House of Harwood – Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

Previously… Clarissa sees Augustus Harwood coming out of a maid’s room. Readers voted that she doesn’t tell anyone what she has seen.

Episode 16

 Victoria was saying something about flowers. Flowers, and matching colors, and now she was pointing to some drawings of flowers and holding up swathes of fabric. They were sitting in the sun parlor going over wedding arrangements. Clarissa blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to pay attention, but her mind was racing and she could not gain control. Ever since seeing Augustus Harwood leaving that maid’s bedroom, her mind kept returning to one thing – the image of Emily, pleading eyes cast toward Victoria, being escorted from the dining room.

“I’m sorry John,” Emily had said desperately. Now, as hard as she tried to push it all away, Clarissa’s mind leapt from Augustus closing the maid’s door to Emily’s stricken face to the whispers she’d heard for years – unfounded gossip, Rose had always claimed. Nosy people who have nothing better to do with their time than make up scandalous rumors about a well-off family. So Clarissa had always skeptically half-listened to those swirling tales. When Eloise Longstreth, banana-curls bouncing excitedly around her pudgy face, had whispered to all the girls in grammar school that she had heard her mama say how Mr. Harwood liked young girls, Clarissa had disdainfully turned away. When Macy-Ann Shore, only last year, had claimed that her cousin, a secretary at one of the Harwood glass eye factories, had been propositioned by Augustus himself, she had actually rolled her eyes.

But now here she was, sitting across from Victoria Harwood on a pale pink silk couch, white china teacup and saucer perched in her gloved hand, trying to fight against a tidal wave of realization. Emily had been pregnant. And now she was gone. Could it possibly be? Clarissa looked at Victoria. Could she actually have known? Clarissa was fairly certain that John didn’t. For a moment she had the overwhelming urge to blurt out what she knew; to run and find John, shouting his name through the cold, high-ceilinged hallways, shriek that she knew what was going on and wouldn’t stand for it. She wanted to find Eloise Longstreth and tell her that her mama had been right, that everyone was right.

But she didn’t. In that moment, she also realized that she was no longer one of the outsiders. No longer part of the cluster of girls hanging onto every detail of what may or may not be happening in that imposing stone mansion on the edge of town. She was inside now. Sitting with her future mother-in-law, planning a celebration that would fold her into the family. She might herself be the topic of their gossip someday – Clarissa Harwood, my mama says…

So she smiled at Victoria and pointed at a fabric swath. That one. It was all about appearances, after all, from the flower arrangements at the wedding to the swift and undetectable cover-up of unspeakable things. No, she would not tell John what she saw. These things were controlled by Victoria, she realized, and someday they would be controlled by her. Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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