karl. karl. karl!

once I loved, I promised, I would never un-love

There was plenty of opportunity to write, rewrite, and write some more with regard to my new obsession, the young Archduke. Sitting on my throne of cloth while the three days of stillness leaked away, I composed my journal entries, sketched my daydreams, and, more to the point, wrote Karl Ludwig a return note.

His gift of alpine chocolates arrived, though the under-governess and the scullery maid had pinched them “to ensure their safety,” they’d said, but I knew they couldn’t resist the sweets. Shortly thereafter Gackl came bounding through the nursery with a wrapped box for me. Certainly my little brother was hoping for a ball or a rope or maybe even a set of building blocks. After unknotting the silk ribbon and ripping the rice paper to reveal the copper and rose-painted timepiece that hung from a modest silver chain, Gackl’s face deflated like a pin-stuck balloon. “Your admirer sent you a watch?”

It was lovely, and locket-sized. Dainty, even. I now wore it round my neck day and night, winding it every morning, happily hearing the tick, tick, tick, and imagining that far off in Vienna, Karl’s heart made that same sound.

Dear Karl, I began. And then crumpled the paper. Again: Dearest Karl. No. Another try: My Darling Karl. That one I ripped to shreds.