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Christmas With the Harrows


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The English Countryside

Thursday December 20, 2018

12:13 PM, local time      


The Harrows' Land Rover turned onto a narrow country road, having passed through a small little town in the English countryside.  The four occupants of the vehicle were currently quiet, all prior conversations having wound down over the last few hours now since leaving London. 


Lulu had flow into England with her foster family on Saturday, the family spending the first five days of their holiday trip taking in a few of the sites, festivities and shopping of the city.  But after the hustle and bustle of the city, they were now on their way to the more subdued setting of Robert’s family estate in the countryside. 


The weather outside was about what one might expect for England this time of year.  Overcast and cold (but a bit warmer than Freedom City had been when they have left).  So far there had been no rain today, but how long that might last was uncertain.


The country road they were driving along was lined with tall hedges, but beyond could be seen a small orchard on one side and a lightly forested field on the other.  After a couple of hundred meters, the hedges gave way and they came upon a towering old country estate.  The main section of the home stood some four stories tall, while the wings were about half that height, and looked to be at least two hundred years old.    


As Robert pulled the Land Rover up in front of the main entrance to the estate, a well-dressed older gentleman appeared through the door, wasting no time in making his way down toward the vehicle as it came to a halt.  

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Lulu Beaumont had been in a giddy state of shock pretty much since their flight left New York, and she had to keep from grinning like an idiot at all times.


She'd grown up in Columbia, a town of some six hundred people in rural Alabama; it had three churches, three fireworks stands, a Piggly Wiggly, a Dollar General and a True Value hardware store. On those rare occasions she flew, it was typically via Southwest Airlines, where you sat in a cramped coach seat between two people, and you were happy to get a can of Coke and a packet of peanuts.


British Airways first class was like something out of a dream. Clothes shopping in Knightsbridge made her feel like Julia Roberts or Anne Hathaway. At times it was such Disney Channel Original Movie fantasy that she didn't know if she should laugh or cry, so she frequently did both, though she did her best to do so when she thought no one was watching. 


And now they approaching the ancestral home of Robert's family, and of course it was something out of Pride & Prejudice. Lulu discovered that at some point, your brain just shuts down and you are no longer capable of being amazed; you just sit there with a vague, dreamy smile on your face, and float along.


"It looks...nice," was all she could manage.

Edited by Heritage
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The butler opened the door of the Land Rover for Robert, greeting the young Lord as he did.  "Good afternoon Lord Harrow, welcome home."  The older gentleman stated as he waited for Robert to exit.


"Thank you Barrymore"  Robert replied as he climbed out of the vehicle, stretching slightly as he did.  "I hope we are not too late for the start of lunch?"


A younger man in a suit that Lulu had not noted before appeared at the front passenger door, opening it up for Megan and then offering her a hand to climb out.  Once Megan was out of the vehicle, the young man moved to rear door, opening it up for Lulu and offering her his hand to help her exit as well.


"Your mother has just set down for lunch in the sun room, so I believe your timing is perfect your Lordship."  The older butler replied as he moved smoothly over to open the other passenger door for Lawrence. 

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Lulu felt her heart flutter a bit as the young man took her hand and helped her out of the Land Rover; she knew it meant nothing, as he was just a servant doing his job, but it evoked an age of chivalry and gentlemanly behavior, and she couldn't help but be moved. "Thank you," she murmured with a shy smile as her cheeks went a bit pink. She fought the urge to grab her own bags, which was a constant battle; the Harrows lived in a world where people took care of your baggage. Shouldering up her PINK backpack, she dutifully followed the rest of the group into the great old house, doing her best not to stare at literally everything.

Edited by Heritage
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As the younger man began working to get the baggage out of the Land Rover, the older butler led the Harrows and Lulu through the main entrance into the great hall inside.  As one of the rooms that was often part of tours to the home, the great hall was maintained as it likely had appeared for well over a hundred years, with large paintings hanging from the walls and a variety antiques spaced along the hall among the various doors to other rooms.  A grand staircase with an ornate banister led up to the upper floors.


Making their way down the great hall into another wing of the home, the butler led the four into one of the side rooms.  While some of the furniture in the room was a bit more modern, it was still very richly appointed, with a mahogany table with six chairs around it (though it easily had space for twice that).  Several formal sitting chairs were along three of the walls of the room, while the fourth (across from the door) mainly consisted of large windows which looked out towards gardens beyond.


Seated at one end of the table was a woman who appeared to be in her early sixties.  She had shoulder length brown hair that contained a fair amount of grey and was wearing a semi-formal black dress over which she wore a light grey cashmere sweater. 


As Barrymore had stated, an assortment of food was set out on the table, and the older woman had a plate in front of her.


Robert quickly strode forward, moving over next to his mother as he leaned down to kiss her cheek.  "Good afternoon mother, so wonderful to see you are doing well."


"Hello Robert," she replied with a small smile, "I hope you had a safe and uneventful trip?"


As he gave an affirmative response, Robert stepped aside as Megan moved over to give her mother-in-law a small hug.  "So good to see you again my dear."  The older woman replied before she turned to be greeted by Lawrence who had somehow moved around the other side of the table rather quickly and gave his grandmother a hug as well.


After a brief greeting to her grandson, Robert's mother turned her steady gaze towards Lulu, studying the teen a brief moment.  "And you my dear must be Louise."

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  • 2 months later...

Lulu was drinking it all in, her eyes wandering over all the furniture, paintings and plants, her mind on autopilot as she drifted through the house as if on silent wheels. Part of her wanted to stop and marvel in each and every room, but she didn't want to gawk like some dumb hick. Besides, there would be time to explore later.


In the presence of Robert's mother, she stood perfectly straight, hands folded primly in from of her and her eyes somewhat downcast. "Yes, ma'am. It's an honor to meet you, ma'am; ah've only heard the nicest things about you from Miss Megan and her family." She gestured towards the house and smiled, finally managing some eye contact. "You're home is just so beautiful. Thank you having me."

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The Dowager Harrow gave a small smile at Lulu's response and compliments.  "Well, technically it is Robert's home, I am just afforded the curtesy of being allowed to continue residing here.  But thank you."  The older woman took her gaze off Lulu exclusively, glancing around at her son, Megan and Lawrence as well. 

"Now, I am sure it has been a long drive and you all must be famished.  Please join me from lunch."  She stated, gesturing at the table as servants were starting to bring out plates of food.  Looking back to Lulu, she gestured to the seat to her right.  "Please have a seat here dear."


Lawrence took the seat to his grandmother’s left, across from Lulu, as Robert and Megan took the seats beside them.  As the lunch began, Dowager Harrow looked at Lawrence and the Lulu.  "Now, I would like to hear how each of your fall terms have gone.  Ladies first Lawrence."  She added quickly as he seemed about to start speaking.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For the girl who grew up in the downright matriarchal South, It took Lulu a second to make the mental adjustment; as the man with the title, Robert was the important one here, with his mom as his welcomed guest. So strange, but over here, it was normal. She began to gingerly fork cold meat onto her plate as she spoke about her first semester at Claremont


"Well ma'am, ahm not gonna lie, it was hard at first; my schoolin' back home in Columbia was fairly hit or miss, with a lot more misses than hits. But Miss Megan made sure I got the best tutors, and now my grades are climbin' back up. Algebra's still a bit of a struggle, 'cause ah've never been too good with numbers."

Edited by Heritage
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  • 4 weeks later...

Robert's mother gave a gave a warm smile as Lulu talked about working with tutors to get herself caught up in school, glancing over to her daughter-in-law briefly before focusing back on Lulu.  When Lulu finished with her comment about her difficulty with math, the Dowager Harrow gave her a slightly stern look but then spoke in a soft tone.  "Do not be so hard on yourself dear, it sounds as if you have had some disadvantages from a young age that were not your fault.  I am certain with a bit of hard work you will be able to get to a point where you will be able to do sufficiently well in math."


It was then Lawrence's turn to talk some about his schooling, at least filling his grandmother in from the last time he had spoken with her on the phone or by skype.  But Dowager Harrow made sure to alternate between speaking with Lawrence and Lulu, asking the teenage girl questions about her home and growing up. 


Eventually lunch was over, and as a servant came in to start clearing the table, Robert glanced at his mother and Megan a moment before looking to Lawrence and Lulu.  "Lawrence, why don’t you show Lulu around the estate to help her get familiar with it."


Lawrence tensed ever so slightly, but then gave a nod.  "Of course."  He replied, standing up and looking over at the older girl.

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Lulu wiped her mouth, set her napkin aside and rose; it took all her strength to not curtsy. Still, she turned to the Dowager Harrow and dipped her head slightly. "Thank you, ma'am; lunch was delicious." Then she turned to Robert and nodded. "Sure, that sounds great." Then she addressed Lawrence. "If you don't mind; start with whichever room's your favorite."


She had mixed feelings about this, but ultimately decided it was for the best. She kept hoping that she and Lawrence would eventually warm to each other, which maybe would never be the case, but perhaps in these new surroundings they could at least find some common ground.

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