“Sia, you know that is not what I meant,” said Alan, “it is a curse!”
“So?” asked Siana, “I am not going to just break it off because of that sole reason.”
“What if it puts a lot of stress on our relationship in the future?”
“Nothing will compare to what happened last night…,” said Siana, “And I can handle it.”
She took a deep breath and looked at Alan. She studied him and blurted out, “Nothing is going to make me change my mind,” she said, “Don’t worry so much about it. But if you leave this room, I will leave this house, too.”
Her voice rose with impatience, she turned around, laid down and pulled the blankets over her head. She could feel her heart beating loudly. She wondered if Alan would just get up and leave. What if he does? Am I going to leave too? I just blurted it out and now I don’t know what to do, but I meant it. She closed her eyes tightly and reprimanded herself on losing her cool. Her hands on her blanket clenched when she heard Alan moving around.
She thought he had left, and her heart just dropped. But she suddenly felt him beside her, and his arms wrapped over her. He pulled her to him gently. “I am sorry,” he said, “And thank you.”
Siana breathed a sigh of relief. His low voice soothed her. She turned around to look at him. She snuggled into his arms. She felt Alan flinch. And she hugged him tighter, trying to calm him. Siana fell asleep into a dreamless sleep.
She woke in the morning to find Alan on the sofa reading the magazine. “Sleep well?” he asked.
“Like a baby,” she mumbled drowsily.
It still felt strange waking up and Alan being the first thing she saw in the morning. She would have to get used to that. She remembered him tossing and turning a lot in the night. I didn’t wake up after that… I wonder of Alan slept at all.
She glanced at him. Should she ask? She shook her head. Asking never harmed anyone. “Did you sleep well?” she asked, “Did you have more dreams?”
“No,” said Alan hesitantly, “I slept through the whole night.” His hesitancy made her question the authenticity of his answer.
She was just going to ask him more when he added, “It’s because of you that I was able to sleep. Thank you, Sia.”
“I see,” she said, “That’s a relief. I am glad.” She thought he was just saying that so she wouldn’t worry. He could be lying. Did he sleep at all?
“You couldn’t sleep very well because of me,” said Alan, “I am sorry.”
“Nonsense!” said Siana, “I didn’t even wake up once after that. I am very well rested.” She brushed his concerns away but what happened last night still lingered in her mind. ‘I might hurt you,” he had said, with such agony. She could see he was very worried as well but trying hard not to show it. I am just glad he didn’t suffer from nightmares after that.
Maybe it won’t happen again, thought Siana. Even if it did, she could shake him awake or call out his name. There weren’t any weapons in the room, anyway. She looked at Alan then turned to look at the mirror at the far end. She was half draped in her blanket. Her light-brown hair was all tangled like a bird’s nest on her head. Her eyes were bloodshot, probably because she hadn’t gotten much sleep. But Siana slumped. Is this how I actually look every time? Gross!
It made her embarrassed that Alan would see her this messy first thing in the morning. She pulled the blankets up to her face. She knew it wasn’t a big thing to worry about, but she still felt insecure. She just lay there covered wholly with the blanket, not wanting to come out.
“Go back to sleep if you’re sleepy,” said Alan, gently, “We have time until afternoon to go shopping.”
She was going to say she wasn’t hiding because she was sleepy then caught herself. Shopping? She peeked from beneath the blanket and looked at him. “Shopping?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Alan, “To buy some gifts. We couldn’t go yesterday.”
“Oh,” she said. She had forgotten all about it. She glanced at the clock on the wall. It was going to be time for lunch soon enough.
“It’s alright,” said Alan, “Sleep. I will wake you up a little while later.”
“No,” said Siana, “I am wide awake. I am going to go take a shower, instead.”
Siana shuffled to the bathroom. She showered and dried her hair. By the time she got ready, it was lunchtime. They ate a great lunch and headed out. When she got out of the carriage, she found Alan and herself in front of a fancy shop with the sign ‘Le Blanche’.
Her eyes widened. The place was grandiose; the prices were exorbitant. She remembered one of her friends wanting to buy wedding gifts from this shop because it was all the hype in the neighbourhood but the prices…
Even Yulia, who was not much concerned about such things, found the shop fascinating. But eventually she had decided to visit other alternative establishments because of the high prices.
“We are getting the gifts here?” asked Siana.
Alan scratched his head. “I don’t really know many shops around here,” he said, “My butler told me this was a pretty popular place, so I brought us here. If you have any other place in mind, we can go there, no problem!”
“No, I…,” said Siana, “I don’t really know many shops as well. But I heard this place is very expensive. Are you sure you want to shop here?”
“Oh, it’s alright Siana. Don’t worry yourself regarding money at all,” he said, “Choose whatever you like. It’s absolutely alright.”
Siana nodded, reluctantly. She didn’t want to refuse his kindness, but she didn’t want to feel like she was doing something wrong as well. They looked around for things. The prices made her head reel. Anything she found pretty was priced so high she felt guilty for wanting it and thus, moved on to something else. Everything was just so pricey that it made her nervous.
She had thought that she could choose something simple hoping it would be priced reasonably but it was beyond her imagination. Everything was pretty and everything was expensive. She couldn’t choose anything. The moment she saw the price she felt discouraged.
“You don’t see anything you like?” asked the shop owner, smiling at the couple.
“Oh, it’s not that,” said Siana, “I just can’t seem to choose anything because everything is so pretty.”
“All of our customers agree with you,” said the owner smiling. “How about trying something on? Might help you decide.”
“Can I, really?” asked Siana.
“That’s a great idea,” said Alan, “Sia, try something on!”
“Okay,” she said, smiling.
Siana had replied in the affirmative but all she wanted to do was get out of there. But she obliged. She tried a few things, a couple of jewelry. In the end she chose a simple but elegant accessory. Even for that, the price wasn’t cheap. It almost felt like a burden to walk around with such expensive jewelry.
“Do you want anything else?” asked Alan.
“What? I…,” stammered Siana.
“You will need plenty of accessories for when you attend banquets and meet your friends, won’t you?” said Alan, “Go ahead and choose whatever you like. If not, I can buy you some later, but I don’t know if you will like my choice.” Alan smiled.
Siana could feel the stares of people on her, especially the shop clerk. She wanted to disappear. Do I really need all of this? The urge to refuse his offer became stronger in her heart. But his words lingered. Count and countesses were expected to attend royal banquets and parties among the nobles. She vaguely remembered Yulia whining about endless social appearance and callings.
Since Alan was an earl and she was now a countess, maybe that was what her life would be like. She had no idea of how banquets and parties would be. But she must do her part, so she resolved to choose some more accessories. But Siana didn’t know what to choose. Without having dresses, how was she to know which accessories to buy or if they would go well with her outfit.
It all felt like a waste. “It’s alright,” she said, “Maybe later. I will see which dresses I have and decide on buying accessories that match.”
“Hm,” said Alan, “Alright. We can come again and buy some dresses for you. Still, choose one more.”
He wasn’t going to budge. Feeling defeated, Siana got two more jewelry. She felt very uncomfortable spending so much money on something she didn’t need. These things weren’t very essential to her. But Alan looked ecstatic. He asked the clerk to show them the rings they had.
“I thought we were finished here,” said Siana, wide-eyed.
“This is for us,” he said, “I didn’t even give you a ring on the day I proposed marriage. I know it feels a bit late, but I want to do it right.”
The shop clerk showed them rows and rows of rings for sale. Everything looked pretty and glittery and it lit the room itself. Siana’s eye was caught by a ring that had a different kind of stone in the middle.
“Why does this look different from the others?” asked Siana.
“That’s because it’s a birthstone, Ma’am,” said the clerk.
“Yes,” said the clerk, “Each moth has different stone representing it. So, people born in a certain month will have their own birthstone. Currently, we have diamonds and rubies used as samples. But if you know your birth month, we can certainly customise the design with your respective birthstone.”
Siana studied the ring. It wasn’t extravagant in design. Instead, it looked simple but elegant with a stone in the middle. It looked very nice. “Alan?” she called, “How about this one?”
“You like it?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Siana, “I really like the idea that it can be customised. We could put your birthstone in mine, and my birthstone in yours.”