But Alan wasn’t angry at Siana or himself. His anger was solely for Viscount North because he had tried to take advantage of a woman who was in a difficult situation. He was indeed a very vile and abominable person.
To Siana, his anger, on her behalf, was touching. It somehow assured her that he cared so much about her. And it made her feel warm inside that there was someone who cared about her so much besides her parents, who were dead. She had felt too alone after her father’s death and all the blunder regarding the debt. For the first time since then, she had a little hope. Perhaps she could make a life for herself together with Alan. Maybe even a happy one.
Alan took a deep breath to calm himself. “You should keep the money,” he said.
“What?” said Siana, “But wouldn’t it be better to use it to pay the debt. That was what it was for anyway. It will make things easier.”
“It’s your inheritance,” he said, “Your debt is mine now. I will pay it. You don’t need to worry about it at all. You should keep the money. Do something you have always wanted to do with it.”
Inheritance… It was true that Siana had nothing but the mansion left from her father. And she had sold it, so this money was all she had left of her supposed inheritance. She wondered if it was okay to keep it.
“Are you sure?” asked Siana.
“Of course,” said Alan.
“I…um… thank you,” she said.
Alan smiled warmly. “No need,” he said, “Let’s go see your parents now. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” said Siana, as she stood up accepting the hand he offered.
* * *
A carriage was already waiting at the entrance of the mansion. Alan helped her into the carriage. Siana sat in it, awkwardly. This was all so new to her. The cushions were very soft and fluffy. The carriage walls look pristine. Everything, starting from the carriage, to the cushions, even the horses looked expensive. So different from the one Siana usually rode.
“Do you like it?” asked Alan.
“Yes,” said Siana, “It’s very nice.”
“It’s yours,” said Alan, “So that you can ride it wherever and whenever you want.”
“What?!” said Siana, “I couldn’t possibly… it’s yours.”
Alan chuckled. “All that is mine is now yours, Sia.”
Siana wanted to protest, he was already doing too much for her. She wanted to argue that she could never accept so much when she had nothing in return to give him. But he lay himself on the carriage seat with his head on her lap. The surprise alone drove every other thought from her mind.
“Hm,” he said, “This feels nice.”
Siana sat stiffly, not knowing what to do. She looked at his blond hair splayed over her lap. “Well, don’t get used to it,” she said, “What are you going to do if the carriage comes upon a bumpy road and it rattles?”
“I don’t mind.”
Siana smiled and looked at his face. He looked so serene at that moment. She looked at his sharp features, his nose, his long eyebrows. He looked far from a soldier who had toiled and suffered in the battlefield. He looked like a noble aristocratic businessman.
But Siana knew better. Thinking about his scars made her heart hurt. Five years on the battlefield. Siana felt sorry for him. She was sad about all the adversities and miseries he had gone through.
Unlike her, who had been oblivious to his suffering, Alan had spent every day remembering her. Although it wasn’t her who had sent him to the battlefield so she didn’t really have to feel so guilty, she still felt bad that he had gone through so much and still he had remembered her fondly.
“On the battlefield where no one knows when it’s going to end, or when one will die at any moment… I only lived to meet you again,” he had said to her, “When I saw you in my dreams, it was the only relief I had from my pain.”
Siana, who was overwhelmed with sorrow, thinking about what Alan had been through reached out a hand to stroke his hair. Contrary to how it looked, all soft and fluffy, his hair was rough to the touch, which surprised Siana. It was a similar feeling when she had seen his scarred body that was so in contrast to his smooth and sculpted face. The dual nature of things.
As Siana stroked his hair fondly. Alan smiled warmly, as though soothed by her touch. Alan, who had been lying on his side, turned and looked up at her suddenly. Their eyes locked.
“Why did you turn this way all of a sudden?” asked Siana, flustered.
“I want to ask you something,” said Alan.
“What is it?” asked Siana.
“About the rabbits,” said Alan, “who did you hear it from?”
“You didn’t even know what flowed out from you yesterday,” said Alan, “It didn’t seem you had any experience or knowledge on the subject. Moreover, there is no way someone who doesn’t even have experience would be able to create such criteria.”
Siana blushed. He was right. But she couldn’t tell him. It was too embarrassing. She had no experience in those things and she didn’t really know anything about it. Everything she remotely knew, she heard it from Yulia. Besides, she had said those things just so he would leave her alone.
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“Who is it? The one who told you about the rabbit,” he asked again.
“I just heard it from somewhere,” she said.
“Not from anyone specific, just overheard it here and there on the street.”
Siana didn’t want to tell him she had heard it from Yulia. She didn’t want to ruin her reputation. She didn’t know what Alan would think about her or her friend. This was embarrassing enough.
“The street?” said Alan, eyebrows raised. “People just happen to converse like that on a casual basis on the street?”
“Of course,” said Siana, “People talk about all sorts of things. Yulia and I—” she caught herself and stopped speaking.
Alan chuckled. “Hm, I get it now,” he said, “It was Yulia, wasn’t it? She told you all about rabbits and whatnot.” Alan was laughing now. Siana blushed a deep red. She is so adorable, thought Alan.
“I didn’t think you would know about her,” said Siana.
“I know everything about you. Besides, you pretty much admitted it yourself. That you and Yulia talk about these things.”
Siana felt embarrassed. She was speechless. She racked her mind for a defense on her behalf, but none came to mind. I should be more careful. So sorry, Yulia.
“Yulia is the red-head, isn’t she?” asked Alan, “Your closest friend.”
“I thought you wouldn’t remember her,” said Siana, surprised.
“I do remember. I don’t remember the details though,” said Alan.
“But I told you once before, a long time back, about Yulia,” said Siana, “And you said you didn’t remember her.”
“I do remember you telling me to pay attention to people more. And you also said I had met her a few times before,” said Alan, “Since she meant so much to you, I made an effort to get to know your friends.”
“Really?” asked Siana. Alan nodded. “Well, thank you,” she said, feeling genuinely surprised and grateful.
Alan was calm and composed. Siana, on the other hand, didn’t remember the old times with him so much. She was appalled at how much he remembered his younger days with her and how he took everything seriously, making even the smallest of effort in order to make her comfortable. Siana resolved to take their relationship a bit seriously as well. The least she could do was put in the same effort.
* * *
The cemetery was the same as the last time Siana had come for a visit. Siana found her father’s grave. This was the second time she had come to this graveyard to visit her father since his death. There was another grave near her father’s, her mother’s grave. Siana remembered visiting her mother’s grave. She often came with her father when he was alive. Now both of them lay before her. Gone from her.
“Mother. Father,” she addressed them, “I am here. With Alan.” Siana’s voice shook. She knew she was an orphan now. Truly alone, in every sense of the word. She bit her lips, searching for words to say and trying not to cry.
Alan squatted down and placed a flower on their graves. “It’s been awfully long, My Lord,” he said, addressing Siana’s father. “And Ma’am.”
Siana watched him and was touched by his politeness. She was grateful he was doing the speaking instead of her. She might have burst out crying, otherwise.
“I should have come sooner,” said Alan, “But the situation was very urgent, and we had to solve it first. I am truly sorry for the delay.” Siana, having calmed herself now, squatted down beside Alan, in front of her parents’ graves.
“We have something to say,” said Alan, looking at Siana. He took a deep breath. Siana could sense that he was very nervous. “We are married now. I wrote my marriage vows with Siana this morning.” He reached out a hand and wrapped it around her shoulders pulling her close. His touch was gentle and sturdy. Siana didn’t flinch from him like she used to. “I may not be worthy enough for your daughter and the marriage also was very sudden.”
Siana looked at him. What does he mean he is not worthy? She was surprised. She felt like she was the only one who had ever felt like she wasn’t worthy of him. It seemed Alan had been feeling the same insecurity. Both of them were, in a way, similar. The thought comforted her.
“Although it was on such short notice, and very sudden, I promise that there will be a ceremony to commemorate our union,” said Alan, “I also promise ardently that I will always keep your daughter happy. I will make sure she doesn’t lack anything so please don’t worry.”
As he said the words, Siana looked at him. Her heart thumped. She had never received so much love from anyone else except her parents. She felt touched and warm and happy. Alan turned to look at her and smiled.
“Is there anything else you’d like to say?” he asked.
“I think you have said everything that needed to be said,” she said with a warm smile.
“Then let’s say goodbye,” suggested Alan.
Siana looked back at her parents’ graves and promised that she would visit again. She and Alan made their way to the graves of his parents.