Chapter 9 : The Cottage
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The next morning arrived much too quickly, and Dezzy yawned as Lucetta pulled open the heavy drapes that blocked the sunlight out of the girls' bedroom. She sat up, the long auburn braid of her hair tickling her back. Her hazel eyes were still foggy with sleep, and she saw many of her sisters in a similar state. Addie was up and dressed, and Lenora was also wide awake, her small, five-year old feet pattering across the floor. She ran up to Dezzy and pulled on her sleeve, urging her to get out of bed.
"Good morning, Lena," Dezzy said, giving her sister a kiss.
Lenora hugged her back, but said nothing. She was just beginning to speak when the girls' mother died, and once their mother was gone, she stopped talking. It had worried the King at first, and every doctor from their kingdom and all the kingdoms surrounding them had come to see the youngest princess. They all said the same thing. Nothing was wrong, and the princess would speak when she was ready. Dezzy hoped that her sister was still holding onto that, and that nothing was really wrong. She had faint memories of her littlest sister's voice, but she knew that it would never be the same as hearing Lenora speak.
As she tugged on Dezzy's sleeve again, Lenora giggled and ran across the room, clambering on top of Bea's blankets and trying to chase the sleep away from her.
"Good morning to you too," Bea groaned.
"Come on girls, we've got to be on time for breakfast with Aunt Rowena," Addie said, as the sisters slowly started to wake up and get out of bed.
"We have breakfast with her, too?" Ettie cried from where she was standing by her bed, brushing her blonde locks.
"Of course we do! Did you expect her to stay locked in her room the whole time?"
"No, but I hoped she would," Ettie grumbled.
"Ettie Georgiana Ravenclaw! You have to start being nicer to Aunt Rowena, because she isn't going anywhere, and you'll just have to get used to that," Addie scolded.
"Fine, fine! But I still don't like her."
Addie shot her sister another stern look, and continued to help the younger girls get ready for the day. Dezzy saw that it had snowed during the night, and shivered, longing for the warmth of her bed. Pulling on a warm dark gray frock and her black boots, Dezzy walked to the mirror where she started brushing through the auburn curls that went down to her waist. Lucetta quickly braided and piled Dezzy's hair in top of her head, and then she expertly stuck pins where they needed to go to keep Dezzy's hair in place. As soon as everyone was ready, Addie and Clara led the way down to breakfast. They sat down in their usual seats, and waited for their aunt, who had not come down yet.
When she was sure no one was looking, Dezzy moved her toes in the path of the Lover's Knot, because she wanted to make sure she had every step memorized before meeting Salazar again. She thought about how she could pass the day until they could return to the pavilion. The hours always seemed to stretch on and on, and Dezzy would find herself thinking of his hand on her back, or the way he seemed to have a special bond with her, and danced with her more than any of her sisters. Mistress Helga had even caught her sketching a picture of him during one of their drawing lessons. She had praised the drawing, and remarked on how strange the color of his eyes were, for Dezzy had almost captured the enticing yellow-green of his irises.†
As the door to the dining room opened, Dezzy stopped her feet and stood, welcoming her aunt. The girls curtsied, and said, "Good morning, Aunt Rowena." before sitting down to be served their breakfast.†
"Do you feel more rested, Aunt?" Clara asked, her voice quiet and gentle.
"Yes, thank you."
"And everything has been to your liking?" Addie asked.
"Everything is satisfactory. Girls," she said, getting their attention. "I have received a letter from your father. He says that he shall be returning home in a fortnight, and in the meantime, I am to begin training you to behave like proper princesses."
"But that's Mistress Helga's job!" Ettie cried from her seat.
Rowena shot her a dark look before continuing. "Well, evidently Mistress Helga has not been doing her job properly. Either that or you girls are showing a serious lack of progress that can only come from not paying attention during lessons."
Dezzy found herself blushing, but the embarrassment was soon replaced by anger and annoyance. She knew that they all payed attention during lessons, and that Mistress Helga was kind and a good teacher. She had the patience to deal with twelve girls and had never once lost her temper. She was a sweet woman with a gentle nature, much like Clara's, and had been good friends with Dezzy's mother. Helga had taken care of the girls after the Queen died, while their father shut himself away to grieve. She was very close to all of them, and each and every single Ravenclaw sister loved her dearly.
"Excuse me, Aunt Rowena, may I say something?" Dezzy asked quietly.
"Speak up girl, I can't hear you if you mumble!"
"I have something to say," Dezzy said, louder this time.
"Well, what is it?"
"Aunt Rowena, I know my father asked you to teach us to be ladies, but Mistress Helga is a good teacher, too. If you taught us skills we need such as etiquette and how to speak properly, Mistress Helga could continue our drawing and history lessons."
There was a pause, and Dezzy held her breath until her aunt spoke again.
"Very well. But if I see no improvement, you shall have all your lessons with me. We shall begin tomorrow morning after breakfast, and I expect you to be on time."
"Yes, Aunt Rowena. Thank you."
The girls finished their breakfast in silence, and many of them kept their eyes trained on their laps, as if they were afraid that their aunt would snap at them if she caught them focusing on anything but their meal. Dezzy tried to eat with as much grace as she could, and would cringe every time she heard a slurp. And she was sure that Ettie dropped her fork on purpose, and Dezzy's face heated up as the sound of metal hitting the floor echoed throughout the†room. When the meal finally ended, and the girls curtsied to Aunt Rowena, who then excused herself, Dezzy breathed a sigh of relief. She decided it was time for a break, and as soon as she could, she put on her warmest cloak and went to the stables.
"Godric? Are you here?" she called.
"Hello, Dezzy!" he said, coming out from one of the horse's stalls. "How are you?"
"I'm fine," she said, trying not to think about that morning.
"No you aren't," Godric said, smirking.
Dezzy sighed, "You're right. I'm not fine."
"And why not? What's happened since we last talked? You never did tell me what your father's letter said."
"His letter was... well, it wasn't surprising," she said, shifting uncomfortably.
"You don't have to tell me, Dezzy."
"No, it's alright. I want to tell you. It's not like I have anyone else to tell, is it?" she said. As she spoke, a gust of wind blew through the stable and Dezzy shivered, pulling her cloak tighter around herself.
"You must be freezing! I'm sorry I was such a dolt and didn't ask you to come inside. Come on," Godric said, taking her hand and pulling her after him.
"Inside? Where are we going?"
"My house, of course. You didn't think I lived in the stables, did you? I'm not that far beneath you, Princess Desiya."
"I never said-" she started, but cut off when she realized he was teasing her. "Well, then I graciously accept your invitation to your charming abode, Sir Godric."
"And here we are. Home sweet home."
Dezzy smiled at the sight of his house. Godric lived in a small cottage behind the stables. It had shutters that were painted blue, and an old stone chimney that Dezzy could picture with smoke puffing from the top, and the whole house was frosted with snow, making it look like the houses Dezzy and her sisters made out of gingerbread.†
"It's lovely," she said, grinning at him.
"I try and keep it looking decent. I do live on the palace grounds, you know," he said, as he welcomed her inside.
The inside of Godric's cottage was cozy, with a few wooden chairs around a small table, a homemade rug on the floor, and a large fireplace. A faded green armchair sat by the fire, and Dezzy could see a few books sitting on the floor next to it. Godric immediately got to work lighting a fire, and soon the whole room was bathed in golden light, and Dezzy felt the warmth of the fire wash over her.
"I'll get some water on for tea," Godric said, disappearing for a moment, and returning with an old kettle in his hands.
"Thank you for this," Dezzy said, sitting in one of the wooden chairs.
"Would you rather sit here?" Godric asked, gesturing to the cushioned armchair. "It's probably more comfortable."
"No, I'm fine where I am. Really, Godric, I'm quite happy here," she said when he shot her a disbelieving look.
"If you're sure. So, how about you get everything about your father's letter and the arrival of your aunt off your chest. I'm sure it's been hectic," he said.
She sighed. "I don't even know where to start."
"Then I'll help you out. I delivered a letter from your father to you, and you didn't tell me what it said. We can start there if you're comfortable telling me what he wrote."
"Ok," she said.†
Dezzy knew that this wouldn't be the easiest thing to tell Godric, but she wanted him to know. After all, who else would she tell? So she took a sip of her tea, and began to speak.
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