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The Proper Gentleman’s Wife – Flash Fiction

May 5, 2016

The Proper Gentleman’s Wife

A soft breeze blew in through the window. Maggie settled down with a cup of tea at her desk. She sighed. She knew people were worried about her, but their constant bombardments were wearing on her. Why couldn’t people just leave her alone?

She took out a pen and paper from the desk drawer. She missed her friend and had promised to write, but a week had passed since her friend’s letter arrived from Africa and still she hadn’t replied. What could she possibly tell her? How her life revolved around parties and her husband’s business affairs? How the families pressured her to bear him children as if that was all her life could or should be? No, Maggie longed to be in Africa with Elise. She was the lucky one. Her parents had two other daughters who’d married and bore them grandchildren. Elise was free to travel with her father on expeditions. She’d been gone for two months this time and Maggie felt completely alone without her company.

She penned the letter. Gave her friend what she thought she wanted to hear, but inside Maggie’s heart was breaking. She longed for such an independent life. She sealed the envelop and rang the bell. The servant entered and took the envelop.

“Tell Miss Violet that I am ready for her,” Maggie informed the servant girl.

Moments later, Miss Violet arrived and helped Maggie dress for dinner. Since they would have guests that night, Maggie chose a long silver gown with pearl inlay. Miss Violet pinned her long black hair up, but left ringlets around her pale face. Strings of delicate pearls and matching earrings completed the look. Maggie put on her dainty silver slippers and long white gloves. She stared at herself in the mirror. The proper gentleman’s wife. She sighed again.

By the time Maggie descended the staircase, the guests had arrived. She joined them in the study for drinks and conversation before dinner. Maggie noticed the woman immediately. She dressed in the more modern gowns from London. A tailored look that resembled a man’s style of dress more so than a woman’s. Anna was the daughter of a titled newspaper mogul. Her father, Lord Arnold, owned several newspapers in London and Paris. Maggie was taken in by Anna. She reminded her of Elise. The same independent stubbornness. The two became fast friends.

Months passed and Anna became a frequent visitor to Maggie’s home. They spent hours walking in the gardens, playing cards in the study and riding horses. The families stopped harassing Maggie since her spirits were lifted and she no longer spent hours alone in her rooms. After Maggie accompanied Anna to London a few times, Harold, Maggie’s husband, noticed a change in his wife. He finally confronted her one evening.

“You seem quite happy these days, Maggie,” Harold said as he stood in Anna’s sitting room staring out the window.

“Do I?”

Harold turned and glared at Maggie with his cold, blue eyes. “You know very well that you do. What’s going on between you and Lady Arnold?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Harold? Anna and I are friends. You know that.”

“Friends? Friends do not stare at one another that way, Maggie. I forbid you to see her again!”

“Jealousy doesn’t become you, dear husband,” Maggie retorted as she combed her hair. “I will keep seeing Anna.”

“She is an… unnatural woman! There have been rumors…”

“So that is what this is about. Your reputation. You care nothing about how your wife feels!”

“You are my wife and by damn you will start acting like one!”

Maggie stood and walked over to the window. “Or what, Harold? What will you do?”

A shadow fell over Harold’s face. They were Catholic. Divorce was out of the question. Maggie smiled. There really was nothing he could do.

Maggie placed a hand on her husband’s arm. “This is what we are going to do, dear husband. I will pretend that we are a happy couple and parade around on your arm at parties and other social functions. I may even give you a child. When I am not needed, I will spend my time with Anna in London. You will not mention this arrangement to anyone. Take a mistress, if you must, and we will both be discrete. Do we have an understanding?”

Harold ripped his arm away from her and glared down at her once more. “You’re insane. I should have you locked away!”

Maggie laughed. “You could do that, but I know you want an heir. I will give you that, but you will also give me my freedom.”

And so the bargain was set. Maggie did as required. She gave Harold a son. She played her role during social functions. All of her days, she remained the proper gentleman’s wife, but her heart belonged to Anna.

©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.

(812 Words)

Each day in May, I will be participating in the StoryADay in May. Here are today’s prompts:

Via Julie – Write a story featuring a character very like you

Via Guest Stuart HorwitzWrite A Story Set In A Time Period You Connect With

  1. That was brilliant! I loved this story.

  2. What a great ending. Nice to see a downtrodden woman take control of her life. Kudos all round, Lori.

    • Thanks, Keith… I appreciate the vote of confidence in that ending. I wasn’t sure it worked.

      • It certainly did.
        In a much longer piece, a more drawn-out resolution would have been possible, but sometimes they all lived happily ever after is exactly what is needed.
        Here’s another consideration: had you given a lot of detail about how well it worked out for Maggie, the balance of the story may have shifted away from what she was escaping from, which could have reduced its impact.
        Not that I have any idea what I’m talking about, of course!

      • Oh I think you know exactly what you are talking about because it all makes perfect sense to me. Thank you!

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