Chapter 1 Part 5 – Marriage Life
“I have a letter for you.”
Ruby had just finished checking the things needed for the party and had returned to her room when the butler handed her a letter. It was from her dear friend, Lady Linn, who had recently become the wife of a Baron.
About a year after Ruby’s marriage to Marquis Grit, Lynn had sent word of her own wedding. Ruby had wanted to attend her precious friend’s wedding, but she had faced strong opposition from Marie. Instead, Ruby had written a heartfelt letter of congratulations and sent a modest gift along with it. Ruby had chosen the best gift she could within her budget, given that her purchases were scrutinized by Marie, who managed the family finances. In reality, Ruby hardly had any money to spend on gifts.
Although Ruby had apologized to Lynn for the meager gift, it was still a reflection of her heartwarming intentions. Lynn had told Ruby that she cherished the gift and continued to send letters. This correspondence has continued to this day.
Lynn’s letters mainly contained snippets of everyday life and cute complaints about her husband, and it was evident that her married life was blissful.
Ruby pondered, “Is everything alright?”
As usual, Lynn’s letters ended with concerns and well-wishes for Ruby.
Ruby had been meaning to write back to Lynn for a while, as she knew her friend must have been waiting for her letters just as much as she was.
Sorry for not writing to you sooner. I know you’ve been waiting for my letters just as much as I have for yours. My life has been quite busy lately, as you can imagine. As you know, it’s not easy to match the tastes of Marquis Grit’s mother. Even if our tastes match, I’m sure I would be criticized for that too.
Ruby smiled as she wrote, “My husband just returned from his estate not too long ago. He’s a very domestic man and is busy taking care of his siblings. He even went out to personally pick their clothes”.
Ruby paused for a moment. Then she wondered why she was writing the letter now. She imagined Lynn asking about the dress.
“I told them I wouldn’t be having any dresses made this time. The dress must surely be to the Dowager’s liking, and I might as well have dressed according to her preferences from the beginning. Then, I could have saved myself from being criticized for my taste all the time. But it’s been three years already, and I’m still having a hard time adapting.”
Marie had always told Ruby what she didn’t like about her dresses whenever Ruby chose them herself. Her criticisms ranged from Ruby’s taste being plain and uninspiring to her clothes being unattractive.
And it didn’t stop at the dresses; Marie commented on Ruby as well. She found fault with Ruby’s body, asking why her waist wasn’t slimmer or why her neck wasn’t more elegant. Later, she said Ruby had developed bad posture since she hadn’t been corrected when she was young.
Marie would be sure to mention Ruby’s childhood, her upbringing, and how her family had let her down, even her way of speaking.
Marie was always fixated on these details, and her voice was as sharp as a knife when it came to criticizing Ruby.
In short, everything about her was bad. Every criticism ended with Marie’s preference for dresses being chosen.
“It’s like I’ve written nothing but complaints,” Ruby said to herself, realizing that it wasn’t the kind of lighthearted daily life stories that Lynn used to write about.
She pushed away the letter she had been working on and took out a fresh sheet of paper.
“My husband returned home, and I’ve been quite preoccupied. I’m sorry I couldn’t send a letter. As you know, Eli spends so little time at the estate that I want to be with him as much as I can, even if it’s just a little. It seems like my husband thinks the same way because he never leaves my side. He’s a truly domestic man.
It’s a lie, but I wrote it as though it were true. Ruby had a hard time stopping her pen as she pretended to write the truth like that. She finally stopped when she reached the closing greeting. She read the letter she had written before sending it, the lines of ink forming a firm period at the end.
It was a letter filled with an entirely false daily life. Her husband spent the whole day by her side. He was someone who cared about her. He made her feel good about their marriage. All of it was imaginary. Without these lies, she realized that there was no one who thought of her. She thought that there was nothing happy in her present life, but now that she had painted her present with false happiness, it felt vividly real.
With the letter still in her hand, Ruby sat there absentmindedly.
Then she heard the sound of a carriage approaching the mansion.
Suddenly, Ruby snapped back to her senses and quickly stuffed her letters into a drawer.
“My dress is the prettiest.”
“Do you think I’ll get more attention?”
As soon as Ruby closed the door to her room and left, she could hear cheerful voices from the hallway. They sounded genuinely happy.
“What do you think brother?”
“Wasn’t my dress the prettiest?”
“They were both beautiful.”
The voices were polite and affectionate, and Ruby could hear traces of joy even in the politeness.
“Just pick one person.”
Marie’s voice, a bit exasperated, followed Eve’s small pout. But even the exasperation seemed to hold a touch of happiness.
They sounded delighted, even though Ruby was in the dark.
The four of them were enjoying themselves, even though she was not part of it.
No, on the contrary, it seemed like they enjoyed themselves more in her absence. Ruby was well aware of the subtle changes in the atmosphere when she appeared.
“Where were you?”
Marie’s voice, sharp with sensitivity, snapped Ruby to attention.
“Why didn’t you come to greet us?”
She didn’t even have a chance to finish her sentence before she spotted Ruby standing at the foot of the second-floor staircase. Everyone from Eve and Emily to Eli was looking at her. The joyful conversation they were having inside the room seemed like a complete stranger to her.
“Did you have a good time?”
Marie responded with a dry expression, a far cry from her usual self. This time, she didn’t dismiss Ruby as she would have normally.
“You should have gone, it would have been fun.”
Ruby’s smile was awkward, and the tiny tremble in the corner of her mouth was noticeable. When Marie glanced at her, eager to speak up, her voice was drowned out by the louder voice of Marie.
Eli turned his gaze away from Ruby and answered her.
“Shall we go sightseeing at the estate?”
“Then, let’s head to the lake.”
Eve and Emily immediately chimed in from the side.
“Yes, let’s go to the lake. You can join us tomorrow. We all need to buy new jewelry.”
Ruby hadn’t expected this kind of invitation from Marie, and she shyly nodded her head.
“It’s been a while since we all went out together. Let’s talk about the preparations for tomorrow, and I need to have a private conversation with Ruby.”
Marie wrapped her arm around Ruby’s shoulder and asked the servant to bring some tea.
Eli watched them until they disappeared.
“Is the party preparation going well?”
As soon as the maids who had prepared the afternoon tea left, Marie asked.
“Yes, I’ve double-checked everything we need.”
Marie replied with a smile and took a sip of the warm tea. Then she added, “I think we might need to change the decorations and the prepared food.”
“…All of a sudden?”
Ruby was surprised and perplexed, but Marie seemed to be quite nonchalant.
“But everything has already been prepared.”
It was customary to pre-order the food and decorations for the party. This was to ensure that the best ingredients were used to serve the large number of guests at the party.
“And why would you want to change it now?”
“Really. Do you not realize that our household is that of a Marquis? If we keep doing the same things every year, what will people say? It’s been years since Eli attended a gathering with us. We don’t want to become a laughingstock due to his presence, do we?”
Ruby knew that her marriage to Eli had put a mark on him. Therefore, she had made an effort to excel and not become a weakness in anything but rather to become the one who would reflect his marriage choice positively. However, every time she tried to make some changes to the traditional aspects, she had to endure criticism. Marie was especially sensitive to any variations that Ruby attempted.
“Okay… I’ll look into it.”
Marie’s smile finally returned after Ruby’s persistence, and Ruby breathed a sigh of relief.
“Now, with Eli’s return, it might be a good idea to use Luberan Blue for the floral arrangements.”
Marie made the suggestion before leaving. Her instructions were clear: prepare for the change.
“But… where would I find Luberan Blue?”
Ruby massaged her temples. She knew that it was a rare and highly sought-after flower, and Marie’s request was not something easily accomplished.
Marie’s sudden request was puzzling and left Ruby searching for answers.
Marie’s persuasive tactics had left Ruby with no choice but to seek a solution. She was well aware of what her name meant, and she didn’t want to be a burden to Eli, especially since this gathering marked his return to social events.
“Alright, I’ll look into it.”
Marie’s suggestions were not easy to implement, but she couldn’t refuse her, as her position demanded.
“Maybe if I bring a map… And perhaps a servant who knows the area well.”
Ruby decided that it was worth trying to find a solution.
“Make sure to find someone who can help quickly and send them right away.”
With that, Ruby began her search for the elusive Luberan Blue flower, while fervently hoping for a positive outcome.
“Oh my, you’re really not coming?”
Marie asked Ruby this question before getting on the carriage.
“Yes. Have a great time.”
“Alright. Let’s go together next time.”
It almost seemed as if she was teasing Ruby, maybe because the person who assigned the task looked slightly disappointed.
In reality, it might not be very different from that.
“Have a safe trip.”
Ruby bid farewell to Eli, who was being escorted by Emily.
Eli responded with a nod.
As the carriage gradually moved away, Ruby turned back towards the mansion with a hint of regret.