The Problematic Prince
“It’s okay, I can eat dinner by myself.” Erna thought.
The servants, who had been waiting forever, were relieved to hear they could finally set the table for dinner.
They had been waiting patiently forever, not being allowed to wake up Bjorn, or get Erna to wait.
“Thank you, it looks lovely.” Erna said.
She was being genuine, as the table was set in the solarium, the table the maids made up really did look lovely.
From the ornate centrepiece of woven flowers, to the delicate lace table cloth and silver candlestick holders with engraved swirls.
She had never thought she would be able to enjoy such luxury on a ship.
She also didn’t expect to spend the first days of her honeymoon as a loner.
Erna ate the food presented to her slowly.
She wasn’t hungry, but the servants had put a lot of effort into this and she didn’t want it to go to waste.
She had spent the day touring the cruise ship with Lisa.
They drank tea, walked the decks and spent time in the casino.
It was a pleasant enough time, but it would have been better if Bjorn had not shunned her and violated by prosecutors.
She thought it would have been better in the evening, but when she got back to her room and got changed for dinner, Bjorn was still asleep.
Erna chewed her food and swallowed, looking about the room timidly as she did so.
The room filled with the warm light of the fireplace, which only made the palm trees look gloomy and ominous.
The solarium felt as vast and empty as the ocean outside her window.
She wished the cutlery didn’t clank so much, drawing attention to the pathetic young girl eating alone.
After getting married, Erna spent most of her dinners alone over the last fifteen days.
She attributed that to Bjorn just being too busy, but now they were on their honeymoon, nothing changed.
At times, it felt like she was the only person in the world, filling up grand halls with her tiny presence.
Starting up conversations with the servants was like talking to herself, they would nod and shuffle away as soon as they could.
So she did start muttering to herself.
The palace was so vast and empty, now the boat was vast and empty.
Yes, there were people around, but they rarely gave her a second glance.
They retreated to shadowy corners to talk about her behind their fans and flat palms.
Can I ever be happy? Erna thought to her self, staring down at the food on her plate.
Taking a deep breath, Erna slipped a small cut of meat between her trembling lips.
“Its been awhile Bjorn.” Gladys had said, after calling his name across the deck.
It came again, to Erna’s mind, trying to block out the echoing sound of busy cutlery.
“Call my name,” Bjorn had said on their first night.
They had been a couple, a fact that Erna already knew, scratched her heart again.
For her, Bjorn had been her first, but she was Bjorn’s second.
The feeling crept into her chest like a chill.
There was also her husbands nonchalant attitude.
It was a sad understanding to realise nothing excited him, there was no feelings of anticipation.
It felt like all of this was some boring repetition for him.
A dance played out a hundred times a day.
Erna put down the cutlery and pressed the heels of her palms into her hot eyes.
She felt weakened by unfamiliar surroundings, but even the mansion was unfamiliar to her.
At least there she didn’t feel the desolate loneliness/
How long am I going to last?
Erna knew very well that people made bets against her like that.
There were many mouths back at the palace, each voice she tried to block out, but they always reached her.
Don’t let yourself be swayed by careless gossip.
Just do your best to be a good wife.
She strengthened her resolve and made the same commitment each time, but in reality, how can the eternal second be happy?
“Don’t cry,” Erna whispered to herself.
“It’s not like you didn’t know, so don’t be silly.”
She downed the glass of water and picked up her cutlery again.
With renewed poise, Erna ate up the last of the food on her plate.
When she was hungry her mind was weak, and a weak mind is prone to bad thoughts, and bad thoughts brought unhappiness.
So the best thing she could do right now is eat well.
She stabbed the fork deep into the meat and cut a square as large as her will.
She had stuffed it halfway into her mouth when a figure appeared at the door.
“Good evening, Erna.”
He’s awake… She couldn’t talk, her mouth was more than full.
Erna grabbed her napkin and made as if to wipe sauce from her face, but disgorged the oversized bite into the cloth.
“Don’t be embarrassed, the food here is pretty good,” Bjorn said.
“But I will not soon forget what a big mouth you have.” He cast the words with a sly smile.
Erna’s expression darkened and she finished wiping her lips and wrapped the meat up in the napkin.
She turned to Bjorn, straight backed.
“Well, it would not have happened if you kept to the meal times.” Erna said.
“Are you angry with me?” Bjorn said, eye brow cocked.
“A little bit.” Erna said, she suddenly felt small under his gaze.
“Then why didn’t you wake me up?” Bjorn responded as if he was the wounded party in this conversation.
“It…is it okay to wake you?” Erna said
When Bjorn had finally woken up, he noticed that it was already past nine.
He figured Erna had forgotten their dinner date, so took a lazy shower to wash away the sleep and went to the lounge.
Only to find his wife sat having dinner by herself.
Stuffing half a steak into her mouth like some ravenous beast.
You wont be thrown in jail for waking me for our dinner date.” Bjorn laughed.
Bjorn sat in his chair and food was hastily placed in front of him.
He smiled at his wife and began to eat slowly.
Erna watched him Bjorn like a hawk and resumed her meal as Bjorn did.
Bjorn couldn’t help but think how cute she looked, making delicately small cuts.
They began talking as naturally as if they had been talking the whole day away.
At first, Erna was still a little heated, making remarks like she was still trying to express her unresolved anger, but she quickly fell into her usual manner and they spoke as if considering their usual, daily routine, like a chirruping bird.
“Is this your first time on a boat?” Bjorn said, a smile on his lips as he listened to Erna talk about her exploration of the cruise ship.
“No, second.” She replied, pausing as she was putting peas in her mouth.
“Yes, the first time was when we were on the lake, remember.” Erna said, finally managing to get the peas into her mouth.
Not realising it wasn’t a joke, Bjorn burst out laughing.
It was always like that.
Erna could always make people laugh without trying, or even meaning too.
The light in the room got brighter and the gloomy shadows retreated to the corners.
It didn’t feel so vast and empty any more.
Bjorn laughed until his cheeks tingled and rang the small bell to call the attendant.
Soon after, a servant came in with a bottle of wine.
As he watched the dark liquid fill the glass, he was reminded of Gladys.
Their honeymoon had been much different.
She spent most of the time crying or engrossed in other things, while he was busy working.
Even as they sat together for dinner, there was not much interaction, like a wall was put up between them.
They had not shared a single decent conversation through the whole course of their honeymoon.
Not like this.
The servant finished pouring his wine and moved around the table to fill Erna’s glass.
Just as he tipped the bottle, Bjorn stopped him.
“No, do not fill my wife’s glass.” He ordered.
“Why, I can have a drink too.” Erna said, frowning at Bjorn.
“I know.” Bjorn said.
“You have to study.”
“Oh, oh my.”
Bjorn slowly emptied his glass as he looked at Erna.
Even if she was irritable, he could no longer think of Gladys when he was with her.
He could now see why he had never visited Erna for the last two weeks.
“Why are you looking at me like that? You asked me to teach you, right?” Bjorn said, filling his glass himself.
“Yes, but…” Erna looked at her plate with impatience.
All that was left was some peas and a potato.
If she knew this was going to happen, she would not have eaten so much, so fast.
“Are you finished eating?”
Bjorn leaned back in his chair with the wine glass.
Erna’s cheeks went a peach colour that reminded Bjorn of that first night.
“Wait, I need to wash first,” Erna said sternly.
“Then go and wash.” Bjorn said, sipping at the wine.
The glass was already empty again.
“No, I mean, I need to take a shower.”
Bjorn put down the empty glass and made to stand up, but Erna urgently begged.
Bjorn’s forehead wrinkled as he looked at the confusing mess of his wife, she had enticed him on and now wanted to run away?
“Please, I need some time.” Erna said.
“I just finished eating.”
“So…what if I…throw up.” Erna looked ashamed.
It was a remark that hurt his pride.
She felt like vomiting when they made love? Bjorn tried to laugh it off, thinking he understood a little better after realising Erna’s small frame and the empty plate.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Bjorn poured another glass of wine.
“That would be awkward.”
He winked at her and Erna got up.
He couldn’t help but chuckle to himself as he watched her leave the solarium and buy herself some time, so she didn’t throw up.
It seemed like the start of a not so bad honeymoon.
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