Look Beyond What You See

By Danaerathena All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Blurb

For some girls, age eighteen is the magical age of freedom and independence. For Aerys, turning eighteen means an arranged marriage to a man she's never met before, leaving the only home she's ever known, and accidentally discovering things she never knew about the world, about her family, and about herself, things that have been lurking beneath the surface all along. However, each new discovery brings new questions with it, and the answers could lead in some very dangerous directions. She and her fiancé, Dmitri, must decide whether or not to find the answers to these questions and what to do with the knowledge they gain. To change the game instead of living by others' rules, they must look beyond what they see.

Birthday Letter

Happy Birthday, Dearest Sister!

I hope this letter reaches you in time that you will receive it, in case they pull a nasty trick on you for your eighteenth birthday like they did for me. I send you all my love and best wishes and wish most mightily that I could spend this day with you, celebrate with you, and maybe have one of our long walks in the fields around the chateau, talking about everything and nothing. Alas, they will not let me come to see you. Dear Weston would have let me come, but his parents were most opposed, as were our own. You know how his family hates ours. Something about the deal they struck with Grandfather years ago.

Anyway, I am doing well enough, all things considered. Weston’s parents are still quite rude to me, but for now at least the beatings have stopped. I don’t know why they resent me so, but we have speculated enough on that, and I do not wish to spoil your special day with unhappy things.

I presume they will subject you to another of those dreadful birthday banquets, as they usually do. No doubt Grandmother and Grandfather will be in attendance. I only hope, for your sake, that they do not bring along any mysterious, distinguished guests. Your day should be spent with family and friends, should you have acquired any worthwhile ones since your last letter to me.

I miss you desperately. You are my only friend aside from my husband, and the distance strains this friendship so. Stay strong, no matter what happens, and do write me back quickly, wherever life takes you after this day.

Your Loving Sister,

Kyla

As always, I know not what to make of her letter. She always warns of some unknown danger in the future, and I cannot fathom what. I know that she and my other older sister, Zira, were married off on or shortly after their eighteenth birthdays, and mine is tomorrow, but no hints of anything abnormal have been floating about the chateau, and I am quite observant. I know it bothers Mother, the way I move noiselessly through the chateau when I am not studying. I have learned a good many things that way and she thinks I would be better suited not to be so nosy. But my mother is an angry, bitter woman and I mostly just stay out of her way to avoid being punished for wanting to know what is going on in this chateau.

I dare not call it home, like the others do. This is Grandmother’s “summer chateau” and whenever she is here she never fails to remind my parents of that crucial detail. She needn’t remind her son, my father; he stays cooped up in his study, working and having an affair with the cook, and I feel that he is ashamed to be a man who still lives on his parents’ charity, despite having a wife and nine children, two of whom are married. Why we stay here, if he is so ashamed, I simply cannot learn despite my spying, not that I have overmuch time to spy, at any rate. They--that is, my grandparents--have made sure that I am always quite busy with my tutors and my studies. They say an intellect such as mine must not be wasted. I wonder, then, why they will not let me go to university. Perhaps they fear that I will escape their control if exposed to outside ideas. Grandfather in particular is very old fashioned.

It is a wonder, really, that I have never been off the grounds of the chateau. Partly this is because Grandmother owns a vast amount of land surrounding the chateau and rents plots of it out to farmers as an extra source of income. Partly it is because, as I learned as a child, getting caught for disobedience generally results in harsh corporal punishment. Thus I have learned to walk like a ghost and only do things that might be deemed improper after everyone else is asleep. Of all my siblings I am the most rebellious, but I am also the one who least often gets caught engaging in illicit activities.

Kyla was my partner in crime, before she turned eighteen and was whisked away by a mysterious stranger, who I now know to be her husband, Weston. She loves him now but hates his family, not that I can blame her, the way they treat her. We were extremely close, and would be still, if letters would come more often. I suspect that someone is tampering with the post (most likely Mother, since she hates everything and everyone), else letters would come more often in general, not just from Kyla. But it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing to be done about it.

I almost wish that her warnings would manifest in something exciting. Life here is unbearably dull. Though I do not welcome the prospect of an arranged marriage, I cannot help hoping that somehow my life will become more exciting when I turn eighteen. The trouble is that I know not exactly what kind of excitement I would most like to occur. In my family, any form of excitement might do more harm than good. I suppose I will find out, in due time. As a birthday treat, my lessons have been cancelled. They should know better than to give me free time if they wish to surprise me. I will be up with the sun, moving through the chateau like a ghost, watching and listening for hints of what’s to come. If they are planning anything, I will find out before it happens.

I hope.

***~O~***

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