Siana’s heart fluttered at his gentle but firm words. Her eyes prickled with tears. She had always been so insecure and so negative about herself. She always thought she was in no way worthy of him.
“You will get tired of me, Alan, and you will regret it later,” she said, “Look at you, and look at me. We are leagues apart. You will find many fine ladies, better than me.”
“Sia, I want no one else but you,” said Alan, gently, “Nobody could be what you are to me.”
His kind words hit her heart. She burst into tears. She lowered her face to her hands. “Am I really good enough for you?”
“Of course!” said Alan, “I was rather afraid that I wasn’t worthy of you.”
“I… you…,” Siana murmured. No matter what he said, she never thought she could be good enough for him. Siana opened her mouth to reply then closed it and sobbed. Alan lowered his head to hers.
“Sia, or is it that you don’t like me?” Alan asked, “Is that why you keep making up reasons to refuse me?”
“No, it’s not that,” sniffled Sia. She lifted her face to look at him. Even Alan’s eyes had welled up. “Alan, that’s not it.”
His face so close to her made her heart beat fast, but Siana didn’t have a clue of what she could say at that moment. “Alan, you are too close,” she mumbled, stupidly.
“Don’t change the subject,” he said, smirking. Was he trying to make her flustered because he knew she couldn’t think of anything else when he was this close to her? She blushed and felt anxiety peak in her stomach. Alan lowered his head and touched his forehead to hers.
“Sia, tell me honestly,” he said softly, “If you don’t like me, and if I have been forcing you all along. I will leave and never bother you, again. You only have to say it.”
“Well, I certainly don’t hate you,” she said, blushing. “I do like you.”
“Really?” she asked, brightening.
“Yeah,” said Siana.
“So, will you marry me?” he asked.
The conversation had returned to the beginning. The question of the proposal. Siana didn’t feel like rejecting him this time. Maybe she could have a future with him. Maybe she didn’t have to feel like she didn’t deserve this, deserved him.
“Alan, I clearly gave you a chance,” she said, “You can’t regret having married me later.”
“Is that a ‘yes’, then?” he said, smiling.
“Yes,” she said and burst into tears. “I have given you a chance. I was ready to leave it all behind and go. You can’t blame me later if you regret it.”
“I swear I will never do that,” he said, “I love you.”
Siana was wiping her tears away with her sleeves. Alan stopped her and wiped her tears away from her face. He hugged her. “Why are you crying?” he asked.
“Because of you, you idiot,” she sobbed, “You are so relentless. You accept me the way I am.”
He held her close to him. One hand nestling her to his chest, the other stroking her hair. Siana calmed down a little after a while.
“Are you alright?” asked Alan after a few moments.
“Yeah,” she said.
Siana never thought she could feel so many things at once. Her heart had stopped hammering and her eyes were swollen. But it feels good to let everything out, she thought. She felt Alan’s arms around her, sturdy and sure, but gentle. She felt safe. Just a few days ago, I had nowhere to go. It felt like everything had just cleared overnight. Their relationship had grown into something dependable and reassuring. Being in his arms made her happy.
“Are you hungry?” came Alan’s voice from above her head.
“Mm?” said Siana. Just when she was about to deny it her stomach rumbled. “I am getting a little hungry.”
“I will have the maid bring you some bread and soup.” He said.
“What about you?” she asked, “Aren’t you going to eat?”
“I ate while you were asleep.”
“Ahh, I see,” she said.
Alan reached a hand and caressed her cheek. “You eat your fill,” he said, “And when the lawyers get here, we will sign the papers. We can go visit your parents’ graves after that.”
“My parents’ graves?” she asked.
“Just to greet them,” he said, “And let them know about our wedding.”
“What about your parents?”
“I visited their graves yesterday. It’s alright.”
Siana scowled. “No,” she said, “We need to go together there once more.”
“Okay,” he said with a gentle smile. “Today?”
“Sure,” she said.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Of course!” she said, “We will pay them our respects. It is not even that far anyway.”
Siana remembered the times when she had followed Alan when he went to pay respects at his parents’ graves. Her mother’s grave was there as well, in the same cemetery. Now her father’s would be too, side by side with her mother’s.
“Hm,” he said, “I was planning to leave some gifts at your parents’ graves and take you to some place nice for dinner.”
“What?” she said, “We could eat at home. And what gifts? Wedding gifts?”
“Of course,” he said, “If my parents were alive, they would be doing the gift exchange with your parents. Since they are not, I am going to do it.”
“You don’t really have to,” said Siana, “You are already going to take care of all my debts…”
“Well, I want to,” said Alan with a smile, “It’s the first time I am getting married, I want to do it right. Let’s sign the papers first because we have very less time. Then we can prepare for the wedding ceremony properly.”
“A wedding ceremony?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said, “You can invite your friends. Invite anyone you like.”
“Yulia is my only friend,” she said. There were plenty of people she thought she could invite. The ladies who had mocked her for being unmarried who before had pretended to be her ‘friends’. But she didn’t want to call them. She wanted the ceremony to be filled with people she cared about and who cared about her. Besides, they would ask too many unnecessary questions. How did you meet Alan, how much wealth does he have, what about his parents, etc. She could do very well without the pestering. Only Yulia, she thought, I will only invite her. She will be the only one genuinely happy for me.
She decided to write Yulia a letter. She got soup on the side of her mouth while she was absentmindedly dipping the bread in the soup and eating it. She was going to wipe it away when Alan reached out and stalled her hand.
“Here,” he said, “let me get that.” He wiped it away with his index finger. She was going to thank him when he licked the soup off the index finger, declaring, “Delicious! He grinned at her. She blushed. He is so different, she thought. He was so indifferent when he was younger, now he makes my heart thud every time. But Siana liked it, the way he was.
She did miss the indifferent, rude, young Alan, too. Whatever happened at that battlefield that changed him so much? She finished the bread and soup and wiped her mouth with the napkin before Alan pulled any of his antics again. She dressed to meet the lawyer. Obviously, she wasn’t going to meet them in her nightgown!
* * *
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The lawyer arrived not too long after they were dressed and ready. Siana and Alan were already in the living room to greet her.
“Hello,” said the lawyer, “I am Veridina Hura. You can call me Veridina.”
“Welcome, Veridina,” said Alan.
The lawyer looked very stern and intellectual. She wore glasses and a smart suit. It was all about business-like air for her. Someone who got things done efficiently.
Veridina took a seat at the table and ruffled through her bag to bring out some documents. She proceeded to explain the conditions of the contract. Siana and Alan signed their names at the bottom of each document. When the last of them was signed, Veridina gathered the documents together, checking them one by one.
“Everything seems to be in order,” she said finally, “Your marriage will be notarized through this. In the eyes of the law, you are husband and wife from this day forth. Lady Siana… Countess Legarde’s debt will also be transferred to Lord Legarde. Each of you can keep your own copy of the document.”
Countess Legarde…. The title felt very unfamiliar. Siana repeated it to herself over and over again trying to get familiar with it. It made it no less strange. Siana looked down at her hands, then the table. There was another document. “That one…,” she said.
“Oh, that is my copy,” said Veridina with a smile, “I will keep one for the records.”
Veridina put the documents back in her bag and stood up to leave. Siana remembered that she had a similar experience of notarizing documents and such when she had sold off her mansion.
“Wait!” she called to Veridina, “I have some money that can be used to pay some of the debt.”
“Money?” asked Alan.
“A little more than 10,000 gold.”
“You didn’t have that much money,” he said, “What did you do?”
“I sold off my mansion.”
“What?!” asked Alan, stunned. He knew that mansion was all she had from her father.
“I had to do it,” she said, hurriedly, “I didn’t have money to pay back the debt! I thought it would help me buy some time to pay the rest of it off. But…”
“But what?” asked Alan.
“I asked him for some more time but he said the debt would only add up in the time he would provide me so he said it would be better for me to just marry him right then…”
“That scum said that to you?” asked Alan. Now he looked really angry.
“Yeah,” she said. “Don’t get angry.”
“You think I wouldn’t be furious at someone who talks to you like that? Really, that bastard…,” he thundered and glanced at Siana’s lowered head. He took a deep breath. “I am not angry at you, Siana.”
“I know,” she said.
“Am I scaring you?’
Siana hesitated. “I am not scared of anything,” she said and grinned at him. He smiled back. But it had unsettled her a little. She had never seen Alan so angry before.