Orb's Year 941
"Make sure you return right away after class to help in the shop. We have many orders to fulfill!" she lectured.
Gladys rolled her eyes. "Yes, Mother," she responded nastily. Lately her Mother was so hard on her! Always harping about her reputation and acting more like her brother. She snuck a side-glance over at Floyd, the paragon of the family.
Caira sighed when Gladys jumped up and flounced away in a fit of pique. But, there was no time to worry over whether her high-spirited daughter would obey... it was time to open the shop...
Caira wrapped the delicate roots of the rose bush in a burlap bag and handed it to Gemma. "Go see Chandler and he'll see to your change," she said, glancing over towards her husband. When she saw the line, she winced. "Just be patient with him! He's still learning the ropes!"
Gemma smiled. "I think we all can remember those days!"
"Is everything okay?" he asked worriedly.
Abbess Belinda smiled as she handed him back two of the coins. "Yes, you just gave me back too much."
Chandler's cheeks burned with embarrassment as he hastily shoved the gold coins back in the box. He wondered if he would ever get the hang of tending to the money drawer.
Gladys sighed when her Mother left the room and tossed the flowers down. She hated that her Mother still pushed her around so much! She scooped up the floral arrangements that were finished and headed outside to replenish the stock.
Floyd opened his mouth to respond, but Gladys' attention had already shifted.
"Blessed Orb! Who's that?" she asked under her breath.
Floyd turned in the direction she was looking and frowned. "Gladys," he cautioned. "He's royalty. You know better than to..." His warning was wasted breath. Gladys had already sailed over to the handsome young man.
Prince Berjes Faust laughed abruptly at the cheeky announcement. "I can assure you that I have no wife!' he said to the blatant pick-up line. If this young woman was not looking for a liaison with him, he would eat his shoe!
Gladys eyes flashed with interest. "Well then, that's wonderful news for me!" she pronounced as she flirtatiously tapped his arm. "Come, let me show you some pink flowers that I would love to receive!"
His reply was cut short by Floyd calling out loudly, "We're closed for the night! Gladys, can I see you inside, please?"
Gladys rolled her eyes and shot Berjes a smoldering look before heading inside before Floyd.
Berjes watched the young woman head inside and sent a small wave to her brother, grinning when he frowned. Since his affair with the gypsy woman had ended, he had been looking for a new mistress. Perhaps he had just found her!
Floyd remained outside by the door, watching as the Prince mounted his horse and galloped away.
"Floyd?" a small voice called from the street-side. "I got your note to come over tonight. Is anything the matter?"
"Oh?" she asked as he gathered her hand in his own.
"I hope you know how fond I am of you," he said with some difficulty. It was hard for him to put his feelings into words...
Bridgette was well-used to that part of him though and merely smiled at his understatement. She stroked his cheek. "And I am quite fond of you, too."
Floyd blushed. "Well, the thing is..." he pulled the ring from his pocket. "I'd like it if you would consent to be my wife."
Floyd stroked her cheek. "Truly. I think I've known since I first met you that I wanted you for my wife..."
Bridgette held her hand out and hand-fasted with him.
Orb's Year 942
Berjes shrugged. "I simply asked if you were home," he said.
Gladys' mouth dropped. "And my mother let you in?" she asked incredulously.
Berjes laughed. "No, I believe it was your father." He paused a moment. "But does it matter? I believe there might be more interesting things to be doing."
Besides, what could happen? It's not like she could get pregnant the first time! From what she could tell, it took years of trying to get pregnant!
Floyd shook his head and frowned. "I'm not sure, Mother. She said she was going out earlier this afternoon and I haven't seen her since then."
"That girl doesn't have a lick of sense living the way she does!" Caira said, too upset to eat another bite. "I'm going to bed. Come and get me when she comes home."
"Invite me in, Gladys," Jerome said fervently.
"I don't know, Jerome," she said coyly. "Have you been a good boy?"
Jerome growled as he pulled her closer against him. "I have been a very good boy and have plans on how to be an even better boy."
This was it, Jerome thought. Gladys was finally going to let him love her! His gaze dropped to her chest. It wasn't what he'd pictured for their first time, but he couldn't wait for perfect. He swallowed tightly and reached for her.
Gladys finally realized that he'd moved away and slowly opened her eyes. "What's the matter?" she asked, perturbed that the pleasuring had stopped.
Jerome's voice shook when he talked and he felt suspiciously close to tears. "Who was he?" he demanded.
Gladys knew immediately what had upset him. How bloody inconvenient, she thought testily. "What does it matter? I never made any promises to you!"
"You never.." Jerome sputtered indignantly. Angrily, he stepped closer to her. "I thought it obvious that promises were made when you kissed me! When you let me touch you as a husband touches a wife!"
A memory of her Father dismissing her as unimportant echoed in her mind, "Posh, what's a girlie need with letters and numbers! She'll be married off to give her husband sons!" She squared her shoulders and glared imperiously at Jerome. "I will never be sold off at the marriage market!"
Jerome's mouth dropped open in shock and they stood there staring at each other, chests heaving in anger. Finally, he stormed to the window and hopped through it without another word.
Gladys let him go and felt a strange pinch of sadness. She would always love him, she supposed. But she would never belong to one man!
Orb's Year 943
She was certain that he was going to throw himself down on one knee and propose marriage.
And if her Mother had any say in the matter, she would accept graciously.
"What are you waiting for?" Caira demanded. "You've loved him since high school! I don't understand why you'd prefer running around and acting... loose!" Caira spat, waving her hands in the air wildly in anger. "What will people think?!"
Gladys crossed her arms. "You promised that you would never force me to marry anyone against my objections!" she said stubbornly. "And I choose not to accept his suit!"
Caira glared at her head-strong daughter. It was true. She'd promised never to make her daughter marry for anything less than love. Her mother had forced her to marry Remington Flowers when she was yet a young girl and she'd resented being kept from her teenager love for years afterwards. When she'd promised her daughter freedom to make her own decisions, she had never anticipated that Gladys would have a host of admirers with no intention on settling down, though!
"Och! What am I going to do with you?" Caira cried, before hurrying from the room, close to tears. It killed her to see her daughter acting in this manner!
Gladys watched her Mother run off and sighed. She wasn't doing this to hurt her anyone. She just wanted to be free to live her own life.
Gladys turned back when she heard Bridgette's grunt of pain.
"You'll be fine!" Bridgette called back. "It'll only be a few moments!"
"Floyd!" Gladys said impatiently. "Come get your baby!"
Floyd sat down to eat quickly. "Just let me get a bite to eat so I don't keel over."
Gladys looked down at her nephew, fidgeting in her arms and softened. Perhaps a husband and one or two of these babies wouldn't be all that bad, she thought to herself.
Then Hector opened his mouth and let out the most awful, blood-curdling scream.
Gladys held the baby further away from her and frowned. Or not...
Orb's Year 944
"Perhaps you'd like to come in to see the workshop?" Gladys offered saucily.
"Oh! Of course!" Robert said magnanimously. "That sounds very... educational!"
Bridgette's wrung her hands as Gladys led the customer into the house without a backward glance.
A few minutes passed when the door to the workroom banged open. "GLADYS FLOWERS! You come out of there THIS instant!" Caira shouted.
Robert reared back, startled at having been caught mid-act. He hurriedly re-arranged his clothes and scurried from the house, avoiding any eye contact with anyone.