Chapter 7 : The Arrival
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There were twelve of them now. Why anyone would want twelve children, Rowena didn't know, but nevertheless, she could see that he needed her help to educate the girls. He had also informed her that his eldest, Adella, was nineteen, and that there were three other girls also of age, one having recently turned sixteen, and that none of them were married! She had left at once, knowing that her brother was in desperate need of her help. And the girls, too, of course! Who knew what they were like?
Rowena had never really liked children, and wasn't sure how she felt about seeing her nieces again. She remembered the last time she had seen them, and the second eldest, Beatrice, had buried one of her favorite brooches in a potted plant! She had never much cared for Beatrice after that. She had never met any of the girls younger than Clara, and was curious to see them, despite the fact that they could very well be as wild as Beatrice, who behaved more like a colt than a princess. So Rowena's bags were packed, her carriage called for her, and she left her estate for the castle where her nieces awaited.
"Desiya, you mustn't keep foolin' with your 'air. The pins 'ave to stay put, because you'll be in a right state if they move," Lucetta said, as Dezzy reached to touch one of the many pins keeping her auburn locks in place.
Aunt Rowena would be arriving soon, just in time for dinner, and the girls were all to be in formal attire for the event. Dezzy's deep purple gown and long, white gloves were laid out on her bed, and Lucetta had just finished with her hair.
"You're right, I'm sorry. I'm just nervous," Dezzy sighed.
"What for?" Lucetta asked, as she moved to help Holly get dressed. "You're all lovely. She would 'ave to be out of 'er wits not to like you. And, besides, she's your aunt. There's somethin' special there when you're dealin' with family."
Lucetta often gave the girls advice, and they all saw her as a friend and trusted confidante. Dezzy knew that she wouldn't tell them anything that wasn't true, so she tried to tell herself that Lucetta was right, and that her aunt would like them.
"I hope so," she sighed.
"Come on Dez, cheer up. You worry too much. It'll be fine," Bea said.
"How do you know? No one remembers her, so we don't know if she'll like us," Ettie said.
"Lucetta's right. She'll have to be crazy not to love you," Clara said, kissing Kitty's head and picking up Lenora.
"And we have to see her regardless, so you should warm up to the idea of our aunt being around for a while," Addie said, pulling on her gloves.
"Addie, you can cheer a girl up better than anyone else I know," Bea said with a cheeky grin at her sister.
"Please just finish getting ready. We have to be waiting when Aunt Rowena arrives," Addie said, turning to make sure the little girls were all dressed.
"All right, all right," Bea said, turning so Clara could button up the back of her teal gown.
Lucetta moved on from Dezzy to Clara, but Dezzy wasn't alone long. Ettie quickly took Lucetta's place, looking at her older sister with curiosity in her eyes.
"So Dezzy, have you heard anything from Godric recently?" she asked quietly, so only Dezzy could hear her.
"I talked to him yesterday," Dezzy replied as they moved to a more private corner of the room.
"And?" Ettie pressed.
"Oh, come on. You have to tell me more than that! Don't you want to share your deepest secrets with your darling little sister?" Ettie asked, batting her eyelashes.
"Not if I want my deepest secrets safe from being spread all over the kingdom," Dezzy said, raising her auburn eyebrows at her sister with a smirk.
"Please tell me! Please, oh please!" Ettie begged, taking Dezzy's hands in hers.
"Fine, I'll tell!" Dezzy said with a laugh. "We walked through the pathways in the West garden and sat on one of the benches there. And then we just talked for a while."
"What did you talk about? Did he confess his undying love for you? Are you going to run away together? Have you realized you're madly in love with him?" Ettie asked eagerly.
"Stop being so dramatic!" Dezzy said, making Ettie stick her tongue out at her in response. "We just talked about ordinary, every day things. I told him how I love dancing, and we talked about a few of our favorite dances. He told me that when he still lived at home, he used to dance around with his younger sisters."
"He has sisters?"
"Three younger sisters and two younger brothers," Dezzy said, trying to picture what they might look like in her mind.
"Do they live in the village?" Ettie asked.
"No, they live in the forest that borders it. Godric's father is a carpenter, and they live in the woods so he doesn't have to travel to get the wood he needs. Godric is the only one of his family who lives away from home."
"But when does he get to see them?" Ettie asked, her blonde eyebrows furrowing. She had never been away from her family, and couldn't imagine living somewhere where she didn't see her sisters all the time.
"He gets to go home once during the summer and once at Christmas," Dezzy said quietly.
"Only twice a year?" Ettie asked, her voice coming out just above a whisper. "That's so sad."
"He's tried to tell them that he can find other work in the village, and see them more often, but his mother won't hear of it. She's so proud of him for working in the palace," Dezzy said. She smiled a bit when she recalled the grin on Godric's face when he had spoken of his mother.
"Girls, what are you doing'? Your aunt will be 'ere soon! Go on downstairs," Lucetta said, shooing the pair of sisters out of their bedroom.
They walked quickly through the palace to join their sisters, who were waiting by the main entrance to the castle. Dezzy could see that her sisters were just as nervous as she was; they were all fidgeting, fixing wrinkles in their gowns, or playing with their jewelry.
Bea, on the other hand, looked perfectly calm, which worried Dezzy a little. Who knew what her sister could be plotting for their aunt's arrival? Dezzy hoped beyond hope that meeting her distant Aunt Rowena would go smoothly, and took a deep breath to calm her nerves. The last thing they needed was for the evening to turn into a disaster. Their aunt would get a very bad first impression of them if that happened, and she would most certainly inform the King. It was in all of the sisters' best interests that their aunt like them.
Suddenly, the butterflies in Dezzy's stomach magnified tenfold as she heard a carriage bumping up to the castle. She let out a quiet gasp when four magnificent, black horses came into view, pulling a large, dark carriage behind them. If her aunt was trying to make an intimidating entrance, she was succeeding.
"All right girls, this is her. Remember to be polite!" Addie said, as she stepped forward to greet their aunt.
A footman came and hurriedly opened the carriage door, bowing as Lady Rowena Ravenclaw stepped out before them. She was dressed in a high-necked, black gown, with dark lace adorning the sleeves. Without realizing, the girls took a step back, feeling timid, and a bit in awe of their aunt. Addie came to first, taking a few quick strides to close the gap between herself and Aunt Rowena.
"Aunt Rowena, it is a pleasure to have you here. Please, come inside and get out of the cold," she said. Dezzy admired her for looking so calm.
"Thank you," Rowena answered, giving Addie a curt nod.
The girls tried not to gape as they followed after her long strides back inside the castle, where a maid was waiting to take their aunt's cloak.
"Now, I suppose we should introduce ourselves, seeing as it has been quite a while," Addie said, as the girls lined up behind her, still silent.
"Yes. I remember you, Adella, and this must be Beatrice?" Rowena said, trying to hold back a sneer as she adressed her second eldest niece.
"Hello, Aunt. It's certainly been a long time since we've seen each other, eh?" Bea said, flashing Rowena a cheeky grin. Dezzy cringed a bit at Bea's boldness, and knew that she couldn't be the only one.
"Yes, it has. And I see you've not changed much," Rowena said in clipped tones before moving down the line.
"I'm Clara. It's lovely to meet you," Clara said, before Bea could say something that would get her into trouble.
Rowena nodded at her niece, silently appraising her petite figure that was fuller than her sisters', her blonde hair, and shining green eyes. Dezzy couldn't read her aunt's expression, and hoped that she didn't dislike them already. Dezzy's heart sped up a bit as Rowena stepped in front of her, her blue eyes sharp.
"Hello, Aunt Rowena. I'm Desiya," Dezzy said quietly, clasping her gloved hands behind her back.
"Desiya. I understand that you're now of age?" Rowena questioned, looking her niece up and down.
"Yes, I turned sixteen a month ago."
"And have you had any suitors come calling for you?" Rowena asked, meeting Dezzy's eyes.
"No, not yet," Dezzy said, her cheeks turning pink in spite of herself.
Dezzy saw her aunt's dark eyebrows raise, but she didn't say anything more to Dezzy as she moved down the line to her younger sisters to finish her introductions. Soon, they were walking to the grand dining room for dinner, where Rowena took the place at the head of the table.
Dezzy was quiet during the meal, and observed how her aunt interacted with her sisters. She silently cringed whenever Bea said something out of turn, but thankfully, she was saved by Addie or Clara each time. Dezzy wasn't sure what she thought of her Aunt Rowena, and hoped that she just seemed cold because she wasn't used to the girls yet.
After they finished their dinner, Rowena said she wished to go to her bedroom, because she was tired from her journey; Addie graciously showed her out of the dining room, while the rest of the sisters waited for her to return. After a few moments, Addie came back, telling them that their aunt was staying in the East wing of the castle, and that they were not to bother her, or make too much noise if they were somewhere in the castle where she could hear them. It was with those warnings that the girls quietly slipped away to their room where they burst out in conversation as soon as the door closed.
"Did you see her face when I asked her if she remembered the time I buried that hideous brooch in one of the plants in the ballroom?" Bea asked, laughing.
"That wasn't funny! Really, Beatrice, you're going to make our aunt die of shock before the week is out!" Addie cried.
"Well then, Adella," Bea said with a smirk, "If that's the case then hope I shock her with something good!"
"Oh, you're insufferable!" Addie said, rolling her eyes.
"Why, thank you," Bea said, with a grand, exaggerated bow.
"What did you think of her, Dezzy?" Clara asked, bringing the attention away from Bea and Addie before they really started to argue.
"She seemed..." Dezzy trailed off.
"A bit aloof?" Clara suggested.
"Yes, that's it. But maybe she just hasn't had a chance to warm up to us yet. It has to be a bit much being thrust into a family of twelve girls," Dezzy said, trying to see things from her aunt's perspective.
"I hope so. If she's this snotty the whole time, I'll be miserable!" Ettie cried, flopping back on her bed.
"Ettie! You can't call our aunt snotty!" Clara said, poking her sister's side and making her laugh.
"Then can I call her haughty?"
"Oh shush. What are we going to do with you?" Clara shook her head, but laughed nonetheless. They were all used to Ettie's outgoing, dramatic nature.
"You know you all adore me! I make your lives interesting!" Ettie said with a grin, her eyes sparkling.
"That is true," Dezzy laughed, looking at her younger sister fondly.
"You aren't going to tell Aunt Rowena about Godric, are you, Dez?" Bea asked, coming to plop next to Dezzy on her bed.
"Of course not!" Dezzy replied, her stomach twisted a bit at the thought. "How do you think she'd react if she found out I've been spending my time with one of our stable hands?"
"I thought you said you didn't think of him like that," Bea said, a smirk pulling at her mouth.
"And when was this?" Dezzy asked, feigning innocence.
"You're telling me you don't remember? Godric, I hope you know that I don't think of you as just a stable hand," Bea said, fluttering her eyelashes as she did a perfect imitation of Dezzy.
"You make me sound like a lovesick puppy!" Dezzy cried, trying to look offended even though she found her sister's imitation quite funny. "How long were you eavesdropping, anyway?"
"Long enough to know that he didn't give father's letter to Lucetta so he'd have an excuse to see you," Bea said, wiggling her eyebrows mischievously.
"I should have guessed you'd follow me!" Dezzy laughed.
"Did you know she went on a walk through the gardens with him?" Ettie piped up.
"Ettie!" Dezzy said, indignant. She frowned at her sister, even though she should have expected Ettie to reveal what they had talked about earlier in the evening.
"What?" Ettie said. "It's so romantic!"
"Just go get ready for bed!" Dezzy said, sticking her tongue out at her sister.
"Actually, we all should be getting ready for bed. So no more talk of Dezzy and Godric," Addie said, raising her voice a bit to be heard above the chatter in the room.
"But it's so much fun!" Bea said, shooting Addie a pout.
"You can talk as much as you want tomorrow," Addie said. "If you get started now, you'll never get to bed, and then you'll all be cranky tomorrow because you didn't get enough sleep."
"Oh, fine!" Bea said, knowing that it wouldn't do her any good to try and protest.
"Addie?" Dezzy asked, as her sisters moved around the room getting ready for bed.
"Do you think we could maybe go dancing tomorrow night? It's been a fortnight since we've been to the pavilion," Dezzy asked hesitantly, worried that her sister would say no.
Addie thought for a moment before answering. "I supposed that would help get some energy out of Bea. All right. If Aunt Rowena goes to bed early again, we can go."
"Thank you!" Dezzy said, a grin spreading across her face.
"You're welcome. Now go to bed before I change my mind," Addie teased, giving Dezzy a tiny smile.
Dezzy kissed her sister's cheek, then went to change out of her dress. Even if her aunt wasn't as friendly as she would have liked, Dezzy now had something to look forward to. They would get to dance again! That, at least, would make even the worst day bearable.
Author's Note: Hi everybody! I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and the arrival of Aunt Rowena! We now have all four Founders in the story! I'd really appreciate any thoughts you had on the chapter, so please leave a review in the box below. Thanks for reading!
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