Early the next morning, someone knocked on the door.
"Answer the door, Elvira," my mother ordered.
I sighed and left the breakfast table. I straightened my skirts as I walked and opened the door. Mr. Buckley was standing with the blade wrapped in a thick cloth to keep it safe.
"I have the sword finished," he said, yawning a little.
"Wonderful," I said. "Please, come in."
"What's taking you so long?" my mother snapped, not having seen Mr. Buckley yet. "Honestly. I should have sent your brother. You're useless."
Mr. Buckley looked troubled at her words and she turned pink when she saw who stood in the foyer.
"Your sword is done," he said slowly.
"Oh! Let's see it!"
We followed her into the parlor and she took the sword out of the wrap. He had done a fantastic job. You couldn't tell it was ever broken. I was very impressed and so was my mother.
"The looks great," she complimented. "Send Ivan my compliments."
Mr. Buckley bowed and accepted the coins with wide eyes. I knew he had been the one to do the work.
"Do you know where the schoolhouse is?" he asked me after my mother wandered off.
"Yes. I'll show you."
"Thank you," he muttered and I grabbed my parasol.
We walked in silence as I led him down the stairs. I knew he was watching me, though. Part of me hoped he wouldn't bring up how my mother spoke to me but, though I hadn't known him long, I had a feeling he would.
The schoolhouse was a large place and held children from 5 all the way up to 18. At the moment, no one was in class so I offered to take him on a brief tour and he gladly accepted.
"We have five rooms," I explained showing him each one, "and five teachers. The students are separated into each room depending on age. Subjects are rotated during the day to compensate each group. We don't want anyone getting bored during class." We came to the main office. "This is where the kids will go if they've been unruly. We do use the paddle, be warned. I don't think Megan will have that problem, though."
"How much is the tuition?" he asked, sounding a little nervous.
"It's 25 coins per term and we have four terms."
His face fell a bit. "Do I have to pay all at once?"
"No. You can pay per term if you'd like."
He nodded. "Where can I sign her up?"
"That's where I come in."
"Ah, I wasn't sure if you were going to be here today," I said, smiling nervously at Daniel.
He was still upset with me from... losing him at my mother's party.
"Well, I'll take it from here," he said and I smiled at the two men, bowing my head.
I left and wandered down the corridor, thinking. I didn't want to go home yet. I was embarrassed that Mr. Buckley had heard how my mother spoke to me. About ten minutes later, I heard him calling my name and I turned. I was down by the docks, watching a ship sail into port.
"Did you get Megan enrolled?" I asked lightly.
"Yes, thank you." He was staring at me and I bit my lip, knowing why. "May I speak bluntly?"
I sighed, turning to him fully. "Yes, you may."
"Why did your mother speak to you like that?" he asked, putting his hands in the pockets of his trousers.
I avoided his eyes. "She's just having a hard morning. She meant nothing by it."
He didn't look convinced and I rubbed the back of my neck.
"There's a ship coming in," I said. "Would you like to watch it with me?"
"Certainly," he said and stood beside me.
We stood in silence. I liked watching the ships come in. They glided smoothly through the water, sending ripples out among the water. It made me feel peaceful. It also helped me forget about the hatred my mother had toward me.
"Is this town named after your family?" he asked.
"No," I said. "It's simply coincidence."
"Was your father involved in politics much?"
"No," I said again. "Why do you ask?"
"You seem wealthy," he answered, turning a little pink. "I had wondered if he was a duke or something of the sort."
"No. Just a hard worker," I said. "He started from the bottom and went to the top."
"What did he do?"
"He was one of the people to start working on the docks," I explained. "He came up with the design and it just went from there."
"How did he die?"
"Heart failure," I said sadly. "I was nine when he passed. I miss him very much." He just nodded. "What about your parents?"
"Our house caught fire," he answered, looking at the ground. "When he went in for my mother, the... the fire caused the house to get weak and it fell on top of them."
I gasped and, on instinct, held his hand.
"I'm very sorry," I breathed. "That's awful."
"Thank you," he muttered. "But I have Megan."
"She's such a sweetheart," I said. "If you don't mind me saying, you are doing a very good job."
He chuckled. "Thank you but sometimes I don't think I am."
I frowned. "Why in the world not? She's a happy, healthy child."
He frowned, too. "But is she really happy? She smiles, she dances, but I haven't been able to buy her one new dress in two years."
"Has she asked for one?"
"No," he said. "I just want to dote on her but I can't. She's a very good sport about money."
"Why haven't you asked for help?" I asked.
"I want to earn it," he answered. "And I want Megan to see what hard work can do."
I looked back over the water and smiled.
"You remind me a lot of my father," I said quietly. "He was like that, too."
He didn't respond but I noticed he was holding my hand back. I blushed a little but it was a nice feeling. I twirled my parasol, trying to think of something to talk about.
"There you are!"
We both turned and Thomas immediately let go of my hand. Bryant was jogging over to us, his face worried.
"I had thought the worst," he breathed. "Oh! Hello, Mr. Buckley."
"Hello," he said back.
"Are you all right?" Bryant asked me.
"I'm fine," I said honestly. "Why were you looking for me?"
"When you didn't return...." He sighed. "Mother wants you to go shopping for the party."
I rolled my eyes. "Of course she does."
"Would you like to come to my birthday party this weekend?" he asked and Thomas stared.
"Me?" he asked and Bryant nodded with a smile. "I'd be honored."
"We'd love to see Megan, too," I said.
He flushed. "She'd be more than happy to come."
"Let's go," Bryant said and I felt disappointed.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Buckley," I sighed.
"Thank you for helping me at the schoolhouse, Miss Rivers."
We both waved and I followed Bryant up the street.
"So," Bryant began and I rolled my eyes at the tone in his voice but I smiled. "Holding hands, eh?"
"I was comforting him," I said. "He was telling me about his parents and Megan."
"Ah, he's a good man," Bryant said. "I think you should pursue it."
I blushed, fanning myself. "Bryant, I don't think-"
He nudged me teasingly. "I know you don't. That's why I think for you."
I giggled but shook my head. "He's not comfortable around us, Bryant. He may not admit it, but I can tell."
"Because we're wealthy?" he asked.
"I believe so," I nodded. "He's not said it but I can feel it."
"Why did you invite Megan?" he asked as we stopped by the butcher.
"Oh! I'm sorry. It's just that he loves her so much and is worried for her. I'm fond of her, too."
He nodded. "I understand. It will be fun to have a child there. Maybe she can get Mother to loosen up."
I laughed. "That's impossible, my dear brother."
He laughed, too.