“If we were to reunite, Lechen’s public opinion of Bjorn would turn around and he would be allowed to retake his position as the Crown Prince.
There is no one in the world that is more deserving of the position and I know that is what the people of Lechen really want, because they still love him.
They watch him and hate him for the things he is doing.
That is the reason I so fervently wanted our reunion,” Gladys said, with cold and contemplative eyes.

   “Why are you telling me this?” Erna asked.

   “I don’t know, maybe to help you understand what I am trying to achieve.”

   Bjorn would have known, if he had listened to her a little more, that she never cheated on him, not once.
She had already been pregnant when they got married.
They wouldn’t be broken and they could still shine brightly.

   “Since he has married again, all this is has been in vain, it would seem the Grand Duchess is able to give Bjorn something I never could.” Gladys narrowed the distance to Erna with small, thoughtful steps.
Erna’s eyes were red and blinked rapidly.
Finally, she felt like she had pulled herself out of the mud.

   “I don’t believe you would be using such a great man for something as trivial as paying off your families debts and raising your status.” Gladys continued.

   I hope this woman gets hurt. Gladys thought.

   Gladys hated herself for being so vindictive, but she wished it all the same.
Even if she couldn’t have the seat next to Bjorn again, at least don’t let it be this woman.

   “So, lets just…”

   “Princess,” Erna cut Gladys off, “there is something I want to ask you.”

   “What’s that?” Gladys said, turning to face Erna.

   “I know that a woman should not speak of any man but her husband,” Erna looked directly at Gladys.

   Erna wasn’t sure what was best, even after thinking on it for so long, but one thing was clear.
As it was, she couldn’t live in the shadow of the Princess for the rest of her life.
Erna realised that much and somehow, in this unfamiliar world, she had to make a place for herself.
She couldn’t live as she had, when she dreamed of returning to Buford after only a year.

   “I understand that Lechen and Lars hold different standards of etiquette, but I would like the Princess to follow after Lechen.”

   “I beg your pardon?” Gladys’ eyes narrowed at Erna.

   “And Princess, I didn’t know Bjorn from when he was a Crown Prince.
Buford is a pretty remote place, it takes awhile for news to come in.
The first I saw of Bjorn was when I came in from the outside, that was my first impression of Bjorn and that will be the way I will always see him,” Erna stood straight and calmed her disturbed breathing.
“I am well aware that I can not offer anything to my husband but family debt, but you see, Bjorn chose me, so I have to believe that there is something I can offer him, something that he sees.
So I am going to do my best for the Bjorn I know.”

   “You’re really going to stand up to me now, Grand Duchess?”

   “No, I am just speaking honestly, from the heart,” 

Erna looked away and Gladys followed her gaze to the flower bed.
“I appreciate your offer of the pink Lilies, but I too like the white ones,” Erna could feel her glove hands getting cold, “and I will not be reducing the ornamentation of my hat, because it’s pretty enough as it is and Bjorn likes it,” Erna’s voice was as clear as the autumn sky.

   “Grand Duchess,” Gladys said, as Erna turned to leave, “you really think you know your husband? You have no idea what a cruel and terrible man Bjorn Dniester really is.”

   Gladys’ perfectly pale face was flush red with anger.
Erna turned to look at the Princess and cocked her head slightly as if considering, or thinking.

   “If Bjorn was such a cruel and terrible man, why do you want him back so bad, Princess?”

   Gladys had no reply and just stood there before Erna, as she bowed politely.
Leaving Gladys standing alone in the greenhouse, biting her trembling lip.
Flowers, ribbons and delicate lace decorations around the young woman’s bodice swayed as she walked away, flapping like the wings of a butterfly, flying over the greenhouse.




“Stop, stop the wagon.” The shouts of a maid called out.

   As soon as the startled coachman stopped the carriage, Erna and her maid burst out and made their way to the neatly trimmed grass.
The coachman didn’t know what was going on, until Erna fell to her knees and started throwing up into the bushes.

   “Water, fetch water,” the maid called back to the coachman.

   He jumped down from the drivers seat with a canteen in hand.
The maid snatched it up and gave it to Erna, who didn’t get back to her feet until she had rinsed her mouth out several times.

   “Please drive carefully, I feel like I am on a cloud.” Erna said, climbing back into the carriage.

   The coachman nodded obediently and took up the reigns again, urging the horses to go careful and slow back to the palace.

   Lisa propped a pillow for Erna and watched the scenery slowly drift by.
As warmth came back to her hands and feet, Erna felt a little better.

   “Are you alright?” Lisa asked.

   Ever since the she had tea with the Princess of Lars, Erna’s complexion had looked pale and was deteriorating all the time.

   “Lisa, I…I don’t know what’s going on,” Erna muttered.

   “It’s this place, Your Highness, everyone in the royal family is crazy.
If we go crazy, we can do it together, it’ll be more pleasant that way.” Lisa said, adding another cushion.

   Lisa didn’t know what happened in the greenhouse, but Erna must have done the right thing.
It’s not wrong to bite back at the dogs of Lars, even as they try to nip at your ankles.

   “I believe the head maid is conspiring with the Princess.
If not, then this really is a messy coincidence,” Lisa said, her eyes looking at Erna with ponderous thought.
“You can’t wait, you must let His Highness know right away.”

   “No, Lisa,” Erna said with a shake of her head, “What happened at the lakeside must remain a secret, please,” taking up Lisa’s hand, Erna pleaded with her maid.

   “Aren’t you upset?”

   “I’m upset.”

   “Then why…”

   “Because I am so upset.”

   Lisa didn’t understand, she thought that if you were upset and it was caused by someone else, then you have to fight, even if it meant rolling around in the mud, pulling your hair out, you have to fight and fight to win.
But Lisa couldn’t go against Erna, not when the woman looked at her with the big, blue eyes.

   “Thank you, Lisa.”

   Lisa returned Erna’s smile and looked out the window.
Not too far away she could see Manster Palace come into view.
The Lars villa she so desperately wanted to get away from.




Karen paced about the palace halls with an unusually jittery gait.
She was powerless to do anything to help the Princess and she couldn’t stand still knowing the Grand Duchess would be back soon.

   Bjorn never raised his voice, not once, he didn’t even show the slightest hint of anger and somehow, that made it worse.

   Bjorn had looked at her for so long, in absolute silence, until he touched Erna’s notebook and suddenly Karen lost all composure and collapsed. 

   Karen knew what was in that notebook, she had been by the Grand Duchess’ side whenever she wrote in it, which is why she knew what Bjorn was pointing at.

   It was always difficult to conduct any social gatherings without the influence of Princess Gladys and the royal family as a whole.
Their family was so interlaced within Lars, it was difficult not to create a few rifts between acquaintances.
Karen had left out all those details, of course, because she wanted the Grand Duchess to be left outside, on her own.

   Bjorn picked up the notebook and flicked the pages casually, “of these two, which one is better?” he put it down again as if he had been considering the menu.

   “I’m sorry, your highness, I wasn’t good enough,” Karen pleaded.

   Bjorn leaned forward over his desk and steepled his fingers before his chin.
Unwilling to raise her head, Karen stared down at the floor.

   “Fetch me a cup of tea please,” was all he said.

   They had been standing in the Grand Duchess’ bedroom for a long time, she left without a word and when she got out into the hallway, she slumped onto the floor.
She was numb and thought that if she was to ever be in that situation again, she would not be so lucky.

   Just as the sunlight started to turn red, the Grand Duchess returned.
Hearing the horse hoofs, Karen ran to the front door.
Erna looked at her as she climbed out of the carriage.

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