Author: Aleithea PM
Lily Asher's life was a constant struggle against the dictates of her class. That is, until a handsome European prince came along and changed her tiny world forever... R&R please... much better than the summary!Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Chapters: 22 - Words: 51,561 - Reviews: 57 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 06-18-12 - Published: 12-10-04 - Status: Complete - id: 1779335
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
When I received David's letter I was at work in the kitchen with Justine. We had been talking and enjoying the noises of the children about when Sam came in from the fields.
"Another letter Madame Lily." He said grinning and I smiled in return, though I eyed the letter with distaste.
"For goodness sake Lily, write the poor man. It's wrong enough you've kept the baby a secret. He's been buried in politics since you came." Justine scolded as I held the letter between the thumb and forefinger of my soapy hand.
"What he did was wrong, Justine. We've talked about this over and over again. I have my pride to think of." I said as I wiped my hands and sat down gingerly into a chair to read. In just a couple months, my stomach had swollen till my condition was quite visible and I was careful now when going up and down stairs and sitting down. Justine rolled her eyes at her handsome husband and he kissed her cheek as he passed by. Seeing them together had been painful for all these months. But, I thought I had found a life in Justine and Sam's farmhouse. I liked being called "Aunt Lily" by their children. I could imagine myself growing old here, having my son marry one of their beautiful girls. I could imagine my life as Grand Duchess of Letzenstein fading into memory. Maybe someday I could even forget. Someday the memory of a dark-haired boy with blue eyes would fade and I would stop mixing up the romantic fantasy with the reality that I had lived in matrimony with: a devious politician—more like his uncle than he would ever know.
It was with these thoughts that I broke the seal on my husband's letter. My eyes grew wide as I read, then narrowed. My face grew hot and I felt my temper build to a breaking point.
"Oh, the nerve of the man!" I seethed. Justine turned around to me and cocked an inquisitive eyebrow.
"What in heaven?" She asked. I handed her the letter and she smiled slyly. "Calling you home dear?" I was pacing at this point, regardless of my sudden fatigue.
"He is the most abominable of husbands. Why doesn't he just send some of his men to force me back on the train? He has no principles whatsoever!"
"Darling, go. He wants you back. His temper is just frayed from the—"
"Of course I will go; because I owe it to the people not to run out during the hard times. But, after the winter, I return. If you won't have me I'll buy a house near you. But I won't stay with him."
"You're always welcome here my dear." I smiled at my dear friend and hugged her.
A few days later I took my tearful leave. I was sentimental at leaving the children and was still dabbing my eyes with a handkerchief on the train. I slept for most of the trip, arriving late in the day and hired a carriage to convey me to the palace. I entered as unobtrusively as possible—aware that I had not worn a dress that concealed my condition very admirably but David's secretary, Benedict, spotted me and excitedly led me towards David's office where I was informed I was eagerly awaited. André and David were within. Before I was noticed I saw that David's head was weighted by sorrow and there were deep bags under his eyes. I entered quietly but David's head snapped up. He looked thunderstruck at the sight of me, his eyes fixed on my swollen middle while André took his leave, kissing me calmly on the cheek as he glided out. David remained speechless for several seconds.
"Good afternoon." I enunciated coldly with a curtsy. He took a step towards me but I stepped back and seated myself calmly.
"My God, Lily." He said hoarsely. "How long have you—"
"Known? Since the day mon père died." I said calmly, arranging my skirts over the bulge. The shock in David's eyes began to recede and I saw an explosion coming.
"For God's sake why didn't you tell me?" He asked quietly, dangerously I thought.
"Why should I have?" I asked brazenly, staring at him.
"Lily—our child! Didn't I have just as much right to know as anyone else? Whom have you told?"
"Your father knew, Fabian guessed I think as did your abominable uncle. Gretchen must know and of course Justine and Sam knew…"
"Am I the only person you kept in the dark?"
"You never had time to hear about it." My eyes filled with tears, "after your father died you left me alone and then you sent me off on a train after lying to me…" I covered my face with my hands.
"Lily—" He began reaching for me but I stood and fled.
All that week I wandered around alone for most of the time, finding myself unwilling to speak to many. I was eagerly wrapped back into the dynamics of palace life, spending time with the healed Gretchen, and of course Juliette. I avoided David as I could and we saw each other only at state functions of which there were many, now that the nobles' ruffled feather's had been smoothed.
I was lonelier than I had ever been and felt more forlorn as Christmas drew near. It was to be my first Christmas at the Ice Palace and yet I felt so old. So many things had changed and happened. I felt disoriented and confused as the days dragged on. All I held onto was my anger at David, though even that was almost incomprehensible to me. There was to be a special celebration on Christmas Eve, at which a formal announcement would be made about the child that everyone already knew about. Gretchen had planned a belated shower and party as well for a week later so I was preoccupied with plans for that as I rustled down the hall in my voluminous red dress to the party. I was feeling extremely pregnant and hazy when I heard a voice coming from the old Grand Duke's room. Curious, I rustled quietly over and peeked in through the half-open door—indignant if it was one of the servants in mon père's sacred bedchamber.
Instead I saw David, kneeling by the bed in his formal wear. His head was buried in the musty old blanket that had covered his father's body and his shoulders shook with great emotion. His voice was hoarse as he prayed the Lord's prayer brokenly in French. I turned away, unwilling to intrude but found myself listening as he began to speak slowly in French.
"Mon père, I am a terrible fool and believe I have been one for months… I was so blinded by my own pride that I never sought forgiveness for having not made you my father—I – I accepted only what I was shown and showed less tolerance towards you as you neared your end than you ever showed me. In this—I believe I have been… duly punished. Your true daughter, whose secret you took to the grave, now loathes me with a hate stronger than any love I could bear her. Inside her womb she carries your grandchild and my own child. Looking down as you must from heaven… I ask that your bless your grandchild despite it's paternity. I ask that you… forgive my transgressions and pray for me—my life will be long in the memory of my mistakes and foolishness. Even the uncle whom I trusted betrayed me—the brother whose pain I ignored died for the only great treasure I will ever possess… and here I—kneel before you; the most terrible of men. To be denied the knowledge of my own child makes me a worm crawling in the mud—a worm lower than any animal. I ask you to forgive me mon père. I ask you to pray that Lily finds it in her heart to pity me, though I know she can never forgive me. Give me strength to rule this country as you were meant to and would have. I love you mon père. Forgive me for withholding this from you at your death." With this, David kissed the fringe of the blanket and wiped his eyes. By this time, I was standing fully in the room, tears of remorse sliding down my face. I stared at my husband's back—my head in a whirl from this glimpse of his true emotions. I felt blind, so blind and resolved never to misjudge him again. After all we had been through together and apart—I wondered how I had survived without him for so long. And I found myself wishing that he would get up quickly so that I could reward him for his long struggle.
But he remained there for a long time in silence, atoning for a sin he had never committed. When he finally rose, he saluted his father and turned, his eyes were dry and his face hard. He stopped and froze when he saw me.
"Lily," he whispered. And with that one word all the hysterical tears of the last few months flowed down my cheeks. I stumbled towards my husband and he caught me in his arms, holding me tightly to him as I sobbed into his strong shoulder.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for making you suffer." I whispered finally as he stroked my hair and soothed me. But he shook his head and took my face in his hands.
"You give me nothing but joy, always." Then he kissed me and, after wiping the tears off my face, he took my hand and smiled encouragingly. Together, we walked down the hall of his ancestors. When we reached the top of the grand staircase and could hear the well-bred murmur of the crowd below, before we became visible, he whispered to me,
"Je t'aime Lillian!" I flashed a smile at him as the footman announced us loudly,
"The Grand Duke and Duchess of Letzenstein!" And, as I took David's hand, we descended.