She turned away before he could see the tears streaming down her face.
“Are you crying?” Robert demanded, sounding horrified.
“Leave me alone.”
She tried to push past him, but being only seven years old it was rather difficult to push past a towering twelve-year-old boy who’d planted himself firmly in her path.
“I know you fancy my brother. He laughs about it, you know. We all do,” Robert said proudly.
She gasped loudly.
Oh no, this was bad. This was very bad. Had she been that obvious? Her own family never said anything. They smiled at her when they knew they were going to see the Bradfords, but that was only because they liked the Bradfords, wasn’t it?
Oh no, everyone knew, she realized with something close to panic. She had to get out of here, fast. She made another attempt to step around Robert only to have him move quickly to block her. “What’s the rush? Running off to plan the wedding?” he asked mockingly.
Slowly, Elizabeth turned around to see her parents, sisters, Lord and Lady Bradford, and James walking towards them. She wanted to cry all over again when she saw that her sister Heather was hanging on James’ arm. She was eighteen and this was her first season. She was plain, boring and annoying, but at least she got to touch him. Elizabeth felt her little heart break.
“You know that you’re the ugliest sister, don’t you? And you’re fat, too!” Robert added. He looked around, beaming at the chuckles the other boys were sending his way and clearly enjoying himself at her expense.
Elizabeth had baby fat, but she would grow out of it. Her governess and father had promised her that is was just a phase. She caught one of the boys making rude gestures with his hands, indicating a fat stomach before he pointed at her for his friends.
“Stop it!” she cried.
That only made them laugh louder and Robert grin hugely. She looked back, hoping Mary would come to her aide. Her sister was no longer smiling. She cared about Elizabeth, she truly did. Unfortunately, Mary was still a good ten yards away. Elizabeth could tell that her sister was upset, but she knew that Mary couldn’t rush over and help her. Married woman or not, their mother would be devastated if any of them did anything improper that would bring the family embarrassment, especially since it was Heather’s first season.
They didn’t seem to be coming to her aide quickly at all. In fact, they appeared as though they were taking a relaxing stroll through the park. They actually stopped to talk to Lady Newman. Lady Newman! She was the biggest gossip of the ton ! Her annoying daughter Penelope was with her. She was just as mean as her mother. She was also glaring down her too thin nose at Elizabeth.
“Come on, Beth, what’s the matter? Don’t you want to go over and give your betrothed a big fat kiss?”
“Enough, Robert,” James said, chuckling.
Elizabeth couldn’t look back. No, she wouldn’t do it. He was laughing at her, again. Her sweet, understanding James, who’d kissed her scraped elbow when she was five, was laughing at her.
That was it. She didn’t care if all the children of the ton laughed at her and made fun of her. She didn’t care if she was the fattest, ugliest girl in the world. She would not be forced to stand here and listen as James laughed at her.
This was all Robert’s fault.
At that moment, she decided to do something that her parents had specifically forbade her ever to do. In fact, after it was done she knew that her father would spank her soundly, but it would be worth it. Somehow she forced herself to stop crying and smiled sweetly up at Robert as she prepared herself for a month without pudding and a sore bottom.
* * *
His smile faltered as he looked down at her. Her pudgy little cheeks were pushed up by a smile that was rather unsettling. She looked….dangerous. He licked his lips nervously, wondering what was she up to.
“Robert, I don’t understand why you’re being so silly right now. You know how dangerous that can be,” she said, a little too loudly for his liking. All the children watching them stepped closer, eager to see how this was going to end. Some of the adults also seemed quite amused with the afternoon’s entertainment, but not him. He suddenly felt the overpowering need to get away from the little brat.
Robert tried to take a step back and get away from her, but Elizabeth took a step closer, refusing to grant his escape. She suddenly looked oddly dangerous in that light pink dress. Looking thoughtful, she tapped a finger to her chin. “If I recall correctly you’ve been told to be careful when you laugh, get too excited, nervous…” she started to explain.
Robert knew where she was going with this. The little witch was about to break the promise her parents had made to his. “Shut up!” he screamed as desperation and fear coiled in the pit of his stomach.
She continued as if she hadn't heard him. “When you’re anxious or upset, because,” this is where she leaned in conspiratorially, but she didn’t whisper, oh no, she didn’t whisper it, she yelled it, “you will wet your pants, again! You know we still can’t get the smell out of the parlor rug, but then again it was only last week that you wet your pants when my puppy jumped on you! In fact, I don’t know what was worse, your crying or the smell!”
Loud hoots of laughter seemed to fill the park as he stood there, momentarily frozen in shock as the realization that his deepest, darkest secret was out hit him.
“Robert Lemonade!” she said in a singsong voice, further taunting him and making him hate her more than even he thought possible.
The boys were all pointing and laughing at him. Robert felt his lower lip tremble. These boys attended school with him. This wasn’t happening, couldn’t be happening. This was bad, very bad and even as he hoped beyond hope that this was a dream he knew that it wasn’t. He also knew that his life was going to become intolerable now. Suddenly every boy around them pointed towards his pants and laughed louder. Many of them stumbled and fell to the ground, unable to curb their amusement.
Robert wasn’t aware of the hot liquid running down his legs until that moment. He looked down, praying that it was just his imagination, but it wasn’t. His brown trousers were soaked thoroughly around his crotch.
“Robert Lemonade!” the children chorused. “Robert Lemonade!”
He turned to glare at Elizabeth, who wore a pleased little smile on her face. This was her fault! He shoved her soundly. She stumbled back, but didn’t fall. Her eyebrows came together and she stepped up to him, looking determined. Robert was prepared to shove her again or pull her hair when he saw her small fist sail through the air towards him.
He stumbled backwards, tripped over a root and landed on his backside. New laughter erupted around them. Not only was he crying and wet his pants, but now a seven-year-old chubby girl had knocked him down in front of everyone!
“Better make sure to bring your nanny with you next semester, Robert Lemonade!” a boy yelled.
“Yeah, don’t want any unseemly yellow stains on the mattress!”
“I’d hate to be his roommate. Can you imagine smelling vinegar all year?” the boys yelled, taunted and teased.
Robert dragged himself to his feet and glared at Elizabeth Stanton. One day….one day he would get back at her. He would have his revenge.