THE LAST PETAL- PT 1

CHAPTER ONE

Shining can be hard. Shining when one has an extremely beautiful elder sister and two equally handsome brothers would be next to impossible.

Margaret Roland knew that and unlike most, she didn’t care. She would rather have the attention of her trustworthy books than of the judgmental society.

The winters were harsh and for the Rolands, they were one of the worst. Her father was a businessman whose ships would sail past many islands up north and sell the goods returning great deal of profit.

Mr. Roland was a lucky man indeed. He had a beautiful wife, four children and a great mansion. Unfortunately that was until one eventful year his cargo was lost in the sea and he was under great debt.

It was chilled but not a sad atmosphere though. After almost a year of misery and odd jobs to keep alive, Mr. Roland had found out that his ship had reached the dock. The family was now waiting for the arrival of their head of the house. The door was supposed to be knocked any moment now

“Gisele! Would you mind opening the door please?” Mrs.Roland called out to her eldest daughter from the kitchen. By the grace of Selena, they had had two beautiful daughters and two equally handsome sons. While the elder daughter took after her mother with her blonde hair and pleasant poise, the sons along with Belle took after their father’s dark hair and angular face.

“Yes mother,” The eldest daughter said hurrying towards the door. It was late at night and by now she would usually have been tired but the thought of the gifts that their father promised them had kept her excited. It has been so long she had stepped into some beautiful new silk gowns.

The brothers hurried to answer the door too, having heard the knock on the hard wood. Gisele reached first and shooed her brothers away.

“Father I am so glad,….” Gisele’s words were caught in her mouth. Before her stood not her father but a strange looking man. He was well dressed like a gentleman but reeked only one thing, evil. Pale as dead and with eyes as red as blood, the stranger was taller than any of her brothers and her brothers were well past six feet.

“Is this the home of Robert Roland?” The stranger asked though his voice could also be close to a bellow.

“Who might you be good sir?” asked the second oldest sibling coming up next to his eldest sister. With no other elder male in the house he had been a little less vain and taken up the responsibilities. The year of poverty had done him a little good.

“I am but a servant of one who he owes a debt. I shall ask again before I waste any more of your precious time, is it the house of Robert Roland?”

“Aye, it is. But good sir, our father is to return today, you can discuss the debts in the morning. His ships have returned at the port. Although I do wonder, what was so urgent that you have come at such a late time?” Asked the brother curiously. Their Father was never seen with this man before. He would have known because the debt collectors often came by to torment the poor soul.

“My business is not with you then boy. Move aside and bring me the one named Margaret Roland.” Said the stranger infuriating the young adult.

The nerve, he thought, to ask for my dear Margaret and call me but a boy? 

“Pardon me Sir. I can do but that. Give me a reason and only then shall I call her. ”

“Gilbert,” warned the eldest tugging on her brother’s garments nervously. If it were up to her, she would yell for the girl and run out of the harsh stare of this repulsive strange man. Was he even a man? 

The mother came out out of the kitchen hearing all the commotion. Who was it if not her husband? The night was not young enough for others to visit. Definitely the society wouldn’t overlook it. A stranger coming in absence of her husband? Oh! That would be scandalous.

“Who is it children?” She asked looking at her three children near the door. Did they have no manners to call the stranger in? What had she taught them? 

The children turned and she got a look of the man. His eyes seemed to pierce her soul and his face was sunken in making it hard for her to breathe. Every inch of her was crawling in a fearful manner.

“I am a faithful servant of Lord Drake Wellington. My lord had sent me to find the family of Robert Roland, Margaret Roland to be specific. My Lady, I would like to have the young miss in my presence. There is a debt that Mr Roland owes my master and it is to be discussed with Miss Margaret only. ” The stranger said lowering his bellowing tone but the voice still came out as raspy. It sounded strange to the ears. The vocal cords seemed to sound like they were burnt.

“Margaret ? What business do you have with Margaret?” The mother said turning a little hostile. No strange man can just walk into his house and demand to see her youngest. Especially not a creepy man as such in front of her.

“I can discuss it only with-” The stranger started agitated by the family in front of him. He was cut by footsteps coming from the staircase in front of him. He looked up and so did the family as a voice made him stop his sentence.

“Mother, what is this noise I hear? Is father home?”

Margaret Roland was a girl of small stature. She stepped down the staircase hearing all the commotion in her house.

Her father was return that night and she couldn’t wait more to see him. Between her mother and her father, she preferred the company of her father more and it was a well known fact. Unlike most, her father encouraged her love for reading and would surely bring her some when he went away.  

“Are you Miss Margaret Roland, Miss?” She heard a strange raspy and almost inhuman voice ask. It sent a cold shrill down her spine and it only increased as she saw a tall pale man standing near the gate.  

“Yes Sir. That would be I. Why, do tell, that you ask for me?”  

“Go in Margaret,” Her eldest brother Gilbert warned giving her a hard look.

“Hush now boy. Don’t tell the Lady what to do. Miss Edwards, I have some work and information regarding Mr Edwards that I am only to disclose to you as per Lord Drake Adam Wellington’s order.” He said sternly. He rubbed Belle a little wrong and even after her trusting nature, she did not want to be alone with this red eyed man in front of her.

“My father? Well Sir, there is nothing that you can inform about my father that I would not like my family knowing.” She said steadily not losing her ground but motioning him in like a good hostess. It was true. If there was any news concerning her father, she would like the whole family to know it.  

“Very well then,” He said not taking more than a few steps inside the house. “You see, a storm stopped Mr Roland and had him lose control over his horse. Like any man would do, he sought shelter and in his search came across the property of Lord Wellington.  

Being a good person, Lord Wellington let him have a comfortable time on his property with just one request in return. Mr. Roland was asked not to touch anything or wander anywhere in the house without someone to lead him. Against his words, he wandered off to the forbidden garden.

You see miss, the garden is personally tended to by the Lord. He doesn’t even allow anyone in. Your father did the unthinkable. He plucked a Rose. A Rose for his youngest daughter who asked for nothing but a flower that did not grow around her town easily. “

The family heard him quietly. They could not see the issue with a Rose. Margaret spoke not wanting her siblings to say anything reckless.  

“Your point Sir?”  

“Ma’am, Lord Drake would like to have you in audience. I am to pick you up without any delay. It is either that, or your father can stay a prisoner forever. ” The stranger said making Belle worry for her father’s safety. Prisoner for plucking a Rose! Surely the man must be insane.

“What atrocity!” Giselle exclaimed. “He just plucked a stupid flower!”  

“Girl, it is not stupidity. Our Lord had been extremely kind to him and he betrayed him by wandering off his property and picking a flower he cared for the most. He plucked the only rose in his garden. Do you know he wished to give it to the one he would marry? The rose he picked was not ordinary. It takes months to grow it and only one rose buds from

A Rose brighter, softer and prettier than all other. So Miss Margaret, would you follow me out and talk it all there or would you be difficult?” The strange man said menacingly. His aura was evil enough to shut her sister up making her wonder what was in store for her.  

“Margaret you can not!” Asher said tugging at her sister who seemed to be believing the odd creature whom he refused to think of as a man. He loved his sister and she was the only one his age. If his father were to come back home he knew that Giselle would go away because she was already betrothed to a minor Lord a town over and his older brother Gilbert would join their father’s trade and go to a town far away to expand it.

“I have to. If what this man here is saying is the truth, father is in trouble brother.” Margaret said and looked again at the man. He was one who could give kids nightmare without even trying. Asher tried to interfere again but Gilbert beat him to it.

“Then I am coming with you Margaret.” Gilbert stated knowing he couldn’t let her youngest sister go away alone. It was dark and everything was to vague.

“No you are not boy. The girl comes alone. ” The man said and her mother and sister started to speak up to but Margaret hushed them and looked at the man.

“Let me grab a cloak.” Margaret said not bothering to change out of her faded blue and white gown.

 

The time after she got her cloak was a blur. The winds were cold and the strange man had thrust her into an ever colder and eerier carriage. The night made it hard for it to look outside and the loneliness made her lose the track of time. For all she knows, it could have only been a few minutes till they stopped but however long it was, it felt like hours.

“Miss Margaret, welcome to the Wellington Mansion.” The strange man said coldly opening the door of the carriage. There was nothing welcoming about the way he said it or the place around them. From the little she could see under the moon light, there was no one around and the house was just as in the dark as the night without the moon. Not a single light was lit and not a single voice could be heard. If Margaret hadn’t known from the stranger that this place housed whoever this Lord was and her father, she would have had thought it abandoned for years.  

Stepping down the young girl followed him inside the mansion. The door creaked open reminding her of the female protagonists from the horror books she so hated. The door always creaks.

Inside of the house, not much of a surprise, was equally dark. Having adjusted her eyes to this darkness, she could figure out a couple of placements but that was it. She couldn’t imagine her father being held captive in one of the prison blocks around this mansion. But she could guess why someone would charge him for plucking a Rose. A Rose would be the only beauty around here. Especially if it was as rare as her escort had told her.

“Sir, where is your Lord? Would you call him for the talk? I can not think my father held captive for more than a second now. ” Margaret spoke trying not to let the fact show that this place was unnerving her to no ends. Had she not have had her father to think of, she would have sprinted out of the house. The place was downright scary.  

The strange man didn’t reply and moved to some corridor leaving her alone a few steps from the front entrance of the mansion. Suddenly she felt like she had done wrong asking him to call upon his master. She was now left alone in the dark, creepy place. Normally darkness didn’t scare her and neither did dark places but the mansion sent strange chills down her spine as if the darkness housed evil.  

Barely audible footsteps broke her train of thoughts. She sensed a presence and her breath hitched in anticipation. What could the person want from her?  

Still in the dark, Isabelle made out two outlines of tall males as the came through the corridor the strange man that brought her here had gone.  

“Miss Margaret, presenting His highness, Lord Wellington. “The inhuman raspy voice called out and seemed to echo around the mansion. Yup, she was definitely scared now. Her heart raced at the sudden disturbance in the atmosphere she was getting used to. Hurriedly, she bowed even though she guessed that he wouldn’t be able to see her in such darkness like she couldn’t see him.

“Lord Wellington, if I may dare so, I would like to know why I have been asked to have a conference with you. ” Margaret said not wasting anytime. She could not wait to be out of the creepy, dark, execrable mansion where guess equally dark men lived. The aura surrounding them had her heart jumping out of her chest. Only, she controlled it with her deep breathing otherwise she was sure that the whole mansion could have heard her pounding heart.  

“Direct to the point. ” The Lord said in a cross between a low husky voice that was definitely not like how some girls her age found it. It made her toe curl all right; but in a dreadful and fearful anticipation.  

“I wouldn’t know how much Elber here today you Miss but you father did something unforgettable. The flower he plucked was only to be plucked and bloomed to give to a betrothed. In my case, the flower was to bloom till I found one. It’s a tradition in my family miss. At the age of twenty, we Wellington men often plant the Rosa for hopes to give it to our beloved. The Rose is supposedly magical and can only be grown by someone once. It does not wither. Not until it’s plucked. One bush only blooms one Rose. So, imagine my anger when you father plucked the only Rose I would ever be able to grow for a child’s demand. I don’t have a betrothed and for traditional purposes the person who plants the Rose has to marry by the time it withers. “

Margaret Roland stood in shock. She has always had a love for roses and the tradition would have been extremely romantic if it were not for the fact that her father was being accused and kept a prisoner. It would have been extremely sweet and thrilling if it were not for the fact that everything around her seemed like things she would read about in one of her horror books.   

“Your point my Lord? I am not a child. I turn one and eight this summer and I never asked for a rose. I asked that if he were to come across one at the port, where if you did not know they are in quite an abundance, he may bring them as a gift for I wanted none. I am terribly sorry for whatever this mistake has cost you but the fact remains. It was a mistake. My family needs our father. He has been gone almost two weeks now and it has been taxing for everyone. The family needs an income and their father.”

A silence followed her speech. The cold sent a Shiver down her body and she wrapped her cloak tighter around her body. Good lord, there was not even a fire around here.  

“My point Miss is that the Rose was only to be plucked for the one who one is to marry. I would let your father go. I may even feel good and let him have some gifts but you will have to stay here in the Wellington mansion. “

Margaret stopped any body function she could control. She was frozen, rooted at her spot. Was he implying what she though he was implying?

“You mean. . Me, I, stay as-” Margaret stammered but didn’t need to for long. He clarified her doubts and with his tone, it seemed there was no arguing the fact.  

“Yes Margaret Roland, I mean that because the Rose was plucked for you, you are now my betrothed. You shall marry me the day the final rose petal falls.”

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