Chapter 101 – I Can’t Let Go Of You (1)
Simon had heard these words many times. Though Ian resolved to be the absolute best man, as a young boy Simon had talent as well. Whatever Ian did, Simon would follow, and the Archduke in his cowardice would tell the boy, “Stop it.” Eventually the boy became used to it. After Ian became more skilled over time, Simon was allowed to learn again, just as long as he achieved a little less than the crown prince. Simon quickly became accustomed to quitting. His heart didn’t hurt, either. He made himself feel better when he remembered that his father was doing this to protect his life.
Mr. and Mrs. Sweeney were in great distress the day Ian first brought Simon to the greenhouse. The king had requested that the Sweeneys treat Ian “in a normal manner.” In Simon’s case, however, no word was received from the Archduke. The sensible young child quickly realized that his presence was merely a burden on them. He could hear his father’s voice inside of him. Stop it. And so Simon tried to leave several times every time he came to the greenhouse.
When he stood up, it was always Louise who took his hand.
“Why don’t we go look at an atlas? My father bought one while he was abroad.”
There must have been some magic in that soft open hand that he could never resist. Simon nodded in defiance of his father’s inner voice.
Louise beamed with delight. As soon as Mr. and Mrs. Sweeney saw their daughter’s smile, which brought them happiness no matter all the thorns in the world, they accepted Simon as Louise’s friend.
“It’s been a while since the weather was sunny.”
Simon entered the greenhouse through the staff entrance and took off his hat and held it out to Louise.
“I’m sorry. It’s just been a while since the sun came out…”
Louise apologized and hung Simon’s hat.
“No need to be sorry. It was my grandmother who told me to help out at the greenhouse.”
Simon took off his summer jacket and hung it by his hat. He came to the greenhouse because the former queen had called Simon several times and asked him, “Why don’t you go on a second date?” Simon gave the most plausible reason he could think of.
“They are busy during the rainy season because the greenhouse is crowded with customers.”
That was true. People wanted to take a stroll whether it was rain or snow, and the greenhouse was especially crowded on a rainy day, despite the fact that tickets were not cheap. The greenhouse was especially popular with couples in the capital.
“So it seems reasonable to wait until this season is over.”
At Simon’s words, the former queen shook her head.
“You shouldn’t shirk your duty like that. Do well, Simon Hillard.”
And so, Simon did his duty in accordance with the wishes of the former queen. Helping out at the greenhouse as the second date.
“Should I take out your old work clothes? I don’t know if it will still fit after two years.”
Louise looked him over anxiously as she tried to measure Simon’s height, but he shook his head.
“These clothes are fine.”
“But your shirt will get dirty.”
“It’s okay, Louise.”
Simon observed Louise in front of him.
“Really?! You noticed?!”
Louise squealed with excitement. No one seemed to believe her when she said she was growing tall. Of course, it was obvious to Simon, and he nodded with pleasure.
“My Lord has excellent eyesight. Here, take this.”
Louise handed a pair of gloves to Simon, but he placed it in his pocket then twirled his finger in a gesture to turn around. She complied immediately, and he undid the purple ribbon that was fixed in her hair.
“You want to redo the tie again?”
Louise murmured her assent.
“You asked me to do what I liked.”
Louise recalled what she had said last time.
“Now that things have come to this, at least…I thought it would be better to do what you like.”
“Well, it benefits me too.”
Everyone had praised Louise for her look on the day Simon did her hair. Now, he carefully braided her hair now without saying a word. Perhaps it was clear that Louise would not give up this matter no matter what he said.
“This is a nice ribbon.”
It was the ribbon Ian had bought for her, and Simon continued before she could explain.
“Did Ian give you this?”
“How did you know?”
“It’s very him.”
He smiled weakly, pulling the ribbon knot tight. It wasn’t that hard to recognize the ribbon was a gift from Ian, and when Simon complimented it, Louise’s blush on her face told him all the answers.
“Ian chose the color purple for Louise.”
Louise nodded understanding, and she remembered Ian’s calendar. He had told her once that he used blue and purple to distinguish who initiated the kisses.
“Then what color are you?”
“I didn’t ask.”
He didn’t want to know what color Ian associated with him.
He picked something close to him since she seemed curious. Fortunately, Louise did not deny it.
“That’s nice. Black is the generous embrace of all colors.”
Simon thought Louise’s explanation was somewhat misleading. Black did not embrace all colors; it devoured and destroyed them, but he didn’t want to argue over colors.
He dropped his hand gently and Louise nodded.
The silent greenhouse finally began to be crowded with visitors today. Simon had long been a hard worker for the business, and the guests did not realize that it was the son of the archduke that was rolling up his sleeves, lugging pots, or pushing a wheelbarrow of soil. He had been mostly absent from official events anyway, and even if he looked familiar to someone he would not be suspected. It was difficult to imagine that an offspring of the royal family could do that kind of labor.
Louise felt sorry for Simon as he silently focused on his work. He didn’t know the art of having a break.
“Why don’t you take a break?”
Louise told Simon to rest with the permission of her parents.
Louise quickly took his shovel away and hung it on the wall.
“It’s been a while. Don’t you feel bad about not looking up the sky properly?”
Simon squinted up at the greenhouse ceiling. He was dazzled by the strong sunlight that shone through the glass. After enjoying the light for a moment, he looked at Louise again with a face that said, “Is that enough?”
“That’s not what I meant!”
It wasn’t the first time that Louise yelled at Simon to take a break. He finally relinquished, and while two did not say aloud where they would go, they naturally started walking in the same direction.
“It’s been a long time since I took a walk outside the greenhouse.”
“Remember how we used to play here when the weather was nice?”
The ever-diligent Mr. Sweeney had planted the surroundings of the greenhouse with beautiful gardens, saying that “children should play under the sky,” and pushed Ian and Simon and Louise into the gardens.
Louise and Simon each grabbed a water bottle.
He didn’t think they could have fun today, as the ground was muddy from the long rains.
“Maybe if the sun shines like this until late afternoon. ”
Louise smiled as she looked back at their footprints on the muddy path.
“Our footprints will remain where they are.”
“For the time being.”
Simon walked past some shade as he spoke. The ground was still very squishy underneath.
“Still, it will last longer than the footprints left on the snow.”
“It won’t be as pretty, though.”
“Don’t discriminate between snow and mud. Mud is pretty too.”
Simon once again felt Ian’s absence. He probably would have contributed to Louise’s stubbornness and said something like,
“The sight of snow and mud must be beautiful to you, right? A wonderful combination of pretty things.”
Like that. But Simon couldn’t talk to Louise that way, so he just nodded. At that moment something cold plopped on Simon’s cheek. He brushed it away with his palm and saw it was a small droplet of water. He looked back at Louise and saw she was looking up at the sky.
The gap between each droplet of rain began to close.
” …It’s ruined.”
Louise mumbled with a frown, and Simon nodded. Their walk was over.
“Really, we’ve only walked for about 20 minutes!”
It was no use trying to reason with heaven, and they started to run. The light drizzle soon turned into a shower, and they hurried towards a nearby small structure for shelter. Louise had told her mother she’d go for a walk, and she knew if she waited there, her mother would come pick her up soon. She had known this since she was a child.
“Isn’t this too much?”
Louise gasped and complained as she jogged through the rain.
“It’s the rainy season.”
“Even so, it’s too much!”
Rain got into her mouth, and she shut her mouth and stopped complaining. Or maybe it was because it felt like her breath had flown to the back of her head.
The pair finally arrived under a narrow structure for shelter. Louise leaned against the wall and gulped in lungfuls of air. Her body was wet and heavy and exhausted, but somehow a smile formed on her lips. Simon felt the same way, and he smiled too.