They were driving into town, through the back roads, as always. Her suitor, Captain Solomon Ashmore, shook his head with a wry smile at her unusual request. He thought it odd that such a well bred Lady would want to go through the dirty back roads of London, but like him, she had a past that  had only been spoken of briefly-the kind of past that gives one idiosyncratic quirks. They accepted that about each other-some things are just not meant to be relived. He kissed her on the side of her head, inhaling the unique scent of jasmine and orange blossom which always faintly permeated her presence.

As they drove through the bustling, lively back roads, Brielle gazed wistfully through the window, lost in nervous energy and contemplation. She nervously nibbled the bottom of her lip. Today would be the first time she was in contact with her parents since Felix rescued her by murdering Phillip.

This introduction had to be done though- if her and Solomon were to live in England, they needed the connections and good graces to get back into high society. He was a Captain in the United States Navy-a well off Captain from a good family in America……the kind her parents might, just might, forgive her for bringing home.

Her thoughts drifted in a different direction as they passed the building that had for so long been her salvation. The Rejected Gear had bars across the front door, and cobwebs in the corners. There was no warm, bright light inside, as there used to be, a beacon of hope welcoming her home. She frowned, brows every so slightly furrowed, remembering the deceptively beautiful day in early May when Phoebe had refused to let her reopen the bar in Felix’s memory.

That day, she was freshly back to England from America. She had gone to America with the hopes and dreams of finding out what happened to Felix, hoping to bring him home, praying for him to be alive.

She found nothing. For months. Day in, day out, until she finally broke down in a tea shop when it hit her like a ton of bricks that Felix was dead. Not only dead, but not coming back.

At this point, the debonair Captain that was now her suitor had approached her, handed her a hanky with a smile and a wink. To most, the gesture would be flirtatiously saucy and perhaps a little brash. To Brielle, it reminded her of a particular quirk of Felix’s and evoked both feelings of loss and comfort.  

He questioned her on why she had been crying, but the longstanding training her Mother had instilled in her-”Stiff upper lip, ladies don’t let their baser emotions show.” unfortunately kicked in. She dried her eyes, apologized for her scene, “Oh, I was just reminded of something I no longer speak about….” and cracked a fragile smile. He was in love with her on the spot. What he saw was a resilient flower. He didn’t know the truth.

She felt a hand on her cheek and she jumped, to see Solomon looking at her with some concern. “Darling, are you well? You look like you have seen a ghost….” She overlaid her tiny hand over his large one.

“I’m fine. Just nervous. Remember, my parents and I left off on horrid terms? I’m nervous that even with someone as dashing and in as good standing as you are, they might be hateful…..”

His eyes softened.  “Yes, of course, I understand. I am also not on speaking terms with my parents….” She smiled at him then. It was a genuine smile. She was heartbroken over Felix of course, but she had been so very lonely. And Solomon, well, he was strong. Handsome. Yet surprisingly sweet for someone who had such a tough exterior. That tenderness won the broken pieces of her heart. It felt good to not be alone against a cruel world anymore.

The carriage rolled up to the front lawn of her childhood home. A servant opened the door and gazed slack jawed at her. She smiled sweetly as ever. “Thank you, Nicolaus. Could you please take us to my parents?” The servant nodded, still dumbstruck, and helped her and then Solomon down from the carriage and led her to the calling room.

She was taking in deep measured breaths as she squeezed onto Solomon’s hand. The smell-bergamot and oriental spices- brought back good and horrible memories, and she noted that very few things had been changed in this particular room. Unsurprising.

Her mother grasped her by both hands, pulling her to a standing position, an equal finally. Although, Brielle wryly noted, only because the man she brought home was as close to high society as they could possibly get after the ruination her scandalous behavior must have caused them all. She would take it. Civility, and the phony adoration that came along with it, was what they had come here for.

She looked towards Solomon, and gave him a slight nod. He returned her gesture with that wink that made her stomach churn and her heart flutter all at once. One corner of her mouth turned up as she thought about how that feeling was the summary of her life at this very moment.

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