In a society based off of eye colouring, the hero of this story Gwenna is against the norm, hating her privileged life, even if it messes her up sometimes. When pushed into an arranged marriage she runs away to the valley.
Gwenna looked into a pair of deep green eyes. She was admiring the clarity and depth they possessed. A sudden rap on the store window made her look away from the 500 dollar par of perfect green contacts. A store clerk was staring at her from inside the optometrists. He pointed to a sign that said NO LOITERING. Then he pointed down the street. Gwenna pulled a face but walked off. Her feet scuffed the ground as she walked down the street, her face looking at the cracked pavement. All the high class ladies simpered and gossiped as they walked down the street with their miniature poodles and star bucks coffees. Second class citizens walked liked Gwenna; feet to the ground, and no eye contact. A common joke among the ‘better class’ was that the valley had to be taught what the sun looked like because they never looked up. Gwenna knew about this joke many times. Not because she over heard a joke or had been the butt of it but because she lived in one of the houses on the hill, she ate the good food, and had an excellent education. She was one of the hill people.
She had been looking at the contacts because she was considering changing her eye colour. Her eyes were purple, something everyone in her family had. She hated having purple eyes. It connected her to a family that was hateful and spiteful. She thought of Nerena and Sal and shook her head mentally. No, not all of her family. Nerena and Sal were eight and 15 respectively and wonderful. Nerena was so little, but her big violet eyes made her looked like a cat. She would be very beautiful when she was older. Sal was very much a sullen teenager, but she still loved him. Fond memories of when she was four, and him just a little baby were still at the back of her memory that came to the surface sometimes like a whale coming up for water.
At the dole gate that began when the valley sloped upwards she presented her ID card and Thomas her favourite guard smiled at her and let her through. He was something she was glad that never changed. She liked his portly belly and friendly smile. He did not treat her any different than any other person that walks through his gates.
“Hope you had a good walk Miss Trech” he bowed, and she always thought his nose would touch the ground if he wasn’t careful. Her house was the top one. The most extravagant. The most anything, as long as it had to do with money. It was four storeys high but she had never seen into the top storey. That was where the servants lived, and it was unseemly for her to see valley living quarters. The house was cage, and she was the glided bird. She had been granted two hours of time to herself, as long as she didn’t go into the valley. This had come only after she had begged her father and mother for hours on end. Finally they had agreed, and with baited breathe she has looked forward to the day when she could walk through the valley, but her hopes had been dashed before she got that chance. She had been presented with her golden embossed ID card, only to discover her father had limited it access to the Hills, and the foot hills. She had sulked for days but eventually conceded after her father had threatened to take the pass from her. Now she treasured her walks, away from the stresses and worries of normal life. She walked casually free from all the manners, and small talk. When she got home, she would be proper again.
She got home to the sound a smashing plate and then a shriek of anger.
“YOU STUPID GIRL!” Gwenna sighed and hurried to the parlour room to be a mediator. Her mother was standing over a cowering girl whose hand was bleeding. Sal was sitting at the head of the table calmly drinking a cup of coffee, but Gwenna could see him smirking as his mother yelled at the servant girl again. The poor young thing was quivering in her robust shoes. Caroline Trech could be terrifying and this poor girl had been on the receiving end of that terror more times than Gwenna liked to count. She stepped forward,
“Mother what’s wrong?” She gently pulled her mother away from the girl while another servant rushed in and pulled Beth (was it Beth?) to her feet.
“That stupid girl,” her mother waved one manicured, dainty hand in the direction of Beth. “She dropped my French toast again. She is so clumsy. I am thinking about firing her, and when I mentioned this, the silly child burst into tears. It was most inappropriate, and ridiculous. I gave her one slap. It was not even a hard one. She should learn not to drop plates. But does she? No. It is most frustrating.” She pulled out a lace fan and began to cool herself, in a very lady like fashion.
“Gwenna, be a dear and get Tory to fetch my smelling salts. The lavender. Not that vulgar vanilla.” Gwenna turned, happy to be leaving the room when Caroline grabbed her hand, “Actually my child. I remembered I had something very important to tell you. Sal, you go and get Terry to fetch my smelling salt.” Sal placed his cup down none to gently and stormed out of the room while another servant scuttled in to brush up the broken china, and to mop up the coffee that was spilled when Sal placed his cup down.
“What did you want to tell me about mother?” she inquired placing her hands on her lap in the correct manner. Her mother smiled, and took another sip of tea reluctant to expel her great news so quietly.
“Macaroon my dear?’ She held a plate out to her but Gwenna shook her head. Caroline took another sp of tea, her finger out in the most delicate fashion.
“Mother please tell me your news, or I will go. I have other matters to do.” She pleaded. Caroline Trech raised one eyebrow but continued to drink.
“Other matters? Such as? Not a boy I hope. You know our expectations,” Gwenna’s checked flushed red, and her mother’s eyebrows rose again into her Botoxed forehead. “Is it a boy? I am afraid that will not do. It would upset our plans something dreadful.”
“Well perhaps if you told me your news then I would not have to be late for my other matters, and that way you would not have to question me about imaginary lovers,”
“Lovers! Ha,” Her mother gave an uncharacteristic laugh. “Fine I will tell you the news. Though I think next time you should learn to be patient. I was unaware that Bronan Cardy liked impatient wives.”
“Wives mother?” Gwenna’s voice faltered and stuttered in shock.
“You heard me you silly child. I am sure you are just an absentminded as that servant. Bronan has come to you father only today to marry you. He will be calling on you at six and I expect you to say yes. He is a good man. Handsome, and charming”
“Not to mention richer than god,” Gwenna muttered under her breath. Gwenna sat in shock for a few moments remembering all the times she had spoken to Bronan.
The last time had been at the annual ball that Bronan’s mother and father the Cardy’s hosted each year. She had spent hours of that day getting ready. Her gold dress felt like Clingfilm and stuck to her skin the night got hotter and hotter. Her hair had been artfully coiled up so that the gold chocker she wore was seen from every angle. Bronan had danced with her many times, each time commented on her appearance, beautiful, spectacular, and stupendous and so it went on into the night until he had had one too many drinks and told her she was hot. She supposed that Bronan wouldn’t be the worst possible husband out there. He was as her mother had said handsome and charming. His hair was the perfect shade of brown, and his eyes were yellow. Her mother had always said that a yellow union would be the best kind possible. She knew he could hold his liquor. After ten glasses of whiskey and unknown wine and shots he could still speak in full sentences, regardless of whether or not they made sense. His mother was a pleasant enough woman if a little too much like her own mother for her liking. As for his father, she did not know. Apart from a few polite waves from across crowded rooms she had never spoken to him. As she thought about it some more she realised that she knew very little about him. He had two older sister, both who had married to respectable families, and provided many snobby upper class brats for the nannies to love. But she knew nothing of his interests and hobbies, apart from groping young poor girls in the dark corners of his house. Something she had discovered when she had been asked to find him by his mother one party night. However despite all the things that made him an excellent choice, he was still often unpleasant, and vile. Last time she had seen him he had kissed her good night a little too forcibly.
“So it is settled. You will wear the grey skirt with the yellow blouse so that he knows that you are willing. If that clear my dear?” Her mothers questions snapped her out of her thoughts, and she nodded blindly still racking her brains for information about Bronan. Anything to make her think that he could be a good husband. But she was drawing an uncomfortable blank.
“I shall have Nessy lay out the clothes for you to change into before dinner. You may go now,” Her mother dismissed her nonchalantly, ringing the tiny silver bell for more tea.
Still in a worried trance Gwenna left not knowing where she was going but thankfully her feet did. Up the central stairs and to the right until she reached Nerena’s nursery. At the age of eight she was still allowed one. But as her womanhood crept up closer to her the room was becoming a distant memory as more childhood toys were taken from her, and replaced with books on etiquette and behaviour. Sal was already there picking at old soldiers that very well could have been his.
“What did mum want?” he asked before she had even closed the door.
“I’m getting married,” she said in a hushed voice, as if she could not understand it herself.
“YOU ARE?!” Sal jumped up and gripped her shoulders, “To whom?” She pulled away from him, and sighed,
“Who do you think?”
“Is it Bronan Gwenny?” Nerena pulled her arm, and gave her a hug.
“Yes it is darling. You are getting cleverer each day.” Nerena smiled happily and returned to her five storey doll house with changing wall paper.
“Are you happy sister?” Sal looked at her his purple eyes reflecting in her own.
“I have been groomed until this moment, of course I am happy,” She murmured in a monotone voice.
Sal looked at her shock then CRACK. He slapped her seething with rage.
“Gwenna snap out of it. It’s Bronan. He is disgusting,” She held one hand to her pink face in a daze.
“I know. But he has already spoken to father. There is nothing I can do.” She sat down beside Nerena and picked up a doll. It was blonde, with bouffant hair. Its eyes were large and had been drawn around in black marker when Nerena had tried to give it a make over. The dolls clothes were trashy at best, and begged the question of if she was real how would she sit down or bend over. She tried to pull downs it dress, and then put it back on its bed. “Besides he is not that bad Sal. I think you are over reacting.” She stood up and brushed her own dress down.
“Yes he is. He is a drinker and he gambles. You don’t actually want to marry him do you?
“How do you know that he drinks or gambles? He has always seemed so…so…” she paused trying to think of a word. But Sal got there first.
“Slimy? Rude? Disgusting?” he offered
“I was thinking respectable,” she replied. Sal raised one eyebrow in doubt.
“He is about as respectable as that hobo from the valley who broke into the Landovan house last month and peed on all their china as a commentary on how we lived the good life with no thoughts about the little guy,” It was at this point that Nerena stood up and wrapped her slender arms around Sals waist.
“No fighting please Sal. She can’t stop what mum and dad want. She has to be a good daughter.” He looked at her, and his eyes softened. He picked her up, and she tenderly pressed her forehead to his.
“Yes she can Nerena. She just doesn’t know how. That’s the difference and you always remember that, Okay?” Nerena nodded and smiled at him. They looked so sweet standing there. Sal was in black jeans and a hoody that said bite me in blood red, while Nerena was in a pink dress, that made her look like a big all of cotton candy. However Gwenna could see the obvious family resemblance. They were both very fair, with the large cat like eyes, and ski slope noses. She subconsciously touched her own nose, and smiled at the fact that she too had that nose. Later when she saw her father, she would be sad because he too had that nose.
That night she sat at the dinner table wearing the yellow blouse and grey skirt just like her mother had told her to. The table had been decorated with vases of flowers as beautiful centre pieces. Caroline Trech had skilfully chosen purple and yellow flowers to obviously drop hints to Bronan just to make his final decision that much easier. Her father sat at the head of the table knocking back the brandy. He was discussing politics with Bronan; in particular the new bill that was being passed on the treatment of the valley people. They were both for it. But as her father had put it,
“It might be stopped by those damn equal rights hippies,” Gwenna had never understood politics, and she wasn’t about to start now. She was thinking over Bronan arrival. He had entered at six o’clock, no matter, or earlier than was expected. He had been welcomed in with a lavish ceremony of servants holding doors open for him, taking his cloak and brushing the dirt from his shoes. His smug face had said it all. He was pleased with all the outrageous attention. He had grabbed her hand with a flourish and kissed in gently so that his lips had barely touched her skin.
“Good evening Gwenna. You are looking as radiant as ever.” He had then in turned shaken hands with her father, and kissed her mothers hand in an equally extravagant fashion. He then went on to flatter her mother perfectly, which caused her to twitter elegantly. They went to the parlour room and each had a before dinner drink, where Bronan managed to keep them all on the edge of their seats with his witty jokes. Gwenna laughed half heartily, watching the seconds tick by. At dinner he had turned to face her father and had not spoken a word to her for the rest of the night. She sullenly picked at her food through the soups and entrees, and the main. When dessert arrives; a decadent chocolate cake he had finally turned to her.
“Are you unwell Gwenna? You have picked at your food all night, and I must say. I do prefer a girl with a healthy appetite.” He turned to face her mother, “I simply can not abide by those girls who look like planks of wood.” Her mother simpered then looked at Gwenna.
“I must apologise for Gwenna then. She does not normally pick at her food so daintily. Normally I have to stop her from eating everything in sight.” She laughed at her own joke, and Bronan nodded.
“Yes but I do suppose if she is not well then her behaviour can be excused. Are you unwell Gwenna my dear?”
“Yes I am, most unfortunately. Just before you arrived I felt quite strange, and I am sorry to say that feeling has not gone away. But never the less I will survive. No do trouble yourself with my problems.”
“No I will not,” he replied coldly. The dinner table lapsed into an awkward silence. Dessert was finished and the men left for the smoking room.
“What a horrible display you put on Gwenna. I will be surprised if he EVER proposes to you now. You stupid, stupid child,” her mother snapped at her as soon as the dinning room doors had closed behind them.
“I did nothing wrong mother. I am certain he will still propose. You are worrying over nothing,”
“NOTHING! NOTHING! Are you blind. You were sullen, quiet and rude. I am very disappointed in your behaviour. I taught you better. Really Gwenna.”
“You taught me just fine mother,” Her mothers tone made her blood boil, and she was struggling to stop her temper from rising to the surface.
“Do not take that tone with me young lady!” her mother’s voice lowered. Never a good sign. She took a step closer to her daughter. Then a servant marched in through the ornate oak doors of the dinning room. She stopped a few metres from them and curtseyed.
“I am sorry to interrupt but Master Cardy has requested Miss Gwenna appearance in the sun room.” Caroline Trech’s face lit up and her mannerisms changed completely.
“Master Cardy you say?”
“Yes mam. Master Bronan Cardy.” She curtseyed again. If she didn’t stop soon that bobbing was going to make Gwenna Sea sick. Caroline pushed Gwenna towards the door,
“Go now my child, and remember our conversation. Be charming,”
Gwenna followed the young servant along one of the corridors. It was long with wood panelling. The marble floor was smooth and clicked with every step she took.
“Excuse me but what is your name?” she asked the servant girl. The girl stopped in her tracks and turned to face her, bowing her head.
“Look at me please,” The girl raised her head; eyes wide like a deer in front of some head lights.
“Are you talking to me miss?” she whispered timidly.
“Of course I am. Do you see any one else in this corridor?”
“I am sorry miss. I am Jane miss. You should not be talking to me miss.” She curtseyed and started walking again.
“Wait!” she commanded, and Jane stopped in her tracks. “Why can you not talk to me?” she asked trying to postpone the sun room.
“It is not proper miss. I live in the valley. Please follow me miss. You are wanted in the sun room. Master Bronan was quite insistent.”
“Oh I see. I am sorry. We had better hurry then hadn’t we? I am sorry for talking to you. I can see it made you uncomfortable.”
“Please do no apologise miss. You did not know. Just learn from you mistakes. I am sure you can understand.”
Bronan was standing at the window looking out at the flawlessly designed lawn. He turned around when he heard the door close behind Gwenna, and smiled.
“Ah just the girl I was looking for,” Then the smile stopped. “What took you so long? That stupid girl must have gotten lost.”
“No, it was my fault. I delayed her. I asked her to fetch me my fan,” and to prove she was not lying she produced a fan and began to cool herself down. Bronan looked suspiciously at the fan.
“Did you not have that fan at dinner?”
“No. I had a different one. You must be mistaken.”
“My dear I am never mistaken. But perhaps the two are just similar?” Gwenna opened her mouth to speak but he stopped her.
“That was not a question. However I do have a question for you. But I already know the answer.”
He took a step closer to her and grasped her hands. She smirked on the inside. His hands were clammy. Despite his cool exterior he was far more nervous than she was. He stood down on one knee and looked up at her. He let go on one of her hands, and reached into her pocket. He presented a ring box made of black velvet. Using great dexterity he opened it. Typical Bronan, it did not open like a lid, but a gate, with the opening along the centre. Resting on black velvet was an engagement ring. The band was almost white and she suspected platinum. The stone was huge. It was centre set with tiny blue stones surrounding it.
“Gwenna will you be my bride?” he asked. This is wrong Gwenna thought. She had always imagine that she would have been madly in love with the man who asked her, and that his voice would have been filled with a sense of certainty and uncertainty. However in Bronans case it was certainty, and arrogance. He knew her answer. She swallowed back a need to vomit and looked at him. He was growing impatient and gripping her hand forcefully.
“Yes,” was all she could muster without choking but it was enough. He pushed the gigantic ring onto her finger then picked her up. He twirled her round and then kissed her forcing his tongue down her throat.
Three months later.
Gwenna stood in front of a full length mirror. She was towering over all the women in the room because she was in 1000 dollar heels, and standing on a tiny platform so everyone could gaze at her. In fact all the eyes were making her feel very uncomfortable. To ease her discomfort she turned around and stared at the back of the dress. It was a deep back that ended at her hip line and showed off what her mother and several dress makers had called ‘Her perfect back. The front was equally beautiful. It had tiny sleeves that were only there to stop the dress from falling down. And the deep scope neck showed off much more skin than Gwenna was used to but it was what her mother had wanted. It was strange but Gwenna had always thought that when she chose her wedding dress she would have been excited but instead all the society ladies surrounding her cooing over her beauty were more excited than she was.
“I think the hem is a bit uneven at the back,” Her mother pointed out an imaginary mistake to the old seamstress. Gwenna smirked when she saw the seamstress roll her eyes before hemming the dress for the fifth time.
“Knock Knock? Can I come in ladies?” A familiar voice called through from the hallway.
“It’s Bronan!” Twins Dixa and Vixa cried in stages whispers.
“Gwenna go behind the screen. He mustn’t see you in your wedding dress. Its bad luck,” Her mother commanded. Gwenna stepped down from her platform, and five girls all at once hurried over to hold up her train. Once Caroline was sure that Gwenna’s dress could not be seen she ushered him in.
“My dear Bronan you gave a quite a start. It was a good thing you knocked. It’s terribly unlucky to see a bride in her dress for the big day.” Caroline teased.
“I wouldn’t dream of putting any bad luck on this special occasion.” He replied, “But where is my blushing bride?”
“I am right here Bronan. I was just getting changed.” Gwenna stepped out from behind the screen.
“Just the woman I was looking for. Please come with me my dear,” He held out one hand, and Gwenna could just imagine all the swooning women that were over come by his charm.
Once outside he began to lead her around the gardens. That was something that Gwenna had noticed seem her engagement. She no long walked where she wanted. Bronan lead, and she followed. She suspected it would be like that after the marriage too.
“So what did you want to talk about my dear?” she asked after a polite amount of silence.
“Your father informs me that you still are continuing those walks around the lower parts of society despite his andmywishes that you would not.”
“It is my decision and I enjoy it. You can not stop me. I am not your pet!” Gwenna stopped walking and pulled away from him.
“I will not be spoken to like that!” He grabbed her shoulders and shook them. “I expect more. You are my wife!” he hissed at her.
“Not yet! Let go of me, or you never will be!” she was trying to pull away from him but he was much stronger than she was. “Please you are hurting me,” she pleaded. His face was twisted in rage.
“You little bitch! You can not threaten me. You have no say in this.” He let go of her, and she began to rub her red arms. He looked at her and then for good measure slapped her. She doubled back in shock and surprise.
“You will learn respect.” He looked at her then stomped off. She sat on a nearby for bench for a few moments trying to compose herself. Then head held high she walked back to the house.
She sat like a good daughter while she listened to her mother lecture her on the proper way to behave. She sat like the perfect child when her father told her she must apologise. She was polite when she gave Bronan a most courteous apology. And then she went upstairs to her bed room and in the fashion of a proper lady she folded her clothing before putting it into the carry bag. She placed her money into a special side pocket and thanked herself was thinking of transferring her trust fund into her own personal account slowly over the last three years. She was sure she would have enough to survive for a while.
She sat on her bed for three hours while she waited for everyone in her family to go to bed. She could hear the doors closing one by one. Finally when she was sure that only the servants were awake she stood up and walked out. She passed the marble hallway and the family portraits of her mother and father, as well as their parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. If they were related then odds were they would be on the wall. As she past the photo of Sal and Nerena she felt sad. She couldn’t say goodbye and she would miss them terribly.
She walked out the front door and never looked back. Only one person saw her leaving. Jane was looking out a window just as Gwenna’s slender figure hit the rose bushes.
“Good luck miss,” she breathed under her breath for continuing the vacuuming.
Gwenna ran to the toll gate. The lighting was green and eerie. The man who was meant to be in charge was sleeping in the gate room. His feet were propped up on the bench and he was snoring every second breath. His cap was pulled over his face and infomercials were playing in the background. She went under the barrier and kept walking. She saw very few people on the road. It was past midnight, and new Hill laws made many people too afraid to even go out past dark. She walked through the foothills town. Most of the shops had bright windows to keep away any unwanted night guests. They all gave the impression that all the shop owners slept above their shops and slept with shotguns. It was strange and unfamiliar territory to Gwenna. She has walked through these streets but always during the day, and despite her best attempts her father had always had her followed. She had always known deep down that she was safe, but now she was truly on her own. Only time would tell if she was free or not.