Maria Gross’s eyes widened in awe, for in that fleeting moment, it seemed as if heaven and earth had unveiled their secrets before her very eyes. Glancing at the young Bastian, her astonishment mirrored the expression on Dr. Kramer’s face, seated right beside her.
With work delaying his arrival, Bastian eventually entered the house, greeted by a room filled with guests. Clutched in his hand was a stunning bouquet. Yet, the enchantment quickly waned as Maria’s jaw dropped upon spotting another bouquet he had secretly crafted for his wife.
In a quick glimpse, Odette’s bouquet seemed noticeably smaller and simpler compared to Maria’s, a deliberate choice by a thoughtful nephew determined to cast his aunt as the day’s protagonist. However, Maria immediately sensed the genuine sincerity within the modest bunch of irises that Bastian presented to his wife.
Just as what men would usually do, her nephew selected a bouquet from the array of options—a lovely prearranged creation adorned with a harmonious blend of widely cherished flower types, similar to the one he had presented to her moments ago.
However, it was evident that the irises he bestowed upon his wife had been carefully chosen by his own hands. While not an exceedingly rare bloom, it stood apart from the ordinary. Maria would confidently wager that no sensible florist would include irises in a gentleman’s floral order unless expressly instructed to do so.
Maria couldn’t help but burst into laughter, finding the situation hard to believe. From the moment Bastian handed the bouquet of irises to his wife, his gaze never wavered, remaining fixated on heis wife every move.
Even the tiniest gesture or fleeting glance from Odette received his unwavering attention. He appeared like a lovesick teenager experiencing the thrill of first love. On the other hand, Maria was equally astounded by Odette’s ability to maintainher proper manners while being intensely stared.
“I didn’t expect that Bastian would become such a pathetic husband.” Dr. Kramer whispered, and Maria only responded with a faint smile.
“Supper is served. Kindly go to the dining room.”
Just as the butler arrived, Bastian finally turned his gaze away from his wife and approached Maria with a calm demeanor, ready to accompany her.
“Allow me to lead the way, Mrs. Gross,” he said with a relaxed smile. It was the familiar countenance of Bastian Klauswitz that Maria recognized, displaying a blend of subtle determination and playful mischief, rendering him all the more captivating.
‘Maybe it was an illusion stemming from my aging eyes.’ Maria reassured herself, grasping her nephew’s hand.
If Bastian was still unaware, it was best to keep it that way– he had the face of a man deeply smitten with lovewho was in love.
The dinner was an absolute delight, with delectable cuisine and meticulously crafted drinks. A harmonious blend of heartfelt conversations and laughter filled the air, creating a welcoming atmosphere.
As the final main course was whisked away from the table, Odette couldn’t help but release a breath of relief. This extraordinary feast had been prepared amidst chaos, and without the aid of skilled servants, she wouldn’t have achieved such culinary perfection.
She drank cold water to awaken her ever-fading consciousness. After meeting her father, she found it difficult to think properly–to the point she couldn’t even quite remember how she got back to the Ardenne. The events of a few hours ago seemed distant, almost like a distant memory.
Odette repeated her mantra countless times during the dinner to brace herself. She pushed through the tasteless food, hoping to hold on a bit longer with a kind smile. However, as the dessert was served, the ensuing conversation trapped her in a difficult position.
“It’s truly a shame that such amiable newlyweds must endure two years of separation. Why not consider accompanying your husband to his new assignment, Mrs. Klauswitz?” Dr. Kramer inquired.
Odette grasped the meaning of the question with a delayed realization, her expression filled with confusion as she scanned the surroundings. She hoped that someone would also show a surprised reaction, but such a wish did not come true. Everyone sitting around the table seemed to already know about Bastian’s plan, except for one person—his wife, Odette Klauswitz.
“But you wouldn’t be able to stay with Bastian during his training regardless. It wouldn’t be much different from staying here,” Maria Gross looked at Bastian and raised an objection.
Odette managed to muster a smile. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make every effort not to raise any suspicions,’ she reassured, remembering the promise she had made to Bastian.
“I believe it’s far preferable for you to stay here rather than living alone, awaiting your husband in an unfamiliar place. The Trosa Islands can be quite desolate, posing challenges for a young woman like yourself, isn’t that so, Odette?”
Odette obediently nodded, “Yes, I would prefer to remain in Ardenne. I don’t wish to burden my husband, and moreover, there is still much work in the mansion that requires my attention.”
“Your mindset is commendable, Odette. It would indeed be challenging for the hostess to depart when the foundation of the new household has not yet been established,”
“What are your thoughts, Bastian?” Dr. Kramer, seemingly persistent, posed the question once more.
Odette glanced at Bastian with a hint of tension, her well-proportioned face cast in shadows by the soft glow of the elegant candlesticks
With a smile, Bastian raised his glass, drawing the attention of those present. “I will honor my wife’s wishes,” he declared, taking a sip of wine to wet his lips. He fixed a calm gaze upon Odette, reminiscent of the moment when he had shared the news of the war with her.
“Thank you, Bastian,” Odette expressed, bringing a conclusion to the tense conversation.
If she hadn’t been sincere, he wouldn’t have been hurt. The betrayal of his deceitful wife wouldn’t stain his heart. Odette was glad that her intentions were nothing more than that.
Once again, she chose to appreciate this fact, which proved to be the right decision.
As Molly entered the bedroom, carefully holding a vase of irises, Odette kept a watchful eye on the child’s movements through the vanity mirror. Mindful of the head maid, Dora, who was preoccupied with combing her hair, Odette made sure to be cautious in her actions, to avoid arousing suspicion.
However…something was amiss.
Just as the head maid, Dora, set down the comb, Molly’s behavior took a peculiar turn. Locking eyes with Odette through the mirror, the child furrowed her eyebrows, seemingly signaling something.
Without wasting a moment, Molly discreetly slipped a note concealed in her sleeve and cleverly placed it beneath the vase. Catching Odette’s brief glance, Molly smiled brightly. Her expression stirred a pang of regret within Odette, reminding her of the past when she had believed Molly and Tira to be alike.
“Have a pleasant evening, madam,” Dora concluded her tasks and bid a polite farewell before departing alongside Molly. As their footsteps faded into the distance, Odette rose from her seat. With haste, she grasped the vase and discovered a neatly folded note resting beneath it.
Her heart raced, a flurry of anticipation coursing through her, as she fought to steady herself before unfurling the note with hands that trembled. But the air of suspense surrounding her was shattered by the jarring intrusion of abrupt footsteps echoing through the passageway, linking the two bedrooms.
Odette quickly hide the note within the pocket of her gown. Moments later, the door swung open, leaving her with little opportunity to reposition herself. She anxiously shifted her focus to the irises in the vase. With delicate touches, Odette pretended to admire the petals, acting as though everything was perfectly normal.
“Odette,” Bastian called out, pausing briefly at the door before entering the bedroom.
“Oh, the flowers are absolutely lovely,” she exclaimed with a warm smile, lightly caressing the petals. Meanwhile, Bastian stood by his wife, arms casually folded, watching the flower
“I don’t mind, Bastian. I understand you.” Odette suddenly said.
Bastian let out a laugh, though inwardly he felt a sense of discomfort. The unexpected announcement of his imminent departure unsettled him. It made him question whether it would seem as if he were deceiving Odette?
He pondered over the right words to dispel any misunderstandings that may have arisen. These thoughts had been swirling in his mind since the incident caused by the talkative Dr. Kramer until the present moment.
However, she assured him that she understood. Her understanding brought a sense of relief to him, as her response aligned with his expectations. Yet, inexplicably, a feeling of unease lingered within him seeing Odette’s overly plain attitude.
“If you were worried that I would insist on going with you…You don’t have to worry about that, Bastian. I’ll wait here if that is what you want.” Odette said.
Bastian, unable to find a suitable response, remained silent.
“There are not many days left to spend together. I don’t want to ruin the rest of the time with things that have already happened.” Odette murmured softly as she continued to toy with the flower petals “So Bastian, I’m fine.”She chuckled, though her eyes betrayed the shimmer of tears she held back. “I hope you’re okay too.”
‘Let’s go together.’
Bastian found himself clenching his empty fists repeatedly to bear the weight of the words that welled up within him.
“Bastian, you must be tired. Go and sleep first.”
“How about you?”
“I’ll rest soon, after spending more time admiring these flowers,” she replied, catching him off guard. Bastian couldn’t help but let out a helpless laugh.
A woman who found joy in the simple beauty of a few flowers. He had conflicting feelings about her. It both pleased and irritated him at the same time.
Bastian discreetly turned away, hiding the emotions that swirled within him.
With each passing moment, the bedroom dimmed as the lights extinguished, intensifying the glow emanating from the crackling fireplace.
Bidding farewell to the bedside lamp, Bastian settled himself on the bed. Odette remained motionless for an extended duration, waiting patiently until Bastian succumbed to sleep.
Seizing the opportunity, she cautiously unraveled the concealed note, unveiling its secrets in the depths of the abyss-like night. As her gaze fell upon Theodora Klauswitz’s commanding words, an icy chill crept into her thoughts, causing her mind to momentarily freeze, leaving her in a bewildered state.
Clutching the word in her mind, Odette cast the crumpled note into the hungry flames of the fireplace. The answer that she was supposed to give after meeting her father had already been decided.