After the day lemon madeleine was discarded on the ground, it did not take long for Otis to meet the daring young maid again.
He went to the greenhouse the very next day.
It was because of that madeleine that somehow kept bothering him.
For some reason, he thought he would feel more comfortable only when he would see what happened to that madeleine.
So, as soon as it was tea time, the break time, he ran to the greenhouse,
“…You’re here again.”
He met the maid who was watering the plants in the greenhouse.
In addition, she was not even surprised to see Otis.
As if she had been waiting.
Although it was a fact that Otis later found out, she said she was waiting for him.
‘I thought you would come back, so I changed the duty with the maid who was supposed to take care of the greenhouse that day.’
That was what she told him.
However, at the time, Otis was not aware of that.
So, could the other person have guessed how that surprising coincidence must have felt to the boy
Seeing the maid holding the long-necked watering can, the boy realized what he had been thinking about last night.
It wasn’t the madeleine rolling on the ground.
That dull face of the girl with no affection, no sympathy, no contempt or disregard… He was afraid that that face would turn away from him.
Because he actually saw it, the moment madeleine fell, the embarrassment and disappointment that passed on her dry face.
In his heart, he wanted to go back to the greenhouse and apologize to the maid, but Otis was a proud and stubborn boy.
Already, his legs were constantly running away from the greenhouse.
Still, no matter how far he ran away, her face could never leave his mind and his delusions kept devouring him.
He wondered how the girl who had been left behind was after he left as if to run away.
The thoughts lingered in his mind.
‘She must hate me.’
Like other servants, she must have looked at him with unkind eyes.
Otis thought he would see something pathetic and disquieting if he ever turned around.
His position in this mansion was just that.
Of course, no one was openly speaking harsh words to him.
However, the young child’s hunch was more agile than he thought, and he could vaguely feel the shape of the eyes that were drawn on him.
A troublesome and sensitive child that even the tutors gave up on.
‘Young Master Ahibalt is so mature…’
‘I just came back from tidying up the table that the little master had turned over.
I will have to wash the carpet again…’
Even though the voices of those who shook their heads in embarrassment stabbed him in the chest, somehow, Otis could not correct his impure attitude.
That was because for the little boy, it felt like the only expression he could make in this barren mansion.
Because if he had an accident like this, something would get into his mother’s ear.
In fact, all he wanted was a little interest from his mother.
The reason he was sitting in the greenhouse yesterday was also the same.
‘The sun is nice these days, right Shall we have a cup of tea in the greenhouse later’
It was because he faintly heard Henrietta’s voice laughing.
Nonetheless, she did not come and Otis sat there and waited for a long time until, as the sun went down, he realized that he had waited for the one who would not come.
Tea time must have long since passed.
With the realization came misery.
How pathetic it felt to have this meaningless time thrown away in the name of waiting for his mother.
Because of that, he could not take the young maid’s kindness straight away.
However, that was Otis’s case.
He must not have been in a position where the favor he had been bestowed was ignored.
Above all, it was the first time someone had approached him with no purpose, so Otis was even more afraid of the aftermath.
To the point where he wanted to turn back if he could.
After all, he was just a child hungry for affection.
So, when he faced the girl who gazed at him with an unchanging expression—
“Can I get you tea”
—Was there any way not to be relieved by the indifference of the maid who asked like that as if nothing had happened
When asked if he would like to drink the tea, Otis unconsciously nodded his head.
Other than that, it was because there was nothing to explain why he came to the greenhouse.
He sat down unexpectedly.
And, from that day on, Irene was always with Otis during his teatime.
Even after she took over Rodion’s wake-up duty, it continued right up until just before he left for Lichpen.
It was thanks to the fact that Irene was the best at dealing with the two arbitrary young masters, even reaching the ears of the previous head of Lavrenti.
Thus, she permeated Otis’ daily life.
…She was like something that was not precious, but should never disappear—as if she would never exist again in the world.
“Belkin’s poetry is rather straightforward, so it doesn’t really fit the social metaphor.
Still, I like it.”
I’m not sure what he’s talking about either.”
“I thought so.
If it’s difficult, just memorize it from here to here.
You have to have this level of culture to be able to talk among nobles.”
“All of this Isn’t that too much”
“If it’s difficult to memorize all of them, just a few.”
“What, did you memorize all of this”
I can memorize all of Belkin’s sonnets.
It’s not that difficult.”
“If it’s a sonnet, isn’t it a love poem”
“They’re ridiculous things.”
Even with that said, somehow, he believed he read Belkin’s sonnets once more.
Of course, it was followed by sarcastic sarcasm, but anyway.
Irene was Otis’ daily life and was always in the background.
His repose that would neither change nor disappear… no, cannot disappear.
If he had chosen someone, that person must be together with him for the rest of his life.
In retrospect, he spent the last few years in Lichpen.
What he missed the most was the scene at four o’clock in the afternoon with Irene.
* * *
In the end, Otis returned a rather rude and resolute refusal to the noble maiden, who showed favor to him, and left the banquet hall.
He tried to stay a little longer, so as not to provoke Henrietta.
‘I wish I could see Lake Diabel with her someday.’
At the words of the naive young lady he conversed with, he suddenly lost the confidence to continue this escape because he realized that there was no longer any way to deny whom he wanted to talk to.
He wanted to see Lake Diabel with Irene.
He hoped that the daily routine of drinking tea with her was still normal.
He hoped that whatever gift he put in her pocket would not be unfamiliar, and he hoped that finding her with frivolous things would be seen as a migratory return.
Unfortunately, it was only when it nearly collapsed that he realized it…
How precious her existence was, which he had overlooked as he was taking it for granted.
So, Otis headed to the greenhouse.
If he stepped into the space where he and she had met for the first time, and the first reunion took place, he might be able to see clearly what action this realization should lead to.
Of course, their perspective would still freeze in the afternoon.
Nonetheless, there was such a thing as a feeling that a special place gives.
‘It is the first time I have ever been to a greenhouse at night.’
The greenhouse always smelled the same.
The smell of withering and blooming leaves mixed together, reminiscent of a lawn after rain.
Everything seemed the same except for that one thing.
The greenhouse, which always looked beautiful and bright, smelled of withering more night after night—a scene that was as romantic as the breath buried in the ground, and also heartless.
Otis stood still in the middle of it.
Concentrating on unanswered worries about what might be at the end of this strange impulse.
Perhaps, thinking of the many romances he had ridiculed.
How about those romantics that cherish the fleeting feelings like an eternity How were those incompetents who easily misunderstood fate and dismissed the trembling of their hearts as affection…
‘…I should not have come to the greenhouse.’
He should have just gone to see Irene.
‘If I had seen her face, it would have been easier to find the answer.’
When the thought came to him, Otis could feel a presence outside the greenhouse.
The sound of footsteps that seemed urgent.
When he turned around, he could see the silhouette of a woman standing by the door of the greenhouse.
A nightgown that exposed her ankles and a shawl that fell to her waist along with the short breaths.
The shadow of the lady ran towards him before abruptly grabbing his hand.
“What are you doing here”
At that moment, Otis thought about the warmth wrapped around him, the head that got closer to him, and the scent of her body that was omitted.
‘Maybe, she is my destiny.’