Chapter 11 : The Return
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Dezzy stood silently with her hands clasped behind her back and her eyes down. Her sisters stood in line with her, all in similar positions and all silent. She counted every breath and heartbeat as she waited for her aunt to arrive for their first lesson in being proper members of the royal family. Dezzy wasn't sure what to expect, and it made her stomach flutter with nerves.
She looked up as the door opened and her aunt strode in. Aunt Rowena was as tall and as menacing as ever, and Dezzy's stomach gave yet another lurch as she heard her aunt's shoes clicking across the floor towards them.
"I see you've all made it here on time. I wasn't expecting as much, so we can consider this an adequate start to the day," Rowena said.
Out of the corner of her eye, Dezzy saw Bea scowl, and found herself desperately hoping that her sister didn't do or say anything she'd regret.
"Now, as all of you should already know, a princess is given the very important task of finding a husband," Rowena said, walking along the line and inspecting each of her nieces in turn.
Dezzy sighed to herself, knowing that it was going to be a long morning.
"Did you hear her? 'The very important task of finding a husband'? That's ridiculous!" Bea cried, hours later, when they had finally finished with Aunt Rowena. "I can't believe she made us walk for an entire hour! What was wrong with the way we walked before? And then we had to learn how to hold a fork! Even Lena can do that perfectly fine without our dear aunt's instruction."
"Bea, we have to have lessons with her, so there isn't any use yelling about it," Clara said.
"You're telling me that you're not even a little frustrated with the fact that she told us we can't do anything right and are serious disappointments?" Bea fumed.
"She never said that!" Dezzy chimed in.
"Well it was implied. And I can't stand the way she looks at us! I don't think I've ever seen someone's lip curl so much," she cried, making the girls giggle.
"Beatrice! I think that's enough," Addie said sternly, raising her dark eyebrows.
"Oh, Addie, you always ruin the fun!"
"One of us has to be responsible. Girls, we have to be ready for Mistress Helga soon. Come on."
Addie led the way to the library, and the girls sat around the fire. Clara buried her nose in a book, and much to Addie's dislike, Bea entertained the little girls by imitating Aunt Rowena. Dezzy laughed, and was enjoying watching her older sisters theatrics when she felt a hand on her arm and turned to see Addie motioning for Dezzy to follow her to one side of the vast room.
"What do you need, Addie?" Dezzy asked quietly, not wanting to draw attention to their conversation.
"I wanted to talk to you about your relationship with this Godric fellow."
Dezzy eyebrows knit in confusion. "We're just friends. Haven't we been through this before?"
"You may be just friends but that doesn't mean you can go off alone with him, especially inside his home!"
"Addie, nothing happened between us," Dezzy said earnestly.
"But something could have happened!" Addie's voice came out much louder than it had before, and Dezzy could hear her eldest sister's frustration. The other girls were all looking at them curiously, but Dezzy wasn't thinking about their stares as Addie continued, "Dezzy you've come of age and have to start looking for a husband. You'll have suitors soon, and that means you can't just go off with a grown man whenever you like!"
"I'm perfectly aware that I'm of age, Addie," Dezzy replied cooly. "And Godric would never try to take advantage of me!"
A faint blush creeped across her cheeks at the thought, and she pushed it from her mind. She trusted Godric, and was willing to defend him. Even Mistress Helga had said that he was a good man! Dezzy hoped that Addie could see that.
"Dezzy," Addie sighed. "You just don't understand that not everyone is as good as you think they are."
Dezzy opened her mouth to reply, but was cut short as the library door opened and Mistress Helga entered.
"Girls, I have some good news for you!" she said warmly, her blue eyes twinkling.
"Aunt Rowena's gone?" Bea asked hopefully.
"Bea, how can you say such a thing about your own aunt!" Helga chastised, smiling at her nonetheless.
Bea shrugged, and shot their governess and cheeky grin before asking, "If she's still here then what's the good news?"
"Girls, your father has come home!"
Mistress Helga got a variety of reactions, and none of them we're what she had been hoping for. Bea was scowling, Flora and Gertie looked to each other in confusion, and Clara had her eyes trained toward the floor. Addie stood looking stoic, and even the little girls didn't smile or laugh. Dezzy felt her stomach twist and flutter as she realized just how nervous she was to see her father again.
She thought about his letter, and felt a stab of pain in her chest. She frowned, and tried to compose herself as she and her sisters made their way to their bedroom to get changed for dinner, where they would see their father for the first time in weeks. No one spoke as Lucetta moved about helping them all get ready. Dezzy didn't acknowledge the tugs she felt as her hair was twisted, braided and pinned, and silently moved to change into the gown that was laid out on her bed.
She glanced at the fireplace, even though the ashes that had once been her father's letter were long gone, and felt slightly sick as she thought about how cold he had been. Even Lenora knew that something was wrong, and didn't smile and run amongst her sisters like she usually did. Finally, they walked down to the dining room, holding each others' hands for support. Bea squeezed Dezzy hand before the all broke apart and filed into the dining room and standing to wait for their father.
Aunt Rowena arrived first, and the girls curtsied. Then, after a few more agonizing minutes of waiting, the door opened and the King entered the dining room. He hadn't changed, and was still tall and dark-haired, with broad shoulders and a square jaw that was always set firmly, like he was concentrating on something very important, and couldn't be disturbed. As the girls curtsied and sat down, Dezzy glanced at him, noticing that his eyes were the only sign of how tired he was.
Addie broke the silence first, knowing that as the oldest child, it was her duty to welcome their father home.
"Hello, Father. We are all glad to have you home safely."
"Thank you, Adella," he said, his deep voice coming like a shock to the girls, who hadn't heard it since before he'd left.
"Was the journey difficult, sir?" Clara asked softly.
"It was long, but not as difficult as expected. However, I hardly think this is a topic to be discussed now," he said, making his daughter blush in embarrassment. "Rowena, I trust your time here has been pleasant."
"Yes, brother, although your daughters have a long way to go before they can be considered proper princesses. I can see why you wrote to me."
Dezzy cringed at the silence that followed, and knew that this meal would be a long one. She risked another glance at her father, and sighed quietly, hoping that the rest of the evening would go smoothly.
Finally, after several more courses that had been eaten primarily in silence, or quiet conversation between the King and Aunt Rowena, the girls stood to say goodnight to their father before he went to his own chamber.
"Goodnight, Father. We'll see you in the morning for breakfast," Clara said.
"Goodnight. And try your best not to be late."
The girls curtsied once for their father, and once for Aunt Rowena before going back to their bedroom.
"Girls," Addie called, as soon as they were all present. "I know it's difficult with Father coming home and Aunt Rowena being here, but I don't want you to worry. Things will keep going on like normal, and everything will be fine. Ok?"
There were a few murmured agreements, and seeing that none of her sisters would be easily cheered up, Addie walked to Dezzy's bed and used all her strength to push it aside. Soon, all the girls were helping, and the bed was easily moved back from the wall, the panel behind it swinging open. Dezzy felt her heart flutter as she followed her sisters down to the sparkling silver forest that waited for them. She grinned as the pavilion came into view, and as expected, she could see a tall, dark-haired figure waiting for them.
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