Posted on 2011-06-21
Edmund knocked at the door and heard Fanny's "come in" as usual. Except that this night he felt anything but his usual calm demeanor upon entering Fanny's room. Today Fanny became Mrs. Edmund Bertram, and tonight he would approach her not as a cousin, but as a husband.
Edmund entered her room, closing the door behind him. Fanny looked up from her dressing table when she heard the click of the lock. She blushed and looked away quickly, searching for something to do with her hands. Edmund rarely closed the door when he entered her rooms--strictly speaking it wasn't proper--and he had never locked her door before.
"You are still dressed?" he questioned seeing her still in her wedding gown, his voice cracking a little.
"What--oh, yes. Do you not like it?" Fanny replied, looking up at him with a small, shy smile as she took her hairbrush to her hair.
Edmund approached her, feeling more confident upon seeing her own nervous activity. "I have told you of your beauty many times today." He spoke softly while reaching out to take her hairbrush from her hand. "Though your beauty is evident no matter what you wear."
She blushed again, thinking of the nightgown Edmund's own mother had selected for her to wear this evening. She said nothing, and as the silence lengthened Edmund's nervousness grew again. Perhaps Fanny was not tired? Perhaps she was tired and simply wished to sleep? Perhaps she did not know what to expect. And then it occurred to Edmund that Fanny had not seen her mother before their wedding, and led a very sheltered life at Mansfield Park. In fact, the only woman she might have spoken to of being married was his mother! He shuddered at the thought of them discussing him.
"Is something wrong?" Fanny asked, growing concerned with the look on his face and his continued silence. She and Edmund had always had something to talk about until this night.
"No, not at all." He turned to her, smiling again to reassure her. He took her hand and kissed it gently, asking "do you wish me to leave, so that you may go to bed?"
She looked up at him, startled, and bit her lip in confusion. He had only just come. She thought that husbands and wives spent the first night of their marriage together, and while she did not know precisely what went on, she thought it went beyond kissing her hand. Indeed, he had kissed her many times in the garden with more passion. Upon seeing her confusion he began to withdraw his hand. She grasped it, knowing she must say something. "I--I do not wish you to leave."
He drew her to the bench at the foot of her bed, seating her next to him, and asked "then what do you wish?"
Seeing her struggle to find words, he understood that while she may not know what to say, she did know something of what to expect this night, and did not seem opposed to it. He leaned toward her, inhaling her scent of lemon and vanilla, and kissed her temple, her nose, her cheek. He whispered, his lips almost touching her own, "is this what you wish?"
"Yes." She moved to meet his lips, her hand reaching for his shoulder as his hand caressed her bare neck. They kissed lightly at first, testing each other's responses. Then he slid his tongue gently across her lips, and as they parted he slipped deeper into her mouth. She startled and leaned away from him. "You have not done that before!"
He colored. "If you do not like it I will not do it again."
"No--no." She moved back into his embrace. "I was only surprised. You must think me silly."
"No more than I. I had only read of--of kissing, like that. I must be honest with you, of all people, Fanny. I have no idea of how to go about being a husband." He stood, walking toward the fireplace. "My father spoke to me of proceeding slowly, of being cautious and gentle, but the rest was so confusing I could make nothing of it. He spoke mainly of farming concerns. I don't even own any horses!"
Comprehension dawned on both of them simultaneously, and they looked each other in the eye. Fanny smiled and raised an eyebrow.
"It cannot be like--like that!" Edmund cried.
Fanny walked toward him, smiling, and embraced him again. "No, it cannot."
He held her, reveling in her softness, her scent. "I will crush your dress this way," he said. "Do you want me to leave so that you may change?"
"No." She blushed. "I am embarrassed for you to see my nightclothes."
"Why?" he asked. "Have I not seen you dressed for bed many times?"
"Yes, but…" She looked away. "Your mother chose something very…revealing for me to wear tonight." They both turned crimson, though for different reasons.
"My mother..?" he questioned, then shook his head to disregard the thought. "I am sure you will look lovely. I would like to see you in it."
She sighed and nodded her head, still blushing at the thought. She turned, lifting her hair to expose the back of her dress. "Will you undo it for me? Usually I can do it myself, but this dress is very complicated."
He stood without moving for a moment. He thought he would leave so she could change. The thought of her undressing before him made him grow very hot.
"Yes, yes of course." He unbuttoned her gown, but she held it up so it revealed nothing more than a glimpse of her chemise.
"Turn around," she said, making sure he could see nothing before drawing the gown and chemise over her head. She removed her stockings and stays and slipped into the silk nightgown, allowing herself to revel for just a moment in the feel of it. The gown plunged deeply both front and back, with a tie just below her breasts to reveal the curves of her shape. She found the matching dressing gown, which, while sheer, made her feel at least a little more decent.
"I am dressed," she said softly. She did not see his eyes light up as he looked at her. He had seen her simple, prim cotton nightgowns before. This was very different. More of her was revealed than he had ever seen before, and he knew she appeared so only for him.
"Fanny," he whispered, closing the distance between them. He lifted her chin so she was looking at him. "You are very lovely."
She smiled. "I feel very immodest."
"If you had appeared before me as such as Fanny Price, that would have been immodest. You are Fanny Bertram now."
"I do not feel different."
"Perhaps it will take more than one day to overcome twenty years of following the rules of propriety…although we have not violated those rules at all." He began to think of how to put her at ease, realizing that he could not simply reason her out of her embarrassment. He realized that while she stood in a revealing nightgown he was dressed for an evening dinner. "May I remove my coat?" he asked politely.
"Yes." He did so.
"And my cravat?"
"And my vest?"
"Yes" she said more hesitantly, beginning to catch on.
"And my boots and stockings, Mrs. Bertram. Will you help me with them?" he asked, maintaining as innocent a look as he could muster. She had seen him before without these things, but the occasion had been rare. Fanny moved toward him slowly, and then the domesticity of the situation struck her and she began to laugh while tugging at his boots. Edmund would have laughed, too, had he not been struck by the fetching vision of her décolletage as she knelt before him. She finished her task with his help and looked up at him.
He stood, drawing her to her feet with him. He pulled her toward the bed, saying "I have not thought on the mattress I would sleep on tonight. Perhaps it is too firm for me. May I test it out, Mrs. Bertram?" He tried to maintain her gaze as he spoke, but she blushed again, turning away from him. She nodded her acquiescence. He continued to pull her with him as he sat on the bed, on top of the coverlet, and leaned against the pillows. She sat with him but her feet remained on the floor.
"Would you not be more comfortable with your feet up, Mrs. Bertram?" he asked lightly as he pulled her further on the bed. She was now half-sitting, half laying next to him against the pillows. He reached out to move a wayward lock of hair from her forehead. "This is not so bad, is it?" he asked, serious now, still seeing traces of unease in her face.
She shook her head, smiling. "No, truly it is not." She tried to shrug off her discomfort, realizing that she was being very silly. "I might even call it…pleasant."The End