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Once Upon a Time...
In fairytales the stories always started with once upon a time. Did that mean that once upon a time they had nothing; or were they waiting for a prince charming to fall desperately in love with them, so they could live happily ever after? For what reason they started fairytale’s with once upon a time I did not know. However I did know fairytales weren’t factual and I most certainly wouldn’t waste my time pondering on the thought of princes and magical fairies picking out my glass slippers.
Nonetheless, I wish I could start my story with once upon a time. But life isn’t a storybook, and I had everything; a large house filled with gold and silver tapestries, and upon them golden candelabras that were far too expensive for the common middleclass. I had all the suitors in England knocking at my door, and all the money I could ever want. Yet something was missing, something money couldn’t buy, true love.
Dozens of suitors had proclaimed their undying love and compassion for me, but I could always see that hint of greed flashing in their eyes. I admit, I was a beautiful young lady, but what they really wanted was my fortune. They called me Alyssa the noble bachelorette, as my name meant nobility and I was still a bachelorette.
My poor parents had tried and tried again to set me up with the most suitable young men in the country. All had proclaimed their love and all were liars.
What all the young men didn’t know was that I could see through them and their undeniable greed. I admit I fell in love with one or two of the suitors when I was still young and ripe, but for some reason I was never happy. They had only wanted my inherited fortune; but thus far I was determined to find a man in love with me for who I was and not the money that came with.
I looked up from my writing at the picture of my aunt’s estate; reminding me of my earnest vocation. A week from today I will be moving to France, and into my aunt’s mansion, where I hope to find a suitable young man to fall in love with.
My parents, still thinking they were in charge of me, set a date for my birthday where they hoped I would bring a wholesome young man to accompany me. Not wanting my dear parents to worry, I agreed.
I put down the pen and rubbed my fingers as I shut my diary. “No need to keep one,” my father said, as I was of noble blood everyone would remember me. Yet I didn’t quite agree. I was determined to marry for love and not for my fortune. Carefully, I laid my diary on my desk and smoothed my dress, no use getting crinkles if I didn’t want to change. I walked down the hall connecting my bedroom to the library, the study and my dressing room.
Tonight I was holding a ball as I was to leave in a week. My parents had insisted; even though I detest balls. I didn’t see the point in dancing and flirting while drinking champagne, however for my parent’s sake I had agreed.
Quickly, I hurried down the hall to check the preparations and to change into my ball gown. My theme was fantasy and of course, being the hostess, I felt obligated to be a princess. As I had long brown hair I chose Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”
I had curled my hair the night before and had my maid dress me and make me presentable. I didn’t care about the ball; I only cared about leaving to France.
Once she was done, she left me to make any finishing touches. I looked in the mirror and gasped. I hadn’t expected to look almost exactly like a princess. My hair had been tied back and was hanging in long ringlets. My dress was golden silk that flowed from the hip with a rose attached to the ribbon. I turned in a circle and gazed in the mirror; it was every little girl’s dream, and it even had the half way sleeves to perfect the look. I quickly added a touch of powder and fled the room I had a ball to host and I couldn’t be a moment late.
I hurried down the stairs, hoping that all the preparations had been completed. I searched the room and gave a slight nod. Everything was in place.
I ordered the butler to open the door, so I could make a grand entrance. I scurried up the stairs, careful not to trip on my silk gown and waited for the big oak doors to open. When I heard the creek of wood I slowly descended the stairs to make it seem as if I was an angel from heaven.
The ballroom was oval, decorated with royal blue and dark purple. Tapestries hung from the ceiling, while golden pillars stood by, polished so you could see your reflection glistening back at you.
The guests handed the butler their invitations and made their way into the lavishly decorated ballroom. Once I had descended the stairs, I made my way to the center of the room and tapped my glass. It looked like most of the guests had arrived and I was determined to make a toast.
“Ladies and Gentleman, this ball is hosted for my departure in seven days, where I hope to find the path of my life. Now please enjoy yourself and dance!”
The guests, who were dukes, princes and other important people from the hierarchy all cheered and applauded. A few young men winked, which I quickly ignored.
I took in the decorated ballroom. Everything was covered in royal blue and dark purple, and all the tables held delicious delicacies like various pies, cakes, champagnes and other pastries. From the wall hung a dark purple tapestry embroidered with my family crest, which was a golden chair with ivy surrounding it, with an eagle sitting on top. I took a step forward and found myself face to face with “the Beast.”
“Pardon me madam,” he said bowing slightly.
“Please don’t bow. I hate it; it drives me insane.”
“Oh…well I’m truly sorry, Belle. It won’t happen again.” As he said those words a hint of amusement crept into his beautiful green eyes.
“I’m sure it won’t. Now whom do I have the pleasure of bumping into tonight? A young man desperate for money I presume?” I said raising my eyebrows.
“Madame, if I had wanted your money I would have caught you attention earlier and taken you for a romantic walk, or maybe a rendezvous on the terrace. But I don’t care for money; I have enough as it is.” He said it so causally I wondered if maybe he was telling the truth.
“Well, might I ask who’s under the mask?”
“Sadly I cannot answer; my name shall remain anonymous,” he said, his eyes flickering with laughter.
“What an invigorating man,” I thought “Well, nice to meet you anonymous sir.” I said, a smile twitching from the side of my mouth.
“The pleasure is all mine. Um, well-Belle, would you like to dance?” He asked giving me his hand.
I took it and we walked to the center of the ballroom.
The music started and I took in his appearance. He looked twenty; about my age. He had short cut black hair that was swept to the side and daring green eyes. It was hard to take your eyes off of him, but I had been used enough and this man was not getting near my heart.
“Well, “Belle,” might I ask your real name?” he asked twirling me to the music.
“I’m surprised, it’s my ball yet you don’t know my name?” I said giving him a mischievous smile.
“Oh, so you’re the stuck up bachelorette, who won’t marry for the life of her. You’re Alyssa if I’m right,” he said, amusement flooding his eyes.
“Correct. I’m surprised the anonymous “Beast” knows anything.” I couldn’t help it, I broke into a smile.
His eyes sparkled, “I know a lot Miss Overton.”
“Alyssa, if you will, I’m not officially the noble heir yet. That depends on which lucky man I marry, if I do,” I said trying not to roll my eyes.
“Well, Alyssa, I’m sure any man would love to marry you.”
I sighed, “yes most would, but would any man love me for anything but money?”
He stopped me and laughed, “I’m surprised Alyssa, I didn’t know a noble like yourself would care about such things.”
The music stopped and I curtsied. “You’d be surprised about how much I care about, “Beast.”
His eyes twinkled. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Alyssa.”
“As for you Mr.….”
“Nice try, “Belle,” but my name shall remain anonymous,” he said, taking my hand and planting a kiss. I laughed and turned away, what an unusual, invigorating young man.
The rest of the ball went smoothly. About twenty eligible young men danced with me, and all wanted my fortune, but even though my mind should have be on the ball, it kept wandering to the young man who I had danced with. He was very handsome, humorous and invigorating, and I hadn’t gotten his name, but why? Who was he and why did he want his name to be anonymous? I pondered this for the next few hours. It seemed he left early. I had asked around but nobody knew who he was or even his name.
Once the ball was over I asked to see the guest list. The butler handed me the list and I went upstairs to get ready for bed. I scrolled down the long parchment and no names caught my eye, he could be any one of these names. I sighed tossing it on my desk, feeling hopeless.
Once I was ready for bed, I sat down at my desk and looked through my mail, nothing was of importance except a letter from my aunt, and she didn’t usually write me unless it was important. I slowly opened it and it read,
“My dear, Alyssa,
I hope you haven’t forgotten our bet, if you want to keep my fortune; you need to marry in the next two months. I hope that you will write me about your progress in finding your future husband. If you do not find a husband in the next two months my fortune will be given to your sister, Liane. My Dear, you could have almost any eligible suitor, there are a lot of young man that would seek your hand.
You’re Aunt Aveline.”
I set the letter down, suddenly very weak. My fortune would not be stripped away from me, but I also wanted true love. The thought left me with a headache. I decided I would ponder it more thoroughly on the morrow.
I undressed with the help of my maid and changed into my night dress; the letter still haunting me. As I lay in bed I thought of the anonymous gentleman and fell asleep dreaming of his deep green eyes.
I awoke to the sound of the lark’s singing outside my window; the face of the stranger still fresh in my brain. I feared he had won my heart with one dance and because of that I scolded my heart. What a ridiculous thought; he probably had a dozen finer women knocking at his door. I nodded at the thought and pushed him out of my mind. Today I would be packing for France.
The week went by slowly, as I packed my necessary items such as dresses and shoes. Finally the day of my departure came; I said goodbye to my manor and was headed off to France. The trip took two days, but finally we arrived safely.
I stepped out of the carriage and stretched my legs, for they were sore after the long trip. My aunt was waiting for me at the front door.
“My dear, Alyssa, how are you?” She asked with a twinkle in her eye.
“Fine, thank you,” I said, giving her a slight curtsy.
“Good, you still have your manners, I think,” She winked.
I grinned. “So where shall I put my things? Third floor or second?”
“Third, my dear; you remember which room. Hurry now, we have another guest who will be dining with us.”
I nodded politely. “Yes ma’am.”
“Good, now go unpack and get ready for supper. I expect you to look divine this evening as we will be dining with the duke of Dijon’s son’s. They’re quite fetching, I assure you,” she said her eyes twinkling.
I rolled my eyes, “As you wish, aunt Aveline.” She nodded and I slipped past her, into the dazzling old mansion.
I walked up the stairs and headed to the third floor. Once I reached it I turned the knob and pushed open the white mahogany door. The room was light up with natural window light. There was a queen sized bed in the middle of the room, the bedspread was a meadow of flowers and the pillows were the clouds. A canopy of white was set upon the top of the bed as to look like the heavens. The paintings around the room depicted, waterfalls and foreign lands. There was a white writing desk, a dresser and a bathroom which was attached to the right wall.
I set down my small carry on suitcase and closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My new life waited filled with romance, and this creaky old mansion, which I would soon inherit.
Once most of my things had been brought upstairs I had my maid dress me in my finest dress. She dressed me in an emerald green dress and braided my hair. Once I excused her I took a deep breath and left the room, the duke of Dijon was waiting.
As I walked through the dining hall my heart stopped, the man I had met at the dance was here. I looked closer, it couldn’t be him. His eyes were bright blue and not deep green. I saw him coming towards me and I almost fell, he was strikingly handsome. He then took my hand and planted a kiss.
“My name is Lance Arching, my father is the Duke of Dijon,” he pointed to a bigger man at the table with the same green eyes as my anonymous beast.
“Sadly my older brother cannot be with us tonight, he has other…priorities,” he glanced nervously at his father.
“An honor to meet you, Lance,” I said curtsying slightly, he nodded and held out his arm and escorted me to the table.
“Lance might I ask, will I meet your eldest brother?”
“Perhaps, he is gone often.” I sighed and ate in silence.
During dinner Lance asked me questions about England and I asked him questions about Dijon. During dinner he tried hopelessly to flirt with me, once he accidentally grasped my hand and I had to pull it out of his grasp as he blushed furiously. The whole night my mind kept wandering to the eldest son, I was positive he was the one I had danced with.
“Lance, what is your eldest brother’s name?” I asked hoping to pull him out of his flirtatious rant.
“Damien, he’s three years older than me and will inherit the title.” He said it like he had it memorized, which he probably did. I nodded and thought of Damien the rest of the evening.
As soon as Lance and his father left, I pulled my aunt aside, “he’s like all the rest, a hopeless flirt who will do anything for my money,” I sighed and shook my head in despair.
“Well they will be staying with us for a month, so I hope you can learn to at least enjoy his presence.” She said, pity welling up in her eyes.
“But… aunt why?”
“They need a place to stay for the winter while their Chateau is being remodeled.” I glared at her but nodded. She had won this time.
I awoke to the sounds of banging of bots and my maid knocking at my door.
“Miss Overton, breakfast is ready!” I sighed and quickly got up and dressed.
As I walked into the dining room my heart leapt into my throat, he was here. I composed myself and sat down. He looked up from his meal, obviously shocked as well, for he choked on his omelet.
“So nice to see you again,” I said ice creeping into my voice.
“As for you, Miss Overton,” his eyes twinkled, which only flared my anger.
We finished the meal in silence. He tried and tried again to strike up a conversation but I quickly dashed his hopes. This invigorating, handsome man would not be getting any of my compassion or forgiveness.
On my way out of the dining hall he grabbed my arm.
“Excuse me, Damien do you require my assistance?” I said trying to keep my composure.
“I would like a tour please,” he asked, giving me an innocent smile.
I smiled bitterly “let’s start with the gardens.”
Even though it was fall, the garden was full of life. There were no flowers but the trees were the color of autumn, all swirled together like a colorful, auburn storm. It looked positively radiant.
Damien trailed behind me as I told him about the garden and the various flowers that would pop up in the spring. He nodded and smiled, making comments here and there. I guess he was a gentleman of sorts. After the tour through the garden ended I stepped inside, eager to show Damien the rest of the house but before I could he stopped me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you my name at the ball,” he said looking into my eyes, deadly serious.
“I still don’t understand why!” I huffed clearly agitated.
“Would you believe me if I told you, it was because I will inherit the title? I wanted to be known as no one, and dance with a beautiful lady without the greediness emanating from them,” he sighed and suddenly pity overwhelmed me, I gently touched his shoulder.
“Don’t you think I’ve felt the same, every young man has only looked at me as a treasure, a thing to possess, never a person,” I didn’t realize it but a tear slipped down my cheek. I made a move to swipe it away but Damien was quicker, he brushed away my tear. I turned away awkwardly; maybe Damien wasn’t so invigorating after all.
As the weeks flew by, I spent my time with Damien. We entertained each other by reading bits of poetry. We rode horses through the hills and then stopped to have a picnic on the hillside. We constantly challenged each other to chess, and we spent days in the garden, talking and laughing while the wind swirled the leaves around us. It seemed all too magical, and of course like all fairytales the detrimental part would arrive.
Damien had requested that I meet him in the gardens and as I was walking down the corridor I heard his voice.
“Father, I won’t!” he huffed.
“You are engaged to the noble heiress, Marianne and that’s final!” he yelled slamming his fist against a table.
“I don’t love her, father! I won’t marry her!”
“You will do as I say or you are no son of mine!” he yelled. I heard something break and land on the floor, as I ran. My heart was shattered, my hope lost, the only person I could ever love was engaged to someone else.
I ran until I could run no more, desperate to get away from the problem at hand. Until finally I stopped, finding myself in the gardens. I collapsed on a bench suddenly very weak and held my head in my hands. I cried until every ounce of liquid in my tiny body had been shed; I felt utterly hopeless and alone.
As I was drying my tears I heard the crunch of leaves behind me. I quickly turned around and was face to face with Damien. I quickly covered my face and turned around.
“I would like to be alone at this moment in time,” I said not daring to look into those deep green eyes.
“Is something the matter, Alyssa?” he asked, his tone filled with worry.
A tear slid down my cheek “Nothing is the matter, just thinking,” I said hoping he didn’t catch onto my lie.
“May I join you?” he asked making a move to sit down.
“I’m afraid I’m about to leave, so if you’ll excuse me…” I got up and headed down the path not wanting to wait for an answer.
I paced in my room, clutching my journal. I didn’t have the slightest idea of what to do. I didn’t want to confess my love for fear of rejection and I didn’t want to lose a friend who had been so dear to me in the past weeks.
My head ponded and my heart raced as I got ready for dinner. I knew I would have to face him and I didn’t know if my heart could handle it. I slowly dressed into my evening gown with the help of my maid and left the room; fear blossoming in my chest.
I descended the stairs and made my way into the dining room, my heart pounding with every step. Once I made it to my chair I carefully sat down and that’s when I made my mistake; I looked up and are eyes locked. His eyes held a question and he mouthed “are you feeling well?” I gulped holding back tears and nodded “I’m fine.” He gave me a questioning look but diverted his eyes and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I ate the rest of my dinner in silence; he tried to ask me questions to make sure I was feeling well, but I diverted my eyes from him completely. At the end of the meal I excused myself and made my way to the library. When I entered I searched for my favorite book and sat down to read, trying to soothe my rapidly beating heart.
As I was reading I heard the doors creep open and footsteps heading towards the long aisle of books. I shrugged it off as my aunt or maybe Lance and continued to read. The footsteps got louder and closer and suddenly I had doubts, I shut my book and got up. Before I could make a dash to the doors however, he came out from behind the aisle of books. I dropped my book as tears welled up in my eyes. He rushed to my aid and helped me sit down as I tried to control my endless supply of tears.
Alyssa, please tell me what’s wrong,” he asked taking my hand; I pulled it away.
“It’s none of your concern I assure you,” I said standing quickly, eager to leave.
He grabbed me and stared into my eyes. “You can’t tell me it’s none of my concern when you can’t even look at me without tears welling in your eyes!” He said frustrated.
I sat down and wiped my tears. “I heard you were engaged and it has upset me a great deal,” I said chocking on my words.
Anger filled his eyes, “did Lance tell you that?”
“No I overheard it on my way to the gardens,” I said ashamed to have heard such a private conversation.
“Why would that upset you?” he asked, I could tell he was searching to see if I had feelings for him.
“Because… you didn’t tell me,” I said looking at my hands.
“That’s not an answer, Alyssa,” he said with a frustrated sigh. I looked away as the tears began to form and then stream down my face. I would not and could not tell him my feelings unless he revealed his.
“Please leave, Damien” I whispered.
He looked taken aback and then anger filled his eyes. “Why? Is this what you do to all those young men seeking your hand? You get upset and pretend you care and then ask them to leave!?”
The tears flowed faster and soon my dress was soaked in tears. “No I…” I choked on my words.
“Never mind, I’m done you’re not worth it anymore!” I said throwing my hands up in the air and making my way to the door. He grabbed my waist and spun me around.
He stared deeply into my eyes, “what do you mean I’m not worth it anymore, I didn’t think we were anything but friends?” I knew he was playing a game with me; didn’t he know I fell in love with him the first time we danced?
“You know why,” I sighed.
He tightened his grip on my waist “No I don’t.”
“I’ve loved you ever since I saw you and when we danced I knew you stole my heart and it no longer belonged to me,” I looked up as a huge smile crept onto his face.
“Alyssa?” he asked
“Yes?” I said biting my lip suddenly ashamed that I had just confessed my feelings.
“I’ve loved you ever since I saw you across the room. When I saw you again at breakfast, I knew that the beautiful princess had once again stolen the beast’s heart.”
I looked into his deep green eyes and kissed him. It was as if sparks erupted into the night sky, for I had found my prince charming and he didn’t love me for my money but he loved me for me. After he let me go my eyes filled with worry.
“You’re engaged to the heiress, Marianne!” I said as my face fell.
“Not anymore,” he said taking my face into his hands and kissing me.
When I awoke the next day I thought it was all just a dream, until I saw the red rose and note on my writing desk. I quickly got up and read the letter.
“I’ve finally found my belle.”
I picked up the rose and smelled it, the fresh sweet fragrance smell instantly made my eyes light up, I than got ready for the day with a smile on my face. After I dressed and was made to look presentable I walked downstairs, eager to prove that I was worthy for Damien. I walked through the door and saw Damien’s green eyes filled with happiness. He turned to his father.
“Father, I would like to ask for your blessing to wed Alyssa even though I am engaged to the heiress, Marianne,” He asked moving towards me. The room was silent as the duke of Dijon glared menacingly at us.
He then chuckled “I would love nothing more, she’s from fine blood! Good choice my son, good choice!”
“It’s settled then; may I present my fiancé, Alyssa Overton!” He turned and kissed me, and I thought maybe I had a fairytale ending after all…