✧Pieces of Truth✧
After the brief promotion ceremony, the North Sea fleet begun its end of year party. After fulfilling his duties and accepting congratulations from the other officers, Bastian used the opportunity to slip away.
“Congratulations, Major! Oh no, I mean Admiral Admiral Klauswitz,” the crew of the Rayvael called out as they saw their commanding officer march by. They were busy enjoying the luxurious food and drink the emperor had provided. It was the best food they had seen in weeks.
Bastian saluted his subordinates with a mock smile. Even the young conscripts, who wore grim faces, looked bright and cheerful this evening. Once past them, Bastian continued along the dark shore, where the North Sea fleet’s home port was visible.
Bastian lit a cigarette, facing toward the sea as he let out a puff of smoke. He stood and listened to the crashing waves. A stray, brown dog cautiously approached him. It was slightly larger than Margrethe and circled around him a couple times. Bastian could see a collar, which didn’t really mean anything any more, most of the strays on the island used to belong to someone. Many were painfully thin, their ribs visible. The North Sea winters were harsh, and their human pets struggled to survive in the war-torn conditions.
“Admiral Klauswitz,” someone called out from the darkness. Eventually, the shadowy figure resolved into that of Lieutenant Caylon. “I just wanted to properly congratulate you on your promotion.”
“Thank you,” Bastian said. “By the way, Lieutenant Caylon, do you have any biscuits?”
Caylon looked at Bastian confused, until the movement of the strays caught his eye. “Ah, I don’t have any on me, but if you give me a moment, I’ll go fetch some.”
Bastian sat on the seat as he watched the moon high in the sky, blowing dark smoke out into the dark sky. The strays wandered a little closer and he thought about Margrethe.
He had lied to Odette to save her life. He could never have given up on Margrethe. He was determined to find her even if the dog was dead. He wanted to live with hope, not only for himself but also for Odette, because the dog was the only thing left for that miserable woman.
The puppies must be all grown big by now. Bastian chuckled as he thought about the little of giant fluff balls becoming a handful for Odette. Bastian missed having the dog follow him every where he went.
He realised he had given his heart to that dog. The day before he left for war, Margrethe seemed to sense he was going away for a long time and followed him around more than usual. She whined at him when he tied Odette’s ribbon around her neck, even the maids attempts to calm her failed. Even after the car carrying him drove away, Margarethe stood by the front door for along time, barking until her voice was hoarse. Bastian had to steel himself not to turn back.
Bastian was brought out of his retrospection by something soft and wet lapping at his hand. The brown dog looked into Bastian’s eyes expectantly, tongue lolling out the side of its mouth. As Bastian petted its head, Caylon came back with a pocket full of biscuits. Bastian couldn’t help but burst into laughter.
“I got permission from the cook, Admiral. Don’t worry.” Caylon looked at Bastian with an awkward smile.
Getting up out of the sand, Bastian and Caylon began distributing the biscuits amongst the strays. Once done, he lit another cigarette and stared out across the absolute darkness across the sea. As he looked up at the moon, he made a wish for his dear Odette.
He hoped that the beautiful and noble woman had finally reclaimed her rightful place. May twenty-five-year-old Odette find the happiness she deserves.
Odette returned home earlier than she planned. The maid was startled to see her mistress return so early and hurriedly opened the door. Despite it being a day of great honour, Odette looked ashen.
“My goodness, Ma’am, should I call a doctor?”
“No, no, there’s no need for that. I just need some rest,” Odette said as she made her way into the drawing room.
Odette collapsed into a high back chair in front of the fire place and took off her cloak with trembling hands. She drank some water the maid brought to her and felt paralysed. It took a little time to piece together the information given to her by Count Xanders.
Bastian prepared this house for her.
On his first day in Rothwein, he met Count Xanders. And even two days before leaving, he ran into him again while biking alone after a date downtown. The man who confidently claimed his rights at first changed his stance within a week. He provided her livelihood and gave the credit to the Count, keeping it all secret as if he asked Maximin to take her husband’s place.
It was a story she didn’t want to believe, but what reason would Xanders have to lie to her? Everything Count Xanders said rang true, for his thoughts, actions, and even the smallest were very Bastian-like.
Bastian had deceived her, right when she thought he was on the level.
Her eyes turned to the piano placed by the window. From the very start, Odette had felt uneasy about her situation. She had tried not to think about it, tried to ignore the pressing concerns. She didn’t want to go through the same misery as when she had deluded herself into thinking she was pregnant again.
Bastian had always known that the war was coming. The sudden change in his demeanour suggested he had received the news in Rothewein Odette had to agree. Bastian was meticulous. He would not have prepared a refuge just on a vague hunch that international relations might deteriorate.
Odette’s heart twisted in pain as she remembered the memories of last summer, on the day he had missed their dinner date. The man who had come to her, saying that he missed her and would wait for her to change her mind, no matter how long it would take, suddenly changed course.
He said he would stay with her for more days, so that they could divorce on good terms. Declaring himself a short-term husband, he had come unannounced, spent five precious days, and left. As if he had known about the war and broken his promise on purpose… As if he wanted to make final memories, knowing he would soon face his own death…
Then what about her?
Odette’s breathing became increasingly laboured, unable to bear the weight of all that sorrow and grief in one hit. She turned to the window, where she could see the golden Ferris wheel spinning on the night sky.
The townhouse had a perfect view of the Ferris wheel, she could always see its colorful lights shimmering through the window because her house just a stone’s throw away from Ratz amusement park. How could she have believed all this was coincidence?
Too late, Odette realised her breath had caught in her throat and she was unable to take a breath. She collapsed to the floor, the last thing she saw was her crown wheeling away from her. The brilliance of its jewels felt like they were slicing through her heart. The last memory to cross her mind was that of her storming up to the Emperor, thrusting the crown at him.
‘Is this crown what HE wanted for me?’ she demanded of her uncle.
‘Oh, I guess you didn’t know.’
There was no need for further questions. The look in his eyes told her everything, as if he saw the most pitiful and foolish child in the world. She felt as though she had just been handed a death sentence.
With trembling legs, Odette rose from her seat and stumbled out of the reception room, paying no mind to the fallen crown that rolled along the carpet. Bastian’s blood-stained crown now meant nothing to her.
“Madam!” The maid’s cries echoed through the house, but Odette didn’t stop. She pushed past the entrance hall and bolted out of the house, the chill wind whipping at her hair and clothes.
Odette wondered like a ghost to the Ferris Wheel. As if she could find the man she held nothing but resentment for and let her anger flow out of her at him.
She crossed the quiet road, emptied due to the restriction of vehicles and approached the dream like glow of the park. It had opened just for today. The joyful expressions of the revellers passed her like shadows. It would have been easy to forget that it was wartime.
You deceived me,
because you love me,
Because you love me, the unworthy, cowardly me.
She felt like she knew Bastian’s true intentions, hidden behind expert lies. She couldn’t believe she had never notice it sooner, it was so obvious now. Why had she so foolishly and naively sent him away?
She hated him for lying, but she hated herself more for forcing him into a position where he had to lie.
She should have accepted his apology. She should have forgiven him. They should have started anew.
But caught up in her pride, she hadn’t even seen him properly, believing a good bye was the best she could offer.
Passing the carousel and the swings, she soon came to the front of the Ferris Wheel. Memories of that day swam though her head, slowly surfaced like the golden wheel turning in the sky, when she had loved and been loved, without ever knowing it was love.
The gifts he had left behind, sacrificing everything, brought no joy to her. She had no desire for gold and jewellery, she only desired that man.
The man that had given her the most painful wounds. The one she had hated the most and yet, she was also the one who had loved her the greatest. He was the most precious and dear to her.
He was the person she loved the most in this world.
‘I want to have you, Bastian.’
Tears finally flowed freely down her cheeks. “Please don’t go,” she said to her memories. “I miss you, please come back.”
Words she couldn’t bring herself to say before now flowed out with her tears. She stood, motionless, before the Ferris Wheel, like a wounded animal. Her cries drowned out by the joy and excitement of the amusement park. Passers by glanced over at the strange, weeping woman and hurried on, not wanting to let her mood bring them down.
Her eyes remained fixed on the Ferris wheel twirling in the starlit sky. Her tear-stained face, bathed in the bittersweet glow of the colorful lights, captured a beautiful blend of sorrow and beauty that was impossible to look away from.
“I love you, Bastian,” Odette said to no one.
The words hung heavy in the air, unable to reach him. As the final night of the year descended, her tears flowed without end.
“I really love you…”
With passionate confessions were spoken over and over again in an endless rhythm.