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Chapter 6 : The Letter
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"Could you come here for a minute, please?"
"Sure," Dezzy said, walking out to join her two sisters, who stood waiting for her in the corridor. "What do you need?"
"After talking with Clara, I think it would be all right for you and this Godric fellow to be friends," Addie said, unable to keep herself from sighing.
"Really?" Dezzy cried, shocked. Addie nodded. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!" Dezzy hugged each of her sisters, a large smile on her face.
"But you have to tell us before you go and see him. Otherwise we won't know where you are, and Bea and Ettie will start to imagine various scenarios in which you and Godric run off together and end up married with eight children," Addie warned, trying to maintain some pretense of being the stern eldest sibling.
"I promise to let you know before I go anywhere or have eight children with anyone," Dezzy said as seriously as she could, fighting to keep another grin from breaking out across her face.
"Good. Now we should all go and wash before dinner. Girls!" Addie called, walking back into the library followed by Clara and Dezzy. "Time for dinner. Let's all go and get ready."
"Do we have to? Father's not even here!" Ettie whined, giving her older sister a magnificent pout that Dezzy was sure she had practiced in the mirror.
"If you want dinner, then yes, you do," Addie said, a slight smirk on her face. Dezzy was a little surprised at Addie's snark, because it so rarely showed itself.
"Oh fine," Ettie sighed.
The girls marched out of the library, with Addie in the lead. Dezzy was about to follow when she remembered the letter from her father. Picking†it up from the table where it was sitting, she hurried to catch up to her sisters, unable to keep herself from smiling. Finally, for the first time in ages, her sisters had actually listened to her. Maybe now they would see that she could make her own decisions, and if they trusted her, maybe her father would, too.†
And then there was Godric. Her friend. She actually had a real friend, that wasn't one of her sisters, for the first time in her life! Usually, they had played with each other or the other palace children, but she had never really felt like she could be herself around the children of the kingdom's dukes and duchesses. And she was around her sisters so much that sometimes she just needed a break. She knew that they all did, and felt a twinge of guilt that she was the only one who could really get away, but that soon faded. Addie was too focused on trying to keep their sisters in order, Bea did as she pleased, even if it was against the rules, and Clara was content to be on her own, a book in hand. Ettie was following in Bea's wild footsteps, while Flora and Gertie were the best of friends, and didn't see the need to find anyone else to play with. And Holly, Isabella, Julianna, Katherine, and Lenora were young enough that they were happy being surrounded by their older sisters.
After the sisters reached their bedroom, Dezzy set her letter on her bedside table, and washed for dinner. The girls all ate together, along with Mistress Helga, who always ate with them when their father was away on Royal Business. It was a quiet meal until Isabella spoke up from the middle of the table.
"Dezzy, why didn't Addie want you to be friends with Godric?"
"Godric? Godric Gryffindor the stablehand?" Helga asked, raising her blonde eyebrows.
"I met him earlier, and we agreed to be friends. He was very kind to me," Dezzy said quietly, uncertain if the governess would scold her for it or not.
"Well, your father will not approve."
"Mistress Helga, please don't-"
"But," she interrupted, holding up her hand. "He can't disapprove if he doesn't know."
"You mean you aren't going to tell him?" Dezzy asked, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice, a grin stretching across her face.
"I know Godric Gryffindor, and he is a very honest and respectable man," Mistress Helga said matter of factly, smiling fondly at Dezzy.
"Thank you, Mistress Helga!" Dezzy said.
"You're quite welcome."
After dinner was finished, and the rest of her sisters went to one of the castle's sitting rooms to relax in front of the fire, Dezzy slipped upstairs to read the letter from her father. She sat down on her bed, and broke the seal, slowly unfolding the parchment.
As I am sure you and your sisters know, my time has been occupied with Royal Business, and I cannot be bothered every time Beatrice says something that upsets you. If you wish to speak with me, it will have to wait until after I return.†
Dezzy slowly set the letter back on her bedside table, and folded her hands in her lap. She stared at the green fabric of her dress, noticing a tiny hole in her sleeve that she hadn't realized was there. She stared at the porcelain skin that peeked through from underneath, which was only visible if you looked for it. She'd have to tell Lucetta about it so it could be mended.
Dezzy knew she should be sad, angry, or even shocked at the harshness of her father's letter, but she didn't feel any of those things. She knew that she should be reeling with shock from her father's words instead of thinking about something so mundane as a hole in her sleeve. In fact, she was anything but surprised at the letter, and that was what unnerved her the most.†
Daughters shouldn't expect this from their fathers, she thought. The words of her father's letter played in her head, and there was a heavy feeling in her stomach. She didn't cry, but had been hurt nonetheless.
Taking a deep breath, and collecting herself, Dezzy stood and walked purposefully down to join her sisters. They wouldn't be able to tell that anything was wrong if she could help it. Smiling, she opened the door to the sitting room, taking a seat in the empty chair by the window. Clara was seated on the couch, reading quietly to Flora, Gertie, and Isabella. Holly sat by Addie, her eyelids drooping. Bea and Ettie whispered and giggled in the corner, and Julianna, Katherine, and Lenora played on the rug in front of the fire.
It was during times like this that Dezzy loved her sisters more than anything. Despite all of their loud, crazy, and nosy days, Dezzy knew that they all loved each other, and she could always look to her sisters for help. After their mother had died and their father had shut them out, she had been sad and afraid. But sixteen year old Addie had told them that it would be all right. She had stepped up to act as a parent to the girls, and Bea had made them laugh, so they had felt a little better. They looked out for each other.
When the fire had burned down to red, glowing embers, Addie stood up, gently shaking Holly awake.
"I think it's time for bed. Come on."
Dezzy picked up Lenora, who had curled up in front of the fire and fallen asleep. When she got to their bedroom, she slipped her sister out of her dress and into a nightgown, then put her into bed. She changed out of her green dress, and pulled the pins out if her hair, letting it fall in waves down to her waist. After brushing through it, she was about to put it into a long braid when she heard Bea speak.
Dezzy turned to see Bea holding the letter from their father, her eyes scanning over the words he had written.
"Oh, it's nothing, I-" Dezzy started hastily, but was interrupted.
"How could he say this to you? Addie, Clara, come here."
"Bea, it's fine," Dezzy said, trying to calm her sister down before she brought any more attention to the letter in her hand. Dezzy just wanted to forget about it.
"No, it's not," Bea said, and looked at Dezzy with such fierce protection in her eyes that Dezzy felt a sudden rush of affection for her sister.
"What's wrong?" Clara asked quietly, walking over to them.
"Read this," Bea said, holding the letter to Addie and Clara.
Clara let out a soft gasp as she read the letter, and Addie's expression was hard, her dark eyebrows furrowed.
"Dez, is this the letter Godric brought you?" Bea asked.
"Yes. I read it after dinner, before I came to the sitting room, and forgot that I left it out," Dezzy said quietly, not looking any of her older sisters in the eye.
"Are you all right?" Addie asked.
"Of course she isn't all right! Father was perfectly nasty to her, and all she wanted to do was talk to him," Bea said angrily, and Dezzy could tell that she was working hard to keep her voice down, so the younger girls didn't hear.
"I'm fine. Frankly, I wasn't surprised, and that hurts more than anything else," Dezzy said.
"Oh, Dezzy," Clara said, gently hugging her sister, and kissing her forehead. "Would you like me to have someone bring you some tea?
"I- I think I'd just like to go to bed," Dezzy said, her voice unsteady.†
She gently pulled the letter from Addie's grasp and tossed it into the fire, watching the edges of the parchment turn black and curl in on themselves. The red wax melted, and soon the letter was nothing but ashes. Clara kissed Dezzy's forehead once more, her face creased with worry, before Dezzy bid her sisters goodnight and walked back to her bed. Pulling the blankets up to her chin, she stared into the fire until her eyes felt heavy and she fell asleep.
When the girls woke the next morning, a soft blanket of snow covered the ground. Big, fluffy snowflakes drifted down from the gray sky, and a fire was already crackling merrily in the grate. As she slipped out of bed, the cold floor turned Dezzy's toes to ice, and she quickly dressed to warm them up. Breakfast went on as usual, until a letter arrived for Addie. She opened it and quickly read through it, before calling for the attention of her sisters.
"I've just received word that we'll be having a guest to come and stay with us for a few months. Father's sister, our Aunt Rowena, will be arriving next week."
"We have an Aunt Rowena?" Ettie asked, looking up from her breakfast.
"The last time she was here, Clara had just been born. I can barely remember her. She is unmarried, and doesn't have any children, so if you would, try and make life easy for her. She won't be used to having twelve girls around," Addie instructed.
"If she's our aunt, why wasn't she at Mother's funeral?" Holly asked quietly. Smiles faded from the girls faces, and their laughter died off.
"I believe she was out of the country at†the time," Addie answered after a moment. "But I meant what I said about making her feel comfortable here. All right?" She pointedly looked at Bea and Ettie.
"Why are you looking at us? Would we ever do something to make our dear auntie feel unwelcome?" Bea asked, batting her eyelashes.
"Must I remind you of the time our Uncle Byron found one of his wigs floating in a bowl of punch?"
"That was an accident! And, anyway, Great-aunt Eudora found it funny!" Bea countered.
"Great-aunt Eudora was ninety-six, going deaf, and found everything funny," Addie said drily. "The point is no pulling any tricks while Aunt Rowena is here, all right?"
"Not even a little fun?"
"Yes, Adella, you have my word that everything will be perfectly dull while Aunt Rowena is staying with us," Bea sighed.
The girls turned back to their breakfasts, and thought about this mysterious aunt who was coming to stay as they finished eating. They had just stood to leave the dining room when a voice floated down the table towards Addie.
"Addie? Could we go outside in the snow?" Isabella asked.
"Oh, yes! Pwease could we?" Katherine echoed before Addie had even had time to answer.
"All right. But Kitty, you must keep your gloves on this time," Addie said.
The girls scrambled from the table, put on their cloaks, gloves, mufflers, and scarves, ran outside into the steadily falling snow. The girls skipped about, making a dozens of little footprints across the white grounds. Soon, a snowball fight broke out, and the girls laughed, throwing snow every which way. When fingers and toes were much too cold to stay outside any longer, the girls returned to the castle for hot chocolate, so they could warm themselves by the fire. And through all of it, Dezzy didn't think about the letter from her father. Not even once.†
Author's Note: I hope you all enjoyed this chapter! I liked that it ended on a happier note after I made poor Dezzy so miserable. I also want to thank Gabriella Hunter, luvdobby26, and titch95 for their support! They really helped me get this story where it is.
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