Chapter 99 – …What Do You Like? (1)
Simon remembered Ian’s words.
“But Louise will know.”
Simon didn’t believe it, but this heartache in him was very old. He didn’t know when it started. How could Louise find out now when she had never noticed it before?
“Something…mixed in your words and actions.”
But now Simon knew. He knew why Louise would be able to know his mind after a long time. Simon was always eclipsed by Ian, but now that Ian wasn’t here, she could see him clearly from this distance.
At the sound of Louise’s voice Simon closed his eyes. For a short moment he prayed that Louise would never be able to know the true feelings in his heart. Ever.
“Sorry, it was just a moment…”
Simon was relieved that his voice came out normally.
“I was just thinking.”
Louise smiled with an expression of understanding.
“By the way, this umbrella.”
Louise looked at the old umbrella that she exchanged with the salesboy.
“This one’s old and leaky. Should we get a new one?”
Simon nodded. There was a shop not far from here where a craftsman made good, sturdy umbrellas.
“Can you share your umbrella with me until we get there?”
Instead of answering, Simon took a step towards her and Louise quickly went to his side.
Her whisper sounded loud in the shelter of the umbrella. Simon thought that he could count his breathing here too. He glanced down and watch Louise’s lively stride next to him, and rain or mud on her shoes could not mask her spirit.
“This is the first time I’ve shared an umbrella with you.”
“We’re used to holding our own umbrellas.”
“It’s fine. Although space is a little crowded.”
Louise shifted the umbrella away from her, concerned about Simon’s shoulders getting wet.
“I’m the one who got into this space. I don’t want My Lord to get wet.”
Cold droplets of rain ran from the umbrella tips onto Louise’s shoulders. Simon looked at her and tilted the umbrella back in her direction again.
“I’m the one who put the umbrella over you.”
“I can’t let you catch a cold.”
“I can’t let you catch a cold either.”
There was an unusual tenderness in the way he was speaking, and Louise couldn’t find herself to be stubborn.
“That’s nice, really.”
Louise’s words came out as a grumble, and Simon quickly added,
“I just thought I could do this for a friend.”
He made sure to put emphasis on the word “friend.” Of course when he said it this way, Louise smiled. Simon liked that smile.
“Are you alright with Ian?”
He quickly shifted to another topic. No, it was the right topic.
“I think we’re okay. Maybe.”
Simon pointed out the ambiguity of her words, and a blush crept up her cheeks.
“Maybe…I’m just embarrassed about it.”
There was a sense of shyness in the smiling corners of her eyes. Simon figured she must be thinking of a moment with Ian, otherwise she would think it awkward to wear such an endearing expression.
“I’m fine. The President hasn’t given up on teasing me.”
“Not long ago I advised him to stop bothering you.”
“You’re the best. So? Did he say yes?”
“He said he would try.”
“When you said that he must’ve looked like this.”
Louise imitated Ian’s crooked smile.
She mimicked Ian’s voice as well. Simon burst into laughter because the resemblance wasn’t similar at all.
“Right? Same thing?”
“You’re almost there.”
“It must have been exactly the same. I’ve seen that ridiculous smile for years that I even know the precise angle of his lips.”
“I know the angle of his lips by heart as well.”
Louise looked at him in anticipation, and Simon wanted to please her. Somehow.
Simon crooked his lips. Louise clapped her hands in admiration, and he continued on to imitate Ian’s voice.
“Well, I’ll try.”
…He didn’t even know why he was doing such a clownish thing. Either way, Louise laughed so hard that she was out of breath and even her head and shoulders ducked out from under the umbrella several times. Simon quickly moved his arm and dragged Louise back underneath the umbrella.
“I’ve thought many times how you two cousins resembled each other.”
Her shoulders were still shuddering with laughter.
“You two are the same!”
“It’s true. Everyone would think so. Please do it in the student council room just once. I’m sure they’ll all laugh to death.”
“I don’t think Ian will let that go.”
“I’ll protect you when that happens.”
Louise held his fist tightly as she made her promise. That sweet grip would easily overwhelm the crown prince of the country.
“That’s very reassuring.”
As he spoke, they found themselves confronted by a large pool of water.
“Speaking of Ian.”
The two circle around the little pond.
“I don’t want you two to overly concern yourselves about me.”
“That’s impossible. The chairman would complain. He loves you too much.”
“And of course I love Ian very much too.”
Simon echoed Louise’s words and reaffirmed their friendship.
“So I don’t want to interrupt you guys.”
Louise’s face contorted at the word “interrupt.”
‘She looks unattractive like that…’
Simon smiled without realizing it. He didn’t want to do this in the middle of a serious conversation, but he couldn’t help but remember Ian’s words.
‘He should see that unattractive face full of complaints.’
He thought helplessly that she looked adorable like that. He could see why Ian liked this face.
“Don’t say the word interrupt. No one thinks that about you.”
“Then I won’t say it. Just take care not to leave me out on meetings as friends.”
The umbrella shop came into view.
“I wonder what color umbrella I should buy.”
Simon considered the options as well, but he immediately knew what color should not be on the list.
“How come? I like black too.”
“…Because it doesn’t suit you.”
He said those words before he even realized it, surprising himself. Maybe because he thought of himself as black. He quickly added in explanation,
“Anything bright fits Louise.”
Louise mumbled, “I suppose…” and Simon quickly suggested a different color.
“How about green or yellow?”
“Don’t you think that yellow is too noticeable?”
“It’s safe to use a conspicuous umbrella on cloudy days.”
“Like the yellow patrinias, right?”
Louise smiled at Simon’s precious flowers.
“I…I wasn’t thinking about the flowers.”
“Well, I’ll have the yellow one. You chose it and I’m celebrating today.”
Oh, right. Spending time with Simon was just a normal routine for Louise. This was not something worth celebrating, but he could not help but feel pang of disappointment. What it because of their distance? That they were close enough that their breaths could be shared? Recognition was a cruel thing. After you noticed a small change, you couldn’t help but give it meaning. Simon acted this way, when in reality this meeting meant nothing more than a tax refund.
“And above all.”
Louise leapt from under his umbrella and stood under the small roof of the shop. She brushed her shoulders.
“Today is the day we were showered with the same rain.”
Simon gazed at Louise as he held up his umbrella alone.
“Is that what we’re celebrating?”
“We can celebrate anything. ”
Louise pushed open the door of the store and umbrellas of various colors came into view. She chose a light and sturdy yellow one. After she paid for it, the pair left the store, now each standing with the own umbrellas. The distance between the two widened again, and the conversation between them decreased. The rain was still falling, and the yellow umbrella with round droplets on its surface resembled a patrinia flower. Simon’s umbrella could never be like that. He realized how different the two of them were in the rain.