Maureen's blurted comment seemed to horrify him. Ian dropped the chicken leg back on the plate, and pushed himself up off the floor, pacing the room from one corner to another before he spat the words out. "You greatly misunderstand me, Madame. I am no nobleman. My father gave me his name, but little else, and I have no claims to land or title...in this time... or any other." He was silent for a moment, staring out the window at the peaceful summer street below, then added, "Here in this place I will rest on my own merits, be what may come."
Embarrassed, Maureen attempted to gloss over her faux pas. "Geez, Ian. I'm sorry if I struck a raw nerve. I didn't mean to pry. You see...I was just teasing, Roxie. It's the way we are, she and I. We kid each other all the time. I most heartily apologize if I offended you in any way."
He waved off her apology, helping himself to another bottle of Guinness. "No, Madame. It is I who should ask forgiveness for my lack of... clarity. You have opened your home to me, been nothing but kind in spite of strange circumstances, and I repay your kindness with falsehood." Perching on the edge of the bed, he spoke directly to Roxie. "Miss Roxanne, I had hoped to speak the truth to you privately, once you had gotten to know the man behind the name. Alas, I believe I must now reveal all if I am to court you in the most honorable tradition you deserve."
The young man took a large gulp of the ale, as if to steel himself, and then continued. "I am a man born outside of wedlock. A bastard. My dear mother, God rest her soul, was Beresford's nanny, hired to care for his children after the death of his first wife." He hesitated, rubbing his hands against the glass, speaking each word as if he were pulling a bandage off a healing wound. "I want nothing more than to say that he forced himself on her, that she had no choice but to accept his lecherous advances. That too would be a lie. It was obvious she loved the man. Adored him, in fact, and was willing to accept whatever bones of perceived romance he tossed at her. And yet, I do believe he held her in some regard of affection, however self involved it might have been. My birth was acknowledged, and I bore his name, though he, of course, would never conceive to marry below his station."
No one in the room said a word, riveted as they were to the man's story. It was as if a Bronte novel had come to life in the rectory bedroom, and they waited patiently for the man to continue, losing all interest in the picnic feast or the ale.
"Life in the early years was pleasant enough, though I did not share my mother's fondness for the man. From my first memories, I believed him to be cold and demanding. He accepted my presence, but took little joy in it, though I enjoyed the company of my half brother and sisters, and thrived heartily under my mother's tutelage and devotion." He stopped for a moment, the memories running like a picture book in his head, and his voice cracked on the words. "Things changed when I was nearing my fifth year. Sir Beresford deemed it necessary to take a second wife, and the new Lady Beresford had no patience for her husband's paramour and bastard child under the same roof as she. We were quickly uprooted from the estate, and exiled to a surrounding village, one of many in the years to come. For a short while afterward, Beresford would send an allowance, most of which my mother would spend on my education. She believed until to her last breath that he would send for me, welcome me into his family, and give me the life she's so richly believed I deserved."
Ian raised his glass in toast to his mother, and the others in the room followed his lead. When he continued, his voice held none of the melancholy it had in the earlier telling of the story. His words were steely, the disdain and anger apparent in every syllable. "Alas, her greatest wish was folly. I went to see the man after she died, to tell him of her passing. He was gruff and impatient, embarrassed by my presence in his drawing room. It was his suggestion that I attempt to make a life for myself in the Colonies, going so far as to offer me the funds to make it happen, so desperate was he to be rid of me. Despite my disgust at the thought of accepting anything from the pompous ass wipe, I had no desire to stay in England. I took his damned money to finance my passage to the colonies, changing my name to Sawyer, and seeking my destiny far from the shores of England."
He moved closer to Roxanne, and took her hand. "And destiny it was, my dear lady. Had I not done so, I would have never been in position to experience the unimaginable. The unbelievable. That I, lowly bastard, farmer and ale maker, without means or titles, would have the opportunity to win the heart of one such as yourself..." Looking suddenly somber, he added, "That is, Miss Roxanne, if you still wish to consider my company, despite my disgraceful birth and station in life. I shall understand if my revelations makes further contact impossible."
The lady at the heart of the discussion was near tears herself, embarrassed by the close, personal attention, and moved by the young Patriot's soulful declaration of his feelings. She weakly squeezed his hand back, the exhaustion of the day beginning to take its toll. "Oh, Ian. No one in this time period cares about the hows and whys of someone's birth. It's what you make of your life that counts, not how it started. Some of the greatest heroes in our nation's history came from humble beginnings. That's why people call the Unites States the land of opportunity. It's because everyone has the right to make the best life they can here, and people come from all over the world to do just that. And I suppose, if that's what you really want, you can do so as well."
"Miss Roxanne, it brings hope to my heart that you say so, but if you yourself do not see a future for the two of us, then it is all meaningless to me. Say that you return my feelings, and I shall be the happiest man alive."
Across the room, Maureen blow her nose in a paper napkin, wiping at her eyes and sniffling. "Oh Lordy, this is just so damn romantic, I can't stand it. It's like some made for TV movie, only much better because it's happening right here and now, and I know all the actors personally. Oh, Ted, isn't it just so...so...lovely?"
Beckett didn't answer, instead busy watching Fr. Kevin's stricken face. The priest hadn't said a single word throughout Ian's story, though at times he had seemed as if he were fighting an inner battle, the expressions on his face changing from one emotion to another. He was as curious as the others to know how Roxie would answer the young man's request. He had only known the young deputy a few short months, but in that time, had found her to be more like him when it came to revealing personal feelings. She kept her thoughts tightly locked in her head, allowing very little to escape into the general public, a skill he could both understand and respect.
Roxanne herself blushed a deep pink, the most color anyone had seen in her complexion since she had returned the day before. She began slowly, measuring each word carefully. "Ian, I am very grateful for..."
Before she could continue, there was a low rumbling in the room, and the over powering scent of fresh cut roses. All five of them froze in their places, knowing full well whose arrival was imminent. A sprinkle of light hovered above the bureau, slowly floating down until She Who Was All appeared on the top of it. She had changed colors, her golden hair now the color of fresh cut grass, her wings a diaphanous collection of greens, golds and blues, her tunic made of sparkling jewels that looked suspiciously like spring rain drops. The Fairy Queen was a sight to see, undeniably beautiful, and every bit the royal. She pointed a tiny finger at Beckett, the nails painted a deep sea foam green, and demanded, "Come Ridre Dubh, I am in need of assistance." With a snap of her fingers, they were both gone, leaving two empty spots, and a multitude of questions.
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved.