The Day I Found Her
When I arrived at Anne Marie's front door, I was halted by the butler.
"Don't even think about meeting my sister."
The one whom greeted me was, instead, Raymond.
"I know, but still…!"
"How many times do I need to repeat myself!? Never again will you appear in front of her, didn't you promised so yourself!? It's over, already!" Raymond, full of hatred, denied and shooed me away.
Yes, that is indeed what I had promised—
—however, there was a slight change.
"I beg this of you, Raymond, please…"
"A promise is a promise."
From the inside of the mansion, a voice was heard.
"Brother, I am the one who requested for his presence. There's something I would like to talk about with him." Anne Marie stared straight at her brother.
"Afternoon to you, Duke Westin. It truly has been a long time."
"…Indeed. I want to utter my grat.i.tude for letting me see you."
"No problem. After all, I'm the one who said I wanted to meet you again."
After she a.s.sured Raymond, she took me to the Count's garden.
…Now, is it the season of roses?
Together, we sat under the awning surrounded by colorful roses.
"…Hey, did you know?" The conversation was initiated by her. "When we were together, I always stayed behind you, following you around. I never dared to stand beside you."
That's my sin. I'm really sorry.
Why would she apologize, I wonder. Wasn't she the victim, here?
Did she remember anything? Did she recall my sins?
Did she always hold such a powerful gaze?
I tried to recall those moments when we were still together.
I wasn't sure she remembered me—however, she knew I had changed.
Slowly, I shook my head. "You are mistaken. It was me who left you behind."
The one who refused to let her walk beside me, was myself.
Such a simple thing—I didn't even grant her that much.
"So we are both guilty, then. How neat." Anne Marie laughed. "Which of us committed the mistake first, who can say? —One thing for sure; if both of us—guilty as we were—stayed together, we would surely fall on to the bottom of the abyss. Right now, I still feel unstable with myself—but I can honestly say this: I can't forgive you. That's why, I can't take your hand."
That's what she said.
It was an utter rejection, yet, strangely, it touched my heart.
"—who am I, I'm not sure. I thought I was Maria. Yet everyone said I'm Anne Marie. Or maybe, I am a completely different person from those two. What I used to like, what I used to do—I no longer know. Nevertheless, I remember being married to you—and during the whole time, I never felt happy. That's why I decided—
—I'm going to find myself. To visit various countries, to see lots of new things. I'm going to search for myself, and I won't be alone. Because there's someone who promised to stay with me."
"…Is that 'someone' that man from before?"
"'That man'? Oh, I see you were watching. Indeed, his name is Luke." She laughed bashfully. "He knows many kinds of things, a lot more than you, I think. He said that my n.o.ble knowledge is necessary for business' a.s.sociation."
"Then, are you going to go on a journey with him?"
"That, I do not know yet. I'm too naïve, sheltered, and at the same time, unstable. I'm still unaware of the ways of the world. Such a self, I want to leave it behind, already. But still, I want to love myself, I want to know more about myself. So, I'm going to stand on my own two feet. Luke gave me the chance to travel, but the destination? That's mine to decide. Hehe, after all, it's okay to be selfish sometimes." Her smile was cheerful.
At first, I wanted to change for her.
But she didn't ask for that, did she?
My mind was mysteriously calm. Spica might be true—I, myself, had changed.
"Marie, I have a request."
"What could it be?"
"I hope that someday you'll return to this kingdom again. This time, I want to hear your story—tell me about the world you've discovered. That is, if you'll allow me to see you again."
I nervously suggested so, fully expecting her rejection—yet her eyes shone.
"That's a great idea! —here, how about this: I will find new things in the world while you find new things in this kingdom! If two people share their perspectives to each other—don't you think something wonderful will be found?"
"Yes. Surely it will."
Her smile—it was truly dazzling…
My heart throbbed while I was mesmerized.
Ah, so that was the reason…
That was the reason why my tears wouldn't stop, and instead fell beside my feet.
Shortly after that, with the help of her father, Anne Marie joined the Zeitz Company.
Each letter she sent me hailed from a different country. Each was magnificent in its own—since they carried the air of countries I did not know.
"Yo~ Gilbert! I heard you've grown a lot!"
Spica inspected me from top to bottom, chuckling.
"Mhm. Finally, finally you learned to prioritize others over yourself!!!"
"That's because I remember my position."
"Good, isn't it~? Because there are differences between someone who plans and someone who actually took a step to realize said plan. Next year, I will return to see how much you've develop."
After that, the witch resumed her travel to another kingdom.
I wondered, how many seasons had pa.s.sed since then.
My brother and Maria had children.
The Knight Captain was replaced.
Because I was busy taking charge of my territory, my relationship with my brother had become somewhat estranged. Still, the former Knight Captain sometimes visited me while Spica returned every year.
But Anne Marie never returned.
The only link between me and the girl that was now in a faraway land were the letters that came per season.
The snow has begun to melt.
Are you in a tropical land without snow? Or are you still in the snowy land where spring is still far away?
I have something to tell you.
I decided to start a school.
Be it n.o.ble or commoner, they can attend. It's a place where everyone can gain knowledge. The funding comes from my research. The amount I've earned throughout my years of researching made it seems like I'm only in it for the money—sad to say, I have a bad reputation.
Spica, who heard of my circ.u.mstances, jeered at me. I had become too humane, she said.
I realize how blessed I am.
I effortlessly received the research environment to accommodate my pa.s.sion.
There are many talented individuals in the world, yet some were forced to bury it—either because their surroundings don't recognize them, or due to poverty. Some wanted to develop their talents, yet they were unable to do so.
I want to seek such rivals.
I wholeheartedly awaits the story about the world you've seen. Someday, I hope I can listen to it.
Thus, I sent the letter.
One round of seasons pa.s.sed—then two rounds, three rounds, and I never received a single reply from her.
Thus, the spring arrived again.
This spring, the school would finally open.
"Dear husband, are you going for some sightseeing around the school?"
Students would attend next week. To confirm the situation around the school would be a good idea.
When I was ready and stepped outside, a carriage stopped right in front of the house.
The carriage bore the crest of Brent. From the carriage, a woman alighted.
Seeing the woman, my lips unconsciously formed a smile. She noticed me.
All this time—how I had longed for that exact word, that exact smile…
"Welcome back, Anne Marie."
—I hope that someday you'll return to this kingdom again.
—This time, I want to hear your story…
"I've returned, to share with you the world I've seen!"
***T/N: And thus, Anne Marie and Gilbert story + my first project comes to a close. I wholeheartedly thank all of you for supporting me by reading until this point!
This story carries lots of important message, something that resounded even more powerfully after I've read a certain story (t.i.tle Whom Shall Not Be Named) in which a girl got horrifically abused (both mentally and physically) by her husband, yet still end up together and have “””happy end””” after he raped her–in short, glorifying abuse.
Tbh, to all author who glorifies abuse and think that when u have an abusive spouse, u gotta endure ENDURE AND ENDURE because surely, your relationship will fix itself and u'll look like a martyr along the way and get happy end in the end, this is the series for you.
The Day I Found Her nailed it precisely and realistically about what should really happen in that kind of relationship with that kind of behavior, to quote it–
“–if both of us—guilty as we were—stayed together, we would surely fall on to the bottom of the abyss.”
This isn't the end of the journey, tho. I hope you will check out my other stories as well;
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