Thomas went to work early, leaving Elvira and I to pack up for the estate. I packed up the clothes while Elvira got her embroidery supplies and my art supplies in a box. I also got some of Thomas's unfinished projects. He liked to do them away from the forge because they required fire that wasn't as hot as the one at the forge. I didn't understand it but that's why he was the master blacksmith and I wasn't.
"I want to talk to you about something," Elvira said after we had everything ready.
"Okay," I said.
"I heard you talking to Thomas," she said bluntly and I looked away. "He's right, Megan. You have more to offer than you know."
I sighed. "I just want to forget about last night."
She kissed the side of my head. "Okay. Let's get to the estate."
I picked up the bags that held our clothes and she got the box holding everything else. The roads were slick from the ice and I glanced to the house on our left. That must be where Silas lived. I was shocked he was able to find a house so quickly. Perhaps he wasn't as poor as I originally thought.
Cary, the maid I had met a few times when I would visit, was there when we arrived. She smiled happily at us and stepped to the side.
"Mr. and Mrs. Rivers have already left," she said as we walked up the stairs. Elvira's gaze was fixed right ahead of us. "He has asked me to show you where you will be sleeping."
She turned right but I glanced at the left side of the house. Thomas was right. There was a sort of gate blocking it off. It made me a little sad but I wanted to leave all that in the past.
Our rooms were right next to each other and I unpacked my clothes. There was a sitting room downstairs where Elvira and I would go to do our crafts. I was looking forward to drawing. It had been a while because my schooling had gotten more difficult each year.
"What was your favorite thing you learned?" Elvira asked me at lunch.
I thought about it.
"I really liked when they taught us to write," I said. "And read."
She smiled. "Mine was math."
My jaw dropped. "Math?" She laughed. "I hated math!"
"I know," she giggled. "I remember helping you with your homework. We used a lot of chocolate."
I grinned. "To tell you the truth, I didn't really need all that help. I just wanted the chocolate."
Elvira winked at me. "I know that, too."
We both laughed and finished our lunches.
"Can we go visit Thomas?" I asked when I got bored.
"I don't know," she said slowly. "It's pretty slick out there."
"Psh. We can handle it!"
"Okay," she said and handed me my thick cloak that Bryant got me for my birthday.
We put on our boots and Elvira locked the door behind her, slipping the key into a special pocket. She glanced at the estate over her shoulder.
"Is it weird being back?" I whispered.
"Very much so," she sighed. "I'm glad Thomas will be with us in the evenings."
"Agreed," I said.
We walked slowly, placing our feet with care. No one was out that didn't have to be. When we turned the corner to the blacksmith, I sighed.
"I'll meet you at the blacksmith," she said.
"Elly," I groaned but she winked and walked off.
"Miss Buckley," Roderick said. "I didn't expect to see you out today!"
"I'm just going to visit my brother," I said. "Excuse me."
"Perhaps I could walk you there?"
"Well, Elvira is-"
"Please?" he interrupted and I looked at him, shocked.
His face looked a little nervous so I relented, nodding. He offered his arm.
"It's just an arm, Miss Buckley," he said with a small laugh.
"Yes, but arms can be deadly," I said lightly which made him laugh again.
He walked beside me and I let out a small breath of relief.
"Do you visit your brother at work often?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "I do not have a career yet so sometimes Elvira and I get a little lonely."
"Why haven't you chosen a career?"
I shrugged. "I don't know what I'd do, to be honest. I'm not very talented at marketable trades."
"Being a housewife doesn't require many talents," he said quietly.
"Who said I want to be a housewife?" I asked a little harshly. "I do not like being idle," I added.
He frowned at me. "You don't?"
"No," I said firmly. "I may be able to cook and clean, but there must be more to a woman's life than that, don't you think?"
He stopped walking and I looked at him. I was surprised. His face was dark.
"No, Miss Buckley," he said and I took a step back at the tone of his voice. "No. Women belong in the home cooking and taking care of their husbands and children."
I frowned, getting angry.
"It is the man's job to earn the income," he said, putting a hand on his chest. "We need the support of our wives." His voice dropped. "Not their judgement."
"I wasn't judging you," I snapped. "But do not speak to me this way. If you don't like that then you-"
He kissed me and my eyes widened. I pushed him off and slapped him. He blinked a few times, putting his hand on his cheek.
"Who do you think you are!?" I shouted, my voice echoing. "Don't ever come near me again!"
I turned and stormed down the street, forgetting that it was slick. I stepped wrong and went falling backwards. I landed painfully on my butt and groaned as I slid a few feet. With shaking legs, I got back to my feet. Elvira and Thomas were hugging when I got back.
"How did it go?" Elvira asked excitedly.
"I have half a mind to get my dagger and chop his di-"
"What happened?" Thomas interrupted and I clenched my hands into fists.
"He kissed me!" I shouted indignantly.
Elvira smiled. "That's normal, Megan. It means he-"
"Before or after they insult you?" I snapped. "Apparently I'm not allowed to do anything except be a submissive housewife."
Elvira sighed. "Oh, Megan. I'm sorry."
I glared at the fire in the forge.
"He kissed you?" Thomas repeated. "Without your permission?"
"I already slapped him," I mumbled but he put his mallet down.
"No one touches my sister without her permission!" he roared.
"Tommy!" I said but he was already storming up the street.
I shared a frightened look with Elvira and we hurried after him, trying not to sleep on the ice. Thomas obviously didn't care, walking as fast as he could, only slipping a couple time. Roderick was still where I had left him.
Even from almost twenty feet away, I heard his fist collide with Roderick's face.
"Thomas!" Elvira shouted. "Thomas, stop it!"
"Don't you come near my sister again!" he yelled, going to punch him again.
"Thomas," Elvira snapped. "Stop it this instant."
Roderick looked dazed. "I didn't mean it like that," he said in a hoarse voice. "I just- My mother was a housewife and-"
Thomas pointed an angry finger at him and he flinched.
"You never touch a woman without her consent!"
Roderick seemed to shrink. "Surely you can understand," he said. "I- Her defiance was attractive and-and I couldn't resist. It was almost like she was asking for me to kiss her and-"
I closed my eyes. Those were the wrong things to say. Thomas pushed Elvira off him and lunged at Roderick, punching him again. Elvira and I grabbed Thomas's arms and pulled back.
"Go!" he roared at Roderick. "Go now! If I see you anywhere near my sister again, I'll beat you worse than that!"
Roderick had fallen and scrambled to his feet, running down an alley to get away from Thomas. He looked murderous and shook our arms out of his hands.
"Let me see your hand," Elvira said quietly.
He let her grudgingly. "I'm sure it will just bruise," he said.
"Thomas, as much as I appreciate you defending me, you need to be careful," I sighed. "You could have gotten yourself injured."
He scoffed. "That pansy couldn't hurt me."
I smiled. "I was talking about the ice, silly."
He smiled back and hugged me tightly.
"I won't let anyone treat you like that, Megan," he said. "I don't care if I slip on ice and break a bone."
I sighed. "I'm sorry I spoke against him. It just made me so angry!"
Elvira laughed. "It's all right. At least you found out now until it was too late."
"I guess," I said. I rubbed my hands together. "Can we go back to the forge? I fell on my butt on the way over."
They both laughed.
"Let's go," Thomas nodded.