✧Wednesday When Her Husband Left✧
Bastian led the way as they walked along the waterway, dragging his trunk behind him. Odette was only a step behind, she could easily have closed the distance, to walk beside him, but she chose to maintain the respectful distance.
She was due at the Xanders estate today, to teach Alma, there was still plenty of time to get everything done, but she decided to leave early to see Bastian off properly.
They rounded a hedge and could see the crossroads just beyond. The car that came for Bastin was waiting there for him. She could have followed Bastian all the way to the car, but she needed to go down the next road to get to Maximin’s villa. She felt that if she prolonged their departure any more, it would be too hard on them both.
She did not want this moment to be tinged with sadness. She wanted to say goodbye and for them to part on good terms, the end of their relationship met with happiness and fondness for the fun they had over the last five days, as if the three years prior never happened. Although the beginning was a mess and most of the time they spent together was stained with hurt and regret, she hoped to remember this marriage, especially its last moments, would remain in her heart as beautiful as the June’s sunshine.
As the junction came closer, her steps became slower, dragging her further from Bastian. He sensed her reluctance and reduced his pace, but he never looked back. A smile formed on Odette’s face as she stared at the back of the heartless yet kind man.
Their time together might not have been joyous enough to romanticize in any way, but she felt like there had been some moments where they had sparked, moments she could look back on fondly and not think the last three years were a complete waste. she could now remembered him in that light, without shame or further hurt, with a heart now free of shadows.
The time of farewell came ever closer, And their goodbye was fewer than ten strides away. Odette wiped away the tears and fidgeted with her dress. She wished she had let her hair down, but the day was windy and she didn’t want to look like a crazed hag on their last day together.
Odette finished smoothing out her dress and stopped at the junction. Bastian stopped also. As she composed herself, Bastian turned around to face her, it was the first time he looked at her since leaving the house. He lowered his gaze to meet hers. The branches of a willow tree swayed in the wind behind his head.
“I have to go this way now,” Odette said, looking down the road.
Bastian followed her gaze, narrowing his eyes as he realised where the road led. “It looks like you are on your way to Count Xanders.”
“Yes, it is Alma’s piano lessons this morning,” Odette said calmly.
Bastian let go of his trunk, letting it rest in the shade of the willow and tree. He approached Odette slowly, taking off his officers hat.
“Bastian, I’m sorry,” Odette said, gathering all the courage she could. “Betraying you was inexcusable. I was selfish and foolish.”
“I think you’ve apologised for that enough,” Bastian said, tilting his head.
“No, at the time I didn’t really know what I should be apologising for. I was just anxious to get out of trouble. Since then, I have been avoiding it by rationalising an apology and forgiveness that has lost all meaning.” Laying her torment bare for all to see, she admitted that she had been running away like a coward. Yet somehow, under the shadow of Bastian’s own missteps, she could play the role of a pitiable victim.
“I’m sorry for causing you hurt and pain. Can you forgive me for being so foolish back then?” she said in a sorrowful voice. Her eyes misty with tears as she looked at him.
Knowing that she could not shift the blame onto Bastian any more, making excuses for her own behaviour, she came to realise that she could not part from him with this in her heart, it would only taint the fond memories they had just created together. It was the last of her unresolved debt.
Don’t close your eyes. Odette kept her eyes open, reminding herself of his words. He had taught her how to protect herself against all odds. She looked back into the depths of his gaze with the courage she had found within herself.
“Lady Odette, would you also forgive me?” Bastian said, he looked tender.
They stood facing each other in silence for the longest moment. The sound of children playing in the creek was all that could be heard in the silence of the outskirts of the village.
“Yes, I will,” Odette said eventually.
15 minutes before 9. Bastian felt the minutes slowly tick away, and knew that the military car had arrivedwaiting for him. He took one last longing look at her before he was to leave. He could see a wave of understanding rushed through her eyes and he knew that she accepted everything.
“Then we are agreed to forgive each other and reconcile,” Odette said with a bright smile and held out her hand. It took a second for Bastian to realise the meaning of the gesture, but he took Odette’s hand and shook it.
“Bastian,” Odette said softly.
A flash of agitation crossed Bastian’s face as he realised he would never hear this woman call his name again.
“You didn’t break me,” Odette said, smiling. “You were never to blame for all that happened. The miscarriage, Margrethe…it was none of your fault. My resentment wasn’t real. It was never true, but a lie made up to resist facing what had happened. So Bastian, you can let go of this nightmare and wake up. Everything is alright.”
The sadness mixed with the beauty of her smile almost broke him. Bastian could feel the lump of intense emotions rising in his throat, and he managed a single nod in understanding.
Odette’s hand slowly slipped out like sand through his fingers. He wanted to pull her back, but his body felt heavy and his mind weary. He was torn, but even the slightest touch to overwhelm him with emotion. He could feel his fragile heart cracking yet a part of him might have even wished for it to break apart.
“I will forget the past and live well. I hope you do the same.”
I love you, Bastian.
A deep-seated urge to shout out her feelings and cling to him swelled within her yet she veiled it with a delicate farewell. “Goodbye. Take care of yourself, Bastian,”
She stepped back, the shadows of her long eyelashes dancing over her rosy cheeks as she bowed her head with all the regal grace of the night at the ball; just like the princess concluded her ruined waltz, like the proud queen who had so captivated him.
A polite request, or an arrogant command. No matter which it was, he could not refuse it. With his usual poise restored, Bastian gracefully bent in acquiescence. He watched her drifted down the path, her silhouette lit by the sunlight ahead.
Odette felt his eyes on her back but kept walking, resolute and dignified. She pushed onward, never looking. The only thing she could give him now was her parting gesture.
That Wednesday when her husband left, the sky held a brilliant light. A day of such resplendent beauty that pierced straight to her core, and only ached her heart more.
Odette left like a caged bird that had been finally freed, soaring high into the sky, into a new beginning, without a hint of regret. He could have watched her all the way until she was out of sight, but he had some where to be. He looked at his watch. Ten minutes. He picked up his trunk and made his way to the waiting staff car.
His chest hurt and his breath came in deep, thick breaths that felt thick with poison. His skin felt like it was sprouting thorns and sat to tightly over his bones. There was a fire in his stomach.
‘This pain is a lie.’
Bastian gritted his teeth, he repeated it over and over again, yet, the pain persisted.
He dragged one foot after another, fighting against the weight of the world that pressed down upon him, each movement felt like wading through quicksand. And then he froze again, unable to go any further. The glaring light reflecting off his meticulously polished shoes blinded him.
He realised he had stopped on the bridge over the creek and he could not force his legs to move any more. The sunlight glittering off the water stung his eyes. He felt like a lost child. His lips trembled and his grip on his trunk got tighter.
Unable to fight the urge, he looked back. He could still see Odette, who was already halfway up the hill. It would not be long before he would no longer be able to see her.
As he stood there, watching her progress up the hill, watching her dress flutter in the wind, he imagined they were the wings of a bird, the wings he had given her.
Then Odette disappeared over the hill. Bastian stayed still in that very place even after she was gone. She never once glanced back—He laughed at the notion. The pain slowly ebbing away until it transformed into sorrow, and then this sorrow blossomed into a bittersweet joy.
His Odette, whom he had ruined and protected at the same time.
His soul illuminated with a gentle smile, Bastian cradled this thought to his chest and slowly moved forward on his path.
9:10. The appointment time had already passed.
Bastian wore his officer’s cap and made his way across the bridge towards the car where two Navel ratings stood waiting for him. Salutes were exchanged. One of them loaded his trunk into the boot, while Bastian settled himself into the back seat. The car sped off and left the village on the outskirts of Rothewein.
Two days later on Friday, the Berg Navy’s main fleet had finally assembled on the Prater River for special training, and set sail for Trosa Islands with Bastian as its commander – a renowned hero of the North Sea.
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