Aafgorelse (The Decision)
Felson Manor, Hjem; 1877
There was a quiet click, then the lights turned on; the monochrome moonlight that had leaked into the bedroom gave way to a tawny glow. Astrid sat by the window in her older brother’s room, leaning her forehead on the cold glass and pulling cords out of the curtain tassels one by one.
“Come on, Ase…you can’t just hide in here all night.”
“They can’t send me away to that stupid farm! I don’t want to spend the summer with Ronan! He’s mean and he only ever wants to play Soldiers!” She exclaimed dramatically, tears forming at the corners of her eyes.
“It’s only for a few months. Besides Stalden is hardly a farm. The estate is gigantic. I bet you you’ll even learn to ride a deer.”
“Why is Mama making me go, Aedan? It’s not fair!”
Aedan pulled off his boots and threw them at the foot of his bed, then, as he did every night, headed straight for his bookshelf.
“It’s just what you do when you’re betrothed.”
“What’s betrod?” Astrid asked, abandoning the broken tassel.
“Betrothed.” Aedan corrected. “If you must know, it’s what happens to children who have been naughty. Parents send them away to a new family!”
“But I haven’t even been naughty!”
“You spilled the gravy all over Admiral Caspersen’s lap at dinner!”
““That was an accident, mostly!”
“And you almost broke Ronan’s arm. His parents won’t let you get away with that kind of behavior. That’s what Mama and Papa are sending you to live with them. I heard that Ronan’s uncle cut off one of his older son’s fingers once, when he caught him stealing pocket money from the other kids at the academy.”
“But…Aedan, you can’t let me send me away!”
“You also lied to Mama about finishing your piano lessons…if you lie to your new mama, I bet she’ll cut out your tongue!"
Astrid shrieked and ran out of the room and down the dimly lit hallway, running straight into Hana, the siblings’ nurse.
“Careful, child!” She said in a stern voice, steadying the precariously stacked laundry in her arms. “I’ve been looking all over this house for you!”
“MS. HANA!” Astrid wailed, “DON’T LET THEM CUT OUT MY TONGUE! I PROMISE I'LL BE GOOD! I WON'T…” The shouting faded to simply crying and fast, shallow breaths.
“What are you talking about, Astrid?” She asked, kneeling to calm the girl down.
It took nearly ten minutes to get Astrid to stop crying enough to speak, but once tucked into her own bed she was finally quiet.
“Ms. Hana. I don’t want to live with the Westergaards! I don’t want my tongue to be cut out! I don’t want to be betrod!”
“What nonsense are you talkinga bout? Did your brother get to you? Nobody’s going to cut out your tongue, child…but as for being betrothed, I’m afraid you don’t have much choice. It’s already been decided by your mother and father before you were even born. Whether you like it or not, one day you will marry that boy.”
The nurse dimmed the gas lamp.
“Ms. Hana?” Astrid’s quiet voice reached her through the darkness. “I don’t know if that’s better than losing my tongue.”
Hana chuckled, though Astrid didn't understand what was funny. "I'm afraid it only gets more confusing from here, Astrid.”