“SIR, ARE YOU ENGAGED? HAVE YOU COME FOR ROXANNE? SHE’S the only one who’s not… yet.”
In the garden’s extreme northern sector, the sunlight hit the exotic orange flowers of the trees and bathed everything in oneiric amber.
Alan had crossed the large park, rather than garden, to meet the kid that dressed like an early 20th century governess. Her very fine straight hair, gathered in a bun, only increased even more that impression. But her eyes, huge to an inordinate degree, and empty, were those of a girl who embraces the novelties life decides to bring. Indeed, on this particular occasion, he was equally curious.
“No. I haven’t come here to find a wife. Nor am I engaged.”
She raised her eyebrows surprised.
“But, Sir… Don’t you want to get married?”
“If the proper time comes, with the proper person…” Alan answered, trying not to feel as old as the word Sir made him.
“That sounds like what Celeste told us. To marry someone we know is going to love us.”
Griselda’s excessive brown eyes had such a natural sparkle that it was hard to tell whether they were about to be filled with tears.
“You can come with us, if you want. We’ll help you as much as we can to leave this place and begin a new life.”
He had not even finished saying it when the responsibility of what he was offering overwhelmed him.
“No,” replied Griselda. “I could never have a better life.”
“Why not?” the man asked, unable to make out the reason for the girl’s categorical answer.
“Because I’m ugly.”
Alan wondered if he had said or done anything to lead her to that conclusion.
“No, you’re not. Who told you that?”
“Dora,” she explained, as if citing a recognized authority.
“Dora’s the one with the rifle?”
“Forget it. In any case, you must never think that. You’re as pretty as any other girl, and you mustn’t let anybody short-change you.”
Griselda remained still for a moment and then began to cry, as if, although her mind didn’t, her heart understood the meaning of that expression.