“The prince is embarrassed to take her out,” laughter followed the words.

   “She deserves it, she is too much of a disgrace to Lechen to be seen in Lars.” As each word was offered, the sound of laughter grew.

   Erna had been walking along the promenade that rad around the back of the building.
She stopped to enjoy the shade of a tree.
Lisa was with her too.

   The conversation of the two maids drifted round to her.
Words that pitied the Prince, who was forced to tour Lars all by himself, because the Princess was so useless, she couldn’t be seen out in public.

   “Those bastards.” Lisa spat and as she went to march on the other maids, Erna grabbed her wrist to stop her.
She shook her head at Lisa.

   The disrespect was incomprehensible, Lisa couldn’t resist, something had to be done, but Erna looked at her with pitiful pleas. 

   While the maids chattered away, Erna and Lisa stayed hidden behind the tree.
While Lisa was boiling over with rage, Erna remained resolute.

   Lisa pouted as she looked down at the long evening shadows.
Her mistress’ honeymoon was passing them by and Lisa was getting upset by it.
Erna had already been left alone for several days in the Palace, waiting for her husband with no clue as to when he would return.
That was her daily routine and if she was lucky, Bjorn would join her for dinner.

   For the most part, Erna was alone for the whole day.
There were no gatherings for her to attend and no meetings that she needed to attend.
She would spend her days walking alone, or with Lisa.
It was unfair that she would also have to put up with this disrespect.

   While Lisa thought about how much she hated the incomprehensible Prince, the other maids gathered together and headed off.
Only then did Erna let go of her wrist.

   “Look there,” Erna whispered like she had some big secret to tell and pointed up into the tree.

   When Lisa looked, she lost all of her heated anger and smiled.
There was a fat cheeked squirrel looking down at them from the branch of the tree they were stood under.

   “You have great eye sight.” Lisa said.

   The Squirrel startled at Lisa and run up into the tree.

   Erna turned away from the forest of maple trees and faced Lisa.
She could see the wide eyes reveal redness in them and Lisa realised Erna’s hands were trembling slightly.

   There was so much Lisa wanted to say, but didn’t have the words.
Fortunately, Erna’s lapse didn’t last long and she moved on down the path covered in red leaves.

   They passed the bench where the gossiping maids had sat.
Lisa briefly stared at the spot, before chasing after Erna without saying a word.
The late autumn day was short and the sun was already casting long shadows.
The sky has dyed a bloody red.




“Thank you, I am in your debt today.” Erna said, closing the book with a smile.

   “No, Your Highness, I’m just doing my job,” Karen said.

   It was a very bland and formal answer.
It was definitely a very different attitude to when she spoke tot the much praised Princess Gladys, who was, without a doubt, the most perfect Princess.

   “I will get your bath run, Your Highness.” Karen left Erna alone.

   It had been ten days since they arrived in Lars and only three of those she actually got to have dinner with her husband.
If you counted the one day of rest they had when they first arrived.
Still, it was fortunate that today she knew Bjorn was going to be late home.
She would not have to bare the embarrassment of looking shabby after wasting hours waiting for him to return.

    She casually flipped through her notebook, only half paying attention to what was written on the pages.
Until she flipped past a diagram that showed the relation between Lars and Lechen’s Royal Families.
She had struggled to complete that with Karen’s help.
She tried her best, but the results were still disappointing.

   Excluding the nobles that were close to Gladys, there were only a few, shabby remaining names.
Erna would probably never meet any of them as they had shut themselves away from the social network.

   Erna closed the book with a heavy sigh.
She decided that she would write to her Grandmother, in the hopes of changing her mood, but maybe they weren’t the best choice.

Grandma, I am having a wonderful honeymoon.
Love Erna.

   After that one sentence, Erna struggled to find anything else to write.
She couldn’t worry her Grandmother with the truth.
She was also frustrated because she had no idea what a fun honeymoon was, so even a lie was out of her grasp.

   After a long while, Erna finally had a letter she thought her Grandmother would be happy to read.
It was laced with several lies.
She told her Grandmother that Bjorn was an affectionate and caring husband.
She found Lars more accepting than she first thought and she is busy travelling all over a new world.
Thinking of how her Grandmother would enjoy the letter, Erna smiled.

   By the time Erna sealed the letter, her bath was ready.
She had no desire to around anyone, so bathed alone and refused the attendants.

   ‘At least she knows her duties in the bedroom.’

   The mocking birds words ran through Erna’s head.
She wasn’t willing to reveal the shame of her husbands marks all over her body.
Resolute in her thinking, Erna lowered herself into the steaming bath.

   ‘When the Prince came on his honeymoon with Princess Gladys, they went every where together.
Do you remember? The two of them were the brightest protagonists every where they went, they were a perfect match.’

   Perhaps it was because of the splashing water, the memories came unbidden.
Erna stared blankly at the sloshing water and when she closed her eyes tight, trying to wipe the memories away, they only came on stronger, pushing her to tears.

   There was a sudden knock at the door.
Karen did not come into the bathroom, knowing that Erna wanted to be alone, but she brought good news, Bjorn had returned.




“Everyone, go away and rest.”

   The maids had followed him to the bathroom and looked at each other as if they didn’t know what to do, like they had never gotten such an order before.
They hesitated, but in the end, they all retired without question.

   When the door closed, Bjorn let himself fall onto his wife’s bed.
He never bothered taking off his jacket or shoes.
She wasn’t there, maybe she hadn’t finished her bath yet.

   Bjorn spread out on the bed, facing the ceiling and let out a long sigh.
It had been a long day that had started with luncheon with the foreign minister.
Then it was off to speak to the acquisitions team at the bank.
Then finally a little social visit with Alexander, Princess Gladys’ second brother.
A troublesome day that ended with a splendid finale.

   As with all three of her brothers, Alexander is very protective of his sister.
Bjorn had been constantly pestered by Alexander when he first broke it off with Gladys.
Endless threats and promises of retribution, but that was before he knew what Gladys had done.
When he was finally told, he only pestered Bjorn more, this time with endless streams of apology.

   Even tonight, in his drunken, fugue state, he cried and cried on Bjorn’s shoulder, cursing fate for driving the best couple in Lars and Lechen apart.

   Bjorn wanted to argue that it wasn’t fate, but a practical joke played by his sister and her poet, but he decided against it.
Mostly because he was waiting patiently for the gold coins the Prince was going to deposit.
It was certainly a decent amount worth showing patience for.

  ‘How come you married such a woman?’

   A peek of a laugh came from Bjorn as he recalled Alexander’s drunken words, uttered in clumsy sympathy.

   ‘Such a woman’

   It had become a derogatory term used to describe Erna.
It was just funny to Bjorn.
It was especially funny as it often came from the mouth’s of those who supported a Princess who had a child with another man.

   ‘Damn Hartford’s’ Bjorn cursed.

   He sighed and pulled the knot of his tie and tossed it some where.

   The royalty and nobles were anxious about the Grand Duchess of Lechen standing next to their perfect little flower of Lars.
They will never see ‘that kind of woman’ defeat their Princess.
Mostly because Bjorn would not let her be ridiculed like that.


   Bjorn looked over and saw, standing in the doorway, Erna.
Fresh from the bath and wearing a bright smile, he thought she looked exceptionally bright today.

   Maids rushed in to draw the curtains and Bjorn motioned for Erna to sit next to him.
She waited patiently for her maids in waiting to leave before entering, then hurried over to the bed.

   “Are you drunk?” Erna said, dejectedly.

   “No,” Bjorn said with a laugh and grabbed Erna round the waist to pull her in close.

   As she collapsed into his arms and threw her arms around him, Bjorn could smell the sweet scent of her.
It was soft scent that softened his heart, after spending all day hardening it against the attacks of the nobility.

   He pulled Erna in close and hugged her.
Erna flinched and stiffened, but didn’t put up any resistance.

   “Did something happen?” Erna asked.
She had been studying him carefully.

   “No,” Bjorn smiled.
It wasn’t a lie.

   The profits he gained for Lechen today were insurmountable.
It was a day where nothing could go wrong, even when dealing with Gladys’ brothers, who were sympathisers to him.

   “That’s good,” it was a response of distrust, but Erna nodded her head with a smile.
“I’m fine too.
I took a walk in the forest behind the palace, with Lisa.
Karen helped me study Lars and Lechen’s royal family and I wrote to my Grandmother.” Erna chatted with a smile, like she was proud of her days routine.
“Oh, and I tried the traditional cake of Lars at tea time, it was delicious.
Almond cookies too.
When I went for a walk, I packed it and shared with Lisa.
I also have something to give the squi…hmph.”

   Bjorn suddenly leaned in and kissed the lips he couldn’t take his eyes off.
Erna tried to turn over, but was still trapped in Bjorn’s arms.

   As the two laid down on the bed, Bjorn’s look changed.
He looked down into Erna’s big, questioning eyes for a moment, before pouring out a more passionate kiss, filled with all the answer he could muster from his heart.

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