In my new release, Slowly Fell, Elizabeth Bramley (nee Thrasher) spends some time reminiscing about her youth, courtship and marriage. We get to see a little insight into how the adult Lady Bramley was formed (but no, she is NOT getting a third showcase, even if she feels she should have another!) and through her we get to learn about Bram.
Now, a widow for twelve years, Elizabeth finds herself having conversations with her husband as if he never went anywhere, although, at the same time, she is feeling his loss greatly. He is the one and only person she would ever listen to, of course, and she knows exactly what he would say to her on every occasion and every subject, so its easy to imagine he's at her side, even when she knows he really isn't.
If only he was.
* * * *
(Excerpt below from Slowly Fell)
"I do wish you were here, my darling."
I am, Betsy. I'll always be here. I never left.
She realized now that by going there— to the place he most loved— she'd hoped to find him closer, a more substantial spirit. She was chasing her husband's ghost.
But he had always been such a vibrant man that there was nothing wispy or ethereal about the presence she felt here. Oh, it was a mischievous spirit, of course, but sturdy, touching all the senses as she let her memories play out around the room.
There he was— as a young man, full of hopes and expectations. Fearless. Shining. Indefatigable.
Melchior Bramley was the fifth son of a baronet and so nobody had expected him to inherit. He had run wild for much of his youth and would, despite his father's opposition to the idea, have been content as a blacksmith, a carpenter or a farmer— anything to work with his hands. But then he and his elder brothers went away to war and, much to his father's "unpleasant surprise" — as Bram described it cheerfully— he was the only one of the five to return alive. He was thus left with the baronetcy, the family estate to manage and all the attached responsibilities.
A clever man, shrewd and quick-witted, he had been born with a certain ability to see through nonsense, and although a part of the titled class, he did not think much of airs and graces. Expelled from Eton when he was twelve, he had begged his father to let him attend a local grammar school instead, from where he studied his way to a university education.
Sometimes Elizabeth thought her husband simply liked to do things the hard way, to satisfy himself that he could. He certainly did not approve of undeserved, unearned advantages being given out. Despising laziness and being a hard-worker himself, he also enjoyed his chance to play when the occasion arose. Indeed, he enjoyed his life to the fullest. With his last gasp he had made her vow to, "Live every day, Betsy my love. Live it with all your heart."
* * * *
Lately, Elizabeth has been haunted by a confession that "Bram" once shared with her, just prior to their engagement. It is a secret she has kept to herself all these years and although, for much of that time, she has struggled internally with it, Elizabeth knows that the moment he shared this confession with her, is when she realized how deeply she had fallen in love with him. Because it was too late for her to back away. She loved him, sins and all.
But Bram mentioned his secret to her only that once and never spoke of it again. Not to her. In subsequent years had he been waiting for her to raise the subject, or had he hoped to bury it forever?
But they were never out of mind. Like Bram himself.
Now, the Dowager Lady Bramley has a feeling that her husband wants her to put that painting and the thumbscrews back where they belong. To do this Elizabeth must venture to the village of Slowly Fell, where that certain secret about her husband's past is lying in wait. His ghost has very subtly been leading her in that direction and Melchior Bramley is a persistent fellow.
He won't rest and she can't set either of them free of the past until she's done what he wants. But he won't make it easy for her. He loves his riddles, his practical jokes and his mysteries!
* * * *
(Excerpt below from Slowly Fell)
Christmas used to be Bram's favorite time of year, when he enjoyed lively society with an intimate group of very good, very dear friends. And he loved to tell mysteries, gathering them all around him to hear a tale of which he would later say, "What do you think of that then?"
His recipe for a good party was simple: "A cozy gathering with a few merry souls, and plenty of beef and ale, is the best sort of company," he would exclaim. "One in which I need not mind what I say, and if I want to put my boot heels up, I bloody well can."
Actually, she had never known him worry about what other people thought of him in any case. Marriage to Elizabeth had somewhat tempered his bad habits and necessitated a little extra polish on his boots, but he still put those heels up, without qualm, wherever and whenever he wanted.
She pictured him, now, sitting in his chair at the far end of the table, telling one of his infamously ribald tales, laughing loudly and with such gusto along the way that he could barely finish. His laughter was so infectious that he would start everybody at the table rocking with helpless chuckles, even though they could no longer understand a word he tried to say and had long since lost the thread of his story.
Suddenly she heard his voice in her ear. "What's all this then? No good sitting around here all alone and feeling sorry for yourself, Betsy."
She closed her eyes and felt the dampness under her lashes.
Nobody had called her "Betsy" since Bram died. She was "my lady", "your ladyship" or "Dowager Lady Bramley." She was an aunt and a mother and a rather fearsome grandmama. But she was nobody's wife anymore, nobody's lover, nobody's passion. There were many rooms inside the life of a woman, but several doors inside her mansion had now closed, shutting down entire wings of the building. In truth, she suspected there was not a soul left wandering her metaphorical corridors who even remembered her name was Elizabeth. They would certainly never think of her as "Betsy".
When Bram died he took that name and that young girl with him.
* * * *
But no, Lady Bramley is NOT getting another showcase, so she can stop right there with this excerpt. If you want to read more, you can find Slowly Fell here.
Thanks for reading!
(Image used here: Gentleman on a Bay Horse, by Charles Towne 1815)