Patrice loved this garden more than any other location. That includes the library and music room.
Living in a household full of staff, butlers, and maids, Patrice didn’t know quite where she fit. It never felt right to her, this idea that someone else made her bed, cooked her meals, and drove her anywhere she needed to go. Her privacy was nearly nonexistent, except for when she went to the garden.
Seated on the cold, stone bench, she gazed out across the landscape. Her mother lived just over that hill, yet they haven’t seen one another in years. “You have a better chance if you reside with your grandparents,” her mother reasoned. “You are our oldest, the one who stands to gain entrance into society. Listen to all that your grandmother has to teach you.” She can still recall the sorrow in her mother’s voice when they said good-bye.
Four years hence and Patrice’s cotillion nears. The gown selected, her lessons complete, and her independence stifled, the fifteen year-old sat at the cusp of a new beginning. Suitors would be sought while her life was planned for her. She could only hope that her new home, once married, would have a garden as stunning as this one.
“Is it not time for you to be getting prepared?”
Patrice turned in response to the inquiry and smiled as Augustus walked towards her.
“My presence is not required until after noon,” she replied. Wanting desperately to maintain composure in his company, Patrice linked her fingers and rested them on her lap.
“May I,” he asked, pointing to the empty space next to her.
She nodded and attempted to quell her nervousness. “You are here much earlier than expected,” she finally managed to squeak out.
“My father wanted to speak with yours before the other guests arrived. Mother was quite exhausted from our travels, an early rest before the evening’s festivities a necessity.
“Is she well,” Patrice inquired, her voice brimming with concern.
Patrice couldn’t tell whether her nerves were due to the impending celebration or in response to the boy she loved seated beside her. She stared at the abundance of daisies off in the distance and yearned in that moment to be but a flower. To simply exist, catch the sun’s rays, and drink in every second. To not have the responsibilities or expectations that awaited her.
“Patrice, are you well? Your hands are shaking.”
His hand touched hers but only briefly, yet it was enough to send waves of emotion through her body. If she lingered any longer, she would not be able to complete the task expected of her tonight. She had to face what was to come, for there was no other solution.
“I must go,” she spoke with haste. She stood, bowed, and continued, “I hope you enjoy yourself this evening, Augustus.”
Before he could reply, she left the garden and returned to the life that held everything but that which she desired – marriage to the boy that was promised to another.