“That would be great!” said Alan. “Can it be done?” he asked the clerk.
“Of course,” said the clerk, “However, it will take a bit of time. I can have them delivered to you by early morning tomorrow. Would that be alright?”
“That would be perfect,” said Alan. They placed their order and left the address and left the shop. Siana turned to Alan.
“Where to, now?” she asked.
“Maybe some clothes store?”
“It would be nice to buy our clothes together,” said Alan, “I especially want to get mine today. I have very few clothes. I haven’t had time to shop for clothes after returning from the battlefield.”
“I see,” said Siana. She did remember him always dressed in formal clothes or uniforms. “Then, maybe we—” She noticed that Alan was looking down at her hands. “Is something wrong?” she asked.
“Can I hold your hand?” he asked.
It was such an unexpected question. They had been together at all times. They slept snuggled close to each other. So, the question was so simple and out of place that it confused Siana.
“We even slept snuggled close together yesterday,” she asked with a smirk, “And you are asking me if you can hold my hand?”
“I don’t know,” he said, “I wanted to get your permission first.” Alan smiled.
He smiled but the tips of his ears were red. He was actually blushing! Siana found him so adorable sometimes. She wondered if this was the same person who teased her every time he gets. He stood there smiling awkwardly and blushing bright red.
Siana tried not to laugh. She grabbed his hand. “Well, then,” she said, “I give you my permission.”
“Thank you,” he said as he held her hands in his. She chuckled. He arched an eyebrow. Their fingers intertwined and they walked ahead. Seeing their hands woven together made her heart flutter.
* * *
They had already done much more than hold hands. So, why did her heart flutter like this? She thought people usually passed this phase of holding hands and embracing before they moved on to marriage and got intimate with each other. Seems like we are going backwards.
Siana thought about it and acknowledged that her situation hadn’t been normal in the first place. Had she had time to decide, perhaps they would have courted each other taking their time and then moved on to marriage. It had been an impulsive decision on both their parts with some time limit.
Thus, they walked hand-in-hand to some clothes shop. This place was as expensive as the other one, but she felt much more comfortable and less guilty shopping with Alan now. They tried to find clothes they liked.
Unlike Siana, who had a difficult time finding anything that fit her right, courtesy of her small build and height, Alan was in his element. He easily found some dashing clothes that fit as though they were made only for him. Everything looked good on him: bright color, darker ones, whatever design.
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Why does everything fit and look perfect on him? Siana wondered. She envied him as she looked at herself in the mirror. I want to be tall too. I am jealous! She was looking at Alan with a scowl on her face.
“You don’t like it here?” he asked, noticing her.
“What?” asked Siana, confused. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Well, for one, you have been very quiet,” said Alan, “And, you are scowling.”
“That is because I am jealous of you,” said Siana, “You look good in everything you try. How is that even possible?”
“Jealous?” smirked Alan.
“Obviously,” said Siana, “I have to consider my size when I choose something. And because I am small, sometimes I don’t find clothes that fit me properly. But you are tall, and everything fits. I envy you.”
“Hm,” said Alan, thinking whether that was a compliment. “I would have thought jealousy was something that happened between people similar to you. Shouldn’t you be proud of me instead?”
“Be proud of you because you are tall and handsome?” asked Siana.
“Yeah. And because I am your husband now,” he said with a smirk.
“No shame at all,” said Siana jokingly, shaking her head. “You are such a showoff.:
“Well,” said Alan with that sly grin, “You were the one who said it. I am only accepting it as a fact.” He pressed his forehead to hers. His eyes looking at her, and the side of his lips curled up in a grin.
Her heart thumped and he lost all her thoughts at his closeness. His boyish grin took her breath away. “You…,” she stammered, “How rude!”
“Rude?” said Alan, “I haven’t even done anything yet. I have no idea why you are saying that.”
Siana patted his back and pushed him into the fitting room. “Go buy something and leave me alone.”
Still with the smirk, he obeyed. They paid for their clothes and then headed to the shoe store next. And then to a furniture store. Siana could understand why they went to the shoe store, but the furniture store was a mystery to her. Alan’s house hadn’t lacked any furniture whatsoever.
“Why are we going to the furniture store?” asked Siana. “Aren’t we going back to the estate?”
“Well, yes,” said Alan, “We will first be having our wedding ceremony. And I thought it would be better to buy some furniture and chests on the way. You need a wardrobe and we need some things to pack in since we will be visiting the capital often.”
“Ah, alright,” said Siana.
Siana was no more surprised at Alan’s spending habits. She didn’t feel ashamed or guilty going along with him even. She thought that maybe Alan would tell her if they spent too much and their budget were running out. So, she didn’t feel guilty anymore, but he never stopped her. Well, I guess humans truly are adaptable.
She chose the furniture she liked. She had lived her whole life thinking about the price and whether she could afford it. With Alan, it finally felt free. She could choose things without feeling any sort of guilt.
They stopped at a restaurant and she felt different. Maybe it was because she had done up her hair and make up in the dressing room earlier. Or maybe she felt like a different person now. The dimmed lights set a very relaxing mood and she felt calm and relaxed. She noticed her reflection in the window of the restaurant. I don’t remember dressing like this in my coming-of-age party. Siana felt bizarre. So many things had changed in such a short span of days, and with it, she had changed too.
When the food they had ordered finally came, she was ecstatic. They were delicious and she dived right in.
“Is it good?” asked Alan.
“Yes, very delicious,” she said.
“I am glad,” said Alan, “You can order whatever you want.”
“No,” said Siana, “If I eat anymore, I will not be able to stop and I will gain weight.”
“You will look beautiful either way,” said Alan.
“You don’t see these cheeks on my face?” she said, “If they became plumper, I would look like hamsters.”
“So what?” he said, “I like hamsters.”
Alan wasn’t someone who dished out compliments. She almost choked. “I am not going to gain weight, no matter how delicious the food is,” said Siana, “I don’t want to look like a hamster.”
“Why do you keep saying hamster?” he asked.
“Don’t you remember?” asked Siana, “Back when I used to follow you to your training, some of the guys used to make fun of me. They used to tease me because of my hamster cheeks.”
“Really?” asked Alan.
“Yeah,” she sighed. She had always been insecure about her body and her weight. She had subjected herself to many painful ways to lose weight. When she realized that it wasn’t working, she had decided to keep her meals moderate and not overdo it.
“Do you remember their names?” he asked.
“What? No,” said Siana, “It was so long ago. Why do you ask?”
“Never mind, that,” he said, “And you are right. It was so long ago.”
Alan slumped in his chair. He looked suddenly down. Siana wanted to take back whatever she said. It wasn’t something to be sad over, it was ages ago.
“Alan? Do you not like the food?”
“It tastes fine. Why do you ask?”
“You look sad,” she said, “I thought maybe It was because of the food.”
“I was just thinking of something when an unpleasant thought crossed my mind, that’s all. Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing serious.” He sipped his wine. He gulped it down, more like. As soon as it was empty, he poured another glass and downed it. He ordered another bottle of wine.
Siana had a bad feeling about this. He was drinking too much. Is it because of what I said about the training? She recalled how he looked last night. The worry and agony in his face. She decided not to press him further. But she wanted to comfort him, he was drinking too much. If he just keeps running from his thoughts, he is going to down the entire bottle and he will get drunk.
She had refused the wine because she hadn’t felt like drinking. But she was scared for him. “Give me some,” she said and held out her glass. Maybe she could drink a little and start a conversation and steer his focus away from the bottle.
He poured a drink for her. By the time they finished eating and drinking, it was dark. As they got up from their seats, Siana felt quite tipsy. When she got into the carriage, the plush, cushioned seat soothed her back and shoulders. She felt drowsy and drifted off to sleep. A few times, she forced her eyes open but the carriage was still moving. She closed her eyes. She felt something cool touch her face. Her eyes fluttered open.
Everything seemed distorted for a while. She lifted her head to shake off the sleep and Alan’s face appeared above her. “Alan?” she mumbled.
“Shh, go back to sleep,” he said, “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
But the carriage… I have to get out,” she said and then realized, belatedly that she was in the bedroom. It looked familiar but strange at the same time. She also realized that she wasn’t sleeping sitting up, like in the carriage but lying down on the bed. She was surprised, then realization kicked in.
“How did I get here?”