Kill Your Darlings

Entry by: Alobear

11th January 2016
Kill Your Darlings

“Darlings!” Esme cried, in her most exaggerated voice. “You know I just love you both to pieces, and everything. But, right now, I could absolutely kill the pair of you!”

She cast out a dazzling smile to take the sting out of her words, but kept a bit of steel in her gaze, to make sure they knew she was actually a bit annoyed.

“But, Esme, my flower, what on earth is the matter?” Gerald looked overly shocked, as he pressed a hand to his chest.

In response, Esme flicked open her fan and concealed the lower half of her face behind it. Gerald smirked, and Sebastien, standing beside him, looked equally unrepentant. They were both such handsome devils; it was so difficult to stay angry with them. But, this time, Esme was determined not to let them off easily.

“What’s the matter?” she repeated. “Really, Gerald, don’t you know that it’s the height of bad manners to admit you don’t know why a lady is peeved with you?”

Esme turned her sapphire stare on Sebastien.

“Anything to add, Seb?” she asked, archly.

He regarded her, his expression thoughtful.

“Let’s see,” he said. Then, he gestured at their lush, garden surroundings. “I assume you have no objection to us meeting in this delightful setting. The sun is shining, you look positively radiant, and a walk in the shrubbery is exactly suited to showing off your excellent constitution.”

Esme pouted at him. “Are you attempting to deflect me with flattery, dear boy?” she asked. “Whilst I always appreciate compliments, it is sadly quite simple to see through your stratagem. Try again.”

Sebastien stroked his goatee in a studied manner. “All right, then. I suppose your purported displeasure might have something to do with the note that was delivered to you at breakfast?”

Esme closed her fan again and pointed it towards him. “Well done! Yes, indeed it does.” She glanced back at Gerald. “Any clearer now?”

“A note a breakfast, you say?” he queried. “Most intriguing. Though, how you imagine this would help me to read your mind, I couldn’t possibly say. Since I only arrived home from town significantly after breakfast, I have no way of knowing what might have been communicated to you by note.”

Esme was starting to get a little tired of this game. “The note was from your mother,” she explained.

Light dawned in Gerald’s expression. “Oh.”

“Yes. Oh,” Esme said. “So, now you see.”

“Did she really write to you?” Gerald seemed genuinely surprised. “If I’d thought that might happen, I would check with you before…”

“Precisely!” Esme exclaimed. “You didn’t think, did you? You just blundered in, with your usual enthusiasm, and not giving any consideration to the consequences of your actions.” The next was directed at Sebastien. “And don’t think I’ve forgotten about your part in this. You’re equally to blame.”

“She didn’t offer to take you to Europe, did she?” Gerald asked.

“At last – inspiration strikes!” Esme tapped Gerald lightly on the arm with her fan. “So, now you see…”

“I do,” he replied, gravely. “Well, now, what on earth are we going to do?”

“That is why we’re out here, away from prying ears,” Esme told him. “To decide on a plan of action. I can’t go to Europe, but I can’t very well just refuse her, can I? I don’t need to tell you how much my future depends on her good will.”

“And I can’t risk angering her, for precisely the same reason,” Sebastien said. “So, it’s really up to you to fix this, Gerald.”

“Yes, I see that,” Gerald said. “I shall have to give this some thought, my pretties.” He threw Esme an apologetic glance. “You do know I only had your best interests at heart when I mentioned to Mother that a trip might do you good, don’t you?”

“Of course, darling,” she reassured him. “I know you meant well. And, when you made the suggestion, a trip to Europe would have been just the thing. But, now things have changed, as you know, and hence my dilemma.”

“Right, then,” Gerald said. “I can’t very well just tell her to retract the offer, since we don’t want her to know the reason. Perhaps, I can somehow dissuade her from taking the trip altogether.”

Sebastien spoke up. “Do you think you could do that?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Gerald admitted. “But she does listen to me…”

“Which is why we’re in this mess in the first place,” Esme pointed out.

“Yes, yes,” Gerald said, a little testily. “There’s no need to keep going on and on about it. I’ve created a problem, but you’ve come to me to help solve it, so do be a good girl and let me think.”

Suitably chastised, Esme fell silent. If there was one person who might be able to fix the situation, it was Gerald. He was just so capable. If only they hadn’t been first cousins, he would have been the perfect husband. She wasn’t in love with him, thankfully, but she thought she could have learned to be, in different circumstances, and life with him would be so wonderfully secure. But it was not to be, and the prospects of herself and her brother were tied to his mother’s fortune. Their own father had frittered away the money their mother had brought to the marriage, and left them without an inheritance. He had then died, leaving them entirely without resources. Gerald’s mother had provided for them thus far; fond memories of her disgraced sister had prompted a maternal instinct in her to protect them. But, they were both very aware of how precarious their position was.

Up until the week before, Esme would have been delighted to tour Europe with her aunt. It would have given her a chance to strengthen the bond between them, and demonstrate how useful she could be as a companion. But then, she had received word that a school-friend of hers was moving into the area, along with her charming and quite wealthy brother. Esme had already laid some groundwork with him during visits in the school holidays, and had an inkling that she might be able to make something of herself yet, given the chance to build on this.

Keeping her options open was essential, however, and she could not disappoint her aunt, just for the chance of securing her future elsewhere. If her planned assault on her friend’s brother came to nothing, where would that then leave her? Sebastien might benefit from the renewed acquaintance, as well, since her friend was a sweet thing, with money of her own settled on her, so it was a double opportunity for them. Sebastien was at fault in the current situation for having enthusiastically endorsed Gerald’s presentation of the trip to their aunt. It had been useful of him at the time, since their aunt adored him, but now it made it even more difficult to extricate herself.

Gerald was still thinking. “Are there any horrible plagues around in Europe at the moment, do you know?” he asked, suddenly.

“Not a clue,” Sebastien said. “But would she know one way or the other, if you told her there were?”

“Probably not,” Gerald said, and Esme started to think there might be hope.

“So, you’ll say you’ve heard about a cholera outbreak, or something, and then she won’t want to go?” she asked.

“Something like that,” Gerald said. “I suspect I’ll be able to come up with something to deter her. We’ll just have to make sure there’s something equally enjoyable to keep her here, rather than her just suggesting a tour of the north instead.”

“Good point,” Sebastien. “Surely, we’ll be able to work it out if we put our heads together.”

Esme was still thinking about her friend and the enticing brother.

“And then we’ll have to work out our plan of attack to sweep the Berringtons off their feet,” she said, with a saucy smile at Sebastien.

“I almost feel sorry for them,” Gerald said, and Esme stuck her tongue out at him and he continued hurriedly. “But you’re both such delightful creatures, I cannot imagine a better fate than marrying either one of you. So I shall consider them the luckiest people in the world, instead.”

“That’s better,” Esme said.

“So,” Gerald said, with a raised eyebrow. “Do you still want to kill your darlings?”

Esme pretended to consider the question. “Less so,” she admitted, “but you haven’t actually done anything to rectify the disaster yet. Ask me again, once the Europe trip is off and the Berringtons are invited to a ball at your mother’s house. Then, I might just let you off with a beating.”

Gerald laughed. “You really are dreadful, Esme.”

“And you love it!” she teased.

She stepped between the two men, taking an arm in each of hers. The three of them then proceeded into the shrubbery together, making their plans.