The Chosen Bride

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A Lady Never Says No

Katherine relaxed in the bath, letting the maids scrub through her hair. The smell of lavender engraved itself in her nose.

At first, the idea of maids dealing with her was to foreign and she refused their help, but Lady Eleanor refused for her to do it herself.

“A lady always has her maids by her side.” She would reprimand Katherine.

Katherine would simply nod, knowing that this was far out of her way to argue. She couldn’t mess up such a rare opportunity.

“Lady Katherine, rose or emerald?”

Katherine looked at the two dresses and went silent. How could she decide when all she really had was old clothing that had been given to her by the previous employer?

“She will wear the rose dress, Clara, merci. Vous êtes congédié.” She heard Lady Eleanor say, nodding to the women.

The three maids curtseyed and scurried out of the room.

“I see you have adapted to the new life.” Lady Eleanor said as she took a cherry out of the bowl another maid had brought for her and popped it in her mouth.

“Yes, thank you.” Katherine whispered.

“Speak up, darling. A lady always speaks up, but never speaks her mind.” The lady Eleanor reminded her.

“Oui, mademoiselle.” Katherine replied.

“So we must get our story straight for when I will be taking you with me. You are my cousin, a distant one at that. You were in America, visiting your father who is apart of a shipping company. You are now visiting me to perfect your manners and become the perfect lady.”

“Doesn’t that sound a little elaborate? We could not just say simply I am here to perfect my manners and become a perfect lady?” Kathrine asked, creasing her brow.

“No, the details are essential.” Lady Eleanor replied promptly.

“Of course, madam.” Katherine paused for a moment before asking, “What shall I call you, in front of your-”

“Friends? Cousin Eleanor or Madam. Whatever suits the situation. Unfortunately, tonight is when I need you. The King and Queen are holding a masquerade and you may just fit right in.”

“But I cannot dance.” Katherine argued.

“A lady never argues, Katherine. It’s simple, just stay by my side.”

Katherine nodded, but she wasn’t so sure. If she couldn’t dance then what was the point? To step on all the eligible bachelors’ feet? To embarrass her lady?

“Quickly, dress and then meet downstairs. We shall go dress shopping!” Lady Eleanor sang before leaving her alone.

Katherine sighed and rubbed her forehead. What had she done?

~~~~~~

“I told you that an angel was the best choice for you. It suits you.” Lady Eleanor commented as Katherine stepped out of the carriage.

Katherine smiled gently at Lady Eleanor, “You are always right, dear cousin. I think this dress is quite ravishing.”

Lady Eleanor laughed and took her arm, “Darling, are not women always right?” The two of them laughed and walked further inside the grand palace.

She gazed at the elegantly decorated ceilings and expensive chandeliers. She had heard the numerous stories from street boys that had worked at the Palaces as servants about how elegantly these kinds of people had lived but she had always thought they were just over exaggerated stories. Stories for big dreamers.

But now, staring at the decorations and dresses she could see the street boy’s stories were far from exaggerated.

“Dear cousin,” Lady Eleanor called, shooting her a flashy smile, “come meet someone!”

Reluctantly, Katherine stepped right next to Lady Eleanor and smiled, “Bonjour!” She greeted formally to the aristocrat in front of her. Eleanor frowned at her, giving her the silent message of ‘play your part’. Thus, Katherine corrected herself with, “Or as they say in the Americas, Hello!”

The aristocrats laughed, “I do suppose they say that, do they not, Lady Katherine?”

Katherine regained her composure quickly, getting over the new shock of being called a Lady, “Yes, they are quite informal in the Americas.”

Lady Eleanor leaned into her and whispered, “There is a Duke I am about to introduce and I want you two to dance. He is quite handsome if I say so, so do not mess up.”

“Duke, oh Duke!”

Lady Eleanor flew into introducing the two of them. His dark eyes bore into hers as he nodded along and replied with charming words. And soon enough, Lady Eleanor sent them over to the dance floor to join in.

Together, they danced to a soft, intimate waltz as if they were meant for each other as if God had created the two of them to mold together.

His warm hand clasped hers and his brown eyes met her own eyes, “You know, you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.”

Katherine let out a small laugh, something she hadn’t done in quite a while, “I am sure you say that to every woman you meet at the balls.”

The Duke simply smiled, “But none may measure up to you!” He turned her in a small circle around him, keeping his eyes locked on her.

“True, my lord, but you cannot truly mean it.” She replied, placing a hand upon his.

Her heart started to beat faster as she gave her a small smile, “But this time I mean it, my lady. You are by far the most elegant, beautiful women I have ever set my eyes upon.”

His dark eyes flashed behind the golden mask as if he had let a small part of his soul flash to her.

“What are your plans now that you are back? Shall you go back to the Americas? Or shall you settle down with a man?” He raised an eyebrow and smiled slyly as if the man he referred to was himself.

She raised her emerald eyes to meets his, “When I find the right man, I shall rest in one place, but until then, my lord, I will continue to explore.”

He turned her in a half circle, “How do you know I am not the right one, my lady?”

She stopped and pulled away from him, walking away from the ballroom and onto the marble balcony.

He went after her, “Katherine, I was just...” He paused for a moment as if he couldn’t find the words to say to her.

“My lord, may I just say something?” She interrupted the anger inside of her boiling, “I do not appreciate being toyed around with like a... If you were to be serious, I would gladly except spending time with you but if not, I shall leave right now.”

“My lady, if you weren’t you, and just another one of those ladies out there, I pretend to like you but the truth of the matter is that you have lured me into a trap that I have vowed never to fall into. I have fallen in love with you. Your so far quirky attitude {she huffed at the statement} your smile and laugh. Everything from your personality to your stunning beauty. It would be an honor to spend more time with you.”

“I somehow find that very cliché.” She retorted, snapping away from him.

She walked out of the ballroom and away from the people, searching for some alone time- just her, no maids, no patronizing figures, no men.

She found a secluded staircase and set down, burying her head in her hands. What had she gotten herself into? She used to steal but now she had to lie. She felt even lower than she used to be.

She heard footsteps, heavy and important ones and she peaked through the cracks of her hands to see the Duke they called Drake standing over her.

“Katherine?” He questioned, taking small, careful steps towards her.

She looked up at him and started whipping at her face. She didn’t want to embarrass herself because a lady did not simply cry in front of men, “I probably look like a fool. Crying like a broken-hearted girl.”

Drake creased his brow, “No, you don’t look like that. You look like a girl who needs some help.”

She stood and shook her head, feeling the pride surge up in her. She didn’t need a man's help... at least she thought so. “I can take care of myself, thank you very much.”

Drake grabbed her hands, his warm, strong hands, “Wait, let me fix you. Just give me one chance, please Katherine.”

Her tear brimmed eyes met his clear ones, “I-I...” She just couldn’t... could she? A lady never said no, right?

“Just one chance, that’s all I’m asking for.” He offered, practically begging her.

She thought about what Lady Eleanor would say, and she replied, “One chance, Drake.” She knew she would regret this later on but right now, she had to hide behind the mask that had become her new life.

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