The Gap Between You and Me - Chapter 1
I’m going to die of boredom.
Herietta, who had been passing time by looking out from the veranda, let out a deep sigh. White breath rose through the cold night air and disappeared in the blink of an eye.
It would be nice if she could disappear from here like her breath. Having been thinking nonsense, she stretched her body out.
Her back and shoulders were a little sore. It was natural.
This was because Lilian said that she had to prepare meticulously from head to toe for her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so she had so many ornaments on her hair that it was hard to find an empty spot in it. The weight itself was so heavy that just standing with her head upright seemed to give her a headache.
It’s just useless.
Herietta furrowed her eyebrows as she looked at the long white lace sleeves that hung below her wrist. Seeing Herietta who had finished dressing up, Lilian was very moved, but Herietta herself was dissatisfied. It was because she was unfamiliar with the reflection in the mirror and did not like it. She was forced to wear clothes that did not suit her, and she looked rather tacky due to being overdressed.
She wanted to rip off the lace on the cuffs, as well as all the ornaments on her hair. But she managed to put up with it after thinking of her parents back in her hometown.
Four months have already passed since Herrietta came to Lavant. Appalled at her self-indulgent, free-spirited behavior and her complete ignorance of manners or her dignity as a lady, the Mackenzie couple had sent Herietta to Lavant.
Although Lavant was not the capital of the kingdom, it was nonetheless a large city incomparable to her hometown, Philioche. They believed that as their daughter interacts with more people and attends social gatherings, the way she thinks and behaves will change. The Mackenzies were desperate to correct her behavior even though it was hopeless.
Lilian was Herietta’s aunt whom she had never met since birth. Herietta was unfamiliar with the person she was suddenly meeting, and she was worried that Lilian might treat her awkwardly.
However, Lilian welcomed her so warmly even though it was their first time meeting that her worries were overshadowed. On the contrary, she looked very happy. And Herietta soon realized why.
She didn’t even have time to unpack and adjust to the new environment. The night she arrived in Lavant, Herietta was led by Lilian to attend social gatherings. This was possible because she was not yet sixteen, and she did not have to make a formal debut yet.
So she attended social gatherings, from small tea times with fewer than ten guests to dazzling balls with hundreds of guests. The number of times the two of them have attended social gatherings over the past four months had become too many to count with ten fingers.
As time passed, Herietta grew weary of her busy lifestyle day in and day out.
On the contrary, Lilian grew more and more lively and her enthusiasm burned. She was looking forward to seeing her niece who came from the countryside to meet someone from a decent family at the party at least.
But contrary to her wishes, Herietta, who was still young, was not very popular with men. Moreover, her free-spirited and innocent words and behavior could not be easily accepted by the nobles who grew up in a rigid and formal environment.
Herietta was naturally alienated from the group, and when she attended social gatherings, she was more likely to spend time alone in the corner of a room or on a balcony than converse with others.
She was cheerful by nature, but it was difficult for her to bear the loneliness she was feeling. She endured it day by day, looking forward to the day she would return to her beloved hometown, Philioche.
‘One full moon ahead. All you have to do is wait for one full moon.’
Herietta hardened her heart. She put her body slightly forward and leaned against the balcony railing. The feel of the cold marble passed through her palms, and a cool but pleasant wind stroked her hair.
She lifted her head and looked up at the night sky which was like a dark indigo scarf, where countless stars were densely packed like a dazzling powder made of diamonds.
She truly admired the scenery of the beautiful, clear night sky.
The night sky in Philioche was also pretty.
Herietta, who was looking at the night sky, slowly stretched out her hand towards a twinkling star. The desire to hold that beautiful star in the sky in her hand surged for a moment.
However, her fingertips, though containing her earnestness, were only wandering in the air without reaching the stars. Somehow, the longing spread to her heart.
* * *
How much time had passed? Judging that it was time for her to return home, Herietta left the balcony and entered the ballroom. Although it was quite late, there were still many nobles inside. They seemed to be in a very good mood for the most part, as they were drunk with alcohol and entertainment.
Herietta, who exchanged eye contact with several people she knew, cautiously walked around looking for Lilian. Coincidentally, the ball she attended today boasted the largest scale and number of guests at any social gathering she had ever attended. It was not as easy as she expected to find Lilian who had a small stature among so many people.
Wouldn’t it be better to stand by the entrance and wait patiently for her? As Herietta pondered, someone grabbed her elbow. Startled, she looked back.
“Herietta. Where in the world have you been hiding? I’ve been looking for you all night.”
Lilian frowned. Her cheeks were stained red, perhaps due to the excessive amount of champagne she had drunk.
“Auntie, actually I…”
“Let’s talk about it later. Come with me first. I have someone I want to introduce to you.”
Lilian mercilessly cut off Herietta’s words. It was clear from the beginning that the other person’s words did not matter.
She took her hesitant niece’s hand and headed somewhere. When they arrived, a friendly-looking middle-aged woman and a short young man were waiting for them.
Lilian pushed her niece forward. Herietta was confused and could not understand the situation.
“Herietta, say hello. This is Baroness Welch and Sir Derek Welch, the eldest son of the Welch Barony.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Derek Welch.”
The man named Derek took a step closer and gave Herrietta a greeting. Perhaps around twenty-five, the man had dark brown hair and eyes that looked a little ferocious. Although short, he had an average appearance.
“I am Herietta Mackenzie.”
Herietta bowed slightly and greeted politely. Derek discreetly looked her up from head to toe.
“I was told you’re from Philioche. Is life in Lavant uncomfortable?”
“My aunt took such good care of me, so there was no room for discomfort.”
“That is a relief. Lady Jenner said Miss Herietta sings well?”
“It’s… She’s just calling it whatever she likes. It’s not to the point of showing off.”
“Ah, so you’re saying you didn’t learn it formally?”
Derek politely continued the conversation. However, he couldn’t hide the disappointment on his face. Was it because she was younger than he thought? Or did she not live up to his expectations?
Herrietta, who was still only fifteen, held back her desire to run away immediately and answered his questions.
Dry questions and dry answers went back and forth. It was the kind of conversation that would pose no regrets even if the conversation was cut off right away. Had it not been for Lilian and Baroness Welch, who was looking at her and Derek with happy eyes, they would have parted ways sooner.
Derek kept his gaze away from her while he was talking to her. It was evident that he too had long since lost his interest in her.
Herietta let out a sigh. Even if it was rude, she couldn’t stand this situation any longer. She opened her mouth, determined to leave the place under a reasonable excuse.
“Excuse me, Sir Welch. I’m sorry, but I’m very tired right now.”
Derek looked over Herietta’s shoulder and exclaimed. His eyes widened.
In response to Derek’s astonished reaction, Herietta naturally turned and looked at where his gaze was directed. Soon, she noticed that the mood inside the ballroom had changed.
The noisy ballroom earlier had become enshrouded in a heavy stillness that it felt strange. The noblemen got up from their seats and hurriedly fixed their disheveled clothes, while the noblewomen, blushing, each covered their mouths with half-open fans and whispered in secret.
Who is it that they’re reacting like this?
The atmosphere was so solemn that it seemed as if the king of a country had appeared. Herietta tilted her head. As if attracted by an invisible magnet, she unwittingly moved towards the place where the people’s eyes were directed to.
Many people had gathered by the entrance of the ballroom and were all eager to talk to someone.
“Sir Edwin. Thank you so much for attending. I sent you an invitation just in case you were going to stop by, but I didn’t know you would respond.”
The young Count who hosted the ball tonight said. Although he was quite young, he was known for being arrogant and vain. It was unbelievable how his attitude had turned a complete 180. It was at this moment that she wondered if the king had really come.
The crowd split into both sides of the room. And at that moment, she was able to glimpse the figure of the mysterious newcomer that caught everyone’s attention.
He was a tall, well-built man. The first thing that caught her eye was his brilliant blonde hair, which seemed to have been made by melting high-purity gold that had not been tainted by any impurity. It was so wonderful and unique that it could easily draw people’s attention from afar.
The next thing that caught her attention was the robes he was wearing. The blue fabric embroidered with gold thread looked very luxurious despite its relatively simple design. At a glance, it seemed to have been through the hands of a seamstress who was quite famous in the kingdom.
As he listened to someone, his face was slightly bowed. Then, he nodded and straightened his body and looked straight ahead. As a result, his face, which had been hidden earlier, was caught in Herietta’s field of vision. Upon seeing his face, Herietta unconsciously held her breath.
Is it okay to describe a man as beautiful? Herietta asked herself.
But other than that, she couldn’t come up with an appropriate word to describe his appearance. His face featured a broad forehead, two serious-looking eyes, and a straight nose that ran between them. Lastly, beneath it lay perfectly symmetrical red lips.
If there was something that the Creator worked so hard at day and night, it must have been that man. And if a person could charm another person just by looking at them, then it would also be none other than that man.
Herietta was so stunned and stared at the man’s perfect-looking face with admiration.
Is he really just twenty years old? His calm eyes and serious mood only made him look mature, but on closer inspection, he looked a little younger than she had initially thought.
His perfectly shaped lips moved as he started speaking. But no matter how much she listened, she could not hear his voice.
Suddenly, Herietta wondered if his voice would be as cool as his perfect appearance.
While the young Count was delighted with the appearance of the unexpected big shot, he seemed anxious to monopolize him at any moment. The Count swept away those around him with his sharp-edged eyes and whispered something into Edwin’s ear.
Edwin, who had been quietly listening to the Count, nodded once. Then the Count led him away excitedly. Those who were murmuring around them turned back with regretful expressions.
“This is it.”
Herietta stood blankly and saw Edwin following the Count. Curiously, the Count was guiding him to where she was standing. With each step they took, the gap that existed between him and her gradually narrowed.
It was as if both of her legs had been rooted and embedded on the ground. She could not move even a single step. Her thought circuit stopped, and the world also seemed to have stopped with it. The people who existed in the enormous ballroom disappeared, and only she and Edward were left.
They were so close that If he took a step closer, then she would be very close enough to reach out to him.