The bed sheets reek. A plate of untouched hominy and flapjacks crawls with flies. Despite gaping windows and earliness of hour, it is hot, muggy, breezeless, and stiflingly...
Itchy in his skin and somewhat smelly in his unchanged drawers, Zachary shakes off lethargy and rises unsteadily. His legs are out of practice but nonetheless support him. He crosses to the cheval glass (an heirloom of his mother's) inspecting face and physique with manifest contempt.
Hiding out. Shirking responsibilities. Features turned to mush, muscle tone to flab.
In three days he is expected to take his wedding vows—said prospect fuelling the impetus for his wallowing in bed; were he not fully recovered, the marriage might be postponed, and yet he issued orders that the Abernathy's not be told of his debility—due in part to his embarrassment...
Fainting like a woman.
...and due in part to giving his betrothed no excuse to pay a visit; the last time she had done so (prior to his father's demise) had proven disagreeable.
Yet Felicia, for all her tactless chatter, had made a favourable impression on Zachariah—who had fixed on her as the answer to his empire-building prayers, and also saw her as redemption for his having isolated Zachary. Most important, however, Felicia meant an heir (albeit potentially), for it was Zachariah's growing desperation about Squire progeny that dictated his later-life decisions. He was dying, his son was still a bachelor; understandably, the widower was concerned. And he held himself to blame. Thus salvation, in the old man's mind, had become synonymous with betrothal—Zachary to whomever... to Felicia Abernathy, if for no better reason than to 'annex' her estate.
Zachary edges closer to his reflection—mottled
resembling a ragged
camouflage of pink and moulting grey. He picks at a patch; it peels in one
skin beneath that
is brand-spanking new.