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Lady Alberta and the Wedding Saboteur (Part 4)

by Plume

A ladder, painted so well it blended seamlessly into the wall behind it, stood propped against the sill of a high-up window. The roof tiles were just barely visible from their vantage point on the floor. And on each rung, faint but unmistakable, were fresh dents in the dust that could have only been made by shoe soles.

Alberta turned to Halifax. “See? Bet you anything, that's where Sir Province is.”

Halifax examined it, dubious. “Is that even safe?”

“Seems sturdy,” Alberta said, shaking the ladder slightly. She made the gesture for Nova and Halifax to go first, but Halifax shook their head. “No, thank you. Heights are… not kind to me. I think I’ve had enough chaos for one day.”

Alberta shrugged. “Fair enough.” Leaving Halifax behind, Alberta and Nova began to climb the ladder. As she hoisted her skirts and crested the top, she was met with a familiar shiny pate.

She smiled. “Fancy meeting you here.”

Sir Province gave her a sheepish grin. “I suppose you found me, eh?”

After helping Nova out as well, the two inched along the roof to reach where he sat. They both settled in beside him, one on either side.

“Why did you take the rings?” Alberta asked simply.

Sir Province shrugged, scratching the back of his bald head. “I’m actually not sure.”

Alberta’s eyes bulged in alarm. “Not more forget-me dust?”

“No, I—” Sir Province broke off, chuckling. “I know why. I just said I’m not sure because… well. It’s hard to put into words. And if I did, it would sound… silly. Foolish.”

“Preposterous,” Alberta said. “I’ll be the judge of that.”

“What Alberta means to say,” Nova cut in, “is that this is a big day for you, and any emotions you might have are perfectly alright, no matter how silly you think they are. And Alberta and I will sit here and gladly listen to them, judgment-free, whenever you’re ready to share.”

Sir Province smiled sadly. “Thank you, Nova.” He sighed, looking down at his lap. “I suppose… well. I didn’t want to get married, if you could believe it. For the longest time I thought it would just be me and my paintings, and I’d grown used to that idea in my head. Then Ottawa came along, with his ease and charm”—Alberta stifled a snort—“and he became my new normal.

“We were never one for labels, you know,” the painter admitted. “We didn’t really go parading it about. People found out when they did, and that was fine by us. I’m pretty sure the first time half the castle heard about it was when I finally sent out our wedding invitations.” He laughed. “We didn’t want to hide it, we just… didn’t want it to spread. I think we were both afraid of it ending, and having to deal with the pain and disappointment. We were content to live our own simple lives, side by side, and face each day as we were: nothing more, nothing less.”

“So what changed?” Alberta asked. “If you were both so happy as is.”

“Ottawa… well. He didn’t change, exactly. He just proposed the idea one day. I told him I’d think it over, and managed to muster up the courage to agree to it. And don’t misunderstand— I wanted this! I still want it. He’s the loveliest person I’ve ever known. It’s just…” The portraitist struggled for words. “It’s such a change, you know?”

“That’s part of the reason I enjoy paintings so much,” Sir Province continued. “They never change. I wanted to make my own life into one, I think, all stagnant and perfect. If I could just preserve my happiness in carmine and linseed oil, and… and stippling…” He bowed his head, and it took Alberta a moment before she realized he was crying.

“I just don’t want to hurt Ottawa,” he finished, voice small and muffled.

“Oh!” Nova exclaimed, throwing her arms over Sir Province. “You poor thing!”

“Is that it?” Alberta muttered. Nova took an arm off Sir Province’s back and subtly socked her, the blow cushioned by her skirts.

Alberta sighed and rolled her eyes, but when she spoke, her words were soft. “Don’t be an idiot. You are the sole person in this entire court who I have ever seen make that pretentious old magician genuinely smile. Doesn’t take a detective to figure out he loves you more than anything.”

“You should just talk to him,” Nova said, giving the painter a final comforting squeeze. “He only wants what’s best for you. For you both. If he loves you—”

“—which he does—” Alberta added.

“—he’ll understand.”

“You’re right, I suppose,” Sir Province said, wiping his eyes with the end of his sleeve. “I… thank you. Both.”

Nova smiled gently. “Of course.” Then, glancing at the watch dangling on her chatelaine, she turned back to the painter with slight concern. “I hate to say this, but I think we all should be going. It’s nearing the time for the wedding, and Lord Ottawa seemed harried enough when we last saw him; I shudder to think what he’s like now.”

Alberta gave a solemn nod of agreement. “Your fiancé gets mean when he’s worried.”

Sir Province laughed wetly. “He does, doesn’t he?” With a grunt of effort, the painter stood up, then offered Nova and Alberta a hand each. “I think that that is a splendid idea. ”

They descended one by one, met at the bottom of the ladder with the rounded, wide eyes of Halifax.

“Apologies, Halifax,” Sir Province said, dropping the rings into Halifax’s palm. “I was completely unfair to you, and I’m truly sorry for any panic this has caused you.”

Halifax blinked and looked between the painter and Lady Alberta. “What—?”

“We’ll tell you on the way,” Alberta said, linking arms with them and Nova. “Right now, we’ve got a wedding to attend!”

In all, the wedding was a rousing success. Many a tear was shed, the most surprising from the usually cool Lord Ottawa, who was reduced to a sniffling mess as soon as he took Sir Province’s hand at the altar. Alberta had been glad to play the harp, and had gotten a few compliments at the fete that followed for her interpretation of the rather cliche love song the couple had chosen. Swirling her drink, she let out a contented sigh. “Well, I daresay it all worked itself out in the end.”

Nova returned the sigh. “I believe it did.” After a pause, she turned to Alberta, eyebrows perplexed. “How did he end up taking the rings? I thought Halifax had them protected with magic.”

Alberta grinned. “I was wondering that too. Apparently he stole some anti-magic ward from Lord Ottawa. Guess being married to the court mage does have its perks.”

“I guess it does.” Nova sighed, eyes panning the large, decorated hall. “They do make quite the handsome couple, don’t they?”

As Alberta watched Sir Province and Lord Ottawa waltz, she couldn’t help but feel joy. The devotion in their eyes was infectious, and she allowed herself a slight moment of longing for what they had together.

She was awakened out of her stupor by a sharp jab to the stomach. She turned to Nova. “What was that for?”

Nova gave her a grin. “Don’t look now. Halifax is coming.”

Alberta tried to give her a pleading look, mouthing desperate pleas for Nova to stay, but the maid swept away with a cheeky smile, leaving Alberta alone with Halifax.

“Hello, Lady Alberta,” they said. “I don’t suppose you’d be, uh… interested in a dance. With me, specifically. Would you?” They bounced up and down on their toes in anticipation.

Alberta grimaced before seeing Nova’s stern look from across the room. She plastered on a wide smile, though her eyes conveyed her true reluctance. “It would be one of the greatest honors of my life,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Oh, really?” Halifax beamed, taking her hand in theirs. She let them lead her to the dance floor, where a lively minuet had just broken out. They slid in amongst the couples already bounding about the marble tiles.

“I was thinking,” Halifax said, as they spun Alberta around, “I had a great time today. With you, specifically. And I was just wondering…would you care to grab dinner together sometime?”

Alberta laughed. “Absolutely n—” She cut herself off when she saw Halifax’s face, too close to the loving hope she’d seen on the faces of the newlyweds.

She sniffed, covering up her falter. “I’ll consider it.”

“Will you really?” they gushed. “That’s amazing! I know this great place—well, I’m friends with the owner, really, and…” Alberta swore she could see literal stars in their eyes.

She smiled, softening. Perhaps she would enjoy herself after all.

Is this a review?



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558 Reviews

Points: 33785
Reviews: 558

Thu Jul 04, 2024 4:08 am
Ventomology wrote a review...

OMG IT'S BACK! I saw this pop up on my "please write a review" thingy on the homepage and couldn't stay away. (Did you finish this up just for Canada Day?)

I don't have a ton of notes... I've probably already said this, but you did a great job laying out the clues to point toward Sir Province as the ring thief, and the "accusation" scene wraps everything up in a nice bow. I also enjoy how Lady Alberta's mysteries always end in like, people owning up to their feelings. It's not at all out-of-tone for these shorts, but is a sweet twist on the classic mystery ending.

I think it wouldn't hurt to get a little more detail on the wedding/after party. There's no need to get poetic, but a sentence or two about lighting or the decor can add a lot to the happy mood.

Also, at the very end, in the dialogue between Lady Alberta and Halifax... maybe this is colored by my own experiences, but I think it would be worth spending a little more time (maybe in a later installment?) on how she goes from ignoring or trying to avoid Halifax's feelings to accepting a date with them. In this instance, I think both Alberta and the reader can be a little swept up in the wedding vibes, but since Lady Alberta goes from begging Nova to stick around to saying yes to a date in maybe a minute, there's probably a lot to explore there.

Overall though, the story accomplishes its goal of being a fun, light-hearted mystery. Everything else is just extra haha! I can't wait for the next short in this series!

Great work,

Plume says...

Thank you so much for the review! You%u2019re right on the money in that there%u2019s a lot to explore with Alberta and Halifax, and I%u2019m def looking forward to doing that in future installments!

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15 Reviews

Points: 301
Reviews: 15

Fri Jun 28, 2024 3:07 am
IllegallyExisting wrote a review...

Hello!! Time to get on with the review. :)

You have a wonderful way of describing things. And a good way of writing at that. You manage to make everything clear and unmistakable. It is not very hard to follow along with what is going on in the story.

The characters are written beautifully. Despite the fact that this is the final chapter if I'm not mistaken, it is still easy to tell what's going on here. What each person is going through and Sir Province especially. The names are also unique, I love them!

Overall, a wonderful story, keep writing and have a good day/night/evening/afternoon!

One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.
— Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex