A/N: Would you look at that, I'm back! (Horrifically much later than when I last left you, but hey, at least I showed up eventually... Right?) I really am sorry at how long this is taking, I'm just a lot busier than I used to be. Plus writer's block was a bit of a killer for a few weeks... But I have inspiration back now, and I've been working to get this out for you! It probably doesn't seem it, but I'm really grateful for you reading this, and I will do my best to give you a good story. Which is not to say you'll enjoy this chapter, since it's kinda sad and mopey... But hey, every story needs a generous portion of denial and frustration!
Chapter 9: How do you say "Kiss me" - Part V
Paris, Winter 1787
Perhaps tantrums are unbecoming in a young lady destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, grandmother and countless women before her and quietly take her place amongst the ranks of high society. Indeed, it hardly set a precedent for a girl growing into a compliant, obedient woman once she was of an age to take a husband.
Nevertheless, no thought of what was proper or what was acceptable even crossed Kitty's mind when she heard the dreadful news.
Since meeting and befriending Polly Jefferson, Catherine Church had seemed to soak up some of the confidence of the more open girl, shedding her former timid character for a new version of herself which she preferred. More than she ever had done before, Angelica saw herself in her ten year old daughter, particularly when she stood before her father, loudly insisting that it was absolutely imperative that her family shouldn't be relocated to London on account of what she deemed a silly job.
"Daddy, please," she implored, beginning in the same way she had opened every single one of her urgent pleas, "It's really not fair, and I don't want to go to London! It's nowhere near so interesting as Paris, and it's always so dreary and grey. Daddy, I have friends here, friends I would miss so awfully if we left -"
"Now, Kitty," John warned, his voice stern though his seated position guaranteed that, as always, he wouldn't become overly passionate about defending his decision. "You needn't make a fuss, it's infantile and childish. You are literate, so friends you wish to remain in contact with you may write to; London has it's share of blue skies and sunshine, as I know you will discover for yourself when we spend our happy summers relaxing in the royal parks; and it's just as interesting a city as Paris, if not more so, and I know you'll learn to love it," he dismissed the child's anxious qualms, denying the validity of each point she made.
The large, soft pools of her eyes widened and flooded suddenly with tears. The shift in her voice from frustration to sorrow was painfully audible, and her words were fragile and watery as she responded, "But Daddy -"
"Kitty, sweetheart, go to your room," her mother gently coaxed, setting a hand on her daughter's shoulder and showing her the pinnacle of tender affection which Angelica reserved solely for her children and sisters; John received polite civility and Jefferson received her laughter and fondness, but it was in her role as a guardian and protector that the true extent of the former Schuyler sister's capacity for selfless kindness emerged. Trying to console her aggrieved daughter, the doting mother turned the girl around to face her, cradling her face between her palms and meeting her teary eyes before kissing her forehead. "Your father and I will talk of this, my love," she solemnly told her, before releasing the child to hurry away to her bedroom.
As soon as the ten year old vacated the room, Church watched the expression of his wife change. At once, he knew what was coming - it was incredibly rare for her to frown as she was at that moment, but it was recognizably the prelude to one inescapable thing: "You're going to take her side now, aren't you?"
"Yes," Angelica replied, calm and measured as she truthfully told him, "It breaks my heart to see our little dove so upset. I know this job in London is so important to you, and I'm proud of all you've done to attain such a position, but I can't help feeling that it is drastically unfair to drag our offspring away from a place they seem so happy in."
Mr Church raised a hand to run tersely through his increasingly sparse hair, agitation evident in every movement. Exasperated, he sighed, sarcasm tainting his words as he asked, "What do you suggest we do instead of relocating as a family back to a place that none of us seemed to mind when we were living there before?"
"I can remain here with Catherine, and if Philip would prefer not to change schools again then he will stay here in Paris too. Dear, there's nothing absolutely awful about London, but if the children are happy here -"
"- It's unthinkable, Angelica. You have to be able to see that I couldn't possibly stay in London without my family." He shook his head, banishing the very notion. "How could I ever manage without the ones I care for?"
"You're a grown man, I'm sure you'd get by," Angelica remarked, growing more emphatic with every sharp word that dripped from her lips. "And I don't want my family to be separated either, but I'm worried about the impact of moving our children around so much, and if you care for them, surely their happiness should be your priority." She crossed her arms and glanced away from her husband, infuriated by his stubborn behaviour. She knew realistically that he had to leave, but after considering it for weeks, she decided that she wanted nothing more than to stay, with or without him.
But John never truly saw her rare bursts of anger as anything more than meaningless complaints. He softened, trying to appease his dissatisfied bride with simple platitudes. "Dear, please don't fret, you're being irrational. I do care about the children, which is why I can't stand to be parted from them. Besides, if I were to go to London alone, it would raise far too many questions, and that is not the image a new political figure wants loitering around him."
He reached for her hand, but she stood before he could touch her.
So it is his reputation which keeps him from granting this request. In which case, he is too proud to talk sense to. Firm in her belief, Angelica walked away from the room, hurrying away like her daughter before her, a formidable hurricane sweeping through the halls to the privacy of her own bedroom.
Flinging herself down on the bedsheets, Angelica took a few seconds to wallow in self-pity. She refused to allow a tear to fall, however - crying would make the entire situation unbearably, inescapably real, and while she still had the option of deluding herself into believing the relocation would not happen she elected to take that route of denial to cope with the fact that each passing day brought her closer to begin separated from the only man she had cared about since meeting Alexander. It was this same excuse of denial she had given Thomas a few days previously, a single hastily scrawled note to put an end to his many letters pleading to meet with her. They hadn't set eyes on one another at all in the fortnight since the fateful evening due to Angelica's refusal to see him; she knew she wouldn't be able to tolerate seeing her lover as downtrodden and dejected as his inky scribbles had painted him to be: It would cause the remaining tatters of her broken heart to disintegrate into dust.
Too soon, those fleeting moments in which she permitted the weight of her sorrow to wash over her came to an end. Drawing in a harsh breath, she decided that she had to do something to quench the itching restlessness prickling at her fingers.
She rose from her bed to take a seat at the writing desk in her room. Plucking a quill and a small bottle of ink from the drawer, she set about writing a letter, confessing her sins by committing them to paper, safe in the knowledge that the recipient would not judge her for how she felt.
Not Eliza, the younger woman was too sweet, too righteous to corrupt her innocent mind and idolization of her elder sister with the truth about her infidelity, nor Peggy, with the loss of two infants filling her with too much sorrow to be burdened with her sister's comparatively trivial issues; a letter to Jefferson would open too many fresh wounds, and Alexander was simply out of the question. So it was Maria Cosway who found herself the recipient of an impassioned letter from a troubled friend she had missed for many months.
I wish I could write to you with happier news. Perhaps I owe it to you to send a beautifully woven story of elegance and charm and romance, since you opened the opportunity for me to experience such things. But I can't tell you a fantastical tale, since there is none to be seen. Life, as always, is filled with obstacles, and mine is no different. It just so happens that I have encountered a particularly impenetrable wall on my path, and you are the only one I can trust with this recount of my woe.
Were you teasing me upon all of those long afternoons we spent together in Paris, complaining fondly of our husbands and lusting terribly over other men? I hope not, as I took your words into consideration and acted upon them. By which I mean of course that I became significantly closer to our mutual friend, being a shoulder for him to cry on when you first left and so much more in the weeks that followed. You were right: I found joy, an abundance of it, and I have your guidance to thank.
But perhaps you are familiar with the strange phenomenon of lighting a candle in a gloomy room, only to find that when it sputters out, the room seems far darker than it did before due to the absence of a light you had become accustomed to? This metaphor is unfortunately quite apt to describe my situation: I'm afraid the flame of my own heart is being put out, and when it is gone, my life will be far more bleak than it has ever seemed in the past. I'm talking about Jefferson, I know you realize this. And I am losing him because I, like you, have to move away with my husband to London. It is unavoidable, I know that, even so the inevitability of it doesn't prevent it being upsetting, and I think there must be nobody who knows that better than you do.
I don't know what to ask of you. Advice or comfort, all seems futile. Regardless, it is good to share my thoughts with such a loved friend - I simply couldn't breathe under the weight of my hidden secrets. I'm glad to share with you, dear Maria, and I hope that from where you are across the sea, the pieces of this puzzle will not appear so untidy that they can't be fixed.
My best and most sincere wishes go to you, my friend.
Ceaseless days came and went, too slow in their passing, since the hours dragged on, but nevertheless too fast. So she beat on, struggling against the unavoidable end and wishing against all logic that she might be able to make the world simply pause for a while; another few months, perhaps, could be sufficient for her infatuation with Jefferson to diminish, and then time could keep flying and she could fly right along with it, assuming her role as the quiet, humble wife of a respectable politician without any regrets whatsoever.
But Angelica was not some sort of mysterious, omnipotent being capable of controlling the passage of time. Rather, she was an impassioned, emotional and dare she admit it, enamoured woman who longed to see and stay with her paramour. And as time passed, she reached a realization she wished was untrue:
The latter of my wishes is impossible, but the former is not.
Her resolve to preserve herself from forming yet more bittersweet attachments bowed and broke under her desire to take just a few moments of salvation from her loneliness and longing for her lover. It would hurt all the more when she inevitably had to leave, and it was unlikely their meeting would be as carefree and jubilant as they had been in the past, nevertheless she simply had to see him.
So for the first time in over a month, Angelica Schuyler Church left her home unaccompanied, melancholy as she retraced the old familiar route to the Jefferson residence.
Somehow, the city was silent, sombre, and for once, her rapid mind was, too.
She hadn't anticipated Jefferson being the one to open the front door to her when she knocked. But then, as he sat at his desk unable to focus on work and instead gazing restlessly out of the window, he hadn't expected to see the familiar shade of coral she favoured bringing a splash of colour and warmth to the pavement outside his home. So he had hurried downstairs when he spied her turning into the street, scarcely believing that his eyesight had not deceived him, and opened the door as soon as he heard her knocking on the other side.
Thomas' brow was furrowed with confusion, and understandably so considering the curt, dismissive tone of her last brief letter to him. Meanwhile his gaze begged a question, one she hoped a vague explanation would satisfy: "I just wanted to see you while I still have the chance, that's all."
He nodded, and stepped aside, silently gesturing for her to enter. For the time being, he had no clue where to begin with words, but if she came inside and perhaps made herself comfortable by lounging on his sofa with a mischievous smirk which dared him to challenge her, or perching on the edge of his desk while rifling through unfinished documents and adding her own improvements here and there, or essentially doing anything whatsoever, so long as she was behaving as they used to together; then, he might have been able to speak openly with her:
He might have told her that he would not allow the move to happen, that she was too important to leave the city, that she had nothing to fear because it simply couldn't be allowed to go ahead, to which she would have chuckled and insisted that he was a fantasist and a dreamer, and even though she would have been correct they would still both be able to laugh and tease and joke about how ironic it was that a God neither were very sure existed had set out to play a cruel trick on them both - bleak humour, but humour even so.
Alas, she did not accept the silent invitation, and he did not find the words to elicit her melodic, charming laugh. Instead, Angelica hesitated to so much as step inside. To justify herself, she elaborated, "I wanted to see you, but I think actually talking is too complicated, and doing anything else would be inadvisable at this moment in time." I came here, having made the decision to see him again because I missed him terribly, but now I am refusing to do anything more than look at him? Her internalized criticism was as incredulous as Jefferson ought to have been as she chastised herself. Yet despite being acutely aware of how irrational she was being, she found no desire to change her mind.
"So we will stand here, and we will look." Bizarrely enough, Thomas could see how that was the simplest option. He didn't begrudge her whims, how could he when he could only wish he was in a position to indulge every last desire to cross her mind? So he stood before her penetrating gaze, staring at Angelica in the fading December light, the ice of the breeze tempered by the heat bursting from his chest. Minutes passed before he dared to enquire, "You don't have to say a word, but might I speak?"
The tiniest nod confirmed her consent, while her expression remained effortlessly neutral. She exuded balance - in public she always had done. But Jefferson had been one of the very few people to be granted a glance beyond the cool, placid exterior to the flurry of vibrant life and excitement and enthusiasm lurking just beneath the surface of her intelligence and beauty once or twice, and he had been shown a zeal and passion that wasn't easily forged - it wasn't much, he knew that what she allowed him to see was barely a glimpse of something so much more. But he had seen it a few times even so, been permitted to gaze upon if not touch the true core of Angelica Schuyler Church, and baring witnesses to the true self of the eternal enigma made him feel he had a duty to say his next words to her:
"I don't want you to go, you know that, but it's not your decision to make. Maria wrote to me, and I wouldn't try to be so selfish, but from what she said, I know you'd stay here if you could, so I'm trying to find reason for Church to let you remain in Paris, with me. I'm working on something, I don't want to give you false hope, but I'm doing all I can to keep you here. Don't forget that, Angelica - even if it falls through, remember how much I wanted you to stay."
Angelica closed her eyes to hide the pain glistening within them. She had known it was the wrong decision to seek out Jefferson, and now the piercing ache in her chest confirmed it. Once they reopened, however, she was calm again, politely smiling as he'd seen her do a million times to various members of society she was expected to be courteous towards. It seemed almost impersonal as she replied, "Thank you, Mr Jefferson, I'll be sure to keep that in mind."
The man stepped away, a sign of resignation - her mind was set on not engaging in anything particularly personal, and he would accept her choice on the off chance that it made their inevitable and impending separation more tolerable.
Taking it as a signal of dismissal, Angelica walked away rather than forcing more uncomfortable formalities to ensue; their meeting had been awkward enough without extending the unpleasant affair with extensive farewells. Besides, I fear some more permanent goodbyes are just around the corner.
"Angelica! Dear, come quickly!"
John Church's voice imploring she attended his call interrupted Angelica as she idly gazed from her bedroom window flicking absentmindedly through a book of poetry - in her current situation, the call of the foolish, naive romanticism always evident in classic poems was simply too strong to resist. Still, she didn't hesitate to abandon her melancholy reading material, and instead swiftly followed the sound of her husband's voice to his office, where it was clear from the messy pile of envelopes, which stood out glaringly amidst the otherwise meticulously tidy study, that the post had just been brought to him.
Judging by the open letter he held, the new delivery was what had provoked the urgency to consult his bride. "What is it, dear," she enquired mildly, peering at the piece of paper with only vague interest.
"What do you know of this?" John asked, before reading from the page, "'The Admissions committee of Pentemont Abbey Convent School wish to extend an invitation to the daughter of Mr and Mrs Church to attend, in response to the recent application made on her behalf.'" Truly baffled, he explained, "I've certainly never even heard of this school, much less submitted an application for our Catherine to attend."
And to my knowledge, neither have I, of that Angelica was absolutely certain.
"Pentemont Abbey," she mused aloud, rolling the name about on her tongue to see if she could puzzle together the mystery of why her daughter had been given a place there, and why it seemed so familiar yet unknown. The answer struck her like a bolt of lightning strikes a key and a kite, and she concluded, "That's where Jefferson's elder daughter is educated."
"And of what relevance is that to us?" John pressed her for more information, genuinely desperately unsure of the circumstances leading to that point.
I have absolutely no idea. But then, didn't Thomas say he was working on something? A plan for us to stay in France? Well this might as well be it, since it's as good as any other idea... Her decision was made in a second. Feigning unearthing a forgotten memory, she recalled, "Oh, of course, I placed an application there months ago. I suppose it must have slipped my mind with all of the excitement in preparation to move."
John nodded, satisfied with her response (because why shouldn't she be so preoccupied with their upcoming move that she forgot other obligations?) and wistfully sighed, "Well, I'm sure it would have been lovely for her to attend, but -"
"But?" Angelica interrupted, raising am eyebrow. He allowed her to elaborate on the point her poised expression was clearly itching to make, "We can't simply forget about this - I hear it's a wonderful school, it would be such a shame for Kitty to miss out. I think that if she has been offered a place, she must take it, even if that means her staying here."
John frowned, growing disgruntled as he reminded his wife, not for the first time, "You know I can't stay here - I'm needed in England. I can't sacrifice a position in Parliament just for a girl to go to school, it's absurd. The only thing which rivals it in ludicrousness is the idea of leaving Kitty alone in France while the rest of her family is abroad! Whichever way you look at it, the very notion of her attending this school is out of the question." He spoke with an air of authority, and finality echoed in his words as he crossed his arms stubbornly.
All of this was something Angelica opted to ignore. "It's too good an opportunity to waste, dear. If you're so sure you have to move away, then I can stay here in Paris to make sure there is someone nearby if she needs her parents. We can find a way to make it work for us, John, you know we can. She's your daughter, and she's upset at the prospect of leaving anyway; won't you put her happiness first?" The words stung bitterly on Angelica's tongue, filling her mouth with the unpleasant taste of hypocrisy: her husband was taking them away because it was in his own best interests, yet she was just as bad, using her child's happiness as an excuse to continue her illicit affair. Nevertheless, she remained sturdy in her goals. She would do whatever it took to save her heart from being broken again.
She seemed to have broken through John's tough exterior, at least, since he wore a pensive expression upon his face. "We can find a way to make it work for us..." He thoughtfully repeated what he had been told, mulling over how exactly he could find a solution ideal for him. "Do you know, I think you might be right. Excuse me," he rose without any further explanation and withdrew from his office. Moments later, the sound of the front door opening and closing told Angelica that he had left the house, too, evidently with some kind of plan.
For all her confusion, Angelica soon decided that she preferred ignorance when it emerged that the knowledge of her husband's plan caused her heart to plummet. For he returned half an hour later, by which point she had settled in the lounge with confusion running rife within her, with another man in tow, who flashed her an awkward, uncomfortable smile before sitting down in Church's armchair. John sat on the couch before addressing his bride, "You are, of course, very well acquainted with Mr Jefferson, are you not, dear?" He asked the rhetorical question and received a nod in reply. "In fact, if I were to hazard a guess I'd assume you counted him amongst your very closest friends, is that fair to say?"
"Yes. But I don't see how this relates -"
"Don't jump to conclusions, love, I'm explaining things for you," John patronizingly silenced his wife, however he was oblivious to the fact that it was indignance, not obedience, which sealed her lips together in a thin, withering line. "Anyway, as I was saying, it seems to me that there is no one in France you would trust more with the duty of looking after your child than Thomas."
The reality of the situation dawned on Angelica too late: before she could protest, Jefferson quietly announced, "Church told me about your predicament. All things considered, it would be impossible for you to remain in France, and I don't blame him for refusing to part with you." John beamed, blind to the envious bitterness in Jefferson's words. "So, as a man who thinks of you more fondly than you know, and who considers Kitty as one of my own, I have agreed to be her guardian during my time here." He felt precisely how she looked: stunned at his own agreement which essentially sealed their separation. But, bizarrely enough, he truly did care for the two Church women, which is why he chose to prioritize Kitty's education over a clean break from his lover. "This way, even if you leave, at least she can attend school. She'll be happy there, with my girls for company."
Angelica shook her head, only remembering her husband's presence half way through her statement and clumsily rescuing it, "Thomas, you can't think that's a good idea, don't you see that means I'll have to - what I mean to say is, that is too great a favour to ask, and one we could never repay."
"I don't want payment, Mrs Church," he told her, his own sombre gaze meeting her appalled one. "And you can trust that I'll keep in touch - I'll write to you about how she is managing, and you could stay with me whenever you wanted to visit her." He raised his eyebrows meaningfully, and his lover understood the other reason why he would agree to the plan which would guarantee her exit:
He knows I have to go with John, but at least this way we can write as often as we please without speculation, and I will have an excuse to return to him. Which is better than nothing whatsoever... Church misjudged the rush of emotion which caused her face to flush and her eyes to mist over as relief. But, needless to say, he was not corrected by his wife or her lover, and saw nothing strange about her hesitant reply, "It seems that this is the best possible outcome. Very well, Thomas, thank you for your kind offer." She sighed, managing to drag a smile from within her as she nodded, "We accept it."
"Good!" John clapped his hands together, a wide grin shining upon his wide face. "I'll tell Catherine the good news; I'm sure she'll be delighted to hear about her father's plan. I assume the two of you have no opposition to being left in one another's company." He chuckled, as though he'd made some witty joke, while in reality if there was any hint of humour to be found, it was at his expense, as it was him who was oblivious to the affair taking place between the pair. He left them in peace, no doubt to glorify his own role in the decision making as he recounted the story to his young daughter.
Until the sound of footsteps had retreated beyond earshot, neither of them spoke aloud, or even dared to move, in case their movements should incriminate them. Regardless, their matching expressions of regret conveyed more than words ever could, and when the sound of John shuffling about the house was no longer audible, Thomas opened his arms in unison with Angelica rushing forward to find herself inside his embrace. Her eyes were screwed tightly shut, trapping the silvery tears she refused to shed, nevertheless she didn't have quite enough control to prevent her chest from heaving with jerky shudders as she bit back sobs of defeat.
It was very different from the last time they had spoken: then, there had been hope, while now there was none, and she needed to be held.
Jefferson found he couldn't stand to see the woman who had demonstrated such strength reduced to such a pitiful state. He closed his eyes and brought his chin to rest on her head, teasing his hands gently through her curls in a way he knew soothed her. "I'm sorry, Angelica. That was - I did try, you realize that, don't you?" There was a note of desperation in his words: if he didn't have the power to keep her with him, he had to be sure she knew just how much he had tried to change the course of fate.
He felt her nod. He didn't expect a reply, but she was always capable of surprising him. There was only flat, empty deflation in her voice as she resigned herself to the inescapable fact, "You tried, and it wasn't enough. So I must go, and we must live with the consequences." I should have learned the first time round how foolish and painful it is to fall in love. Well, I won't make this mistake again.
There was nothing more to be said or done. The one thing left to do was to comfort each other, fully aware that these were among the last moments they would spend alone together, and to make their peace with the unfortunate reality.
After all, as per usual, Angelica was very correct about what their plan of action had to be.