n, but considering their hobbies of reading and flower arranging, they were entirely appropriate gifts.

   She had laughed when she heard Erna had gifted Leonid a pair of glasses.
It seemed like the woman was going out of her way to find gifts people would find useful.
She laughed again and threw hers in the bin.

   She thought Erna was a snob, who secured the position of Grand Duchess by her looks.
Now that she had come to know the girl, she seemed just that, a little child with barely an interesting side to her.

   It was only for that reason that she wanted to meed the new Grand Duchess in the first place, but now she was stuck meeting the girl every Wednesday, or so it would seem.

   “I’ll ask you directly, what are you intentions?” She said to Erna, before she left.

   The Duchess felt silly for being scared to ask the girl such a serious question.
Whether she’s unbelievably clever, or just an idiot with no plan, she was going to find out.
Seeing the smile on the Grand Duchess’ face made Arsene feel like the idiot.

   “Its Bjorn’s birthday in a couple months, I really want to invite you to dinner.”

   How could she have not known that that was such a rude request? Is this girl a monster or something?

   “Are you sure? It has been years since I’ve celebrated your husbands birthday.”

   “I know, but I still want to invite his Grandmother.”


   “Its the first birthday present I want to give my husband.”

   This innocent looking girl, who was both an idiot and a monster, was declaring war with an angelic smile.

   “Did your husband put you up to this?”

   Surely this child couldn’t have thought of such plot on her own.
Or was she just intending to make fun of the Duchess of Arsene?

   “No, please, you must keep it a secret from Bjorn, it’s to be a surprise.”

   The Grand Duchess gave such a thrilling answer, it broke the Duchess Arsene’s fighting spirit.
Then, for the last two months, she has been coming round, like clockwork, every Wednesday, disturbing her peaceful life.

   If she had locked her self away and not seen the Grand Duchess, she would probably have just sat and drank tea with the cat.
When she did sit with her face to face, showing nothing but stern contempt, the girl would yammering on endlessly, mostly about her husband.

   “I wont be able to breath until this birthday passes,” the Duchess said.

   Charlotte stretched on Erna’s lap, before moodily waltzing over to her cushion on the other side of the couch.

   “His birthday isn’t just this year, Grandma.”

   The girl gave out such spiteful words, but her face remained placid and carefree.
Was this why Bjorn had chosen this wife? Such a troublesome young girl.

   “Never come again,” the Duchess Arsene would say, as Erna left.

   “See you next week,” the Grand Duchess would always reply.

   And so it was, that Wednesday’s uninvited guest would come back each week, to harass the poor, old woman.


The whole basin of the Abit River had been dyed red, Erna saw, as she went over the Grand Duke’s bridge in her carriage.

   Chewing on a lace of liquorice to sooth a sore throat, Erna gazed out at the scenery.
The sky was painted red by the setting sun and with the water rose-coloured, she couldn’t get enough of it.
She was always like that, even thought she saw it every day, just like her husband.

   Soon she will be back at Schuber Palace, where her husband would hopefully be waiting, if he has not already gone out.
Erna put up with it.

   Erna endured it.
He would get up late, break his promises and head out to the social club.
Drink and gamble until the earliest hours of the morning, stumble in drunk and sleep until the afternoon.
Again and again, Erna endured it, but her husband had a talent for showing his affection when she most needed it and for that reason, she endured some more.

   Erna would repeatedly doze off and wake up, waiting for Bjorn to come home.
She tried not to care if he came home or not and tried to get a good nights sleep, but she couldn’t relax, sleeping alone in her bed.

   ‘Bjorn, why can’t you be a more stalwart husband? I don’t like this.’ she had said, when he finally came home, stinking of alcohol.

   ‘Who do you think you’ve married?’ He swept his dishevelled hair back and looked at her with cool eyes, quite uncharacteristic of a drunkard. Is it not funny to marry a prodigal son and expect a saint?

   ‘That’s not what I meant…’

   ‘If you marry this kind of man, than you should love him anyway, is that not a wife’s duty?’ Bjorn said, coming closer to Erna with his head cocked, looking her up and down.

   He threw a sharp, mocking glance at Erna, laced with a friendly tone as if whispering love.
He walked past her as if nothing had happened.

   Erna tried to be patient.
Se was to see it through, somehow, but Bjorn had snapped her last nerve, broke her patience.

   ‘You were supposed to sleep in my bed with me tonight.’

   Looking at his back as he headed toward his bedroom, Erna summoned up the courage to face him.
She hated him a lot at that point, but she didn’t want to be shunned by him.

   ‘Bjorn, we were supposed to share the same bed.’

   Bjorn opened the door to his bed room with a sigh, went in and closed the door again behind him.
Erna stood in the quiet corridor, alone, for a long time.

   Erna opened her eyes when the carriage came to a stop, she tried to erase the thoughts that swam endlessly around her mind.
Today, she would understand if Bjorn wanted to spend all night drinking and playing poker, she hoped for it really.

   “Welcome, Your Highness, the Prince is waiting for you,” Mrs Fitz said.

   Of course, today would be the day the man didn’t want to do anything he liked the most.

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