She never enjoyed the piano. Of course, given her education as a lady and her Aunt, Wilhelmina Coke knew it was her duty to learn such frivoler acts. She enjoys the music, of course, but the practice of making it did bother her, as she never found herself in the company of a good partner. That is of course, until she lay eyes for the first time with Prince Ernest.
Oh, what a handsome man he was! It made her red as an apple for the moment he offers a warm and formal smile in her way, her eyes cast to the ground as to avoid him seeing her redness and to not make herself a fool in front of everyone. And of course, he plays the piano just as good as he looks, Chopin, she recognised the melody.
And it warms her heart when he finds her, luring in the shadows, observing him, and offer to play with her. A duet. A proper partner to play, finally!
She is a fool really, thinking that their interactions could lay some underline meaning, that maybe he would find her alluring, just as much as she found him. Wilhelmina would never fancy herself a handsome woman, she is plump, round-faced with equally round hips, her best features would be her eyes and hair, but she is not allowed to display her locks to the young men. Instead she wishes that her mind was enough appealing for the Prince.
Clearly, as he stands before her saying their goodbyes, he did not.
It breaks her heart and she stands there, holding the notes of Chopin he gave her. You must not play only Chopin, he said. But oh! She wished to play Chopin and only Chopin if that meant being by his side.
It has only been a moment since he left the room and she finds that her legs work faster than her mind for they start moving before he can deny them. “Your Highness!” she calls, careful not to trip on her dress and he turns around, eyebrows raised, surely confused by her actions.
Oh how good he looks even then! But she composes herself enough to speak once she regains her breath. “I wish to you give a token of good will, for your journey. And to thank you for the pleasure of your company.” And now she is blushing, red as the first day she saw him, but this time she does not advert her gaze, surely, he is no fool and knows she seeks his attention.
“You should not concern yourself for me, Miss Coke.” He speaks, gentle smile on the prince’s lips and yet he does seem curious by her attention. “But it is not wise to reject a lady’s token, especially after such candid friendship.”
Friendship. She did not have his heart and courtship but she is content with his friendship, yes, maybe they could write to one another.
She does not, however, have a token as she said, so she must be quick to give something of hers. And the one thing she has in hand is her bracelet, a gift of her mother before she left to be with her aunt. Surely he had seen far more impressive jewellery, but the value of the token it’s the meaning. She unlocks it, quiet steps leading her close to the prince and with bold gesture, she reaches one hand for his.
“It was my mother’s, she said it would give me courage once I began living with my Aunt. I do hope it gives you the same courage on your journey.” No stutter or fault in her voice, she prides herself in how she hold herself, despite clear blue eyes threatening to shed a tear. Oh no, she will not cry over the prince. Perhaps later, when she finds herself in the comfort of her chambers.
Bracelet lands on his palm and she closes his fingers around them before he can deny the present. Blue finds hazel and she feels that for the first time he looks at her as that other lady, the former mistress of the robes. But surely she must be playing tricks on her own mind. “I will safeguard it with my life, Miss Coke.”
“I do hope this is not the last time we see one another, Your Grace.” And she smiles, bold as she feels, their hands still joined, she leans to leave a chaste kiss on his cheek, the corner of his lips turning into a smile at such innocent gesture.
He retrieves his hand, eyes never leaving hers, as he makes a small bow to leave the room. “Goodbye, Wilhelmina Coke.”
And he leaves her alone with her thoughts and Chopin.