3 The handsome young man

Anna

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"Are you sure about this?" Rose asked, looking at her sister like she was out of her mind.

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Anna sighed, glaring at her sister. It was the hundredth time that she had asked the question, and she had kept count of it. She pointed the makeup brush towards her sister and waved it at her. Rose jumped back with a shriek. The kohl-dipped brush barely missed her powder blue gown. Making her point known, Anna looked back to her mirror.

"I'm quite sure." She said, darkening her brows. "Now, let me concentrate."

"Hurry, will you? One of our brothers will be here at any moment." Rose said, nervously looking towards the door.

Anna kept the brush down, looking at the final product of her genius with a satisfied smile. A handsome young man with bright hazel-eyes stared at her from inside the mirror. She looked like an older version of their youngest brother Tony. Among all her four brothers, the three-year-old was the most good looking. Anthony Junior, unlike his older brothers Sebastian, Mathew, and Peter, was a darling too, holding the hearts of many women at the young age of three. And he'd possess many more as he grows up, Anna thought, looking at her reflection.

"What if we get caught?" Rose asked, keeping her eyes on the door.

Anna got up from her dressing chair and stretched, happily, thinking about that particular possibility. Not only would she not have her sister to interrupt her reading sessions, but her father would grow more influential in the capital. Maybe then, she'd be able to have a load off her shoulder, and mother might not pressure her into marriage, at least for the time being, she thought happily.

"Then, I can just blame it on you," She said, with glee, "and you can marry the prince."

"That's not an option!" Rose exclaimed, turning towards her in horror.

Anna saw her expression shift from that of shock to one of awe. Wait, did she just blush?! Anna thought, petrified. How could her sister blush from seeing her dressed up as a man?! What kind of a pervert was she?!

"Oh, wow." Rose said, reaching out to touch her face, wonderstruck, "You look-"

"Tch. Father will be so disappointed in you." Anna said, quickly stepping back with a disappointed look on her face.

It seemed like her sister would go behind anything that looked like a man. If only their father knew about how his favorite daughter was such a sucker for men, wouldn't he be repulsed? After all the care their parents put into their education and manners, that should be the natural reaction. But she knew that the reality was different.

"Nope. He loves me too much." Rose replied with a lofty smirk.

"Sadly," Anna replied, shaking her head.

Rose stepped forward, pulling her close with an evil smile. Anna tried her best to escape, but her sister was determined to examine her like a weird person. As the sisters were struggling, grabbing each other playfully, they forgot about their mission. At that moment, the girls looked lost in their own world, their laughter booming in the room. Anna tickled her sister, hoping to loosen her grip on her waist. Rose leaned on to her face, making kissing noises as a response. Making a horrified face, she screamed, laughing.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door. It stopped all the play momentously. The girls quickly covered their mouths with their hands, suppressing any noise. If someone came barging in and found them as they were, they could be grounded forever, and one of them would get married way before her time. Their gazes went towards the door warily. The knock sounded again.

"Anna? Are you in there?" A familiar voice asked from the other side.

"It's Mathew!" Rose exclaimed in a hushed tone, "What are we to do?!"

"Tell him that I'm not feeling well," Anna whispered, leaning in.

They had expected Peter instead of Mathew. The former was much easier to fool than the latter. Mathew was as sharp as a hawk- he'd immediately catch on to any schemes. He was also quite used to Rose's pranks. The only advantage they had was that he'd never seen Anna in play and believed in her integrity.

This was because Anna never disobeyed her parents and stuck to her room with her books without troubling anyone at all. Although this was a cause of concern for her mother who wanted to get her married as soon as possible, her brothers adored her since they had no such worry for their young sister. Rose, unlike her, was a troublemaker and always found her own ways to avoid marriage alliances at such at her peak age. It was a cause of worry for everyone at home, including the family.

Anna wanted to make use of this very notion to her advantage, although not without guilt. She hated to go behind her family's back to support her sister in her ridiculous problems. But it was the only way that her books would stay safe. She sighed, pushing her sister towards the door. Rose quickly shook her head, looking at her helplessly.

"But you have to come with me! What about our plan?" She pleaded, pouting like a doll.

Anna chuckled, looking at her sister. It must be in the same way she got all the boys to fall in line behind her, she thought. If only she chose to marry instead of flirting with everyone, then this wouldn't have been necessary.

"Don't worry," Anna reassured, patting Rose's hand. "Go with our brother and make sure that he leaves you alone before the prince arrives. We can't let him see me. He might report to father."

Her sister nodded hesitantly, turning towards the door. Anna waved at her encouragingly. With a sigh, she opened the door slightly, just enough for her to pass through. With one last look at her, Rose slipped through, holding the door slightly ajar with her hand, as she greeted Mathew.

"Rose?" Anna heard Mathew ask in confusion.

"Mathew!" Rose exclaimed in a high pitch. "There you are! Let's go!"

"But what about Anna? Isn't she coming with us?"

"No...." Rose trailed off nervously.

"Why? Step aside, I need to see her." Mathew insisted.

Anna panicked, quickly dashing behind her cupboard. She put her ears to the wall, sharpening her senses. She could hear the rustle of Rose's dress as she moved protectively in front of her brother.

"Our sister is not feeling well. She is sleeping." She lied.

There was a nervousness about Rose's manners that screamed that she was lying. Anna could discern it easily just by listening to her voice. She hoped Mathew wouldn't.

"Should I call the doctor?" She heard her older brother ask, sounding concerned.

"No, don't worry about it. I have given Anna medicine already." Rose replied quickly, shutting the door close behind her.

"But I thought I heard-"

"Come now, Mathew," Rose said, her voice moving away from the door. "I'm eager to meet the prince."

Anna sighed in relief as she heard her brother's footsteps following her sister. It was rare to see Mathew getting fooled like this.

"Phew!" She exclaimed, patting her chest to calm her heartbeat, "I'll have to be careful."

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