My heart ached as I typed ‘Belgravia’ into the search bar on Redcliffe’s leading gossip website, the host of entries that popped up made me want to break down and weep. The first one detailed the wedding of Kitty to someone named Laurence Williamson, whoever that was. I wish I could have been there for her, she must think I was the worst sister in the world. The next one told of the death of grandfather Chace, who died peacefully at the Chace Belgravia Wing of Redcliffe Memorial Hospital last Tuesday.
‘He joins his wife, celebrated actress Lily, who died 2 years ago.’ Lily and Chace were both dead?! Why wasn’t I there, I should have been there to comfort mom, who must have been crying her heart out. Ugh, I hated myself so much. More entries told me of the marriage of Oliver and Celeste, as well as the births of their children (I was an aunt now, what was I missing?!) and many posts showing Cora tearing up the Bridgeport nightlife scene after performing shows with her band. As bad as I felt, looking down at little Electra playing by my feet brought me back to reality.
I had to marry Max, it was the only way to ensure our financial security. And I would marry him, tomorrow. But first I had to get to Elphinstone Manor, where Elizabeth had set up a room for me, ready for the big day, such a hassle, but clearly a necessity with a pushy, traditional mother like Elizabeth. Throwing Electra into the baby seat of my new car (a gift from Max) I raced well over the speed limit through the winding streets until I saw the house looming over us in the distance, as imposing and overbearing as Max’s mother.
“Anyone home?” I shouted as my heels tapped on the marble floor.
“Darling, finally. You know how I simply hate to be kept waiting, get up here at once.” Elizabeth chided from her position on the upstairs landing, “and for goodness sake get rid of the child. Why do you think God invented nannies?” She said with a sigh, looking distastefully at Electra.
Hurriedly I handed Electra to one of the nannies and made my way upstairs, I thought I heard a little cry of ‘mommy’ from downstairs, but it was probably just my imagination.
After a restless nights sleep I sat in front of the mirror, trying to apply my makeup, but I was shaking so much it wasn’t going very well. Was I really doing the right thing, marrying this man? I barely knew anything about him, except that he was rich. We hadn’t even kissed yet, except for the peck I gave him when he proposed. Oh well, it was too late now.
He stood alone by the wooden arch decorated with flowers under which we were to married. Most of his friends lived in Europe, and he had told me he didn’t want to hassle them by asking them to fly out. So our wedding was a hassle was it? I didn’t mind, I had no one of my own to invite apart from Darcy, whom Elizabeth had promptly crossed off of the list for ‘being too common’. ‘She’d feel silly at such a formal wedding darling, better not to embarrass her.’ Elizabeth had told me. What a bitch, sat there in her white, didn’t she know only the bride was supposed to wear white?
I made my way nervously through the small crowd, feeling myself blushing as everyone stared at me. I felt fat and disgusting, I had thrown up last nights dinner but it hadn’t made a difference, I still felt ugly. Max smiled at me as I stood in front of him. I forced myself to smile back. As he slipped the ring on my finger it became official, I was now part of the Elphinstone family, the biggest exporter of diamonds in the country.
Grabbing each others hands we smiled, and then he moved in for the kill. The big finish, the kiss. I felt sick as he moved towards me, as if the world itself was closing in on me, crushing my body. My breath was coming in short gasps, I wanted to push him away but I couldn’t make a scene. Then his lips were on mine, the gentle touch felt amplified fifty times over, it was Riley all over again, on top of me, ripping the dress of my body, forcing himself onto me. Hurriedly I backed off, and forgetting the crowd I ran to the wall, hoisted myself over, and ran.
The world seemed to melt away as I ran, I was back in Miami, running from that house, away from him. I ran and ran, right to the edge of the cliff, which overlooked a beautiful waterfall. This was all mine now, I was an Elphinstone, and as they owned all the land around here, it was mine. But not if I kept this up. I had to sleep with Max, or he’d be allowed to annul our marriage by law. But I couldn’t do it, it was too painful.
Surely Max would look after Electra if something happened to me? If I just happened to slip now, and crash onto the rocks below, she’d be well cared for, wouldn’t she? I didn’t want to leave her with no mother, but I’d rather have money than a dysfunctional mother like me. It was always an option. I must have sat by the cliffside for hours before I made my way back to the house. Sneaking into the bedroom, expecting Max to be fast asleep I was shocked to find him awake, laid on the bed, no doubt waiting for me.
“Thank God you’re alright.” He said as I came in, heaving himself up a little.
“I just couldn’t Max, it was too many memories, too much pressure.” I stuttered, looking down.
“Well you bloody well could have tried to make less a scene, people actually laughed you know!”
“I’m sorry.” Was all I could say. I looked down at the floor in shame, why was I such a screw up?
“It’s okay, I’m sorry.” He stood up, coming towards me as if to comfort me, but thinking against it he moved to the fireplace instead, poking the flames which were threatening to go out. “Why don’t we get away? We can take Electra, show her some culture, get a bit of relaxation. This could be our honeymoon.” He looked at me hopefully, god it was hard seeing him like this, he clearly liked me a lot more than I liked him.
“Okay.” I mumbled, still extremely embarrassed. A few hours later we were on the Elphinstone jet on our way to France.
* * *
After 10 hours in first class Max, Electra and I emerged into the heat of Saint-Sébastien in the Côte D’azur, or the French Rivera. I was awestruck by the beauty of the place as the limousine drove through the dense forest that kept the house secluded and down the huge tree lined driveway that led to the house. Electra loved the place, I’d sit outside, gazing out across the lake, occasionally catching glances of Electra screaming with joy as she ran around with her French au pair Marie.
The place was so peaceful, totally cut off from the outside world. Unlike Elphinstone Manor it was not grand and imposing, it was more of a farmhouse, although it was still huge. Smiling to myself I thought about how I could really get used to it here, it was much better than being back home, plagued with memories of Riley and of my wedding antics.
“Olivia? Olivia!” I could hear Max’s voice ringing through the house, he had started calling me Olivia recently, which infuriated me. My name was Olive. Okay so my given name was Olivia, but everyone called me Olive. “There you are.” He said as he came out onto the terrace.
“Aren’t you a little hot in that?” He asked as he sat down next to me.
“Aren’t you a little hot in that?” I chided back, fingering his thick jumper.
“Point taken.” the corners of his mouth raised fractionally. “Olivia, we need to talk about it you know.” I knew what he meant, the sex. I had been preparing myself for it since we had arrived 2 weeks ago, but I was still weary, what if I couldn’t do it?
“I’m ready.” I smiled at him, trying to reassure him. He was sure to divorce me if we couldn’t have sex, it was always part of the equation for men.
“I really think I can do it Max. You know I love you.” We hadn’t said those words to each other yet, which was kind of odd I suppose, weren’t you supposed to be in love before you married? I didn’t know what love felt like, but I loved that Max could protect me and Electra with his millions, so I suppose that was a kind of love. The only kind that mattered was the monetary kind.
“I love you too sweetheart.” He said it with such conviction, his voice lowering and his hand touching his heart, I felt kind of bad that I didn’t love him back. Maybe I did love him, how was I supposed to know what love felt like?
“I’m ready Max, I swear.” I didn’t take my eyes off his as I spoke, when I read a murder mystery while pregnant with Electra it said the first sign of a liar was that they didn’t keep eye contact, so I forced myself to.
“Hmm.” He sighed, looking out to the gardens.
“Max what’s wrong?” I said, staring at his stoic profile.
“If you’re sure, I’ll be waiting upstairs.” With that he stood up and left, heading up to the bedroom. I waited a few minutes before I got up, it was too late to turn back now. We were man and wife, we had to have sex, it just wasn’t logical for us to not. He was fluffing up the pillows when I arrived, he hadn’t noticed me pad silently into the bedroom in my bare feet. He was handsome I suppose, at least I hadn’t had to marry someone ugly.
“I’ll take things slowly, I promise.” He told me as I joined him on the bed. I just tried to breath, I had been doing some research online, and it seemed like you just needed to relax. A lot of the websites I visited told me to call ‘Rape Victim Hotlines’, no thanks, I could barely think about the experience myself, never mind pour my heart out to a bunch of strangers. As his lips came towards mine I shut my eyes and tried to remind myself that this wasn’t Riley, it was my husband.
After a few minutes of kissing he broke away, waiting for my hysterics. They never came. The kissing was actually quite enjoyable, goodness why had I only just caught on?
“Are you okay?” He asked, his mouth agape a little.
“Max, I told you I’m fine. Let’s do this.” I said with a smile, throwing off my jumper and darting under the covers where our child was to be conceived. Part 1 of my plan: complete.