Marielle Clarac’s Engagement – The Love Story of Marielle Clarac – Chapter 04

The rest of the day passed uneventfully. I chatted with the older residents and guests, I chatted with Cedric, and I even disguised myself as a servant again and did some more spying, so I was rather busy. During that time, and for most of the following day, I had very little idea of where Lord Simeon was or what he was doing.
On the morning of the day before the party, a messenger came to visit him, and no sooner did they speak to one another than Lord Simeon left the manor. I suspected it might have been some emergency or other related to the Royal Order of the Knights, but I couldn’t be sure. Even when he was around, I hardly laid eyes on him. Once in a while we’d encounter one another by chance, but his presence wasn’t something that could be relied on—he was there one moment, gone the next.
Knowing him, I assumed he must have some business he was attending to, but I had no idea what it might be.
Just when I was wondering if he might be back soon, I saw a man at the foot of the stairs and said hello to him. Initially I’d thought it was Lord Simeon, but I immediately realized my mistake—it was Lord Patrice. No surprise that he’s here today, too, I thought. However, curiously enough, he ran away in something of a panic.
I gave chase, and saw him enter a rather small parlor. Having confirmed the room he was in, I rushed out into the garden. Given all my time spent prowling around the manor and grounds, I knew my way around by now. I positioned myself outside the window of the parlor and stealthily peered in.
Facing Lord Patrice was a man I didn’t recognize. At a glance, he did not have the air of a nobleman about him. He was likely a middle-class man. He was middle-aged, too, with a protruding belly and a dignified presence.
The window had been opened just a smidgen for ventilation purposes. Fortunately they made no move to close it due to the cold temperature, so I stayed in the shadow of the curtains and listened in.
“It is entirely unacceptable for you to have come here! This is not my house!” Despite his enthusiastic words of protest, Lord Patrice kept his voice measured. He evidently had no wish to be overheard. Fortunately for me, he seemed too preoccupied to think about the window.
“I know that’s what you told me, but whenever I go to your residence, you’re not there. It’s
quite inconvenient for me to have no opportunity to talk to you.” The other man came across as thoroughly fed up, with a hint of contempt toward Lord Patrice.
However, the latter showed no sign of taking offense at being disrespected. In fact, he came across as humble and inferior in his response.
“I’ve told you, I just need to beg your patience a tiny bit longer! I’m on the verge of having the money ready. I’ll be able to pay it off in full.”
“I’ve heard you say that many times before,” came the reply. “How long is ‘a tiny bit longer,’ exactly? When, specifically, will you have the money? I can’t wait any longer.”
Aha. So this man is collecting a debt? Perhaps the reason Lord Patrice is visiting so often is to avoid running into him.
“The day after tomorrow—no, the day after that! Please, just give me three days. In three days’ time, I’ll go straight to your shop.”
“Will you? If you say that and leave me empty-handed again, I really will have to send the bill to your parents this time.”
“I know,” said Lord Patrice, a frantic sense of urgency in his tone. “I will pay you in three days, no matter what, I promise you. So don’t tell anyone—my parents, my brother, or my great aunt and uncle. Please.” For a man who’d acted so high and mighty toward me and Lord Cedric, he cut quite a pathetic figure in the face of his creditor.
This exchange was quite unlike the stories one hears of debt collection. There was no abusive language, no threats of violence. Instead, the man reluctantly nodded. He ultimately came across less as a moneylender and more as some kind of tradesman. Come to think of it, I wonder if Lord Patrice has paid off the cost of that necklace? The one made of black pearls. To look at it, it must have cost tens of thousands of algiers.
“Very well,” said the man. “But this is the very last extension. I will expect you at my shop before noon in three days’ time. If you don’t keep your promise, then…you know what will happen.”
“Believe me, I know!”
I saw that they were starting to leave the room, so I hurried back to the front garden. Rather than heading to the entryway, however, I crossed the front garden, aiming for the gate. I was surprised and alarmed at what a distance it was. At my own home, reaching the front gate would have taken no time at all.
I hid in the shadow of a statue near the gate and waited for the visitor to come out. Since he’d been led from the front door into that parlor, it seemed unlikely that he would leave by the back entrance. I was certain that if I waited there, he’d have to walk past eventually.
Sure enough, the man walked by only moments later. He appeared to have no attendants with him, and no carriage, which seemed slightly at odds with his upstanding appearance.

As he walked by my shadowed corner, I called out to him. “Excuse me. I don’t suppose you have a moment?”
He turned his head, looking back at me with rather a puzzled expression. Then he greeted me with a slight bow and came closer.
“I’m…sort of related to the family, you see, and…I happened to overhear your conversation with Lord Patrice just now.” Although I was in fact a complete stranger and only visiting the house, I thought it best to brush that under the carpet and present myself as a relative. “Do I understand correctly that Lord Patrice has an unpaid debt? He seems to be causing you a great deal of trouble, so I’m a little concerned.”
He made a sound of acknowledgment. “Yes, he owes me rather a lot. I delivered a necklace worth twenty thousand algiers, but he hasn’t paid me even a single algier for it. It’s been more than a month now since the date we agreed upon, and he just keeps telling me to wait a little bit longer, a little bit longer.”
“Oh my,” I replied. It’s just as I thought. He has no money, but he lives beyond his means. Or perhaps his Tarentule favorite is so demanding, he feels FORCED to live beyond his means. Maybe she uses her wiles to coax him into buying her gifts. Oh, how I wish they’d teach me their techniques!
I put my hands on my cheeks, and said in a very troubled manner, “I can’t believe it. What a vast sum of money!”
“He says he doesn’t want anybody he knows to know of it, so I’ve done my best to consider his needs. I didn’t even use a carriage to get here. Nonetheless, I’ve once more been turned away empty-handed. He said he’ll pay me in three days, but I’m skeptical.” He adjusted his hat and looked at me with pointed eyes. “If you’re a relation, perhaps you can do something. I’m a tradesman, so if I don’t get the money, it’ll cause me quite some difficulty. And if he really doesn’t have the money, the least he could do is return the necklace! Could you please try talking to Lord Patrice about it?”
I doubted Lord Patrice would be able to get the necklace back. It was no longer in his possession, after all. Going to Tarentule and asking Eugenie to return it would be too shameful to imagine.
“I’m truly sorry. I, too, would be unable to muster such a large sum of money at short notice, but I will try to talk to the head of our house. I’ll have Baron Bernier keep Lord Patrice on a tight leash so he doesn’t abscond.”
Having heard me say roughly what he was hoping, the man breathed a sigh of relief. For a tradesman, unpaid costs are a matter of life and death. Of course he’s worked up about the threat of not recovering twenty thousand algiers.
“If you don’t mind,” I added, “would you be able to show me the contract? I’d like to confirm
it with my own eyes, just in case.”
“Certainly. It’s right here.” Having suddenly become very agreeable, he reached straight into his bag and withdrew a piece of paper. It was a sale contract with Lord Patrice’s signature on it. The other party was listed as Plunkett Co. Far from being a small or medium-sized company, it was an extremely well-known jewelry firm.
I asked the man’s name, and he told me it was Danton. “Is this Lord Patrice’s handwriting?” I asked next.
“Of course.”
I paused for a moment. “I see. Thank you for the confirmation, I really appreciate it.” I handed the contract back to him. After one more promise that I would definitely talk to the earl, Mr. Danton and I parted ways. Then, in a terrible hurry once more, I returned to the manor.
I caught sight of the butler and asked him if Lord Simeon had returned already. Apparently he had, so I headed to the guest rooms on the second floor. Alas, I saw no sign of him there. I searched high and low, wondering where on earth he could be. After asking every servant I could find, I finally located him. Sweating too much for the season, and thoroughly out of breath, I went to the room I’d been told.
There I heard the high-pitched ring of garish laughter. “Oh, Lord Simeon! You are far too clever!”
“But city society must be full of beautiful young ladies telling you that. We must seem so disappointing in comparison!”
Through the open doorway, I could see Evelyne and Suzette’s brightly colored dresses. Lord Simeon was sitting at the table with them, smiling most pleasantly indeed while they gazed at him hungrily and the three kept up a lively discourse.
“Not at all,” he told them. “Ladies who have beauty and nothing else are ten a penny, but ones that are pleasant to spend time with are surprisingly rare. It’s not so easy to find a truly amiable woman.”
Listening to him speak so sweetly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What am I seeing here? He’s never in such high spirits!
Why was Lord Simeon talking to the sisters in such a buoyant manner? Why was he enjoying their company so much?
“But you have a fiancée, don’t you? How do you feel about her?”
I heard Suzette’s searching question and waited for the answer with bated breath. There might have been a tiny pause, but he answered little more than a second later, his tone remaining entirely even.
“Our first meeting was after the engagement was already arranged. It was her father I discussed the matter with.”

As he walked by my shadowed corner, I called out to him. “Excuse me. I don’t suppose you have a moment?”
He turned his head, looking back at me with rather a puzzled expression. Then he greeted me with a slight bow and came closer.
“I’m…sort of related to the family, you see, and…I happened to overhear your conversation with Lord Patrice just now.” Although I was in fact a complete stranger and only visiting the house, I thought it best to brush that under the carpet and present myself as a relative. “Do I understand correctly that Lord Patrice has an unpaid debt? He seems to be causing you a great deal of trouble, so I’m a little concerned.”
He made a sound of acknowledgment. “Yes, he owes me rather a lot. I delivered a necklace worth twenty thousand algiers, but he hasn’t paid me even a single algier for it. It’s been more than a month now since the date we agreed upon, and he just keeps telling me to wait a little bit longer, a little bit longer.”
“Oh my,” I replied. It’s just as I thought. He has no money, but he lives beyond his means. Or perhaps his Tarentule favorite is so demanding, he feels FORCED to live beyond his means. Maybe she uses her wiles to coax him into buying her gifts. Oh, how I wish they’d teach me their techniques!
I put my hands on my cheeks, and said in a very troubled manner, “I can’t believe it. What a vast sum of money!”
“He says he doesn’t want anybody he knows to know of it, so I’ve done my best to consider his needs. I didn’t even use a carriage to get here. Nonetheless, I’ve once more been turned away empty-handed. He said he’ll pay me in three days, but I’m skeptical.” He adjusted his hat and looked at me with pointed eyes. “If you’re a relation, perhaps you can do something. I’m a tradesman, so if I don’t get the money, it’ll cause me quite some difficulty. And if he really doesn’t have the money, the least he could do is return the necklace! Could you please try talking to Lord Patrice about it?”
I doubted Lord Patrice would be able to get the necklace back. It was no longer in his possession, after all. Going to Tarentule and asking Eugenie to return it would be too shameful to imagine.
“I’m truly sorry. I, too, would be unable to muster such a large sum of money at short notice, but I will try to talk to the head of our house. I’ll have Baron Bernier keep Lord Patrice on a tight leash so he doesn’t abscond.”
Having heard me say roughly what he was hoping, the man breathed a sigh of relief. For a tradesman, unpaid costs are a matter of life and death. Of course he’s worked up about the threat of not recovering twenty thousand algiers.
“If you don’t mind,” I added, “would you be able to show me the contract? I’d like to confirm
it with my own eyes, just in case.”
“Certainly. It’s right here.” Having suddenly become very agreeable, he reached straight into his bag and withdrew a piece of paper. It was a sale contract with Lord Patrice’s signature on it. The other party was listed as Plunkett Co. Far from being a small or medium-sized company, it was an extremely well-known jewelry firm.
I asked the man’s name, and he told me it was Danton. “Is this Lord Patrice’s handwriting?” I asked next.
“Of course.”
I paused for a moment. “I see. Thank you for the confirmation, I really appreciate it.” I handed the contract back to him. After one more promise that I would definitely talk to the earl, Mr. Danton and I parted ways. Then, in a terrible hurry once more, I returned to the manor.
I caught sight of the butler and asked him if Lord Simeon had returned already. Apparently he had, so I headed to the guest rooms on the second floor. Alas, I saw no sign of him there. I searched high and low, wondering where on earth he could be. After asking every servant I could find, I finally located him. Sweating too much for the season, and thoroughly out of breath, I went to the room I’d been told.
There I heard the high-pitched ring of garish laughter. “Oh, Lord Simeon! You are far too clever!”
“But city society must be full of beautiful young ladies telling you that. We must seem so disappointing in comparison!”
Through the open doorway, I could see Evelyne and Suzette’s brightly colored dresses. Lord Simeon was sitting at the table with them, smiling most pleasantly indeed while they gazed at him hungrily and the three kept up a lively discourse.
“Not at all,” he told them. “Ladies who have beauty and nothing else are ten a penny, but ones that are pleasant to spend time with are surprisingly rare. It’s not so easy to find a truly amiable woman.”
Listening to him speak so sweetly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What am I seeing here? He’s never in such high spirits!
Why was Lord Simeon talking to the sisters in such a buoyant manner? Why was he enjoying their company so much?
“But you have a fiancée, don’t you? How do you feel about her?”
I heard Suzette’s searching question and waited for the answer with bated breath. There might have been a tiny pause, but he answered little more than a second later, his tone remaining entirely even.
“Our first meeting was after the engagement was already arranged. It was her father I discussed the matter with.”

And at first, that had been quite all right with me. I was in pursuit of my own form of happiness, and our engagement allowed for that, so I’d accepted it as a give-and-take relationship.
At what point did I begin to feel like this instead? Lord Simeon is just far too wonderful. He’s always kind to me, and even in those moments when he scares me a little, I find him attractive. He’s so sincere and honest that I know I can trust him unconditionally. Sometimes he acts like a fool, but there’s something thoroughly cute about him in those moments as well. Even as he reacts with exasperation to my interests, he doesn’t make a mockery of them.
And that was why…I fell in love with him from the start. I just didn’t realize it until now.
It wasn’t enough for our relationship to be a mere formality. No matter how hard I tried to deny them, or ignore them, I couldn’t do anything to fend off the feelings that had built up inside me.
But it will be a one-sided love. I’m in love with him, but all that leaves me with is the painful
reality of the situation. After all, I knew well and good that my feelings would never be returned. The Three Flowers each rapped me gently on the head. Their soft giggling tickled my ears.
It seemed that even worries and pain were things they could take in stride. I was sure that they, too, had all sorts of feelings they kept hidden from other people. But they didn’t let it show in their bearing at all, instead blooming proudly at every moment, their faces beautiful and beguiling. That was their raison d’être, I supposed.
Every time I saw them in full bloom, I was amazed all over again. They were an example I wished I could live up to. Oh, if I could even be a common field flower blooming at their feet… But that’s why I mustn’t avert my gaze from this situation. I, too, have to hold my head up high and keep looking forward.
“You seem to have recovered,” said Olga, “but I’m curious as to what you’ll do now.”
I took a moment to organize my thoughts, then replied, “When I get back, I’ll talk to Lord Simeon. I have some information I need to share with him.”
“You’re not going to press him about this? About catching him in the act of being unfaithful?” asked Isabelle teasingly.
With a strained smile, I replied, “He wasn’t being unfaithful. But you’re right. If possible, I would like to ask him about his true intentions.”
“And how will you get your revenge on the interlopers?” asked Chloe.
This question was not so easy to answer. “Revenge? I’m not sure that’s entirely necessary.”
She did not seem pleased with this answer. She puffed out her cheeks and glowered at me. “What kind of a milquetoast answer is that? If someone’s trying to steal your suitor, you need to
REALLY show them what’s what.”
“Saying that is one thing,” I stammered, “but I’m not sure I have the stomach for a revenge scheme… That’s not really who I am…”
The three of them exchanged purposeful glances and all reacted at once.
“Ugh!” said Chloe, indignant.
“My word,” said Olga, eyeing me calmly.
“Hmm,” said Isabelle, finding the whole thing very amusing.
And yet, despite their varied reactions, in that instant I found all of them somewhat terrifying. Then Olga asked, “The party is tomorrow, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I replied, full of trepidation. I’d have loved to know what meaning lay behind her smile.
“Perfect,” said Chloe. “I’m free tomorrow.” “I have no plans either,” said Isabelle.
“And I… Well, I suppose I could ask Mr. Delerue to delay our appointment by one day.” Delerue? She can’t mean the noted businessman and multimillionaire!? Is Olga really going to delay an appointment with someone that influential? Can she do that!? “We’ll be there tomorrow, so make sure our arrival is expected at the earl’s estate!”
I tried to raise an objection, but I was summarily ignored.
“I wonder what we should wear. Agnès, can you tell me what kind of dresses those sweet little kittens tend to wear?” asked Chloe.
The sense of adventure in her eyes was slightly alarming. “Chloe, why are you making that face?”
“It’s quite all right,” said Isabelle, “you can leave it all to us. We’re professionals, after all.
We’ll make sure everyone is sufficiently surprised!” “Why won’t you tell me what your plan is!?”
“It will be fun to surprise Lord Simeon, too,” said Olga. “It’s no fun unless we keep it a secret!”
“Please,” I cried, “what are you going to do!?”
All I got in return was a smirk—three smirks, in fact. “We’ll never tell!”
“Our lips are sealed!”
“We’ll see you tomorrow!”
Their faces hinted at quite the prank. They each wore beautiful, dangerous smiles. I had the keen sense that they were toying with me, but as I looked at them, I still couldn’t help feeling impressed.
After that, they quickly shooed me out of Tarentule, explaining that they had to start readying
themselves for work. I walked toward the carriage street with a feeling that I was the victim of a team of mischievous fairies.
Speaking of which, I wonder if there’s been any follow-up report about Lutin. I passed a newsstand and was instantly reminded of him. They weren’t shouting any headlines to draw in customers, so presumably there’d been no new incidents. I picked out a selection of the day’s newspapers and bought them, then hailed the fiacre that was just driving by.
I read the papers on the way, and soon arrived back at Earl Pautrier’s manor. I greeted a servant as I walked in—and then Lord Simeon came to me quicker than I could even head to the second floor.
As soon our faces met, he rebuked me in a harsh tone. “Back at last, I see. Where on earth have you been?” I recoiled from him, and grew hostile at the same time. I’d finally cooled down, and now I was forced to remember all those horrible thoughts again. He wasn’t being unfaithful, I’m sure. But in any case, this isn’t a relationship where you’d talk about infidelity as if it matters. Indeed, whether my fiancé is “faithful” or not, it makes little difference. I know that. At one point I even thought it was an entertaining prospect!
“I was just visiting some friends,” I replied. “But I ask the same of you, Lord Simeon. Where were you? When did you get back? I was here until shortly after midday, but I didn’t see your face even once.” The tone of the words I shot back at him was cutting indeed, if I do say so myself. I wondered if Lord Simeon knew that I’d seen him with the Le Comte sisters. If so, I expected this would be a rather embarrassing situation for him.
Sure enough, Lord Simeon was momentarily lost for words. However, seeing that he apparently had something of a guilty conscience, I suddenly felt unable to be honest with him. Instead all I said was, “I needed to talk to you about something, but you just didn’t come back, so I decided to call on some friends instead.”
“…I had a sudden pressing issue to attend to,” he said at last. “What was it you needed to talk to me about?”
“It doesn’t matter anymore. Sorry for bothering you when you’re clearly busy.” Oh goodness, what am I saying? I have to tell him, I really do!
But since Lord Simeon made no effort to explain his behavior, I decided it wouldn’t be worthwhile to put in all the effort from my side. I wanted to ask: Where did you go this morning? Why were you spending time with the Le Comte sisters? Internally, I debated whether I could bring myself to ask him directly…but I could not. Never! I thought to myself. Of course I can’t just say something like that!
I left Lord Simeon where he was and went straight up to the second floor. He didn’t follow me. Rather than being a relief, that just exaggerated my discomfort. Maybe my attitude really is too objectionable to deal with. Is he angry with me again? Maybe he’s ready to discard me and
our engagement after all…

It occurred to me that if I was considering that as a serious possibility, it would have served me better to simply be honest with him.
Ultimately, what I’d wanted was for him to run after me. I longed for Lord Simeon to chase me down and put everything he had into a full apology and explanation.
Which was ridiculous. Why would he see any need to do that?
In a rather downtrodden mood, I walked in the direction of the guest bedrooms. Along the way, who did I encounter but the Le Comte sisters? It seemed the two of them had been listening in on the exchange between Lord Simeon and myself. With faces that spoke of pure contempt, they looked at me and giggled to themselves. “Oh, had you run off somewhere?” said Evelyne. “It makes no difference whether you’re here or not, so I can’t say I even noticed.”
“Just imagine!” Suzette chimed in. “If you simply left and never came back, no one would even realize!”
They seemed awfully proud of themselves, as if celebrating a victory. I can’t say I didn’t bear them some ill will. A fair portion of it, in fact. And yet, knowing that the two of them weren’t really in a position to be laughing at me, I felt rather sorry for them as well.
“We had such good fun today,” said Evelyne. “What a shame that you missed it.”
“We met Lord Simeon for tea,” said Suzette. “The conversation was so enthralling that the time simply flew by! Lord Simeon is so full of interesting things to talk about. He didn’t leave us bored for a single moment.”
They continued their exchange, requiring no input from me whatsoever.
“He seemed to be enjoying himself as well, so the mood was very jolly indeed. Of course, we did wonder if it was cruel of us to monopolize him. He does have a fiancée…more or less.”
“But Lord Simeon didn’t mind at all! He said that the engagement was a mere formality, you see.”
“Oh well, I suppose I needn’t even ask if that’s a disappointment for you. Don’t you think it’s fruitless to try and push ahead with the engagement? It’s so clear that your partner hates you, so why even try? You’d be far happier if you married someone better suited to you.”
“If you can find anyone who fits that description, of course!”
They both left, laughing uproariously. I watched them go and wondered what information Lord Simeon had been able to get out of them.
After all, having tea with them must have been with that purpose. The only other possibility I could think of was that he’d felt obliged to stay, but that seemed exceedingly unlikely.
I assumed they had some concerns other than fashion and suitors. I returned to my room, intensely intrigued to know what had been discussed.
As soon as I stepped inside, I froze in shock. On the table sat several boxes tied with ribbons.

As I got closer, my gaze was drawn to the shop name engraved on the lid of each one. It was the same shop I’d been to earlier that day. I wondered what variety of treats awaited me inside. Bonbons, baked sweets, maybe even marrons glacés…
Is this to make up for the bonbons he ate? He did say he’d buy me some himself…
I knew who’d put them there without even asking. Inserted in each ribbon was a single rose. Exactly the same thing he did before! I couldn’t help laughing slightly. Maybe I should just give in and confess the truth. I prefer violets and lilies-of-the-valley. And yet, recently I’d begun to think that roses weren’t too bad either.
Taking a deep breath, I opened the closet and found my bag. I took out some writing paper and brought it back to the table. Then I moved the boxes of sweets into a corner and considered what I should write.
The easiest starting point was to express my gratitude for the presents. Then, I thought, I have to report the new information I’ve gathered. That’s the real matter at hand. It was information that Lord Simeon absolutely needed to know. Mr. Danton, the jeweler, had visited Lord Patrice to get his money back…and that the signature on the contract between them was a perfect match for the handwriting on Lord Cedric’s threatening notes. Those blocky letters were so distinct, there was no doubting it. I’d even double-checked the notes I’d borrowed from Lord Cedric, just to make certain. Provided that the signature truly was Lord Patrice’s own hand, there was absolutely no other explanation: the one who’d written those notes was Lord Patrice.
There was still no evidence regarding the plant pot incident, but for me, the whole business was settled. The person going after Lord Cedric was, indeed, Lord Patrice.
As for whether it was better to accuse Lord Patrice directly and start pressing him, or rather to try and corner him another way, I was happy to leave all that up to Lord Simeon. All I had to do for now was to ensure that the information I’d gained didn’t go to waste. I had to convey it as thoroughly and accurately as I could.
Having written down all of that, and the details I’d overheard from the servants, I’d already filled five pages. I paused for now and read over what I’d written to check that I hadn’t left out anything important. What else do I need to include? I feel like there’s something else I needed to cover…
Then I realized what that was. I picked up my pen again, and added an apology.
Stepping softly, I left my room and stood before the neighboring door. Earlier I was quite sure I’d heard the sound of him returning.
Either way, I didn’t have the courage to face him again just yet. I slipped my letter, which I’d folded into quarters, under the door. Or rather, I tried to, but it didn’t fit. The wad of paper was simply too thick.
I suppose this was inevitable, since I wrote five pages. Perhaps it’ll fit if I just fold it in half
instead?
I picked it up and unfolded the pages once, then tried sliding it under the door again. I pushed it in with a great deal of force, and somehow I was just barely successful in pushing the letter into his room.
I returned to my room and waited. At last I heard some soft footsteps outside the door, and a small scrap of paper appeared from under it. I rushed to pick it up—it was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand.
I unfolded it and read the brief message. Seeing his words, written in his handwriting that I’d seen so many times, made all the tension release from my shoulders at once. Instinctively, I started beaming. Tomorrow, I’ll be able to look him in the face again and talk to him normally, just as we always have. I’m sure of it.
I wrote a message back to him and slipped it under his door. “There are lots of things I want to ask you, and lots I want to tell you as well. When this is all over, I’d like it if we could find some time to talk.”
“Me too,” read his reply. “I sincerely apologize for today.”

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