THE view from Emma’s bedroom was one of the most delightful views in her village. Surrounded by low hills, the village seemed to have been cut off from the bustle of civilization; certainly, it was cut off from the nearby the seaside town, which during the summer months overflowed with tourists, Until recently Emma had been able both to appreciate the view and her good fortune in living in so secluded a village, with its pastoral scene of sheep on the hillsides and cattle in the fields, with its ancient stone bridge spanning the pretty little stream and its medieval tower peeping through the pines at the front of her father's seventeenth-century thatched cottage.
But now, as she stood by her window gazing out to the green-clad hills, she saw nothing, for her mind was filled with the scene just enacted in the sitting-room downstairs. It was a familiar scene, and one which invariably ended up in the same way with her father looking guilty, her stepmother red-faced with anger, and Emma almost in tears.
Emma turned slowly as she heard a firm tread on the stairs. 'You had better stay with her,' she said immediately after her father stepped into the room. Closing the door, he came towards her. 'Emma, my love forgive me for marrying her’.
'You should go down,' she interrupted flatly. 'You know very well that she'll only accuse you of talking about her behind her back.'
He ignored that, and sat down heavily on the bed, his grey eyes troubled, a deep furrow creasing his forehead.
To think ... we were so happy until a year ago. I'd been without a wife for over twenty years since you were born - and then I had to go and make a mess of things like this.' A deep sigh escaped him. 'They say there's no fool like an old fool'.
'You're not old, dad.' Swiftly she crossed to him, sitting on the bed beside him and putting her arm around his neck. 'Forty-five isn't old; why it's the prime of life for a man.'
'I feel a great deal older than forty-five, Emma.' He looked at her and shook his head. 'We were so happy, you and I,' he said again. 'Why did I do it? it's said that a woman has greater intuition than a man did you feel, in the beginning, that it wouldn't work out?.
'Before you married her, you mean?' He nodded, and she went on, 'It isn't for me to express my opinion of Jane, Father. You're married to her and at first, you must both have felt something for one another. As I've said several times, you and she would probably get along much better without me here. Jane’s daughter has left, and I must do the same.'
‘Olivia. ...' Bitterness edged his tone and Emma did not have much difficulty in reading his thoughts.
Olivia’s father had been able to afford to let his daughter take up an acting career, but he died while she was still unknown, taking small parts and never so much as having a mention in a review. 'This sudden success,' Emma's father was saying, 'why must her mother keep on throwing it in your face? It's been lucky as much as anything else that's been responsible for her being chosen as the star of this film. And in any case, her talents haven't yet been put to the public test. She might not be as popular as her mother expects.'
I don't envy Olivia for her success,' said Emma sincerely. 'And I hope she'll be popular with the public. She certainly works hard.'
Her father frowned. 'She isn't a nice person, though. Funny thing, but I always thought she was; had a most charming way with me when I was courting her mother.'
And so did the mother, Emma could have said, but naturally, she refrained from a remark that could only bring more hurt to her father. Emma herself had had doubts, but she put them aside, feeling that her father's judgment could not be at fault. He sat silent, brooding, and a re-creation of memory brought back to Emma the day when, having been told that she had a good chance of obtaining the part of the heroine in Twilight Fantasy, Olivia had said, her manner so deceptively charming.
'Emma Williams...... So suitable a name for a film star. Emma, would you mind very much if I use it?'
The idea did not appeal to Emma; the giving of her name seemed to steel her of her own identity, somehow. Noticing this hesitation, Olivia had added, still as charming as ever yet with a subtle inflection to her tone, there’s nothing to prevent me from taking any name I choose, But I thought I'd like yours, and also that I'd like to have your agreement.'
In other words, she intended to assume the name whether Emma agreed or not and to prevent any unpleasantness, Emma had agreed. From then on Olivia Smith became 'Emma Williams, whose name would shortly be released as the star of the new movie which was to be filmed on an island in Spain.
Emma looked at her father; so dejected he was, and her arm tightened around him.
That dreadful scene ...' He spoke to himself, shaking his head. 'What good does it do Jane to work herself up into a frenzy like that? What makes her do it?'
'Temperament, I suppose,' sighed Emma, hearing again that grating voice saying,
'Look at my daughter! A famous film star she's going to be, but your daughter - if she hadn't been so dense at school she might be able to pay me sufficient for her bed and board. As it is, she's just a sponger!'
'That's enough!' broke in Emma’s father. 'My girl had to leave school because I was dangerously ill and it was thought I'd die. It was a long illness and the doctor said I'd never work again. Emma was brilliant at school, but she didn't hesitate to forgo the opportunity of a career, insisting that she leave school and care for me. Then, even when I did recover, I couldn't work for a very long while, so Emma had to be the breadwinner. That's why she's now in a dead-end job, and you know this, anyway, Jane, so why keep on at her?'
'She could get something better if only she made the effort. What she gives me doesn't keep her'.
'Well, I give you plenty, don't I?' Tom Williams’s eyes had blazed and Emma expected for one horrifying second that he would strike his wife. Jane had gone off into the kitchen, slamming the door between it and the sitting-room with such force that a treasured ornament of Tom’s had crashed to pieces as it fell from a shelf to the floor.
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