𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟑𝟏: 𝐂𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐘𝐨𝐮
Afterwards, the Strelitzi couple stayed at the Heyerdahl castle for a while to prepare the documents to be submitted to the royal capital.
They, who used to be full of energy, were now completely disheartened. Occasionally, we would run into each other in the castle, but they would quickly disappear from my sight as if to escape.
I was living my life as a gentle female tutor again.
ーーIncluding Anne among my students.
『”𝓐𝔀𝓮𝓫𝓼𝓽𝓸𝓻𝓲𝓮𝓼.𝓬𝓸𝓶” – 𝓓𝓲𝓼𝓬𝓸𝓿𝓮𝓻 𝓪 𝓬𝓪𝓹𝓽𝓲𝓿𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝔀𝓸𝓻𝓵𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓵𝓸𝓿𝓮, 𝓹𝓪𝓼𝓼𝓲𝓸𝓷 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓪𝓭𝓿𝓮𝓷𝓽𝓾𝓻e, 𝔀𝓱𝓮𝓻𝓮 𝔂𝓸𝓾 𝓬𝓪𝓷 𝓲𝓷𝓭𝓾𝓵𝓰𝓮 𝓲𝓷 𝓪 𝓬𝓸𝓵𝓵𝓮𝓬𝓽𝓲𝓸𝓷 𝓸𝓯 𝓽𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓼𝓵𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓭 𝓷𝓸𝓿𝓮𝓵𝓼 𝔀𝓲𝓽𝓱 “𝓭𝓪𝓲𝓵𝔂 𝓾𝓹𝓭𝓪𝓽𝓮𝓼” 𝓪𝓷𝓭 𝓮𝔁𝓬𝓵𝓾𝓼𝓲𝓿𝓮 𝓪𝓬𝓬𝓮𝓼𝓼 𝓽𝓸 “𝓪𝓭𝓿𝓪𝓷𝓬𝓮𝓭 𝓬𝓱𝓪𝓹𝓽𝓮𝓻𝓼”.』
On a sunny day, I invited Anne for tea.
In the modest pavilion located in the middle of the Heyerdahl’s colorful garden, I had a gorgeous tea set with baked sweets and tea prepared. Across from me, Anne was looking down, not touching anything, with a puzzled look on her face.
“Please have some while it’s still warm. Or maybe you have a cat’s tongue.”
“. . . Is it okay for me to eat this? Even though my mother has been causing you trouble. . .”
“What your mother did has nothing to do with you, her daughter. You liked scones, didn’t you?”
A small rumbling sound could be heard from her stomach. She blushed.
It’s natural for a growing girl to want to snack on something sweet a while after lunch.
“. . . Itadakimasu.”
At first, she was hesitant, but gradually she started to eat with a happy look on her face.
“This jam is delicious. . . I’ve never had it before. And what a beautiful color. . .”
“It’s made from local berries. I also had it for the first time when I came to Heyerdahl. I heard that Theodore-sama’s children all pick the berries and make it every year.”
“That sounds fun.”
Anne’s eyes were sparkling at the vibrant color of the jam served with the scones. I was deeply moved by the beauty of her eyes, shining with curiosity.
“The flowers have already finished blooming, but they were very beautiful, a light pink color.”
“. . . It’s nice that they taste good when you eat them and the flowers are beautiful.”
“Yes, why don’t you join us in making it next year?”
Anne blinked in surprise for a moment.
“Next year, you say. . . ?”
I put down my teacup and slowly looked into Anne’s eyes.
“. . . Do you know what will happen to you when you return to the Strelitzi family?”
Anne’s bright expression quickly faded. She gave a mature, bitter smile and looked down at her cup.
“I don’t know, but. . . I’m sure it will be the same as always. Taking care of my mother, being urged to go to the foster home from time to time. . . No, maybe I’ll get married next time. It seems she’s already started exchanging letters with a wealthy merchant in the south.”
“. . . It’s hard to get married at a young age without even making a debut.”
I was reminded of myself.
I didn’t want Anne, who was in front of me, to go through the same painful life I had, becoming a “Countess” without knowing anything about adult society.
Seeing the color drain from my face, she turned pale.
“That’s right. That’s right. . . My mother has caused you trouble, hasn’t she, Chloe-san? I’m sorry.”
Seeing my expression, she immediately apologizes. This sensitivity to subtleties must have been something she learned from living with Owenna. I shake my head clearly, indicating that she’s mistaken.
“What I want to say is not about me. And you have no need to apologize at all. . . But I can’t stand by and watch you struggle like me, being treated as a household tool.”
“Chloe-san. . .”
“If you don’t mind, why don’t you come to Heyerdahl as an etiquette apprentice? Learn manners at Heyerdahl, and then work as a maid for the royal princesses with the other girls. That way, you can become a lady who can proudly go anywhere without feeling embarrassed.”
At my suggestion, Anne’s eyes waver greatly.
Surprise, confusion, hesitation, various emotions were reflected on her face.
“It’s too good for someone like me. . . And my mother won’t allow it.”
“Of course, Theodore-sama has already given his consent. He said he would be happy to send you as an etiquette apprentice if that’s what you wish.”
“But. . . I, such a. . . .”
I knew that Anne was actually enjoying this lifestyle.
When she was studying with Theodore-sama’s children, when she was having fun eating together. She had the face of a normal, naturally cheerful girl.
I also knew that she seemed reluctant to return to her mother after class was over.
That’s why I made the suggestion.
“It’s okay. Anne, you’re smart and kind, you can become a fine lady. . . I won’t force you to come here as an adopted child. But I do recommend becoming an etiquette apprentice. Anne, you need friends of the same age from noble families and opportunities to learn. It’s never too late to take some time away from your Okaa-san, grow up, and reconsider how you want to live your life.”
I really want to separate her from her mother.
But if I forcibly separate them, it would trample on the love for her mother that remains in her heartーーso I suggested it. To take a little distance and learn.
Even if she wants to protect her mother.
Even if she decides to break with her mother and live on.
Learning will always become a support in her life someday.
“. . . Even for someone like me, you’re saying it’s okay for me to be here, Chloe-san.”
Before I knew it, her eyes were red and swollen.
When I handed her a handkerchief, she burst into tears like a dam had broken.
I sat next to Anne and continued to stroke her back as she continued to shed tears.
Before I knew it, Theodore-sama had come to the arbor and was looking at her with a gentle gaze.
“We welcome you, Miss Anne. The children of Heyerdahl also appealed to me that they would miss you.”
“. . . Thank you, Margrave Heyerdahl.”
Anne stood up and greeted him, holding back her tears.
And then she showed me a smile.
“Sensei, I look forward to working with you from now on.”
“Yes, I look forward to working with you too, Anne-san.”