✧You Have To Endure It✧
Erna was startled awake by a knock and she opened her eyes. As she did so, she realised that her brush had fallen and was rolling down the desk. The brush fell to the floor and left a splash of red which threatened to stain the carpet.
“Come in,” Erna called, as she grabbed a cloth to dab at the stain.
“Oh, leave it, Your Highness,” Lisa said coming into the room and seeing her mistress on hands and knees. “Why are you doing the work of a maid?”
“Because it was my fault, I fell asleep.”
“The weather is getting hotter, its easy to doze off in this heat.” Lisa waved a hand as if it were nothing to worry about.
Erna had been napping a lot lately. It was inevitably the topic of conversation and rumours were going round that she had actually fell asleep during an opera show not too long ago.
While it was certainly Erna’s mistake, it didn’t necessarily warrant the intense criticism that she received. All the same, the people were outraged and lashed out at the Grand Duchess, who was no better than a savage they couldn’t relate to. They did not hesitate to compare her to Gladys, who was known for her class and elegance.
“This is all because you are so diligent. When you work so hard, your body can’t keep up. You need to take a break when you have free time.” Lisa noticed that the desk was a scattered mess of tools and materials for making corsages, “what are these things?”
“I wondered what it would be like to give summer flowers to the people of he Grand Duke’s residence,” Erna responded with a cool smile. “I think everyone likes the corsage flowers I gave them last time.”
“They did, but why do you go to such trouble?”
Erna found herself unable to speak the words she was thinking, she knew it was all pointless, so she just smiled and nodded.
Lisa wanted to tell Erna of the servants who gossiped the most behind Erna’s back, even after accepting her gifts, but Lisa held it in, it would do no good. Its not that she didn’t understand Erna’s desire to do something good for the servants. Still, compared to the beginning, she was making some progress.
“Oh, Your Highness, lets sort this out later, we need to go look for presents.”
“Yes, the goods the Prince bought at the fair have just arrived. When you see it, you will be surprised.”
Bjorn had just gotten back to sleep after enduring the noise of the energetic madmen rowing up and down the river right outside his bedroom window.
“Bjorn, Bjorn, are you awake?” Erna burst into his room, all energy and no politeness for knocking.
Erna ran over and sat on the side of the bed, then began to fervently shake Bjorn until he acknowledged he was awake. He let out a long sigh and looked up at his excited wife. Having played poker until sunrise, he had only just gotten home and into bed, it felt like midnight to him. Although it was not the opportune time to be woken up, Erna had no consideration for the time.
“Bjorn, all the presents have arrived from the fair, all the things you bought.”
“I…know,” Bjorn said lazily.
He expressed his annoyance with a low groan and turning away from Erna. He pulled the sheets over his head. Despite his clear sign of not wanting to be disturbed, Erna refused to take any notice and continued to press the matter.
“We need to talk, Bjorn, please.”
“Talk, about what?”
“The gifts, there are too many gifts,” Erna shouted, her voice devoid of any traces of joy now.
Bjorn broke out from the sheets and say up as though he had been doused with cold water. Erna’s pensive expression reflected in Bjorn’s sleepy eyes, it was a look he had not seen on her before.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” Erna said, noticing Bjorn’s irritated look. “But still, I can’t have all the gifts and we must send back the ones I don’t want, okay?”
“People…” Erna said, her eyes were intense, she was sure he already knew the answer.
“Ha, right, people,” Bjorn shut his eyes, trying his best to hold back the anger. He took slow, deliberate breaths, his neck muscles tensed and twitched. “No matter what you do, the people will think and talk about what ever they want, believe what suits them.”
Bjorn turned and looked at Erna again, his eyes were filled with icy coldness. This didn’t sit well with Erna, who had been increasingly preoccupied with her reputation of late. Her attempts at increasing her standing had all been in vain, just like Bjorn’s constant cold and dismissive demeanour towards her.
After a moment of deep thought, Erna replied with a look of terror on her face, “I know, but later, I’ll have to make excuses to mollify those people.”
Bjorn let out a dejected laugh as he mulled over his wife’s words, feeling as if they were dirty words. He couldn’t help but think that it was unfair on him to have to spend his money on his wife’s folly.
It would be nice to just be happy once in awhile, but Erna was always like this, she couldn’t just enjoy the little things. He understood her behaviour and her desire to get the people on her side, if to just stop the rumours, but did she always have to make it irritating for him?
“What are your intentions, to carry on as if your were dead? Just be a breathing statue or something,” Bjorn stroked his fingers through Erna’s hair. “No matter what you do, the people will gossip, using the pretext that you are an incompetent Duchess, who can do nothing right.”
Erna looked hurt, but Bjorn showed no concern. Such was life as the Grand Duchess of Schuber. Any woman who fulfilled that role after Princess Gladys, would have been prone to the same treatment, no matter who Bjorn chose for his second wife.
Erna had willingly accepted the role, without any clue as to what the price would be and as such, she had an obligation to endure. Bjorn hated how his wife still clung to this thought and he couldn’t help but mock himself for lingering on it himself.
“I wouldn’t dwell on it so much, because the more you care, the more persistent and cruel the people will seem to be. No matter what you say or do.”
“Is that so?” Erna’s voice trembled slightly.
Erna understood what Bjorn was trying to get her to see, but detaching herself from emotion was not so easy for her. She couldn’t help but hear all the ridicule, whether she wanted to or not. Her sorrowed deepened when she thought about all those articles written about her, stacked up in her Grandmothers drawer.
“Yes, Erna,” Bjorn nodded. “Yes it is.”
His tone was light, but his sincerity was unmistakable. He seemed unfazed by all the accusations and speculations that were hurled at him. His attitude was completely indifferent, like it wasn’t him the people criticised.
Erna pouted and lowered her head without saying another word. Not liking her reaction, Bjorn gently grasped her chin and lifted her head to look into her eyes.
“Hey, we can bare it together, Erna, you’re not alone. It is, unfortunately, the nature of our lives right now.”
His grey eyes were exquisite, sparkling like finely crafted jewels. She was an extravagant Duchess and wholly unfamiliar with what that meant.
Rebuke and a glare flashed along his face, as if anticipating the chaos that was about to grip the city. It was unfortunate, but Bjorn couldn’t blame the people this time.
“I’m sorry, “ Erna said, “and thank you.”
Erna expressed sincerity as she said thank you, almost exaggerating it. Only then did Bjorn let go of his wife’s face. The shouts of the rowers out of the window suddenly came in clear as they passed by the window.
“Those crazy bastards,” Bjorn muttered and shook his head.
Bjorn got up from the bed and Erna watched his nakedness bathe in the brilliant light of the sun. She realised she had been staring and averted her gaze, embarrassed. Bjorn chuckled, amused at her bashful behaviour.
“Oh, by the way, why did you buy that huge elephant?” Erna said, watching Bjorn walk over to the window and bite down on a cigar.
“Elephant? I wasn’t aware I had bought an Elephant,” wrinkles appeared on his forehead as he thought.
His thoughts were interrupted as a knock came from the door. Greg appeared and the embarrassment was clear as he realised Bjorn was naked and the Grand Duchess was also there.
“What is it Greg?” Bjorn said.
Greg looked at the Grand Duchess nervously, as he walked across the room to hand Bjorn a folder. With narrowed eyes, Bjorn glanced through the report.
“Is there something going on?” Erna asked Studying Bjorn’s expression of worry.
“No,” Bjorn answered calmly, handing the folder back to Greg. The Butler couldn’t leave the room fast enough. “Its nothing.”
“Your expression says different, are you really okay?”
Bjorn set aside his cigar as if releasing a lingering emotion and then placed his hands in his wife’s lap. As they kissed, Erna’s shoulders quivered slightly. She did not refuse him, she could never refuse him.
“I’m okay,” Bjorn whispered. It wasn’t a lie.
Walter Hardy’s greed was still within his control and the reigns would need to be tightened, although the process may be somewhat difficult and chaotic.