After the passing of Mrs. Elizabeth Elliot, the Elliot's finances began to shrink under the constant abuse of the more inconsequential parties of the family, who could not by any means, be persuaded to diminish the cost of their living style, leaving only agony and the foreboding of their bankruptcy to the more responsible daughter, Anabelle Elliot.
When their money began to lack and the family started to feel it's consequences, Anabelle had suggested options to reduce spending and start sparing some amount that would allow them to remain on their neighbourhood, in their beloved house and still with some aspects of the comfortable lives they had been leading. But Sir Elliot would not give. He and his oldest daughter, Elizabeth, simply did not understand that resources were something that could be scarce, so they just ignored Anne and went about their lives as if nothing was happening.
But surely enough, the bankruptcy arrived, and only then would the rest of the Elliot family understand the situation they were in, and after much discussion, the head of the family decided that they would put their house for sale and look for some place smaller, preferably still in this planet they lived in.
So on that day, Anabelle had her datapad on her hands as she categorized some furniture and items they would have to hire a cloud ship to store, since they hadn't found anywhere to live in yet. For Sir Elliot and Elizabeth, leaving the house was inconvenient, for reasons of losing status among the very nosy and shallow society they lived in, but for Anne, it represented the pain of leaving the house she grew up in, where she'd been raised by her intelligent and loving mother, who took good care of the finances, the house and the family, and Anne couldn't help but feel like she hadn't been able to live up to her mother's legacy, like she had failed her.
As Anabelle rummage over her thoughts, a familiar ping of a call request brought her back to reality. She checked her bracelet and after a few clicks, a hologram of her brother Mark appeared,greeting her with his familiar, always a bit flustered, face:
-Oh, Annie, thank goodness you picked up. I could simply not stand to keep calling you for long. You must come and visit me, I am terribly sick and Charles dared to leave me alone in this state. As you can see, I'm in bed - he shifted his position a little, so Anne would see it -I haven't been able to leave it all day long. I'm so sick. - after that statement he gave a heartly sniff, to prove his point. - I haven't seen a single soul all morning long. And it's time you visit me again, isn't it, dear sister?
Anabelle smiled at the typical behaviour of her brother, but she did miss him,so she answered after some consideration:
-Well, of course I'll go, Mark! I just have to finish tending to some things here, as we are moving out, I'm sure Elizabeth has told you, and of course, I am the one doing all the organization and cataloguing...
But Mark didn't seem to listen to or care about Anne's attributions, because even before she finished her sentence, he already started again:
-Good, but please, do hurry up, my dear sister, I am in a dire need of company, and the company of a nurse would be even better.
He finished their call and Anne sighed, trying to quickly finish up what she had been doing, and as soon as she was ready to go, with all her bags packed, she found her father and sister sitting on their chairs on the garden at the front of the house.
-Mark has called upon me to visit him, and asked that I leave today, to be his company since he's sick and his husband is very busy with other activities.
Her father seemed to take a few seconds to realize she was there, and only when he was able to come out of the comfortable dosing the chairs with warm seats and slight body massage provided, he seemed to consider what Anne had said:
- Sure, sure. I believe one of us had to pay a visit to your brother soon, best that that'd be you, Anne... Just make sure everything's resolved here before you leave.
Anne knew he'd ask her to do everything before leaving, she half expected him to say that her company was not wanted by them, but he hadn't. She was counting it as a win, as she started to reach for the keys to her small space ship on her pocket, when Elizabeth addressed her, for, Anne realized, the first time in at least a week.
-Also, Anne, we're soon leaving to stay at a family friend's house. It's on Bath, which we know you despise, so you don't have to come and stay with us.
-You're moving to stay in Bath? When are you leaving?
-In a couple of hours- Elizabeth answered like it was nothing
-And you were not to tell me this?
-But you hate Bath, whatever could you want to do there?
"Stay with my family!" Anne thought, but she knew it was no use arguing, that was just how her father and sister were. It was no use getting hurt over it either, Anne told herself on her way to her ship. Though she couldn't help feeling abandoned.
She got in and got settled before she started the ship. She had never cared much about space ships, at least not in the way that many people did, but this one ship was special to her. She'd bought it with her salary of her first job as a nurse, so she felt intensely proud of it.
After some time, she'd already gotten out of the planet's orbit and was flying with increasing speed to meet her brother.
A call request surged on the main screen of the board, the caller was Lady Russel, Anne's closest friend, who had also been her mother's best friend. She accepted the call.
-Hello, Helen, it's so nice to see you.
-Oh, you too my dear Annie. How are you?
-I am fine, thank you, and you?
-Alright as always. I see you are travelling, my call got transmitted right to the ship...
-Yes, I am. This was so quickly resolved, I forgot to tell you about it. I am leaving to spend some time with Mark, for he is terribly sick... And also, I have nowhere else to stay, apparently... You know, I was just finishing all the moving and packing of the furniture, and after I received Mark's call and had arranged everything for my depart, I went to tell my father that I was leaving, and Elizabeth told me just that moment that they were getting out of the house that very day because they had arranged to stay in Bath with a family friend. And they hadn't told me before, they had no intention of taking me with them!
Helen Russel looked angry, but not surprised:
-I'm so sorry to hear that. It was very lucky of you that your brother had called you in that moment. But even if he hadn't, you know you could stay with me, right? You can always count on me, my dear Anne.
-Oh, thank you, Lady Russel, but I could not cause you all this trouble. I am indeed very glad that I was already requested somewhere else, or I would be feeling helpless right now.
-Well, if you insist on being stubborn and not accept my offer... But whenever you need it, Anne, you know you can come.
-Thank you so much, my friend. But, I have to ask you, was there a specific reason why you called me?
Lady Russel replaced her sweet look for a more serious one:
-I just wanted to know if you've heard of who is going to be renting Kellynch Hall.
-No, I haven't. In fact, I don't even know if someone has already, I can't provide you this information...
-No, Anne, I am here to tell you who they are. The family who's going to rent your house from now on are the Crofts, that is, Admiral Croft and his wife... Who is a Wentworth sister...- She waited to see Anabelle's response, but saw that the girl's face was blank. - I just wanted to make sure you knew beforehand.
Though her face was blank of expression, Anabelle felt a punch on the stomach. In these 8 years she had heard very little of Francine Wentworth, and every time she did, she felt a pang in her heart. After she had lost contact with the girl, she'd heard of her moving out of the planet to persue her military career, which was at it's start, and then she heard of how she'd became Captain Wentowrth, how her bravery and good works had helped her ascencion on the space navy hierarchy.
Anne was only left with speculation about how Francine had been, specially after they had broken up in such a bad way. How she felt about Anabelle now. If she had met anyone new, if she was with anyone now. Of course, Anne would never ask anyone about this, she tried to convince herself that all matters related to Francine Wentworth, were no longer of her interest. The pain they brought sure helped her decision of not mentioning her ex-fiancee.
But now her sister was going to Kellynch. She was going to live there. Could this mean that Francine herself was coming to her planet again, to visit her sister? Would they meet by chance some time? God, that would wreck her heart, Anne thought.
-Are you ok, Anabelle?
Suddenlly remembering her companion, Anne was brought back to the present.
-Yes, I am. It's just a surprise, that's all. After so many years that I hadn't heard of the Wentworths.
-Yes, Anne, but I..
-Look, Helen, you're one of the closest friends I've got, and I love you, but I was young. And naive. I didn't know what was best for me. But now I have had time to think my past situation over , and now, I believe that I did wrong, in letting myself be persuaded to give up on my feelings and the wonderful relationship I had with Miss Wentworth. I specially regeret having ended our relationship the way I did... Breaking off our engagement like that. It wasn't right to any of us... And, Mrs Russel, I don't blame you. Don't blame you for giving me the advice that broke my heart. I know you thought you were doing what was best for me. But if I had to make that decision again now, I would not let my better judgement be persuaded by anyone.
-Oh, my dear Anne, I am so sorry. But you were young, and to give yourself away like that, to a woman of no fortune or prospects of a particular success in her career, a woman with no one but her character to recommend her... I just could not let you do that. You would give up your career for this marriage? And marry a woman of the navy, a career full of uncertainties and danger. No, Anne, I just could not bear it.
-Yet, it seems that Francine has ascended in her ranks, and is a very important captain.... I don't blame you for my unhappiness, Helen. I blame no one but myself and my feebleness of character.
Before her friend could say anything else of the subject, Anne saw she was fast aproaching her destination. Her brother's planet growing bigger and bigger on her vision.
-Helen, I am afraid I will have to hang up now, I am getting close to Mark's house and want full concentration now, you know how bad I am at landings.
-Of course, my dear. Don't hesitate to call me if you need anything. Goodbye.
After hanging up, Anne only had to deal with the silence and the aftermath of the conversation for a couple of minutes, for she soon arrived at Mark's house.
She saw her brother sitting up from his garden reclining chair, and as soon as he saw who it was, he immideatly layed down again, resuming his painful moans and terrible look on his face.
Anne got out of the ship and cheered up both for and because of her brother.
-How have you been, my dear brother?
-Absolutely terrible.I haven't had a single visit today. Charles is off with whomever it is he hunts with, and spared no thought for his poor sick husband.... The Musgrove girls also have no care for me, for they knew how sick I have been and did absolutely nothing to come see me. A simple walk would get them here. Simple walk, Annie. We practically live in their basement in this stupid cottage of ours. After I got to this chair this morning, I have not moved. That's how sick I am. And how I wanted someone to make me company. Oh, how terrible I feel.Do care for me now, Anne.
While her brother went on another of his rants, Anne only smiled and did some simple procedures for an easy cold. To many, the company of Mark would be incredibly annoying, but Anne loved her brother. He was her biggest companion in their house after their mom died. And the fact that Elizabeth treated the two of them very badly and their father did not care only made them closer.
After pampering Mark for some time, he looked much better, with color on his cheeks and his need for attention somewhat cared for, Anne suggested they would visit the Musgrove house, since she really liked the girls and their parents. She considered them kind of an extension of her own family, even though it was her brother and not her, that had married into the family.
-No way, we just cannot go. I sent them a note telling you were maybe coming and if they haven't called on you, because of how rude and unconsidering they are, it's absolutely not your obligation to go pay them a visit.
-Don't be ridiculous, Mark. They are my friends, I don't care that they haven't come here check on me, besides, I really miss them and desire to talk to Mrs Musgrove.
Anne didn't wait for her brother to protest, she got up and headed to the big white house she had visited many times. The houses did not need fences for protection but the Musgroves had a big gate they used more for decoration and plant growing than for it's original purposes.
She walked slowly, making sure her brother was following her, she then took her time to see the beautiful neighbourhood and trees on the street. This was an absolutely beautiful county they lived in. She wished she could go there more often.
After she opened the gate, with Mark still complaining on her heels, she rang their doorbell, and felt a subtle light scan her and her brother, before letting them in. Before Anne could see again the beautiful marble of their hall and stairs, two figures jumped at her, hugging her so tight she was immediatly out of breath.
-ANNE!!! - The girls screamed enthusiastically
-Oh, how we missed you, you barely come to visit anymore - Louisa said after she'd let go of Anne, and had recovered how breath.
-That's what I said to her. - Mark added, visibly unimpressed
-But, Anne, do sit down and tell us everything that's been going on.
They all sat down and Anne had to hear the girls agitated talking before she could do any herself, but she was happy just listening.
-Oh, but we left the best news for last!- Henrietta looked to her sister expectangly.
-Charles and our father are at this very instant out there hunting birds with some captains of the Special Space Exploring Navy! -She pronounced all the words of the non governmental orgnization, like they all fascinated her, with a big smile on her face- They are Captains Harville, Benwick and Wentworth. - She pronounced the last name with much more excitement , and wiggled her brows showing her interest on the woman.
- They are all so gentle and incredible companies...
-And hot!!- Added Louisa - I know you, like me, have a preference for women, Anne. You'll see how hot they are when they arrive. Henrietta here is too straight to fully appreciate our companies. Well, Helena Harville is married, her husband is here too, in fact. Then there's Captain Benwick, she is very smart and all, but she recently lost her fiancee, so she's sad all the time... They say he got sick and died before anyone could do anything about it, and she was working somewhere really far back then, so she wasn't there at all when he died. She clearly hasn't gotten over it... And there's also Captain Francine Wentworth, she is just so beautiful and smart and she knows so much about ships and other planets and galaxies, she's been to so many places... She is just extremely interesting and entertaining and.... Anne? Are you ok, you look pale?
-Ahmm, yes, I am absolutey fine, I am surprised, that's all. So you say, Captain Wentworth is here?
-Yes, she is. - Louisa looked curious - Do you know the Captain?
But before Anne could give her answer, they heard some commotion on the door, as the group that had been out, came into the room, all talking excitedly about their hunt. The first to enter was Charles, who, once he saw Anne, immediatly went to talk to her.
-Anne! How happy I am to see you here, I didn't know you were coming!
She greeted him and Mr Musgrove with warm hugs, and collected introductions to the other Captains. When she was able to look up, she saw that Francine Wentworth stood on the doorstep, only half inside the room. She looked absolutely surprised to see Anne there, and she still hadn't had the time to recollect from the shock.
-What are you doing standing there, Captain Wentworth? Come in! - Louisa started hauling her into the room and sat her by her own chair.
-Let her make introductions to our guests, Louisa!
Louisa seemed to notice then that she was clutching the Captain's arm. She let go and helped Francine get up. Pointing to Anne and Mark , she started:
-This is Mark, my brother's husband, and this is his sister, and our dear friend, Anne Elliot.
She nodded to Mark when his name was mentioned, but when Anne's name was pronounced she looked really uncomfortable, so she didn't nod or shake hands, she just said hurriedly:
-Yes, I am acquainted with Miss Anne Elliot.
Louisa looked surprised, and she was about to ask a question, that Anne imagined what would be, so she braced herself for the terrible embarassment and humiliation, but before her friend could say anything, Mrs Musgrove came into the room and called everyone to the dining room, because her pizza order had just materialized on their counter.
She greeted the recently arrived group, and when she realized Anne and Mark were there too, she seemed to get ten times happier and cheerfully greeted them, specially Anne, and started pleasant conversations on their way to the table.
The Musgroves' dining room was very big and tall, the colors on the wall were light and pleasant to the eye, there were also several paintings between the large windows. Anne remembered how many pleasant meals she'd had here with her dear friends, and she felt instantly better, in spite of the surprise of seeing her ex-fiancee like that.
The majority of the guests had already sat down when they got there. Mr. Musgrove was sitting at one end of the table and right next to him was Charles, whose other side happened to be vacated when the last three people got there, so Mark hurried and practically threw himelf next to him, and immediatley started to lecture his husband on how sick he'd been the entire day, how he needed a companion and how terrible he still was feeling. Next to Mark was now Henrietta and right next to her was Louisa, who had already resumed her cheerful talk with Captain Wentworth, who was sitting right in front of her, on the other side of the table. The opposite side, had been occupied by the Captains and Harville's husband, who was already engaged in conversation with Mr. Musgrove, and didn't seem to be at all out of place next to all these women Captain and hunters.
The only places left were the other head of the table that must be occupied by Mrs. Musgrove and the seat next to Louisa, which Anne took. That left her sitting in front of Captain Benwick, but still too close to Francine.
The meal was really good, and as Anne talked to Mrs. Musgrove, she could almost forget the fact that Francine was there, and enjoy her time with her friends.
After the meal, they would all have tea in the living room, and continue with their conversations. Anne and Mark helped Mrs. Musgrove take the tray with the tea things, and pass along the cups. Anne tried to avoid Francine, but she ended up having to be the one to hand her the plate and cup. Their gazes met and Anne tried to interact with the other woman the least possible, she only heard a murmur of 'thank you' as she was returning to the table with the trays, to get her own tea.
She sat next to Benwick, who , she noticed, had been the most silent person during dinner. Knowing of her delicate situation regarding the passing of her fiancee, Anne tried to approach a lighter subject with the Captain.
-How have you been passing you time now, not in service Captain Benwick?
-Oh, and what do you read?
-We are living in a great age for poetry... - said Anne smiling
-You read poetry too? - The captain looked positively surprised
After the Captain asked Anne what were her favorite poets and the latter started reciting all her favorite quotes, they got so engaged in conversation that the room around them seemed to dissolved. Anne discovered they read a lot of authors in common, which granted them many good discussions, but the Captain seemed to read a lot more sad and melancholic works, and as they discussed those, Anabelle grew worried about the state of the other woman's mental health. -Perhaps you should include a bigger amount of prose in your reading, Captain. Too much poetry could be... unsafe.
-I thank you for your kindness, Anabelle - the woman smiled bitterly- but you don't understand the depths of my despair... Peter would have married me before I went on my last excursion, and I said we should wait, for money. For money...!
-Come on, Captain Benwick, you will rally again, you must! You are young, and still have so much time to discover new things and meet new people.
The Captain smiled again:
-Thank you for your worry Miss Elliot.
-Please, Captain, call me Anne.
-And you should call me Jenny. - Her smile was now genuine. - I have enjoyed our discussions, but I am afraid I should go, for I see my companions getting restless and at every moment moving closer to the door. I will see you again soon, I hope.
- Yes, I believe so, I am staying with my brother Mark, nearby, and I believe our friends are all very good friends.
-See you then, Anne.
Seeing some guests leaving the room, the hosts got up for a proper goodbye, and as the big group of people left the room, Anne's eyes met Francine's, and she didn't see surprise in them anymore. She felt as if the other woman barely considered her as she left the room. It was almost as if Anabelle was not worth being looked at for more than 2 seconds. Despite the hurt that caused, Anne told herself she could not blame the other woman. If she thought Anne was weak, and easily persuaded, and selfish, she was right. She had been all those things. And Anne hated herself for it as much as she thought the Captain hated her now.
They said goodbyes and Anne waved to them from the window.
Captain Benwick was smiling as her party left the Musgrove's house and Anne later realized, almost unconciously, so was she.