RAW chapter 1 of Winn's Fall

“Father, I do not wish to go. I am perfectly fine staying with you.” Zoe Chase protested. Didn’t her father understand she had been through enough and being shipped off with her mother’s body, back to England alone was only making it worse.

“It is not negotiable.” Her father said, not giving her any heed and diving into his eggs and sausage.

“You always say, everything is negotiable.” She pertly reminded him. Sitting with her arms crossed, her own eggs, toast and jam forgotten. Her father chuckled warmly and gave her a sideways glance.

“Yes, I suppose I do, but that is in government, not the raising of daughters.” He sat back in his chair and scrutinized his Zoe. She never liked him looking at her so, because he saw things no one else did. He was the only one who could read her mind. It had only been her and her parents as they traveled in the guise of her father’s post as a diplomat for the crown. Now, she would be alone. “This is not a punishment, Zoe. Zoe, look at me.” He bade. She had begun pushing her eggs around her plate making a mountain scene with them.

“I know Papa, it is just that— well, we have only just lost Mama and I have never traveled alone. I wish to stay with you for a while longer.” She tried to explain without giving away her real fear.

“You will have no trouble finding an interested man to be your husband my dear.” Her father comforted softly. It frustrated her how quickly he could get to the point of the matter when it came to her. “What I am concerned with is whether you will be able to make a choice. You have a tendency to drag your feet when it comes to making a decision.” He continued buttering a large piece of bread and adding a slice of ham on top.

“Whatever does that mean?” Zoe asked with mock annoyance.

“I mean, sweeting, if you choose a husband the way you choose a bonnet, you will be in your dotage before you let the poor saps know who you have chosen.”

“Papa, kidding aside. I do not even know what criteria I should judge them by. I have not experience, if mother were here—” Her voice caught in her throat and she took a sip of cider, breathing deep to keep the tears at bay. After a year of mourning, she would have thought she was over this. At first, she was sure she would never stop crying, her mother’s death being such a shock to everyone, but over time she was able to smile and eventually didn’t feel so melancholy every day. Now, however it was the first realization that her mother was going to miss out on all of her life’s events from this moment forward. It appeared that she had passed just when Zoe was going to need her most. Her father leaned over and put his hand over hers squeezing gently in a comforting manner. He too had tears in his eyes.

“This is the most difficult thing you and I have ever done, but the truth is your mother wanted you to be part of the upcoming season in London, and I agreed with her. We have mourned her, but as wonderful as she was, we have lives to still live. You have to find a husband, give me grandbabies, have grand babies of your own, know love, know hurt, all of those things that you have not yet done. Your mother would be in a terrible rage at me, if I let you stop the flow of life.” His eyes held so much emotion, sadness, fondness, and love. Theirs had been a love match she was sure of it, though neither of her parents ever spoke of their courtship. Zoe would settle for nothing less for herself, but she dearly wished her mother were here to guide her in finding such a thing.

“Papa, I do not know what to look for. How do I know when I meet him?”

“Well my dear, with your connections, and your dowry, you will have an endless supply of suitors I would imagine. Your Aunt Dorothy will know about their families and such, but it is the one who touches you here.” He put his finger over her heart. “That is the man for you.” He said with a smile.

“Was that how it was with you and mother?”

“Your mother would agree that fate also plays a role in the game of matrimony, and it isn’t my story to tell, it was your mother’s.” Was his answer.

“Father, that hardly gives me any guidance in what I am to look for.” She said just as exasperated as ever.

“I think you need to think about the important things in life and find that one person who you feel will be there for you and make life not so hard. That is what I think.”

“I still don’t want to go.” She brought them back to the original argument.

“I know.” He said with warmth but didn’t offer another option.

“So, the ship leaves on Saturday?”

“Yes.”

She sighed but argued no more and began planning in her head how to possibly pack all of her belongings in such a short amount of time.

 

***

“I believe the donkey wasn’t given enough credit. Which one really, was the ass?” Asked Cyn as she sat on the chair embroidery in hand, “And what in God’s name is that smell?” she barked.

“Cynthia.” Her mother spoke sharply as she fussed over Winn laid out on the couch with a large piece of meat over his left eye. “He could have been killed.” She snapped. At this Winn let out a bark of laughter and Cyn hmphed.

“Well, it would put an end to all this nonsense. I mean isn’t that really what he is trying to do? Just kill himself on his own terms?” She asked loud enough to scare the bark off a tree.

“Must you yell so like a crone, dear sister?” Winn asked, finally hoping to stop both women in his life from making any sound. The vibrations ripped through his head like a cannon ball.

“Well, personally death by donkey would not be what I would hope to be printed in the rags about me, but to each his own.” She commented dryly. Winn didn’t have to look at her to know she added a nonchalant shrug to punctuate her point.

“You are right, I would rather have it printed that I died in the arms of a beautiful woman, with an empty plate of venison on the table and an empty bottle of cognac by my side.” He responded, before he remembered his mother was in the room. He was brought back to that fact when the only one on his side currently swatted him in the chest.

“I am thinking, if you are considering the merits of loose women, and drinking, you will live yet another day, and need no more fussing.” His mother commented dryly. Winn felt her skirts brush his arm as she moved back to her seat.

“My apologies mother.” He amended

“Humph.” Was her answer.

“It really was something to see,” His friend (???) spoke up. “That is, until he was kicked.”

“I am sure it was quite a lark, however dangerous.” Replied Winn’s mother. The butler entered carrying a glass of water with a small vile of powder. Winn knew it was the butler without needing to open his eyes, because the man couldn’t walk quietly if being hunted, not to mention a decided hitch in his stride from an injury caused as a young man.

“Peter, I know what you are going to offer, and I am having none of it. I do not wish to spend however many days of my life remaining in a laudanum haze. Pain means life, and I am aptly going to embrace it while I still can.” He knew the butler wouldn’t give up until his mother gave me the sign to leave, and after only 30 ticks of the clock he hear Peter turn and walk back down the hall.

“Well, I can see that you are in the best of care, old chap. I must be off. Dinner at Lord Hudson’s this evening. I’ll call tomorrow. See if you are up for a ride.” (???) stepped up and slapped him on the arm, which had been resting over his good eye and forehead. The jolt of the movement, sent a wave a nausea through his body. All Winn could manage after that was a grunt. After the footfalls, and the door shutting his head and stomach finally agreed to stop reeling. We weren’t sure where he had gone wrong. It all seemed so simple, but apparently the donkey’s approval had not been taken into account.

“Why is it brother that you have to, on a daily basis, put your life and our nerve in dangers?”

“You know very well why.” He grumbled, talking hurt as much as being talked to.

“No, I do not.” Cyn answered angrily. “There is no reason to put your life in danger every day just because you think you are going to die.”

“But don’t you see the beautiful irony?” He asked “If I am doing things to enjoy the life I have and I die in the process, who loses? I was enjoying life, and death claims its next victim of the family curse. I refuse to let it keep me in fear.”

“So instead you tempt it, like a snake charmer?” Cyn asked concern in her voice. “If you keep this up, you are going to kill yourself before the curse has an opportunity to do it for you.”

“All the better don’t you think?” He asked with sarcasm

“That is enough. Both of you stop talking about such things. We should not provoke that which we do not understand.” Their mother interjected. “And besides, we have much more pressing matters to attend to.”

“What?” Winn asked, not having been home the past week to know what was going on.

“I received a letter from Zoe, two days hence. She is coming home!” Cyn said, happiness clear in her voice. “Her year of mourning is over, and her father wishes her to choose a husband during the season.”

“Zoe?” Winn tried to think back to who Zoe was. That name was familiar, but the throbbing wouldn’t allow it.

“My friend? Zoe Chase? You cannot possible not remember her. Before she left to travel with her father, we were the best of friends.” Cyn reminded him.

“Zoe? Oh, was that the gangly mud-haired girl? She was all arms and legs if it is the one, I am thinking of. Just limbs with a mop of freakishly dull curls bobbing up and down. Alright, I remember her now.” He said, and was punished for his meanness, by a well thrown pillow to the head. “Argh if I vomit on mother’s good rug, you will get the devil.” He reprimanded his sister.

“For such a callous comment, I would hit you with an anvil if I had one. She is still my dearest friend, and you will be kind. She is going to need as much support as possible if she is to find a husband, since she has been absent from the Ton for so long, she will not have it easy.” Cyn snapped.

“I also, received a missive this morning from Lady Lambert asking for our support. I was thinking of having a house party, before the season gets started. We would need to come up with a list of potential suitors and obviously some other less attractive young ladies, perhaps a bit older who have a season already tied up to equal the numbers.”

“Oh, mother, that would be a wonderous idea! Zoe and I could look at the field and narrow it down to only those in real contention. That way she wouldn’t waste so much time at the beginning of the season to fuss with those who are out of the question.” Cyn said enthusiastically.

“Remind me to bring you, dear sister, the next time I go to a horse auction. You seem to have this good flesh, bad flesh thing tied up.” Winn said dryly, not wanting a gaggle of unmarried women filling his country home. “And while you are at it, why don’t you decide on one of the leftovers for yourself, after all you are still in need of a husband, in case you had forgotten.”

“That is enough, Winthrop”

“Winn, mother” he corrected.

“Regardless, you don’t need to be in such a dark mood, it is not your sister’s fault you are unable to ride a donkey and it kicked you in the head and Zoe, was like another daughter to me we are going to help her. And yes, we means you as well.” She pointed out.

Winn groaned, he needed to savor the feel of getting kicked by a donkey, because he had a feeling it would be the best feeling he would have in the foreseeable future. Why the damned curse couldn’t just come and take him now. I mean what good is a curse if you couldn’t use it to your advantage, he thought as he tried to no avail to ignore the chatter of his mother and sister. The next time he had to be carried into the house, and there would probably be a next time, he was going to instruct them to bring him to his study and not any room there was a female in residence.

“Mother, we simply must have a ball for Zoe. She will need a proper coming out.” Cyn schemed.

“Oh, that is fabulous!” Her mother exclaimed loudly, obviously forgetting the man with the head injury. “Winthrop, Winthrop! Would you suggest having the ball at the beginning of the house party, or at the end? Winthrop!” His mother prodded apparently not forgetting him at all. Winn had all he could take of sound for the time being and decided he could feel his way to his rooms, on his hands and knees if need be.

“Mother, I do not particularly care about a ball at any time. I can see that you and Cyn have gads of planning. Please just inform me of when I am to prance around like your trained peacock, and I shall be there.” He rose slowly as gravity seemed to slip and undulate around him. He managed to kiss his mother on the head and send a half-hearted wave to his sister before groping his way to the door.

“Alright dear, I’ll check on you later.” He heard his mother call behind him. Again, it would be splendid if the bloody curse could be more accommodating.