“For now, you have my permission,” she said hurriedly.
“Really?” he asked.
“Well, yes— “
Alan leaned down and placed his lips on hers. His hands stroked her hair. His kiss always started soft and playful, like nibbling on her lower lips. Siana lost herself and closed her eyes. His kiss gradually began getting wild, his tongue exploring her mouth.
Siana belatedly realized that she was pulling at his clothes and reddened in embarrassment. She could feel his hands all over her. And then her stomach growled so badly that both of them stopped. Alan burst out laughing.
“Don’t laugh at me!” said Siana, blushing deep red.
“Sorry,” he said but was still rolling over in mirth.
“Oh, shut up!” she said and turned around. It was nice hearing him laugh with such abandon, but she was really, truly embarrassed.
“Sorry,” said Alan, trying very hard not to laugh, “I won’t laugh anymore.”
“Obviously that isn’t true,” she said.
“Are you mad at me?” he asked.
“No. I am just embarrassed.”
She turned around to face him and her stomach growled again. Siana was bewildered and shocked and embarrassed. All at the same time. Alan chuckled yet again as though people getting hungry was the funniest thing on earth. It was clear that he was trying so hard to not burst into laughter, but she could see he was going to, any minute.
“Oh, for god’s sake,” she said, “Laugh then, I don’t care.”
Alan didn’t laugh. He smiled at her and extended his hands to take hers. “Let’s go eat lunch.”
* * *
Siana ate more than usual. The food was that good. They ate their lunch, savoring it and then greeted the butler and the other servants of the household. They greeted her with ‘Madam’ and Siana felt very awkward. When the lawyer had addressed her as countess or Mrs. Legarde, it had felt strange.
I will need to get used to this, she thought. While Alan took a carriage to work, she walked around with the butler as he explained to her various things about the mansion and showed her rooms for different purposes.
Alan had said that they would be moving down to a newly acquired estate but she decided that it wasn’t a bad thing to just explore and know about where she was living for the moment.
“Mr. Deacon…,” Siana said.
“Oh, please call me Primo, Madam,” said the butler.
“Primo,” she said, “I am still getting used to all of this. I want to talk to you more to understand how the household is being managed.”
“Of course, Madam,” said Primo the butler.
More than just ‘wife’ to Alan, she was a countess now and would take her responsibilities seriously. Even though this wasn’t the Legrade estate, it was still a household Alan owned and needed to be managed. Siana had managed household responsibilities after her mother’s death, when she was very young. So, she had confidence that she could do this well enough.
“All the materials are in my room,” said Primo, “It will take me a little bit of time to have them transferred to your study, Madam.”
“Of course,” said Siana, “And thank you.”
She followed Primo as he showed her the study and the ledgers of the household. They talked on end regarding matters of administration and management of the mansion, the repairs and the budget. It was nearly evening when Primo finished briefing her on these matters. This was not a work that could be finished in one day, after all.
She returned to her bed after that and laid down on her bed. This is harder than I thought. She buried her head in the pillow, tired. She had no idea how much harder it would be when they moved to the estate Alan owned. She realized that being a high-ranking aristocrat had its share of difficulties. I haven’t seen Alan since lunch. Thinking about Alan made her want to see him at once. Will he go to work at night today as well? Or will we eat dinner and come to our room and…
She recalled, with some embarrassment, the feeling of his lips and his hands on her. She didn’t seem to make up her mind. Although she was relieved that they hadn’t gotten intimate again, she craved his touch when he wasn’t here. She wanted to feel his skin on her and wanted to hear him breath raggedly in her ears. Hear his hoarse whispers…
I feel like a pervert now… I wonder if we can do it today. I feel better. Siana felt confused. She had never known about these things and had no one she could ask. She was whiling away her time when a servant knocked on her door to announce that Alan was waiting for her in the dining room.
Siana was surprised that it was already time for dinner. She put on a shawl and walked downstairs. It was quite chilly in the mansion these days even when the stoves were always turned on to warm the house.
As she entered the dining room, Alan got up from his seat. “You’re here,” he said. He welcomed her and pulled out a chair for her. When she was seated, he went back to his own seat and smiled.
“You must be tired,” he said.
“Not really,” she said, “I am alright. How are you?”
“I am grand,” he said, “I thought you would be exhausted after the walk and endless discussion with Primo.”
“I am alright,” she said, “We had a very long discussion. Primo briefed me on the management on the household today.”
“You used to complain about it to your butler,” he said, smiling, “You said it was so difficult to learn to manage. But now you seem to be used to it.”
“Of course,” she said, “I had to learn and apply them for many years. I am fairly confident now. But how do you know so much?”
“You don’t remember?” he asked, “I remember you pretending to be sick to escape housework.”
Siana stared at him, stunned. “Really?”
“You really don’t remember?” said Alan, “Some guy at my drill was absent because he contracted mumps. You asked me what mumps were. I told you that your cheeks got swollen because of a virus and it was highly contagious.” Alan chuckled. “You had rubbed your cheeks so sore that they were red. And you declared you had mumps.”
Siana was trying hard to remember but she was unable to. “Really?”
“Yes,” he said, “When you were taken to the hospital, the doctor said you didn’t have it. He even laughed because you had rubbed your cheeks so sore.”
Siana was always so pleasantly surprised when Alan remembered their childhood so vividly. She was reminded how observant he was towards her and every little thing that mattered to her.
“Eventually your lie was found out, and your father didn’t provide you with an allowance for a whole month as your punishment,” said Alan, “You were really pissed at that. You complained to me that you couldn’t go to a coffee shop with your friend. So, I let you borrow some money.”
“Alan…,” she said, surprised. “How do you remember so much?”
“I have a good memory,” he said, smiling.
“It’s amazing though,” she said, “The way you remember it in vivid detail.”
Siana decided not to pretend to remember. The more she pretended the more he revealed her past. He seemed to enjoy it, too. Because he was grinning like an idiot at the moment.
“There’s something else I remember,” he said, smirking, “Do you want to know?”
“No, I don’t think I need to hear it,” she said and dived into her food, hurriedly. He wasn’t sure what other embarrassing stories he had in his reservoir of memories.
Alan laughed. He ate his food asking her about her day or telling her about his. When they were finishing dining, Alan took her hands in his. “You go on up first,” he said.
“What about you?” she asked. She had assumed they would be heading to their room together.
“I still have some things I need to take care of,” he said, “Don’t wait up. Go to sleep, alright?”
“You still have a lot of work left?” she asked.
“Only a bit,” he said, “I will take care of it and head to bed. Don’t worry.”
“Okay,” she said. Alan looked tired and haggard. The bags under his eyes were getting worse as well. Siana was worried he was working himself too much. “Don’t overdo it, Alan,” she said, worriedly, “It will ruin your health.”
Alan only smiled at her. He brought her hands to his lips and kissed them. He then leaned down and placed a kiss on her forehead. “Goodnight,” he said, “See you later.” He then turned around and headed to his office.
Siana felt like he was avoiding answering her. But she couldn’t just tell him not to work either. Maybe I am just overthinking, she thought. I can talk to him later when he is back. There is no point worrying about it right now. Siana walked the stairs to her room and laid down, trying to calm her worries.
* * *
Siana stared at the clock in the room. The hour hand was at 6, and the minute hand pointed to 12. It was morning and Alan had not come back to the room even once. This happened for the third time in a row. He had said he had work to do and had assured her that he would come to sleep when he was done with it.
Siana hadn’t expected his work to be so much. She had stayed up all night wanting to have a conversation with Alan. She felt something strange was going on with him. Even when it went from night to dawn, Alan never came in from the door.
Just come back here, already. Siana kept glancing at the door, expecting it to open any second and for Alan to walk in. But it never did. Eventually, her eyelids began to droop. She vaguely reminded herself to not fall asleep but having not slept a wink the entire night, the drowsiness overpowered her. And before she knew it, she drifted off to sleep.
When she opened her eyes, the sun had risen. It was daylight. Perhaps the maid had come in when she was asleep, because the curtains were all pulled back and the sunlight was streaming into the room. When did I doze off? Siana glanced at the clock on the wall, it was already ten in the morning. She had fallen asleep for four hours. Her eyes burned still.
She wanted to sleep a little more, but it was too bright. She could get up and close the curtains, but it seemed like too much work and she felt tired. Besides, she was worried about Alan. Where is he? He didn’t come back at all. Even when he came to sleep late, she always saw him first thing in the morning. He wasn’t here today.
She got up and went to the bathroom. It was empty, only silence greeted her. It worried her more. She didn’t know what was going on and it was getting stranger and stranger by the second.