The Road to Redway (Pt.1)
Note: Spoilers for book one
You know how it is. You lie in bed trying to sleep. Thoughts of the day intrude—all the things you should have done and didn’t, everything you need to do tomorrow. I tried my usual trick to stop my spiralling mind—make up a story.
Lately, Pride & Prejudice variation books had captured my interest. My favourite Pride & Prejudice on screen adaptation includes Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, where Anthony Calf’s portrayal of Colonel Fitzwilliam is amiable and fun. As he was easy on the eyes, I imagined him as Colonel Fitzwilliam in my variation.
What I needed now was a heroine. Enter Mrs Helena Andrews (that’s he-LAY-nah by the way) who would be marvellous with horses. My colonel would ride his magnificent stallion on the battlefields in France. In my mind, during a visit to Darcy, he would be riding across the fields of Pemberley. He had met Mrs Andrews, a young widow, at a dinner party, and during his ride he came across her helping one of her mares with a problematic foaling. A storm was rolling in, and the only place close was a remote shelter. He led their mounts to it while she followed with the mare.
When she approached, he was at the door, holding it open for them. He had not put his hat back on to let her in, and his hair quickly became plastered to his head. He closed and secured the door, then removed his drenched coat and hung it on a nail in the wall nearby to dry. The fatigued mare collapsed on the hay strewn floor he had thoughtfully prepared.
At this point in the story, I had fallen asleep.
The following night, I wondered, Now where did I get to in my story?
Helena had to help the dam (I had looked up a little about horse terms that day. Apparently, a mare with foal is called a dam). Perhaps she had to pull the foal out? Were there difficult foalings like that? I wondered. Helena would be the kind of woman who did not think twice about getting her hands inside a dam if needed. As she was a widow, perhaps she had a child of her own? Yes, I decided, she had a daughter, Isabella, but everyone would call her Issie. I imagined Issie as a red-headed Shirley Temple.
The colonel would be shocked, then impressed, at Helena’s actions, but not squeamish as he had bravely cut down many enemies on the battlefield. Perhaps he was visiting his friends to recuperate from an injury? A slash across the chest from a sword as he courageously tried to save someone. I decided Helena needed to know of it—Helena would need his cravat.
Wrapping the cravat around the foal’s legs, Helena looked at the colonel again. Her glance took in his open collar, where she glimpsed a red scar crossing diagonally over his chest. She could not see its beginning or end. His sandy hair curled around his face where it was drying and gave him that charming boyish appearance.
As the nights went on, I progressed my story.
Although they would spend the night in the shelter, even share the only bed, they would not have sex. Why? I considered. Helena was too wary of him for some reason, and the colonel too much of a gentleman.
I looked up at my bedroom ceiling thinking of a few scenarios before deciding upon one. Helena had a secret. She was not a widow. Helena, engaged to a man she didn’t love, was raped by him before the wedding. His horse kicked him in the head and killed him. She came to live with her grandfather, who owned Redway Acres, and had Issie there. For both of them to be accepted in society, she made up a husband—Captain Andrews.
When the colonel and Helena met before, he learned of her husband but didn’t know a Captain Andrews. So he wrote some letters to find out more. He received replies the day of the storm and had headed out to confront her.
Now they were trapped in that shelter together, certainly attracted to each other and perhaps a little frustrated. The colonel armed with his discovery about her husband, and Helena wary of being alone with him. Helena successfully delivered the foal, and now they had to have a jolly good argument. I tried some dialogue.
“As soon as my opinion of you improves, Colonel, you do something that confirms your belief that you are superior to me. You are a man, you have a powerful family, and you can do as you please. You are so much like your father.”
“I am nothing like my father!” He hadn’t wanted to shout at her, but there was no worse insult she could have levelled at him. His anger brought hers to the fore, and her voice raised in return.
“Then why make inquiries about my husband? If you had suspicions that no such man existed why not ask me of him?”
“Would you have told me the truth?” he asked, exasperated with the woman.
“That we will never know, will we?”
Weaving this dialogue in my mind, I could not get to sleep. Would I remember these lines the following day to write them down? The next night, I had a document on my Kindle to read in bed, and make some notes.