The Baroness was pleased, but continued to be uneasy. Natalie told her mother, who seemed to need an explanation, that she was too tired today and would tell her tomorrow, and shut the door behind her.
Mechanically removing her dress and jewellery, she changed into a thin nightgown, then slipped into bed and pulled the covers over her head.
Today must be the worst day of my life, hands down.
All day long, I’ve been tormented by human beings. I felt miserable for being the underdog and angry at myself for being such an idiot. Breathing harshly, she threw off the covers in frustration and stretched her upper body.
“What’s my choice. Death or divorce, I don’t have a choice.”
She glared into the darkness, finally losing her temper and slamming her fist down on her beloved pillow.
“Is that all you are for being a prince? Yes, you’re a prince, but you’re also human, and you’re going to shed a tear someday.”
Natalie muttered something like a curse, remembering the stranger who had been gibbering at her.
She stared off into space for a while longer, swallowed her snotty nose once, and lay back down, sobbing silently under the covers.
But the next morning, the three ladies of the baronet of Warfield didn’t need to go to the dressmaker.
Standing with her arms crossed in a stiff posture, Natalie stared through puffy eyes at the boxes piling up in the parlour of her hotel room.
The Baroness and Dorothy, who had emerged from their rooms at the early morning commotion, could not take their eyes off the colourful boxes filling the parlour table.
“I don’t know the tastes of Lady Warfield and the two ladies, so I’ve brought a variety.”
A well-groomed, somewhat sensitive-looking man who introduced himself as Marcus Peebles, the Prince’s aide, said in a polite voice.
“Please note, however, that Miss Dowse’s dress, chosen by His Highness, is a white box.”
Marcus added in a low voice to Natalie as the Baroness and Dorothy frantically opened the box.
Natalie vowed that she would never wear the dress in the white box. It was a pointless act of rebellion, she knew.
“Then, I’ll come pick you up in two days around nine o’clock. Lady Warfield and the two ladies.”
Marcus, who brought the storm, finished his work and quickly disappeared. Natalie was rightly offended by his last words.
The fact that he’d sent her a dress and jewellery was enough to twist her judgement. Add to that the aide’s words that he would be coming to pick them up in two days was the icing on the cake.
The prince didn’t seem to think she would refuse his offer.
‘Does he think that being a princess, even for one year, would be considered an honor unconditionally?’
If so, it seemed like a real split.
‘I don’t want to die, it’s not like I have a garden of flowers blooming in my mind1having no unrealistic or idealistic fantasies or expectation.’
“Oh, my God, this dress.”
Dorothy muttered as she opened the boxes. Her voice was full of excitement and anticipation.
The sound of Dorothy’s excitement made Natalie glance over at her.
Dorothy was looking at a white box. It was the one Prince Ian’s aide had whispered was for Natalie.
“I don’t suit this color. It would look better on my sister.”
No, absolutely, that will never happen. Natalie screamed inwardly and entered the room. However, she couldn’t have her alone time.
No sooner had she entered the room than the dressmaker, this time sent by Prince Ian, burst in. She measured the three girls from head to toe and told them that if they chose a dress to wear in three days’ time, she would make the alterations first.
“Then I’ll take this dress.”
Prince Ian’s assurance and confidence is just plain nasty. Natalie, who had become a complete wreck in a short time, pointed her finger at the pink box and said.
“What? But Natalie, that’s….”
“I like that one.”
It was a stubbornness she hadn’t seen in a long time.
The day she wished would never come was fast approaching.
Two days passed in the blink of an eye, and the day of the ball dawned. How quickly the day passed. The sun had already set and she was in the final stages of preparation.
“What shall we do with your hair, Miss Dowse?”
Natalie asked Donna, the young maid who was helping the three mother and daughters while they were in Duan.
She had been sent by Bianca. Bianca had felt bad about not being able to help Dorothy this season, but when she had heard that the girls had been invited to the royal ball, she had been so pleased that she had written to the Rutherford family’s townhouse in Duan and sent a maid to help.
Of course, this had to be done without the Count of Rutherford’s knowledge. So a young lady with no previous experience knocked on the door of the hotel room with a letter of introduction.
Donna looked to be about sixteen or seventeen, but she was handy enough to apply make-up and do hair. To the three ladies, who may not be very wealthy, although nobles, they don’t have many skills. Donna is an instant ray of light.
“…How do I make sure I don’t stand out?”
“Hmm. A little pearl pin, then.”
Donna was unfazed by Natalie’s occasional unintelligible remarks.
“Miss Dowse, that’s it.”
“Natalie, how far along are you?”
Just as Donna said that, the Baroness knocked on the door, urging Natalie out.
“I’ll be out! Thank you, Donna.”
“Have a good time, Miss Dowse.”
Donna muttered as she watched her scurry out the door.
“You’re one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever served, but that dress ruined everything….”
Donna had a talent for dressing up. But even she couldn’t beat that aged-looking dress.
“I’ve been expecting you, Lady Warfield, and you two ladies.”
The carriage carrying Baroness Warfield and her two daughters pulled up to the back gate of the ducal residence. As they stepped out of the carriage, they were greeted by the Duchess of Horace, Catherine.
“You must be Miss Dorothy Dowse. My dear, how have I never discovered such a charming young lady, may I call you Dorothy for ease?”
“My honour, Lady Horace.”
Dorothy replied with a dreamy look.
“I would love to be your little daughter’s chaperone, if Lady Warfield will allow it.”
Catherine said in a coy tone.
Dorothy, who had been gazing mesmerisedly into Catherine’s mysterious eyes, belatedly understood her words. As Dorothy’s mouth dropped open in surprise, the less agitated Baroness bowed deeply in gratitude.
The prince’s voice rang in Natalie’s ears as she watched the three from a step behind.
“You can do a lot in a year as my wife.”
She immediately understood what he meant.
She hadn’t even said yes yet, but the prospect of being part of such an insane scheme was fantastic.
“Then take my hand and come with me, and I’ll introduce you to my friends.”
Catherine said, offering Dorothy one of her arms. When Dorothy hesitantly took it, she began to lead the way with a confident, easy stride. Natalie followed quietly behind with her mother.
Dorothy stole a glance at Lady Horace’s face, unable to believe that the Lady Horace whom every lady envied had become her chaperone, even though she knew it was not polite. Catherine, noticing the stare, smiled and locked eyes with Dorothy.
“Don’t be nervous, it’s a casual event. I’ve only invited my closest friends, and they’re all very well behaved.”
Which would seem to imply that Catherine had gathered only those with a keen eye on her. If so, at least there would be no perverts belittling and disrespecting Dowse. Natalie let out a small sigh of relief.
Once inside the hall, she was dazzled. As befits a socialite, the Duchess’s ball was more than lavish.
Beeswax lanterns lit everywhere, chandeliers shining like stars in their glow. It didn’t feel indoors, as all the windows had been removed to accommodate the warmer weather. The sound of rushing water and elegant orchestral music fills the hall as the white translucent curtains flutter in the cool breeze.
It felt like she was at a fairy soiree on a midsummer’s night, and her nerves seemed to relax a little.
As soon as Catherine entered, all eyes are on her. She and Dorothy, a young, lovely lady with her arm around her, seem to be the centre of attention and the talk of the room.
The Baroness stared at her youngest daughter a few feet away as she greeted the guests with Catherine’s help. Then she turned her head to look at Natalie, who stood guard by her side.
The corners of Natalie’s mouth twitched upwards at the look in the Baroness’s eyes that said, ‘Are you sure this isn’t all a dream?’
Natalie gave her mother a small nod.
‘Yes, it is. What I wouldn’t give to see that look on your face.’
She thought as she clasped her hands together, which were growing colder and colder in contrast to her heaving heart.
At that moment, a commotion started from the entrance. A crowd quickly gathered at the entrance, and she could hear blind cheers and gasps.
She could tell the prince had arrived.
“Oh, I see Prince Ian is here. Natalie, you ought to come and say hello, too, for Lady Horace’s favour is all due to him, to say the least.”
“He looks so busy.”
She smiled awkwardly and made excuses, but the murmur seemed to grow closer. No way, she thought, and turned her head.
The feeling when a stunningly attractive man, who seems to radiate confidence, notices you from a distance and enthusiastically waves while walking straight towards you, is indescribable.
‘What are you smiling about…’
It was so complicated.
The moment their eyes meet, the sound of the world dies down and you feel your breath take away, like watching the curtain rise on a play.
She couldn’t move.
‘No, no. Don’t come. Don’t come.’
The last vestiges of reason screamed, and in a flash, the prince was standing in front of her with his long legs in an instant.
- 1having no unrealistic or idealistic fantasies or expectation