Alan was right. It was too late to call a lawyer. Burying her head into his chest and taking in his scent made her feel a little better. He wrapped his hands around her. She could feel his hand tightening around her shoulders.
She felt her anger and anxiety subsiding a little. She had never wanted to bother Alan with all this trouble, but she felt confident that he would be able to take care of it all. I am so fortunate to have Alan by my side, thought Siana, feeling grateful. She snuggled deeper into his arms and closed her eyes.
* * *
When Alan heard Siana’s breath coming in a rhythm, he stopped caressing her and laid her down on the bed. She had fallen asleep in his arms. He covered her, got up and walked to the table where the letter of indictment was placed.
He picked up and letter and left the room. It wasn’t very late, and the servants were awake. The hallway lights illuminated the corridor. Alan re-read the letter once again, properly this time. He went over every single word. There were only three things he had to address: Viscount North, Purchased Marriage, and Nullity.
These three terms stood out the most. I should have taken care of this at the earliest, thought Alan. He was enraged at himself for getting so caught up with his marriage that he had completely ignored Viscount North.
He had thought that paying Siana’s debt would solve it all because that was what Viscount North wanted. He had never thought that Viscount North would choose to extend this problem longer than necessary.
This is no doubt my fault, thought Alan. If I had warned Viscount North personally, it wouldn’t have come to this. If he had done that, everything would have been sorted and Siana wouldn’t have to worry about this happening.
Alan heaved a sigh. Dwelling in the past would do no good. It had been four months now, and his wishful thinking would not change anything. The priority now was for him to figure out a way to resolve this situation, gather evidence, and prove the indictment false.
He didn’t want to think about losing the case. If he lost, their marriage would be nullified as per Viscount North’s accusation. He might receive a restraining order to never come within a certain distance of Siana. If that happened, she wouldn’t be safe from Viscount North. Alan would not be able to protect her.
Alan clenched his jaw thinking about Siana who was asleep. Perhaps Viscount North didn’t know how much Alan loved Siana. He might not know that Alan would go to any extent to keep her safe and that’s why this indictment, when he had already threatened Siana before.
The more he thought about it, the angrier he got. He was disgusted at Viscount North and furious at him for doing this. He will win this case and sue the Viscount for defamation and harassment. I will win and make him pay for this, thought Alan.
Alan couldn’t bear thinking about losing Siana this way. If, before marriage, Siana had wanted to leave, he would have let her. But now, he couldn’t imagine his life without her. He couldn’t live without her by his side.
Alan decided to call the lawyer tomorrow to discuss the situation and gather any evidence he could to prove his case.
* * *
The next day, Siana woke up early. She had tossed and turned all night and wasn’t able to sleep a wink. The indictment remained in her mind and took away her peace. She opened her eyes and forced herself to get out of bed. She sat there with a blank expression on her face.
Alan asked her if she was okay. She nodded and ate only a little for breakfast. She didn’t feel like doing anything in this mood. So, she went out for a walk. The cold air cleared her head a bit and made her hungry. She was feeling much better by lunch time.
A lawyer visited their mansion during the afternoon. Siana hadn’t remembered calling a lawyer. Alan told her that he did it while she was out on a walk, to discuss matters. It was the lawyer that that notarized their marriage certificate. Only then did Siana realize that the lawyer looked familiar.
Hugh Veridian something or other, Siana tried to remember. She asked Alan. She was right. It was the same lawyer.
They exchanged formal greeting in the living room, while the maid served tea. Alan wasn’t one for dilly dallying, so he immediately got to the point and handed the indictment letter to the lawyer. The lawyer looked perplexed while reading it. After regaining his composure, he apologized to Siana and Alan. He read the indictment once again.
The lawyer then placed it on the table in front of him. “I understand the outrageous nature and the severity of the lawsuit,” he said, “I think the fact that your marriage pledge and the debt clearance was filed on the same could pose a problem.”
“Why is that a problem?” asked Alan.
“The Marriage License Bureau doesn’t know about your relationship,” said the lawyer, “Therefore, they would have had to agree with the judgement when Viscount North came up with this accusation. He might have cited the debt clearance as reason for it. That is why it poses a problem.”
Siana gritted her teeth in frustration. The fact that they were being sued for something like this seemed absurd. But according to the lawyer, no matter how outrageous it seemed, the Marriage License Bureau had to comply with Viscount North for a simple reason like that.
When they had gotten marriage, they had signed the marriage certificate and transferred Siana’s debt to Alan on the same day. Alan had paid her debt off. The absurd claims of the indictment were worthy of brutal criticism. Who in their right mind accuses someone of ‘Purchased Marriage’? Siana seethed.
Siana clenched her hands together. She had pondered Alan’s proposal for marriage for so long. She had rejected him multiple times. She had finally made a decision to marry him, and it had nothing to do with her debt. She had been ready to solve her own problems by herself. But people who didn’t know about her circumstances wouldn’t see this. They would assume I married him just to clear my debt.
It was immensely upsetting for Siana to think that people would see their marriage in that way. She had married Alan and enjoyed being with him. She cannot even image being accused of something like this. Her face turned somber.
The lawyer pitied her. “Don’t worry too much,” he said to her with a reassuring smile. “I know about your marriage. I notarized it. Everything will turn out fine.”
“That is right, Sia,” said Alan, smiling at her, “Mr. Veridian is right. This will be resolved soon. Don’t worry too much.” He took her hands and squeezed them to comfort her.
Siana was bitter about their marriage being seen as a trade. She was more worried about that than losing the case. But she nodded.
The meeting continued for a long while. They discussed on the evidence they needed and what they needed to do in order to win this case. The lawyer emphasized that more evidence and witness could better their chances of winning the case.
The first person that came into her mind was Yulia. Her one and only friend who knew everything there was to know about Siana since her childhood. Yulia had loved her friend so much that when she received the Siana’s letter mentioning that she was leaving the country to seek asylum because of Viscount North, she had travelled day and night to find her. Yulia could count as a witness and their sole evidence to prove their marriage as valid.
It would be best to ask Yulia, thought Siana. I could ask her for the letter as evidence, and if possible, request her to be their witness. Siana felt like it would be too bothersome to ask Yulia to travel all the way from the countryside for her again. She didn’t want to trouble her friend. But she was desperate, and it seemed like only Yulia could help her in this situation.
Siana mentioned this to the lawyer. After listening to her attentively, he said, “The defense position will have a much better chance with her cooperation.”
After discussing it a little more, the lawyer took his leave saying that he would visit them again at a later date to sort things out.
After seeing him off, Alan headed to his office to catch up with work. Siana went to her room and sat at her desk, intending to write a letter to Yulia. She laid out the paper and picked up the pen but seemed to come up blank and confused on how to start it.
She started first by addressing her and asking after her health. It seemed far too formal, so she scrunched it up and threw it away. She tried a few more times without any success. She was finally able to write something after an hour of arduous thinking. She eventually finished her letter, folded it, and sealed it in an envelope.
I promised to send you a wedding invitation… Sian thought, bitterly. She had never imagined writing a letter to ask her to be her witness instead of their wedding guest. Nobody knew the future. Things went wrong in life in a second. But still, Siana couldn’t help feeling skeptical and sad.
Siana rang the bell to call the maid. She instructed her to take it to a post office as fast as possible. The maid bowed and left with the letter. Siana opened her closet to check for things that might be useful in building their response against Viscount North’s indictment.
I should check my luggage that I previously packed when planning to leave the country. Maybe I will find something, thought Siana. She picked up the bag that was at the corner of the closet and tore through it. A fair amount of gold coins and clothing spilled out. She ignored them. I need something. Anything regarding Viscount North.
She scoured through the bag. She felt something at the bottom of the bag and pulled it out. It was a sheet of paper. She held it in front of her to inspect. This…
It was an IOU that Viscount North had shoved in her face when he had last visited to coerce her into marriage with him. It had made its way into her bag. The document didn’t have anything that could be of use, but it did mention that she had owed him 22,000 gold in debt.
I don’t know if this will be of any help, but it is better than nothing, thought Siana. She carefully kept the IOU aside and searched in her bags of anything she could find of use. But she couldn’t find anything aside from that.
The next day Mr. Veridian visited the mansion again. She handed him the document that she had found in her closet. He thanked her and assured her that he would look through it. Siana knew that it wasn’t sufficient evidence.
Meanwhile, Siana waited for Yulia’s reply. After a few days, her reply finally came. Her reply said that she would be absolutely willing to testify as a witness and she promised to send a copy of Siana’s letter as soon as possible. She didn’t want to post the original copy for fear of it being lost while being delivered. So, she promised to take it with her when she went to the capital to testify as a witness.