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Jobe was glad that the man had decided to come hunting with him. It was a sport he had grown to enjoy and it was relaxing too. It allowed him to work on frustrations when he had any. Right now, he just wanted to work his way through his anger at his father and having company would keep him grounded.
[b “Well then that is settled isn’t it? We shall go hunting and the women can do whatever it is they decide to do.”] He said happily rising from his seat just as Willow and Anastasia entered the room. He was glad to see Anastasia in such high spirits and finding herself with a woman who would clearly be a good friend to her.
A smile spread across his face when he heard that she had been invited to dinner. Apparently it took a guest to do so for her to finally join him. [b “Anastasia, there is nothing that would please me more. Of course you have my permission. I wish you would understand that you do not need my permission to leave this house. You are not a prisoner.”] He shook his head and smiled, reaching into his jacket pocket as he started to walk out of the door, handing Willow some money as he did.
He lowered his voice to a whisper and spoke into the woman’s ear. [b “Although I pay her well, I do not wish for her to waste her earning on such things. Take this and tell her you are paying for it if you must.”] He said and looked towards Justin, nodding his head. [b “Well let us be on our way Fletcher.”] He said, amused by the way he told Willow to be careful.
Justin looked to Jobe and nodded,
“Of course, I’d be more than happy to help out with your factory- free if charge of course for your hospitality.” He knew how expensive doctors could be in this age so he figured it would be a good favour. At the mention of hunting, Justin was unsure but he figured he may as well give it a shot.
“Love is a fickle thing.” Justin said to him and sighed, fiddling with his glass thoughtfully. Willow was the only woman he ever really cared for but it was so difficult to try and walk that path.
He had never hunted really, he’d fired a gun as a child with his father at a shooting range so he figured it wouldn’t be that difficult to pick up. Still, he would be wary and careful.
“Ah, of course! I’d enjoy some time away.” He said and looked up as Anastasia and Willow came back in,
“Mr Hughes is going to take me hunting, show me around a little.” He said to Willow with a broad smile as he drained his water and looked to the young women. He raised an eyebrow at Anastasia’s words and looked to Willow hoping she knew what she was doing.
“Just be careful, Juliet.” He murmured as he stood to get ready to go out with Jobe.
Anastasia looked positively surprised by Willow’s offer.
“You would have me as a guest?” It seemed that kind of kindness had never really been apparent to her and she looked to Willow. She of course would need to ask her Masters permission and she actually seemed excited!
“Nonsense, Miss Juliet! I have seen the look in Mr Fletcher’s eyes. I have seen it many times. You see a lot when you’re job is to be observant.” She remarked to the other woman with a small smile. Still, she would not pressure it and maybe at dinner she could watch more of the other couples interactions.
“Mr Hughes, miss Juliet has requested me as her guest for dinner this evening- if it pleases you of course. And she wishes to take me to town.” Anastasia was giddy with the possibilities, she had never bought herself so much as a thread.
“I will use my wages, of course. But I would need your permission for such a venture.” She said, looking to Jobe and then to Willow. She knew that she would receive strange looks in town for being out but if she was with Willow then she knew she would be safe.
Willow looked at the woman with confusion. She spent most of her days observing people and she had no doubt that she had become quite skilled at it but she had to be wrong about this. For the last year, Justin has never once indicated that he would be interested in more than a friendship with her and she would never inflict such thoughts upon him. She valued his friendship and she didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that, and even if she had feelings for him, she would push them aside if it meant keeping him in her life. Willow laughed along with the girl, absently playing with her hands as the woman spoke.
[b “Enjoying my company is not the same as affection. We are friends. I would expect him to enjoy me company.”] At least now talk turned to that of dinner and Willow was excited to find herself thinking about what the woman might look like in a new dress with her hair done up.
[b “Nonsense. You shall do no such thing. You will be my guest to dinner as I am invited to bring whoever I like. I choose you.”] She took hold of the woman’s hand and led her back towards the house. [b “We are going to get out overcoats and go into town.”] She said excitedly and as they did her conversation moved back to Fletcher again. It really did seem like she was set on getting the two together.
[b “He would make a fine husband. If you are in the market for one I could ask, although I have a feeling God has other plans for you.”] It was exciting to know the future; to know what became of Anastasia and Jobe but she knew she would have to be careful. One dinner together would not hurt surely?
He listened to the man talk about his job. It made sense that he would prefer to stay in the countryside. It was certainly more sanitary and his worked would be paid better amongst the wealthy. [b “Well should you ever find yourself in need of work, my factory doctor retired when my father died.”]
Jobe shock his head. [b “If I knew what went through that man’s mind that I would have a little more understand. However, I am at a loss as to why he was intent on that. I spoke to my mother about it and she assured me that I would not have to have an arranged marriage. She was set up with my father you see. They were not unhappy with each other but they did not love each other and I simply won’t live a life void of love.”] He said simply, looking towards the women once more. [b “Nor should you.”] He said casually without looking back at Jobe.
What he didn’t know what that he would be happily married before the year was out. Willow knew that but she was keeping everything to herself so that she did not change history or tempt fate too soon. Jobe never saw himself as the marrying type but whenever he thought of a wife, he thoughts always returned to Anastasia and how perfect she would be as his equal in life. Although, even as the thought passed his mind he knew that it could never be.
[b “So, tell me. Do you like hunting Fletcher? I had planned on partaking in such sports this afternoon and I would be honoured if you would accompany me.”] Hunting was one of the very few activities, besides business, that Jobe enjoyed and since Fletcher was a guest in his home, he only saw it fit to invite him along. As a country man he expected that he had some experience and if he did not, he did not mind teaching the man a few things.
Justin watched him speak of Anastasia a smile pulled at his lips. He noted the change of topic and decided against pressing matters of women.
“Oh? No no, I much prefer the quiet of the countryside. Besides, the conditions of some of those factories are abhorrent in nature. No I usually do house calls to the wealthier families in the countryside.” He explained with a gesture of his hand.
“Hence it’s easier. Besides, I had no intention of bringing it up until I noticed Anastasia’s soreness.” He remarked with a shrug. He took a long drink and watched Jobe.
“Why is your father so intent on you marrying? Is it arranged with someone?” He asked, unsure if arranged marriages were popular among the wealthy these days but he guessed as much. It seemed an easy way to make sure a family kept their wealth. He didn’t agree with it but he could see the reasonings behind such things. He sighed a little.
“Apologies, you don’t seem happy about your father’s wishes to marry. Marriage is meant to be a happy affair.” He pointed out as he thought very carefully. He couldn’t remember if J Hughes ever married. He was a handsome man so he would find it off if he didn’t.
Anastasia looked to the woman and shook her head,
“Oh no! I have seen that look many times, Miss!” She giggled a little, as if free to be herself for a day.
“I believe Mr Fletcher enjoys your company!” She wondered how it was that people didn’t see the affections of others. Or were to ignore them. It always confused her. The again she couldn’t see it from Jobe either.
“I would greatly like another dress if I am to be welcome at dinner but- I should ask Master Hughes permission first, I don’t think he would like me to turn up.” She said to the other woman, almost embarrassed.
“I don’t believe I’ve worn anything but this before.” She said and tried to think back. She certainly couldn’t remember a time where she had worn a fine dress that wasn’t black and white. Even letting her hair down her back seemed like something informal. It was scary to her.
“So, Mr Fletcher is a Doctor? He must make good money. He would make a fine husband.” It seemed Anastasia was quite intent on getting the two to marry or at least open up that there were signs there. Still she realised she was still talking to someone above her station and quickly hushed her talking.
Jobe listened carefully, wondering if that fact that she had been married to his brother was the reason he wanted to keep things ‘formal’ as he put it. It would make sense he supposed. Perhaps there seemed to be a boundary that he did not want to cross and he could respect him for that. He glanced towards the window himself, taking in the sight of Willow and Anastasia together. He trusted that the new woman would keep Anastasia busy and away from the work of the household for now and it pleased him to know that.
He looked back when he mentioned Anastasia and nodded. [b “She is a rather bright and vibrant woman.”] He said carefully, [b “We have known each other for quite some time. It goes beyond her working for my family. I am rather fond of her. You are right though, I must marry soon.”] He took a sip from his cup and looked towards Jobe. [b “My father decided to leave a clause in his will. It seems I must be married before the end of the year for me to inherit the business fully.”] He said with a laugh, still amused by the fact that the man controlled his life even when he was dead.
[b “Less talk of the women now.”] He said with a smile, placing the cup back down onto the table. [b “So you are a doctor? Have you considered staying in London? Many of the factories would kill to have a doctor of their own.”]
Willow smiled at the greeting Anastasia gave her. She hoped that the two would become friends over the next few days. [b “It may not be customary, but I can assure you that he would much prefer to have your company than ours.”] She said with a chuckle. [b “You must know that Fletcher and I are of very similar opinions to Jobe. We do not see someone’s status and I hope that you will accept me as a friend to you.”]
She placed her hand on top of the woman’s and smiled. [b “I did, very much so. I did not tell Jobe that you played a part in the organising of it. I am sure that he would find himself disappointed to learn that you are not resting like he asked.”] Willow looked down at the attire she wore and shook her head. [b “You would not bring the man shame I can promise you that. If it would make you feel better to wear something else, I am sure that I could find a dress for you. You are not to serve him for a few days, I see no reason why you should not dine with us.”]
It seemed the woman wanted to learn more about her now. She looked up with surprise and she shook her head. [b “I am afraid you are mistaken. Fletcher had been a very good friend to me over the years. It is nothing more than that. There will be no marrying.”] She said with a laugh. Perhaps she was blind to it but there was nothing about the way he looked at her that told her he wanted anything more from her than friendship.
Justin looked to Willow and smiled,
“I did, Juliet.” He said as he ate some breakfast and watched Willow leave to go and find Anastasia no doubt. He looked to Jobe when he spoke.
“She’s very strong willed. It doesn’t feel right.” He said to Jobe and sighed quietly. “It feels as if we should keep things formal, you know?” He mused quietly as he took a drink of water and tried to word it correctly for the era.
“Besides, a woman like Juliet and a man like me, we are such opposites in this world. She is strong, confident and beautiful. I prefer my books and formalities.” He murmured as he looked out towards the gardens, catching a glimpse of Anastasia and Willow in the gardens.
“On the topic of such things, you seem fond of Anastasia.” He remarked, putting the ball firmly back in Jobe’s court as he smirked somewhat. He didn’t know the man’s intentions.
“You ought to be married soon, I would imagine?” He didn’t mean to Anastasia but in general, a man of his standing should have a wife. And most likely a wife of good standing, he had riches no doubt and a large house ready to fill with children so it only seemed logical. Still, why did Justin get the feeling this was a man who was not one for tradition.
Anastasia looked to Willow,
“Oh! Ma’am!!” She smiled a little.
“Oh? It’s not accustom for me to eat dinner with Master Hughes.” She said to her and she wondered if Jobe had said something. Most likely not and she would rather not get her hopes up for such things. She looked back to the house, almost wistfully. If she had been born into a better family then none of this would ever be happening.
“You enjoyed your breakfast though?” She asked the other woman and it was nice to have someone of similliar age around. This woman had also stood up for her, which was a relief.
“Perhaps I will join you at dinner although-“ She looked at her attire and scoffed slightly.
“Perhaps not. I don’t believe Master Hughes would sit well with a servant sharing his table, regardless. I’ve brought him enough shame these past few nights.” She remarked and eyes Willow over. She was curious about her and Justin’s relationship. Her and Jobe were complicated.
“Your husband’s brother, there is a certain kindness when he looks at you.” Anastasia said to the woman with a small smile.
“I have seen such looks before. The couple tend to end up marrying not long after such looks. He cares for you, miss. A lot.” Anastasia said and observed her reaction carefully because as a servant, she often witnessed a lot in her time watching events. She was never part of them but rather on the outskirts.
Jobe wished that Anastasia could see herself in the way that he did but he knew that it would be a task to do so. Anastasia confirmed to the social classes more than he did but he could understand why she felt the need to do it.
Early the next morning he found Willow exploring his home and admiring the artwork that hung in his hallway. He smiled towards her as he spoke, admiring the painting she had chosen to look at. It was a favourite of his and he could tell the woman had taste the moment she had been captivated by it.
[b “Would you like to escort me to the dining room?”] He asked, gently placing his hand on her shoulder to direct her to the room where food would be served. [b “I do hope you managed to get a good night sleep.”] He said lowering himself into the chair as he watching Justin enter the room. [b “Good morning Fletcher.”]
The three of them ate breakfast together but he found himself missing the company of Anastasia. With company it seemed the woman did not want to mix with them and he could understand why. When breakfast was over, Juliet took her leave and he was left with Justin. [b “She is a fine woman, Juliet. It makes me wonder why you did not marry her when you brother passed. You certainly seem like a good fit.”]
That night, Willow slept well considering she was in a unfamiliar house and in a different time. Although, she dreamed of the adventures that she hoped for while they were here and when she awake she was still full of the happy excitement she had experienced upon their arrival here. She got herself out of bed once she had awakened completely and got herself washed and dressed, excited to see what the day might bring. She had thought about knocking on Justin’s door but she did not want to wake him any earlier than needed. Besides, the quiet was just what she needed to calm herself down. The adrenaline was still running wild and if they were to make it through breakfast she needed to inject some normalcy into her behaviour.
With a deep breath, she made it down the stairs and started to move through the house to observe the home of the man who had become so important to her over these past few weeks. Everything was exactly as she imagined it to be and more so. Her fingers danced along paintings and ornaments and a smile became a permanent fixture upon her face. She imagined that these items would have been priceless if they were found in their present day but here they seemed to have a perfect home. She couldn’t imagine them anywhere else.
[i “An admirer of art I see Miss Juliet.”] Jobe’s voice broke through the silence and she turned towards him and smiled towards him.
[b “I am Mr Hughes. I am somewhat impressed with the pieces you have acquired. Especially this one.”] She said as she pointed towards a painting hung on the wall. Willow smiled and looked upon the gentleman once more. After a minute Jobe placed her hand on the back of her shoulder and started to move her towards the dining area after claiming that breakfast was ready. He was the perfect gentleman, pulling the chair out for her and lowered himself into the seat at the bed of the table.
Her face lit up even more when Justin entered moments later. [b “Good morning Fletcher. I trust you slept well?”]
After breakfast Willow decided that she needed to walk after eating so much. She had expected for but this was more like a feast. In the gardens she coughed sight of Anastasia and she moved towards her.
[b “Morning Anastasia. We missed you at breakfast. Jobe had hoped that you might join us.”] She said softly.
Justin was surprised into silence by the kiss and he so desperately wanted it to go further but he watched her leader and sighed out. He shook his head and finally managed to sleep after some amount of tossing and turning.
In the morning the light leaked through and he was up and dressed. He would work on the panel tonight to see if he could find the issue. He wondered how exactly these things worked as he did up his buttons after washing in a cold water bowl. Still, it was good to see Willow so happy and carefree.
He made his way downstairs and looked around. It seemed the servants had made breakfast and he eyed it. Was a coffee a thing yet? He rubbed his face and looked around, waving a good morning to a passing servant as he made his way out to the gardens to take in the morning air. There was a slight chill and it seemed to leave him unbothered. It was refreshing honestly and he wondered what today would bring. Anastasia brought him back to reality and he nodded before heading back in and joining the others at the large dining room table and sitting down.
“Good morning.” He greeted the others.
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Anastasia felt his touch and looked up at him. It was so difficult for her to break all traditions but she did, for him.
“Goodnight s-“ she caught herself, “Goodnight, Jobe.” She said quietly and watched him go. She iced her injury and slept for most of the night.
She had helped with breakfast but was careful not to be caught because she knew how Jobe liked certain aspects of his breakfast to be organised. She stepped out and her hair was fixed back into braids once more. She didn’t own any nice dresses so the servants uniform was still in place. She caught sight of Justin,
“Breakfast is ready, Sir. In the dining room.” She explained to him and gestured for Justin to join everyone and he obliged.
Anastasia would not be so comfortable to sit with the others as she took to the kitchen to eat. The swelling on her arm had gone down and now it was only the bruises in place. She picked at some bread thoughtfully and figured a walk in the gardens would clear her mind. Every time she tried to do desperately wanted to distance herself from Jobe, he found a new way to pull her in and make her fondness for him deepen somehow.
She watched the sparrows flit around the garden and smiled somewhat to herself. It was a curious thing to love another in such a way, and heartbreaking because she would never be with him. She supposed today would be quiet. And given she was banned from being the dutiful servant she so longed to be and to make sure Jobe was content, she seemed lost almost. If she was not a servant then she had no excuse to be in his company with the others. These new guests seemed patient and understanding but she knew it would be too big of a risk to share a meal with her employer, people would talk.
When Jobe was finally alone with Anastasia he found himself shaking his head. How he wanted to take her face within his hand and tell her that none of it mattered. Instead, he kept his hands to himself and gazed upon her. [b “Anastasia, you should not apologise for someone else’s behaviour nor should you continue to call me sir. I understand why you might wish to do so in front of company, but we are alone now and I must insist that you stop.”] His words were not unkind as he spoke and he took one step towards her, still fighting the urge to reach out for her.
When he saw her bow her head he could not longer stop himself. He placed his hand under her chin and tilted her head so that she could not avoid his eyes. [b “You will do no such thing. You are officially on rest for the next few days. I have convinced our guests to stay for a while and I have commandeered Juliet to prevent you from working. For now, you must get some rest and then tomorrow, you are going to enjoy some time off.”]
Jobe lowered his hand and smiled towards her. [b “I can see to my own room dear Anastasia. Do not worry yourself.”] With that he turned and retired to his room.
Willow nodded. [b “The writer of the diary I have been reading the social reformer. Although that is not something that had begun yet. He doesn’t start fighting reform for at least a year after his father’s death.”] She said as she walked through the door to his room, thinking nothing of it at first. She moved towards the bed and lowered herself onto it as she watched Justin pace around the room. He seemed to be just as elated her and she couldn’t help but smile towards him and watched as he took at the device in his pocket.
Her smile dropped for a moment when it appeared that it wasn’t working but she trusted that he would be able to get it fixed. [b “We have a few days now. I’m sure you can fix it before then.”] She said smiling once more as she allowed her body to fall back on the bed and she let out a sound of excitement and exhaustion and then she laughed at his next words. [b “Well [I Fletcher] if we get caught in this room together, it won’t matter who I call out. We could be done for.”] She said with humour lacing her tone as she pulled herself up to a seated position once more. [b “You are right. I do enjoy this place.”] Willow allowed her eyes to linger on his for a moment longer than intended and then she rose to her feet, walking towards him and took his hands.
[b “I wanted to thank you. This has been amazing, and I know there is more yet to come. I would never have experienced this if it weren’t for you.”] Willow rose onto her tiptoes and placed and kiss on his cheek before removing herself from his room and moving towards her own.
Justin looked to Willow and went upstairs.
“The writer, right?” He said when they were left alone and he smiled at her reaction. He let her in his room for now, so they could talk.
“This era is fascinating! And Jobe Hughes is even more so.” He said as he paced with his thoughts. He could not believe it! This was real!
“We can stay a few days. Then we can go home- well,” he took out the controller after a glance to the door to make sure they were no longer being watched. He smiled to her as he flipped a few switches but the machine did nothing. He bit his lip.
“That’s...” he trailed off and tried again. The return wasn’t working and he looked to Willow. This could be a problem.
“I’m sure it’s minor- I’ll give it a look over the next few days. You just enjoy being here. It’ll get fixed.” He assured her. He usually did tend to fix things and he didn’t want to ruin all of this for her so he would keep her distracted for now.
“Also try not to call out anyone else.” He remarked with a playful wag of his finger. Willow ha always been bold but it would cause suspicion if she kept it up and he smiled. He liked this era, there was something reassuring about it and it was also nice to spend time with Willow.
“Besides, ‘Juliet’.” He said with a small laugh,
“You seem to enjoy this place.” He remarked and watched her carefully.
There was a certain glow about her that seemed to light up this place. Maybe she cared more about history than she let on but Justin has never noticed this side of her before.
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Anastasia watched the guests go and stayed quiet until they were gone. She looked to her employer, Jobe and smiled a little.
“I apologise for tonight, sir. It was not my intention to have such chaos reign. It will not happen again.” She said to him and looked to the rain outside. She figured it was getting late and she took the glasses away to be washed and cleaned. The house was so quiet and she adored it. It was like she could think clearly for the first time.
Jobe’s anger earlier had caught her by surprise but she knew better than to question him.
“Will that be all sir, I can see that your bedroom is ready if you are retiring?” She said to him. She was more than happy to make sure he was comfortably set up for the night, not only because it was her job. She still felt awful about what had happened earlier with the other man and even though she had come away injured, she knew such things would cause people to gossip and talk. She had damaged his reputation.
She had kept her head bowed out of respect and whilst Jobe didn’t like classes, Anastasia knew they were a real thing and she could see no end to them. Her place would always be below Jobe and his guests, never among them and it was something she had come to accept because if she fought it then she knew she would end up distraught and upset. She would never wear fancy bright colours like the women he entertained at parties. She would never have her hair done like the beautiful women who so desperately tried to woo him and court him. But she was content to at least be within in his presence.
Willow raised her eyebrow when Justin announced that he was a doctor of sorts He needed to be more careful making announcements like that, although she was sure that he had more medical knowledge that Victorian doctors. If he wasn’t careful he would expose himself to an array of diseases if people caught word of a good doctor amongst them. She remained quiet as he inspected the girl’s arm, not at all surprised by the severity of it.
Soon enough she was leaving to get back to work and Jobe was now talking to her. She still couldn’t quite believe that Jobe was actually talking to her. It was strange how she imagined his voice in her head all these weeks and he was exactly what she pictured and sounded like. [b “Oh, it does. I have always wondered about the intricacies of business. My husband…he would not tell me much, so I would be very keen the learn more. Besides, I think that Anastasia will likely need someone to stop her from working and I would be more than happy to distract her until her arm starts to heal.”] She could tell that Jobe was appreciative of that fact and before he could say anything else, she returned to them, announcing their rooms were ready.
[b “No you have done quite enough. We will bid you both goodnight.”] She said, taking hold of Justin’s arm and leading him towards the stairs. As soon as they were out of earshot she found herself dropping her façade. [b “I cannot believe that we are in [I Jobe Hughes’ house!”]
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