Chapter One - What We Left Behind
The Spring Social Season 1953
Howell Manor, Newport
"Oh happy six my two!" Lovey gushed, holding her arms out for her twin children.
The socialite sat at her desk by a roaring fire, beaming with joy as her young twins squealed. The two, clad in formal pajamas and robes far too mature for their few years, bounded into their mother's waiting embrace excitedly, a maid stood watch at the entrance of the room, waiting to whisk them off to bed at a moment's notice.
Tomorrow was to be a big day, and although they couldn't quite grapple with the true significance of the date for their parents, the young Howell twins found themselves tremendously excited about their own sixth birthday, and the giant party they'd be having at the house next day.
"Oh my darlings I can't believe you're so big." Lovey giggled sadly, rocking them close.
Little Madeline, and Thurston IV beamed. Both closed their eyes and sighed, happy to have their beloved mummy's full attention. Each hugged one of her arms closely, cradling it like they'd never let go. Lovey smiled deep, her heart soaring at the knowledge she was loved so much.
"It seems like only yesterday you were our little baby Howells." She continued. Half of her teased, another half felt a true loss. The idea that her much longed for babies were growing up hit deep in the pit of her stomach, the feeling swelling quickly from angst to heartbreak whenever she dwelled on it.
'They're little children, they're only going to be six …' Lovey tried to calm herself.
But still, it was a milestone. She'd traveled extensively at six. Gone to school at six. … Met the love of her life … at six.
"Uh-huh, we're big now mummy." Thurston IV shook his head proudly.
"Awe that's right junior." She baby-talked to him and leaned down, kissing his little nose.
"Yes mummy we're big now." Madeline copied, cuddling closer to Lovey. She held up five fingers blinking as her mother quickly lifted her other little hand, to add a sixth.
Lovey kissed her cheek, sighing with relief at the reminder that they couldn't yet really read or count. Thurston sighed, his little eyes growing heavy and Madeline followed, always in sync with him, both growing limp in their mother's embrace.
"Mummy. Will you put us to bed?" Madeline asked, blinking.
Lovey smiled, her gaze catching that of the young maid who stood in steadfast wait.
"Mummy would love to my darling."
Lovey stood slowly, taking her groggy children's tiny hands. It wasn't too often that she put them to bed herself, maybe three or four times a week. Certainly much, much more often than any of her friends did with their children. Yet, the feel of Madeline's tiny hand clinging to hers, and Thurston's persistent yawns as he reseted on her hip, reminded her that time was waning … They could only be picked up for so long. They wouldn't need tucking in forever… But until then, she wanted to relish every moment of it. After all, she'd worked so hard to become a mommy. Years of bareness, and worse, subjugation by her husband's family over the issue, had borne fruit in perfect little twins who were the apples of their doting parent's eyes.
Thurston and Madeline were barely awake by the time they reached the nursery. Little Mr. Howell the fourth rubbed his eyes as his mother deposited him into his bed, by this time, half out of it. Madeline meanwhile, grabbed her mother's hands with her own as soon as she was tucked in, holding them close to her heart.
"Where's my daddy?" She pouted, almost with a huff, her eyes now closed.
"Daddy's still in the city." Lovey whispered, sitting on the edge of the girl's bed. "He'll be back tonight when you're asleep, and mummy promises she'll have him come and kiss you good night."
"But I won't know."
"No, but the sooner you sleep, the sooner you'll see daddy because he'll be here in the morning."
"But what about the story?" The tiny blonde groaned, barely able to continue with her questioning.
"Yeah." Thurston IV yawned. "Daddy said there was a story."
"About our birfday." Madeline added.
"And about you, mum-" Thurston yawned. "mummy."
Lovey smiled, knowing right away the story Thurston had started.
"Good night my precious girl." Lovey whispered, Madeline sighed into her pillows, as her mother kissed her cheek. "Mummy loves you so much my darling. Good night my precious boy." She did the same with him, and he sighed, feeling at perfect peace as her lips brushed his cheek. "Sweet dreams … Daddy and I will tell you our story tomorrow … After the party."
Lovey almost squealed, practically floating off of the elegant spiral staircase and into her husband's waiting arms. Something about his homecoming always made her simply giddy, happy enough to just float on air, as if she were returning to the innocent delights of her youth. He'd always made her happy. Right from the first time they'd met. Thurston Howell III chuckled warmly, wrapping his arms tightly around his wife's waist, and kissing her deep, almost sweeping her off her feet. She stood on her tip-toes, replying eagerly as if found under mistletoe with one's crush.
"Why hello Mrs. Howell, don't you care that the servants might see?" He teased.
"Not at all my darling." She whispered, sweetly rubbing her nose against his.
He smiled, wrapping his arm around her waist. She laid her hand on his chest, and they kept in close embrace as they turned, headed for the grand formal dining room.
"Thurston." She said seriously, pausing as he held out her chair for her and the maids began to serve their dinner. "I'm rather … nervous about tomorrow…"
Tomorrow's grand affair had far more going for it than the twins realized. For them, it was a very special birthday, but in reality, their birth marked a minor miracle for their parents, and, beyond that, the twin's sixth birthday was also their tenth wedding anniversary.
"Oh Lovey don't be." He laughed.
"But Thurston, the families will…"
"Will do what they've always done." He shrugged. "We've been married a decade… We've got lovely little Howells. I don't suppose there's much left to continue complaining about on their end."
"So what, the Howells don't like the Wentworths. I happen to love one, very much."
Lovey put her head down, blushing, touched by the thought.
It was too bad it wasn't as simple as all that. Their lives would've been very different if it were. Thurston would tell himself it was, but everything always came to a head when the families got together. It was always a rehashing of the bloodbath, of a feud that preceded her very being, and had, for too long kept her from wedding the love of her life. As such, Lovey was proud of her name. Once Eunice Wentworth, the name Lovey Howell had been hard won.
"I just don't want the children's special day overshadowed, especially by …"
"I promise it won't be." He interjected quickly. "Besides, how old were we when we figured out our parents didn't care much for one another?" He teased. "And still, we've had a wonderful time of it together, haven't we Lovey?"
Lovey paused. Part of her wouldn't have called it wonderful, for their families had made life very trying at times, but every moment in between had been all worth it. She smiled, subdued now, but still racked with worry.
"Yes, yes we have my darling."
Lovey sat on the edge of her bed, holding herself tight as she stared out at the moonlit lawn below. It was half passed midnight and a team of workers had hurriedly begun the preparations for tomorrow's garden party. It'd been the site of many a soiree, charity balls, her own wedding reception, her lovely baby shower … She sighed, knowing that whatever joys came of tomorrow, the Howells and the Wentworths, would most certainly come to blows just as they always did. Maybe it wasn't the word's biggest problem. It certainly wasn't pestilence or disease … but Lovey found the war at home hurt very much.
"Consolidated. Up $3,000." Thurston muttered in his sleep, Lovey smiled sweetly.
Lovey turned, carefully pulling her robe over her bare shoulder as light eased into the room by way of the hall.
"Hello darling, it's a little late for you." Lovey fawned as her son yawned, climbing quietly onto the bed beside her, easing himself into her wiling embrace.
The Howells were not midnight parents … Or, they weren't supposed to be. But neither ever batted an eye when one of the children came calling to them in the night, instead of nanny. Lovey often rocked her son to sleep, a second time, Thurston often took his daughter for a glass of milk, later pretending he didn't know where the kitchen was. And both twins took turns climbing into bed with them in the middle of the night. It was a family secret most would find endearing. Mother Howell and Lovey's circle of friends found it sweet, but odd. She and Thurston even sometimes pretended like these things had never happened, themselves somewhat uncomfortable with the level of care they couldn't help but give… Meanwhile, Lovey lived in fear her own mother would find out how she really ran her house. She would disapprove. Greatly. And it would not be pretty.
"Mummy. I'm thirsty." Thurston IV closed his eyes, cuddling up to her.
"You know what junior, mummy could use a drink as well." She smiled.
Lovey lifted him into her embrace as he wrapped his arms around her neck, hugging her, laying his head on her shoulder as she stood.
"Mama." He whispered, the informality slipping out as he yawned.
"Hmmm?" She questioned, making her way down the hall.
"Will the granddads fight again tomorrow?" He whispered.
Lovey sighed. "Yes junior, yes they will."
"Do I have to be a Harvard man, or a Yale man?" He asked, confused on why his grandfather's couldn't even agree on that.
"A Harvard man darling. A Howell is always a Harvard man."