I opened my eyes to the warm rays of sun entering my room from the north window. I stretched my arms out of my satin bed sheet and rolled to my left to look at my table clock. The long hand of the clock was at 6 and the short hand was at 8 which meant only one thing: I was late for breakfast AGAIN. I rolled out of bed as slowly as I possibly could. I got to my feet and looked around for a minute, beige walls, Dark brown furniture, which was painful to sit on, a mixture of beige and brown curtains and long candles for when it gets dark.
A knock came on my door followed by someone yelling my name “Adriana!!” possibly my mother making her maid servant yell instead of her. I try to ignore her yelling until she is right in my face, the way her face turns red and her nose flares up excites me. It's odd for a daughter to get excited over such a thing but what can I say my way of finding excitement is different from my sisters.
The knocks turned into banging; the next step obviously. And after this should be mother storming in with her maid servant who is double her size and has dusty brown hair. After my father had cheated on my mother with her last maid servant she changed all the servants to those more ‘unattractive ones’ as mother puts it. As I said on the queue they storm in, mother takes me in from top to bottom. My white nightgown high up from my knees and sleeveless would have been talk out the town if not for the strict house rules. Well after she’s done inspecting my untidy room and my unmade appearance she stands about a few centimeters away. I feel the rush, her face is extraordinarily red today with a hint of blue.
“Adriana Mary Elizabeth Middleton Bobefort,” she loves using the whole name when she’s all fired up, I let out a little giggle at Bobefort “This is no matter of laughter young lady. You are the eldest daughter of this family, your sister's younger than you found a man and married. Why can’t you be like them?”
There she starts again with way aren’t you married yet lecture, “I’m not like them mother, and you know that,” I say playing with my nightgown a habit I know she despises “when i want a man I’ll find one but for now let me be, what the men call it...independent. Yes.”
Mother gestures to her maid servant to get me a proper gown while she carries on with the lecture. “Your father wants you in the study as soon as you get dressed. Do not, and I mean DO NOT BE LATE.” With her last words she walks out of my room, her maid servant gently puts my gown on my bed and leaves giving me a pitiful smile. I struggle to dress myself. It's too early for these lectures.
After what feels like an eternity getting into that tortuous gown I walk out of my room. Since Father’s study is all the way to the other side of our house it takes me about 15 minutes to get there. At the door I stop, the huge oak work door is like a wall that stands between me and another set of lectures. I place my gloved hand on the doorknob and take a deep breath in, the oxygen burning through my lungs. I’m about to turn the knob when I hear mother.
“We need to marry her off as soon as possible, she is getting out of hand. She wore that scandalous nightgown to bed, what next she will walk with the peasants” the hatred I hear in the voice for me. “And if she doesn't agree I’ve already talked to Earl Abagnes, his son is willing to marry her. This will be our last resort.”
“I will talk to her” father replies in a tone that says he doesn’t care about her worries.
“No, you will order her to go to the last ball of the season and find a man. We have two more daughters both are reaching their marriage age. They will definitely find a husband without even trying. It's better if she does it herself, I don’t want to force her but I will if I have to. There is no doubt they are better looking and better mannered than Adriana.”
I took my hand off the knob and knocked as the room inside felt silent. Mother called out and told me to come in. I walked in pretending I didn't hear a thing and sat on the sofa.
“Adriana do as your mother says and go to the ball” father didn’t even look up from his papers. Mother on the other hand was firing darts at me through her glare.
“Fine,” mother's eyes lit up “But I have a condition. If I don't find a husband at this ball you will not push me to marry until I want. Otherwise I will run away.”
Father let out a heavy sigh, took off his reading glasses and looked at me, really looked at me. “Fine.” He looked at my mother “You get what you want, she gets what she wants. End of story.”
I took leave from my father's study and went to roam the grounds until I was called to get ready for the ball. Mother had brought a special ivy green gown with the newest gold jewelry just for me. The gown looked pretty although that couldn’t mask how horrade it would make me feel. Green what was mother implying that I was jealous of my sister’s beauty, though they did look stunning in their red almost similar gowns.
Father ordered two carriages for us, one for me and my sisters and one for him and mother. We had to travel for a while before we could reach the ball. My sisters Jane and Jannette indulge themselves in mindless chattering men and the dances and jewelry while I look out the carriage window into the dark woods we were crossing. It wasn’t unusual for these parts to be so dark but I could see a hint of light, could probably be hunters, they are quite frequent in these parts. Out of nowhere I saw a shadow run in the same direction as us, I leaped out of my seat and put my head out of the window. Jane and Jannette pulled me back in.
“Did you see that, I think it was a man” I kept my eyes on the woods.
“Don’t be silly Adriana. There is no one out there,” Jane said with all the ignorance I could imagine from her.
They went back to their mindless chattering while I kept an eye out for any peculiar shadows. It didn’t take us long before reaching the ball which was held at the king’s castle. How I dreaded that place filled with snobs who care for only their status. We met my mother and father at the castle and walked in together. My elder sisters Susan and Amelia married into higher status families and met us as soon as we were inside.
“Mother. Father. We are so glad you could come” Amelia held our mother’s hand, “And all of you look amazing,” she gave us a glance and turned back towards our mother. “Mother the prince is looking for a bride, I just heard from one of the council members. They are trying to keep it a secret and let the prince pick. I suggest you send Jane and Jannette to stay close to the prince, he might just pick one of them to be his bride.”
“This is marvelous news dear but…” mother stopped mid-way and looked at me from the corner of her eyes.
“Don’t worry mother we have also handled that as well,” Susan cut in and locked her arms with mine “we will show Adriana around the ball.”
Minutes later I was far away from my mother and father. Susan and Amelia had taken me to the other side of the ball room and told me to stay put. Jane and Jannette pushed their way to the prince and some of his friends and were laughing and chatting away. When Susan returned she brought someone with her. He was average looking with average height, boney thin body and a wired look in his eyes.
“Adriana this is Earl Abagnes’s son Lionel Abagnes, and this is my lovely sister Adriana,” he bowed and I curtsied. Susan left us after the introduction, I saw him look me up and down like I was a piece of meat. How I wanted to pluck his eyes out but that wouldn’t be ladylike at the King’s ball. He took a few steps closer and then bragged about his wealth he’d inherit from his father and that went on for a while.
I managed to escape the boring conversation when he left to talk to someone I couldn't see and I just slipped out to the gardens. It was dark outside but the light from the ballroom was enough to see a bit further into the garden. I stood there in the garden just feeling the night breeze when I heard my name.
“Miss Adriana” it was Lionel calling for me, but I ducked down and hid behind the bushes until he walked back in. To be safe I crawled further into the garden until the lights from the ballroom almost vanished. Once out of sight I decided to take a scroll at least the trees wouldn’t nag me about marriage. Deeper and deeper into the garden I went and it got darker. I didn’t fear darkness but I sensed something or someone else there. It wasn’t until I saw a shadow pass by, it was further away but I detected movement the same as I did in the carriage.
From what I understood whoever it was went towards the left which left to a secluded part of the garden. I approached that part quietly, staying behind trees making sure I was out of sight. There wasn’t much light but I could see two dark figures.
“You shouldn’t have returned. You barely got away last time.” one of them whispered with a hasty voice.
“That was a long time ago and remember you cannot stop me. I am here to do my job. Do you have what I need?” the other replied.
“The company is in your name, did that as soon as father gave me the deed. I don’t have that long to live and understand the work and please I beg of you to stay away from trouble.”
“Trouble, it's something that will follow me forever, FATHER!!! but for your sake I’ll try”
“Don’t call me that, please. Its makes me feel older”
“Then what should I call you, great great grandson.”
There was a loud sigh, “That is worse, Father will do it for now.”
The wind blew and the gentle rustling of the leaves made me turn my head. When I looked back both men had disappeared. I hurried back to the ballroom in fear that the men might have spotted me listening to them. The whole conversation seemed weird and out of place to me.
The ballroom was the same as when I left it. Parents were talking about business and social events, girls were chattering with each other and some with other men and many were on the floor dancing. I saw Jane and Jannette accompanied by the prince and one of his friends on the dance floor. They seem to be enjoying themselves and I was regretting returning seeing that I would have to interact with Lionel again. He stride my way and came face to face with me. My mother and sisters (Susan and Amelia) walked behind him.
“Miss Adriana,” he held out his hand. “May I have this dance” mother gave me the look that said ‘say Yes or else young lady’. I brought my hand up close to Lionel’s hand.
“If I may intrude,” a familiar harsh voice came from behind me, “Miss Adriana had just accepted my offer for a dance just a little while ago.”
Mother looked stunned but who wouldn’t, this guy was tall, dressed fancily but also in monochromatic colors and gave out the aristocratic royal aura. His clothes complemented his black eyes and short black hair. Compared to him Lionel seemed more of a child than a soon to be Earl as he claims.
“I apologize for my son Nathan” a man who had similar features to Nathan stepped forward “He has just returned from a town abroad and still hasn’t learned to properly introduce himself.”
“Father” Nathan gave his father a glare.
“Hush son. Let me speak. I am Sir Sebastian Rigal and this is my son Nathan Rigal, Grand Duke Nathan Rigal. And it seems to me my son asked your daughter for a dance.”
My mother was about to pass out right there and then the second she heard him say Grand Duke. She faced me and then Nathan. I wanted to get out of dancing with Lionel so I agreed with Nathan.
“Yes mother, that is true,” I told her.
Nathan and I went onto the dance floor as soon as the orchestra began a new song. We began the traditional ballroom dance, half of the people turned to look and for a second I thought they were staring at me. At that moment I noticed Jane with the prince and it all made more sense. Nathan noticed me and spoke in a low tone only I could hear.
“You shouldn’t eavesdrop on conversations in the dark, Miss Adriana.”
I looked straight into his eyes and I knew I had messed up.
--To be continued--