Today's Reading

Ingrid, my mother's right hand and head housekeeper—whose dark hair seemed to grow grayer with each passing day—entered. "Your Ladyship, a letter from Lady Verity for Lady Hathor has arrived."

"Oh, good. Since she and Aphrodite managed to wed in the same year, it may also be an announcement of her pregnancy. Let it rain children from on high." Just when I thought my mood could not be any more sullen. I sat back down as my mother read over the letter, waiting for my torment and carefully examining her face for any hint of what I should ready myself to hear. Her brown eyes looked over the words slowly, giving away nothing before she handed the letter to me.

"Read it for yourself and see how much others care for you since you so clearly need a reminder," she replied before leaning in and kissing my head. "I shall go check over the lists for our guests. Join me once you finish."

I nodded, waiting as she and Ingrid stepped out of the study, leaving me staring down at the letter with a date from eight days ago. Inhaling till my chest puffed and then exhaling slowly, I flipped it open and began to read.

June 16, 1815

Dearest Hathor,

I can only imagine the sulk upon you at receiving this message from me, the greatest of all traitors, as you so often proclaim. I am unsure when you shall forgive me for my treacherous act of falling in love, though I commend you on your unwavering ability to hold a grudge. I also thank you for the lovely painting you created of Theodore and me for his birthday. He and I were so incredibly moved by it that it now hangs above the fireplace in our drawing room at Glassden.

I greatly wished to have kept you company this season, but Theodore and his father have found it impossible to leave Cheshire. I will not dampen your spirits with the details, as they have done mine. Instead, I shall wish hope upon you. I hope that before the year is done, you will also find someone who makes you smile even on the hardest of days. I believe one of love's greatest powers is the courage to persevere, not for ourselves but for others. I will not speak on any of its other powers, for I know my godmother would have read this as well, and I fear another one of her stern talks with me. Besides, it is much more fun to discover them on your own.

I pray this letter finds you in good health, as I am, Hathor.

Your most unrelated sister,

Verity

"For a person who once proclaimed to know so little of love, you now speak rather confidently on the matter." I spoke to the letter as if she were able to hear my reply. Glancing over the words once more, I could not help the smallest of smiles that appeared across my lips. I could see the happiness in her words, despite whatever troubles were occurring. The revelation of her relationship with Sir—then Dr.—Darrington left me nearly too shocked to speak. I had questioned why Mother even supported the match; they were so clearly unsuited. The answer came at their wedding, for never had I seen Verity grin so wide or heard her laugh so loud.

The melancholy cloud that seemed to hover over her and her life had burst. She'd been transformed, shining like the sun was always upon her. I believed that was the moment she became my second-worst enemy. Before Verity, I had only ever been envious of my sister Aphrodite. It was the most unwelcome feeling, and I would not rest until I rid myself of it, but the only way to do so was to find a husband. And a husband I would find, even if I had to roam the countryside on horseback!

Folding the letter and leaving my painting, I marched out of the study, the butlers and maids shifting out of my path as they went on their way to prepare the rooms for our guests. I did not run, as that would have been improper, but I hastily made my way into the drawing room, where my mother stood in the center of several servants, like a general organizing their troops for battle.

"I have regained my wits and spirits, Mama!"

"Good. Do try to hold on to them, for I have just been informed the queen is coming."

"The queen? As in the queen?" I gasped out. "Whatever for? But all her sons are...are..."

"Do not finish that sentence!" She snapped at me and I closed my mouth quickly. "Her Majesty is coming I presume to make an introduction of her nephew, Prince Wilhelm Augustus Karl von Edward of Malrovia."

She lifted the letter in her hand, the one with the royal seal, for me to read. 

But even upon seeing it I still could not believe it. I took the paper and read it not once but twice before glancing up at her, a grin spreading across my face the way fire did across leaves. 

"Mama!"

"Contain yourself—"

"Ah!" I screamed and jumped up and down, holding the letter to my chest.
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