Sorry for the length. I know it's a little long, but I'm trying to write stories that are a little less dark to see if I am any good at writing different kinds of genres... Please let me know what you think!
“Do you love your husband, Mara?” her sister asked no longer able to take the silence of the morning.
Mara furred her brows at her needle point but didn’t look up. “Shouldn’t I love my husband, Temperance?” she replied.
“That doesn’t answer my question,” Temperance replied brushing back a loose strand of hair. “I mean, you only knew him for a month before you were almost forced to marry him and you never told me how you truly felt all those years ago.”
Mara continued to stare with false intensity at her needle point, carefully pushing the needle through and pulling it out. “All those years ago?” she said with a faint smile. “It was only five years, if I do recall.”
“Yes, and already you are to make me an aunt again!” Temperance exclaimed with a hint of incredulity.
Mara lifted her eyebrows and gave her a side glance. “Do you not like being an aunt?”
“Oh, of course! I love it more than anything. I love it more than if I were a mother myself.”
Mara laughed. “If you were a mother you would think differently.”
The silence resumed between them and Temperance shifted in her seat. She was never patient enough for needle work so had abandoned hers on the table next to the sofa after only ten minutes of working on it. She sat and stared out the window that over looked the park. She then smoothed out her dress, if only to have something to do with her hands.
“You know, I always thought you would have ended up with Sir Walter’s son, George,” Temperance said, once again breaking the silence.
This time Mara flinched and her cheeks blushed.
“He seemed to really care for you. I have, even to this day, been a little disappointed that he never asked you. I always liked George. He was always very gentlemanly.”
Mara gave a weak smile trying to hide the pain of such a subject. “You only liked him because he used to bring you chocolate whenever he came to see me.”
“Yes!” Temperance exclaimed. “And he had that spaniel that would always chase me around the yard!”
Mara laughed at the memory. “Yes, because you would always tease the poor thing with your chocolate! You were such a mean little child!”
Temperance smiled. “I saw him the other day.”
“Who?” Mara asked a smile still on her face.
“George of course!” Temperance replied.
Mara’s breath caught in her chest, her hand frozen over her work.
“I hadn’t seen him since before your wedding. He still looks extremely handsome if not a little forlorn. He told me he joined the army after you moved away and spent some time in India. A world traveler!” Temperance exclaimed. “I would like to see India.”
Mara didn’t respond.
“He asked about you,” Temperance said after a few seconds hesitation, observing her sister from the corner of her eye.
Mara felt a pang in her heart but handled it with grace. “Oh?” she replied.
Temperance nodded. “I told him you were doing well and with child for the third time. He told me to give you his best wishes and then he said something very strange that I didn’t quite understand.”
Mara finally looked at her full on.
“He said that the wind still whispers in the ears of the trees.”
Mara stood up abruptly and walked to the window leaving her work to fall on the floor.
“And the bear still steals honey from the bees.”
Mara whipped back around. “Enough!” she almost yelled, tears spilling down her face. “Temperance, no more!”
Temperance sat there looking back at her sister not surprised at the tears falling down her face.
“You play dumb, but you know very well how your words hurt me.” She wiped away the tears that fell down her face. “Please, I beg of you, no more!”
Temperance furred her brows. “Then answer my question,” she replied. “Do you love your husband?”
Mara closed her eyes. “My husband provides for me and my children.”
“As he should for they are his children as well, but that is not an answer.”
“You were only thirteen when I married the count, Temperance. Your mind was still full of romantic notions of how life should be. You would have never understood why I did what I did.”
“Why then?” Temperance asked jumping from her seat. “So that you can be miserable? You are not the same as you were five years ago!”
“Everyone changes, Temperance!”
Temperance shook her head. “It is not the same! You are miserable! Yes, you smile and laugh but they are false! A terrible façade that is eating away at you!”
Mara turned from her again.
“When you laughed just now, when I mentioned George and his dog, that was real! That is what you used to sound like! What you used to be! Happy, truly happy! Not some echo of the beautiful sister I once knew and loved.”
Mara drew in a long, painful breath. “What would you have me do?” she asked shakily.
“Why didn’t you run away with him?” Temperance asked. “Why didn’t you just refuse the count?”
Mara’s face flushed. “You think I didn’t want to?” she asked in a raised voice.
“Well, you obviously didn’t marry George, so what am I to think?”
Mara balled her fists in anger. “You know nothing of what you speak of! You know nothing about duty! You were young then and you are young now. You don’t understand what it means to honor one’s duty!”
Temperance huffed. “I know enough from what I see in you!” she retorted. “Duty is what everyone else should have for you to do when you want nothing of it. Duty is what seems right but doesn’t feel so! Duty is misery, which is how your life turned out! A misery!”
Mara took in a ragged breath. “You will find out next month when you are to marry the count’s cousin. When it is time for you to honor your duty.”
Temperance shook her head. “No,” she said defiantly. “I will not. I do not love him.”
“Duty is not about love, Temperance,” she said, annoyed.
“No, it’s about pain.”
Mara turned away again, angry but not necessarily at her sister.
“I’m in love with William Walter,” Temperance said after a short while.
Mara slowly turned back around. “George’s little brother? The one that used to pull your hair and chase you around with a frog in his hands?”
“You should see how he has grown, sister. He is such a wonderful man!”
Mara didn’t reply right away. After taking what she believed to be a calming breath she tried smiling at her sister. “Some people cannot afford the luxury of marrying for love, Temperance.”
Temperance scowled. “No, of course not. Why should we get the freedom?” she asked bitterly. “Father has all the money one could ever need and yet we cannot afford to marry whomever we want. No! It doesn’t make sense to live on our large dowry and a sufficient income. No! We have to be given away like prized cattle to the highest bidder!” Temperance’s eyes filled with tears of frustration. “I will not be shipped away like you were as soon as you turned eighteen!”
Another tension filled silence passed between them.
“We plan to run away,” Temperance finally said trying to stand up straighter.
“Temperance, no!” Mara exclaimed stepping closer to her sister.
“Yes! We have already planned it! I have stowed away all of my jewelry and money that father gives me for shopping for these four months at least and if we wait another two weeks I shall have more. I have saved it all up. We have it all planned out. We’ve been planning for months now.”
“Think of how you might wound your family and friends if you go through with this!”
“Think of how I might wound myself if I do not!!” Temperance all but yelled. “I cannot end up like you, Mara. I could not bear it. The thought of living without William sends a knife straight through my heart! I won’t do it! I will not become soulless like you!”
Mara struck her sister in the face; the sound her hand made across her cheek echoed through the now silent room.
Temperance stood in shock, her hand over the place her sister hit. Crying and without saying a word she ran from the room.
Mara put her hand over her mouth to stifle a cry of her own. She looked down at her hand, red and stinging with pain. She was not sure what had come over her. After standing around by herself for a minute she made her way up to her room and paced. Not knowing what to do, she sat in front of her vanity set as if she was going to brush her hair but instead she sat and stared at her own reflection.
Her sister was right. She was not happy. She tried to smile at herself but her eyes said it all. There was no sparkle left in them. There was nothing left of that gleam of her youth. The one she had with George. No, that was gone.
She opened a draw to her vanity and pulled out a small wooden box. She ran her hands over the smoothness of the wood before she lifted the lid and took out a folded up piece of paper. She carefully unfolded the paper and stared down at the masculine handwriting. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she began to read.
“My dearest Mara,
My heart cries for what could have been as I lie awake in the early morning. It cries for today is your wedding day and though this day should be filled with an indescribable amount of happiness, I find myself unable to share in its festivities. For me, today will be remembered as the most painful day of my life. It will be a day that I will dread forever and every year on its anniversary I shall be trying to make myself forget that it was not me that stood by your side, but another man. A man who can give you all that I cannot, who can give you all that you deserve.
I hope more than anything that you will find every happiness in this marriage. I hope that you look upon this day as a day of triumph. And I hope that you do not share in the pain that I do of watching you go with another man.
I will not forget you, Mara, my love. You will remain, now and until the rest of my days, the greatest treasure of my life. And though I cannot caress your sweet lips with mine ever again I can live knowing that, even for a moment, you chose to love me.
Remember , as I shall never forget you, that as long as the wind whispers in the ears of the trees and the bear steals honey from the bees, as long as the grass glitters with morning dew, my heart will always belong to you.
Adieu, My love,
Mara pressed the letter to her chest and cried. She cried so hard her body heaved and tears streamed down her face. She cried as her heart broke all over again for the man she loved, for the man that she left for duty. She cried until tears were no longer able to fall, until her throat ran dry and her head throbbed from exhaustion.
When she was finally done she wiped off her face and put the letter back in the box and then in the drawer. She stood, briefly pausing to look at her now red eyes in the mirror before she opened up her jewelry drawer and gathered several of her family earrings and necklaces in a bag. She then made her way downstairs and out the door making her way in the direction that she hoped to find her sister.
After about ten minutes she found her sulking in front of one of the ponds. Temperance stood when she saw her sister approaching but before she could say anything Mara embraced her.
“Forgive me,” Mara said holding on to her. “Everything that you said was true.”
Temperance hugged back. “I did not mean to hurt you like that, Mara. Please do not hate me!”
Mara held on tighter and then pulled away. “I would never!” She then handed her the bag full of jewelry. “I could not give you what the count has given to me because then he would be suspicious, but everything that I do not wear from our family heirlooms is in there.”
Temperance took the bag and opened it gasping. “What does this mean?” she asked confused. “What do you mean by this?”
Mara took her sister’s face in her hands. “It means that I do not want you to turn out like me either. I lost my chance to be truly happy. But your chance is there! Do not let it slip away as I did!”
Temperance frowned. “But what about duty?” she asked.
Mara gave a weak smile. “There is more than just one kind of duty. There is also a duty to ourselves.”
Temperance threw her arms around her sister’s neck and kissed her cheeks. “Thank you!” she cried, tears of joy running down her face. “You don’t know what this means!”
“Where should you go?” Mara asked when she had calmed down.
“Italy. William has a job there and I was always fond of Venice.” Her face went somber. “I know that this means I cannot see you for a long while. Doing this means father will most likely ostracize me. But promise me that we will be able to work something out, that we will one day see each other again!”
Mara kissed her sister’s forehead and smiled. “There is also a duty to your family,” she replied. “I promise.”