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Hawthorne Heights

Hawthorne Heights

12 Chapters
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Set in an alternate Regency Era world. Emily Blakewell becomes the new governess of John and Mildred, children of Douglas and Dolores Mortimer of Middleton Valley. When Emily's arrival sparks a celebration through a party with the Mortimers' wealthy neighbors she is introduced to one Nicholas Sutcliffe, a mysterious stranger who arrived in Middleton Valley months ago and is currently boarding in Hawthorne Heights. Brash and the opposite of Emily. Weeks pass by when the Valley is struck by tragedy, and suspicion of Nicholas Sutcliffe grows but Emily isn't quite sure, and when she decides to help Sutcliffe, will she be able to save an innocent man from the gallows? Or will she have made the biggest mistake of her life?

Chapter 1 Introductions

When Emily Blakewell announced to her family the news of becoming a governess, she did not suspect that they would react the way they did. Angry, disappointed, and regretful that they had spent so much time and money on her education. Her younger sister Elizabeth had always been the star pupil and the model child so it surprised Emily that her family had not known better about what the future held for her. Was she trying to shift the blame onto her parents? It did not sound like so to her but she had felt that she was not to blame for everything which in her opinion was fair enough. She only wished she had known better than to break the news to her parents, she was in her late twenties, an adult, why did she need the approval of her parents to go out into the world and live her life? Perhaps it was because she never had their approval, nor had she ever gone out into the world on her own, and she had always relied on her parents both in living and financial terms. Emily remembered her mother grabbing her arm, pleading with her not to do this for it would shame them to think that a member of their well-to-do family would take on a job such as a governess. Mother seems to have not known me after all these years, she thought, I was never the child she thought I was. Her mother, of course, was the educator in the family and Emily remembered all those strenuous afternoons trying to get her to pronounce Wednesday during her early years.

A bump in the road interrupted her thoughts. That was then, and this is now, she thought. Discouraged by her family to take on the job, Emily immediately called for a carriage and paid the coachman diligently to get herself to Mortimer House. She had exchanged letters with the head of the household, Mr. Douglas Mortimer who had sent her an amount of money to pay for her travel expenses and a letter telling her that the sooner she went on her way to the Valley, the better. The letter made Emily wonder what he had meant, surely a wealthy family who could afford to live in Middleton Valley had no such trouble in finding a governess? It was in the local newspaper, The Dark Harbor Chronicle where she found his advertisement, and yet she had doubts about herself. The pang of her parents' words after all those years growing up rang in her ears. She was never the smart one despite having sold a few stories here and there to the local newspapers, fun to write and earn money at the same time but not viable as a full-time job.

The carriage came to a full stop, but not before bumping onto a large rock in the road that once again interrupted her thoughts. Emily could hear a horse neighing outside and once she stuck her head outside the fogged pathway resembling a road, she could see the shape of a man smoothly getting down from his horse and calming it down. Once the horse calmed down, the figure of the man walked over in her direction. Her heart thumped, she was never used to talking to strangers, only when she was given the time to prepare was she at ease and this was not one of these times. She straightened herself as to whatever the stranger was about to say and fixed her hair.

"Miss," said the man, his face now clearer than ever was strong with an aquiline nose though not bearing any resemblance to anyone of wealth or upbringing, "your driver nearly knocked me off my horse."

"The fog is to blame Mr.---"

"Sutcliffe, Nicholas Sutcliffe," he replied, introducing himself and offering his hand for her to shake, "and you are?"

"Emily...Blakewell." she replied, taking his hand and shaking it, his arm strong and firm.

"I suggest you not travel in the fog anymore after this, you could get yourself killed." He said, warning her off.

"I suggest you do the same Mr. Sutcliffe, then we'll call it even."

He only nodded stiffly, returned to his horse, and tipped his hat to her.

Sutcliffe had disappeared into the fog, never to be seen again or so she hoped. The coachman had informed her that the Mortimer House was near and that she need not worry about bumping into other strangers along the way. Emily sighed in relief and hoped that that was the case. She could see from where she sat the outline of the house that she was to govern two children. Emily had never experienced working with children before, but she was good with them and was always a reliable babysitter to her sister Elizabeth's children. It was odd that the Mortimers had immediately hired her without an interview nor any need for references, it was then when her doubts about herself washed over her and that the weight of responsibility would be too much to bear in the coming months or even years of rearing the children in their studies. Too late now, she thought. My doubts be damned, I can never go back home without any money, and worse the family would have to suffer the shame. These were the thoughts that raced in her mind but there was also adventure bursting inside her like the thought of being away from her family and doing things on her own without being constantly watched was freeing.

The sun was down by the time the carriage reached Mortimer House, the warmth that once covered the valley was now replaced with a cool breeze. She imagined that the mornings were covered in dewdrops and a cool wind to accompany the early hours.

"Here we are Miss," said the coachman as we went down from his seat and opened the carriage door for her, "Mortimer House."

"Thank you."

Once she was out, she studied the architecture of the manor, it wasn't so much as lavish or glamorous as a mansion as she had expected but it looked foreboding; unpainted, just cold hard rock that was sculpted to form a family home. Her luggage beside her she took a deep breath and approached the porch of the manor and knocked using the doorknocker shaped like that of a raccoon.

The door was unlocked on the other side with a click and several others, when the door finally opened there stood an elderly woman before her with her hair parted sideways and tied in a neat bun. She was a thin woman, her work likely keeping her in the figure that she's in and the late-night visitor wonders if that was also her fate.

"Good evening," she said making eye contact with the older woman, "I'm the new governess madam."

"Oh, I see!" the older woman said in delight. "Come in, come in."

Entering the large house, she could not help but notice how most of the inside was lit with candles, curious she studied the interior of the house when the older woman noticed.

"Oh, it's nothing, they like it this way rather than turning on the lights," she said as if it was like a chore, especially for her. "It's a chore to do but I'm getting paid."

"When do I get to meet the family?" asked the younger woman.

"They're just getting ready for supper and so should you, now come on."

The elderly woman guided her to the stairs and into the second room on the left of a corridor. This was going to be her room, she thought as she placed her luggage down on the floor. It was small as expected and it was tidy enough for at least another week.

"Why don't you get ready and I'll meet you in the dining hall so you can meet the family?"

"Thank you ummm..."


"Thank you Cecille, I'm Emily Blakewell." she offered her hand for a handshake and Cecille took it and shook it.

"I'll see you downstairs."

With the door closed, she turned the lock and immediately peeled off her dress and put on a fresh one. Tidying her new dress, she turned to face the mirror and checked to see if she needed to redo her hair but what she saw instead were the semi-visible circles around her eyes and she could feel and hear a pounding on her chest. Emily never thought of it before, at least not for a long time and she remember she was no longer eighteen, she was a decade older.

The dining hall was surrounded by candlelit fires and it was like no other she had ever seen before. The table was empty but she decided to wait for the family than impose on them just as a governess should. Emily had been tired as to how this was the way things were but that was as it was for the moment.

She decided to wait for the family at the steps of the stairs, and in no time, they appeared as if they were hovering above her. The man was middle-aged with short neat hair and a beard the color of pepper, the woman looked ten years younger but knew that she was aging as she covered her neck with a scarf and then there were the children; both wearing a sailor's outfit as if they were heading to the docks to leave the mainland.

She noticed how quiet the house had become as the family walked down the stairs and into the dining hall. The man held the woman's hand as if she were a piece of decorative glass that would shatter if he were to let go while the children; both around eleven or twelve slowly made their way to their seats opposite each other. The man stopped beside her and began;

"You must be the new governess, forgive us for our tardiness," he said with a twinkle in his eye, he had such kind eyes. "I'm Douglas Mortimer and this is my wife---"

"Dolores, pleased to meet you---" she held out a hand to the younger woman.

"Emily, Emily Blakewell." she took the woman's hand and shook it.

"Charmed," said Mrs. Mortimer with a smile though Emily knew not if it was sincere. "And these are our children; John and Mildred."

They were one charming family, very neat and tidy which seems to be an obsession of the woman of the house which she noticed once they started feasting on dinner. There was mushroom soup, grilled steak, peas, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots, and trout. As simple as dinner was, Emily was pleasantly surprised not just with the family but the house itself. They weren't excessive like most of the wealthy people she had known for they weren't as flashy though they did make quite an entrance earlier.

"Darling, why don't we throw a party?" asked Dolores, cutting her steak delicately as if she didn't want to ruin the plate.

"Well it's been so long since we've had one and..." he paused, clearing his throat, "just in time for Emily's first party, love?" asked Douglas looking up at his wife.

"We can make the excuse of celebrating the arrival of our new governess," suggested Dolores and Douglas shoots her a smile. "You wouldn't mind a party would you Emily?"

"I've never been to one but I think I'll leave it to you and Mr. Mortimer to decide," answered Emily quietly.

"My dear girl, you've never been?" asked her new employer, "very well then, I think we've come to a decision."

The party was set to take place in seven days, a Friday which was decided as it was the start of the weekend and the party can go on all night. It was the same week when she found out that Douglas and Dolores Mortimer were devout Followers of the Son, the religious weren't what she would call her people but the Mortimers were delightful and had their own eccentricities. That same night after dinner, they blew out the candles in the dining hall with the family and spent the entire evening with them in the living room and mainly spent her time reading the newspaper.

Finally, when the clock struck ten, Douglas rose up from his seat and straightened himself as he offered his wife his hand, taking it, she called the children who were playing with their toys on the carpeted floor.

"Come along children, it's time for bed," she said and they obeyed her, catching up with their parents at the foot of the steps.

"Good night Miss Emily." said the children, surprising her and touched that they would bid her goodbye after only having known her for a few hours. In return she bid them farewell, waving in their direction, and waited for them to disappear from sight before she made her way up the stairs to her own room.

The day was young but having changed into her governess' clothes she decided to get a cup of coffee to start her day only to be greeted by Cecille in the kitchen. Cecille's eyes were endowed with black circles around them and her hair was not as kempt as it had been the night before but Emily kept her thoughts to herself lest Cecille began to notice.

"Good morning." she greeted the older woman. "I'm just going to get a cup of coffee to start the day," Emily added.

"Good morning." she was greeted in reply. "You can find your cup of coffee in the cupboard up there," said Cecille.

"Thank you."

The smell of ground coffee was aromatic, it had not stung her sense of smell but she felt a jolt of life brought into her by it. Afterward, she made her way to the study hall where she was to teach the children their studies albeit a tad too early for children to be up; it was only seven in the morning and the Mortimer children don't get up until eight, recalled Emily what Cecille had told her of the children's daily schedule but she was in no hurry at all.

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