I was twenty years of age when my father employed Agatha as governess to the twins, my half-siblings by his second wife. He had not married for a third time. He said that after losing my mother to the fever and my stepmother during childbirth, it seemed that he was doomed to live alone. Such sentiments, though I rebuked them as any good daughter should, gave me the perfect excuse for my own reluctance to find a suitor. How could I do any such thing when my father needed me so?
It meant that when Agatha joined us, I was neither married nor attached. And neither was she. Oh, but she was exotic. Her skin was a rich, golden brown; in colour like that of a farm hand or a traveller, yet smooth and unblemished even at the age of thirty-two. She smiled all the time, so unseemly for a governess, and she was fond of sweet tea and cream that gave her face, her waist and her bosom a roundness that appealed to my every sense.
I found out from my father that she had been born to a disgraced missionary priest who dragged her around the world with him from the day she was born to the day he died of typhoid and her aunt reluctantly took her in.
She had been at the house for a week when I first noticed her watching me. She merely grinned when she realised she had been caught.
“Miss Georgina,” she said. “How delightful that dress looks on you.”
I blushed and averted my eyes, but felt my nipples peak under her gaze. “Thank you,” I mumbled.
When I heard a tap at my bedroom door there was no one else it could be. My father never bothered me at night, and nothing short of a fire would have given the servants cause to disturb my sleep.
“Come in,” I whispered, my heart beating so fast it sounded like a locomotive.
The light from her candle, cupped behind her hand, lighted her flesh beneath her sheer nightgown and caught in the rusty curls of her hair. She didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to. I lifted a corner of my coverlet and she climbed in beside me, then I wrapped my arms around her and we lay together, companionably, her scent like a summer night on a far flung shore.
After that, we became near inseparable. My father never discouraged the friendship. We went to town together, I spent time with her in the nursery and I wouldn’t allow her to eat her meals with the other servants. Did anyone know that her nights were spent in my bed? Perhaps. If they did, they never said a word.
The first time we made love it was like a revelation. The taste of her lips, the feel of her tongue on my nether-regions, the way her nipples prickled cold and hard against my flesh. Her laughter was loud enough to bring Bunter, my father’s gun dog, whining at my door. Apparently, my own cries of ecstasy were equally explosive, but I can’t vouch for that fact since my senses were elsewhere at the time.
“What happens when the twins are grown?” I asked, a year and half after our first night together. “Will you have to leave?”
“Perhaps,” Agatha said, then she paused. For the first time I saw a flash of insecurity on the face of my older, wiser, stronger companion. “If I asked you to, would you go with me?”
I didn’t hesitate, nor could I stifle the grin on my lips. “Yes. Oh, yes. Where would we go?”
“There is an island,” she said. “In the Pacific Ocean. It’s small and only vaguely inhabited.”
“It sounds wonderful.”
She took a breath. “I own it,” she told me. “My father left it to me when he died.” She shook her head, laughing a little. “There is a king or an emperor or something like that. I don’t really remember, I was very small. My father saved his life, and in return he was granted the island.”
I laughed, and she raised an eyebrow quizzically. “It’s ironic,” I explained, “that you should own this island. It seems you cannot escape your fate, Agatha, doomed always to be the governess.”
And so it was, at the age of twenty-seven, when I should have been already married off to some stuffy man who smoked cigars and ran businesses in London, I instead found myself in a small sailing boat, making the final crossing to an island where Agatha and I could be ourselves. While she nursed her seasickness on deck, I sat in my cabin composing a letter to my father in a script that shook with the rocking of the boat.
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