A single snowflake landed on the tip of Lia’s nose.
Lia relaxed her stern face as she looked up at the sky. The first snow of the year began to fall. She had spent the entire morning in the library. She thought of the librarian who looked troubled as he confessed that there were no books to recommend anymore.
She stood in front of the house and watched the white light that sliced through the darkness from time to time. She took off one of her leather gloves, given to her by Pepe, to feel the snow—the cold, tickling sensation—on her palm.
A carriage, a distance away, casually drew nearer and nearer, passing by, leaving tracks in the fresh snow.
The falling snow muted the world and Lia drank in its tranquility.
She could see her own breath each time she exhaled. A cat that was curled up underneath the garden lamp yawned. Everything was quiet and still.
She chuckled and faced the door. Then she stuck her tongue out and tasted the snow.
It tasted of nothing. She tried a few more times and figured she looked silly doing so.
Isn’t this what little kids do? They look for the sweetness of sherbet in the snow. How laughable!
Her thoughts moved on.
How could he say such a mean thing? Come to think of it, Claude was quite a scary young Duke. She trembled simply meeting eyes with him.
For someone like him to confess to me.
She still remembered the kiss they shared in the field. Whenever she was about to fall asleep and remembered that day, she tossed and turned and blushed.
But that was already three years ago. She shouldn’t feel sad or disappointed, even if his heart had changed during that time. She has to accept the fact that what they shared wasn’t as memorable for the Duke as it was for her.
She felt worse whenever she had negative thoughts.
She rubbed her cold hands and was about to open the door.
A loud, long cry of a bird shattered the stillness. Some sort of raptor, difficult to discern in the night sky, circled around her head.
Entranced, Lia watched the raptor flapping his wings, circling, and finally settling on the top of a lamppost.
The terrified cat bolted, overturning a garden pot.
The bird is a hawk. Are its eyes actually blue?
Lia couldn’t take her eyes off the hawk. Part of her thought she should run away from a dangerous wild animal and the other part of her was captivated by its elegance.
Lia sat at the edge of the steps instead of going inside. She shivered, but she couldn’t go in and leave such an impressive bird outside.
The hawk reciprocated. It stood completely still, keeping its eyes on Lia. It didn’t preen or readjust its position at all. Its arrogance reminded Lia of someone.
Ah! He’s like Eli.
Eli also stared at her with those eyes whenever she had visited the tent.
It was almost as if Lia and the hawk were having a staring contest.
But then, in one swift motion, it spread its strong wings and flew away.
Lia stood up, dusted the snow off, and felt momentary sadness.
Pepe opened the door and took a deep breath at the sight of Lia.
“You’re late! I was so worried you hadn’t returned,” chided Pepe.
“Why are you worrying? I’m not a child.”
“How little you know. There are nefarious people showing up in the Capital again. Don’t go out alone at night. Okay?”
Lia smiled, ignoring Pepe’s admonishment.
As she went upstairs, she glanced at the kitchen; the servants were busy preparing a meal.
In her room, Lia sighed as she noticed that the clothing Rosina had gifted her a few days ago, was delivered while she was out.
Frank lied when he said he had made a mistake in measuring.
She changed into comfortable clothes and looked out the window, watching the snow cover the roofs of the city. The snow didn’t care whether it was Louvre or the city, it just piled up.
“Did you see? That was Sir Canillian, right?”
“Ah, how is he so beautiful?”
“Have you heard he’s a star pupil at the Academy? I should ask my father to put in a marriage proposal. Even though he doesn’t have a title, there’s no way His Majesty would forsake someone so talented.”
“Stop dreaming. He said he has someone in his heart. Don’t you remember? When he instantly rejected Caroline?”
The chatty young ladies looked at each other and giggled. Then they realized the situation they’re in and sighed. These noble young ladies, who had just had their debutante balls, dressed in lavish jewelry and elegant clothes and were attending their family members’ graduation ceremony at the Academy.
The Academy reopened after three years. As the vast majority of the nobility’s eldest sons were fighting on the front—and their parents didn’t know if they were dead or alive—the graduation of their second sons from the Academy was all the more precious.
Kieran, who was supposed to attend the graduation, received the sad news that Marquis Gliad Vale had gone missing in battle. Kieran’s heart collapsed at the thought of his father as a prisoner of war.
Lia brushed the snow off her shoulders and took off her wet gloves. She had been helping the horseman clear the driveway of the snow that had fallen last night. Her clothes were all wet.
Canillia, now inside, looked around the hall full of nobles.
As she walked, envious eyes followed.
Canillian was known as the beautiful young man amongst the ladies. Some of them took courage and confessed their interest in him. But they only heard one answer: “I’m sorry. I have someone else in my heart.”