“Vonna, remember me!” Alexandria called to her friend as she waved to Marta and took her place at the end of the line.
Marta hugged Vonna’s small shoulders and guided her behind Alexandria.
“I’m right here behind you, we will do this together.”
Then they entered the large hall were they were previewed before the Royal Family. Marta saw the angry glare she was receiving from her uncle standing amongst the Boyar who were cordoned-off behind a thick brocade of rope. The hopeful in-laws praying that their entry into the Curious Allure would come out the winner.
The prince was very “boyish” looking and seemed disinterested in all the preening and attempts by the young women to be noticed. Marta spotted the beautiful girl she had selected for top prize from the start, working her skills quite well, but not at the prince she was after the notice of the Tsar!
“How shameful!” Marta whispered to Vonna.
As soon as they were ushered in they were sent out and Marta found herself crammed into the carriage with a very disgruntled Uncle Alex. That was it, the humiliation was over, she had made no impression on anyone. Uncle Alex would have to find another way to get this girl off his hands. However, he would have to gain some advantage in the exchange.
Little did she know that her friend Vonna was one of the finalists chosen for a second review and possible marriage to the future Tsar.
Of course the Tsar preferred the older beauty who was a “stand-out” amongst the girls, but the Tsarina had her eye on the “child” with the pretty face, she could be betrothed to her son and the ceremony could wait several years longer.
With her uncle on the prowl for a marriage contract, she ignored his warnings and walked into town for herself. She figured her days were numbered; she would be married off and have nothing to look back on but a lonely, isolated existence.
When Uncle Alex was made aware of Marts’s absence he made ready for town, he could only think about her virtue and how that figured into his deal. He would put her in irons if that was the only way to control her.
Marta enjoyed the feeling of walking about the town, watching people in their everyday routines. She happened upon a boy who was delivering merchandise out of a small wagon and stopped to say hello. The boy, who introduced himself as Erik, took out a fresh roll for her — still fresh from the bakery.
“Care to walk with me?” he asked as she took a bite of the deliciously warm roll. As she nodded and turned around to leave she was grabbed by the arm, knocking the warmth she had felt in her heart along with the roll into the dirt. Erik ran off lucky to escape with his goods intact as the enraged man spun Marta around and slapped her across the face.
People in the streets of Germantown stood in embarrassment for the girl who could have been at fault and deserving of such a reprimand, or not — regardless. The man seemed to be her guardian and no one would intervene in such a relationship.
Marta sat in her room, her face burning even with the warm linen Mary, the servant, had provided her along with some kind words and a draught. Mary prayed someone would intervene to get her away from the spiteful man who was supposed to take care of her.
“Finally,” the loud announcement could be heard three days later while Marta still sat in the lonely chamber where she was imprisoned.
Mary came in with a valise and handed it to Marta.
“Bless you Marta, I knew your mother, I hope this new experience will be good for you, you have been through so much.”
“Thank you Mary.” Marta replied.
As Marta stepped into the coach the man tossed the valise into the back of the carriage and climbed into the drivers seat. The young man, in uniform, handed her uncle a package and climbed in after her.