✧New Year’s Eve✧
*Click For Audio Drama*
The morning paper, which had been delivered since early in the morning, lay untouched on the table even though lunch had already passed for quite some time. Like a buzzing bee, Leyla had been hovering around it from time to time in a nervous fret.
Whenever she tried to reach out and open it, she would end up turning around and walking away in fright. This scene had occurred multiple times already since early in the morning.
In an attempt to somewhat ease up her anxious mind, she would every now and then talk to her only companion, which was the unborn child in her womb. She couldn’t help but to speak to them at every available moment she had, even as she warmed up a cup of milk to distract herself. She turned her head towards the windows, flipping open the curtain slightly before immediately drawing it shut once again. In the past few hours, she had been doing such random actions repeatedly, including tossing a few more pieces of firewood into the fireplace.
Finally running out of chores that she could use as an excuse to distract herself from the crippling anxiety, she finally managed to return her attention back to the morning newspaper and opened it at long last. She apprehensively stared at the newspaper for a long time and finally made sure his picture was fortunately not included on the list of those that passed away in the war, which was what she noted immediately after checking repeatedly. A huge sigh of relief finally escaped from her soft lips, her hands that were gripping the paper were now notably shaking less.
Reading the list of names of those that had passed away once again, she closed her eyes and finally breathed in deeply. Ever since she read the news about Marquis Lindman’s death, realization dawned on her that perhaps the next paper that would arrive might be bearing Matthias’ name instead. As much as she didn’t want to see this thought become reality, there was no other way for her to know but to regularly check for his name on the papers.
“Hi, Ms. Lewellin. Or should I call you Duchess now?” Riette turned to greet her dryly in a drawl, just before he had to leave and return to his unit. “When we meet once again, I guess your baby will have already been born. I’ll go see you both once that happens, you’re going to allow me, right?”
“Thank you.” He thanked her, this time sounding genuine in her ears. “And I’m sorry.” He added shortly after.
“Sorry? For what, Marquis?” Leyla tilted her head in confusion, and Riette, on the other hand, only smiled sadly at her. At first glance, his smile, that was only lightly uplifted on one corner of the mouth, slightly resembled Matthias’.
“Just for this and that.” He told her with a wink, pertaining to all the schemes with Claudine that he participated in, while also apologizing on behalf of his beloved. Leyla couldn’t understand why he apologized for something that had long passed, but there was no time left for them to have a long conversation.
“Ah! I hope that the baby will only look like the mother. Especially if it’s a son!” After taking a few steps away from her, Riette looked back and shouted. “Think of it as a wistful wish for my nephew.” He jokingly shouted with a playful smile as he left.
That was the last time she ever saw him, her last memory of the playful Marquis. And that would be how she would remember him forever, playfully smiling while bantering back and forth with her. Leyla removed her glasses and put them down at the end of the table then rubbed her eyes wetted by tears so hard they began to hurt, her hands that were tightly clenched were as cold as ice.
The obituary, which she was only able to check after a long time, did not contain any familiar names that she knew. A sigh of relief flowed out from her once again, but her anxious heart still could hardly calm down. She didn’t like feeling this way, so she decided to go outside for a walk.
Leyla walked slowly through the residential area and towards the park at the end of the museum. When she reached the final term of her pregnancy, her ability to move was compromised by her bulging belly and that made her take quite a long time to walk even at such a short distance.
“Look at your mom. She’s just like a penguin waddling around, right?” She burst into laughter when she saw herself reflected in a shop’s show window.
“Oh! You must not be able to see because you are still in my stomach. Don’t worry, we’ll see each other soon, right? By that time your mom wouldn’t be a penguin then.” Such a funny image occurred inside her mind and she smiled happily once again.
After taking a short break, she continued walking carefully once again, waddling around like a penguin threading on ice. She noticed that there were more people like her walking around on the streets decorated with various festival ornaments, when typically, during this time of the year, the majority of the residents stayed inside at the comfort of their homes with their loved ones. Perhaps they were also like her, trying to distract themselves from the dreary and suffocating atmosphere that the war had brought to their homes. However, she could still see the affectionate faces of lovers and families out and about, showing their odd excitement and hopeful expressions on the upcoming year-end and New Year holidays. Not even the war clouds overhead could dampen their faith for a better tomorrow.
“Shall we eat something delicious for dinner tonight?” She immediately inquired her baby, trying to shake off the desperation in her bones.
“What would you like? Would you like what I like? Or perhaps something your father does?” Even if she patted her stomach repeatedly, the child inside her belly continued to be unresponsive. Feeling a little lonely, Leyla walked more vigorously while slightly kicking the floor.
“Come to think of it, mom doesn’t know what dad likes. I should’ve asked him at least once.” Her sullen words were accompanied by a white mist from her breath as it scattered in the air.
“I actually had a lot of questions for him. I will definitely ask him a lot when he finally gets home.” She murmured with determination while walking a bit faster, however, among the people walking on the street, she was still the one with the slowest pace. Just as she turned around in the corner in front of the museum, some boys skidded past the streets with shouts of news!
“An extra, an extra!”
Almost everyone in the streets froze upon the announcement. At this point everyone knew that any news would only be more updates about the war, and any update most likely came bearing misfortune. Leyla began feeling a dreadful pit in her stomach, churning uncomfortably as the worst thoughts immediately began racing in her head. With her tense and worry-filled mind, she missed the fact that she had been handed a newspaper it ended up falling to the snowy ground.
She needed to pick it up but even as her fingers twitched, her body refused to listen to her will. However, her eyes could still see the headline and the picture on the front page, which made her vision turn blurry as the strength on her feet slowly left her.
[Duke Matthias von Herhardt was killed in the battle to defend the southern front]
She blinked her eyes at the horrible sight in front of her, hoping that her eyes were only playing a trick on her. But, the awful news was still there as if it was embedded deeply into her eyes as if someone was poking a knife right through them. Deafening ringing persistently rang out in her ears as the world around her blurred out completely.
‘He promised. He made a promise to me’ She repeatedly stated his vow inside her head.
‘He wouldn’t break his word. He told me he will definitely come home.’
‘He can’t be dead. He can’t! He wasn’t allowed to die just like this!’
“Miss, do you need help?” A middle-aged woman approached Leyla, who was standing still. She picked up the fallen newspaper and kindly placed it in Leyla’s hand then continued back on her away again.
However, the newspaper fell back to the ground once more, slipping out of her fingers again as she refused to believe that everything was real. Leyla, who finally couldn’t hold back her grief, also fell down along with it.
She gasped for air, trying to make sense of the news, she knew that he mustn’t be dead, that it was not real. She tried to get back up, but she could only feel hopelessness and was unable to find the strength to get up from the freezing ground. She wanted to erase the memory of seeing the news, but she could only continue staring at it and nothing else. Shaky fingers stroked his picture on the newspaper, as if trying to summon him in front of her by just reaching out to his picture.
“Oh my god! Hey, are you okay?!” The middle-aged woman from a while ago shouted in astonishment after she worriedly turned around once again. The eyes of the passers-by followed her figure that was running towards Leyla.
“Everyone, help me!”
All they could see was Leyla struggling to breathe as she clutched her stomach desperately. The woman tried to hoist her up to her feet but Leyla was stubbornly unable to move.
“We have to move her to the hospital! I think her baby is going to come out! Come on!”
“Lies! I don’t believe it, I don’t!” Elysee von Herhardt’s sharp scream shook the spectacular parlor that was unusually silent. The Herhardt family had gathered in a hurry after they heard the news of Matthias’ death and all of them were currently focused on the grieving lady.
“I understand how you feel, but please…”
“My son didn’t die! That can’t be true!” She shook her head vigorously in denial that her gracefully tied hair became messy. “Hurry up and tell me! No, he can’t do this to me!” She hastily approached her mother in law and hopefully asked, trying to deceive herself that the news of her son’s death was just a bad dream.
“My dear…” Norma stared at her sobbing and pleading daughter-in-law as her eyes also slowly turned red due sadness. She had lost her husband, her son, and now, even her grandson. She had lived far too long and suffered so much for the same terrible reason over and over again. This was not the first time she received such news, but the deep sorrow that could break her heart to pieces that accompanied it was something she would never get used to.
“Let’s accept it, Elysee…” Norma lifted the handkerchief in her hand and wiped away Elysee’s tears. “…We should do so for Matthias’ honor. You know that, don’t you?” She resolutely declared, either to support a fellow mother that had lost her son, or as a message to her own self just to prevent herself from breaking down; or both.
Unlike her cool-headed words, her voice was shaking with grief, her eyes holding back the tears. Elysee stared resentfully at her mother-in-law, but soon sobbed with compassion, and eventually she collapsed due to shock.
The news caused a grave disturbance in Arvis.
Every servant and employee in Arvis ran about wildly and frantically upon the news of their master’s death. Messages of condolences from various business partners and clients immediately flooded the estate. Hessen, who had taken the duty of dealing with them, could only absently take their well-wishes as he sat numbly by his desk from dusk until dawn.
“Mr. Hessen, a call from the lawyer, Mr. Stauff, has arrived. He’s looking for you in a hurry.” As the sorrow that he had been trying to suppress began to rise, a servant suddenly delivered an unexpected news.
Stauff, a lawyer in charge of Herhardt’s internal affairs, was the person who helped Leyla settle in Ratz in accordance with the will of the Duke. It wasn’t difficult for him to guess why the secret conspirator would contact him at such a late hour Hessen tucked in his sorrow deep down his heart and went to answer the phone. He couldn’t break down now so it was not the time for him to mourn yet. For now, he still had a job to do.
“Ms. Lewellin is currently in the hospital. It seems that her labor has started suddenly and it’s already been a while.” Hessen’s eyes grew bigger with the sudden news.
“Isn’t it too early”?
“That’s true, I think it was caused by the shock of hearing the news of the Duke’s death. I also just received this news, I’m contacting you in advance before I leave to Ratz.”
“I see. Thank you, Mr. Stauff. I’ll do my part, too.”
Hessen put down the receiver with trembling hands. A child born on the day the news of his father’s death was delivered to the whole empire. He gently closed his eyes in an attempt to hold back his tears.
Should he reveal it?
The Herhardt Family would soon be embroiled in great confusion and quarrel over succession because of the sudden death of the Duke. If the soon-to-be-born child was a son, he would become the only successor of the Herhardt family. Thinking of the current circumstances, the child’s existence was very important and should be revealed. However, the Duke had already given his orders regarding this matter. He ordered that he would respect Leyla Lewellin’s choice, leaving everything for her to decide. In the end, even if he was no longer in the world, Matthias von Herhardt was undeniably still his master.
Hessen stepped out into the dark hallway with her lips tightly closed.
A child was born on New Year’s Eve. As if proving his existence, he let out a loud cry on a deep night just before the bell rings, which marked the end of the year and the beginning of the new year.
The nurse firmly held out the newborn child wrapped in a white cloth to the arms of the mother, who endured the pain of childbirth alone. Leyla’s face was ashen, and she was still half-conscious by the time the nurse presented her child to her. Finally seeing their beloved child, her heart couldn’t help but to feel torn with a bittersweet happiness and despair.
“The baby is healthy.” The nurse smiled and told Leyla, before she gently handed the baby to the new mother, who cradled the child stiffly in her arms. “He’s a little small, but there’s nothing wrong with his health.”
“Really…?” Leyla asked the nurse, anxiety clearly shown on her face. Her lips trembled with apprehension as she stared at her child. He was a child who had suffered a lot already even since he was still inside her womb. Additionally, he was also born earlier than what was scheduled.
“Of course. Here, look at him.” The nurse stepped back after adjusting Leyla’s posture so she could hug the child comfortably. It was only then that she carefully lowered her gaze and finally looked at the child in her arms.
When she gently stroked his black hair, the child wiggled his small body as if silently protesting against his mother’s actions. The deep dark color of his hair made his skin appeared paler than what it is. Leyla, who had spaced out for a while, gave a light smile and proceeded to stroke her child’s cheek. The soft texture made her wonder how it could be possible for his cheeks to be so soft as her eyes slowly got teary again. Suddenly, a faint sound of bell ringing enveloped the room, and the frowning child in her arms gently opened his eyes.
It wasn’t too long, but she clearly saw it.
A pair of beautiful and clear blue eyes.
More tears poured out of her eyes, wetting her cheeks and smiling lips.
Accompanied by the sound of the bell announcing the New Year, Leyla cried while laughing, either due to happiness or sadness, or maybe both, she didn’t know. Their beautiful baby inherited his father’s pretty blue eyes.
‘Our son….he’s so pretty…’
‘Please come back.. Come back home to us.’ She pleaded desperately as she cried