Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1998915-Blue-Ribbon
by fyn
Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1998915
For July 2014 What a Character-
Annabelle sat in her least favorite chair in the drawing room, her hands clasped in her lap, her ankles neatly crossed, and a pleasant smile fixed on her face. The horsehair cover on the high-backed chair was scratchy even through the dotted-Swiss muslin of her long gown and she wondered just how long her overbearing brother would continue to berate her.

Is it my fault, she wondered, if the exceeding boring, nondescript and annoyingly dull gentlemen my brother parades before me are not the sort that could catch my (according to my brother) overly romantic heart? Is it wrong to want to be loved, appreciated and, more importantly on several levels, to be considered intelligent?

"Annabelle! Are you hearing a single word I'm saying or have you gone off somewhere in that fuzzy little brain of yours? You are nineteen. It is time you were married. You do not have the time to be picky. No gentleman of good standing wants to marry an old maid, spinster female."

She sighed. "Yes, brother, dear. I'm listening. Reggie, I just want to fall in love with someone who wants me as more than just a sweet to preside over luncheons and teas."

"Don't call me Reggie. You know I abhor that ridiculous nickname. Call me Reginald. You know your function is to be married to someone who will enhance the family's standing, someone who will add to our status. That is your function."

"Reginald, you know Father always said I should be able to choose my husband. He wanted me to have love and not simply be a wife of convenience, as he and Mother were."

"Bella, Father's been dead for three months now. I have no idea exactly why he sought to indulge your whims, but I shall not. Both he and Mother are gone now, and I am the head of this family. I am Baron Henwick; you are merely Lady Henwick, my little sister. You will do as I say, darling sister. You have one month to pick your groom. My new bride and I have far more important things to be concerned with than your intractability on this subject."

"Is it my fault you chose to marry that ... woman who cannot stand me? Is it}my fault that she hasn't two brain cells to rub together? You are only saying these things because she wants this house, my home, all to herself."

You've gone and done it now, you fool. You know how he hates being challenged in any way whatsoever.

"Go to your room, Annabelle. I won't deal with you any longer." His voice was now raised in a most unseemly fashion. His face flushed an unbecoming mottled red. He ran his hand through his short washed-out blond hair before pointing to the pocket doors--thankfully closed else the entire household be a party to his rant-- and glaring at her with hard silver-blue eyes.

She stood, smoothed out her dress and (though it took every ounce of fortitude she possessed) walked serenely past both Reginald VanBrighton, Baron Henwick and his insipid, annoying and colorless wife.

Going off to her room, she gathered her writing materials into a cloth bag, slung it over her shoulder, opened the door to her second floor balcony and proceeded to climb over the railing and onto the convenient bough of the stately oak just beyond. Gathering her skirts and flopping them over her arm, Annabelle quickly and quietly climbed down, branch by branch until she dropped lightly to the ground. She then took off in a most unladylike run for the lilied pond to the rear of the mansion and the gazebo on the small spit of land jutting out into the water.

Setting her bag down on one of the benches that circled the interior walls of the pretty white-washed gazebo, Belle took a gulping breath before dissolving into tears. She sobbed quietly. He knows I hate being yelled at. Derision, controlled anger, even his holier-than-thou attitude I cn handle, barely. But being yelled at just makes me want to fall apart. But then he knows that. He knows it has frightened me ever since we were kids and he'd yell then hit. He uses it to make me feel small, less than he is.

"Oh Daddy, why did you have to die and leave me alone with him? You always said he'd grow out of his temper, but he never has. He never will!"

Wiping her face on her sleeve, Annabelle took her journal from the bag and opened it, rereading what she'd written the night before.

July 17th, 1884. R's been having another of his snits tonight. Honestly, I do not know why he thought I'd like the latest of the gentlemen he keeps parading in front of me. Seymore Wythe is the most self-involved, selfish, vain-glorious man yet. The man looks like a dead fish, has goggle eyes to match, has sour breath and kept trying to grab me when R wasn't looking. How on earth could anyone fall in love with that? I want someone who will sweep me off my feet, not sweep me under a rug. Isn't there anyone out there like that? Am I so unloveable? I know I am not. He makes me so mad! I don't know what to do, but I will not marry some idiot just to make him happy. I want more than that. I deserve more than that. I want someone who looks at me and sees me, not just some pretty face.

Belle looked up from her journal and contemplated the swan swimming across the mirror-like surface of the pond. She felt a bit calmer now. The gazebo, her special spot, had always had that effect on her ever since she'd first discovered it when she'd been seven. "Wish I had someone to talk to," she muttered under her breath.

She'd tried talking to Heather, the upstairs maid, but she'd just said that it wasn't for her to be commenting on his honor's behavior.

"Perhaps you are being picky, after all, Miss Annabelle. Didn't those gentlemen all come from good families and be well off?"

Belle sighed. remembering the conversation.I miss Mama. She understood. Least I have my journal, she thought and took up her pen.


Garret MacElroy paused at the edge of the rode, patting his horse's neck as he looked at the young woman sitting in the gazebo. She was furiously writing in a book and her long chestnut hair was falling loose from the sky-blue ribbon holding it back. The stray ends of the ribbon fluttered in the breeze. Although she looked upset, she still made a pretty picture, framed in the gingerbread design of the gazebo's arches.

This couldn't be Reg's horse-faced sister, could it? Wish she'd look up.{And then she did. Good God, she's beautiful! That pointy little chin, those pursed lips. Her eyes. What color are her eyes? I must know.

Without another thought as to propriety, Garret spurred his horse forward and rode up to where Annabelle was curled up on the bench, one tiny foot dangling with her skirts pushed far above where any gentleman should see. She looked up at his approached and swiftly uncurled her leg, pushing her gown to a more seemly level.

The young man sat his horse well, and looked intelligently at her with curly brown hair pulled back at the nape of his neck. He removed his hat as he approached and a lone curl danced in the breeze that fluttered the pages of her journal, causing her to close it with a snap.


She looked up at him questioningly.He couldn't possibly be another of my brother's choice of suitors. He is far too ... too something. He is everything the countless others haven't been.

"Green. You have the prettiest leaf-green eyes I've ever seen."

"Excuse me?" she answered his outburst.

"My apologies, miss. I was on the road over there," he pointed vaguely over towards the road to the mansion, "and I saw you sitting here. I decided I really needed to know what color your eyes are. I didn't mean to be presumptuous. Permit me to introduce myself. I am Garret MacElroy of HighGrove in Wessex. I went to school with your brother, Reggie."

"He hates to be called that." She giggled, surprising herself. The Duke of Highgrove?

Garret smiled."He does, doesn't he? Guess that's why I've always called him that. You are Miss Annabelle?"

"Yes, I am." She stood, shook out her skirts and walked over to where he still sat and gently brushed the chestnut's nose. "Do you have business with my brother?" He had green eyes, too. A fine jaw and obviously he had a sense of humor. He couldn't be here for her.

He looked at her for a moment before answering. Business. Well, some would think it that. What to answer her?
"Truthfully? Your brother would call it business, even if I don't. I'm here, as he put it, to 'inspect the family mare.' "

Puzzled, she answered him doubtfully. "We don't have any horses for sale that I'm aware of. He's up at the house, probably on his second snifter of brandy by now. I'm afraid he's a bit upset with me at the moment."

Garret laughed.

"Did I say something funny, sir?"

"No, not really," he answered. "I shouldn't have laughed, but you misunderstood me. Your brother meant you."

"Me? A mare? Really?" With each word her voice rose and she didn't know if she should reach up and slap the gentleman before her for being impossibly rude, turn and stomp away in disgust at her brother or simply just laugh. She opted for laughter. "He would think me no more than that, I suppose. And, I expect, I've now totally put you off," she answered ruefully.

"Not at all, in fact, I'm even more intrigued," he grinned as he dismounted his horse. "You have something most of the women I've had occasion to be presented to have not."

"Really, and what, might I ask, is that?"

"A brain. You have a bit of a temper, you actually speak your mind and you don't simper like some fool of a ninny. I like that. I also like the way your eyes snap. You are no vapid excuse for a brood mare. More a prize-winning filly."

Annabelle stood there staring at him.Could he be ... would he possibly ...

"May I walk you to the house, Miss Annabelle? We could, if you are willing, discuss how to give you something a bit happier to write in your journal about. Wessex is at least a four-day journey from here. Would that be far enough away from your insufferable brother, do you think?"

"Are you, err, do you ..." Annabelle paused mid-sentence, flustered, and not entirely sure what to do or say next.

"Would you be amenable to being my wife, lass? I need a wife, you need a husband. I don't snore, I treat my people well, I have an estate three times the size of yon manor and I out rank your brother considerably. You'd be a Duchess. I don't need your dowry, but I'll take it from dear Reggie just for spite and then give it to you to do with whatever you'd like. I think you and I can be happy together."

She smiled. "Yes."
"Just, 'yes'?"

She nodded. He put his hand gently to that impossibly pointed chin, lifted it and kissed her.

"Don't be easy on him."

"I won't," he assured her, "He has no clue the treasure I'm getting."

"This feels like a fairy tale," she admitted a bit shyly, blushing a becoming rose.

"As it should, my blue ribbon lass. You won't be a princess, but I will treat you as my queen," he said tweaking the ribbon in her hair. "Now let's go give Reggie something to really choke about!"

1998 words
© Copyright 2014 fyn (fyndorian at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1998915-Blue-Ribbon