Chapter Three: An Underwhelming Marriage
After that, without a single word of consultation with me, the talks between my stepbrother and the other party progressed. Three months later, I was gracefully evicted from the estate.
In summary, I now had to go to the residence of the fourth prince, my marriage partner.
My stepbrother and sister-in-law almost forcefully made me pack my bags while informing me of the exact day I’m to leave the Viscount’s estate. I was afraid that, in actuality, everyone was just fooling me and that I would be sold off somewhere. I still had such doubts, as I could not believe the marriage was actually happening.
Then, with no real feeling, the day finally arrived. I went to the entrance wearing the dress my stepbrother had made especially for this day. He looked at me and lightly nodded in satisfaction.
“It’s wonderful! Anybody can look good with the right clothes, after all!”
“Oh, come on! Don’t spoil this for her!”
She must have been thrilled that she was finally getting rid of me; my sister-in-law had been very cheerful since this morning. She looked at me with deep emotion and said: “After the marriage ceremony, she will go to the prince’s estate, and we won’t ever see her again. It’s sad, is it not?”
She did not look sad at all as she sobbed; instead, she was smiling. Besides her, my sister Leticia was looking at me with tears in her big, green eyes.
“Sister. Are you really leaving us?”
I was to be escorted by my stepbrother to the central church for the marriage ceremony. It was a church exclusive for royalty. No matter how good the family you come from was, having a marriage ceremony there was impossible. Was it really okay for someone like me to go to such a place? My legs shook just imagining it. Then after the marriage ceremony, the prince and I would move to an estate in his lands.
“…Leticia. Please don’t cry.”
My sister, with her beautiful, clear green eyes and soft honey-colored hair… Seeing her innocently cry made my heart ache. Leticia was already fourteen years old, but she still seemed like a cute, young, and tiny little sister to me. Leticia spoke with a trembling voice: “It’s going to be so lonely when once you’re gone!”
“Don’t talk like that… This is a wonderful marriage that someone like me could only ever dream of.”
Wasn’t it so…?
I did have my suspicions about my partner and his reputation. I’ve no idea what kind of person the fourth prince was at all, and I have no memory of seeing or being seen by him. I shook my head.
—It’s okay. I bet the count is a good person. We’re going to make it work.
I have to believe that because any other possibility would be too scary. I have no choice but to believe in him. I gave the whip to the me that wanted to run away in fear. Besides… I could finally get out of this estate. With this, I would finally stop having to be called a freeloader, a burden, a fake lady, and so on. I would finally stop living such a small existence. That’s right. This marriage’s a good thing for me. That’s what I kept telling myself.
I tried to convince myself that this was all true.
Unfortunately, I have to leave Leticia behind, but…
I tightly hugged Leticia in front of the estate’s entrance and said my farewells.
It had been several years since I had ridden in the same horse wagon with my stepbrother. We passed the awkward time in the horse wagon without much happening by reading books. I flipped through the book regularly, but the contents were utterly lost on me.
I was too nervous. I still couldn’t really believe it, but I was finally going to get married. Further, I was soon going to meet the man who would be my husband at the church.
When we arrived at the central church, I was made to wear a lace veil over my head. Many people were already gathered around the venue. Our marriage had been conducted in secret among our families, but many onlookers, who had heard about it from somewhere, had already gathered.
The soldiers sent out for the occasion were busy trying to dispense the onlookers. I felt a bit uncomfortable for all the trouble that I had caused. For a person of such little importance like me, all kinds of people were getting involved, and it was turning into a big deal. It was terrifying.
When I got out of the horse wagon, the curious gazes of the spectators were directed at me. Of course, they were not looking at me with congratulatory thoughts. They were curious eyes, round like plates, all facing towards me. They were all looking at me, wondering what the woman that captivated the prince’s heart looked like.
—I’m so glad they made me wear a veil.
With the eyes of all the onlookers seeing me for the first time still on me, I entered the central church with my stepbrother by my side. Only the bride, the groom, and their attendants were allowed inside.
The atmosphere inside the vast, magnificent central church was gloomy and calm. At the back was a wooden altar, and in front of it stood the priest facing forward. Before him was a man kneeling with his back to me.
—It’s the count.
It was the first time I saw him since he came to the Teddy Estate. My breathing quickened with nervousness, and I worried that the veil hanging in front of my face would sway. The count did not look at me once as I walked hand-in-hand with my stepbrother. I lined up next to him and kneeled in front of the priest as well, but I could not see the count’s face as I was still wearing the veil inside the already dimly lit church.
I could not keep staring at his face, so I turned my eyes to the priest standing in front instead. The priest turned to face us, took our left hands, and placed them on a crimson cushion on a white wooden platform. Our hands inevitably touched, and the warmth of the count’s hand made my heart jump.
The priest wrapped a long piece of white lace around our hands. The delicately woven lace was very soft and ticklish. At that moment, the count’s hand, which was on top of mine, gently gripped the back of my hand. I was too shy to raise my eyes.
At last, the priest tied up the lace tightly and lifted our hands, declaring our marriage to God.
With that, the marriage ceremony was over, and we left the central church behind. Usually, this would have been followed by a loud, drunken party with the attendants, but following the King’s orders, we refrained from doing such a thing. It was supposed to be simple to avoid causing a stir, but it was lively enough outside the church.
My only attendant was my stepbrother, and the prince’s attendant was his Uncle Gies. The spectators jostled us as we left the church together. I desperately hid my face with the veil and jogged to the horse wagon.
Did I end up marrying someone who’s actually a huge deal…?
Even after reaching this stage, I was still afraid of my own marriage. Even though there was nothing I could do about it now. In fact, ever since the beginning of the marriage talks, no one had ever asked me for my opinion.
My stepbrother saw us off from outside the window as we got into the horse wagon. He shook a handkerchief at us with a very delighted and relieved expression on his face. He was so cheerful that he was standing on his tiptoes.
He must be delighted that he could finally get rid of me.
Settling down onto the cloth-covered seat, I finally lifted the veil covering my face and sighed. When I turned my gaze up, I inevitably locked eyes with the count sitting across from me.