“Your papa would be so proud of you, sweet one,” I whispered in her perfect little ear as she dozed on my chest.
I was so proud of her, this beautiful record of love. I ached with the desire to show her off to her father and felt profoundly sad that she would likely never know him.
Somehow, surely, he knows?
Her remaining dark hair had all fallen out and was now replaced by a soft golden halo about her head.
Her screaming spells had left as mysteriously as they had come.
“Ma’am?” The maid whispered from the doorway. When I looked up and motioned her closer, she snuck in on tiptoe, clearly not wishing to wake the baby. “Rev. Drummond is here, probably asking about the christening.” I grimaced. “Shall I send him away, miss?”
I took a moment to weigh the options. I had put this off for too long. It had been over eight weeks now, much longer than was considered acceptable. Surely there was talk for him to take it upon himself to show up uninvited.
But a name? I have no name!
Earnest, my original pick, would not do for her for obvious reasons. Yet, I could not for the life of me come up with a name that felt right.
“Fine, show him in,” I whispered back. “Probably best to take care of this now.” She grinned back at me, relieved. They had all been after me in their own ways to settle on a name, throwing out all manner of possibilities. Agnes. Diademia. Elizabeth. Sara. On and on…. I shuddered.
Not for you, sweet one.
As the maid hurried off, I stood and placed the still sleeping baby girl gently in her cradle, then straightened my dress and my hair.
The Reverend Drummond was a middle aged man in his late forties. He was a bit shorter than average with a head that was much larger than one would expect to see attached to a body of his size. If you focused only on his face, he was quite handsome but taken as a whole, the incongruous mishmash left one feeling a bit confused.
I had met him on two prior occasions, once when I had first arrived as a courtesy welcoming visit and then by chance at the local mercantile. His eyes had bored through me, as if he could see past the lies I carried as thick protective layers straight through to the fifteen year old version of me cowering frightened in the darkened corner of my soul.
I was not sure how I felt about the man.
He was ushered into the drawing room with his hat in his hand, refusing to let the made take it from him.
“Mrs. Aspern. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance again.” He bowed low over my offered hand.
“Do please sit down, Reverend.” I motioned to the chair by the fire that I had just vacated.
He sat, reclining into the seat with an air of not quite familiarity. His eyes met mine after he had crossed his legs and rested his hat upon his upward knee.
I sat down across from him, sitting properly upright on the edge of the seat. I felt wary.
He cleared his throat but did not speak.
“Would you like some tea?” I finally offered to break the quiet.
The man nodded. I rang for it.
His eyes took me in. Not in a salacious manner, but rather as if he had a question to be answered that did not require words. It was an uncomfortable gaze, one that I could not hold. I found myself staring at the fire instead.
“Well. I expect you are here about the christening?”
“Actually, no. I mean… yes…” He rushed out the ‘yes’ a bit as if he had surprised himself.
I tilted my head and raised a single eyebrow inquisitively. The fire popped liked a gunshot in the grate, giving us both a start. It served to ease the tension a bit.
“I have not settled on a name,” I said matter-of-factly.
He glanced over at her. Her tiny fists were raised about her head and a dreamy half smile played on her lips.
He looked back at me, a gentle smile on his own face.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Name her Anne. It means grace.”
It was simple. It was beautiful. And yet, who was this man advising me on what to name my own daughter?
“I will consider it, to be sure.”
The tea things arrived and I busied myself with the serving.
Our discussion meandered through such meaningless topics as the weather and the parish business until at last we alighted on the subject of christening again.
Eventually he excused himself, taking his hat with him, but only after I had agreed to a small, private christening the following week to be held at the parish church. His work was done.
I had one week to decide on a name.