Erna opened her eyes to the dazzling sunlight.
She stared blankly at the golden motes of dust dancing in the air and when the memory of the moment she had fallen asleep, she clutched the blanket closer to herself.
A soft roll of laughter from beside her drew her attention to Bjorn, her husband.
He was sitting at the head of the bed looking down at her.
His tousled hair shone like thin threads of gold and so did his face, which still had the lingering smile.
She grabbed the feather pillow and looked up at her husband.
Bjorn was not very diligent, but he was very thorough in his responsibilities as a husband.
Even if she begged because she could not go on, he would not stop until his greed was satisfied.
Erna genuinely couldn’t recall what happened at the end of the last time.
Erna wished she had learned from Mrs Pegg.
She brooded over her poor choice of teacher, but the regret was pointless, she made her choice and had to stick with it.
She looked up at the clock and it told her that most of the day was done already.
She regretted that she had missed the Dolphins, the sea they were in must be long gone by now.
She felt like she will be spending the rest of the day in bed.
“Is it much longer to Lars?” Embarrassed by the silence in the room, she mustered up the courage to speak.
Bjorn closed the book he was reading and snuggled down next to Erna, resting his head on an arm.
“About three days,” he said.
“We started here and moved all the way down to here.” He moved a hand to the hem of the blanket and pulled it down.
“We are here now,” his long index finger started to travel down to her chest and made a few little circles. “Just a little further and we will dock in Lars.” His finger continued its journey south.
“Then we get on another boat…”
It’s okay if we don’t talk any more.” Erna said, grabbing his hand as he reached her naval.
Bjorn stared at her as if he didn’t understand what she was saying, but remained relatively carefree.
“But you were curious.” Bjorn said.
“You don’t have to explain it this way.” Erna said.
“Why?” Bjorn smiled leisurely, as if he didn’t care about his wife’s input.
“I like this map.”
Just as Erna was lost with what to say, a knock came at the door and she felt relief wash over her.
“Your Highness, the delegation has sent an update to the planned schedule, I know its rude, but they require you to review it urgently.”
“Fine,” Bjorn said after grouping Erna briefly.
Bjorn sat up, he was wearing a loose nightgown, Erna was completely naked.
The door opened and Erna hurriedly pulled the blankets over her, she could have fainted from embarrassment.
She was so ashamed she couldn’t breath properly.
Bjorn accepted the report as if nothing was amiss.
Erna barely poked her blushing face out from under the blankets once the maid had left.
“Would you like some tea?” Bjorn asked casually.
“I hate you.” Erna said, her eyes speaking fire.
“Hate what?” Bjorn asked as he sifted through the documents brought by the maid.
“Someone entering the room while I’m…”
“Erna, everyone knows what we’re doing here.
Would you like tea together?” He turned from the door and asked, before he went through.
“Yes,” Erna said like a pouting child about to throw a tantrum.
“Just give me a minute to get dressed.”
It hurt her pride a little, to be treated like an idiot, or an impudent girl, but she just couldn’t go wondering around in just her nightie.
“Fine, I’ll wait for my quiet wife.” Bjorn said, sarcastically.
Before entering the solarium, where tea had been prepared, Erna tidied away all her clothes.
It took her a little while longer to find a dress she liked and thanks to Lisa’s deft skills, her hair was in a perfect little braid.
“You are pretty, your highness.” Lisa answered before the questions was even asked.
“You’re so very pretty, so don’t you worry.” She opened the door and gently pushed Erna out.
Erna light footed over to the tea table and did her best to try and push down the embarrassment before she reached the tea table.
Bjorn looked up from the report he was reading and a smile beamed at her.
He pointed to the chair opposite him and went back to examining the papers.
Erna sat and pressed out the ruffles of her dress as a maid slipped in from the edge of the room and poured her tea.
She smelled faintly of bergamot.
It was the scent that reminded Erna of Bjorn.
“These came for you, your Highness.” The maid said as she set a small tray of letters on the edge of the tea table.
“They need replies as soon as you can.”
Watching Bjorn play the role of Grand Duke made Erna excited to play her role of the Grand Duchess.
She was eager to show her princely side.
“Yes, I will review them, Thank you.” Erna smiled.
She didn’t have Mrs Fitz to hold her hand and provide experience guidance, so she would have to handle this invites on her own.
Mrs Fitz had told her, before they left on the cruise, that if Erna had any doubts, she should turn to the eldest maid, Karen.
Karen was the maid that served her tea and presented her with the invites.
If Erna had left it to her, their marriage would be over by the time they finished the cruise.
She had over heard the maid talk about how she wanted Erna’s marriage to be over before they had kids, so that it would be easier for Bjorn to get back with Gladys.
Erna went through the invites with straight back and high neck, as if rising above the gossip the maids liked to wallow in.
She felt Bjorn look at her from time to time and she wanted to present herself as dignified and regal.
She was the Grand Duchess after all.
It was hopeless though.
Erna couldn’t figure out which invites to accept and which ones to reject.
She recognised a few names that sided with Gladys, but there was four she couldn’t not recall memories of.
“Bjorn.” Erna cautiously called over the tea table, adjusting the red ribbon in her hair.
“Yes?” His gaze briefly passed over her.
She felt hesitant in talking any further, like she was only being a nuisance, but she had committed now and he was waiting.
“Do you know the Hawkins?”
That ruled Hawkins out and both subsequent names.
“What about the Foresters?”
“Yes.” He sounded distant as he flipped the papers.
“Is it someone we want a relationship with?”
A pause, “yes.”
Erna adjusted the ribbon in her hair, then picked up the small hand bell on the table to call the maid over.
“Please prepare my things, I want to write a reply.”
Karen soon prepared her stationary and a pen with a fresh pot of ink.
Erna took up the pen with excitement, Bjorn was still fully engrossed in his paperwork and was still when Erna finished her responses to the invites.
She was a little disappointed, but she knew this trip was more than just a honeymoon.
She had to maintain self control, so that she didn’t come of as some needy child with no discipline.
She must remain calm and graceful, like a lady, in every situation.
While reflecting on her grandmothers teachings, Bjorn had finished going through the paperwork and looked up at Erna.
The atmosphere around the tea table became more intimate when the maid left with Erna’s replies and Bjorn’s signed documents.
“Your handwriting is so wonderful.” Erna said, fiddling with a teacup.
“You have big, pretty hands.” Erna couldn’t make eye contact because of how shy she suddenly felt.
Bjorn was looking at Erna.
His expression seemed to say ‘what kind of pointless conversation are you trying to drag me into?’ But he laughed.
“You look pretty too, especially in the rain,” he said.
“ And especially with that ribbon you keep fiddling with.”
He reached out and took Erna’s hand, together they poured whiskey into the tea.
The scent of it mixed with the sweetness of the tea and tickled the tip of Erna’s nose.
“Ah, this? Thank you.” She said.
The ribbon in question had grown nearly to twice its original size because Erna kept pulling at it at every opportunity.
Bjorn had been trying to tease Erna a little, but her smile was genuine and warm.
Seeing that smile and watching her play with ribbon some more, Bjorn couldn’t help but let out a little peek of a laugh.
A slightly softer sound than the barks that came before it.
Erna spoked about the people she met on deck, a joke she had heard from the maids, even about the dinner menu.
Her stories might not have been poetic, but her voice, mixed with the sweet smells of the tea turned the afternoon into something leisurely.
Bjorn decided against going to bed and instead watched his wife.
She was like a little song bird chirruping away.
He appreciated her voice, the eyes that revelled in shy excitement and her delicate hands still playing with the ribbon, which was as red as her rosy cheeks.
“Bjorn…” Erna cautiously called his name.
Bjorn simply nodded, lost in her wide blue eyes that took him in.
They trembled slightly, as she considered what she was going to say.
When he smiled, Erna blushed furiously and she smiled back at him with pure admiration.
When he saw he had caused her to blush and smile in such a cute way, he realised something.
This woman, its her,
He loved everything about her.
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