✧Side Story 16✧
*Click For Audio Drama*
The car that carried the Duke out of the city towards Arvis was filled with a deafening silence. Though it appeared as though the Duke was handling his packed schedule with ease, he was quietly dozing off, buried in the sheets, as if he was carrying the weight of exhaustion on his shoulders. Mark Evers, who had been pushing through the demanding schedule, also became unusually quiet, his usual chatter replaced with a contemplative lull.
The fresh aroma of pine trees began to fill the air as the car slowly made its way down the secluded road leading to the fief. The rustling of leaves, signaling the start of Arvis, could also be heard. Mark Evers, lost in the tranquil beauty of the landscape, suddenly sat up straight in his seat. Almost at the same time, the driver spotted a woman walking across the street. Leyla von Herhardt, the Duchess, with her son in her arms.
Mark Evers turned to wake his sleeping master, but quickly realized it was unnecessary. The Duke had already opened his eyes, his gaze fixed on the window, where he saw his wife. His face was adorned with a faint smile, a sight that Mark Evers knew to be reserved for the Duchess alone.
Without hesitation, Mark Evers gestured for the driver to stop the car and the Duke stepped out, leaving his jacket behind.
“Thank you for your hard work,” Matthias said, before adjusting his jacket and tie, making sure everything was in its place. His smooth movements, from buttoning his jacket to adjusting his cufflinks, were effortless as flowing water.
“I’ll see you at the mansion,” Matthias said softly as he turned to leave. The moment Leyla caught sight of him, she waved her hand, and Felix, in her arms, mimicked her.
Matthias laid his hands nonchalantly on his back and started to stroll towards his wife and son. The automobile continued to go away in silence. Leyla’s steps accelerated as the car vanished from view. She walked with the grace of a feather even while carrying Felix, who grew heavier every day.
Matthias halted in his tracks. For a moment, his cerulean eyes captured a beautiful image of her walking down the path, past the flickering shadows of the lovely trees.
…and here she comes.
She was approaching him like the sound of an endless green wave, the wind playing with her hair.
The sound of laughter and joy filled the dull air as she paused her stride. Matthias, caught off guard by her sudden stop, watched as she chatted and laughed with their son before slowly put him down in the ground.
“Daddy!” Felix’s shout jarred the slumbering afternoon. The child broke free from her grasp and ran towards his father with arms wide open.
His roomy sailor collar flapped like wings as he waddled. Matthias scooped up the young boy with a smile, marveling at how much stronger and sure-footed he had become, making it quite a distance without tripping.
“Hello, daddy.” Felix grinned and waved at him, then happily hugged his father’s leg.
“Hello” Matthias smiled, taking a glance at his child, and picked him up. “Felix.”
Leyla joined in their embrace with a face beaming with happiness. Matthias reached out and took her hand. Together, the three of them began walking hand in hand along the Platanus trail, basking in the late summer sun and each other’s company. Like a shaft of sunshine breaking through the trees, Leyla’s voice glittered with joy as she recalled the events of the past week and the botany she learned today.
“I’m so glad you came back early,” she said, her eyes shining with happiness as she looked up at Matthias.
Matthias turned his head and looked down at his wife standing next to him. Her gaze met his with a fiery intensity as she eagerly awaited his response.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time,” she exclaimed, her voice filled with longing.
“You’re going to use it as a means of desire?” Matthias teased, but Leyla was undeterred.
“Yes,” she responded confidently. “That’s not everything, but that’s true.”
Ears that were all crimson and hands that were all a-flutter, little bit of shyness that couldn’t be hide not even with a child’s laughing, was actually rather endearing. The excitement bubbling within her was palpable, and Matthias couldn’t help but feel swept up in it.
With a bold laugh, she grabbed Matthias’ hand and pulled him along the Platanus road, exchanging silly jokes and laughter as they walked side by side, turning the once peaceful road into a hubbub.
As they approached the grand, colorful gates of Arvis, Leyla paused, her expression growing serious. “I missed you,” she confessed, her eyes shining with emotion. “I keep thinking of you, and the more I think about you, the more I missed you. So I’ve been waiting a long time.”
She felt a little hollow after realizing that it was much simpler than she had expected to voice her mind.
“And you?” Leyla asked, even though she already knew the answer, “Did you miss me?” Like a demanding baby, all she wanted was to hear his answer.
Matthias didn’t need to say anything, his actions spoke louder than words as he pulled Leyla into a tender kiss. Leyla accepted his answer. She loved the sweetness and intimacy of their kiss, the way their lips brushed and their breath mingled. Not even in her wildest dreams did she think she’d be able to share this moment with this man.
“Daddy, daddy.” Felix’s unexpected, heartbreaking cry broke the silence. The child started whining just as their lips were about to touch again,
“Dad..Dad….” He was wriggling in Matthias’ arms, wanting his own kiss from his father. “Me too…me too!” with a pout on his face, he looked at his dad and then kissed him on the cheek.
“Good for you, Matthy, Because your son loves you so much.” Leyla looked on at the two men with a warmth in her heart. ‘Go and show him how much you love.’ Felix was definitely a really smart kid given how well he grasped the meaning of that word.
Laughing and filled with love, Matthias obliged, planting a kiss on his son’s cheek. Felix began to laugh and chatter excitedly, as if he was happy with the love he received.
“Our next child will love you like Felix,” Leyla declared, her eyes locked onto Matthias’. “I’m sure it is. I can be sure.”
Together, the three of them walked through the gates of Arvis, their hearts full of love, hope and excitement for the future.
The Duke’s family left Arvis as the cool winds of fall began to blow, signaling the end of summer.
Felix, who had only been with the family for a short time, had grown significantly and surprised the staff at the Ratz mansion. Leyla, meanwhile, had been working hard to prepare for the next semester of school and had learned how to swim. She was proud of her academic progress, but was even more thrilled to be able to float in the water without fear.
“I want to learn backstroke next summer.” One evening, as she sat on the dock watching the sunset, she expressed her desire. Matthias’s response was merely a smile, and that hurt her pride a little.
“I want to be able to swim like you”
“Fine.” He said, soft like a waterbird’s feather. “Let’s do it. I’ll teach you.”
With just that word, Leyla felt like she was living a happy summer again.
The question is when is the right time to tell him?
Leyla sent a doubtful glance Matthias’ way across the table. She caught the attention of him, who had just set down his glass of water. Mathias was illuminated by a dry ray of sunlight that peaked through the new drapes and twitched his brows as if he had something to say.
“Are you busy today?” Leyla asked, looking at Matthias’ familiar face that had changed a bit, but still retained its familiar features. She gently picked up her napkin.
“Then would it be hard to have dinner together?” Leyla asked.
“Well…” Matthias paused for a moment, lost in thought. He then rang for a server and waited for them to come over. Leyla held her napkin tightly as she waited for their conversation to end.
“Leyla, do you mind if the meal is a little late?” Matthias asked the server.
“Maybe around 9,” Matthias said.
“All right, I’ll wait,” Leyla readily agreed. She considered whether it would be better to talk now, but decided it would be better to wait and make sure.
After finishing his meal, Matthias quickly left for work, leaving Leyla behind. Instead of tending to the garden or reading, as she usually did, Leyla lay down on the long sofa in the drawing room and closed her eyes for a moment. But when she woke up, it was time for her to head off to school.
“Are you all right, my lady?” The nanny asked anxiously, as she entered the room with Felix. “Are you feeling unwell?”
“No, I’m not sick,” Leyla replied, giving Felix an awkward hug.
“But these days, you’ve been feeling tired and sleepy, and…” The nanny’s eyes grew wide with worry. “Don’t tell me…”
“Can I see Dr. Feller this evening?” Leyla asked shyly, patting Felix on the head.
“Of course, my lady! Should we call him now?” The nanny’s eyes were fixed on Leyla’s blushing cheeks. Leyla, lost in thought for a moment, shook her head.
“I’ll see him in the evening, after class,” Leyla said.
“School? Oh, my lady, are you going to school?” The nanny exclaimed, surprised.
But Leyla simply nodded calmly, her gentle smile hiding a determined glint in her eyes. The nanny, who knew Leyla to be a stubborn Duchess, knew there was no changing her mind.
“You’re not going to ride your bike, are you?” The nanny asked, noticing Leyla’s silver bicycle leaning against the mansion’s flower bed. Leyla laughed and shook her head.
“I won’t ride a bike.”
“Then, hurry up and get the car…….”
“No, I’ll walk there. It’ll be a nice walk,” Leyla said, as she picked up her leather bag, an old birthday present from her uncle Bill, and slung it over her shoulder.
The nannies and maids were left in shock and disbelief as they tried in vain to change Leyla’s mind, but to no avail. Leyla finally managed to go to school only after reassuring the girls who followed her to the entrance of the mansion.
“Oh! I’ll tell the Duke myself after seeing Mr. Feller!” Leyla exclaimed, turning around with a spring in her step. The puzzled maids’ faces soon transformed into smiles, mirroring Leyla’s own.
“Yes, my lady!” They chorused in unison, basking in the autumn sun. “Don’t worry. We’ll keep it a secret!”
he Duchess’s determination and confidence left them in awe, they agreed to keep her secret, secret.