came with a letter from the Princess.

   “Did the Princess really give this order?” Karen said, eyes wide after reading the letter.

   “Yes, of course, can’t you see, it’s Princess’s handwriting.” Jade said.
“Then, I will trust you and wait.”

   Karen waited until Jade left the back door and could no longer be seen before turning her eyes to the letter again.
She read it through again and again, committing it to memory before chucking it on the fire.

   She felt bad about being a spy, but if there was anything she could do to help the Princess, who still had feelings for the Prince, she would do much worse.
She only needed to inform Gladys of the Grand Duchess’ schedule and considering she spent all day behind the fence of the palace, it wasn’t an overly difficult chore.

   Princess Gladys had given Karen orders to make sure the Grand Duchess would come out to the lake behind Manster Palace.

   While Karen was hovering about the place, the Grand Duke and Duchess came into the breakfast room.

   “Good morning, Karen,” Erna greeted the head maid with a smile.

   Karen looked at the pair with despair as they sat across from one other, talking in low tones.
It was mostly Erna doing the talking, with Bjorn giving the odd, short answer.
It might have been the amber autumn light, but the pair looked so warm and friendly together.
Karen couldn’t take her eyes off them.



   As the time for Bjorn to be heading off to his first rendezvous, the servants all gathered together to see the Prince off.
Erna was there too, to wish her husband a pleasant day.

   “Will you be returning late today?” Erna said.

   She didn’t want to seem like she was begging, or whining and spoke with a clear voice.
She also didn’t forget to smile.

   “Maybe,” Bjorn said.

   He went through the day’s events in his head and dismissed Erna’s expectations with a clear, concise answer.

   “Ah, I see,” Erna muttered

   She played with the corsage brooch, tied to a lace shawl.
Gladys’ words springing to the forefront of her mind.

   Bjorn’s tastes are in the simpler, more elegant things.

   Feeling intimidated, she looked up at the Prince, who was still standing beside her and sighed with a sullen face.
Bjorn looked at her and their eyes locked.
She felt compelled to speak.

   “Am I too old fashioned, for liking pretty little things, like flowers and lace?” She decided to be open and honest.


   “I want to know what you think.” She fiddled with the flower petals.

   She prided herself in getting better, thanks to Mrs Fitz and she was willing to let go of her stubbornness.
She felt like she was falling short still.
Even to Erna, who was not familiar with these things, Gladys felt like the pinnacle of grace and sophistication.

   “Why are you asking me that?” Bjorn frowned.
“It might be out of fashion, but it’s fine as long as you look pretty.”

   “Really?” Erna’s eyes went wide.
“Am I really pretty?”

   “I feel like you’re not asking because you didn’t know, are you trying to be boastful?”

   “No, not at all…” Erna didn’t know how to explain.

   Erna never really knew what other people truly thought of her, outside the gossip circles.
Her Grandmother had told her that only shallow and vulgar people put so much emphasis on their outward appearance and Erna had lived by that teaching.

   “Well, each person has a different standard of beauty, so, I mean, in your eyes…”

   “Your pretty.” Bjorn said, cutting her off.
“Anyone with eyes would say the same thing, so you can wear whatever you please, my wife.”

   His tone was so casual, but a soft smile pulled at the corners of his lips.
Erna tried to enforce the teaching about a lady always being graceful, but she had no chance at holding back the smile.


   Her heart swelled like a balloon at that short, simple word and she felt like she was going to float away into the sky.

   “Thank you.” Erna said.
“You are really handsome too.”

   “I know.” Bjorn replied.

   Before she could think of any way to respond, Bjorn climbed into the carriage.
Erna waved a hand that had been rubbing her hot cheeks.
When she saw Bjorn’s grinning face look out to her, her heart pounded so loud, she was sure he could hear it. 

As the carriage departed, Erna was left to her feelings of happiness mixed with regret.
An aftertaste to the sweet words.


   Erna chewed on the word with every step.
When she stood at her window and when Lisa brushed her hair.
Just when she thought the day was going to be a lonely one with that word, a knock came to the door.

   It was Karen.

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