The Queen and the Duchess -Interlude- pt.1
- This chapter entails a conversation between Maria and Anne Marie.
“‘Maria’, I’ve brought you some sweets today.”
Thus, I extended my hands which were filled with sweet macaroons. Their vivid colors made them even more appetizing.
“Look, aren’t they cute?”
“Indeed, I also thought the same.”
As Anne Marie responded, her eyes shone.
Truly, how genuine it was! Maria never thought that one day, she would see this kind of expression from her.
Anne Marie never had eye for vivid-colored things…
…She really thinks that she is me, or so it seems.
If she, the Queen, were to host a tea party at the royal palace, she would be obliged to invite all of the noble ladies.
That was why she opted to secretly visit Anne’s house and hold a tea party there. Sometimes Anne’s sister would also join in.
Anne Marie and I seemed like we contrasted each other, but we were actually more similar than everyone realized.
We were what might be called ‘ladies of noble upbringing’.
I, myself, referred her as my ‘Sister-in-arms’.
I’ve shown various faces to everyone, but they were never my honest feelings. No matter how repulsive or unbearable things became, I would stand with a smile. Sometimes, I would even put on a show of empathizing with them, while in my heart, I loathed them to hell.
Similarly, Anne Marie concealed everything with a perfect smile.
Be it rudeness, or plain cruelty—she endured them all.
Under that smile, her pain slowly but surely eroded her.
We’ve both been connected with the royal family since childhood. For our names to be considered as potential brides for the princes was only natural.
However, when the time came to select the royal candidate, the one proposing for me to be queen was, surprisingly, not my own father.
It was Anne’s; this kingdom’s minister.
“My daughter isn’t eligible for the role. Her personality isn’t up to it. I do not believe this will change in the near future either, not even if we strove for it with our best.”
Dion and Gilbert’s mother had already passed away. Hence, the following the Queen candidate needed to be groomed into the kingdom’s finest woman at once.
Thus, he said, “not my daughter.”
Probably because, as the minister, he prioritized the wellbeing of this kingdom.
That or he was simply doing what any father would do—prioritizing his daughter’s wellbeing.
Whichever it was, I wasn’t sure. He was much better at masking his emotions than me—
—a skill that was surely inherited by Anne Marie.
While married, Anne Marie never seemed unhappy, but she never appeared happy either.
She upheld her role as the Duchess, which satisfied Gilbert.
I thought he would do rude things to her.
He might also compromise her dignity in the process.
However, in my eyes, she didn’t appear to change much.
To not let it be visible; to reveal as little as possible—to her, that was an obligation.
“‘Maria’, you love sweet-flavored confectionaries, don’t you?”—
—just like me.
“Yes, just like you, Your Grace.” She laughed blissfully.
“Fufufu, indeed so. That’s why, today, I’ve gotten the sweetest macaroons just for you.”
Anne Marie seemed confused.
Well, no wonder.
When offered something, everyone could easily fake being grateful out of courtesy.
Or in this case, when something you supposedly like is put in the context, you could easily say you like it—
—but in all actuality, do you?
“…I am Maria. I love sweets…”
You may say that, but deep down, do you honestly think so?
“Those were just mere words, aren’t they? You never actually tasted other sweets. Even now, you hesitate trying them.”
She looked even more bewildered.
“You see, I am Maria too, and you have something that was once mine.”
“…Well, okay, if you say so, then that might be true…”
I never had any intention of calling her ‘Marie’, like those attached to her former self. Not even once had I called her that.
If she wants to be ‘Maria’, then let her be.
I didn’t see any problem with that.
In hope that she would revert back to her former self, her family kept drilling facts and facts of whom she once was to her. In turn, they also would deny each of her statements about being Maria.
In my opinion, by doing what they deemed as fit, they were only forcing their own way. They obviously hadn’t acquired any instructions regarding the actual situation.
I refused to adhere to that, and instead, chose to find my own solution.
Her current state was unbearable for me. She depended her whole attitude and everything else to my image. As she was once my sister in arm, I hated seeing her like this.
“That something is the part of you who likes sweets. It’s mine. The Maria who loves sweets is me. Would you please return it? For Dion loved that part of me.”
The reason the Minister chose me to be the queen was for the kingdom’s prosperity.
That was all there was to it.
But not Dion.
He truly loved me. His face and even his earlobes turned red as we filed our marriage.
I tried to be the best queen that ever was, all for his sake.
If he became over-optimistic, I would bring him back to reality.
To his amiable nature, I ingrained some brittleness so that his tenderness would neither be taken advantage of, nor be taken for granted by those who didn’t deserve any.
That was my role as the queen; as someone who stood by his side; as someone who loved him.
I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, let anyone else assume that role for me.
“Please, give it back to me.”
“But, if I do that …I’ll be empty.”
She looked fragile, like a lost child.
She likely became like this because of self-suggestion.
Bottling it inside, having no one to rely on, she endured it all.
In the first place, she probably didn’t want to burden anyone. That might be why she didn’t talk about it to someone else.
That pain accumulated, and then overflowed.
Thus, she became Maria.
That way, at the cost of losing herself, she also forgot the pain.
Once the illusion collapsed and she had to face the reality—would she return to her former self? Or will she assume someone else’s identity?
Or, would she endure it all over again?
Now, she was neither Maria nor Anne Marie.
Such blank look, it was the first time I had ever seen it.
All because she tried to hide her weaknesses until she reached the breaking point.
And even if she was beyond repair—
“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it?”
—I would laugh.
I didn’t mind that at all.
My anger for Gilbert was the real deal, that was the truth.
But also to her, whom just accepted everything and never tried to stand up for herself.
Did you think I’d just let you take the easy way out?
To just forget everything, to assume a new role and lead a new, fake life, because it’s easier?
I would absolutely not forgive such escapism.
“If you are empty, just fill it.”
There were still a lot of wonderful things left in this world.
“What mine is mine. As the one who will take back from you, I’ll help all I can to refill that emptiness.”
***T/N : Like guys, seriously, Maria is the major reason the plot has been moving so far,
why isn’t she the prota.