The residence of
Phineas Damson, Esq.
Little Ha’penny, Lancashire
Not every fairy tale begins with a prince or a princess. Some begin with a kiss that turns a man into a frog, or a tumble on the road that turns a basket of eggs into scramble. They begin with the realization that what was once tall and handsome is now green and croaky.
My story belongs in that category, because it wasn’t until Miss Philippa Damson gave her virginity to her betrothed, Rodney Durfey, the future Sir Rodney Durfey, Baronet, that she realized exactly what she wanted from life:
Never to be near Rodney again.
It was unfortunate that she realized this significant point only now, standing in the barn and readjusting her petticoats after giving Rodney her most prized possession. But sometimes it takes a clear-eyed look at a man sprawled in the straw at your feet to realize just how you feel about him. One moment of weakness, ten minutes of discomfort, and now she was a woman. She felt different.
“Damn, that was nice,” Rodney said, making no attempt to straighten his clothing. “You’re as tight as a – “ His imagination apparently failed him. “A lot tighter than my hand, anyway.”
Philippa wrinkled her nose. “Don’t you think you should get up now?”
“I waited so long that it took all the strength out of me. It isn’t every day that a man loses his virginity, you know.”
“Or a woman,” Philippa pointed out, using her fingers to comb bits of straw from her hair.
“My friends have been poking around from the moment they got a stand. You’re not innocent anymore, so it doesn’t matter if I’m blunt, I reckon. I saved myself for you. Didn’t want to get a disease.”
The etiquette her mother had taught her did not foresee this particular situation, but Philippa said, “Thank you.”
“If you aren’t the prettiest thing with your hair shining like that in the sunlight,” Rodney said, stretching. “I’m about ten times as much in love with you now, Philippa. And you know I’ve loved you ever since I saw you the first time, ever since—“
“Ever since you saw me in church when I was seven years old,” Philippa said drearily.
“You were like a little angel, and now you’re a bigger one. And your bosoms are heaven-sent, all right. Damn, but I could do that all day.” He reached toward Philippa’s ankle and she moved back just in time. “Shall I climb up to your window tonight? I know you never let me before, but the banns have already been posted at St. Mary’s so it seems as if –“
“No,” Philippa stated. “Absolutely not. And you should cover yourself. What if one of the stablehands returns?”
Rodney peered down at the limp pinkish thing he called his own. It was draped across his thigh in a way that made Philippa feel positively ill. “I bet I’m the biggest man you’ve ever seen.”
Philippa rolled her eyes and started braiding her hair.
“’Course you never saw anyone else,” he added. “I know that. You were a virgin all right. Of course you were. I had to force my way, you know.”
She did know, and the recollection made her grind her teeth.
“Though I did right by you too,” Rodney said, as oblivious as ever.
“You did what?”
“Didn’t you notice when I tiddle-taddled you?” he asked. “Diddled you right where I was supposed to, giving you women’s pleasure. I expect we’ll be making love two or three times a day in the next year. I expect we won’t even get out of bed in the next few weeks. Not even to eat. My daddy planted me in the very first week of his marriage, and I aim to keep to the tradition.”
If Philippa hadn’t already made up her mind, that would have done it.
She was not going to marry Rodney Durfey. Even though he had told the whole village at age nine that he would marry her or no one. Even though she had spent her girlhood being complimented by those who thought she was the luckiest girl in the world.
Even though she had given him her virginity, which rendered her, for all intents and purposes, unmarriageable.
Just at the moment she had absolutely no problem with that idea.
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