Orrick lay staring at the canopy of the bed above him, Ailana had bravely nestled herself into his shoulder and her arm lay nervously over his chest. He had to admire her, she was clearly taking her role as his wife seriously and despite the fact that they both knew full well there was no love nor even attraction between them.
He knew…. What she was expecting and it was only right. He only had to see how good she was with Matilda to know like all young woman she wanted children of her own.
Shifting he rolled her onto her back, looking down at her for a moment as he steadied his resolve. He needed to get this started; it felt different tonight to their wedding night. It seemed suddenly more real. In his own house, lying in the bed his son’s bed with a woman … that was not his wife…
He shook the thought from his head…. Ailana was his wife he corrected.
Each day there was a brief moment in which he forgot, it was usually when he heard a servant use the name ‘Lady Vaux’ that caused brief moment of elation when things felt normal. However the elation was usually short lived and was usually crushed by the sudden resounding thud of reality that inevitably followed. ‘Lady Vaux’ was no longer his auburn haired beauty; instead she was the slip of a girl lying in his arms.
Gazing down at the girl, his eye’s scanning her tiny frame. Hamdun woman where always so petite and that matched with her dark skinned complexion it was hard to envision a woman more unlike Nicole.
‘Woman’ even that felt like a stretch, Ailana was barely more than a girl and with that realisation another wave of guilt hit him as surely as a tidal wave. As the thought oddly; reminded him of his son.
How many times had he barged into this room he wondered to find Christopher in this bed with one young woman or another? How many times had he screamed at the young man about responsibility and doing something meaningful with his life.
Christopher had not wanted to marry Maegan, he had forced it upon him. While Orrick still felt she had been good for him, for the first time in that instant, Orrick understood why his son had resisted so strongly.
Christopher had wanted a woman and he had forced upon his son a child.
Even though Ailana was several years older than Maegan, she seemed just as much a child to him as Maegan did to Christopher. He remembered painfully the night Christopher had come to this very house drunken and cursing his name. It was the last time they had spoken, angry words that’s what he would always remember and he wondered if it was what Christopher had thought of as he’d died.
Realising he was staring, he watched as the young woman’s eyes darted back and forth. She was nervous… he was nervous also. They had done this before but as practical strangers it was not comfortable for either of them. There was a strangeness in it, he’d been married twice before and yet neither wife looked upon him the way she did.
Ailana however lay strangely innocent, with a look that was marred by both fear and nerves. A complete contrast to Lynette’s cool defiance or Nicole who had been married before and held nothing but eagerness for him. She was the first woman to lie with him in fear, he realised and that reality did nothing to hide the reminder of the young woman’s youth.
“How old are you?” he whispered, he had never thought to ask her age and when you got to his the years blended together so easily that he realised he had no idea if she where twelve or twenty.
“I was sixteen last month” she replied softly.
“I must seem so terribly old to you” he decided, climbing from the bed, ignoring the young girls confused and worried expression. He needed a drink, he needed several.
Heading out of the bedroom, he headed into the lounge and towards the bar. With a little luck the maids had not seen fit to empty Christopher’s liquor cabinet. Opening the wooden doors he was relieved to find Christopher’s brandy intact, if his son ever had good taste it was in brandy, he decided pouring himself a large measure.
“Would you like a drink?” he called though into the bedchamber. “Christopher only drank brandy, but with a little water you might find it not too harsh.
Ailana appeared in the doorway, her arms folded self-consciously across herself as she tried to hold a blanket around her “Yes please” she nodded and Orrick could not help but chuckle, neither Nicole nor Lynette would have cared much for modesty, Still he understood he was not the only one in need of a little courage tonight.
Pouring them both a glass he handed one to the young woman who ventured to his side. He sighed deeply, trying to think of something to say.
“I’m sorry” he apologised suddenly, noticing the young woman’s apparent distress. “I realised this isn’t terribly romantic” he added understand her concern, he had left the marital bed in favour of getting a stiff drink.
“Am I not what you expected?” she asked softly, her voice uncertain.
“This room it reminds me of Christopher” he explained, “It’s not you… the situation.. I can’t get him out of my head this night. I’m afraid it doesn’t do much for my mood”
“We could move” she offered helpfully, “Im sure the soldier wouldn’t mind, you might feel more comfortable in your own bed?”
Orrick shuddered, nothing sounded worse. He couldn’t bare the thoughts of taking the young woman there. The room he’d shared with his wife, where Nicoles things still rested in every corner from the hairbrush on the table to the robe hanging behind the door. “I’m not sure that is a good idea” he reasoned trying to banish the distress from his voice. “I’m going to take a walk” he decided, “Get some fresh air, you try and get some sleep”
“The soldier he said we must’ent…”
“I’ll be fine” he cut her off, kissing her softly on the cheek. A feeble attempt to reassure the young woman. The look on her face telling him all he needed to know. He realised enough to know she was undoubtedly blaming herself, picking herself apart. But this was not about her and he could not remove himself from the room fast enough.