I’ve been restless and fidgety the whole day. I haven’t seen Father at all for days now: he leaves the house before dawn and returns when I am already sleeping. The last time I saw him was when I woke up in the middle of the night and saw him standing over my bed like a spectre, with a ghastly look on his face.
Yet I’ve never been happier. Philip meets me every day with his classic grin and we walk the city together. And although we get stared at everywhere we go, I don’t even care any more. Let the whole of New York gossip. We love each other. There can be no politics in love.
“Would you like to come for tea with my family today?” asks Philip one day.
I start. “With your father?” The elder Mr Hamilton is as opposed to our relationship as my own father.
He shakes his head, smiling. “My father has an engagement outside. By family I mean my mother and some of my siblings.”
“Are you sure this is a wise idea? Will I not spark any schism between you and your mother?”
“She says she will be delighted to meet the young lady who has been fascinating me for so long,” he says, laughing as he presses my hand. “Don’t worry. I’ll be there, won’t I?”
“If you say so,” I murmur.
“Not sold yet, are you?” He lowers his voice as if about to share a secret. “This is my way of telling you you’re more special than any other girl I’ve ever been with. I’ve never asked this of any other girl.”
Although I try to hide it, my lips curl up into a smile.
“Ah, there’s the Theodosia I know and love.”
An hour later I cross the threshold into the Hamilton front parlour. “Mother,” Philip calls, “I’m home with Miss Burr.”
A woman comes out from further inside the house and I see Eliza Hamilton for the first time. What I see shocks me into speechlessness. Philip has spoken so often of his mother that I had formed my own image of who and what she was, but—
Eliza Hamilton’s face is the face of a woman who has gone through immense suffering. Every feature is frozen and hardened into absolute hauteur and impassiveness; her forehead is creased unnaturally with signs of traumatic stress. She looks at me stiffly and her mouth struggles to form a smile. The effect is ghastly. It’s a twisted, crooked grimace.
“Miss Burr,” she says, the contorted smile still plastered over her face. “Take a seat in the dining room, please. I’m glad to meet you.”
She looks anything but glad. Trying to keep my look of horror minimal, I turn slowly to Philip. He doesn’t seem to think his mother’s appearance and behaviour unusual. He’s even smiling. He has spoken so many times of how wonderful and kind she is; I had surely never expected to see a woman like this.
“Thank you, Mrs Hamilton,” I say at last. She flinches at my words, as if jabbed with a needle. This is a woman who has undergone much pain. This is a woman who is trying desperately to be strong, but is nearly at the end of her tether.
“Philip,” says Eliza Hamilton, “show Miss Burr to the dining room. I will get the tea.” She shuffles slowly away to the kitchen, and as she leaves us I find I have been holding my breath.
Philip takes my arm, and when we are seated, asks, “What’s wrong, Theo? You look spooked.”
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I tried to hide it. But—oh, never mind, it’s fine.” I don’t want to badmouth his mother, especially if he doesn’t see anything unusual about her.
He knows, nonetheless. “Is it Mother?” As I nod, he sighs. “She has been like this ever since my father published his—his affair. She never cried; she never shed a single tear that I saw. She just—she just froze into this new person, and I don’t know that that’s better or worse than if she had lashed out at Father. But when he came back that day she coolly told him that he would have to sleep in his office now.”
“Oh, Philip,” I say, “I’m so sorry.”
“She bears up wonderfully though. I’m so proud of her but so worried. At the same time I’m so angry with Father but I love him all the same. But that’s why I try to stay out and have fun most of the time.”
He falls silent abruptly as his mother returns, tea tray in her hands. She pours tea for us in the stillness, a strange look of intense concentration on her face as if she will drop the pot if she forgets to concentrate. At last it is over and she sets the pot down, her hands shaking palsy-like.
“Miss Burr.” I start, not having expected her to speak to me. “How is your family?”
Her face is immensely pale, her dark eyes dilating in it to provide a sharp contrast. In it are years of full blossoming beauty that had shrivelled up in only a matter of days.
“My father is well,” I say slowly, wondering if I am lying. But surely Father is fine.
“And your mother?” she says.
“My mother passed away a few years ago.”
At this an unearthly look of bliss passes over her face. “What must it be like to fade away from this world,” she murmurs, suddenly unaware of my presence.
Philip rises from his seat and goes over to his mother. “Mother, I think you should take a break and lie down for a short while.”
A scornful peal of laughter emanates from her mouth. “I told him that, didn’t I, Philip? What am I talking about? How would you know? You were nine! Forgive me, Miss Burr, I don’t know what has come over me. I’m usually not like this. Tell her, Philip.”
I stand up. “I think I should take my leave,” I say slowly.
Philip says, “I’ll come with you; just give me a moment.”
“No,” I say. “Your mother needs you. I’ll see you again tomorrow.”
Once I am out of the house I feel as if an evil presence has been lifted from my soul. But all the way home I see Eliza Hamilton’s frozen face hanging in my mind’s eye, and it unsettles me.
I got disgruntled doing this because no one was viewing my posts. But then new encouragement came along so I picked up again.
I’ve wanted to do this scene of Theodosia meeting Eliza since I conceptualised this fan fiction. To me the implication of Philip Hamilton not dying meant that It’s Quiet Uptown would never happen, which means no “forgiveness, can you imagine”, which in turn means that Eliza is still at odds with Ham. This is how I envision a broken Eliza. I hope you enjoyed it!! Please comment and subscribe 🙂