It truly was a beautiful summer day with the birds singing and a gentle breeze rustling the leaves.
The five young Aristocratic men are standing in a group on the field. They are preparing for a running race, taking their jackets off and laying them down on the soft grass, then rolling up their sleeves.
I pick up one of the hats that I think belong to Lord Cheney and starts making the pieces of paper with the names of each runner. I put them in the hat before mixing them.
I walk back to the group of women and they each pick a name.
"Lord Newton," Jessica Stanley says as she pulls up his name. I notice him winking to her and sees her blushing in return, giving a slight wave.
"Mr. Clearwater," Lauren Mallory says as she pulls his name out of the hat, not ashamed of the grim look on her face as she reads his name out loud.
"Mr. Crowley," Emily Young says with her always so cheerful voice as she pulls out the name. Her black hair waves around her face as a breeze hits us.
I walk over to the last woman, Angela Weber, my dear friend. She gives me a knowing smile as she sticks her gloved hand in the hat and pulls out a name. "Lord Cheney," she smiles and I give her a knowing wink to which she blushes.
I was left with the last name. "You'd better not let me down, Jacob Black. I've got twenty guineas riding on you."
Mr Black is quick to reply, "Only twenty? I'd double that if I were you."
I smile at him, while the look on Black's face suggests that he's taking this very seriously. He joins the other men in the starting line-up, who also seem pretty intent on winning.
"Are you ready gentlemen? Twice around the track. On my count, three... two... one...go!" I drop the handkerchief and the men immediately sprint out across the park. All the women start to cheer. I know I shout the loudest, but I do not care about it. I start jumping up and down, "Come on Mr. Black, come on!"
The men are running back. Mr Black to my enjoyment is leading the race.
"Come on Mr Black!"
Black puts his head down and accelerates. He wins, totally out of breath and sweating. All the others follow, similarly exhausted and bent over double.
I turn triumphantly to the women. A book containing all the bets we made lay in my hand. "I do apologise ladies but it appears my horse has won." I say rather playfully. We exchange money. A sulking and scoffing Ms. Mallory gives me the 20 guineas.
Mr. Black appears from behind me, still slightly out of breath, his black hair slightly wet, still the grin does not leave his face.
I turn to him, "Well done Mr. Black," He looks intensely at me, standing much closer than may normally be expected. The people around us notice this, and there's an edge of tension at this risqué behaviour.
"And my reward?" he asks, still not breaking the eye contact, making me slightly nervous.
I return the look, refusing to back down to his intense stare, "What did you have in mind Mr. Black?" I can hear the people around us whispering, eavesdropping at our conversation. He smiles and is about to come back with a reply when a servant approaches us, "Your mother wishes to see you Lady Isabella."
I give a short courtesy to Mr. Black who bows in return before I run off.
Mother waits inside the sitting room as I enter, her red and golden dress flowing around her perfectly as she stands by the window, looking outside, composed like always.
"I must apologize mama. were we making too much noise?" I can hear the insecurity in my own voice. You would be a fool to make mama mad. I had experienced this far too many times.
"Not at all, darling. We have much more important thing to talk of. Come here."
I walk over to where she stands, waiting expectedly at for an explanation. She reveals nothing, but her excitement can't help but shine through.
"I have heard a rumour." she pauses for dramatic effect.
"Yes?" what could she be getting at?
"That I shall very soon be addressing my daughter as Her Grace, the Duchess of Washington."
I take a few steps back in surprise, "Is it true mama?" It couldn't be! His grace was a far too good a match for me. Mama smiles proudly, "It is."
"The duke of Washington." I said in a whisper, I was finding it hard to believe. Why would he pick me, out of all the women in England?
"I had hoped not to part with you until 18 at the soonest, but with such a fine match it would be selfish of me not to let you go." She takes my face in her hands and strokes my cheeks. For the first time in many years, I see my mother happy, truly happy.
"He loves me?" I ask in astonishment. I had met His Grace a few times. He was a good looking man, the kind of man that made the room go silent when he entered. He always looked so stiff and proud, never showing me any sign that he wanted to take me as his wife.
"Yes, of course!" Mama exclaims. I feel the excitement flutter in my stomach. This was far too good to be true. "I have only met him twice!"
"When one truly loves someone, one doesn't have to know them well to be certain, Isabella. One feels it right away." She pauses and strokes my hair. "I do believe you will be happy with him."
I smile back at her, "I know I shall, Mama... I know I shall." And I will. I have heard the rumours about His Grace. He was a known to be a cold and emotionless man. Few people crossed him and those who did rarely come back unharmed. I would do my best in the situation I was put in. I will not be a coward.
The wedding march is playing as I make my way towards my future. His Grace is standing before me. His back is perfectly straight and his handsome face remains emotionless as I make my way up the aisle. Only a slight twinkle in his eyes lets me know that he feels at least something about the situation we are in.
My bridal dress flows behind me on the floor as I walk with firm steps. The chapel is small and intimate, making the atmosphere more intense.
At the far end stands a select group of powerful and important aristocrats. As I pass mama, the look on her face tells me she is very proud.
When I reach the Duke, he looks composed as ever. We courtesy and bow for one another and he reaches out for my hand. I smile at him.
I don't know if it's my imagination but I think I see the side of his mouth lift in a grin. It warms my heart and I feel myself squeezing his hand tighter which he returns, giving me hope for the future.
The music stops and the priest steps up to begin the service.
Before I know it, I'm Isabella Marie Swan Cullen, Duchess of Washington, the wife of His Grace Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, 5th Duke of Washington.
A/N: What do you think? Pics are on my profile :)) Please REVIEW!