Fair clime! where every season smiles
Benignant o'er those blessed isles
Buffy Summers smiled as she pressed her face the window of the carriage, beaming at the beautiful day. It was almost summer, and it looked as though they might finally be see an end to all the mud that had so plagued their travels from England. Turning back to her companions, she grinned wider in response to their own cheer.
William Pratt, her fiancé, sat next to Drusilla Du Point, her stepsister. Will’s messy curls were somewhat tamed today, and while he looked rumpled, deliciously so in her opinion, he was also dressed a bit neater, in deference to her worries that their reputations would be in tatters if they arrived in Geneva looking too rough. His hair bounced a little as their carriage moved along the rock-studded roads.
It has surprised her to see that a man who had something of a reputation as a dandy could be so uncaring about his appearance when traveling, but when she had asked him he had only laughed and told her that experience with past journeys had convinced him the effort was futile. That had prompted a debate on the subject, which had turned into passionate embraces, and by the time they had emerged from their rooms at the inn she had quite forgotten to tease him for it.
Drusilla was also looking well. She had gained a little color recently, and she looked happier than Buffy could remember seeing her in nearly a year. She felt a pang of worry when she thought of her sister’s ordeal, and the madness that had briefly taken her. When she and Will had made plans to elope, she had insisted Drusilla come with them, and was relieved to see that it appeared to have been for the best. What was there left for them in England anyway? she wondered darkly. Oh, she would miss her father, and her sister Dawn (insofar as anyone could miss a sulky twelve-year old), and Drusilla would no doubt miss her mother, but everything good about their family had been destroyed a year ago.
Shaking off morose thoughts, she exclaimed “I can’t believe we’re almost there!”
William shook his head at her indulgently, “You’ve mentioned that before, darling.”
“Yes,” she replied, with a playfully arch look in his direction, “but it’s more true today, right Dru?”
Drusilla only shook her head, sending her dark hair sliding around her face becomingly, and offered a slight smile.
“Lake Geneva” William mused, “I hope it lives up to its reputation.” The picturesque community on the Swiss and French boarder had long been attractive to the artistic community of Europe, and stories of its beauty had filtered back to their circles in England. So too had stories of its scandals. The three of them would fit right in.
“Let’s hope we don’t live up to ours,” Buffy said wryly. Will caught her hand as she rolled her eyes, and he pressed a kiss to it. She wouldn’t change anything, she thought fiercely, and damn the consequences.
Drusilla had been frowning throughout their little exchange, and Buffy asked her if anything was wrong. She only shrugged and offered murmured assurances before turning back to her book. A collection of Lord Angelus’ poetry, Buffy noticed. Supposedly, the man himself was on the Continent and in the area.
He had been more or less driven out of England after a string of scandals had caused society to turn their backs on their dangerous darling. Some of the rumors were so outlandish she could hardly believe them. Hearsay placed him in bed with the Prime Minister’s niece, in addition to a bevy of beauties, some with husbands. Supposedly, he had also had relations with men, and with multiple partners. Buffy wasn’t sure quite what to believe. She was no prude, and her father had been unusually forthright with her regarding what happened between men and women. Both her parents had been against the institution of marriage, only wedding in deference to Buffy’s impending arrival after her mother became pregnant, and her father had not been faithful to his second wife after her mother’s death. Buffy herself had eloped with a man and was currently having relations with him despite being unmarried. No, she knew perfectly well what went on behind closed doors and was not inclined to judge. Yet the stories about Angelus gave her pause.
Still, indecent appetites aside, she rather appreciated his work. She hadn’t had much contact with many outside her family growing up, and while she and Drusilla had always been fond of each other, much to her stepmother Edith’s dismay, she had often tired of playing with the other girl. Her father was a great believer of education for women, and had encouraged her to read as much as she desired, and so as a young girl she had devoured any works of literature she could get her hands on. While some of it was quite dull, she had enjoyed tales of adventure and heroism, and with her imagination and the influence of her father’s books, she and Drusilla had invented incredible games to play and created new worlds for themselves. Poor Dru was often browbeaten by her mother who seemed determined to turn her into a proper lady and have her make some great marriage, and so her education has been somewhat shoddier. Edith was convinced that men disliked their women knowing more than they did, and Drusilla and her sisters, Lugenia and Edmonia hadn’t been encouraged to broaden their minds much.
Still, Drusilla had always loved romantic poetry and Angelus’ work was arguably some of the best. Buffy though, would argue differently, despite her appreciation for his talent with verse. She looked at William and felt a rush of affection.
He had courted her with beautiful poems and passionate philosophical arguments, and for once in her life, Buffy had felt someone taking her seriously. He had promised her a future where she was free- free from the oppressive home she felt caged in, free to explore and learn, to mingle with society and live on her own terms. Their courtship and been passionate and sweet. With Drusilla helping to arrange their meetings, all seemed to have been going well for months, before they had been found out.
And now they were here, joining the other unconventionals to laugh and live freely, to write and love, and enjoy the beauty of the moment, and of the summer. It was going to be perfect.
William had to prevent himself from cursing as he hauled the last of his bags up the stairs. As he had predicted, it had taken them a day longer to arrive at Lake Geneva than Buffy had hoped, and in the space of the day, the clime had gone from beautiful and welcoming to rainy and cold. The girls were huddled around the fire in the rooms they had taken for the night and tomorrow he would arrange to find somewhere more permanent for the season. Still, hardly an auspicious omen, the weather. He hoped it would clear tomorrow or else his jaunt would be far from pleasant.
He walked over to the fire to join Buffy and Drusilla and felt a rush of affection for both of them. So unalike, those girls, each beautiful in her own way. Where Buffy was petite and golden, with delicate, pert features, Drusilla was willowy and dark, with a long pale face and wide, almost colorless eyes. Night and day, those two, with very different sprits, but he had come to love both, if in different ways.
From the moment he had first seen Buffy perched on the ledge of a windowsill, laughing at a letter from a friend, he had been enchanted. She was so full of life, but sorrowful in a way. His friends hadn’t understood his fascination with a girl they dismissed as a bluestocking, but then again, they hadn’t seen her. Buffy hardly fit the stock character that most thought of when a woman let it slip out that she had anything at all between her pretty ears. As he had come to know her better, William had appreciated her keen mind, her strength, but also her softness, and her longing for freedom. He knew the feeling. She was beautiful and sweet, fiery and charming. And now she was his.
His father had died when he was young, and William had been primarily raised by his mother, who was devoted but unwilling to let her boy grow up. William remembered the feeling of relief when he had left for Cambridge, and established himself there. She had always remained overbearing though, and had persuaded his uncle to forbid his marriage with Buffy. Unless they wanted to wait until William was thirty, they would be forced to elope and abandon the comfortable, conventional existence they might have had in England. And with Drusilla’s help, they had.
William hadn’t even been aware of Drusilla’s existence for the first two months he had hung around Rupert Giles’ household; she had been recovering from an illness and grief at the loss of her two sisters. But once he had come to know her he had appreciated her kind heart and her fanciful nature. And she had been instrumental in helping his romance with Buffy.
As he joined the two girls on the slightly worn sofa, he slid in between them, flinging his arms around their shoulders. His girls, he thought affectionately. Drusilla lay her head on his shoulder and Buffy put a hand on his leg and he knew despite the foul weather, the mud, and the arrangements that needed to be made, that all would be well.
Drusilla kept her head bowed in prayer. She was tired from the travel, but refused to allow her knees to weaken, to sit back on her heels. She opened her eyes to look at the night. It was dark enough that she could see neither moon nor stars, and the only light in her room was from a small kerosene lamp by the bedside. The villa William had found for them was slightly small, but with only the three of them at the present they wouldn’t need much space. She and Buffy were both fairly adept at housekeeping and William had promised to find someone from the village the next day to tend to the heavier work and the cooking. Most people liked their servants to live with them, and he and Buffy had reasoned that anyone they took on wouldn’t likely have much to do and would appreciate being able to return to their family every evening. They were slightly hard up for cash at the present, living off of William’s £500 a year.
Finishing her prayers, she stood and blew out the lamp. She shivered as she slid into bed. It was still so strange to be sleeping alone. One of her sisters had always been there with her, someone to talk to, someone to hold. But Lugenia and Edmonia were dead, and with Buffy marrying William and Dawn back in England, she wouldn’t have anyone to share a bed with her ever again. She shivered.
It was unseasonably cold, though they all assured themselves that it would pass soon. Drusilla hadn’t been warm in nearly a year, since a man had put his arms around her and assured her that everything would be alright, before vanishing the next day. The months of horror that had followed had done little to make her feel like she could ever be happy again, until her sister had come to her with a soft smile she had never seen before and the promise of love in her future. For one terrible moment, Drusilla had wanted to strike Buffy in jealousy, but it had passed. She loved Buffy and wanted her to experience happiness and love, even if it was no longer within reach for her. Watching and aiding Buffy and William, whom she had come to adore, had been sweet and fulfilling. It had also reminded her that acting the coy, remote lady was no way to keep a man. If she ever had one again, she would have to win his attention, as Buffy had.
And who knew what the coming months at Lake Geneva would bring? William and Buffy could be happy here. And so could she. She was going to find the man who had been forced from her side, the man who should have been there to marry her, and hold her, and protect her, and she would make him hers again. And then they could all live happily ever after, and nothing tragic would ever happen again.
She would make sure of it.
It took the three of them a few days to settle into a routine but they adjusted well enough to their new conditions. William and Drusilla were both early risers and would usually meet in the kitchen for tea and conversation, perhaps about their writing, or their plans for the day. Buffy would awaken an hour or so later, and stumble down in her nightgown, and listen to her sister and lover while eating some breakfast. After the lazy morning, she and Drusilla would dress for the day before the housekeeper would arrive to tidy the place and begin preparing lunch. William would set to writing, while the girls went walking or read, or wrote letters. They might go into town for the afternoon to meet people, or remain at the house. Drusilla would work on her knitting or darning in the evenings while Buffy and William might disappear for an hour or so, or all three of them might join acquaintances for dinner.
All the while, the weather showed no signs of improving but even the constant rain couldn’t dampen their spirits. The trip down had been much the same.
It was strange to bring one’s stepsister along when eloping, but Buffy supposed their family life had always been different, and she was happy that she didn’t have to leave Drusilla behind, and happier still that William had so readily, eagerly consented to bringing her along. During their courtship, Drusilla had been so helpful in aiding them, especially once Rupert and Edith had found out and made objections to William’s courtship. For his part, Rupert had been unwilling to part with his precious daughter, even though he rarely spent much time with her himself, treating Buffy with his usual mixture of distance and over-protectiveness. Sometimes she wondered if she looked so much like her mother that he couldn’t bear to look at her. Edith, for her part, was furious that a young man from a prominent, wealthy family was courting the girl she had always hated, especially in light of her own surviving daughter’s predicament. Marriage for Drusilla now seemed out of the question, and her delicate mental state meant that Edith had been walking on eggshells around everyone for months, unable to lash out at even her husband’s daughters for fear of triggering another episode. She had forbidden contact between the two and worked to convince her errant husband to see things her way.
Edith had always hated Buffy for some reason. Buffy’s father Rupert had married the widow with three girls of her own not long after Joyce’s death, in the hope she would be a suitable mother and bring some joy into their lives. Edith had three daughters of her own, Drusilla, a year older than Buffy, Lugenia, a year younger, and Edmonia, who was only two. Her husband had supposedly been killed in the war and she had moved to the sleepy village of Sunnydale to get a fresh start, she claimed. Rupert had been something of an anomaly there, a wealthy widower who wanted a woman who already had children, and Edith had thrilled to find a man so suited to her circumstances.
The marriage had, from what Buffy could recall, never been particularly affectionate, but never terribly unhappy either, until Edith had begun to actively despise her young stepdaughter. To Rupert’s disappointment, Edith had never really warmed to her stepdaughters, and to Edith’s disappointment, while Rupert always maintained a certain distance from his daughters, he clearly cared for them. He and Edith had produced two children, but both had died shortly after birth, and Buffy wondered if that hadn’t hardened Edith’s heart. Still, their household had five girls of similar ages, and when they were young Buffy and Edith’s girls had played together frequently and gotten on well. It was around the time that Buffy was nine that things began to change.
That was around the time that her father had begun his affair with Mrs. Calendar, and she and her idiot husband had begun visiting for dinner, along with other people from the village. Edith had been affronted that they were suddenly deigning to associate with the people she did not think were up to the Giles’ standards, but had slowly warmed to the idea of company. The bevy of prim middle-class matrons that began to stream into the house became a source of pleasure at first, and consternation soon after.
Of all of Edith’s children, Drusilla was by far the prettiest, and her mother alternately doted on her and abused her, trying to mold her into the perfect child. With her marriage something of a disappointment, she poured her energies into her children. But motherless Buffy still received sweets and kind words from strangers, and could be charming enough when she was told to be on her good behavior. Meanwhile, Drusilla wilted under her mother’s expectations and pressures and became increasingly shy and timid, seeming to melt into the background.
It had been so strange, looking back, that the two of them had become such good friends, so close, when the convenience of their circumstances had been nearly rendered irrelevant by the constant comparisons between the girls. They shouldn’t have ended up as close as they had, but Buffy couldn’t be happier that she had such a close relationship with her sister, or that Drusilla was accompanying her on such a monumental trip.
Like some cliché from a sensational novel, Buffy and William had contemplated departing in the middle of the night. Drusilla had thought it terribly romantic, but then Buffy had pointed out that it would be a lot less alarming for the girls to simply leave during the day, when everyone else was gone. William had made arrangements for the three to leave the country, and all that remained was for the girls to pack their bags and make arrangements.
Rupert was uncomfortable in his home, and had been spending an increasing amount of time on jaunts to Oxford, and Dawn, prickly as ever in the tense atmosphere of the Giles’ home, had taken to spending nights with her friend Mary Beacon, whose parents were happy enough to have her over. It was Edith who would be the problem, but Buffy arranged and schemed to have the reverend’s wife invite the woman for tea and gossip. Edith hadn’t exactly endeared herself to the woman, but Buffy convinced the devout, motherly matron that Edith was having a spiritual crisis and was in need of guidance. Not so far from the truth really. The woman might have suspected there was something else going on, but Buffy had always been popular with the neighbors anyway, and she had agreed to insist upon a visit from Edith. And so it happened one crisp March day that Buffy and Drusilla walked out the front door carrying cases to meet a well-appointed carriage and vanished from Sunnydale.
The journey to Portsmouth went by quickly and uneventfully, but their party remained tense until they left England. Buffy hoped her father would forgive her in time, but suspected that Dawn never would. She couldn’t even imagine what Drusilla was going through. She had cried when they left and would weep every night, as Buffy curled up with her, afraid she had ruined everything, full of doubts. William, for his part, had been fantastically understanding. It was so fortunate that Drusilla and William had such affection for each other, because Buffy couldn’t imagine another man being so compassionate, so willing to let his new bride spend her nights comforting her stepsister rather than exploring their new freedom as man and woman.
Once it became apparent that William and Buffy’s parents were unwilling to let their children go, Buffy had allowed their relationship to become intimate. Her parents had always been unconventional and were hardly advocates or examples of waiting until marriage. And though it had hurt at first, she soon enjoyed their illicit trysts.
When she had first met William he appeared flustered and sweet, a charming gentleman. But Will shared her father’s unconventional ideas about marriage and love, and despite his good breeding, her lover had a wild side. As they had opened up to each other, he had revealed himself to be somewhat roguish, and she found it charming and attractive. When his chaste kisses had turned intense, far from swooning, Buffy had encouraged him and explored her own burgeoning passion.
There was tension coiled in those lithe muscles his well-made clothing covered. And Buffy had found that her own nature was passionate and eager.
She recalled the time they had gone walking in the woods, stealing away from her dreary home. It had been a beautiful day and they had been enchanted by the natural beauty, discussing Wordsworth’s work. The day had seemed perfectly picturesque, utterly unmarred by any blight, until they had come upon an abandoned cottage. The roof and a wall were gone, and the rest was crumbling into stone. Will had begun composing a sonnet on the topic, but she’d intended to distract him with a kiss.
It soon turned into much more and she found herself backed up against a stone wall, his body pressing into hers, and his hands grasping at her skirts.
It had been so good-sweet and wild and free. Buffy hoped things would be like that forever.