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Juliana entered the upstairs nursery. The small room was near the attic. It had not been used in years, so it surprised Juliana to see the light coming from under the door. Slowly she opened it to reveal a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl sitting with her legs tucked beneath her, a box on her lap and letters spread in a fan before her.
"Annabelle? Whatever are you doing in here?"
Annabelle looked startled until she realized her governess and closest friend Juliana discovered her. She gave a deep sigh of relief.
"I am packed and ready to leave tomorrow." She watched the sorrow flicker in Juliana's eyes. Juliana knelt before her.
"I shall miss you terribly."
"Clara is still here," Annabelle offered, but they knew that in a year or two her sister Clara would follow Annabelle to her Aunt's to be presented for her season and then Juliana would be left alone in this house with no one to love her.
Annabelle hated the very idea of her friend being left in such a state. You've been such a wonderful governess to Clara and I. I am certain you could ask for letters of recommendation from Mother once Clara leaves and perhaps you can find a new home and family.
Juliana smiled. "There is no need to worry about me. I can take care of myself. It is you who I am worried for."
"Yes. Why are you here, all alone, the night before you are to leave?"
"Well, I am to go to my Aunt's to be presented. To find a husband and I guess I wanted to look over the letters from my other suitors to know what I should expect or perhaps what I should be looking for?"
"Other suitors?" Juliana asked with a sly grin. In truth, she knew of Annabelle's secret box of letters, and her suitors. With Annabelle's beauty it was to be expected, and with her sweet disposition and penchant for getting into trouble it was more of a given.
Annabelle blushed. "There have been a few that have written quite lovely letters or poetic verse. I never replied to any of them of course but it was rather sweet of them to write. I've kept them all here in this box and hid the box from Mother in this room."
"Shall we read them together?" Juliana asked, conspiratorially.
Annabelle giggled. "Yes, lets!"
For hours the girls giggled together over the feeble attempts the boys had made to win fair Annabelle's heart. Letters like...
Quite lovely weather we are having but not nearly so lovely as you. What sun could compare to your radiance? You glow from within and have lit my heart ablaze. Please, save me from being completely consumed and tell me you'll be mine!
My Dear Annabelle,
Red the rose is as it grows
So does my love for you
Blue is the forget me not
Please tell me it holds true
Violet is the sweetest smell
Crushed upon a heel.
And crushed I may be
For it is my heart you did steal.
An Admirer from the Shire
"Oh, what poor boy did you do this to?" Juliana admonished.
Annabelle shrugged. "I have not the foggiest."
"So, which has been your favorite thus far?" Juliana inquired.
Annabelle scanned over the letters and picked the one she was looking for, "Undoubtedly, it must be this one..."
My Lovely Annabelle,
Will you permit me to compose a sonnet about your glorious hair?
"Oh, no!" Juliana fell into a fit of laughter, "Say it isn't true?"
"I would but I fear it is all too real, and well just horrid really. I doubt this boy even knows what poetry is let alone having the skill to compose an actual sonnet."
Both girls laughed until the tears needed to be swiped away.
"I guess there is not much chance of you finding advice on true love among these sages or poets then?"
Annabelle looked at the letters sprawled across the floor. "No, I guess not." She looked suddenly sad or perhaps concerned it was difficult to discern.
"It is a bit frightening, is it not? To think I may be married in just a few short months. Oh, Juliana! I had so hoped it would be for love. I so wished one of these boys would have been brave enough to come to our door and steal me away from here, so we could live happily ever more."
Juliana hugged her friend and charge. "You will find love, Annabelle."
"How can you be so certain?"
"It is who you are inside that will draw that man you seek. Like a moth to a flame he will not be able to resist and he will stop at nothing to love you."
"Like Richard loves you?" Annabelle asked.
Juliana felt the pain of hearing Annabelle's brother's name. "That ship has sailed long ago I am afraid."
"I know my brother loves you," Annabelle stated adamantly.
"Perhaps he did once love a girl but that girl has been gone for quite some time and so has your brother. I am certain he has forgotten all about me."
"Never!" Annabelle cried. "You will see. One day he will return and steal you away from all of this. You will have your happily ever after, Juliana. Never give up hope."
"I shall try," was all Juliana could offer as she knew better than to argue with Annabelle and did not wish to disappoint her friend. "It is getting late."
"Yes, of course," Annabelle said and started to scoop up her letter and place them back in their box. She wished she had not mentioned Richard. That she could get back the laughter and gaiety of a moment ago.