In dreams, we plant the seeds of our future.
Gregoden Grace was a man of many talents. He was smart and cunning. Sometimes he chased the impossible. And he was a dreamer. A hopeless dreamer who cared about nothing but the mysterious creatures in the woods. And about his daughter, of course.
Arimanda Grace, who was only nine at the time, had started to follow in her father’s footsteps forsaking her studies with the governess and preferring to explore with Gregoden the mysterious Island. She had begged him for months to take her with him. Partly because she had grown bored of studying etiquette, history and languages. And it was lonely to spend the days in the house. She would rather be with him on the Island and see the elves, naiads and forest folk for herself.
“Next time, sweetheart,” he promised. “You’re still young for those kinds of adventures.”
“But I read all about them. I know the story of the Fearless Duke of Emeraldine and the Voice Thief. I know how they survived out there in the woods.”
“It’s an entirely different matter to read and to live it. You can read a thousand tales yet not be ready.”
“But when then? When will I be ready?”
“You will now it when you’re ready. When you’re older. Trust me, as magical and as exciting it sounds it is not a place for little girls.”
Ari sighed in resign. And in protest, in her father’s absence, she flunked her studies. He would hear about it when he returned and that would make him change his mind.
But only her governess wouldn’t let her get away that easily. Her father had made sure to choose a stubborn woman. Even more stubborn than his own willful daughter.
“Tell me, Arimanda,” the governess began in her sour and stern voice “what do you hope to accomplish once you’re a grown lady, if you do not possess the patience to sit through your training and learn the things all the young ladies of your age do?”
Arimanda then smiled because she had a brilliant answer. “I will be like my father - an explorer.”
The governess twisted her thin lips in disgust. “Ladies do not become explorers,” she said irritably and smoothed out the wrinkles of her skirts.
“But my father said they can.”
“No, they can’t.”
Arimanda now felt confused. “But my father never lies.”
“Oh, dear,” the governess said averting her gaze, “I do not accuse Lord Grace of such a thing. But there is one thing you should know if you want your life to be easier, which I’m sure you do want. Men are allowed many things. And some unwritten law allows them to get away with almost anything So when a man is in high spirits, he will promise you the world and then act as if he never did so.”
“My father is a Lord,” Arimanda protested “and I’m his daughter. His only heir.”
She was surprised by the tone of her own voice as she never raised much with the stern governess. But frustration wouldn’t let her be ladylike. She was the Lady of this household and a decade later she would be running the house and attending important events on the behalf of Grace House. Now she was being told she was powerless.
“And nobody denies that,” the governess pointed out raising her voice a little higher to make her point.
“Then I’m allowed a many things. And if I wish to be an explorer, I will be one. Especially when my Lord father says so.”
The governess sighed. It was a familiar sound full of resign, often omitted when Arimanda wanted to do things her own way. And for the first time the woman looked different. Her lips weren’t pulled into a tight line and her brows weren’t drawn to emphasize her displeasure. Instead all that was replaced with a softness in her eyes.
“My dear, I know how hard it is to grow up without a mother and look up only to a father. When you’re a little girl, it looks as if they’re ready to give you the world.” Then she leaned in a brushed a stray brown curl away from Arimanda’s face. “But you don’t stay a little girl forever. You grow up and fathers notice this too. You grow apart and each have your own set duties. Men can carve their way inthis world. But women have to make best of what they have. I don’t teach you because I have nothing better to do. I do it to make a living, to be in a respectable position in our society and I teach fellow little women to be the best they can. When the time comes you will understand it all.”
Her voice was tender and it almost sounded familiar. Did mothers talk to their daughters like that? Arimanda was taken aback with this different side of her governess who always took pleasure in scolding her. Now what she said did not make any sense to her nine year old self who looked at the world with shiny eyes. But it sounded genuine. Like her governess had gone through it herself.
Arimanda did not say a thing and picked up her French textbook and began to read passage on Lady hats and types of bird feathers used to furnish the hat. Her governess beamed at her.
And though those harsh yet softly uttered words did not make sense to her, Arimanda carried them with her for the next ten years with her, tucked somewhere in the back of her mind.