Name: Olivia Westcott Ollerenshaw Pemberton Monday
Age: Eight and Twenty
Marital status: Thrice Widowed (although it's none of your business)
Place of Birth: Chiswick
Olivia is the only daughter of a stern, practical, hard-working solicitor. At the age of eight she lost her mother to consumption, but this has not induced much sympathy from her remaining relatives. Her maternal grandmother — a wealthy lady of property and consequence—wants nothing to do with her. Her father does not show his emotions and her Great Aunt Jane Westcott is more interested in the maintenance of good posture and polite manners, than she is in expressing one's feelings...
"Straighten your spine, girl! You will develop a most unbecoming slouch if my nephew doesn't put you in a backboard immediately. Who will you ever find to marry, child, if you don't improve your posture, take up some feminine pursuits and learn to hold a sensible conversation? What gentleman of any worth would look at such a sulky, sullen, willful creature with a fascination for wicked pranks? You won't be fit for polite society."
This lecture came about because Olivia had sculpted a piece of parsnip to look like a finger, coated the end of it in raspberry jam, and then placed it on the pianoforte keys, to be discovered when the instrument was opened.
"You are a horrid, unseemly child with a dark and devious imagination, Olivia Westcott. I cannot think what will become of you."
To which she replied, "I shall marry Mr. True Deverell, shan't I? People say he's not fit for polite society either. But he's rich as Croesus and I hear he knows his way under a woman's petticoats."
This bold declaration had shocked everyone present into silence. These things — and men—weren't meant for drawing room conversation in mixed company, and the adults were probably wondering where she'd even heard his name. But Olivia was not the sort of girl who listened quietly and contentedly to sweet fairy tales. "Once upon a time" made her want to spit nails. Once upon what time? When? What on earth did that even mean, for pity's sake? How could anyone take such a feeble, flimsy narrative seriously?
No indeed, Olivia preferred darkly gothic yarns and bloodthirsty horror stories not meant for the ears of little girls. Should that mean eavesdropping at keyholes to get her entertainment, so be it. Even if she didn't fully understand what she heard.
In any case, on that long-ago occasion, the mention of his name had got her sent up to bed immediately, saving her from a very dull evening. As she ascended the stairs, she overheard the adults discussing her.
"One must make allowances for the poor child, growing up motherless."
"Allowances? Where would we be if we made allowances for bad behavior? Another sliding of standards! No, no, that girl was impertinent long before she lost her mother, who was herself a stubborn creature with a distressingly romantic view of life and her head in the clouds. What my nephew saw in her I'll never know. A difficult woman."
So Olivia grew up trying to hide her naughty, dark imagination and that wicked streak of mischief. She's also tried to forget that fascination for True Deverell, a man of notoriety and scandal.
And that, she mused, was precisely where men like True Deverell went wrong, because they didn't see her coming and then they tripped over her.
One day, sure enough, the "mutton-head" fellow is headed in her direction and he's not looking where he's going.
He needs a secretary to help write his memoirs and so he puts the word out for one who is plain and has a neat hand.
He may get more than he bargains for.
Copyright Jayne Fresina 2015
TRUE STORY (The Deverells-- Book One) is now available from TE Publishing at all good online stores. Print version soon to be available.