After the end of our conversation, it could be said that Maria kicked me out
"To begin with, I never desired for this conversation to happen. It's only because Dion had requested this of me that I—unwillingly—agreed. To be in the same room—to even breath same air as you, is now beyond me."
Maria's words were sharp, the pain in my chest told me so.
Yet even more so, those words were necessary. Even I couldn't deny how valuable they were, no matter how foolish I was.
"Do not call me 'Sister-in-Law"—yet like an actual sister she had acted.
What have I done to Anne Marie…!!
How arrogant…!! How selfish I was…!!
Even thought she never had any ulterior motive towards me…
Often have I mentioned, imposing the role of Maria's substitute onto Anne Marie was never my desire.
However, I knew those were just futile excuses. The way I treated Anne made those claims baseless;
Giving Anne the exact same presents as Dion had given Maria;
Calling her 'Maria'—or even by any other, who wouldn't think that they were being taken for someone else—or, being treated as a substitute?
It was only natural for her to think so.
Earlier, when Maria said she was nice to me only because I was similiar with Dion, she immediately reasserted that she was joking.
It made me understand that she was lying; lying to teach me a lesson.
Yet to Anne Marie, I never said anything.
I didn't give her a single excuse, nor apology.
The entire time, I was wholly passive.
Her socializing skill was outstanding. Needless to say, mine paled in comparison.
Hence, I thought, if she could observe and charm everyone in the room, then she would also see through me and realize that I didn't mean it.
Therein my fault laid; no one can see through everything.
Regarding that, I had no excuses.
"—be vigilant at all times for while the enemy may be lurking, they are always present."
Indeed, so had my brother advised.
Therefore, I was always wary. Yet the 'lurking presence' I had noticed was only one—myself.
What could I do for the current her?
Apologies were meaningless—especially when I did it for my own convenience.
'Marie' was utterly clueless of my misdeeds; yet her husband came to visit her everyday, shoving a thousand apologies on her face. From her perspective, my behaviour must had been unreasonable, if not wholly bizarre.
—what can I do for 'Marie'?
The day after my confrontation with Maria, I still couldn't draw a conclusion. So, I just greeted Anne Marie, then went home.
On the second day, we exchanged some words. I did not stay for long.
On the third day, we had a cup of tea. This time, I didn't give her any presents.
On the fourth day, we strolled in the garden together. Between us, only some ordinary words were shared.
On the fifth day, I didn't visit her for the first time.
Thus, the sixth day—
"Dear husband, what should we do today?"
The conclusion was still unattainable, nevertheless, I couldn't afford to waste these last remaining days. Only two remained.
Despite everything, I wanted her to carry something of me, but what?
Jewelleries and dresses, if given by the husband whom had just divorced you, would feel truly unpleasant.
If so, then flowers or sweets?
Anne Maries loved gerberas. When bringing flowers, I made sure it was them.
It was no longer the season for gerberas, but there was no need for such worries since there was a greenhouse in my estate.
—I had almost forgotten, "That's right…"
The one who loved gerberas was the former Anne Marie.
'Marie' herself loved roses.
Then, what is it that'll please the current her?
"I want to do some sightseeing in the greenhouse."
"Then I shall accompany you, Duke."
During our engagement period, I copied my brother and gave Anne Marie a bouquet of roses.
As a token of apology, I then gave her a bouquet of colorful gerberas.
For 'Marie', a yellow-themed bouquet. It will not only include gerberas, but also carnations, anemone, sweet peas…,
I'll even accentuate it with the pure white baby's-breath (カスミソウ),
I'll also add some roses–
—I shall make a bouquet as dazzling as the sun.
And I truly hoped, when she saw it, she would be delighted.
I could leave the flower-picking to the experienced gardener and the arrangement to the maids. But no.
I may be inexperienced and the result might not be good—but it has to be me.
I wanted to choose her present; to be the one fulfilling her every wishes. I wanted it to be me.
If apologizing was of no use, then atleast I could make her happy, no matter how little.
The thing I failed to do; the thing I decided not to do, right from the engagement period to our present time—I shall do it now.
I wouldn't do it for myself anymore, but for her.
If there was anything I still didn't understand—research it! Think of it! Inquire about it!
Isn't that what I am good at?
"Good afternoon, Marie."
"Good afternoon to you too, Duke."
"This is for you."
"—Wow! That's the loveliest bouquet I've ever seen!"
Are you pleased with it?
As she nervously held out her hand to receive the bouquet, I saw her eyes shine.
I had known this since before, but unlike Maria, Anne Marie expresses her emotions freely.
But there was something different about her expression today. It was just, …something that I had never seen before.
My chest tightened.
"So, it isn't just gerberas today, but an assortment of various flowers? Did you know I also like carnations?"
Whether that smile originated from Anne Marie, or 'Marie'—I did not know.
The only thing I knew was, …I am glad.
Here she was—the Anne Marie that I had always known; the one that liked to tell me about herself and all the thing she loved—
—the one I coudn't resist to love.
'I do feel something for Anne Marie, but it couldn't be called love.' I said that myself.
As people often said, they realize the importance of something only after losing it.
And here I thought, how stupid they were for not realizing it.
After all, if it was truly important, then it should've been treasured properly from the very beginning.
Talking with Maria made me realize I was the opposite of the person I thought myself to be.
In actuality, I was just a heartless man who couldn't even protect his single, most important thing—
—it wasn't love that I felt for Maria, it was admiration close to the point of worship.
And this was how I had to discover what I deemed the most important.
***T/N: I know, I know! It didn’t absolve everything that he had done until now, …but… don’t you think this chapter is, even for a slightest bit, …beautiful?
And do you guys think the reason he’s being all disappointed “She has changed” “She’s now an adult… her preferences changed” was because he is in love with Anne Marie since childhood all along? Yep, I think so!