Originally, The Burdens of a Bachelor opened up with Colin’s dream of Susannah in the past. After finishing the story, I decided this scene wasn’t crucial, given the story came out on its own anyway, and so it got cut. Sad that it did, but it can still be shared for you all here!

 

It was raining again.

Living in England, it was assumed that one would get used to the rain. It happened so often, and so unexpectedly at times, that it should actually have been expected on a regular basis. But in the limited experience of Colin Gerrard, rain was cold, wet, and miserable. He hated the rain.

And he did not understand why he was standing at the turn in the road, dripping wet in the rain, without his waistcoat and jacket.

Of course, he did actually understand, and that was the most mind-boggling thought of all.

He was here, in the rain, poorly dressed and miserable, because Susannah was coming.

And dash it all if he wouldn’t always come when she asked.

He ran his hands through his too-long chestnut hair, dripping as much, if not more so, than the leaves on the trees. She had not said why she needed to see him, only that he needed to meet her at their turn as soon as possible. He knew better than to question her, particularly when her writing appeared so unsteady. He trusted her implicitly. Five years of friendship, though only for a few months at a time and the sparse letters here and there, had brought them closer. Friendship was rapidly morphing into something much deeper, much stronger, much more intangible and impossible to describe.

But they were so young. He was barely seventeen, and she a good seven months younger.

Still, he knew exactly how he felt.

He loved her.

And that was why he was standing out here in the rain, waiting for her.

He exhaled slowly, watching the puff of cloud his breath made in the chilly air. Where was she? Was she all right?

Did she regret that he had finally kissed her yesterday?

He grinned at the memory. He’d thought himself rather romantic and charming, and the moment could not have been more perfect. He’d wanted to kiss her, had been thinking about it for at least three years, but had not had the courage until yesterday. And she seemed to enjoy it…but then, he had never understood women.

He didn’t regret kissing her. Not for a moment. He was not experienced enough to say if it was good or bad, he’d never kissed anyone before. But if she had felt the same thing he did, she would not regret it either.

And that was the question. Did she feel it?

He suddenly saw her running down her path towards him. She had been crying.

His heart lurched in his chest. He hated when she cried. It made him feel so helpless. He started towards her but she shook her head. “No. Stay where you are.”

That voice… It was cold, it was hard, and it was not his warm and bright Susannah. She sounded like the rain, when she ought to be the sun.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, looking her over quickly. She looked well. Remarkably well, in fact, for having run to him in the rain. Her dress stuck to her, and he was enough of a man to appreciate what that did for her figure, but her expression worried him more. She had not worn a bonnet, so her hair stuck to her scalp, the color looking as dark as his, though it was actually a good deal brighter.

Susannah closed her eyes, swallowed, then looked up at him. Her usually vibrant blue eyes looked hollow. “I am leaving.”

He did not understand. “Leaving?” he asked slowly, feeling rather stupid. “Leaving Seabrook? Leaving England? Leaving…?”

“I am leaving, Colin,” she said in a would-be firm voice, though her chin quivered. “Forever.”

He opened his mouth to reply, but had no words. “Forever? But…you weren’t supposed to leave for three weeks. We were supposed to have three weeks. We are supposed to meet tonight, and I was going to teach you to waltz tonight, and—”

“I’m getting married.”

He fell back about three steps as his heart tried to rip itself from his chest. “What?”

She watched him anxiously, biting her lip. He loved when she did that. But now… Tears rolled down her cheeks and he shook his head.

“You’re engaged?” he finally managed.

She nodded, squeezing her eyes shut.

“When were you going to tell me that?” he bit out, his voice sharp and harsh.

“I didn’t know.”

He snorted and threw up his hands. “How can you not have known something as simple as that?”

Her eyes flashed and it hurt. “Don’t you think I would have told you if I had known?”

“At this moment, I don’t know anything about you.”

He wished the words unsaid the moment he had said them. He knew her, knew her better than anyone else, maybe even counting his twin. And he loved her, God help him, as much as anyone could love.

She covered her mouth with her hand as she tried to steady herself. “Colin…” She shook her head. “We are leaving. I’m to be married by the end of the month.”

“So soon?” He could barely get the words out.

“He…he apparently doesn’t want to wait.”

“Who is he?”

She hiccupped a sob and shook her head. “I don’t know. I don’t even know who it is, and I have to marry him.”

“Why?” he cried wanting to grab her, shake her, hold her. “Why do you have to?”

“I don’t have a choice.”

“No. There is always a choice.”

She didn’t answer that, she just shook her head again. “So we are leaving now to meet him. I ran away to tell you before we left. They don’t even know I’ve gone, I’m supposed to be packing so we can go.”

“What, now?” he cried.

“Yes, now!”

“How long have you known about this?” he asked, wishing for the first time that he hadn’t kissed her. Wishing he’d never met her. Wishing…

“Two hours. What, you think I would have kept this from you? Colin, I have…. I think that…” She just looked at him, tears rolling down her cheeks, unable to say a word.

But he knew. He knew exactly what she could not say.

He marched forward, took her face in his hands, and kissed her, hard and fierce. They could not take her from him, they’d made plans for the future, they were going to get married in three years, he loved her, he needed her, and she…

She latched her hand around his neck, and he could taste the salt of her tears, could feel her anguish and yearning.

She needed him. As much, if not more, than he needed her. He couldn’t let her go. He wouldn’t.

He clutched her tightly to him, desperately pleading with her through his kisses, clinging to what they had, what they knew, what they had dreamed…

She was suddenly ripped from him and his eyes flew open. Her family had arrived by carriage, and they were not pleased to see them together. Her brothers and her father had come down, the brothers holding guns on him while her father hauled her towards the carriage.

Susannah was screaming, sobbing, crying his name and reaching for him.

He called to her, begged her family, but no one could hear him. The rain had stopped making sounds, the world knew no sound at all but her screams. His name ripped from her lips, the memory of her kisses still tingling his own.

He tried to run at the carriage, but the guns rose higher as all remounted the carriage.

He was left standing there in the rain, watching it drive away.

One final scream reached his ears. His name.

And then silence.