The following morning, Zsaka rose early. The weather was uncharacteristically mild for late February. The sky was a brilliant, deep blue with clouds soaring high overhead like long, soft brush strokes on an azure canvas. Zsaka stood staring out the window, lost in thought, when a knock came at the door.
“This is awfully early for the kitchens to be delivering breakfast, and of course I’m the only one up.”, she muttered as she crossed the room to open the door. It was Count Viktor.
“Oh, it’s you.”, Zsaka said disappointingly. “What brings you to my apartments, Viktor?”
“I would have words with you. May I enter?”
Zsaka took in a deep breath to quell her anger before she spoke, “I must inform you that the Baron and Baroness Tatári have not yet risen for the day and neither has the butler. I am as much as alone, so I regret I must deny your request on the grounds that it would be most unseemly for me to be in the company of an eligible nobleman unescorted.”
Viktor grimaced. “Then will you walk with me?”
“Again I must decline. I am indisposed this morning, vexed by a personal matter which requires the fullness of my attention.”
Viktor’s face flushed. “Zsaka, you are being quite unreasonable. You owe me a great deal after the disturbance you caused last night at dinner.”
“The disturbance I caused?, Zsaka interjected. “And I suppose being reasonable means submitting to your fist again? I think not, and if I owe you anything it is to be your own flight backward into a wall before a room filled with peerage. I was loathe to accept your offer of betrothal when first I heard it, Viktor; and after your behavior last night my refusal is complete and beyond negotiation. Listen to me Viktor, and listen well. You are a boorish man and despite your rank, you are as far beneath my dignity as you are my contempt. You will never have my hand, and though I was once curious as to why you desired it that curiosity has departed from me unsatisfied. You will have nothing from me, not now or ever. Now go.”
“This is not over, Zsaka.”, Viktor responded.
“Yes, Viktor. It is.”, Zsaka said flatly, and shut the door.