The dinner table was the bad kind of quiet, where every scrape of your cutlery seemed loud enough to deafen. Darcy tried to feel some relief, some enjoyment. She was wearing a very comfortable tea gown, without the corsets that Odin insisted on. She was with Jane, which was always one of her favorite places to be. She should feel happy right now.
But on the other side of this dinner, there was the rest of her life. Some party, some ball, some insipid dinner with Odin.
The balls were the worst. She hated being socially obligated to let a dozen strange men drag her around a room. She hated that she couldn’t do more than wet her lips with lemonade the entire night, because her maid had sewn her into her gown. But most of all, she hated the talk, and the eyes on her everywhere she went. The whispers. It shocked no one when an older man took a much younger girl-- he wasn’t to blame. Men had their needs. The girl… well. She must have done something to turn his head.
And Darcy had always had a lot to turn a man’s head. She wasn’t ‘fashionably’ beautiful, but she was curvy, with fair skin and a wide smile. There was a sensuality to her that men assumed meant that she would be available to them. She wasn’t, and more than one man was taught the meaning of ‘no’ with the sharp point of her heels. She had always been a little scandalous, but no one would have gone so far as to call her ‘ruined’.
In point of fact, she still wasn’t. Not that you could be ‘ruined’ once you were married. It was coming, any day now-- the night that she couldn’t put it off any longer. There was a part of her that thought she should just get it over with. Bed the man, stare at the ceiling thinking of England or whatever women were supposed to do to get through marriages they hadn’t wanted.
Darcy hadn’t want marriage at all. She had not wanted Odin, specifically, and she had wanted to be an Archduchess even less. Every time someone called her ‘Your Grace’ she wanted to slap them.
It felt like a cage closing in around her that shut all the air from the room. She would get to see a lot more of Jane, that was some consolation. Yet she was with Jane now and all of the savour had gone out of it. Jane with her happy marriage, throwing loving glances to Darcy’s new ‘son in law’. It made her want to throw something at them. It made her want to laugh until she couldn’t breathe.
I believe I may be hysterical. Darcy thought, calmly spearing another piece of salmon.
Jane had just opened her mouth to say something, when Fandral interrupted their meal with the news that her husband was dead.
When Darcy started to cry, Jane had held her and whispered comforting things-- that it would be okay, not to be sad, that Odin was in Heaven now. Darcy was fairly certain that was not where he was, but there were some things it just wasn’t proper to say.