Lisa paced tirelessly along the road round the back of the mansion.
The Viscount and his wife would be returning soon and if Erna was not at the mansion…
Lisa shuddered at the thought.
She hated the idea that her Mistress would be punished because of her mistake.
What could she have done though? She couldn’t very well hide the letter from the Queen.
If Erna never showed up to her summons, she would have been in greater trouble, Lisa doubly so.
The turmoil swirling inside Lisa left her feeling something ominous was about to descend upon her and she was powerless to stop it.
It drove her to an irritability that has her stuck pacing up and down the same short bit of road.
When she had received the message that someone was looking for Lady Hardy’s maid, she thought it was going to be yet another dashing young noble with a letter of heart felt emotions, accompanied by an overly elaborate bouquet.
What she found was a fancy carriage, with a stern faced footman waiting at the foot of the step.
He sounded like the most impatient person Lisa had ever met.
“The Queen has requested Lady Hardy’s presence.” He said.
Lisa didn’t know if she should have apologised to the man, but she ran straight to Erna with the message.
When Erna got to the carriage, everything moved so fast Lisa didn’t have time to process what just happened.
The footman ushered Erna into the carriage, Lisa didn’t see anyone else in there and before she could ask, the carriage was away.
She should have followed them, or maybe even convince Erna to take her to the palace with her, but she didn’t, she just stood on the pavement and watched them leave.
Her insides boiled in frustration.
Lisa couldn’t handle the anxiety twisting her up.
She felt like a child’s wind up toy that had been wound up too far.
The stress of being held in that ready to go position was exhausting.
It all finally came out in a sigh and she sat down on the curb.
Her nerve spiked when she heard the clip clop and the rattle of carriage wheels.
At first she was elated, Erna had finally returned from the palace.
Then her dread took over, what if the Viscount had returned already?
Relief washed over her as she saw the same carriage that had kidnapped Erna come around the bend, she nearly fainted.
The sound of the scissors constant rasping never ceased, except late at night when the wielder needed rest.
Erna looked down blankly at the desk, her mind fleeing from her for a moment.
The sound of the scissors was a hypnotic note that distracted her from pretty much everything.
She placed the scissors down and tried to remember what flower she was making.
“Rose.” Erna whispered.
She massaged her aching hands and throbbing joints.
Pergola covered in rose vines in full bloom, calm waves and the sound of seagulls from afar.
The memory suddenly came to her.
Memories of table covered in white lace cloth, beautiful ceramics and the surreal face of her Grandmother.
What would her Grandmother say if she knew her Granddaughter had met with the Queen? Erna thought about writing to her, but then stopped herself, what would her Grandmother think when she leaned why Erna had met with the Queen?
The urge to write to her Grandmother soon faded.
She would faint to learn Erna had met with the Queen to explain the scandal between her and Prince Bjorn.
It would not go down well, especially so soon after the divorce and abdication from the throne.
The ache in her hands did not subside, so Erna decided it was probably a good time to stop.
She stood up to lean over and open the window.
A cool night breeze chilled Erna’s skin and ties a shawl over her nightgown.
It felt like a dream as she leaned on the window sill and stared down into the dark garden.
It felt like only yesterday she was living a rather mundane life out in the country.
Then her Grandfather passed away and almost over night they were on the verge of losing their home.
Erna was forced to come to her father for help and then all this scandal took over.
So many incredible things happening in just one season.
And then that whole thing earlier, with the Queen.
As Erna recalled that conversation, she let out a deep sigh.
She had told the Queen everything, in as much detail as she could, about her and Prince Bjorn.
At times her mind went blank, but she never lied or knowingly distorted the truth in any way.
Erna hoped it would help clear up any misinformation.
“Are you really saying Bjorn wanted that?” The Queen said, after she heard everything.
The first time the Queen expressed any emotion, or thought, on the matter was when Erna told of the lost gold antler trophy and how Bjorn had agreed when Erna offered to pay for it.
Erna spoke like she faced a terribly biased jury and she was pouring her heart out to prove her innocence.
She even told the Queen that she was going to pay off the debt by selling corsages.
The hope that a lady of aristocracy would stoop to such a level to pay off a debt, would it be enough to convince the Queen she meant no ill?
“So, you really sold artificial flowers to pay off the trophy, Bjorn really accepted that? My Bjorn, the Prince?”
Erna wasn’t sure what the Queen wanted her to say, she seemed completely disbelieving.
She smiled dejectedly and left it at that.
Once that was done, her time with the Queen passed like any run of the mill afternoon tea Erna had attended.
The Queen skilfully led a daily conversation as if talking to a long lost friend and they were catching up on old times.
The Prince’s name was not mentioned again.
Erna closed the window and shuffled back over to the desk.
Her hands still hurt, but they were no longer so bad that they kept her from her work.
If you are soaked in pointless sentiment, you will only deepen your depression.
If you work, you can reduce your debt.
Erna continued to work as she repeated the mantra in her head.
She knew that selling artificial flowers would never be enough to cover the cost of the trophy and then add the money Pavel had leant her, she would have to decorate the hats of every women in the city if she wanted to pay every one back.
This was the only solution Erna could think of, so she decided to do her best.
It might take her whole life, but she had to deal with these things, no matter how overwhelming they were.
Erna was used to the struggle, her whole life had been one challenge after another.
Sometimes she feels helpless, but other times, there is always something that can be done, no matter how small or insignificant.
Erna knew she should never give up, especially not on herself.
By the time Erna was done making the last petal, it was well past midnight.
Other than the few hours with the Queen, she had dedicated the whole day to making flowers.
After tidying everything away, Erna went to wash up before laying down on the bed.
It was easy for her to fall asleep.
Thanks to the fatigue of the work and the emotional drain on the afternoon, Erna slept the night away.
She was even able to create harmony with her dream, which was of a flower the size of the city.
“Look over there, she’s finally here.” Peter declared.
He was examining the crowed with wide eyes, scrutinizing every face he could, daring not risk missing the opportunity to see the young lady that was the main character for today’s festival.
The Hardy family had just entered the stand and with them was Erna Hardy.
“I knew it.”
While laughing at the crowds reaction, Leonard was also relieved.
If Erna had not shown up once in awhile, all the young lads would have degenerated into mindless idiots, obsessing over mythical phantoms.
“Well, Miss Hardy, I am glad to see you don’t have any trouble with boats.” Peter said.
“Pah, do you think you have the skill to ride your boat?” Leonard scoffed.
“Of course.” Even though ridicule was in his eyes, Peter stood firm.
Among the young gentlemen who were taking part in the bet, Peter sent the most letters and flowers to Lady Hardy.
From that, he got the most replies, which Peter took to mean she was more interested in him.
The pride of his letters is the one preceding the one he sent asking after her health.
Despite the reply containing a firm rejection, like the others, it did contain a little more, only to state that she was well.
“Do you really think you can entice a woman so embroiled in a scandal with Prince Bjorn Dniester?” Leonard teased.
“Oh that? Its fine, Bjorn is just using her to get at his ex-wife.
I’m different, we have a genuine, emotional bond.” Peter said proudly.
Thinking about the large pile of personal replies from Erna, Peter really thought he stood a chance, but little did he realise, he and Erna were not on the same boat.
“Well, here comes your rival now.” Leonard pointed.
He giggled like a school boy who just heard a funny fart joke.
The Royal Family was coming down the narrow path from the palace to the riverside.
The whole family came down to the VIP seats, all with the exception of Leonid, who participated in the games.
The crowd applauded and cheered, charging the atmosphere of the riverside festival.
“Psst, Bjorn, look there.” Peter whispered as he approached the podium and slipped into the seat next to Bjorn.
Princess Louise gave him a stinging glare.
Bjorn leisurely turned his gaze towards where his friend notioned with a not so subtle finger.
Down at the bottom right of the stand he saw the woman that was his straight flush.
Bjorn brushed away Peters silly behaviour and dipped his eyes.
His long eyelashes vailed his eyes and Bjorn let a smile softly curl his lips.
“Huh, I see she is here.” Bjorn said softly.
When Erna turned her head to look around, Peter shrunk away a little and giggled.
Bjorn really thought the man was going to hide in away in the flap of his coat.
The movement alerted Erna and her eyes met Bjorn’s.
They exchanged polite nods and a half hearted smile.
He could not help but notice how pale Erna looked.
He had thought the news of her ill health had been excuses, but seeing her now, he might well believe the stories.
She was still beautiful though.
After that, Erna didn’t know where to look and turned back to the face the front.
She was a distance away, but Bjorn could still see she had blushed.
“Oh boy, if I only Miss Hardy would accept my companionship, I think I would die.” Peter said, staring at Erna’s back.
“Because my father will kill me.” Peter practically laughed at his own punchline, but at the same time, it was no joke.
Peter’s father, Earl Bergen sat not too far away, laughing heartily.
He was a good looking man and was a fairly famous pugilist in his youth.
He proved he could still throw a punch when he caught his eldest son with a maid.
Earl Bergen beat sense in the boy and called it repentence.
The announcement for the start of the match sent the crowd into a cheer.
Bjorn took off his gloves and leaned on the back of the chair in front of him.
He was not watching the match, his attention was on Erna and as the noise of the crowd died down, she looked over her shoulder.
Their eyes met and Bjorn’s whole world became just her.
She looked surprised he was looking at her, but to him, the whole world melted away and only she was left.
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