Barry's deserve perfection. This was Diana's mantra since as far back as she could remember. It was only fitting, given her family and their wealth. Being a member of the Barry family meant she was trained from an early age to learn the skills of a proper wife so she would grow up into a respectable woman of society.
Mrs. Barry was highly anxious in regards to her-and Minnie May's-future. Diana recalled memories of her earlier childhood, where her mother would stroke her her long, raven hair and tell her how she will be a lovely bride one day. As a young girl, marriage was an exciting prospect. Young Diana yearned for the day she could wear her up like a grownup lady and find a suitable man to court.
She and Minnie May had frequent lessons in etiquette, their mother claiming they were in need of a polish. Diana-she must repent for these troublesome thoughts later-hated those lessons. Their instruction, Mrs. Rodefer, was a middle aged woman with a sharp tongue. Her greying hair was always tightly wrapped in a bun on the top of her head and she always wore the most elegant dresses. Mrs. Rodefer had the most unique punishments for when one of her students disobeyed her orders. Diana had been on the receiving end of those punishments a few times; as had her sister.
Diana inspected her appearance in the tall mirror, straightening her shoulders and forcing her lips upward in a smile. One could say it resembled a grimace, though. Mrs. Barry came up from behind, yanking on the ends of her hair. "What on God's green earth happened to your hair? It's positively wretched."
"Anne," Diana said softly, watching as Mrs. Barry took out the ribbons, tossing them aside momentarily and running a comb through the tangles that had resulted. "She asked if she braid them for me before I had to leave." The braids were uneven, loose and not all of Diana's hair had been incorporated into it, but it was also very lovely. Anne was not used to braiding someone else's hair nor was Diana used to having her hair out of her way. It was a nice change. How unfortunate her mother didn't believe so.
"You should have said no," Mrs. Barry was cross at her daughter. "You look like a beggar! I cannot believe you wore these in public. What were you thinking, Diana? What have I told you and Minnie May?"
"Your appearance is the most important thing about you," Diana recited perfectly.
"Preciously," Mrs. Barry said firmly. "You mustn't go out and about like a commoner. You're a Barry, Darling. We have a different way of living. I'm sure Marilla Cuthbert is fine with Anne looking homely, but you, I will not. It's unacceptable."
A surge of anger shot through her after her mother's insult of Anne. Anne may not have been the most graceful or socially aware, however, she had many redeeming qualities that out shined the flaws.
As respectful as could be considering the circumstances, Diana began, "Mother, I wish you would give Anne a chance. She's really nice and-"
Mrs. Barry didn't wish to discuss this any longer. "Hush, Dear," she ordered. Her daughter obeyed right away, she was pleased to note. "Honestly, the more you associate yourself with lower class the more you seem to be intent on becoming one."
Diana's smile faltered.
"Now," Mrs. Barry's hands were on Diana's shoulders, "isn't this a fine dress?"
The dress was a very bright orange with a white pinafore. It was actually very ugly, in Diana's opinion. Of course, she couldn't voice her thoughts to her mother unless she was keen on being subjected to a lengthy lecture about being grateful. For the second time that day, Diana knew she would have to repent. She lied easily.
"It's lovely, Mother."
Mrs. Barry beamed. "I just knew you would love it! Clara has an eye, I swear by it."
Clara was the Barry's dress designer. She was a frequent visitor to the house, typically in preparation for the special of occasions. Anne had once remarked that Diana was ever so lucky to have her. Diana did not feel reciprocate. Clara was nice enough, unlike Mrs. Rodefer, but her presence reminded Diana of her duties as a Barry; to uphold the family honor. Additionally, all these new dresses made her feel quite spoiled.
Diana resisted the urge to groan upon noticing her mother's scrutinizing gaze. This meant whatever compliment she'd given was taken back and she no longer liked it; not enough to keep.
"Darling, why don't we try another one, hmm? The color will clash terribly with your coat." Diana smiled thinly; privately miffed by her mother's persistence for this new dress she simply had to have.
"Perhaps you have more?" Mrs. Barry looked at Clara hopefully.
"Oh, yes," Clara unveiled two more dresses; one was a white lace and the other was a sky blue. "These might be of your taste."
Diana was handed those dresses by her mother and shuffled over to behind the folding screen to undress out of the one she was currently wearing and into the white lace. After she was finished, she came out to show her mother.
"Oh Diana!" Mrs. Barry placed a hand on her heart, eyes sparkling with unshed tears. "You look beautiful, Darling. So grown up."
"I cannot agree more," Clare smiled broadly. "What a lovely young woman you are turning into, Miss Diana. You will have many boys chasing after you, if they are not already."
"Oh Heavens no," Diana forced out a laugh while her mind wandered to one boy in particular. Her heart ached momentarily. There is no use on wallowing. It's just not meant to be.
"Quite right," Mrs. Barry didn't notice a change in Diana's demeanor. She never does. "Avonlea is such a nice town but there are no suitable men around here. No. Her father and I are looking far beyond Avonlea for our Diana."
"Oh?" Clara's eyes gleamed. "How far?"
"We've been thinking a nice Frenchman would be enticing," Mrs. Barry smirked.
"Oh," Clara was impressed. Then she said dreamily, "You're so lucky, Miss Diana. French men have such divine accents."
Once again, Diana feigned a smile. "Indeed, Miss Clara."
Clara wasn't entirely wrong. There was one French boy whose accent accelerated her heart faster than she thought humanly possible; whose kind eyes made her stomach flop in a funny way that it hadn't before. But he was the sort of boy who her parents would never approve of.
Sometimes Diana loathed being a Barry.