The moments and hours whirl by me with no more meaning than diversion and amusement, when I am not with my indispensable Darcy, rescuing. And yet I cling to them like a child clinging to his demmed toys. Why? I know that not anymore…
Sink me. Such a harmless expression that I say all the time, and yet that happens all the time. To me.
I sink, drowning, in this meaningless life that for me has no more purpose than sport and fun. I stay strong, because those men, women, and children need me. That is all.
I need but one, and she does not need me.
I laugh and go on telling my story to His Royal Highness, with all the lords and ladies hanging on my every words, waving my eyeglass about with my inane looks and my expression. They all assume I am preening under this attention, that I am satisfied with all the court attending me.
I’faith, I only wish for one to listen, but she turns away, shutting her ears to my words.
I step away as the dances begin, and hold out my hand to the very woman. “M’dear, will you not dance with me?”
“I shall, Sir Percy.”
The little syllable put before my name turns its utterance cold and distant. I try not to shudder as her hand just barely touches mine, unwilling to even have contact with me more than strictly necessary.
My little Lady was an actress – and begad, still is. She knows how to smile when you wish to frown, how to laugh when you want nothing more than to weep, and how to slip into your part so well that you are completely, wholly, nothing but that demmed part. She doesn’t know that I am an actor too.
Every morning, I practice my easy, lazy smirk with an expertise that would have surprised her if she had seen it. Always with that proud stance that looks so lazy but is in cold, damned reality calculated with precision. When I’ve done, I look back into the mirror, past the luxury I am so demmed fond of, into the face of a man who is struggling to keep his grip on himself.
I am slipping away.
Admiration, awe – bosh, all of that! I sigh as I lean closer and trace the outline of my eyes, drooping with the weariness of pretending.
I want love only, and I want only the love of one.
I want to stop pretending, at least for a few hours every day. I want someone to hear my secret fears and hopes and dreams, to see past that lazy rig-up of Lord Blakeney. Dammit, but I want that badly.
A distance has grown between my Margot and me, and I hardly know the woman any more. She and I are strangers strung into a marriage by our past selves. I know she regrets the whole thing, and zounds, but I wish I could tell her the whole truth… but I have the lives of my men – men who are loyal to me and justice, men who have people to love them and mourn them when they are gone – to think of.
I want to stop pretending.
I hate to stay home, for I see nothing of the man I married, and more and more of the man he has left behind. The manor at Richmond, though warmed by fire, is chilled by the loneliness I feel.
I loved Percy. I hope there is still something there of the Percy I knew, the Percy I fell in love with. I remember a time when the electric blue eyes were not shadowed with drowsy laziness but sparked like the lightning I used to feel. I remember a time when he would laugh a laugh unlike the silly little giggle he does, a deep laugh whose sound vibrated in my sternum.
I hope that in this Blakeney who lives with me, there is still a trace of the Percy I loved.
I hope there is still a trace of the love that swirled around the autumn leaves last year. For a way to resurrect that love from the stone it passed into on that fateful day! I would give anything in the world, everything I have in the world, in order to see his eyes lit up with the lovely spark that burned brightly before.
Until that day, our love is put on hold, while this image of my Percy struts around with his face and his voice and his electrifying lightning eyes…
I chat with all the intellectuals as I used to do, ruling over the intelligent of England’s courts as well as I did the coterie of the Rue de Richelieu. I can barely look at that fool Blakeney any more – he is too like and too unlike Percy to please me when I cast my eyes upon his fine, tall figure. His mind is filled with nothing but fashion and fluff, and yet he walks and talks like Percy, like the man I loved while the leaves fell, golden-red, from the surrounding boughs.
I want to stop pretending everything is alright because it is not. Percy is gone, and I wish day and night for him to return, each day, each night, each hour spent in the company of his revolting image withering away a bit of my heart.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is a man I could have loved, a man like and yet so much more than the Percy I knew. For while Percy was content to walk and sit and talk and laugh as the world rolled by, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a man who seizes time by the shoulders and drags it along with him in his daring exploits. He does, whereas Percy was content to watch.
Now I am even more uncertain of my love for the man whose ring rests on my finger, because that shadowy king of my heart, the Scarlet Pimpernel, has stolen it from the Percy I am not sure will ever come back.
I want to stop pretending, and yet I still wish to maintain the lie that we are alright – not between the haute monde of London, of course, that sort of thing is common enough – but between Blakeney and me.
Because if he were ever to find out, I would feel disappointed in myself for having failed the Percy I loved – but I want him to find out, if only to stop this aching bitterness and loneliness from eating away at my heart.
I only hope he has courage enough to look past what he thinks he sees, into what I know and feel.