The Carlisles lived in the white manor on the hill overlooking Lake Richmond. Robert Carlisle had it built as a wedding present when he married Elizabeth Harrington. They had four daughters: Carolyn, Rebecca, Mary Anne, and Felicia. The first three were married by the time they turned twenty to successful men who could take care of them. Felicia was the only one who lived in the manor, with her parents, into her twenties.
Felicia was the black sheep of the family. Where her sisters had golden tresses they kept long even as they became mothers, the youngest of the family had fiery red hair that seemed to explode when the sun hit it. Her hair was impossibly curly, constantly a tangled mess. But Felicia was not as unruly as her hair. Felicia kept to herself, choosing the company of books over boys during her limited school years.
Robert and Elizabeth Carlisle were sure their youngest would never be married; she would grow to be a spinster. The evening after Felicia introduced them to Joseph Blakemore – three months after Felicia turned twenty-six – Elizabeth said prayers that he would love her daughter until the end of her life.
Felicia and Joseph’s courtship lasted four months before he approached the Carlisles about asking Felicia to marry him. Elizabeth embraced the man and kissed his cheek. She thanked her God that all of her daughters would be taken care of.
When Joseph proposed, Felicia didn’t say yes because she loved him. She said yes because she knew it was what her parents would want. She knew that if she didn’t marry Joseph, she would never be married and her family would be disappointed. He escorted her home, where they broke the news to her parents. The smile on Elizabeth’s face told Felicia she had made the right choice.
The wedding was to take place in two months. Elizabeth fussed over Felicia as she never had in Felicia’s childhood. The youngest daughter finally felt her mother was paying attention to her, as she had craved for years. She basked in her mother’s attention and agreed to everything she wanted.
As she stood at the back of the church on her wedding day, waiting to finally be married, Felicia told herself she was doing what was best. Joseph’s temper was sure to ebb after the stress of the wedding plans were behind them. Women in foreign countries eventually fell in love with the men they’d been arranged to marry. Surely she would grow to love Joseph.
Her hands began to sweat around the bouquet of flowers she held close to her chest. She could feel her heart pounding in its cage of ribs. She blinked away tears as the door in front of her opened a crack. It was her mother. Elizabeth had a solemn look on her face as she closed the heavy wood doors behind her back and took her youngest daughter aside.
Joseph had eloped with another woman – a nineteen-year-old girl who lived in town – the night before. He had left a note for his parents, requesting them to notify the Carlisles that he was not in love with their daughter.
Felicia turned from her mother and ran from the church. She lost her shoes in the grass, but kept running. She ran the two miles to Lake Richmond and sat at the end of the dock where Joseph had proposed to her.
A couple of visitors to the beach watched the woman in the wedding gown as she sat at the end of the dock, her bare feet below the surface of the cool water. They heard her screaming words they couldn’t make out. And then, they watched as she pushed herself from the dock and disappeared into the lake.