Kristin reminisces about how her engagement to Alaric started.
| A quiet chatter settled through the large group standing in a maintained yard in the back of a mansion. Servers silently walked through people caring trays of appetizers and champagne flutes. The attendees’ formal attire and jewelry reflected their personal wealth. A man walked up onto a platform and clinked a knife against his glass. The audience fell silent and turned their attention to the man.
Good afternoon, everyone. It is my privilege to welcome you all to my estate on this joyous occasion. Today we once again celebrate the joining of the Noble families through friendships and, of course, marriage.” The crowd clapped politely. “Without further ado, let’s welcome the children in their first public appearance together.” The crowd clapped again as a couple dozen children marched out in front of the platform. Once all the children were lined up, they bowed or curtsied. They looked like miniature copies of the adults and acted like it too. The man spoke again. “Now, we’ll let the children start while we convey in the conservatory.”
It took a few minutes before the adults were gone. The children stood still for a few minutes after. One of the boys stepped forward and faced the group. “I guess I should start since this is my family’s estate. My name is Kiefer von Eisenberg. I’m seven years old and am the successor of the von Eisenberg family. As most of you may know, my family can control the earth.” He stuck his chin out and placed his arms on his hips. “My father says I’m one of the quickest learners of the entire family.”
He scanned the others and stopped on one of the youngest girls present. He sauntered over to her and bowed. “And may I ask for your name, my lady?”
“Kristin,” she mumbled.
He stepped closer. “What family are you from, Kristin?”
She continued her low muffled tone. “I do not particularly like you enough to tell you that.”
Kiefer stared at her astonished. “Do you realize who my family is?”
Kristin met his eyes. “Of course I do. You, unfortunately, do not know mine. So do not get disrespectful with me.” She bowed her head like she had been taught and walked away.
The other children whispered to one another and some giggled. Another girl ran after her calling, “Kristin, wait up!” The girl slowed to a walk when she caught up. “Do you think that was a good thing to do?”
“I do not care if it was a good thing to do or not. I just could not stand that boy anymore. Do you understand what I mean, Johanna?”
Johanna smirked, “Very clearly.”
Kristin stopped and relaxed her shoulders. “I never really wanted to come to this stupid party in the first place. I just wish that mother and father would choose someone for me to marry and be done with it.” They walked over to a stone bench by the hedge and sat down.
Johanna leaned against Kristin. “It is not just about finding a fiancé. This is the first time we get to meet the other children from the Noble families. We’re supposed to be making friendships and connections. We have to spend the rest of our lives dealing with them. Tell me you will try to make friends here.”
“I will try.” Kristin giggled, “Did I ever tell you how my parents got engaged?”
Johanna shook her head, “I don’t believe you have told me this story.”
“Well, at the engagement party, my mother was one of the older girls and none of the boys really favored her. My mother got so upset that she grabbed the hand of the nearest boy and said, ‘You are going to be my husband!’ The boy did not say anything so my mother decided it meant ‘yes’. His family was really happy since he was not from one of the noble families. My mother begged and whined until her parents said that she could marry the boy. Then they got married later and had me.” Kristin swung her feet back and forth under the bench. “That is why I want my husband picked for me. Because I do not really care who my husband is now. I just want a husband that I can marry and who loves me as much as mother and father love each other.”
Johanna put an arm around Kristin’s shoulders. “I think everyone secretly wants that.”
“Jo.” Kristin gazed up at her with contentment. “You should go back to the party now. I will go back in a little bit.”
“Are you ok by yourself?” Kristin nodded vigorously. “Alright then, I will go back and wait for you there.”
Kristin waved to Johanna as she left looking back every few steps to double check on Kristin. When Johanna had been out of site for a minute, Kristin swiveled to the other side of the bench facing the hedges. “Lorelei, you can come out now!”
The leaves rustled and the demon poked her head out through the foliage. “Hey Kristin, what are you doing over here?” She slid out all the way and brushed herself off then picked leaves and twigs from her hair and clothes.
Kristin frowned, “Mother sent you to watch me.”
“No, of course not. I came on my own to check up… Ok your mother really did send me to keep an eye on you.” She put her hands up defensively. “But it was only out of concern. She thought you might not… um… enjoy yourself here at the party. She did tell me that she didn’t care if you found someone you liked or not but she wanted you to meet others and make some new friends at least. Could you at least do that? Go and make new friends or try?” Kristin started to speak but Lorelei continued. “I know it may be hard, especially with that one boy, Kiefer. Even I don’t like him and I just heard him talk.” Lorelei stopped talking when Kristin started laughing.
Kristin wiped the excess from her eyes and nodded. “Ok. Ok. You can tell mother I will make some new friends at least.”
Lorelei smiled. Suddenly she twisted her neck to face the direction of the party. “I have to go now. Someone is coming to see you.” Lorelei crept back into the bushes ignoring Kristin’s complaints.
Kristin jumped off the bench and ducked down behind it hoping to avoid anyone seeing her and shut her eye tight.
“What are you doing?”
She opened one eye to see a boy leaning over looking under the bench at her. “Go away!” she hissed.
“You didn’t answer me. What are you doing?”
Kristin stood up and slammed her palms on the top of the bench. “I was hiding from you but you did not get the picture.” She crossed her arms and turned away from him.
He straightened himself. “I’m sorry. Did I do something wrong?”
Kristin spied Lorelei peeking at her through the leaves and stuck her tongue out at the demon. She dropped her arms and faced the boy. “No, I do not like parties very much.”
The boy smiled at her communicating with him. “I like parties a lot. I just do not like this party. I think we should have this party when we are older and know more.”
Kristin nodded in agreement. “But of course our parents will not let us and they always say the same thing.”
“Its tradition,” they said in unison. They looked at one another and laughed.
“Let’s do this properly.” The boy extended his hand. “I’m Alaric von Adler.”
Kristin shook his hand. “My name is Kristin von Ritter.” She dropped his hand.
They already knew each other since their mothers were best friends resulting in a few arranged play dates for Alaric and Kristin but they kept the formalities.
“My mother has been talking about you constantly the past month.” He sat down on the bench and patted the spot next him wanting her to sit as well. “Has your mother said anything about me?” He looked hopeful.
Kristin shrugged her shoulders ambiguously and sat down next to him. Truthfully, Kristin had been in the company with her mother and Adelaide von Adler on several occasions when Adelaide came to visit. The two women would teach Kristin how to play cards and Alaric was always mentioned to Kristin in hopes of getting the two better acquainted.
“How old are you, Kristin?”
She grinned proudly. “I am five and a half now. How old are you?”
“My sixth birthday is in three weeks. My mother is planning a big party. Will you come to my party? It would make me really happy if you came.” He matched her grin.
“I will ask my mother if that is alright and give you my response later,” she said straightforward.
They continued talking for a couple hours. At one point in their conversation, Johanna came back to check on Kristin but left her undisturbed with Alaric. Likewise, Lorelei silently snuck out of the other side of the hedge to go report to Isolde and give the children some privacy. Their conversation was more honest than their play dates since they were now unsupervised. The rumble of the adults as they came back outside to rejoin the children interrupted Kristin and Alaric.
Kristin rose first. “We still have two more days for the engagement party. Will you me at this bench tomorrow?”
Alaric smiled and stood up facing her. “Yes.” He gave her a kiss on her cheek. “I look forward to it.” He left first. Kristin remained there blushing and smiling ecstatically. She soon raced after him back to their awaiting parents.
The following day started out the same but this time almost all of the children had established relationships amongst each other. Kristin and Alaric played games with each other the entire day and were later joined by some of the other children. When the adults returned at the end of the day, Isolde and Adelaide were standing together whispering and smiling as Alaric and Kristin came back together.
The final day was only attended by the children and the heads of each family to make the agreements of marriage. Isolde and Adelaide were ecstatic when Kristin and Alaric agreed to the engagement. The women started immediately making plans for the next few years. Kristin and Alaric both rolled their eyes at Isolde and Adelaide.
Despite mocking their mothers, Kristin and Alaric followed their parents plans and met at least twice a week. After two months, the children made their own play dates as well. Within six months, they saw each other at least five days a week. It wasn’t always just the two of them. They would spend time with the other noble children still, especially Johanna and her fiancé, Tanner von Rothschild. The four of them became inseparable.
Five days after Kristin’s seventh birthday, Alaric asked to see her in their secret spot behind her house.
“I can’t stay long. I told you before that tonight is the party for my cousin,” Kristin complained as she got close to the cherry tree that was their meeting spot. She was mad at him since he didn’t see her on her birthday.
“I wanted to give you a proper birthday present. My mother said this is meant for you anyway. I want you to have it earlier though. You can’t tell anyone that I’m giving it to you though. It has to be our secret. Promise?” He held out his pinkie. Kristin sighed and locked pinkies. Alaric smiled and dug in his pocket for a black velvet pouch. She took it and dumped the contents out onto her upturned palm. A sparkling ring fell out. She examined the light blue stone in it. “Happy belated birthday Kristin. It’s the wedding ring for my wife. That’s what Mother tells me. I want you to have it now so you know I won’t change my mind. I know you’re mad at me since I couldn’t go to your birthday party. I’m sorry but I don’t want you to stop being my fiancé. Will you forgive me?”
Kristin put the ring back inside its bag and put the draw stings over her wrist. Then, she fiddled with her charm bracelet till one charm came off. She handed it to Alaric who examined it. “I don’t have a ring for you but this is the first charm I ever got for my bracelet. It is my favorite one. If you ever lose it, I will never forgive you. If you have it with you, I will always love you.” He looked up at her last words and she kissed him. “Thank you, Alaric. It is the best present I’ve ever gotten.” She smiled and ran home waving back to him. He stood there grinning, watching her, not knowing the events that would happen later that night.