Trina, a sharp beautiful mind and I hope our children follow in your steps. Believe in love and happily ever after, and never give up no matter how hard it seems. Even when it seems impossible.”
“But I did give up. I gave up on us, I know I shouldn’t have, I should have trusted you more, but I did give up. You’re the one who didn’t. From the moment you realise your feelings for me, you never gave up, you came up with a plan and you never backed down.”
He shook his head. “You think you gave up, but you didn’t. If you had given up, you wouldn’t be here today. Stop being so hard on yourself. Forgive yourself. I do.” He kissed me. “Let’s go to bed. I got to be in London in the morning.”
“I don’t want you to go, I hate it when you leave.”
“We owe everything to King Goerge, so when he calls for me, I must go. Be grateful he didn’t make me a soldier in his military. I’m just a friend, I’ll return as soon as I can. You’ll be fine if you have Randal and Alice here and your father. You have the children.”
“They’ll miss you.”
‘Oh, don’t start that, Trina. They’re old enough to understand Daddy is an important man who needs to go to England for work.” he got up and paced a few feet away. I got up and started folding up the velvet.
“What is happening here?”
“I think we’re having a first fight.”
“Well, I don’t like it, it was supposed to be you and me against the world.”
“I don’t like it either.”
“I understand we owe the King, and I understand the price is your time,” I said. “I didn’t mean to imply that I didn’t.”
“It hurts when you throw the kids at me like that. I miss them when I’m gone, I miss you when I’m gone, you know that. I have to force myself to leave every time, so you’re making a fuss, just making it harder.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“You and the kids could come with me.”
“Yes. You could stay at the house and I’ll return in the evenings. Caroline has never been to London and I’m sure Lionel barely remembers it. What do you think? Do you want to come with me?”
“But I have company.”
“No, the Dowager has company. We’ll be back before they return to Scotland,” he promised.
“Alright, yes, we’ll come with you.” He smiled and came back and took me in his arms and kissed me. “You won’t regret it, I swear.”
The next day I packed the kids up and we joined Leo on his journey to London.
“I’ve never been to London!” Caroline said.
“I haven’t either,” Lionel said.
“Yes, you have, you were born in London and we lived there for a few years when you were really little, you just don’t remember it.”
“Why are we going to London?” Caroline asked.
“Because Daddy has to go to London and we would miss him whilst he was gone, so Mommy decided that we should go too,” Lionel explained.
“You’ll like London, there’s a really pretty garden you can play in, and there’s a park and we can go visit daddy’s shop and see Melissa.”
“How long will we be there?” Caroline asked.
“A week, we’ll be there for a week, then we’ll return to surrey. Just seven days. They’ll fly, you’ll have so much fun, you’ll see.”
“When was the last time you were in London, Mommy?”
The last time you were, silly boy.” I kissed the top of his head.
We arrived in London and I got out with the children. I kissed Leo and he took the coach to the palace. I got the children settled into the house and then we took a walk in the park and ran into Unity Pratt.
“Trina? Oh, my goodness I hardly recognised you, and you and Leo have children.”
“This is Lionel and Caroline.”
“Oh, he looks just like his daddy.”
“Yes, he does.” I beamed. “How are you?”
“I’m well as can be expected.”
“I heard your husband passed.”
“Yes, and now I’m engaged to another. Younger this time. He might even outlive me. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
“Another rich lord?”
“No, he’s a wealthy Scotsman, an architect, but between his fortune and mine, who needs a title?”
“Well, that’s different indeed.”
“He’s almost as beloved and as famous as Leo.”
“Almost.” I smiled.
“Where is Leo?”
“He was summoned to the palace by the King. Has the King ever summoned your husband to the palace?”
“No, but then my husband wouldn’t dare go near the palace, he’s a Jacobite.”
‘What is he doing in London then?”
“Well after his family’s home was destroyed, he was forced out of Scotland, he came here looking for work, got a job as an architect and has been making a name and a living for himself. Someday he’d like to go to America when the war is over, that is.”
“And will you be going with him?”
“Yes, I will.”
“You’ll go to America if the war is won or if we lose the war?”
“If we lose the war, if America gains its independence, then he wants to go there and start a new life, they’ll need to rebuild, and he can help with that. I’m thinking we’ll live in New York,we’ll be wealthy beyond measure. Thanks to my last two husbands and he’s amassed his own fortune.”
Well, I wish you and your new husband all the happiness, you must stop by sometime soon for dinner, I’m sure Leo would love to see you again, and to meet your husband.”
“Oh, what’s the point in that? Let me just fade away, he doesn’t care about me anymore. It would hurt too much to have to see him. Yes, I’m still pining over your husband. He should have been mine.”
“Yes, but then you wouldn’t have met this handsome wealthy scot.”
“No, I’d be attending all the King’s balls and be the most beautiful woman of all.”
“I don’t attend the King’s balls. I have children that need me. Leo attends those alone with the King.”
“Aren’t you afraid he will stray if you let him go to parties unattended?”
“Certainly not, I know Leo only has eyes for me.”
“Oh really? Then why are you here in London?”
“Because the children would miss their father too much, it was decided that since they are still young, we could bring them with us and then we could be a family at night whilst he was busy serving the king. He’s painting a portrait for him this time. It’s his new hobby. He’s quite good at it. You should see some of the paintings he has done, maybe he’ll even do your portrait or you and your husbands. He’s even doing one for Benedict and his bride, when we return from London.”
“Benedict? I thought they hated each other.”
“We recently saw Benedict and he’s a changed man, so Leo has been making friends with him. We all need friends, Unity.”
“Yes, I suppose that is true, we all need friends, I thought I had a friend in Leo for a long while, but then a certain duke’s daughter came along and stole him away.”
“I didn’t steal him from you, Unity, you had your chance and you chose to be a Lady over marrying for love. You didn’t wait for Leo to become a knight like I did.”
“How was I supposed to know he’d be knighted? He was nothing more than a simple tailor.”
“Well, there is nothing simple about Leonide Blanchett anymore, and when my father passes, he will become the duke and then all will be forgotten as he takes his place at my side and we look over my father’s dukedom. The people already adore Leo and of course they do, who don’t adore him. He won the hearts and the respect of the town and of the king himself.”
“Yes well, I will always pine for what could have been, but I see his life was not the life I wanted. I guess I dodged the gun there. Give him my best Trina. Good day.” With that she walked away.
The children loved London. I was happy because I had Leo every night. We stayed there for the week till he had finished the portrait and another coat for the king. Then with money in his pocket we headed back home to Surrey.
The Prince Regent became King George and turned his sights on America. I was still so grateful that he didn’t make Leo a soldier and send him away like he did so many other men. Maddox was sent to America where he was killed. Melissa and her children moved in with me. Melissa hated King George after that and she hated Leo for still being such a good friend to him. Leo said he didn’t agree with the King, and he was saddened by the loss of Maddox. Leo lost a lot of friends during the war, but he remained grateful to George and loyal to him. I had no opinion.
At last, the war was over and the American’s won. Melissa and her children went to live with Randall and Alice in Scotland. I missed my cousins they were so far away, but surprisingly Benedict and his lady made up for it. Benedict and Leo were becoming fast friends and his wife and I were becoming fast friends. By the time they had their first child, mine were old enough to be left alone at home. So, Leo and I would visit often. The wife was so young I feared she wouldn’t make it through the birth, and she got so sick, but she made it and when they brought forth a baby girl, they named her Catrina.
Years passed in blissful happiness. Whenever Leo had to go to London the children and I went with him. Then my father got sick and I stayed to nurse him ‘til the day he died. Then Leo became the Duke and I became the Duchess and life changed for us again, but the happiness remained. The joy in our life remained.
Before long, Lionel went away to university and I taught Caroline at home. Lionel would send his term papers and I would teach Caroline everything on them. She was a fast learner, but she was so much like her father that learning wasn’t her forte, she liked keeping her hands busy, she loved to garden, but when she learned how to sew, that was it. She became her father’s assistant and she made herself and me some beautiful dresses. They weren’t breathtaking like her father’s, but they were lovely dresses I could wear every day. He taught her how to embroider them and she loved embroidering flowers on the collars and hems.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked her one lazy afternoon. I was reading, she was embroidering some lace. Leo was doing a self-portrait. He had a mirror and he would study his features and paint them. He had gotten really good.
“I want to be a dressmaker,” she said proudly. “I want every woman in London to wear my dresses.”
“You’ll be the richest woman in London, just like your father was the richest man in London when he made suits and coats for all the men in London. We’d be so proud of you.”
“I just want to make you one dress, well, two. I want to make you a dress like I made your mother and I want to make your wedding dress.”
“As long as I get to help. I have some ideas.” She grinned.
“Of course, you do.” He smiled. “You’re so much like your mother, you know that?”
“Yes, so I have been told, but I want to be more like you, I want to follow in your footsteps.”
“I have great pride in that,” he said.
I laughed and shook my head. “I guess it’s a good thing our son took after you in so many ways.”
“He took after me in looks, but not in anything else.”
They spent months designing and creating the dress. She chose silver silk and embroidered it with blue and pink thread and beading. She tightened up the skirt and bunched it in the back with ruffles. Her father made her a coat and she had it actually sewed onto the bodice and then etched it with pink ruffles. She adored it. She made me one similar in blue, The back of the dress swung with grace and I wasn’t tripping all over it like I had my other gowns. She became as good at making coats as her father, but her coats were tight and short and fit beautifully over the dresses she made. Her father gave her a place in his studio to work and built his shop in London for her. She met and married a jewel merchant. Her father helped make her wedding dress. It reminded me very much of the dress that started it all.
They were married in the garden on a warm sunny day and after the ceremony we sat around drinking champagne and stuffing our faces with cake and reminiscing about how they met. It took us all back to the ball. Of course, her fiancé had to know about the dress, and that lead to Leo and me telling the story about the dress that brought us together again. It was a wonderful story, and I never got tired of hearing about it, but I wanted to hear about Caroline’s love story and how she met her Prince Charming at a ball.
The ball where she met the jewel merchant had been thrown by the Dowager, it was her last big affair, before she passed away. Everything was extravagant, it was a night of pride for Leo and me and Caroline looked radiant; she was sure to be the belle of the ball. When Leo and I arrived, I in another splendid gown, and Leo in his best new suit, she complimented us on what lovely children we had. Lionel had made a good match and she was sure Caroline would too.
I was surprised but Leo said, “After all, she’s the queen in their home and the queen must obey.”