Rose stared down as a single, salty tear hit the sprigged, black muslin of her dress. She watched as her feet moved slowly, one in front of the other, she felt her hand brush away the tears. But these actions were not hers. She was not the 16 year old walking behind the black carriage that carried her father’s coffin. She was somewhere else, somewhere far away- laughing with her father, holding his hand, kissing him goodnight. She watched from that distant, happy, place as Edwin Smithton’s coffin was lowered into the grave, as the dirt was piled on top, as she placed a single white rose on the wet soil. She read the black granite headstone: Edwin Smithton, Beloved Father, 1846-1891, Buried here with his late wife, Jenny Smithton. Rose thought of the word no-one had dared say to her since her father’s passing three days earlier- orphan. She played with it in her mind. But no amount of thinking or saying it could get Rose used to it. She would never have imagined two months earlier, before her father became ill, that the word, that cold, lonely word, would ever be her. Then, the prayers began, and Rose must not have been speaking because all of a sudden she felt a hand on her shoulder. She span around to see her governess, Miss Primrose, glaring at her. Rose was not surprised, Miss Primrose was a devout Christian, and believed everyone should be, so for Rose not to participate on such an important occasion was, in Miss Primrose’s books, the deadliest sin there was. Rose knew she should be religious and solemn at a time like this, but all she felt was numbness. She recited the prayers and gave a speech then, all too quickly, the service was over, and all that remained of her, kind, supportive, loving Papa was buried under six feet of dirt. Of course, Rose was required to stay until everyone had left, and many of her father’s friends and colleagues offered their condolences, including her father’s boss, Mr Ramden, and his wife. The mature, polite Rose thanked the Ramden’s for kindness, but all the misunderstood, adolescent Rose could do was stare at the Ramden’s servant boy. Rose knew she should look down on him, but with the boy’s chiselled features; broad shoulders; untamed, raven black hair; and deep blue eyes, it was all Rose could do not to start salivating! Her heart fluttered as the boy caught her eye and winked with a cheeky grin. Suddenly, Rose found herself saying
“Excuse me Mrs Ramden, Mr Ramden, I have quite a few bunches of flowers to place on my father’s grave. Could you ask that mangy servant of yours to assist me whilst carrying them to the grave?”
“Yes of course,” Mr Ramden replied, “Jones, come assist dear Rose in placing these flowers on Mr Smithton’s grave, and hurry up about it!”
The handsome servant hurried over and picked up three bunches of flowers under each arm, and he and Rose began walking across the cemetery to the grave.
“Miss Smithton,” began Jones, “I sincerely apologise for your loss.”
“Call me Rose, and thank you”
“You’re welcome, Rose, call me Danny” the servant smiled at Rose.
The two turned a corner, and out of sight of the guests Danny whispered “You look beautiful today Rose.”
Rose’s stomach turned cartwheels as she stared up at him adoringly. They reached the grave far too quickly and began to lay the flowers down. Rose gasped as she tripped on a stray rock and began to fall. Just as she was about to hit the muddy ground Danny caught her. He pulled her up but still held her. Rose felt his strong arms steady her as she noticed his defined muscles through his tatty shirt. Rose thanked him and began to make excuses for her clumsiness when Danny put a finger over her lips, leant down, and tenderly kissed the top of her head. Rose felt faint as she whispered sadly:
“Danny, this can’t work, you’re a servant, I’m sorry”, but Danny wouldn’t have it.
“Rose, we have to be together, the moment I set eyes on you I… I fell in love with you. We’ll find a way, I promise. Now we have to go before my master gets suspicious.”
Together they walked away, and Rose felt new hope. She realised that she could be happy once more, but knew she was betraying her father with a forbidden romance only three days after his death…