Susanna Westby and Katherine Villiers meet after 18 years.
Acknowledging with a nod, Susanna steps forward entering the path lined with blooming roses. Reaching the arch way, she descends the stone steps moving into a small walled garden radiating in a multitude of colours from an array of flowers and shrubs. She spies Katherine’s white hat to her right where she is seated on a bench. Gathering her thoughts, she is unsure how to approach her. Hatred and envy created a wedge between them when they were younger. Does it still exist? She is not sure anymore. It has been a long time. Distant memories flood to the forefront of her mind and yet they stir the thoughts of yesterday. Continuing on the path in front of her, she reaches the wooden bench standing a short distance away facing the thick ivy covered wall in front of her.
“It has been many years since I was in this garden. My mother would sit for hours in here. She loved it,” Susanna begins gently picking off a red rose inhaling its sweet scent. A short silence follows before she hears a reply.
“It offers tranquillity. I can see how it would have helped her. When you are alone with your thoughts every day, the mind helps you to see things differently.”
“Do you see things differently Katherine?” Susanna asks facing her.
“Do you think I have become remorseful? Perhaps I now see things clearer than I ever have. I admit I have acted in error based on my husband’s deceit and my actions hurtful, even spiteful, but do you not agree Susanna that your actions have also had consequences in life?”
“Everyone in life makes decisions that we hope are right when we make them.”
“Was it right to condemn your brother to death in a prison jail in Riverdale and allow his son to grow up without a father?”
“And a mother by the looks of it.”
“I cannot talk to my son. He will not listen to me. He needed his father.”
“No! Have all these years of sitting with your thoughts not shown you what kind of man your husband was? He was my brother. I played with him as a child in these very gardens. My brother acted in error. He was greedy, blind, and could not see what his actions had caused. My parents suffered because of it. I suffered and my own children suffered. Now your son suffers as he has grown into a man not dissimilar to his father.”
Susanna waits for a response from Katherine who remains silent keeping her eyes focused in front of her. Sitting at the end of the bench, Susanna studies her. Her soft pale skin is replaced by creases of age. Her hair falling beneath her hat is no longer rich brown but dark grey. She believes she has become bitter with life and with everyone around her. Pity rises for the woman sitting before her who is a shell of the vibrant and glamorous person she once knew. Life has not changed her thinking but only twisted it.
As she rises from the bench, Katherine calls her name.
“I ask you for one thing, Susanna Westby. I know your son Stuart is waiting to take control of Point Pleasant, and yet, you refuse him. It is clear you do not wish him to have Castlefort. Please think of my son. George is the only heir to the Villiers estate. Do not turn your back on him. I know you have managed this estate for Victor since the courts granted it to you. Can you not sign it over to my son under your guardianship? What will become of him if he has nothing in his life?”
“Are you requesting I try to teach your son discipline, values and tradition where you have failed?”
“Please, Susanna, you are the only one that has kept both our families together all these years. I admit your interests are the survival of the estates, something your brother, my husband, did not have. It is you who has the ability to set the path for my son’s future.”
“I will think on your request.”
“Remember the past Susanna. It has a habit of haunting us.”
The tone of Katherine’s voice changes suddenly and the words strike meaning, unsettling her. What is Katherine implying? Reaching into her past is to enter a dark period, one she wishes to keep moving forward from. Caution is required, perhaps she is overlooking something.
“What is it that you mean by that, Katherine?”
“You must take action Susanna on the future of the estates. By law, you must give to your sons what is rightfully theirs.”
“What concern is it of yours when I give Stuart his share of Point Pleasant? What are you after?”
“I am not after anything Susanna. I am but a lodger here at Castlefort, and have been for the past eighteen years.”
Susanna studies her briefly, sitting before her on the garden bench. The woman in front of her has changed, perhaps not more bitter, but perhaps more vindictive. A sudden worry creeps upon her. Has Katherine targeted her eldest son for a reason? Bringing him closer to George and turning him away from his true purpose at Point Pleasant?
“You remember, Katherine, you are a lodger here because I allow you to be one. If the situations were reversed, I am not sure you would be so kind. Good bye Katherine,” Susanna answers retracing her steps to the stone arch leaving the walled garden blooming in the sunshine behind her.
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