I've snuck out to the market today. Father had indeed gotten home and Mother told him of my misbehaviour. He did not punish me, but held a speech so long the pastor would be proud of him. I stopped listening not long after he had started. His sermons were never very original, and are usually how he wished I was more behaved and did not behave like the Devil's child the church told me I was. He left shortly after, and so did Mother. I took my chance and decided I wanted to spend the day outside.
The market is lively today. From what I hear, several ships have come in at the Harbor early morning, and many of the stalls have new things to sell. Not to mention that the sailors will be exploring the town today. I hold on extra tight to my hood. Not only for avoiding a man's touch, but also because many sailors may recognise me. There's few young women with hair as bright as mine, and though my father doesn't share it with me, everybody knows who is a parent to the Devil's child. If someone finds out I'm here, word will get to my father and that would not bode well for me. I breathe in the air, the smells and the atmosphere. I find that I have missed it, despite the beggars that came to me last time. I grin to myself. In the middle of the square, there is room reserved for entertainment. Today it's fire spitters. A small crowd has gathered and I join them. The performers enchant the crowd in no time, myself included. I get distracted, and don't notice the wind is picking up.
Until my hood is blown off. I gasp, and yank it back up as quickly as I could. Luckily, the people around me seem to be too taken by the acts shown to notice me, and I'm relieved I have gone unnoticed. I hold my cloak tighter now, worried it will happen again. I decide I'll leave soon, to reduce the risk of being spotted.
"Miss?" I freeze. Is that directed to me? I hesitate, don't want to give myself away. Did I get recognised after all? I hold my breath. "Excuse me?"
Yeah, definitely targeted to me. People around me look up, but no one engages in conversation. I take a deep breath to gather my courage. Not again will I let a beggar scare me like they did last time.
"Ma'am, I just..." The man says, and I whip around with a fiery gaze.
"Listen, if it is money that you want, you had better find a job, because I certainly don't plan on giving you any of what I carry! What you do is -" I stop, pulling my nose up when I see who - what - is in front of me. He reeks of the sea and everything it holds. His dark eyes look shocked at my outburst, but otherwise innocent. "You're not a beggar." I bite.
He lets out a light chuckle, shaking his head. "No ma'am, I am not. Though I might as well be. A sailor does not earn well, but I do not wish to ask for your money. All I wanted to do was compliment your striking hair. I've never seen anything quite like it."
My heart speeds up even more, surprising me because I thought it was already at its top speed. Does he recognise me. I look him up and down. He does not look like the kind of men my father hires, doesn't look like he comes from one of the royal ships my father commands. He's handsome, but it barely fazes me. He is a sailor. He is below me. And he's not the first to flirt with me, thinking my hair is the right thing to compliment. They are always wrong.
"It was not supposed to be seen." The people around me applaud, the fire spitters have ended their show. The risk of being recognised with this talk about my hair rises sky high, and I hold my cloak tighter. With another deep breath, I look my admirer in the eye. "Do not rep a word about this to anyone, or I will make sure you'll hang before the end of the week."
I push past him, and leave for home.
Father calls me to his office after dinner. I'm not nervous, or scared. He would never hurt me, now that he knows I can set his men against him. They fear me just like they fear him.
"Sit, my dear Avarill." He tells me, gesturing to the chair on the other side of his desk. I do so, draping the skirts of my dress carefully around my legs. I wait for him to speak, as is expected of me.
"I've decided on a husband for you." He is writing something and doesn't look up when he says this. Immediately, I feel a thousand things at once, but keep quiet, waiting for him to elaborate.
"He is fine man from a good family. Met him once a few years back and his father already expressed his interest in you. Now that you're old enough I have decided to comply." He looks up. His strikingly blue eyes meet mine. "You leave for Holland at the end of the next week."
"Holland?!" I exclaim before I can stop myself. "You can't ship me overseas to a man I've never met!"
"I can and I will, Avarill. You are at the age most girls are already with child. This marriage will bring good things to the family and you'll find yourself compelled with him soon enough. He is handsome and kind, and holds the rights to his father's company. You will marry him and you will be a good wife to him. You are dismissed."
"But, Father! Holland! You cannot -"
"You are dismissed, Avarill!" He interrupts. "My mind will not be changed. Now go to your chambers."
I huff, making sure he knows I am not pleased by this, and slam the door in a very unladylike fashion. I do not care. I retreat to my rooms, and tell my maids to let no one in, not even my parents.
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