Home > A Wicked Kind of Husband(2)

A Wicked Kind of Husband(2)
Author: Mia Vincy

Lucy’s spite was so vicious that Cassandra lost her breath in a hiss, which meant she had no breath to yell too, to scream that she was trying, didn’t Lucy see that she was trying, that their family had been unraveling like bad sewing for years, and she was trying to keep it from unraveling further, but she didn’t know how, she had no idea, she didn’t ask for this, but this was what they had. And how dare Lucy mock her marriage to Mr. DeWitt! So what if her husband was a stranger? Papa had chosen him, Papa said he was a good man, and Papa said she had to be married to inherit Sunne Park, so they weren’t cast out if Papa died. She’d done it for all of them, and she wouldn’t regret it, none of it, and if she never saw her husband and couldn’t remember his face, it was best this way, it was best it was best it was best.

But as always, her lips stayed locked. Screaming and theatrics were Lucy’s forte. Cassandra was the calm and sensible one.

Besides, this was her problem, not Lucy’s, and there was already something so terribly broken in Lucy. Something that Cassandra didn’t understand and didn’t know how to fix.

The silence crackled around them, until Lucy released another wild laugh, whirled away, and tripped. Mercifully, she fell facedown on the bed. Even more mercifully, she stayed there.

“Is Lucy all right?” came a soft voice from the doorway. Cassandra briefly squeezed her eyes shut before turning to smile at Emily, who was using both hands to torment the end of her long red plait. Dear, sweet Emily. Fourteen going on ten. “Is she drunk?”

“She’ll have a bit of a headache tomorrow,” Cassandra said. Oh, so jaunty, so cheerful. Yes, she could be cheerful. Most of the time.

“Better an aching head than an aching heart,” Emily said.


“That’s what Lucy says.”


“I’ve never been drunk,” Emily volunteered.

“I should hope not.”

“Have you?”

“No. It’s not a nice thing for a lady to do.”

She reached out to pull Emily into a hug, but her little sister backed away.

“She just wants to enjoy herself!” Emily cried. “Why can’t you let her? Why are you so mean?”

Emily ran back to her room and slammed the door behind her. Cassandra breathed deeply and let her go. One sister at a time.

Her smile was real, though, when she spied the fresh violets on Lucy’s bedside table and inhaled their sweet scent. Cassandra had found the violets only that morning, bursting up under the hedgerows along the laneway. The sun had broken out several times during the day, and what with the larks singing and the magpies building their nests, she had been intoxicated by the delicious excitement that came with the early spring. She had gathered scores of the violets and put them in everyone’s rooms, so they could all feel the new season.

Lucy probably hadn’t noticed.

A dark mark on Lucy’s foot caught her attention: a small smear of blood. Lucy must have caught a shard of glass after all. She’d not mentioned the pain. Perhaps she never felt it. Perhaps there was something to say for getting drunk.

“Oh, I remember that gown. I wore it the night of the Beaumont ball,” she heard her mother say from the doorway. Mama had awoken after all. Cassandra turned and studied her. It was hard to tell in the dim light, but Mama seemed lucid. “The night I met your father, when we laughed and danced and fell in love.” Mama pressed her hands together and sighed happily. “That’s all Lucy wants, you know. You should let her enjoy her youth.”

“Et tu, Mama?”

“I beg your pardon, dear?”


Her mother gazed into the distance and when she looked back at Cassandra, she wore that radiant smile that neither age nor grief could dim. “You will look so beautiful when you make your debut, Miranda, and you will find such a wonderful husband. Nothing less than a duke for you!”

Cassandra smiled and smiled, because what else could she do? Four daughters was a lot to keep straight. It was only to be expected that Mama would get them confused. “I’m Cassandra, Mama. And Miranda and I already have husbands.”

Neither of whom was wonderful, or a duke, but still.

“Ye-es,” her mother said uncertainly.

Then she smiled again, started warbling a song, and wandered back to her room. Cassandra would check on her later too.

First, Lucy. She tugged the heavy dress off Lucy’s floppy limbs and wrestled her into a bed jacket over her chemise for warmth. She rolled off her stockings, gently washed away the blood, and checked for shards, finding none. She would check again in the morning.

When Lucy was snoring delicately under the covers, Cassandra placed the dirty cloth and blood-stained stocking next to the basin on the dressing table, went out, and shut the door. She hesitated. Already she regretted leaving the cloth and stocking like that—a petty, passive reproach that was beneath her—but she did not want to go back into that room. Not after what Lucy had said.

No. It was not the words. It was the look in her eyes. That look of utter hatred.

Gripping her candlestick, Cassandra headed back along the hallway, cold, dark, and lined with closed doors. At the empty master bedroom, she paused. She imagined the door opening, imagined Papa standing there, beaming as he always did, with his cheeks pink and his thinning red hair in a mess. “Well, Cassandra, my dear, what’s our Princess Lucy done this time?” he would say fondly. “Let’s go steal some cake and you can tell me all about it.”

“Oh Papa,” Cassandra whispered to the door. “I am trying to look after them for you, but they don’t make it easy. Why did you have to…”

She sighed and looked back down the deserted hallway. Sunne Park had stood for three hundred years, but she wouldn’t be surprised if it all came tumbling down, brick by red brick, right now, as she stood here. Their family had always seemed so solid, laughing, loving, beautiful, popular, with Mama and Papa at their center, and then Miranda and Charlie and Cassandra and Lucy and Emily. Yet one by one, everyone was disappearing, claimed by death or marriage or melancholy. She had been trying to hold the rest of them together, but they did not want to be held.

It was time for Lucy to go. Last Season, they were still in mourning for Papa, and Cassandra had been foolish, cowardly, and yes, selfish, to think she could delay yet again. First Lucy and then Emily: Sooner or later, they would both go and leave her here with Mama, and the sooner they went, the better for them. She and Mama would be fine here alone. She loved Sunne Park, and she loved her mother, and that was enough.

Most of the time.



Cassandra pulled herself together, walked around the corner to Mr. Newell’s room, and tapped on the door.

“Mr. Newell?” she called softly. “I know you’re awake. You cannot have slept through that.”

Faint rustlings and rumblings issued from within, and then the door opened to reveal her secretary, candle in hand, somber dressing gown fastened primly over his round middle. His kind face was creased with sleep and his nightcap was askew on his adorable bald head. He glanced nervously over her shoulder down the hallway. Not one of the world’s fearless soldiers, was Mr. Newell.

“Mrs. DeWitt? How can I be of assistance? Miss Lucy, is she…”

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