The Gap Between You and Me - Chapter 18
Edwin did not avoid her touch and merely said,
“I guess I have to cut it today.”
He seemed to have interpreted her actions differently. Herietta stared at Edwin. The two conflicting thoughts that came to her mind caused her to struggle for a moment. After a while, she took away her hand that had been brushing his hair.
“No, don’t cut it.”
When it comes to Edwin, she turns into a selfish and greedy person to the bone. She didn’t know when she became this twisted, but she prayed that Edwin wouldn’t know this ugly side of her.
“I think I will have to go to Lavant soon.”
Herietta changed the topic. Edwin looked a little surprised.
Herietta nodded at his question.
“I told you before. My aunt lives in Lavant. She lost her husband early and had no children with him, so she seems to have been very lonely. She wanted me to visit her as soon as possible.”
“I don’t think I’ll stay for a very long time. At the most, I think I will only stay there for a few months. I will probably be back by the time fall begins.”
“Three or four months. Fall…”
Edwin’s expression gradually hardened as he silently repeated Herietta’s words. It was because he remembered that summer is the most active time for social gatherings in Lavant and that it would roughly last for three or four months.
Seeing the change in his eyes, Herietta’s heart sank. And so, without knowing why, she hurriedly began to explain.
“I think my mother was very worried about me. She has been wondering if I’m going to die as an old maid if I went on like this and was seriously concerned. But going to Lavant wouldn’t change anything.”
“I’m just going to pass my time blankly again. Like a flower hanging on the wall, that’s it. Though, even I am embarrassed to call myself a flower.”
Herietta tried to lighten the mood by making jokes. But no matter how much she waited, Edwin showed no sign of smiling. The sound of her lone laughter gradually diminished, and then disappeared. An uncomfortable aura descended around her.
“So… It’s to find a suitor.”
Edwin mumbled softly to himself. Even as he was looking at her, he seemed to have lost his focus somewhere, as if he had been distracted. It seems that he was a little shocked judging by how he looked. Herietta nodded, slightly puzzled.
“Well… yes, that’s right.”
“Then, if you find that person…”
Edwin’s voice was a bit harsh as he continued his question.
“Then you may not come back here.”
“What? What do you mean…?”
Herrietta opened her mouth. What did he mean by her never coming back? How did the story suddenly turn out like this? She immediately smiled as if it was a ridiculous idea.
“Edwin, no matter how tiring I am, why are you making it look like I’ll never come back after going there when I said I’d come back? That’s too much.”
She teased him playfully.
“Think about it. What kind of crazy noble’s son would like to marry me? If I look around, there are a lot of girls who are much prettier and more elegant than me. Besides, no matter how crazy they are, even if there are talks about getting married, it doesn’t mean we’re getting married right away. There is an engagement period, and I have to prepare for the wedding. So no matter what happens, I will come back here.”
Herietta rose from her seat. Edwin then followed her about a beat later and raised his body. They both faced each other.
“Isn’t this good for you, Edwin? You will be free for a while because there will be no one around to bother you, and no one to get upset with.”
“Still, you can’t get used to it. When I come back, I might feel sad to see how well you are doing.”
Herietta grinned and joked around more.
She wanted to ask Edwin to go to Lavant with her. But she struggled to give up her heart.
No matter how much time passed, it was because she did not know what kind of ripple would happen if he, a famous socialite, appeared in Lavant. What’s more, Edwin himself didn’t seem to want that either.
Edwin licked his lips. His thoughtful eyes looked at her as if longing for an answer, and his breathing trembled slightly. He looked confused as he couldn’t think of what he should be doing.
He shouldn’t care whether she was there or not, so she thought his reaction was a bit surprising. As she looked at him, vain hopes sprouted, and she wondered if she should ask him to go with her or not.
Her mouth was dry. If he says so, then maybe he’s definitely…
“… Have a safe trip.”
After hesitating for a while, Edwin said softly. Even though he was praying for her safe return, it sounded somewhat gloomy, as if he was giving her a last goodbye.
Herietta blinked. Edwin kept his mouth shut as if she had nothing more to say. His energy, which was swaying precariously like a ship caught in a storm, had calmly subsided. That momentary hesitation made her wonder if she was dreaming.
Recognizing that her hope was still in vain, Herietta put on a hopeful smile. She didn’t think she was lucky that she didn’t say anything strange to him. She slowly inhaled and exhaled, clearing her mind.
Herietta glanced at the trees planted around the workshop. The branches that have just begun to sprout will soon be adorned with green leaves. And even then, Edwin would be where he is now, but she would be in Lavant.
“When the leaves turn red, see you then.”
She greeted him a little early.
* * *
Edwin was sitting alone in the room. The soft moonlight shone through the window, but that alone could not illuminate the darkness that filled the room.
Yet he didn’t care. He didn’t even think to light a candle. He was accustomed to the darkness, and the darkness did not go against his nerves.
‘Don’t blame the Crown Prince. He also suffered very much.’
A piece of faded memory suddenly became a thought and appeared in Edwin’s mind.
In front of him, who had lost his vitality to the point where he was much closer to being dead than alive, Marquis Macnaught let out a deep sigh. What a terrible life he’s had over the past year. Even if he doesn’t fully understand it, he could have guessed what he had gone through.
‘If you go to Philioche, you will be much better than you are now. At least no one knows you there.’
It was more like a bit of advice than a promise. What is going to get better? Where and to whom is he going? No detailed explanation of the situation was given.
Still, Edwin didn’t ask. He just remained silent with a clouded look in his eyes.
As if he had become a living, breathing doll. Or as if he has forgotten how to think.
Ever since he was branded as a slave on his left chest with a red-hot iron, he has been treated more like livestock than a human.
He was a high-ranking aristocrat, but he became a man of misfortune who fell into slavery overnight. It was as rare as a two-headed beast, and that’s why many coveted him. In a short period of only one year, he had passed through the hands of so many people, he could not even remember them all.
He thought it would be the same everywhere he went. The only difference is the type and degree of bullying. He truly believed that nothing would change as long as he had the slave brand on his chest.
He remembered Herietta’s voice calling his name in a voice full of affection.
Every time she called his name, a pale smile appeared on her face.
‘I think the way it rolls in my mouth is really good.’
She used to say that often. No matter how sincere she was, when he saw her like that, Edwin felt as if his name had become the most special name in the world.
Come to think of it, Herietta liked to call his name. It was no longer his name as long as he was a slave, but she didn’t mind. And even when she didn’t have to call his name, she called him Edwin.
When asked what the reason was, she said, after pondering.
‘When I call your name, it feels like the distance between you and me is getting closer.’
She said it as if she were telling him a great secret with a very proud expression.
Herietta, who had a very ordinary first impression, wasn’t so ordinary after all. She was candid, bold, lively, and adventurous.
When she rode the horse without any equipment, she said it was a special show to him only. She did not properly control the horse and eventually rolled down the ground. Edwin wondered if there was any person like this. But that was only the beginning.
Herietta has done countless more extraordinary things since then, and she’s been causing problems day by day.
From the beginning, he had no intention of helping her. It’s just that he accidentally helped her because he was by her side every now and then.
He didn’t know then but little by little, coincidences will become habits, and habits will become duties.
No. Even though he said it was a duty, no one ever forced it on him. He was the one who set out to prevent things from completely going out of control, not anyone else.
At first, he moved consciously, and later he reacted almost unconsciously. Even after he had promised many times that he wouldn’t do anything to take care of a grown-up child, seeing her in danger, his body moved before his head.
He wondered why he did that, but seeing that she was safe, he was relieved inside. He shook his head as if he was a fool, but to no avail. From start to finish, the whole process went round and round like a non-stop wheel.
‘You don’t know how lucky I am to have you.’
Just as he was getting used to the life where she was, she was also getting used to the life where he was.
‘Did you know that meeting you is the greatest luck of my life?’
Herietta, who smiled and confessed shyly, was exceptionally beautiful. Luck. Luck. Edwin repeated the word in his head. The word “luck” was a word that didn’t quite suit him today.