Disclaimer: I do not own anything of Disney's. The Mouse still reigns supreme.
A/N: I am extremely psyched to finally get this up and running. The story takes place approximately one year after "Make Him Move On." I hope it was well worth the wait.
Strands of imperfect pearls were draped across pale skin in a perfect arc. The tiny cream lumps lay docile against her collarbones, and they didn't try to call any attention to themselves.
Some might call them ugly. They were her mother's pearls. Before that, her grandmother's, and so on. Passed down through generations, that flawed necklace was said to be made by her great-grandmother after she lost her beloved to seafaring thieves. The blemishes of the pearls were supposedly caused by her tears as she nimbly created the strand.
June set her elbows on the cherry wood desk and stared at her reflection in the smudged vanity mirror. Pale as ever. Amusing herself, she widened her eyes and opened her mouth in horror as if she had seen her own ghost.
She blew a kiss to herself in the mirror and then pursed her red lips, examining the black curls piled expertly atop her head and the way her curvaceous form filled out the new venetian-red dress. She had a last-minute fitting for it yesterday afternoon. She loved the way it showed off her bare shoulders and gave her an hourglass figure. However, the elderly seamstress had peered at her over yards of fabric with disdain, without a doubt judging her with those beady brown eyes.
And that disapproving seamstress would probably be attending her 28th birthday party. In minutes, June was about to be called downstairs to a room full of passive-aggressive guests, ones who will thrive on drink and gossip during the remainder of the evening. Rumors and truths about her runaway trysts will circulate among self-righteous ladies and arrogant gentlemen who were once close friends or friendly passersby.
That is what has disturbed her the most during the past year. They were people she used to trust. At a younger age, she would trade dolls with those women and braid their hair. Some of those elders used to lead her in her studies, disciplining her when she lost focus. She used to dance with those men and trade stories. She had even taken a fancy to a few of them.
Now, they had all turned on her. To her face, they expressed relief that she was alive. They rejoiced in her return and her well-being. But behind closed doors and in whispered words, she was worse than dead to them.
June frowned deeply at her troubled reflection. She was glad her father didn't live to see everything turn out this way. Despite having a gentle heart and a vivacious nature, he would have been disgraced beyond repair. The town he loved would have turned on him as well.
Crane Oleander had died shortly after her return to Port Royal. The pneumonia had robbed him of what little strength he had left. Her father had been deeply conflicted by her long absence, but the abridged stories she shared with him seemed to brighten his bedridden days.
She shook her head and stood up, smoothing out the fabric of her skirts. At least she had a handful of people looking after her now. Like she needed looking after. A year changes a person.
She was the head of Westshire Estate, which her father had left to her in his will. It was unusual for a woman to be in charge of a household by herself, so that alone caused social rifts. The house grounded her, and the staff treated her like a rambunctious daughter, even though she was well past adolescence.
Her past adventures still marked her, and her outspokenness was still a permanent personality feature. But she felt different, somehow, by the daily routine and the expectations that now lay at her feet.
June jumped as a voice called to her from downstairs. Kade.
Taking one last look in the mirror, she exhaled deeply and opened the door, exiting her room. With one hand on the banister, she began to ready herself for hours of unique torture.
"So it begins…" she muttered.