W is for Westerleigh

Here’s hoping things change for the very best, for how could they not? My wish is about to come true. All my life, I’ve worshipped Elizabeth Harford, studied her life, her legend, all the things she dared to do, all the reproductions of her portrait hanging in Hartford Hall in various books and family ledgers. She’s been the central focus of my existence, a guiding light in all my decisions and actions. Only A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words. Nothing would be quite like seeing the actual portrait in Hartford Hall, gazing into her painted eyes, and letting her image, the image painted by her beloved Judith Cross speak to me. Now I’ve finally got an opportunity to do so. Fiona Hartford, the family estate’s caretaker and my distant cousin has invited me, Westerleigh Hartford, to come for an extended visit. There’s just one complication. Maybe it’s my name, but Fiona thinks I’m a girl. I’m not quite as feminine as she things, although I plan to put on a good show of it, with the help of my friend, Yuri Cross. Yes, Yuri is the descendent of Judith Cross herself, just as I’m Elizabeth’s. Such a connection could be considered quite romantic, although Yuri doesn’t agree. Nor is Yuri quite comfortable with my deception, but Yuri is more than happy to dress me up in lace and velvet, so I look like a gothic heroine. A little deception is worth the chance to stay at Hartford Hall, if I can pull it off. All right, I do feel somewhat guilty at pretending to be something I’m not. If this is what Fiona Hartford wants me to be, if this is what Elizabeth herself would want me to be, I’ll do my best to be it. Anything to get closer to them and their secrets. I want to be worthy of them. It’s not like I mind cross-dressing. Yuri seems to really appreciate it, plus I do feel closer to Elizabeth when I’m wearing the lace blouse with the high collar and the long, velvet skirt, closer to the woman that Elizabeth was. All my life I’ve wanted to be closer to her. This is my chance. I’m dimly aware of a small, warning voice in my head that sounds like Yuri, reminding me that ideals often lead to disappointment. Perhaps that’s true, but I’ve been chasing this ideal for so long. I want to learn more about Elizabeth, get to know her, even if she disappoints me. I can’t imagine her disappointing me. I’m so overwhelmed by the thought of her, of living her home, standing before her portrait. Whatever the price may be for this experience, it will be worth it.

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