His blond hair shone brilliantly in the fading sunlight, and his blue eyes glittered. His hair fell across his forehead. He looked at her intently, fondly. No, no, thought Siana, focus! She shook her head, trying to shake off thoughts about him.
“When in hell did we make such a promise, Alan?” she asked, refusing to believe her ears.
“You said you remembered,” he said, “Were you lying?”
“I…” she mumbled, “I recall we promised something, but the terms of that promise slipped my mind.”
Alan looked disappointed. It made Siana sad to see him this way. The young Alan she knew years ago had been quiet and shy. She practically dragged him everywhere with her, when he wanted to sit at a corner and read. But he had grown so drastically. It left a bittersweet feeling in her mind.
“I am sorry, okay,” she said annoyed, “I can’t get married right now. We were so young, I can’t even remember the promise or whatever.”
“You really don’t remember?” he asked sadly. “You were fourteen and jealous of your friend being courted by a boy. You were irritated that there were no decent men, so we made a promise to marry each other if we were still unmarried at twenty,” he said, smiling in remembrance.
Siana had had so many things on her mind. She was still feeling so hopeless. Alan relegating their past promises made her feel so dissociated that she felt as though she was hearing about someone else’s life. It had been too long ago. They had been young and silly. As Siana stared at him, she could hear a young Siana declaring the promise so vividly in her mind. She could feel the heat rising to her face. She lifted her hands to fan herself. How could I have been so stupid?
Perhaps seeing her react, Alan found hope. “Do you remember now?” he asked, walking towards her.
Siana held up her hands to stop him in his tracks. “I do remember,” she said, “But Alan, I can’t. I am sorry. Not marriage, please.”
“Why?” he asked.
Siana opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again. She had so many questions, so many thoughts in her mind. It felt as though her mind was going to snap and break at any moment under the already traumatic situation of marriage with Viscount North that she faced, her father’s debt, her plan to seek asylum somewhere else, and the confusion and nervousness regarding her survival. The utterance of these reasons would only seem like excuses to Alan. In actuality, she didn’t want to lose Alan the way she knew him. She had lost everything she held dear; she didn’t want to lose her friend as well.
Her father had brought home his dead friend’s son. She had found a companion in him she had never found in anyone else. Then he had left for the battlefield. Perhaps five years wasn’t so long for others, but for Siana, it had been far too long. It had upended her life. She couldn’t afford to lose anymore people. She couldn’t bear it if she did.
“Siana,” he said, “Tell me why, please.”
“It’s all too sudden, Alan,” she said exasperated, “It was a promise we made as kids, it might as well have been a passing fancy, a joke! You don’t have to be obligated to fulfill a promise made years ago, and nor does anyone else.”
“A joke?” he asked, solemnly.
“A passing fancy, yes,” she said, throwing up her hands, “We were kids.”
“Not for me, Siana,” he said sorrowfully.
Siana stared at him, unblinking. Is he mad? “Are you really serious?” she asked disbelievingly, “You really want to get married, in all sincerity?”
“If I wasn’t,” he said, looking at her, “Why in the world would I bring it up now?”
Siana sighed. She felt embarrassed and shocked. Alan had been under the impression that the promise held, even after all these years. While she was in a condition where she had to flee soon if she didn’t want to end up being Viscount North’s trophy wife. She didn’t think it would do anyone any good to ponder on a long-lost promise when both their lives have diverged so much. She simply didn’t have time for this.
“I am sorry, Alan,” she said ruefully, “I have so many things occupying my mind at the moment. I cannot marry you.”
“What is holding you back?” he asked impatiently, “We are both unmarried.”
“A woman being unmarried isn’t an invitation for a wedding, Alan,” she snapped, “Like I said, I am not in a situation to consider your proposal at the moment.”
“Is it because of Viscount North?” he asked, his face etched with worry. “He forced you to marry him under the condition that he will forgive your father’s debt, didn’t he?”
“That old villainous cockroach!” she exclaimed angrily, “It’s my father’s debt and he—.” Siana caught herself just at that moment and shut her mouth. She stared at Alan in disbelief.