Siana, relieved at Yulia’s response, handed a copy of her letter to Mr. Veridian. The response letter progressed smoothly, thanks to Yulia’s cooperation and Mr. Veridian’s genius lawyer skills. Not long after it was sent, they were notified of the date and venue for the trial.
Even before these outrageous happenings, Siana was busy preparing for the wedding ceremony. But now that their trial date was decided, she busied herself even more. Alan was the same. They didn’t know what exactly they both were doing but they became so busy that they didn’t meet each other until very late at night when they returned to their bedroom.
The time they spent together with each other decreased dramatically. They ate their meals together but that wasn’t enough. Most days, Alan returned to bed later than Siana. So, by the time he came, she was fast asleep, and she would wake up to find herself alone in the mornings because Alan would have already left for work.
Siana felt sad and depressed that they couldn’t spend much time with each other. Mr. Veridian told us to trust him, but…. She sometimes imagined that they had lost the case and it would fill her with dread. Once she asked Mr. Veridian on what would happen if it did come to pass. His answer depressed her even more.
Sometimes she entertained the idea of tricking Viscount North into thinking that she was ready to marry him just so that he would leave Alan alone. But even thinking about that made her anxious. She could never bear to be with someone as vile as him.
Who am I fooling? Siana scoffed. If Viscount North was the type of person to drop the case at her willingness, he wouldn’t have filed the case in the first place. He is just a vile cockroach! Is it revenge he is after? Or is it because he still wants me?
The thought made her shudder in disgust. He had reduced her to nothing but an object. It was because of him that her life had taken so many drastic turns. She remembered the day when he had tried to coerce her into marriage in return for her father’s debt to him. He had groped her. The memory made her nauseous.
Siana had ignored him after her marriage. She hadn’t sought him out and never intended to. She took a deep breath and tried to get rid of the negative thoughts in her mind. She wanted to forget about it. She wanted to be positive in the face of this adversity, but it was so difficult.
She had become so quiet and grim lately that the people around her had started to worry. Even the servants wondered what had happened that had made their mistress so miserable. However, frequent visits of Mr. Veridian and rumours spread by Viscount North had made the reason very clear.
The maids always offered kind words to her whenever she passed by. The guards who patrolled the mansion always greeted her warmly whenever they saw her. They made Siana feel less miserable, but the feeling never lasted.
The main problem was still unresolved and it haunted Siana’s thoughts every day. As mush as she tried to be strong, it never worked, and she felt guilty for all the concerns and worries that the people around her felt for her.
She knew that until the problem was solved, she couldn’t rest peacefully. She couldn’t focus on anything else until she knew the outcome of the trial. She desperately wanted to speed up the days so the trial could finally begin. The wait was killing her. She was torn between wanting the trial to proceed soon while also wishing for it to never happen. Days passed in this manner, until finally there was only a day left before the trial.
* * *
Early next morning, a carriage with Count Linen’s crest arrived in front of the Legarde’s residence. Since the day had gotten warmer, the windows of the mansion had been left open for cross ventilation.
Siana heard the neighing of the horses and the carriage wheels on the ground. She glanced out of the window to see Yulia getting out of her carriage. Siana rushed down to the main door to discover her friend on the patio.
“Sia,” said Yulia, smiling warmly at her.
“Yulia!” said Siana, rushing forward to hug her friend. “You came!”
“Of course I did, stupid,” said Yulia, “I promised I would, didn’t I? You are my childhood friend, and you need my help. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“But still, you must be so busy,” said Siana, gratefully, “Thank you so much for coming.”
“Just stop, will you?” Yulia shook her head in defeat. “You should have stayed inside,” she said, looking at Siana’s dress, “You are dressed so lightly. It is chilly outside. I was coming in anyway.”
“It is alright,” said Siana, “I saw your carriage from the window, so I came down. It is getting warmer these days, so it’s alright.”
“It is cold to be outside in that dress,” said Yulia, “Let’s get inside before you catch a cold. I don’t want to be yelled at by Alan.”
“Oh, come on,” said Siana. “I will hardly get a cold from this.”
“You don’t know that,” said Yulia, pushing Siana back inside the mansion.
They headed to the living room. As soon as they sat down, Yulia produced a letter from her pocket. “This is the original copy of your letter,” she said, “The one you sent me last time.”
“Thank you,” said Siana, accepting the letter from her friend.
“Will it be of any help though?” said Yulia, doubtfully, “I read it on my way here. It only says that you are going to flee the country because you can’t pay Viscount North back. Have you told this to your lawyer? Did he say this was going to help?”
Siana nodded. “I asked Mr. Veridian about it,” she said, “He said it should be okay since it is a separate matter from the lawsuit. But the first and foremost things is to prove that my marriage wasn’t a transaction.”
“Who is Mr. Veridian?” asked Yulia.
“Oh,” said Siana, “He is our lawyer. Hugh Veridian.”
“Oh,” said Yulia, looking at Siana for a long while. “This has affected you a lot, I can tell. You seem thinner than the last time I saw you. And sadder.”
“Is it that noticeable?” asked Siana.
“very,” said Yulia, sympathetically.
“I see,” Siana smiled awkwardly, touching her face.
She had intended to hide it so as not to worry anyone. But it seemed that it wasn’t working. That was why they kept greeting me kindly, thought Siana recalling the maids and servants trying to make her feel better by talking to her warmly. Wait, if it is that obvious to the maids, the servants and Yulia, Alan must already know…
She hadn’t wanted to put pressure on Alan and had tried to pretend that everything was alright. But it didn’t seem to be working. Alan, who saw her every single day, must be worried out of his mind. Siana smoothed out the wrinkled letter that Yulia had handed her.
Yulia became even more concerned. She felt like she had said something wrong, seeing Siana agitated. She took Siana’s hands in her own and squeezed it comfortingly.
“Don’t worry too much, Sia,” said Yulia, “It will be fine. You just need to be honest and speak clearly and rationally. Explain everything. I am sure the judges will be able to see that the claims of the indictment are false.”
“Really?” asked Siana, looking at her friend.
“Of course,” said Yulia, reassuringly, “Do you know how worried I was when you first sent me the letter? It is ridiculous to think that the accusation holds any weight. Who is it that is suing you? Viscount North?”
“Yes,” said Siana.
“I don’t even want to call that cockroach by his title,” said Yulia in anger, “Anyway, don’t worry too much about him, Sia. Don’t let him win in your mind.”
“I know,” said Siana, “It’s just… I am afraid.”
“What are you afraid of, Sia?” asked Yulia, gently.
“Just everything,” said Siana, “The thought of losing the case, losing Alan. I am afraid that other people might also assume that our marriage may be just a transaction.”
“As far as I know, everyone in this town knows how vile Viscount North is,” said Yulia, “So the people might not really believe him. Besides, Alan is trying very hard to win. You can win this, Sia.”
“That is another reason which worries me,” said Siana, “The sole reason I don’t want to do this.” She looked at Yulia with tearful eyes. “When I think about Alan working so hard for this, it breaks my heart. The effort he has put into this, I should be confident that we will win. But I don’t know what to do.” She was blurting out everything now, holding the letter tightly in her trembling hands. “What am I going to do if I lose him? He… he is cursed and that is partly my fault. What if the curse… emerges again after I am gone?” Siana clamped her mouth shut at that, regretting that she might have said too much.
“How is any of that your fault, Sia?” said Yulia, gently. “The curse isn’t your fault. You didn’t curse him. Other than that, it is all Viscount North’s fault… That shameless bastard!”
Siana didn’t respond. “It was Alan’s decision and his choice to go to the battlefield, Sia,” said Yulia, “It doesn’t matter what his reasons were, he made the choice. The curse isn’t your fault.”
“None of this is your fault, you hear me?” said Yulia, “Viscount North started this. He tried to force you, and when you have paid him back, he is coming up with this outrageous accusation to make your life hard.” Yulia held her hands tightly. “Take all the time you need to feel better, Sia,” said Yulia, “This case is baseless, and it doesn’t make sense to anybody. You will win for sure.”
Hearing Yulia’s words gave Siana some comfort. She knew that her words were just speculative, but it nonetheless gave her a little hope. “Thank you Yulia,” said Siana, “I feel a bit better.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” said Yulia, smiling brightly.
The two tried to converse on only good things. They talked about random things and before long, the sun began to set. After eating together with Yulia, Siana took her to the guestroom which she had the maid prepare for her.
She bid goodbye to Yulia and told her to rest before returning to her own room. She took a nice warm bath and sat on the sofa, drying her hair. She read the document that Mr. Veridian had given her. He had said it was a precaution.
She had read it repeatedly till she had memorized everything on the documents. She re-re-read it to see if there was anything she had missed. By the time she finished reading it again, Alan returned. He closed the door behind him and was rubbing his eyes.
“Alan, you’re back,” said Siana.
Alan, finally seeing her, stood there. His eyes wide. “You aren’t sleeping,” he said.
“No,” she said.
His eyes darted to her hands before settling on her face again. Siana tried to hide the document behind her. Thankfully, he didn’t comment on it. Instead, he said he needed a bath and headed to the bathroom.
While he bathed, Siana read the document one last time and checked on the clothes se had laid out for tomorrow when they would head to the courthouse for their trial. When she was satisfied with that, she walked to the bed and sat down, wrapping an arm around the pillow for comfort, waiting for Alan to come out of the bathroom.