He sat up on the couch, which sent his mind into a panic as it tried to figure out which way was up, or was it down?
“Would you mind waiting a little longer.” Bjorn said through a barren, dry throat.
“I think I need to do a little preparation before we have dinner.”
“Fine.” Erna snapped.
Bjorn rose and looked down at the little kitten with its tail fluffed and claws out.
He smiled pleasantly at Erna and strode out of the room.
He tried to walk as straight as possible, but his head was still having trouble reorientating itself to the correct alignment of the world and he stumbled a little before he reached the door.
About an hour later, Bjorn returned to the drawing room, freshly washed, shaved and dressed.
All notions of his drinking had vanished and he was fully alert.
“Shall we go,” he said.
He offered Erna his hand.
For a moment he thought Erna was going to refuse.
Her face was coy and it was clear that she was still upset, but Erna took his hand delicately and allowed herself to be led out to the garden room.
It was mainly used for breakfasting, but Bjorn felt the need for some fresh air.
Bjorn drew out a chair for Erna and then went to sit opposite.
The table was already laid out for the evening meal, of which there was only a place mat and cutlery in front of Erna.
Bjorn winked at the servants and they busied themselves with serving the food.
Once the staff had laid out the dinner in front of Erna and a cup of coffee in front of Bjorn, Erna finally spoke.
“Why do you not eat?” Erna asked.
“This is enough for me.” Bjorn said and rubbed his stomach.
The sun was setting and saturated the room in a deep, orange light.
The wood in the fireplace popped and crackled, filling the room with the sound of burning wood.
It was the only sound and seemed to draw attention to the silence between the two dinner guests.
Erna hesitated as she went to pick up a fork.
It was embarrassing to eat alone, even worse when you’re not alone and being stared at.
She was hungry though, having skipped lunch, so she put up with it for the sake of starvation.
“If you have something to say, will you say it already.” Erna said, who felt burdened by the pregnant silence.
“Well, not really.” Bjorn said, playing with the coffee cup, he had not taken a sip of it yet.
“But you’re the one that set this up.” Erna said, right before stuffing food in her mouth.
“Well, yes, I just thought it would be nice to share a meal together, before the wedding.”
“Is that really all?”
“Were you expecting another reason?” Bjorn sipped at the coffee, regretting it soon after as his tummy gargled at him.
“No.” I don’t expect anything from you. She wanted to say, but stopped at no.
Bjorn seemed to relax a little more and watched Erna eat her dinner.
The hunger in Erna was enough that she ignored his staring.
Now and then she would dab at the corners of her mouth with a napkin, take a sip of water and grab up the fork again to dig in.
Erna might look like a bird pecking at a feeder, but she could eat like a horse, but she was always careful to follow proper etiquette as dictated by the book.
By the time the desserts arrived, the mood between Bjorn and Erna softened a little, but each time Erna looked up at Bjorn, who hadn’t taken her eyes of Erna, she would look back down at her food as if in embarrassment.
“You wish to say something, Miss Hardy, would you just say it?” Bjorn said in frustration.
Erna put down the small fork.
She had been harassing an innocent chocolate cake with it for hours.
She looked up at Bjorn and met his eyes.
“I want to bring my maid to the palace.” Erna said.
“Your maid? You mean the one who could be a guardian for the gates of hell?” Bjorn said with a cocked smile.
“Of course, she and what ever servants you wish are welcome.”
“No,” Erna didn’t rise to Bjorn’s jest.
“Lisa will be enough for me.”
Bjorn caught a look in Erna’s eyes and a twitch in the corners of her mouth.
“There is something else?”
“The wedding,” Erna started, paused, fidgeted with the table cloth a little.
“I mean, our wedding, its traditional for the bride to be given away by her father.”
“Yes.” Bjorn said.
“I would have liked my Grandmother to walk me down the aisle, she is the one who has earned that right, but if I don’t follow tradition, it could bring harm down on the Lechen Royal Family and to you.” Erna looked at Bjorn in earnest.
“So, what you’re saying is that you don’t want to follow tradition to avoid your father walking you down the virgin road?”
“If memory serves, Viscount Hardy is still alive and well.” Bjorn said thoughtfully.”
“I don’t want to be lead into my new life by a man who gave up being my father.” Erna said.
“Okay.” Bjorn said.
He showed interest in what Erna was saying by twisting the corners of his mouth thoughtfully.
Erna’s pale cheeks flushed red as they looked at one another and her will could be seen, clear as day, in her defiant eyes.
“If it’s going to cause disrespect, then I will abide by tradition, but if there is another way,” Erna held her trembling hands under the table so the prince couldn’t see.
“Then I would like to hold your hand.
Would you please take me?”
Erna’s blue eyes reflected the candlelight that lit up the garden room.
They seemed to dance with the very fires of courage and determination.
Bjorn realised that before him sat a rebel with the face of an angel.
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