Chapter 102 – I Can’t Let Go Of You (2)
“How many times?”
He was probably asking how many times she came here to escape the rain.
“Quite a few times. I think the President counted up to number thirteen.”
“That’s a weird obsession. Do you think he’s still counting?”
“When I get back, I’ll tell him to add another count.”
Then he smiled again. This time their smiles continued, and the two stood side-by-side looking towards the direction of the greenhouse. She wondered if anyone would come to rescue them.
“Now that I think of it, it’ll get washed away.”
Simon realized that she must be talking about the footprints they had left together.
As if they hadn’t even been there in the first place. Nature was so cruel.
“I thought it would last at least a day.”
“If someone comes, we’ll go to the mansion instead of the greenhouse so we can change our clothes…a-achoo!”
Louise sneezed so loud that her head rang, and she covered her mouth with her palm. Simon took a look at her pale face and wordlessly pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket. The handkerchief was limp and wet, but for Louise it was the only salvation.
” …I-I’m sorry.”
She wiped her face with his handkerchief. Simon leaned against the wall and answered in a casual tone.
“Sneezing and having a runny nose is not shameful.”
Louise protested as she tightly held the handkerchief, surprised that he said “runny nose.” However, she couldn’t forget his proper title.
” …My Lord.”
Louise realized her mistake and responded in an embarrassed voice.
“Well, there’s nothing I can do about it. Some people think it’s gross, but it’s totally human. When the sneeze comes out…!”
“I know. I don’t think it’s dirty.”
He reached out his hand so she could return his handkerchief.
“I-I can’t. ”
Louise shook her head desperately.
“I’ll wash it and give it back to you when it’s fresh. Oh, no, I’ll buy you a new one because you’ll be embarrassed.”
“I don’t think it’s dirty.”
“Don’t lie, my nose is sticky. How can it not be dirty!”
“You didn’t have to give me a vivid description.”
“You don’t need to buy me a new one anyway.”
“Then I’ll wash it well.”
Louise quickly folded the handkerchief and placed it into her pocket, more embarrassed than before. However, the heat of the blush was overtaken by a chill.
Simon noticed a slight shiver in Louise’s lips.
“I’ll have to go and get the umbrella.”
He supposed the greenhouse was too busy to take notice of the pair’s absence.
“It’s okay. Just wait a little longer.”
Simon frowned at Louise’s wet figure. She already sneezed and had a runny nose, and she was in danger of catching a cold.
“I’ll run and get an umbrella and a blanket.”
Simon took a step away and Louise quickly caught his hand.
Even though her grip wasn’t strong, he stood there as if he couldn’t move.
“Look, it’s raining like this. Running through it would surely be terrible, and no one wants you to do that.”
The soft fingers gripping his hand were like ice. He ached to hold them. And if he did, what would happen? As Simon stared at Louise he fell into an imaginary world. If he held her fingers and warmed them up, he would probably want to use his hands to drive away the coldness from other places. The rain clung to her shoulders, and eventually he would find her trembling lips. He didn’t know how to possibly share warmth with a friend. He would probably give away all of his feelings without thought of what would happen next.
He managed to wring her name out of his stiff lips.
“I’m going to go and get an umbrella and everything else…if you let me go.”
He could not bring himself to hold Louise nor shake her free, so all he had left was for her to make the choice. But Louise shook her head, and he was in more trouble.
“I…can’t let you go.”
He touched Louise’s wet hair with his other hand. A drop of water, which had barely settled on the tip of her hair, flowed over her cheek and brushed her lips. Simon closed his eyes.
At that moment, he was lucky to hear two people calling them from afar. The thin sweetness of the connection between them finally faded away.
Three days later, Louise was invited to the Archduke’s Hillard’s residence. It was the day before school vacation was over, and it would be officially the third and last date. The dress she ordered on their first date was completed, and so she decided to wear it for the occasion. The former queen would also be present.
“Louise, did you memorize the order?”
Simon entered the guest room without a greeting and went straight to the point.
“Hello, Lord Hillard. I memorized everything you sent me. But…”
Louise looked uncertainly at Simon in his tight suit.
“It won’t be difficult. On the third date you only have to say things according to traditional etiquette, and you’re good at memorizing things.”
He was looking rather in a hurry today.
“My Lord, you look pale.”
Louise was looking anxiously at his pale face, and he answered her dismissively.
“Did you catch a cold? The rain that day…”
He shook his head and look over the dress Louise wore.
“Is the dress comfortable?”
“Thanks to your good choice.”
“I didn’t really mean to choose it for you…”
“I like it, too.”
Louise lifted her shoulders and showed off the line of her neck.
You’re beautiful, Simon thought, and pushed away the maid that was fussing with her hair.
“But My Lord, her hair is still–”
“It’s fine, you may leave.”
After the maid left, Simon stood behind Louise and pulled off his gloves with his teeth. He made eye contact with Louise in the mirror and said rather proudly,
“I’m sure you are. They’ll all be surprised.”
“Surprised. It’s a secret skill.”
A large brush swept through her hair.
“…You know, My Lord.”
“Are you really going to say those words me?”
“It is tradition, so I must.”
“Don’t take it too seriously, Louise. It’s…it’s a lie.”
Louise gazed at his face across the mirror. Today is the last day of the marriage talks. Simon would ask to take their relationship to another level, and Louise would refuse as previously agreed. It was wise not to bother each other with vague expectations, but Louise couldn’t help but think it was cruel. It was too much that Simon would be the one to do this. Louise hesitated before speaking.
“Well…it’s funny to say this now.”
There wasn’t much courage in her words.
“I don’t have any sense at all…”
The last few days Louise had the chance to observe Simon properly. There was something warm in his feelings towards her that seemed to tighten his heart. Louise knew the name of that feeling.
“…Is it a lie?”
Louise looked up in the mirror. The eyes met briefly, and stared at each other without blinking. Simon felt like the air was knocked out of him. He felt a little dizzy. Finally, he quickly dropped his gaze. It was too painful to see the knowledge in those purple eyes.
“It’s…it’s a lie.”
At her words he firmly grasped her shoulder, as if she was forcing him to answer the question. The long hair that he released from his hands tumbled down her back.
But his lips did not move easily. He opened them several times, but only the sound of his breathing came out. He could feel her shoulder shift under his hand, and she must have turned to look back at him. It was too painful to look at the mirror, and he was sure that if their eyes met he would go crazy.
Simon leaned his forehead against Louise’s neck. A faint smell of her skin mixed in with his breath. It is a lovely fragrance. When he looked down, her body touched the tip of his lips. All of his senses seemed to lean towards Louise. Simon could barely speak.
“It’s a lie.”
And there was something else he wanted to say–he wanted to tell her all the times he lied. He wanted to tell her everything.
However, a very old shackle bound him. Maybe it would curse him for the rest of his life. Or maybe it will protect him for the rest of his life…
The words from his father.