Chapter 16 – As Beautiful As They Are Fleeting
Now that she has resolved to cultivate their love story, she carved in her mind the dreams and aspirations of her heart that needed fulfillment. Once she continues to act as Tiana who has no recollection of the past, then the trail she would embark on would be as smooth as glass, and the man she would soon marry would not harbor even a faint suspicion. “Why are you here?” she questions him.
“I wanted to see you before I returned,” he replies, looking into the distance. Her peering eyes observe this timid man before her as she asks, “Why didn’t you inform the butler or one of the servants?”
He answers bashfully, a chuckle leaving his lips, “I didn’t think that far ahead. After my meeting with the Duke, I naturally found myself here. I can see your bedroom clearly from the garden so I was hoping to catch a glimpse of you.”
She stares at him silently and contemplates his words. My goodness, she thinks. So all this time he was rejected at the door, left alone and cold? Was it not of significance that they were engaged and lovers? She couldn’t help but believe that perhaps Inabelle had the wrong impression of what went on between Tiana and Lucius; she couldn’t help but wonder if their relationship was merely a performance, a front.
Even if Tiana could be likened to a terrible witch, she should not have had the ability to ignore Lucius. How could the mere daughter of a Duke ignore the Grand Duke? Having read the novel, she was not ignorant of Tiana’s grim personality. But its severity took her by surprise. Maybe that’s why Edwin, Alfred — the butler, Inabelle and the other servants were acting weird, she surmised.
Tiana ‘losing’ her memory put forth a different person; she acted differently from the real Tiana. It was why Lucius, the people on the estate, and even her father reacted strangely. This Tiana seemed a stranger, absent of the familiar brutality they have grown accepting and accustomed to without a choice.
But even so, was she such a horrible person who ignored her own family and lover? She and Edwin sported the same dark hair, smooth as silk; she couldn’t have been adopted, so what could justify her hostility? She contemplates Tiana’s repulsive personality, which arouses wonder in her thoughts. Why does she act the way she does? She harassed her mind for plausible reasons, but to no avail—she found it unfathomable. She would never reject a family like the one Tiana had. Not when she was someone with nothing.
If she had met Tiana herself, she would have, without a doubt, slapped her across the face. Frustration and anger courses through her as she snaps her jaw shut. Lucius looks at her with a curious gaze and she bows her head slightly before speaking, “I am so sorry. No one informed me about you so I was not aware…”
“They did not inform you?” Lucius questions, a peculiar expression twisting the corners of his mouth.
“No. Even so, it is my fault on the account of my memory loss so I take responsibility for it. I hope you accept my apology.”
He stares into her eyes and paints his lips a soft smile. “It is… okay. I am happy to just be able to speak to you right now. You’ve been through a lot and it was not your intention to lose your memories.”
“Even if it is not, I can’t help but feel apologetic. Plus it’s not like apologising will undo my past actions.”
Lucius observes her for a moment before reaching out towards her; he plucks the golden flower sitting on her shoulder and presents it to her in the palm of his hand with a sheepish smile. He says, his voice as gentle as the fresh breeze, “I will close my eyes to all the things that have happened until this moment and pretend they never happened. I will think that all the things from this moment onwards are real. To you, this will probably be the first time we have met so I will pretend to do the same. Let’s do it like this.”
She stares silently into his eyes, acknowledging the pounding of her heart. He continues, “I will reintroduce myself. I am Lucius Eyal Rederick and I am pleased to meet you.” The petal resting on his palm flutters with the wind as though in a dance. She shifts her eyes from the petal and to the man in front of her, and thought: how beautiful these two are, but they are only as beautiful as they are fleeting—ready to fly away at any given moment if pushed too much.