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“During the meeting, only speak when spoken to and don’t ask any questions,” Mother snaps at me coldly.
“Yes, Mother.” I roll my eyes.
Why does she have to remind me to be quiet? I’m only allowed to talk when someone addresses me, and questions from me are never welcome. This situation will no different from any other circumstance in my life. I want to grunt something back at her, but I swallow the snide remark quickly and try my best to look obedient.
“Don’t look at William too insistently. Don’t say anything stupid that could make him or his family feel uncomfortable.” She keeps going on and on with her demands. Mother has been instructing me in proper manners for years; it’s hard to focus on her words.
“Thia, I know the Foxes have accepted your engagement to William, but remember that nothing is formalized yet. Your father and I have gone through great lengths to prepare for this wedding. You have to be on your best behavior during the entire dinner.”
In one week, William’s family will come to our house for our official meeting—a crucial reunion that will finalize our engagement or break it apart. His parents will gauge whether I’m still worthy of their son or not. Mother is anxious, worried I might make a fool of myself.
I rest my head against the windowpane and try to block out her words as they echo against the walls of our private compartment. The train is moving at full speed. My mind keeps drifting while the landscape passes me by like a blur, going too fast for me to stop or breathe.
There are just a few bullet trains in New York State, all of them reserved for the upper-class. They ride through the mountains, between the different towns, and into the metropolis, Eboracum City, where Mother is taking me to try on my bridal gown.
“Your father spent a lot of money on your dowry, Thia. We offered the highest amount we could afford to make sure the Foxes wouldn’t turn you down.”
As if that family needs any more money. I grit my teeth and inhale deeply. I was promised to William exactly four years ago, on the day I turned thirteen. That’s when I became a piece of merchandise sold in a trade to benefit my parents. My marriage to William was settled by our two families. I had no say in it; nobody cares how I feel about the whole arrangement anyway.
“You will be standing until instructed otherwise,” she continues, “so William and his parents can look at you while I introduce you. It is of the utmost importance for you to impress them and give your very best, Thia. Many girls would give everything they have to be matched with a young man like William. It is an honor for us that his family chose you.”
Mother sends me a quick glance. A lot remains to be done before the union is complete, and this upcoming ceremony has put her completely on edge, turning the past few months into a real nightmare.
“Your father holds high hopes for this union, Thia. Once you are married to William, your father will get promoted to a higher paying job. Mr. Fox even mentioned the possibility of a whole new career. If we are lucky, he will hire your father to work in his company.
“You know William has the right to refuse you at any given time. Don’t give him any reason to do so. You are to obey him and his parents no matter what they may demand of you. Getting rejected would be a disgrace upon our entire family. I do not need to remind you what the consequences would be. This is your only chance. No one else will agree to marry you if William changes his mind.”
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