‘You cannot control your parentage, but you can control your legacy.’
Rick Riordan, The House of Hades
Elizabeth Campbell was giddy with excitement as she walked through the Italianate portico at Cambridge Station. On the platform the Fenton Flyer puffed out impatient columns of smoke from its funnel, anxious to continue on its journey to King’s Cross Station.
Heads turned as Elizabeth walked on to the platform. She was a beautiful young woman, a technicolor ray of light illuminating a black and white world still struggling to escape the grip of post-war austerity.
She leaned forward pursing her lips and kissed the air, her smooth cheek grazing the dry, wrinkled jowls of her Great-Aunt Sarah. It was the first and last time they made physical contact. Elizabeth snatched her head away; she hated the woman with a vengeance. The feeling was mutual.
Great Aunt Sarah was one of the last bastions of conventional upper-class Victorian respectability and, such, she would consider it unbecoming for a lady to bellow, but on this occasion she made an exception. She was determined her words would not be drowned out by the dull, ear-piercing whistles, from the front and the back end of the train.
‘Go to the city and find yourself a husband, Elizabeth dear. And, one with some bloody money! The last thing any woman wants in this life is a beastly job and The Debutantes’ House is the very best place to mould you into marriageable material.’ Elizabeth couldn’t hear what she was saying, but she didn’t need to be told for the umpteenth time. She had been groomed for this very moment for the last seventeen years.
‘All aboard!’ Yelled the Conductor. Elizabeth resisted the urge to throw herself onto the train, but she kept her composure alighting the first class carriage as would be deemed fitting for someone of noble birth.
Once on board, she turned to wave goodbye to Great-Aunt Sarah, but she had already left the platform and a sense of jubilation washed over her.
‘Good riddance you old battle-axe! I’m getting away from you at last.’
With the carriage to herself, she relieved her small suitcase of half its weight, before putting it on the rack above her head. She sat down and rested her head against the padded seating with its brocade style upholstery.
Her life was now her own. She had her own bank account and plans to go to Harrods to buy a new wardrobe of clothes more appropriate for her exciting new life in London.
She watched as the guard blew his whistle, his red cheeks puffed out, raising an arm towards the driver. The train whistled its response and slowly chuffed out of the station.
Elizabeth hauled the weighty volume of the 1957 edition of Debrett’s Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage, and Companionage on to her knee and starting reading. A broad smile rippled across her face as she left Cambridgeshire without a backward glance and no emotional ties.