11. Sinking Slowly
“Sherry, I’ve been waiting for you.”
In front of the Anderson family’s vast territory and large mansion, Noel showed me a beautiful smile. I couldn’t hide my surprise. My eyes were dazzled by his appearance which was brighter than the sun.
He took my hand and escorted me. I felt like a princess. All of my concerns had already flown somewhere else, including the anxiety I had in the carriage.
“To be able to live with you, it’s like a dream come true.”
“I’m surprised that such a thing was allowed even though we aren’t married, yet.”
“Shall we register our marriage, now?”
“No, thank you.”
Noel kept smiling, perhaps because he had become accustomed to my ruthless attitude. Though I still felt remorseful, I felt a bit relieved.
“Of course, I will also pick you up from work. So please return straight home every day without making any detours.”
Of course, I’d absolutely do as he said. I pledged in my heart that I’d return without being even a second late every day. I was excited by everything he said. It was as if we were newlyweds.
“Where is the countess? I must give my greetings.”
“There’s no need. I’m the only one who lives here.”
“So, you don’t need to worry about anyone else.”
If I recalled correctly, the Countess of Anderson should still be alive. Why was he living alone in such a large mansion?
“This shall be your room.”
It was a nice room, simple but elegant.
“I don’t quite know Sherry’s preferences, so let’s go buy the furniture together next time.”
To be able to go out with Noel…!
I was overjoyed.
“I’m sorry, even though it’s your first day here, I suddenly have business to attend to in the afternoon. Ask the butler, Horace, to guide you through the mansion. If you need anything, or if there’s something you don’t understand, please refer to him.”
“…I’m really happy that you came. Thank you.”
Noel caressed my cheek as he spoke. After he had prepared, he bitterly left.
Afterwards, Horace guided me through the mansion. As I walked down the long corridor, I asked him a few questions.
“S, so, Lord Noel has been living here all alone…? Since when…?”
Towards my question, Horace showed a smile as if he was troubled and stopped walking.
“The lord has chosen to dwell in his territory for the last 10 years, while his wife immediately left once Noel became an adult.”
In other words, he had been living alone for more than five years. He lived alone in such a large mansion… I wondered how lonely he was.
Recalling his words, “…I’m really happy that you came.” My heart throbbed with pain.
At the same time, I became even more aware that I didn’t know anything about him.
“Throughout the preparations, I could tell that Lord Noel was enjoying himself the entire time. We’re also happy to receive Lady Sherry.”
“I see, thank you.”
However, he had to go to work. I couldn’t even see him off. How lonely…
I myself had a job, so I couldn’t see him off every day. But, at the very least, I wanted to greet him once he returned home, so I decided to wait for him.
“…Usually, this is around time Lord Noel comes home.”
“He has just become a division leader. I’m sure he’s busy.”
As a child, I usually slept early. However, that night, I waited on the sofa in the hall. I tasked Horace with waking me up whenever I fell asleep.
As I waited for Noel, Horace and I talked a lot. When I heard the stories of Noel from when he was still a child, I felt like dreaming. From time to time, I truly felt that everything was a dream.
In the end, it was only after midnight that I was informed of Noel’s return. After tapping my cheeks and putting on a robe, I rushed to the front door. The corridor was a little chilly, I had goosebumps.
When I reached at the entrance, the door opened and I saw Noel.
My tone was still flat, but I felt a sense of accomplishment for being able to welcome him. It had been so long since I decided to wait for him. I almost fell asleep right then and there.
He looked at me incredulously.
“…Why, at such a time?”
“I just happened to still be awake.”
I didn’t know that Horace was shaking his head behind me. I also didn’t understand why said butler chuckled.
“I’m home, Sherry.”
After having said that happily, Noel embraced me tightly. I was both happy and sad when I heard him say, “Thank you.” with a fleeting voice.
From the bottom of my heart, I was glad that I came there.
“I’m sorry for the wait… Sherry?”
When I asked Sherry if we could talk for five minutes while drinking warm milk, she said, “It can’t be helped.”
She hurriedly changed her clothes and returned to the hall. After having laid down comfortably, she had fallen asleep.
“Even though Milady is truly exhausted, she kept waiting for you. During that time, she kept talking about Lord Noel, and lamented how it was a pity that she couldn’t dance with you at the ball the other day.”
“…Did she really say that?”
“Yes, of course.”
Horace, who draped a blanket over her, spoke with a gentle smile. I thought she despised me. That was why I couldn’t hide my surprise when I heard those words.
…Why would she force herself to stay awake and wait for me?
When was the last time someone in my house other than a servant said, “Welcome back”?
—I was so happy, before I realized it, I was hugging her.
I gently lifted Sherry to keep from waking up. Then, I carried her to her room. Occasionally, her lips mumbled, “Nmu…” I couldn’t help but smile—
When I laid her on the bed, I sat right next to her and contemplated.
…The reason she lost her affection towards me was because of my inaction. Regardless, I felt utterly betrayed, to the point I blamed her instead.
What was more, without putting her feelings into consideration, I proceeded with our engagement. I even made her stay in my mansion.
I kept doing terribly selfish things—I was aware of that. Still, I couldn’t help being happy for being able to be in her presence—
—I am so foolish!
“…I’m sorry for not being able to let you go.”
While staring at her cute and gentle sleeping face, where she looked to be happy, I muttered alone.
***T/N: Don’t worry, Noel, this all needs to happen so this story exist.