The Problematic Prince
Erna started her morning in the garden.
Since the spring came in full force, she had been spending most of her mornings out in the garden.
Bjorn would wake up and find Erna missing from the bed, it was not very pleasant for him.
Bjorn leaned on the railing of the bedroom balcony and watched Erna walk the path that connected the great fountain with the Abit River.
Lisa was following behind as always, Erna’s ever present shadow.
The rich artificial flowers in Erna’s hat were different from the ones she had yesterday, which were different from the ones she had the day before.
She was changing those flowers every morning, before she went out for her walk.
Somehow, he found that side of her was cute.
Bjorn went back into the bedroom with a smile on his face and rang the service bell.
Greg, the butler, came in with the morning paper and tea.
“Your Highness, a customer from the bank is waiting in the study,” Greg said slowly.
“Tell him I will be there as soon as my wife returns from her walk.”
“Yes, Your Highness, what time should I have the carriage ready to depart?”
“Eleven o’clock would be good,” Bjorn said, as he settled in to read the paper.
Today’s paper had an entire page devoted to talking about the strong alliance between Lechen and Lars.
It was a fairly credible article, with quotes from the foreign minister of Lars.
The King of Lars maintained a happy and stable relationship with Lechen, even after he failed to return Gladys to the throne.
It would have been a huge dent to his pride, but he did not let that affect his relationship with Lechen.
Bjorn liked this kind of relationship.
The type where everyone maintains a friendly disposition to each other, so long as everyone gets their share of the pie.
After reading through the few interesting articles in the paper, Bjorn went back out onto the balcony and fired up a cigar.
The stone wall was warmed by the sun already, he leaned on it as he watched Erna climb the steps that led up to the mansion.
Bjorn watched Erna carefully.
Every time the wind gusted, her chemise dress clung to her body, revealing the welcome curves of her lovely body.
Erna looked up at him, almost as if she sensed his lecherous study.
How could such a small woman hold more presence than the Great Fountain, or any of the statues around it?
“Oh, Bjorn, you’re awake.”
Her voice echoed up to him and he smiled, letting out a thick puff of smoke that was quickly snatched away by the breeze.
Their petty turmoil was a faded memory and his world was calm again.
The spring morning seemed more beautiful and peaceful, after the fact.
He waved to Erna as she climbed the steps leading into the mansion, admiring the fluttering tails of her ribbons and flowers.
Bjorn unconsciously pulled on the cigar, the ash seemed to him like warm embers of falling snow, which fell quietly somewhere deep in his heart, in infinite silence.
The cigar was stubbed out in the ashtray and Bjorn prayed that Erna would run into Mrs Fitz on her way up to the bedroom, realising that she would probably choke on the cigar smoke before it had a chance to be blown away.
Despite the smoke, Erna would still stand by him and she would start getting an irritating, scratchy cough.
Her lack of desire was more tolerable than a nerve-scratching cough.
“Bjorn,” Erna called out, knocking before coming into her own bedroom.
Judging by the bright smile on her face, and glow, it would seem she was able to avoid Mrs Fitz and she came right up in front of him.
“Look at you, all worn out,” Bjorn stroked Erna’s cheek with the back of a couple fingers.
The tips of his fingers brushed her cheeks and showed a little playfulness that was at odds with her calm expression.
“I think I need to work on my stamina though.”
“Well, whenever we have sex, I would always fall right to sleep after, because I am so exhausted.
I’m a bit sorry for that,” Erna said calmly.
The corners of Bjorn’s lips curled as he looked down at his shy, but brazen, wife.
“You work so hard on everything you do, it’s no wonder my shoulders are getting tired.
I’m starting to think I should exercise a little more too.”
“No, you don’t have to at all,” Erna was still smiling, even as she acted serious.
Bjorn laughed and let his wife go.
“Get ready, Erna, there is someone you need to meet.”
All she got for emptying the cookie jar was a thin stack of papers that looked like a small book.
She looked at the bankbook in her hand with a frown.
It had her name on it and the amount of money that had been deposited, but she couldn’t believe that this little booklet was replacing all her money.
She knew that people in the city liked to keep their money in the bank, but she never thought she would be one of those people, not until Bjorn introduced her to the Freyr Bank employee in her study.
Erna looked at her empty cookie jar regretfully.
It had been a memento from her time before she knew Bjorn and the circumstances that had led to their marriage.
It was a symbol of her past efforts and a promise she had made.
When the banker concluded the business and stood to leave with Erna’s savings, she let out a sad sigh.
“Don’t you like your new cookie jar?” Bjorn said, motioning to the bankbook.
Bjorn sat with his arms loosely crossed.
Erna looked at him, then to the bankbook, then back at him again, then nodded a little.
“I liked the old way better, can’t we get it back?”
“Now Erna, you need to let go of the cookie jar and embrace civilised society.”
“But this paper doesn’t look like money at all.”
“No, but it represents your money, see, your name here?”
“Even so, what if the bank misuses my money, what if they lose it, what if they don’t give it back to me?” Erna looked at Bjorn with mistrust in her eyes.
“Don’t fret, they won’t keep your money from you.”
“What about if they go bankrupt? I heard that’s another way people end up losing their money.”
Erna became more serious, concerned that the bank would go bankrupt and completely oblivious to the fact that the owner sat right next to her.
“It’s good to have that suspicion, Erna, I don’t think you will ever get scammed,” at the mention of getting scammed, Erna’s eyes went so wide.
“Could you please not say that? I really hate that word,” when Erna looked at Bjorn with a stern face, Bjorn became mischievous.
“Oh, you don’t want me to say scam? Is scam a painful word for you, Erna? I guess I can stop saying scam.”
“Bjorn,” Erna pouted.
“If the bank goes bankrupt, I will make sure you get your money back first, so don’t worry about it.”
From the accusations of being a petty thief, to being called a scam artist, Bjorn felt like his pride should be bruised, but he understood Erna’s concerns.
There was no reason that he should not be showing a little more tolerance, as this had been a gift for Erna.
“You just need to get yourself more acquainted with your new cookie jar, trust me, it will be a lot better, and easier, than the old cookie jar,” Bjorn looked at his rival, the cookie jar, with a sullen expression.
The snowman was still smiling at him and it seemed a lot more menacing.
“Your snowman might keep your money in one place, but the new cookie jar will increase in value.”
“Really, I will be getting more money?” Erna’s eyes went wide, “will I really get more money, even if I leave it alone?”
Erna clearly had no clue about interest rates.
She looked at him with a mixture of surprise and doubt.
Bjorn started to wonder about the place Erna had grown up, had they really raised such an ignorant lady?
Calmly, Bjorn went on to explain deposits and interest rates.
Erna listened to him intently, with wide, wondrous eyes and a desire to learn.
When he was done, Erna was so excited and decided that she was going to hang her bankbook next to her bed.
“Thank you Bjorn, I will cherish it,” Erna smiled brighter than ever.
She packed her bankbook into the snowman cookie jar.
It seemed like she was still too stubborn to completely abandon that jar.
“Why don’t you use the safe and leave that old thing?”
“It might be old, but it’s precious to me.
I don’t want to throw it away, it was a gift from my Grandfather,” Erna carefully placed the jar in her lap, “he got it for me when I was eight years old, the first birthday after my mother passed.
He said he wanted me to smile just like the snowman on the cookie jar.
We went outside and made a snowman just like this one,” she patted the battered tin lid and smiled just like the snowman.
“It’s more precious now than ever.
The snowman has melted away and my Grandfather is no longer here.
I want to keep this by my side for as long as possible.” Even as Erna shared her heartbreaking memory, she kept smiling.
Bjorn felt a little embarrassed, he could not expect Erna to throw the cookie jar away now and so simply nodded.
Eight years old.
The words lingered in his ears for quite some time.
He already knew Viscount Hardy’s ex-wife had died, but hearing how old Erna was at the time, filled him with melancholy.
Abandoned by her father, only to lose her mother soon after.
Come to think of it, she has had a pretty sad life.
Although she was saddened by her past, she rarely seemed to let it affect her as she always wore a smile.
“Oh, Bjorn, isn’t it time for you to leave? You said you had a meeting with the directors of the bank.”
“It’s fine, I might cancel,” Bjorn leaned back against his chair.
“Even if I did nothing, I feel you would happily busying yourself with making your flowers and feeding me.”
“No, don’t,” Erna got up and shook her head violently, “go, work hard and earn me lots more interest.”
Bjorn laughed, seeing the resolute ambition of his wife.
“Go, now, before I send for Mrs Fitz.”
Bjorn couldn’t stand the pressure from his wife and the horrid threats she was making.
As always, Erna escorted him out to his carriage.
Bjorn felt like she was making sure he was heading off to the meeting.
He had created a monster.
He had to use this to his advantage, teasing her with interest whenever he wanted her to do anything dirty.
“Bye,” Erna said.
Bjorn looked back at her from the carriage and saw a baby deer waving at him.
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