✧Easy and Comfortable Woman✧
Now that she was inebriated, Erna was more jovial than normal. She wasn’t a terrible drinker, she still talked the same, though slower and with droopy eyes.
“Did you know that today was our one year anniversary?” Erna said, suddenly diverting the conversation away from how she used to play house as a kid. “The day we met was exactly one year ago today, at the founding party.”
“Well, you have a pretty good memory for a drunkard.”
“No, I’m not drunk,” Erna said, her face became stern and bright red.
Bjorn laughed and filled her glass once more, from a fresh bottle of wine. Has it really been a year?
Bjorn stared at the forest for a long moment, thinking. Golden rays of sunlight pierced through the trees canopy. The air was filled with the melodies of countless, unknown birds. It all seemed so unrealistic.
A woman who had grown up in such a remote place, to suddenly be thrust into the wedding market over night. As he thought on this, it all made sense, their meeting a year ago, why she was at the festival. She might as well have had a ‘for sale’ sign around her neck. He suddenly laughed at the past days and although it had been a misunderstanding, he was glad of it, because he won in the end.
“Thank you Bjorn,” he thought she was talking about the wine. “You really saved my life,” maybe she wasn’t talking about the wine.
“Is that so?” he said.
“You bailed me out twice. At the Marchioness Harbor dinner and on race day. You also never filed a claim for your missing trophy.”
That’s because you were a much more valuable trophy. He never spoke the words. His throat hurt, like something swelled up inside, accompanied by a strange irritability. It seemed to come more often these days and always when he thought about Erna.
“That you asked me to marry you meant the world to me. I was able to escape my abusive father and escape a rotten marriage. I was able to keep the Baden Mansion safe. I owe you an ever increasing debt.”
“Erna…” He called her name in haste, but lost what he was going to say.
It was nice that he didn’t have to think too hard about Erna. She should be burdened with so many duties as the Grand Duchess, but he didn’t want that for her, he wanted her to stay like a lovely deer. Quiet, harmless, and beautiful. Just someone that brought peace and love to his world.
So what has changed? His anxious mind was disrupted.
His train of thought was disturbed by the sound of glass on glass. Bjorn looked at his wife, as she shuffled in front of him and tinged his wine glass with hers. She smiled at him shyly. Her dramatic entrance into the world of drink was an interesting one.
“You’re definitely drunk now, Erna,” Bjorn said.
She had emptied her glass and waggled it in front of him, waiting for a top up. If she drank any more, she was going to fall asleep.
“You need to stop drinking, you drunkard.”
Bjorn took the glass and placed it to one side, then pushed Erna back against her cushions as he leaned in and kissed her. He grabbed her by the waist and pulled her in close.
The distant chirrups of birds could be heard.
Erna let out a sigh of resignation and her body went limp. Bjorn’s chest against hers was hard and warm. He grip around her waist was firm. His body had always felt some what cool, was now as warm as the spring afternoon. If this was because she was drunk, she felt like she understood why people drank so much.
“I think I understand why you drink so much, it feels so good,” Erna said. “You are the reason, I love you too.” Her cheeks were bright red from alcohol.
“Is that so?”
“Yes, even though I sometimes despise you, I do like you overall. I want to keep you in my cookie jar.”
Bjorn just laughed. Being confined to Erna’s old cookie container didn’t sound all that bad. She favoured all the gaudy junk she kept in that jar like fine jewellery.
“By the way, Bjorn, will the interest rates increase a lot on my savings?” Erna’s face suddenly lit up with excitement.
Drunkards were inherently random, it would appear and Erna only seemed to play up to that stereotype. Bjorn’s jolly laugher joined the chorus of singing birds.
“Don’t worry, we are doing our best to keep the interest rates high.”
Erna beamed like a lighthouse, although, that might have just been the wine making her skin cheeks glow.
“What are you going to do with all that money from the interest?” Bjorn asked, settling from his mirth.
“I don’t know, yet.”
“Then why are you so obsessed?”
“Its just, I want to make sure my savings are growing,” Erna said, her wonky smile formed a dimple on her cheek.
Bjorn looked at his wife, who was smiling as though in a lovely day dream. Bjorn shared in Erna’s smile. She was a materialistic girl, despite having grown up in the bosom of mother nature. She was a very appealing character.
“When I have enough interest saved up, I will buy you a present,” Erna said, suddenly serious.
“Oh, wow, what an honour, another giant bouquet?”
“Well, what kind of present would you like?”
“Other than that? I don’t know.”
“Tell me, anything, except cigars, they are bad for you. Alcohol too.”
“Then why ask me what I would like, if you’ve already made up your mind?”
“No, I will respect your wishes,” Erna looked around the field, like an answer was going to jump out at her. “Oh, you like horses, don’t you?”
Ties, gloves, shoes, cufflinks. Nope. Erna’s ambition had blown up into something enormous.
“But horses are expensive, aren’t they and take up a lot of time,” Erna said, resigned.
Bjorn simply replied with laughter, as Erna’s tone became more solemn. With her deposit, it would be a gift he would receive when he was old and grey.
“You,” Bjorn said.
“Me?” Erna couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“I think putting a ribbon around your neck would be enough, except for all the other cumbersome things you like to wear, of course,” Bjorn drank the last of his wine as Erna stared at him in bewilderment.
Erna had hoped this trip would prove to be romantic, despite knowing that Bjorn didn’t love her and she still felt let down. She was happy that Bjorn did want her, at the very least. She wondered what this strange feeling was called, a feeling that encompassed so many different emotions.
“You really are difficult, Bjorn.”
She shifted into a seated position and let out a huff. She wasn’t sure if the booze was to blame, but she had a hard time understanding her husband sometimes.
“Are you a kind person, or a heartless one? I just don’t know you, other than being a pain in the neck,” Erna stared at Bjorn willing the answers. “I just don’t know. I wish you were kind though, will you be, please?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Bjorn let out a small sigh and reached for the wine bottle. He was certainly drinking more wine than he expected and while he filled his glass, Erna started to take her dress off.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m getting prettier for you, you told me that I look prettier the less I wear,”
Bjorn just grinned in disbelief. Once the dress was removed, folded up and placed neatly in the basket next to her, Erna removed her underwear and folded it up, placing them in the basket with the dress.
“Its strange, normally I would have to work hard to look pretty. Wear the prettiest dress and do my hair in the prettiest style. Decorate myself with all sorts of pretty little ornaments. I never thought I could be pretty naked before.”
Bjorn struggled to maintain his composure. He rubbed a hand along his cheek and looked everywhere but at Erna. Taking in the bright spring sun, the beautiful flowers swathed across the fields and even the birds song. Was it because he was more tipsy than he expected? He felt a hot flush rise to his cheeks as Erna removed the last of her under garments and stacked them neatly on top of her dress.
Bjorn looked at his pocket watch through the rosy haze, no one would be looking for them for awhile yet. He gulped down the freshly poured glass of wine. Unable to organise his scattered thoughts and simply watched Erna remove her stockings, her last item of clothing.
“Ah, the ribbon,” Erna said.
Erna tapped her chin with a dainty finger, as she thought on the only item of clothing she was allowed to wear. She pulled the ribbon free from her braided hair and tied it around her neck.
“I guess you can have me now,” Erna said. “Now that I am all naked and pretty for you,” she said with a broad grin.
“Erna, now you…”
“Right now,” Erna interrupted Bjorn. “I’m giving you a present, interest free, that I can freely give, so you be nicer to me, okay?” Erna said.
She ran her fingers through her messy hair that hadn’t quite lost the braid, then moved to right in front of Bjorn’s face, closing her tiny hands around his cheek and chin. Bjorn finally made sense of the words Erna mumbled in her sleep. God, he couldn’t think straight.