Three Years Later
Charlotte’s hands moved effortlessly through the long, brown tresses in front of her. Slowly she gathered them in small sections, twisting and manipulating them into a sophisticated up do. Her fingers neatly placed tiny, pearl pins along the top, creating a sort of crown. “Done.” She spoke, giving her reflection in the vanity a small smile.
Victoria turned, gasping with excitement as she gazed at her reflection. “Oh, Charlotte!” She covered her mouth with her delicately gloved hand. “Oh, it’s beautiful!”
Charlotte’s smile widened with genuine happiness. She gazed at the window, specifically at the chair nestled underneath, all but hidden by the long, billowing white gown. Victoria followed her gaze.
“Want to help me with it?” Victoria asked, standing by the vanity.
“You’d let me?” Charlotte replied, embarrassed that she got caught.
Victoria laughed. “Of course I would!” She answered as she walked over to the chair, lifting the garment.
Charlotte agreed, and piece by piece, her younger became a bride. She stepped back, in awe of her sister’s beauty. Her mind couldn’t help but wander back to when James was still alive, to the thought of their forever. She imagined herself in Victoria’s place, standing as a bride, dressed in white anxiously waiting to be united with her one true love….
“What do you think?” Victoria asked, twirling slowly, her dress moving about with elegant grace.
“Hold on,” Charlotte turned to the bed, grabbing the veil. She gently pressed it to her sister’s hair, stepping back, pulling it with her as she went, releasing it so it fell softly against the train of the gown. “There.” She walked up to Charlotte’s side, wrapping her arms around her. “I think we should go have a wedding.” She smiled, escorting Victoria, who was laughing softly with excitement from the room.
~ ~ ~
Everything went as planned. Victoria was a blushing bride as they arrived at the Dowling estate. Her fiance, Henry, was a successful businessman under the family’s financial empire, and quite a handsome fellow. His sandy blonde curls shone brighter in the sunlight as guests made their way out to the back lawn where the ceremony was to take place. The ceremony proceeded smoothly, it was a truly beautiful union, and the guests had now dispersed into the hall for refreshments and a break from the summer heat.
Charlotte stood by the window, sipping the complementary champagne, scanning the crowd for any familiar face. She watched as Victoria and Henry made their rounds, thanking everyone for attending and receiving many well wishes.
“Charlotte!” Victoria’s sweet voice chimed above the crowd.
Charlotte turned to see the happy couple approaching her, both with beaming smiles and radiating happiness. She hugged Victoria, and kissed Henry on the cheek. “Congratulations!” She shouted over the noise.
“Thank you!” Victoria replied, looking off into the distance.
Charlotte was confused. “What is it?”
Henry smiled. “She’s searching for someone.” He answered.
“Who?” Charlotte inquired, turning behind her.
“There she is!” Victoria exclaimed. “Rose!”
Charlotte stood silent as a beautiful young woman made her way towards them. Her blue eyes were wide with excitement and her golden hair fell neatly in gentle curls on the right side.
“Has your brother gone?” Victoria asked as they separated from their welcoming embrace.
“I don’t believe so.” Rose replied. “Why?” She wondered, a small smile appearing on her crimson lips.
“I was hoping to introduce him to Charlotte.” Victoria stated simply
Rose gasped. “What a great idea! I’ll go find him!” With that she disappeared into the crowd, and Charlotte longed to do so as well, but settled for gazing at Victoria.
“Don’t look at me like that.” Victoria laughed. “I think you’ll like him. Oh Charlotte he’s a wonderful man. He’s a very successful lawyer in the city.” She leaned in, so only Charlotte would hear. “He’s quite handsome too.” She added.
“Victoria-” Charlotte began.
Victoria nearly squealed with excitement as Rose reappeared, trailing behind her a tall, lean man with windblown dark brown curls and matching eyes. Involuntarily, Charlotte’s breath escaped her. He was handsome. Quickly, she averted her eyes, pretending to be interested in something else, not wanting him to catch on to her immediate attraction.
“Charlotte,” Rose began, reaching out and grabbing her arm, forcing her to look at him. “This is my brother, Edward Abernathy. Edward, this is Charlotte Needham.”
Edward reached out, taking Charlotte’s hand and gently lifting it to his lips. “Charlotte.” There was something about the way he said her name that almost made her feel faint. He was breathtaking, in all ways. She could feel all too familiar emotions burning within her, feelings she hadn’t experienced with anyone except James, and quickly fought to suppress them.
She let her hand fall back to her side. “Edward.”