Tightening of the Strings

Ingrid Acosta

Mauve had spent the entire day snuggled in one of the many wooden benches in their courtyard. As she looked up from her book, the sight of lilies and violets lining the perimeter was a welcome distraction. Their once bright colors were now subdued shades of blue and gray, as homage to the changing of seasons. She shivered, and pulled her cardigan closer.

From her vantage point, the pathway of granite and basalt seem to have just sprung up from the immaculately trimmed grass lawn. Several of their outdoor furniture also littered the area, and a tricolored beach umbrella was propped up on one corner. In the middle of everything was an elm tree, and at its foot, the aforementioned bench.

She was pouring over ‘Princess Di Wannabe: How to Survive Life and the Intrigues in Court’, something her uncle had sent a few days after her arrival. She wasn’t sure if this was his idea of a practical joke; Earnest had a weird sense of humor that only a few could really understand.

Despite her better judgement, she had picked it up and was enjoying it immensely. She paused only to bid goodbye to her parents who were off to the opening of this gallery in the old sea port area. Or was that yesterday? Mauve shook her head, and tried to remember where they were.

Halfway through the third chapter (Etiquette 101: Going Beyond Dotting Your I’s and Crossing Your T’s), she remembered the letters that had come this morning, ones that she had yet to pay attention to. Mauve got a bookmark as to not forget the section where she’d stopped reading, page five hundred fifty-four, and promptly set the volume down.

The letters were arranged in a neat stack, teetering on the edge of the table. They were set there, “just to be on the safe side.” The cook had told her earlier, as he placed a silver tray nestling her favorite cherry-print tea pot, a cup and some sandwiches cut into tiny triangles.

She resisted the urge to glare, and settled instead to mutter under her breath, “I’m not a messy eater.” He gave her a small wave and reminded her to eat up “before the cold ruins my expertly brewed tea.”

She stared at the offending object before putting it, as well the memory of this morning’s breakfast, aside. The first one from the pile, hailed from the King himself. His seal of a lion with a crown resting on top of his glorious mane, and a shield and a sphere in both his hands, was quite a sight to behold. It was consequently taking up half of the envelope, and, Mauve squinted. She wasn’t sure if it was her eyes, but it seemed to be glinting underneath the sunlight, demanding that it be read before all the others. With a shaky breath, she broke off the seal and breezed through the letter’s contents.

So she was being summoned back to England, eh? Mauve hadn’t expected it to be this soon. ‘Something must have happened then.’ As she could remember, she was given a month or so to sort out her private affairs, and other whatnots. Uneasiness gripped her, as she rummaged the stack for her uncle’s letter. It was nearing the bottom of the pack and was devoid of Earnest’s usual seal. Mauve flipped open the envelope and began to read.

My dearest niece,

How are you, and how is Italy treating you? I do hope everything is well, that you are enjoying your vacation among other things.

Tension is high in the capital, as everyone seems to be on the edge more than usual. Some would attribute it the Second Prince’s return, whispering to themselves that he is the harbinger of misfortune. The members of the court are only interested to know why he had come back.

And so it begins Mauve, or so the conspirators would like to think.

Her uncle ended on a humorous note, and she could only shake her head and laugh. Mauve reached out for the book at her side, and turned it over. Examining the black flap, she noticed that a plane ticket was attached to it. She was set to leave in four hours. ▪