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Finally, she was reaching for it. Her soft fingertips brushed against his palm in featherlight kisses of his skin. As she fastened the necklace around her neck, it fell just perfectly over her heart. It looked even better on her than he’d imagined, partly because it was a gift he crafted for her that she now wore. No slaps yet. No yelling. No crying. He was doing good then. Elizabeth was unlike most women at this point in time, and her actions only solidified his opinion. She did not stick up her nose towards him as if she held an elite position over him that he could not manage to meet. When he offered her the apprenticeship, he had done it because he saw just how much passion she had for running a business as his. It was difficult for women to follow their dreams outside nursing and teaching and simple jobs as that. Elizabeth didn’t follow the tradition. She wanted more for her life, and it attracted Matthew to her further. She was worth the apology. He wasn’t even sure if he’d done the same thing to many other people. Surely he wouldn’t have just a few years ago, but she inspired him to be better in a way he didn’t understand yet.
He closed his fist and returned it to his side when Elizabeth spoke. His attention stayed on her. He granted her that. When she said something about him not being a bad person, he shook his head. He [i knew] he was a bad person. He didn’t believe in himself to be better, but she was standing there telling him that she [i did.] When she scolded him, he listened. Of course he would. She was right. He couldn’t walk around getting in fights and drinking and just hoping for everything to work out. He needed change. He needed someone to make him change.
Running his hand through his hair, Matthew finally spoke. [b “That’s an understatement. When my... when my parents died, I was young and Elaine even younger. I was all we had to survive, so I got into some things not always legal, but I worked for it. I guess alcohol got in the way somewhere down the road, and I became a miserable man like my father. I never cared though. That’s the point. I didn’t care about finding someone to make me better or going to see someone about what happened. I never let anyone help me.”]
Matthew was opening up to her in that moment more than anyone other than his sister. He was asking her in his own way for help and telling her he thought she could. He didn’t want to look weak in front of her, but he felt like he needed it off his chest. He needed someone to know. He needed to lift the tons of pressure off his chest, so he chose Elizabeth. Now it was up to her to react.
Elizabeth was an understanding woman at heart and a kindhearted one too. She didn’t judge people by their appearance or by their reputation but by their actions. When she had first laid eyes upon Kyler, she imagined that many people often judged him before truly getting to know him and so she took the time to learn things about him. It was true that at first it was all for the sake of a facade but after learning more about him, it made her realise just how misjudged he had been and she wanted to give him the chance to know kindness and that had been her intention from the offset.
She judged people by her actions but that didn’t mean she would judge him solely on the action he had shown her a few days ago. People were allowed to make mistakes and if he told her the truth, she would treat this as such; a mistake. However, she was also experienced with men who didn’t know how to apologise for their mistakes or even admit to them. That was what her father was like and she wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were more men in the world like him but she did hold out hope that Kyler was different. That was when he started to talk again and it seemed like he was going to offer her an explanation and it would be a truthful one judging by his demeanour.
Elizabeth didn’t have siblings and she certainly didn’t have someone she felt protective over, not that she didn’t feel protective of Helen but she has found a perfect man for her and she was happy so there was a lot less for her to worry about and she supposed it was very different for Kyler knowing that he didn’t have parents around to take some of the responsibility of looking out for Elaine. He clearly felt like it was his job for make sure she found someone who was right for him and because he thought very highly of her. He wouldn’t accept her with just about anyone. She could understand that at the very least.
Elizabeth remained quiet while he continued with his explanation and she did feel something towards him. It wasn’t pity. That would be the last thing he wanted from her anyway but her heart did go out to him. When he finished talking she looked him over and glanced back down at the gift in his hand. [b “It really is beautiful.”] She said as she reached for it. Elizabeth didn’t need to contemplate him any longer because she could tell how sorry he was for the way he has acted. She placed the locket around her neck and smiled up at him.
[b “I do not believe you are a bad person Kyler. I never have and I never will. I did not like the way you behaved and I do not expect that to happen again.”] She said with a raised eyebrow, trying not to sound too much like she was scolding a child. [b “I knew you had been drinking. I thought perhaps the night before but I didn’t realise that you drank the way you say you do. Do you...have a problem? It is not my intention to offend you! I just want to understand you. If you just drink to help you along that is very different to drinking because you do not feel like you will be able to make it through the day without one.”]
She didn’t run. That was a good sign. She didn’t take one look at him and go running off the other direction. Her shoulders still looked rigid. Her whole demeanor wasn’t the same. Elizabeth wasn’t as open with him. Her light was diminishing. Was that all his fault? Damn he was more of a fool than he considered before. When she tightened her coat around her, Matthew just stood there. It was like she felt colder just being near him. Or maybe the act of pulling her coat tighter to her made her feel safer? He was sure that right then and there he blew his chance by showing up unannounced at her house. But there she went surprising him again. Elizabeth moved closer to him rather than away.
Yes, he still looked every bit intimidating, but he also looked softer with his hand outstretched to her like he was feeding a fragile animal and was afraid of scaring it off. Matthew didn’t dare move a muscle. He just let the wooden necklace sit there in his hand, enticing her to come forward. He hadn’t put any pictures inside just blank canvases for her to choose. The wood was handpicked and smoothed so there were no blemishes. It was stained in a dark color that would sit nicely against her skin and match her hair he’d hoped. Not only that, he’d cared an intricate E in the front of the locket and an S on the back. It would hang just over her heart.
Now she just had to take the bait. She didn’t grab it just yet, but she was close. Oh so close... Surely, she could see the general idea of what it was. When her eyes moved to his, he didn’t waver his ocean blue ones. They stayed on hers, attempting to prove that he’d never hurt her of his own will. [b “It is yours to hold and cherish as long as you wish. If you pop it open you may replace the photos inside with people you care about.”] He tried to explain the piece, but it was better seen than said.
He just kept his hand forward, eyes scanning the smaller woman before him. Then, a sigh escaped his lips and his other hand found its way through his long hair. [b “I did, Elizabeth... I do. That morning Elaine and I got in a fight about suitable men and love and she acted as if she were off to elope that night. She ran away, but I know that is no excuse. I’m not a perfect man Elizabeth. I’m not even a good man. Far from it to tell you the truth. You may not have seen it before, but I let my ugly side be known to you and I regret it. Life hasn’t always been easy for me. Actually, it never has. I guess that’s part of the reason Elaine wants me to find love so badly. Thing is... You are way too good for me. You walk in a room and people feel calm and safe. I walk in and everyone is on edge. You hardly ever drink except champagne at formal events, and I start before sunrise is over. But you never gave up on me, even if this whole thing is fake. You didn’t run. You didn’t shy away. Until I forced you out. So if you’ll accept this gift, I will continue your apprenticeship even to use the workshop in my absence.”]
There it was. A monologue of his best attempt. Now he was at her mercy even more than before. She may laugh at him or ignore the necklace and ridicule him. Really, he deserved it. He was willing to admit it too.
The newspaper article was on the forefront of her mind and she was already considering what kind of impact this would have on her country and the people living within it. As if she didn’t have enough on her mind with her mother being sick, there were other things now being added to her anxiety. It wouldn’t affect her family since her father would be considered too old and too important to be called to war if it ever came to that, but she knew that some of her friends would be in a very different boat to her and it did concern her. All she could hope for now was for Britain to stay out of it and let the other countries deal with things themselves.
Now she had Kyler in her doorstep and he was honestly the last person she was expecting to see, especially after the way he has treated her the last time she had seen him. She had seen both Elaine and Helen since that day but she did not speak about him or what happened, especially since Elaine was her brother and she didn’t want to say anything that would cause tension at home. If anything, she had spent the last few days trying to keep him from creeping into her mind and seeing him not just made all of her effort to forget about him pointless. As she stood there waiting for him to explain why he was standing on her doorstep she could almost hear her heartbeat quicken. It wasn’t because she was scared of him. She had been in his workshop, but seeing him now, much calmer, it seemed to make those feelings surface again.
He turned to face her and she found herself pulling her coat closer around her and when he stepped down her stairs she had to try really hard not to retreat from him. However, Elizabeth was not someone who could hold a grudge. If he was going to apologise to her then she knew in her heart that she would accept it but it would not be without caution. As expected, it was an apology that he came from him, but not only an apology but a gift. That surprised her. Most men brought flowers when they wanted to apologise to a woman but instead Kyler brought something that he had made by his own hand and that tugged at her heart strings a little bit. That meant so much more to her than a bunch of flowers that would die in a few days.
She moved towards him and glanced in his hand and when she saw the locket Elizabeth looked up and her eyes locked with his. [b “It is beautiful Kyler.”] She didn’t take it out of his hand just yet. [b “What happened? I thought that you wanted me to be your apprentice?”] Elizabeth deserved an explanation and she would accept the gift if she considered him to be truthful.
On his way to Elizabeth’s house, he hadn’t paid much attention to the crowds around the local press storefronts and the newspaper boys. The city streets were normally full what with people heading to the store for groceries or to work in the banks and other novelty stores. Also, Matthew didn’t really have time to shop. He was on a mission to see Elizabeth and explain himself. Therefore, Matthew hadn’t heard about the assassination of the archduke. However, he was not ignorant to what was happening in the world around him, mostly due to Elaine picking up newspapers and chatting to him about it or the fact that he frequented bars and spoke with a few men there. He knew of tensions in Europe and the surfacing thoughts of war. War was bad. Everyone knew that.
At least they were fortunate to live in England that boasted one of the best Navies in all the world. Not to mention a large amount of allies and trade deals. Matthew never really thought about it reaching England. He was sure they may send some supplies to aid the countries that were fighting and named themselves British allies. However, Matthew always figures the disturbances in peace would lie between the countries of Germany, Serbia, and Austria-Hungary. He wouldn’t pay much attention to the drunken conversations about war surely looming and having to be ready to fight. Hell, they were drunk for a reason.
In this matter, Matthew pushed away the thought of war. His mind may alert itself though if he knew what the newspaper heading read. For the time being, he was waiting there on Elizabeth’s doorstep with one thing in mind. Clutching the small gift he held in his large hand, Matthew tapped his foot some. Why was he nervous? He didn’t get [i nervous.] He was a big man, and he was not shy to bar fights. It was just rare that he lost. So why was he nervous calling on a small woman now? Nonetheless, his heart was beating. Somehow feelings or something like feelings crept in. Was it just lust? Was it respect? He wasn’t sure yet, but he knew one thing. He knew that he didn’t want Elizabeth Stone to disappear from his life forever.
Then he heard her voice behind him. Spinning around slowly, Matthew turned to face her. There she was, really and truly standing before him. [b “I was looking for you.”] His deep voice came smoothly. Surprising. Stepping down the stairs slowly, Matthew kept his blue eyes on Elizabeth. [b “Listen... I know you don’t want to see me after my childish acts, but I cannot bear to think I scared you from never wishing to see me again. I know I deserve none of your attention, even if this whole idea originated around a plot to take Elaine and Helen down a peg in our love lives. Nonetheless, I made you something. Something that maybe even after your terrible experience with a brute like me may bring you happiness. I apologize, Elizabeth. From the bottom of my heart.”]
He didn’t take another step forward. Instead, he held his hand open revealing a beautifully crafted wooden necklace that you could place pictures inside. She would have to go to him to accept it. Matthew would not make her more intimidated than she already was by advancing on her, but his actions were calmed. Just seeing her face was already making him regret yelling at her more than just the thought of it had.
Elizabeth was angry beyond anything she had every felt before and she has no idea why it bothered her so much. Of course being spoken to like that wasn’t fun but he was supposed to be a fake relationship to her, to simply get back at Elaine and Helen but somewhere along the way feelings seem to have crept in. Perhaps she was more angry at herself for that matter. The only way she could distract herself now was to sit next to her mother’s bed and continue with the needlework she had been working in over the last few days. They sat talking for a while and she was successful in distracting her for a little while. Her mother had fallen asleep within a few hours; the material from their needlework left on her lap and as Elizabeth finished her own handkerchief, she decided to pack the things away so that her mother did not accidentally catch herself on the needle if she moved in her sleep. Quietly and swiftly she removed the tools she had been using, ensuring that each one was returned to its rightful place in the box they had used to store the items. A smile danced upon her lips as she took a moment to adjust the sheets that lay so delicately across her mother’s body as she enjoyed her deep slumber. Elizabeth took the opportunity to place a kiss upon her mother’s head before making her way out of the bedroom, leaving her in peace for the rest of the day.
A few days had passed since that day Kyler had flipped on her and she had not gone back to his workshop. For the rest of the day, she distracted herself, running a few errands, running in to town to pick up a few more items to help them celebrate her father’s birthday that was slowly creeping up on them. She had expected such an errand to take up a short amount of her time but when she arrived in town, she noticed that there were a lot more bodies on the street than normal. Raised voices shouted from the crowds as bustles of people moved towards the newsstand where they could buy their papers. Normally these crowds would not have cared so much about the news, simply buying a newspaper to occupy their minds and stay aware about current affairs so they might refer to them in conversation. There was clearly something big happening to cause such a disturbance.
As she moved swiftly through the crowds, she managed to catch the sight of the headline that they were all so desperate to read.
[center [b [font "Algerian" [size24 Tragedy of The Austrian Throne]]]]
[center [b [font "Algerian" [size18 Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and His Wife]]]]
[Right [b [font "Times New Roman" Saturday June 29th, 1914]]]
Her lips parted in shock as she continued to walk through the crowds, hoping that she might be able to purchase a newspaper herself. Being a lady, many of the gentlemen let her through until eventually she managed to make her way to the front. She purchased a paper and moved towards the edge of town where she found a bench. It was the perfect place to permit herself the time to read the article that had been printed before making her way back home.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/6wfUx8H.jpg]][center [b [font "Times New Roman" [size14 A dark cloud of Fate seems to overhang the fortunes of the House of Habsburg... The circumstances are so peculiar that it is very difficult to understand the reasons for the crime or the exact motives of the murderer... His death is, we believe, a serious loss to Europe at large, as well as to Austria-Hungary herself... At a period when the world suffers from a lack of great personalities, the death of a man so strong and self-reliant as the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is a real disaster, of which it is difficult to overestimate the importance.]]]]
[center [b [font "Times New Roman" [size14 The immediate question is what the political consequences of this political crime will be. The already sufficiently tense relationships of Austria-Hungary will undoubtedly be aggravated, even if not great Serbian conspiracy is demonstrable, and only Austrian subjects of Serbian nationality participated in the crime.]]]]
The thought of such an event was devastating, even more so considering there had been talks of war for months. If Austria-Hungary were to declare war on Serbia there was no doubt that Germany would stand with them. Soon there would be no avoidance of the matter and Elizabeth was sure that Britain would insert themselves in the wars of Europe. Although she was confident that war would not reach them directly, she knew that it would devastate her home. Men would be taken to war and those who were left behind would have to deal with the knowledge that their loved ones were living in constant danger; danger that might never permit them home. With a sigh, she began to fold the paper and make her way home.
Her journey home was uneventful and when she arrived at her residence, she had hoped that her afternoon would have been a quiet one but when she arrived she saw Kyler on her door step.
[b “Kyler, what are you doing here?”]
She was terrified of him. It was obvious. Kyler noticed the way her breaths came sharply and fell just as quickly. Shallow breaths. Her eyes just blinked and looked at him like a wild animal. After he'd acted, Kyler was sure he was the spitting image of a wild bear about to attack her. He didn't mean to be though... He never wanted to yell at her. He never wanted to see her cowering and rushing to try to escape from his workshop as if he carried the plagues. Of course he would mess things up again with another woman, except this one was different. He had actually tried in a way. She hadn't gone running the instant she spent some time with him until now. Until he drove her to run.
Kyler was still breathing heavily when Elizabeth rushed over to pull her bag around her shoulders. Kyler started to calm down, his heart lurching to his throat. There was something about her look that calmed him and scared him at the same time. Hardly anyone could stop his temper once it got going, but he found himself simmering down. Too late. Elizabeth's remark was fully granted for him to pick it all up himself. He was surprised it wasn't accompanied with a backhand. Finally, he was snapped out of the rage. [b "Elizabeth!"] He called, but it was too late. She was running out of his shop, and he was left with nothing but the broken glass to remind him she was even there. [i I knew it... I knew she was too good for me. No one can love a man like me.] There he went all negative again.
He went to reach for the scotch resting on his work table then his hand recoiled. His mind flashed to Elizabeth again, of her kind words, her soft touch, her intelligence... He thought about their dancing and gazing up at the stars together. It was supposed to be fake, right? So why had he offered her a position as his apprentice? [i Because he wanted to spend more time with her.] Instead, Kyler obediently swept up the glass and got to work. He would show her that he wasn't a lost cause. He would show her that he could be changed and better. It started to make sense. She started to make sense. Elizabeth made him care in ways no one had been able to in years. She made him dance and laugh and then this outburst... She made him [i passionate.] Instead, Kyler worked on something else entirely. He worked on something for her.
It would be several days before he saw her again. He snuck around and found her address on one of Elaine's written letters. He and Elaine had talked after the man she was into proposed to another woman. Now it was Elizabeth's turn. Holding the gift in his hand, Kyler made his way to her home. He timed it so that her father wouldn't be there unknowingly to him. He just had to see her... Once he got to the small house, Kyler made sure to fix his slicked back hair and adjust his button-up shirt. Then he knocked on the door and hoped to all that was good that she didn't hate him the instant she saw him.
There was an odd amount of tension in the air today and she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. It was clear that something was bothering him but she didn’t want to ask him and pry into his own business. Her father told her that a man’s business was his and his alone and it wasn’t a woman’s job to ask about it. In fact, it was strictly frowned upon and if she was ever going to meet a husband she needed to learn that quickly. He was somewhat disappointed that his only daughter seemed to have a mind of her own and want to go out and do things that didn’t require an escort, regardless of how many times he had told her that women shouldn’t be walking the streets alone. Elizabeth just hoped that she had a few more years before he started to enforce a marriage upon her which she expected to happen eventually. He was already talking about the men he worked with and how they would have been perfect suitors for her. A part of her knew that there was one man in particular he seemed particularly interested in marrying her off too, mostly because it was the man he was planning on handing his business on to when the time came for him to retire.
She tried not to think of such thoughts now, especially since she was with Kyler, the man who had promised to help her with her independence and the man who treated her as an equal rather than an insignificant woman. He had shown her respect and seemed to have a genuine interest on the occasions the two had met. Elizabeth glanced over to Kyler once more, waiting for him to reply to her but instead of a reply she got something from him that she didn’t expect. The last thing she expected was for him to flip like this. Had he work not been good enough yesterday? Had he been carrying an annoyance about how close they had been?
Startled, Elizabeth took a step back from him, looking at the chair and the cup in horror as he started to shout at her. She never imagined that he would have this side to him and it scared her a little. She had seen angry men. Hell her father had been known to have quite the temper but she has never known him to break things in a rage. When he finished shouting there was a silence between them as her chest rose and fell at a slightly quickened rate. After blinking a few times she’d take a few more steps back and then reached for her bag and pulled it over her shoulder.
[b “I will not be treated this way. Pick it up yourself.”] With that she rushed out of the workshop and hurried down the street with tears beginning to threaten the corners of her eyes and she was left in disbelief. Kyler hadn’t come across as the type of man to behave in this way. She was humiliated and angry and she had no idea what to think. The one thing she did know what that her apprenticeship with him was over and she wouldn’t be seeing him again, at least not willingly.
He didn’t look back at her when she walked in the door. Kyler was in a bad mood from dealing with Elaine that morning, so he busied himself in his work. To anyone else on the outside, Kyler might seem like an alcoholic recluse. Apparently Elizabeth just kept coming back. [i Great... I have to entertain her now...] He thought in an angry mood. Kyler turned the cup around in his large hands, quickly carving more of it out as he was talented in it. The wood chips fell on his hands as he worked, staying silent still a moment more. There was tension in his shoulders, and heaven knew he had a huge temper. Kyler felt Elizabeth’s eyes on his face. He was biting his lip not to yell at her, but it wasn’t easy. [i Come on her a grip Kyler this is Elizabeth not Elaine. She didn’t do anything to you...]
The frown only deepened when he heard her sweet chirp. She was always so damn positive. How did she do that? Gripping the cup tighter, he took a deep breath. He was doing this out of just pure thought of the couple, and it wasn’t exactly like Kyler. But he saw how Elaine felt about Helen, even how Elizabeth did. He felt it necessary. Out of the corner of his eye, Kyler found Elizabeth placing her bag down. He nearly forgot that he took her on as his apprentice after this morning and the drinking. He held drinks down well, but it was early in the morning. He was surprised Elizabeth didn’t ask anything of him. Was she that perfect?
And then his mind went to Elaine and how hard she slammed the door when she left. What if she was running away with some man just to spite him? He couldn’t handle it anymore. The anger needed to go somewhere. He couldn’t keep it boiling up inside, no matter how hard he tried to tame the beast inside. When Elizabeth’s soft voice rang out again, he felt the last button push inside him. Of course, you could add anger management to his resume of problems. She hadn’t done anything. Nothing at all... It was a matter of wrong place wrong time. Kyler stood, knocking the chair back and hurled the cup against the wall where it shattered in a million glass pieces.
His voice rose in an angry roar, [b “NOTHING Elizabeth! Maybe it was a mistake to take you on! Because you don’t know anything to help me. Hell, you just slow me down! Now if you want to make yourself useful pick that up!”] The words were out of his mouth before he realized it. [i Oh what have you done Kyler...]
There was something about Kyler’s tone of voice that told her something was wrong. She didn’t know whether something had happened and put him in a bad mood or whether he was beginning to regret having her come to work with him. His annoyance put her on edge a little and she found herself growing a little anxious as she moved further into his workshop.
The piece that he was working on was small and intricate and she could see the carving of a heart and the initials of what she assumed belonged to Helen and the man she had married. That brought a smile to her lips as it was evidence that he was thoughtful and didn’t just work on things that customers asked him to work on. After inspecting the piece for a couple of minutes she found her eyes travelling up to Kyler’s face, watching the fixed lines of a frown contort with concentration as he focused. As least she assumed it was concentration.
Elizabeth was not naive though and she was able to detect when there was something wrong with another person and she knew that something had irked Kyler. However, a part of her knew that she did not know him well enough to pry into his life. She was here to learn and work, nothing more. [b “That is a lovely piece. I’m sure those it is intended for will get great enjoyment out of knowing it was crafted by you hand.”] She moved passed him to place her bag out of the way and as she brushed passed him she could smell the alcohol on him. It couldn’t have been any later than 10:30am and there was no denying that he had been drinking, whether it was a residual smell from a night of drinking and now he was feeling the after effects of alcohol or whether he had been drinking with his breakfast she didn’t know, nor did she consider it to be her business.
Elizabeth cleared her throat after moving her things to the side and then moved forward once more, making sure there was a bit of distance between them. [b “What is on the agenda for today then?”] She asked with a smile, attempting to ignore the intensity in the atmosphere.
Kyler was busy with Elaine that morning. Well, he was always busy with her, but she was extra needy for some reason. [i "Come oooonnn Kyler. He's a good guy! Plus he has money he's a banker, and he's hot. Just give in this time."] Running a hand through his long, blonde hair that he didn't care enough to keep, Kyler rose his voice as he poured her cereal. [b "NO! For the last time Elaine! He won't take care of you. He always has three girlfriends at one time. You'll just be some form of entertainment for maybe a month and then live a miserable life."] Yep, today called for more alcohol and it wasn't even ten in the morning yet. Before Elaine could scold him, he was into his scotch. [i "Kyler this isn't even fair. You don't even know what love is if it bit you in the ass."]
Kyler downed the rest of the scotch, feeling the burning aftertaste in his mouth. [b "Touche. And language. You know what I told you about that."] Elaine huffed, rolling her eyes. [i "You aren't my father Kyler! I'm going to talk to Helen. She's much more fun than you."] Kyler just held up his drink. [b "Great! Have a grand ol' fucking time."] Downing another shot, Kyler staggered to the workshop and started carving something, anything out of wood. He needed to work with his hands. He was so into his work that he almost didn't hear Elizabeth when she walked in and greeted him with that always cheerful voice.
[b "Morning."] He almost grumbled, clear that he wasn't having that great of a day. But he wouldn't hide that he was working on an intricate cup to hold pens and whatnot, a heart in the middle with the initials of Helen and her fiancé. A clear gift that he was planning to give to the newlyweds.
Elizabeth was almost relieved when Kyler told her that he expected to see her again the next day. At least now she was sure that she had not caused too much distress. Perhaps she was imagining all of this and that he had not even noticed how close the two were and how they might have kissed if she had the courage to do so. This could easily have been all in her head, an imagined scenario born from simply being close to a man for the first time. Kyler was not just any man though, that was for sure.
Elizabeth held her bag close and nodded her head. With that, she retired back to her home without another word exchanged between the two of them. The walk helped her clear her mind and by the time she arrived at home she was barely thinking about their almost kiss. Instead she was thinking about what she might try to carve with the piece of wood he had given to her. She was a rather creative being so she would take the time to think about it before she committed to anything for sure and she figured she would need a couple more lessons before she was able to carve anything alone. She didn’t have to use the wood straight away after all.
The rest of her evening was relatively uneventful. Her father had not seemed to notice that she was gone at all, mostly because he had business meetings all day and had not been home until dinner time. As for her mother, she was resting and Elizabeth wouldn’t disturb her so that she could tell her about her day. Instead she took dinner in the dining hall with her father and the two remained relatively quiet throughout. There wasn’t even any mention of marriage or of her antics at the wedding. Perhaps no one had told him that his daughter had been seen dancing with a man he would not deem worthy. She was thankful for that because she did not have any energy to argue.
The next day couldn’t have arrived soon enough. Her heart skipped a beat at the thought of seeing Kyler again and she figured that she would need to take some time to train her heart against reacting in such a way. Her father had seen her on her way out that morning and she made up an excuse about Helen needing some help organising a benefit and he seemed to buy that excuse. However, now she would actually have to speak to Helen about organising one so her father didn’t get suspicious. Although, she was sure Helen would be keen to help if she knew that it was so she could spend more time with Kyler.
She found him in the garage the next morning, already at work but this time she forced herself to knock and enter, rather than watching him with admiration from the door like she had the day before. [b “Good morning!”] She said as cheerfully as she possibly could as she set her bag down and looked over the piece that Kyler was working on.
[I “You are very talented Kyler. I do hope that I can continue to visit and learn from you.”]
She sounded so unsure that he would even want her back, as if she had done something repulsive to suddenly make him detest her. In a perfect world, Kyler wouldn't have to send her away. She could be his apprentice for as long as she wanted, and he wouldn't mind. But this wasn't the right era. Elizabeth was a woman from a wealthy family, so she was supposed to be a domestic entity only. Kyler knew that her father and most of society expected her to catch the eye of some rich man that might be a terrible husband for her. Kyler hated that about society. It was the same way he was tough on anyone Elaine decided she wanted to get serious with. He wouldn't let the people he cared about be forced into a loveless marriage for the rest of their lives. What was the point of it? To have a child? While a child was a miracle of a thing, the value of matrimony was worth making a real commitment.
Kyler knew of way too many unhappy women, according to Elaine. Elizabeth seemed to be steered into the same direction. She was acting as a mindless sheep that her father could use to keep his name going. Kyler had thought about the prospect, and it was another reason he kept himself so closed off to other women. He didn't want a father breathing down his neck and trying to control him. Kyler also knew how angry he would get having to watch someone be suppressed in such a way. Kyler simply nodded towards Elizabeth, [b "I expect you here as soon as you can make it. Be safe."] Kyler said, watching her leave to make sure she was on the right track.
This was everything she had ever wanted. Everything in this workshop. Here she had the freedom to step outside of her assigned gender role and learn something aside from the duties of a wife and mother. This was what her mother had wanted for her too. The times were beginning to change although it was exceptionally slow, women were beginning to campaign for the right to vote and her mother was convinced it was only a matter of time before things began to change. Yet, they were still being oppressed by men who did not want women to have a single ounce of independence. That way they could control their wives and daughters and ensure that they were functional for the sole purpose of serving the family and producing male heirs to keep their wealth in their family. In this room she was free to learn, free to explore her intelligence while enjoying the company of a man who seemed to encourage that from her.
He was everything she never knew she wanted…until now. This was dangerous territory for the both of them though. Everything they had together had been orchestrated with the aim of tricking their cupids into believing that their plan had worked. Perhaps agreeing to such a plan had ruined any real chance of the two of them being together. While she did not say it aloud, or admit it to herself, she was certainly feeling something for this man. Twice now she had imagined herself kissing him and she was entirely embarrassed by the fact. Even if they had kissed, it might have meant nothing to him and she could have made a fool of herself for acting upon a burst of emotion. Besides, even if he [I did] feel something for her, there was no way that the two could [I actually] be together. Had Helen and Elaine even thought about her father and how he might react to her falling for a man who did not come from wealth or business? While he was a business man in his own right, it was not something her father would perceive as being in the same league and he would certainly not approve of a relationship between them.
Her heart hammered against her chest now, nervous about how Kyler might react to her intensity and she just watched as he took a sip of his soda and seemed to take a minute to gather herself. Perhaps Elizabeth would no longer be welcome here and that thought saddened here. To not see him again would have hurt, that much she was sure of. Regardless of the fact this was supposed to be make believe, she couldn’t help but imagine that her life was now better because he was in it. Elizabeth would have told him that if she did not think the notion would scare him. He was not interested in her in that way and she needed to move past whatever feelings had stirred within her.
Finally, he turned to face her and the fear she had building inside of her was starting to subside now that she could see that he was smiling. Apparently, their time together was drawing to an end and it caused sorrow deep within her. He wanted her gone, even though he wasn’t saying it openly. Elizabeth nodded and moved towards the desk so that she could complete the description of Kyler’s creation. She swallowed hard and nodded, dressing her lips in a smile so that she could hide the emotions that she truly felt.
Their tension had meant nothing to him…she would have to keep reminding herself of that. She picked up the pen and started to write, making sure that she included as much detail as possible. Elizabeth did not glance up once while she wrote, until Kyler approached her with a block of wood and a chisel as her own. She placed the pen down and smiled towards him, taking the wood and chisel from him while ensuring that the gratitude was clear upon her face. This meant a great deal to her but she needed to make sure her reaction did not cross the boundaries that he was setting out for them. [b “Thank you.”] She said with a smile, placing the items in a bag she had brought with her before returning to the paperwork so that she could finish it and excuse herself from him.
Another five minutes later, that time came and she found herself picking up her bag and looked towards Kyler. [b “You are very talented Kyler. I do hope that I can continue to visit and learn from you.”] She was testing the waters to see if she had made things far too awkward for this to continue. The wood and chisel could have been a parting gift.
He almost kissed her.
Kyler knew just how close he was to closing the distance and taking her lips with his own in a passionate fervor. None of them made the move. They were silent, but they could feel the intensity as it surrounded the entirety of the room. You could have cut the tension with a butter knife... or a carving tool rather. Kyler was sure throughout the process that he'd probably have some small inkling to kiss her but nothing this great. It was like the world would stop turning if he didn't or his heart would stop beating. While he knew that was silly, Kyler felt the pressure all over his body. Only when he moved did it stop. Kyler had no way of knowing how Elizabeth felt in that moment, but he sure as hell knew how he did. Well, he certainly didn't [i understand] it, but he knew it was in existence.
He wasn't good for her. She was [i too good] for him. They were opposites. Polar. She was the North, and he was the South. He drank too much. He got into trouble. She hardly even drank anything but water. She was the one getting people [i out] of trouble. But they saw things in each other that no one else did or understood. There was a part deep inside Kyler that was soft and kind despite his rough exterior. He didn't show it often... if ever. Well, until he met Elizabeth really. Then he was laying down and looking at stars and going to weddings and teaching her how to carve in his own garage? Life was strange...
Kyler took an intentional sip of the soda, draining it of its contents. He needed something to stop the racing of his heart that he wouldn't ever tell anyone about. His palms rested his large frame against a toolbox that was old but functional as if he was letting a weight remove itself from his shoulders before he could stand. That weight was Elizabeth herself.
This wasn't planned. This wasn't what they wanted. He was just supposed to [i pretend.] It was supposed to be make believe. Then it just happened. It hit him. He [i actually] did care. He offered her an internship in his business when he [i always] worked alone. He thought about her more than he'd ever thought about anyone other than his sister, Elaine. He wanted more for her. He wanted to protect her. It was like he was supposed to be there for her... like he'd known her for years and years. It was so easy around her.
Then came that beautiful voice yet again, [i "“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.”] She spoke. Kyler wanted to turn and speak. In his mind, he would comfort her and tell her that she didn't make him uncomfortable, but he wasn't that perfect. He wasn't that open. Kyler didn't look back, simply running a hand through his longer, unkempt hair.
[i I'll ruin her...] He kept thinking about all the ways that he was bad for her, so he promised himself to keep her at arm's length. He owed it to her. Kyler would be the better man. It wasn't like anyone, especially her father, would approve of him courting her if he even tried. Nothing about them would work, yet they were absolutely made for each other.
[i “I’ll be making tables in no time.”] She spoke with that infectious laugh that Kyler couldn't help but smile slightly to. He would stand and turn to the woman, playing as if it never happened. [b "How about you finish up that paperwork and then head on back to your father. I'm sure he's asking about you."] Kyler spoke calmly as if nothing had fazed him. His gaze was cool and stable as he tried to be professional. Kyler fished through another set of drawers and found a scrap block of wood along with one of his smaller chisels that would fit in her tinier, more fragile hands. [b "Take this... Hide it. There must be some place you can keep it that your father won't find. Feel free to practice with it as much as you want. I find it helps in the most stressful of times to go to the place in your mind full of creativity."] He would hold out the block and tool to the woman before him, outstretched arms seeming to symbolize that they didn't need to cross a boundary.
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