Ties That Bind
Their grimy hands reached out to finger the silks of my dress. Penniless beggars, the lot of them, fondling the fabric with such perversity that I felt those eager fingers brush against my skin. I nearly lost my footing on the muddied road that lead to this ramshackle village.
One of the mogul children pulled at the stitching, tearing away a sliver of my beautiful dress. He turned and fled as though he could spin that bit of useless silk into treasured gold. I pulled up my dress, drawing the hem close to me so that the lacey undercoat of my slip was showing. “Stop it,” I said, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. The fingers of an old woman dipped daringly into my skirts, searching for the pocket in my petticoat. I whipped around and raised my fist to her. “Stop it, I said! Get back all of you! Who do you think you are?”
My Uncle wrapped his fingers painfully about my arm and jerked me forward. “How can I make a match when you insist on acting like a foolish child?”
I swallowed back the tears and with them the better part of my pride. “They are touching me.”
He let loose of my arm. “I told you not to wear such finery.”
“You allow me no other freedoms, Uncle.”
He shook his head for I had disappointed him once again. But then it matter not what I said, for every word that passed my lips, every thought within my head was a bitter disappointment. “You are nothing but a spoiled female, no good to anyone until you’ve a ring upon your finger.”
He shoved past, never turning a second glance to look back. If he had, he would have seen the solitary tear trickle down my cheek. Not that he had a care for my tears. I had been nothing but a burden to him since my father’s death. Whenever he looked at me he saw nothing but the ten thousand pounds that would not be his until I had been wed. That was the terms of my father’s estate, his way of protecting me even from beyond the grave. How I wish he could have known that the terms meant to secure my future had kept me prisoner in the present. But how could he? He was not here to see the drunkard my Uncle had become. What little fortune was left to me, my Uncle had drank and gambled away. No more money would be had until the terms of the inheritance had been met.