Margaret had been married to her husband for eight months, sixteen days, and – if her calculations were correct, which they almost always were – approximately two and a half hours. During those eight months, sixteen days and (approximately) two and a half hours she had seen her husband a grand total of one time. At their wedding, no less, where he had arrived drunk, slurred his vows, and sealed her fate with a sloppy kiss that had landed on her left earlobe instead of her lips.
She did not blame him for imbibing in a bit too much whisky before walking down the aisle. She would have gladly gotten drunk herself had it not been for the watchful eye of her mother, but Arabella Combs, knowing full well the willful nature of her eldest daughter, had kept Margaret under lock and key until it was time for the ceremony to begin.
Arabella had carefully planned out every miniscule detail for the ‘wedding of the season’ (as it was now referred since no one else of social significance had gotten married since that fateful November day) well before the bans had even been read and she had been determined not to let anything – or anyone – ruin it.
“Well you certainly got what you wanted, Mother,” said Margaret to no one in particular, for no one in particular was around. “I am wed to a Duke, and one day your grandchildren shall carry titles higher than your own. I hope you are happy, for I am not, and I fear I never will be.”
Rolling over onto her stomach, she swatted at a piece of grass that threatened to tickle her nose and dropped her head on one lanky arm. Overhead the summer sun beat down unmercifully and she wished she had not forgotten her bonnet. Now her freckles would be blatantly obvious, when before they had only shown in certain light, and her red hair would turn even redder – though how that was possible, she had no idea; she just knew it would because that is what her mother always said – and she would look like a heathen. A tall, freckle faced, red haired heathen.
“Oh who the bloody hell cares,” she grumbled, for it was true. No one but the servants saw her, and since they had yet to complain about her new habit of wearing boy’s clothing she highly doubted they would raise a fuss over a few freckles. Besides, freckles and red hair were not the worst of her worries.
Since her wedding Margaret had been stranded at Heathridge, a five hundred acre ramshackle estate that belonged to her new husband. She did not mind her isolated surroundings so much as the boredom that came with them. There was nothing to do, no one to talk to. No mischief to make. Her three closest friends had stayed for as long as they could after the wedding, but they all had their own lives to get back to.
Catherine was pregnant again with her fourth child, Josephine was touring the continent with her lover, and Grace was preparing for her own wedding to the very ill suited – in Margaret’s opinion – Lord Melbourne.