Please welcome, Juliana Carlotta Ervedosa Colebrook.
Good day. I’m Juliana Carlotta Ervedosa Colebrook. As you can tell, my Mama was Portuguese and my father was an Englishman. You will find me in the book COMING HOME. Of course the English would never get their tongues around ‘Ervedosa’ so I only use my full name when signing documents.
Do you consider yourself to be unconventional? No. In no way do I consider myself unconventional; at least I didn’t while I lived and worked in Portugal, but since coming to England I have discovered that I am unconventional because I am loosely classed as a ‘lady’ yet I work for a living. I am a nurse with experience in nursing very sick soldiers. Then again, I am a murderess twice over and one must suppose that could be called ‘unconventional.’ They were murders of necessity I must hasten to add. I did not set out to murder anyone, but in each case I had no choice. Life is not easy for women in the nineteenth century.
Do you embrace your uniqueness? I don’t think I embrace my uniqueness. I never thought about being unique when I was in Portugal, but once I arrived in England I did my best to fit in. The English can be very cold to those who do not fit in. And of course I did not want to upset my relatives whom I had not met for many, many years. In fact, it had been so long since I’d last seen them that I did not recognize them. So, yes, it was a struggle to fit in. In Portugal, since I was raised in a convent that specialized in training young women to nurse the sick or teach the children of the wealthy folk their basic reading and Latin, I was not at all unusual.
Who is your role model? My role model? Well, I’m not sure. I cannot think of any woman I admire—stop! Of course I have a role model. My role model is the Marchioness of Trewbridge. What an amazing woman. Unlike most women of her class she is industrious, holds her family together with kindness and talks a great deal of sense. Yes, I’d like to be like the Marchioness.
If you could do anything without concern for the consequences, what would it be? Marry Colly Hetherington of course. But my background would bring him down, so I must drop that daydream.
Is my ideal man unconventional? Not really. Colly is what he is. I cannot think of other men when I think about Colly. Other men cease to exist. He is kind and so very honorable. Screamingly so. Ah, what a man.
Any juicy details to share? Hah! Read the book.
You want me to show you a piece of my story? Umm, here goes.
She clasped her penknife tightly in her free hand and hid it beneath her skirts. The dead eyes swivelled from Kit’s hemp binding, now lying on the floor, to Juliana’s face where she hovered protectively in front of Kit.
‘What a clever young lady,’ the revolting animal purred. At the menace in his voice, Juliana felt as though a snake had slithered up her spine. She stood up and held out her ungloved left hand to show him how she had untied the ropes. Dead-Eyes was too wary to come any closer, and she knew he couldn’t see in the dimness that the knots had been sliced through.
The pale eyebrows rose. ‘Perhaps those dexterous fingers can be put to better use. Come here.’ He crooked a long, thin forefinger and the muscles at the bottom of Juliana’s stomach jolted. Hold yourself
together, Juliana. Your plan relies on your being as close to him as possible.
Slowly she sidled towards the creature and for the first time she saw signs of life in the cold eyes.
‘I always interview our new young ladies before they are thrust on our clients,’ he purred thickly. ‘I like to … warm them up, so to speak.’
Bile rose in her throat. She had never seen an iceberg but she had heard about them, and she had the distinct impression that a huge chunk of iceberg had just washed into the room. ‘Warm them up?’ She didn’t think so. Please, please, please God, don’t let him have touched Tilly.
Clutching the penknife in the palm of her right hand, she shuffled closer to him, measuring the distance carefully and also his height. Yes, he was tall. So was she. Flexing her body she moved closer, as if in a
trance. His arm shot out and grabbed her.
‘No!’ Kit yelled behind her.
‘Stay back, Kit,’ she warned.
‘That’s right, my dear. You understand. You want to be tutored by Benny Ames, don’t you?’ He tugged her flush against his body.
Struggling not to recoil, she saw he was sweating. His tongue slid greedily over his yellowed teeth and he clasped her left hand like a lover. She kept her right hand hidden in her skirts. Ames’s breathing deepened as he tried to rub her left hand over his erection. Even as she struck, he was so lost in a haze of sexual pleasure he had no idea what had happened.
‘Hurry, Kit. Run!’ she yelled
This time she was prepared for the blood. It spurted out of his throat in a great arc, dousing the holland covers beside them. Juliana ducked backwards holding the slippery knife handle. The knife blade was buried in Ames’s neck. He clutched his throat, his eyes wide with stupefaction. Juliana’s stomach lurched and she dropped the handle. As Ames made the most fearsome gurgling sounds she edged around his flailing body and raced to the door. She hurtled down the stairs and cannoned into Kit. ‘Hurry, Kit. Hurry. Get out of here.’ She shoved the front door open and pushed him outside.
Kit slanted a glance back over his shoulder as his little legs sped along. ‘Where are we going?’
‘To the Rosemary Lane Inn. Hurry!’
‘But I don’t know where it is!’ He kept on running all the same, tugging Juliana along by the hand.
Juliana cast a quick glance behind them. The blue door with number 32 painted on it still stood innocently ajar and she could hear no sounds of pursuit.
‘Run towards the traffic noise,’ she gasped.
A few people glanced at them as they rushed by, but nobody seemed interested in a scruffy boy and a bloodstained, dishevelled young woman running helter skelter up the alleyways. No doubt it was a common sight in these parts.
As they stumbled from the dank alleyway into a wider street she saw a sign stuck on a building façade that said ‘Chamber Street’. The steady throbbing of her sore, bruised feet echoed the drumming in her head.
Swaying, she knew she was nearly done for.
Kit glanced back and tugged her hand. ‘Come on, miss,’ he encouraged her, then he raised their clasped hands and stared at the red stains on Juliana’s fingers. ‘Thank you,’ was all he said.
Breathless, she gulped and said nothing, fighting her queasy stomach. Soon it would happen – the reaction. Last time she had shaken as if with the ague for several hours. And when she had finally found herself safe, she had huddled into a ball and cried and cried and cried. She had cried for her mother and for herself, and for all the other women who had been held in the power of men who did not deserve them.
But now was not the time for self-indulgence. She must protect Kit. She lifted her chin and plodded on.
Footsteps pounded behind them. Twisting around, she shoved Kit out of the way.
Colly. On a wave of relief so strong it dizzied her, she ran straight into his arms.
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