He grabbed her arm yanking her to her feet. He — shook her, his resentment of her revealed in an angry moment. She was a nuisance, the daughter of his brother, the disappointment by his marriage to someone so far beneath him, the struggles he endured caused his untimely death. His wife, who couldn’t be mentioned in this residence had died several years earlier in child birth. He threw his life away, — according to uncle Alex.
Marta was an orphan at fourteen years and Alex Borensky’s rank had been diminished by the new regime. Now with this meritorious elevation of the Boyars, Marta’s uncle had to earn the way to his rightful place in society.
The girl stood before him, his meal ticket — he hoped, he was going to present her before the prince and the entire Royal Family. The Tsar had decided that his son needed a wife to confirm him as a man in all matters and a viable successor to the throne.
Alex shook his head in disgust when his niece was finally prepared for his review. She had the look of that woman, why couldn’t she at least have been pretty and refined in all things a young lady of noble birth would acquire?
“Why couldn’t you find something that would at least bring out the color in her face?” he scolded the servants tasked with her presentation. “Never mind this will have to do.”
He decided that the mere attendance at this “parade” might give him the opportunity to catch the eye of the Tsar or be able to re-connect with some other members of high society who might help to elevate his station.
Marta was herded into the chamber with fifteen other young women in varying levels of excitement and horror. She spotted one young woman whom she thought was the obvious choice for the prince. She was older but looked regal and was finely dressed and very beautiful.
Marta’s own self-doubt was increased by waves of nausea that kept ebbing during the first moments of this new experience. She decided to change focus from herself and immediately noticed a very frightened young girl standing in the corner — pale as a ghost.
“I’m Marta.” she addressed the child.
“Vonna,” she replied through the tears.
“See that young woman over there?” she pointed to the well-coiffed beauty she had spotted earlier. “He’s going to pick her, I am sure of it.”
Vonna smiled, Marta’s heart melted. How could they put someone so young through this?
“Vonna, is your father here?
“Yes, and my mother as well.” she responded. “They say I am ready for marriage, — older than my ten years.”
“My uncle just wants to get rid of me, he was cruel to my father and I cannot find it in my heart to forgive him.” Marta revealed. “You however have brightened my day.”
When Alexandria Dronkov spotted the two younger girls, gathered in the corner of the large stately room, smiling and engaged in conversation, she decided to join them.
“I’m Alexandria, representing the hopeful Dronkov’s of Kiev. We traveled quite far, my father insists I make a spectacle of myself to be noticed by the prince, I just want to be young and happy like you both seem to be.”
“In the moment, I guess we are — happy. Marta turned to Vonna and all three laughed.
The older girls were less objectionable to this princely review and spoke of superficial matters while measuring up against each others charms.
“My gown was specially made for me by Gerta, the Germantown Seamstress who knows all the latest European fashions.” said the girl in the royal blue satin and lace gown with fashionable matching hair piece.
“Everyone knows he’s going to pick me.” said the young woman chosen by Marta, who had now taken on the air of a Royal Courtesan.
An excitable man entered the chamber and clapped his hands twice, catching the notice of every one in the room. The line of ladies formed and followed the man out of the room.