Vera Martique: Part Two

Vera Martique: Part Two

20th of Nane, 986 A.C.


Vera was in the sitting room of her family’s apartment above their shop in one of the most fashionable districts of Endomir when Amaya Dinkins came into the room. Dinkins had been Aidiyah, her mother’s, maid. She had nursed them all through the sweating sickness and without being asked, had become a combination of personal maid and surrogate mother to Vera.

“You have a visitor, my dear.” Dinkins cast an eye over the sitting room before bustling around to straighten up a stack of books and to clear away the remains of Vera’s breakfast, which she had taken in the sitting room instead of the small dining room.

“Who?” Vera stretched and yawned, then stood and shook out the pale gray skirts of her mourning dress.

“That man.” Dinkins pursed her lips as she looked Vera over. “You’ll do. Especially since he didn’t bother making an appointment or even sending notice.”

Vera froze. “No.”

Dinkins lifted the tray of dirty dishes. “I can send him away, but you know he will be back.”

Vera shook her head. “He wouldn’t go even if you tried. Send him in.”

While Dinkins went to put her tray in the kitchen and to get the visitor, Vera took several deep, soothing breaths and reminded herself that this man had no power over her. He couldn’t order her to do anything.

By the time Lord Samuel Collins entered the sitting room, Vera was calm and collected.

Lord Collins, to give him his proper title, had sandy skin and gray eyes with flecks of purple in them. His black hair had more than a little silver in it, but he was still trim and fit. A man in his prime.

Vera curtsied, then folded her hands before her and waited to see what he wanted.

He cleared his throat and sat down in the wing backed chair that her father had always favored. “How are you, Vera?”

“As well as I can be, considering everything.” She sat on the sofa and waited. She didn’t order tea or make small talk. She watched him.

He was uncomfortable, and sad. There were bags under his eyes, which were bloodshot as if he had been weeping or hadn’t slept well. Or both.

Silence stretched on for several minutes before he spoke again. “I loved your grandmother very much. I wish that things were different and that I could have married her. I wasn’t happy with the life your mother chose for herself. I could have arranged a better match for her, if she’d have let me.”

“And she still would have been a bastard, mocked by men that you call friends.” Vera’s voice was level, calm. Like the well-bred lady that Samuel Collins had pretended his daughter had been. “She would have been shunned by many in society.”

“I wouldn’t have allowed that and Nikkana wouldn’t have either.” Her grandfather turned to the mantle and stared at the miniature that had pride of place, next to her grandmother’s.

Nikkana Collins Morthan on the day of her wedding. Her raven black curls were piled atop her head and her violet eyes were bright with happiness.

Vera’s parents had attended the wedding feast. Many times Prince Matthew and Cousin Nikkana had dined in their humble home on Pannarian delicacies and just as often, the Prince and Princess invited them to dinner in their apartment in the castle.

The King and Queen hadn’t shunned her parents before the Prince and Princess died, but the relationship had become colder and more distant.

“Nikkana and Prince Matthew are gone, so are my parents.” Vera felt so tired, and so alone. “Whatever might have been cannot be.”

Samuel turned away from the miniature and squared his shoulders. “You are correct, I can’t go back in time and make a better match for your mother, but I can and will make sure that you make a decent one.”

She felt the blood drain from her face.

“Once the mourning period is over I will present you with a list of candidates and arrange meetings with the ones you are most interested in.” There was steel in his voice. “This time next year, my girl, I will see you properly wed to a gentleman.”

“That isn’t what I want,” she managed.

“I am your closest blood kin,” he said. “It is my duty to see you looked after.” His voice softened slightly. “I loved your mother as I love you. I will do my best for you.” He crossed the room and placed a swift kiss on her brow.

Then he left.

A few minutes later Dinkins came back in. “Well, what did he want?”

It took Vera several moments to answer, but finally she blurted out, “To turn me into a bloody lady, that’s what.”

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