yed right through the day and finished up sitting side by side as the sun set in the evening, taking in the scenery on the balcony.
It had been late spring and the flowers were in full bloom.

   “Are you really going to get married?” Leonid said, stepping away from the table.

   “Are you crazy?” Bjorn said.

   Bjorn chuckled mischievously, but Leonid’s expression did not change.
His twin brother, twin in looks only, his mind was so much more complicated and lighter.
He was like that, ever since they were young.

   Bjorn won, to no surprise to either of them.
The twin brothers sat on the billiards table and watched the sun set out the window as they finished their drinks.

   The following morning, as Bjorn stood under a steady stream of hot water, he remembered the promise he had made thanks to the news his father had suddenly dropped on him.
Determined to put an end to the scandal and erase her presence from his life, Bjorn hurried to the town house as soon as he was dressed.

   When he got there, he found that Erna had already left.
She did have a letter waiting for him, should he happen to stop buy.
It was a very formal thing and said nothing much beyond how grateful she was, but she did not need to borrow money.

   The attitude in the letter was kind of intrusive, to say the least, but Bjorn decided to let it go.
He had no reason to deliver any money personally, no reason to seek out the woman.
He actually felt relieved that Erna Hardy was gone.
At least the headaches would finally blow away.

   “I have decided to let you marry Erna Hardy.”

   His fathers words rang through his subconscious, absurd as they were, left him reeling and he leaned against the wall.
She was gone now, far from the tumult of the city and back to her country bumpkin life.
It won’t be long and her life will be returned to normal.

   “Bjorn, I hope you find a nice lady, a good girl that will erase all the pain Gladys has caused you.” Leonids voice from yesterday came to him. “That’s why I don’t like Miss Hardy, I don’t know what mother and father think, but I mean it.”

   “Are you drunk, your highness?” Bjorn asked as he staggered around the billiards table, but Leonid showed no sign of backing down.

   Bjorn was thankful to see Mrs Fitz when he got back to the palace, but the expression she wore was one of concern.

   “Your highness, It’s Miss Hardy…” She began and then stopped, struggling to find the right words.

   “What is it, tell me Mrs Fitz.” Bjorn said coolly.
He grew anxious at the mention of the woman he had already purged from his mind.

   “Miss Hardy is at the Royal Schuber Hospital.”

   “Hospital?” Bjorn snapped.

   “Yes, erm, she is fine, it was the Baroness Baden, she collapsed at the police station and was taken in.
Miss Hardy is there now, looking after the Baroness.”

   Something of relief tugged at Bjorn’s heart, relief that Erna was not hurt.
Relief that Erna was still in the city.


“You’re corrupted, you’ve fallen..”

   That was all the Baroness could say to her Granddaughter when she saw the pale skinned child sat in the chair next to her bed.
Her bony hand trembled as she massaged the side of her head.

   “Please, Grandma, don’t excite yourself.” Erna said, she got up and checked on the Baroness, showing her true kind and caring nature.

   “Do you want to know why I’m here in the first place?” She gave Erna a stern, disproving look.
It was a look that told Erna she no longer believed in the young girl, but no matter what, Erna was going to stan guard at her bedside.

   “It’s common in the city, Grandma, people like gossip and spread rumours.
It’s the trend.” Erna said, sitting back down.

   “Trend? Trend, oh my God Erna, this city has corrupted you.” Shouted the Baroness.

   Erna had trie to explain several times to the Baroness that the rumours were all lies and terrible lies that not even a child would fall for.
The affair with the Grand Duke was a misunderstanding that people ran with and took too far.
It didn’t help that she kept running into the Grand Duke and he would behave in the most ungentlemanly manner.

   The Baroness simply lamented that she should not have sent her child here.
Staying at a man’s house, hanging around unwholesome people, gossip trends and now a poisonous prince.
The city was a wicked place that had corrupted Erna.

   “I need to rest.” The Baroness whispered in a weary voice and shook her head.

   It had been a miracle that Erna had turned up like this, when she had thought to be missing for days.
The Baroness had thought the worst, especially after hearing the rumours and gossip, then reading the newspaper? It was enough to put an elderly woman in an early grave and it nearly did.
But still, Erna showed up as she did and she was well.

   “Yes, Grandma.” Erna said.
“Rest now, I will wake you up at meal time.”

   Erna got up and left the hospital room, only for Mrs Greve to take her place.
Erna went down the hall, to the window that over looked the courtyard, at the front of the hospital.
She had been holding back.

   She saw her reflection in the window pane and did not recognise the young girl staring back.
Lousy eyes, as if she hadn’t slept for days and smothered in makeup to hide all the bruises and scars.


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