The sunlight peeked through the leaves, the gentle breeze rustling them. Christine lay on the grass, eyes closed and breathing slowly. Her golden hair spilled around her in spirals. The cool wind ran across her face with soft caresses.
Christine's eyes snapped open. "Not now," She thought. "I just got away."
"Christine!" the voice shrieked again. "Where are you?"
With a sigh Christine rolled onto her side, the moments of peace gone. The chipmunk that had snuck up to sniff her froze. "I need a new name," she addressed the small animal. It cocked its head as if listening. "One that isn't so worn out from being called out so much."
The small rodent took off through the grass as footsteps approached Christine's resting place. A rough hand grabbed her arm and pulled her upright. "Look at you child," her mother, Lottie started to brush off her pale blue dress. "You are covered in dirt and grass. It's all over you and your hair!"
Christine tried to pull away. "Mother, I am not that dirty. All I was doing was laying in the grass and smelling the air-"
"Go upstairs and clean yourself up," her mother commanded, not listening to Christine. "Raoul will be here soon. You must look presentable. We don't want him to see he fiancé looking like a gutter rat do we?" She spun Christine around and pushed her back to the house. "March!"
Christine gathered up her skirt and ran inside. Thundering up the steps and bursting through the door she ran promptly into her father. He caught her in his arms.
"Christine! Where is the fire?" he asked shocked. Christine looked up at he fathers' soft brown eyes. Her large blue ones holding back the tears that she felt building up. "My angel," he murmured into her hair, "you were rolling out in the grass again weren't you?"
"I wasn't rolling, I was simply laying down. I was listening to the wind sing the morning song."
He softly kissed the top of her head. "What melody did you hear today?"
Christine opened her mouth to reply.
"Christine!" Her mother appeared at the door. "Gustave, you are keeping your daughter from getting properly dressed." Lottie came inside and pick up the large flat package on the table. "Take this upstairs and get undressed. Wash your face and brush through your hair. I will be up soon to help you with your corset."
Christine rolled her eyes, grabbed the box and stomped up stairs.
"Sweetheart," her father called after her, "when you are done I shall play the violin for you." Christine looked over her shoulder and nodded.
"Lottie, you are much to hard on her," Gustave turned to his wife. "She is only seventeen. She is still young. Not quite a woman yet."
Lottie's' face softened. "I know dear, I just worry. We don't have many young men like Raoul around these parts and I just want her to be happy and have a good life." She hugged her husband. "Very much like the one we have had."
Gustave retuned the hug. "I know. I just think you are much to stern with her. She is your only daughter."
She stepped back and smiled. "I know love, I know. Now I have to go help her dress."
Christine sat at her dresser in her slip, scrubbing her face with a wet cloth. She set it in the basin and looked in her mirror. Her cheeks and forehead were red from the scrubbing. Next she grabbed her brush and pulled it through her hair, watching the curls bounce back into their natural spirals. She gathered two sections on the sides and tied them behind her head with a red ribbon. Using her bush she fluffed the shorter hair around her ears into place.
With the red fading into pink she grabbed the poof and dabbed it in the powder it sat in. She patted it all over her face, making her skin look more like porcelain. She tuned with a start when the door creaked open. Lottie entered with a soft face.
"My dear," she whispered, "I am sorry about earlier. I did not mean to be so cross. I was afraid you had gone into the woods. "
Christine lowered her head. "I understand mother. I know how dangerous you know it is and how important my engagement to Raoul is to the family."
With a sigh Lottie opened the box containing the new dress. "I just want to make sure you are happy and provided for."
Christine stood at the foot of her bed, grasping the bedpost with one had, holding the unlaced corset with the other. "I know. I know."
Her mother began lacing her up, pulling very tightly on the laces. Christine gasped as the air was crushed out of her. She closed her eyes doing her best to keep her ribcage out as much as possible to keep it from being too tight, but still breathing. She recalled the first time her mother had strapped her inside and Christine hadn't made it to the carriage before passing out.
"You must suffer to be beautiful," her mother had said. "These are the highest fashion in France."
"The French are crazy," Christine had muttered under her breath.
She had picked up the ribcage trick from her voice teacher, who was appalled by the 'fashionable' contraption. He had given her some breathing exercises to make her stronger and control her breathing.
Her mother pulled the dress over her head and began tying the dress up. It's soft pink made her look even more pale, with simple lace across the neckline and cascading from her sleeves that started at her elbows.
"There," Lottie said, stepping back. "You look perfect. He will be so pleased."
The young man looked out the window of the carriage, not paying attention to the drone of his older bother, Philippe.
"Raoul." Raouls head snapped towards his brother. "Have you been listening?"
"Not really," Raoul admitted. "I was day dreaming about Christine."
Philippe smiled. "I thought so. But I was talking about her. You are a very lucky man. At twenty and you have the most beautiful girl in this part of the state." He shook his head and chuckled. "Many man would give his right arm for what you are getting now. Not everyone has such a grand arraignment."
Raoul sighed. "I know. I am very pleased. I was glad when her parents accepted your offer."
Philippe studied his younger bother. Light brown hair was neatly parted to the side, his face clean-shaven and his grey eyes held wisdom beyond their twenty years. Since their parents death Philippe had taken over the estate and the care of his younger brother, but Raoul had seem much in his short lifetime. "Don't worry Raoul, I will be here for you and your soon to be wife."