“Is he really enlisting?”
He glanced over his shoulder at the familiar voice. Settling back into his position, he sighed with exasperation as she came to stand by him.
“Mother tried to talk him out of it, but he’s just about as stubborn as you.”
“Why’s he going to enlist?”
He shrugged. How was he supposed to know why? Brothers they may be – twins they may be – there couldn’t have possibly been any brothers more different from one another than they. Nor did he really spend the time and energy trying to solve the mystery that was his brother; no longer did he have so much time to spend frivolously, and with 17 years’ worth of wasted effort, he had little interest in putting aside what little time he did have. Besides, a part of him was happy that he was enlisting; it meant that he’d be out of their hair, and that he’d stop acting so inappropriately towards Miss Cera. He knew his brother was only acting the way that he was because he knew that he… Well… No, no, it didn’t matter why his brother did the things he did. All that mattered was that he was bothering her and sullying her reputation and their family’s with the way he acted around her. Maybe joining the army would do him some good. Instill within him the discipline their mother withheld from them and all.
“You’re not going to enlist too, are you?”
He laughed before tossing the small stone he’d been turning over in his hands into the silver pond. “Oh, no, of course not. That’s precisely why I’m studying so hard to become a lawyer. Otherwise I’d be out there fishing and exploring with you out in the fields.”
“You know you still can even with your studies. Going out by myself isn’t so much fun as it is when you do it with someone else.”
He watched the ripples fade away into the edges. It had been fun, hadn’t it? The past days when they were allowed to do as they pleased without having to worry about what Mr. This and Mrs. That whispered to one another. Yet, while he had told her that he’d prefer to while away his time in her company, as he stood there, he couldn’t help but notice how pretty she’d gotten over the years as she stood there in that sweet muslin dress. Who was he kidding when he said the situation hadn’t changed? He was no longer the small boy who’d stepped between her and Luke, the school-yard bully who’d preyed on the younger children, just as she was no longer the quiet, thin girl who’d wept after suffering at the hands of the jackass. While studying law was an honorable pursuit and one that would do much for his family, he couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he had chosen it to separate himself from her out of preparation for the coming future. She was a pretty girl, and a smart one too. Smarter than most people, in fact; and while men never admitted it, the brighter a wife was, the better.
“But that’s okay. You can make it up by going to the festival with me.”
He looked at her sharply. Festival? With her? Why, he’d…he’d love to. Wasn’t that what he’d been dreaming of for the past few weeks? As the town prepared for the festival, while he was cloistered away inside with his books, whenever his mind wandered he had imagined walking with her under the moonlight, seeing all of the plays, maybe even dancing and laughing together until finally, the night climaxed into – dare he imagine it? – a kiss from those sweet lips. But how could he? Already there was a scandal brewing with the way they were always seen together, both at church and whenever he went into town to help his mother with the groceries. Not to mention how his brother would likely torment her with unwanted, aggressive advances.
His reluctance must have shown on his face though because she crossed her arms.
“I swear on my mother’s grave, if you don’t go to the festival with me, I’m never speaking to you ever again. And I mean it, Lelouch Lamperouge.”
“Cera, I just don’t think… What will people say?”
“You know the tradition as well as I do.”
She stared at him, and he averted his gaze, unable to handle her scrutiny. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to. He did with all his heart. But it would just be better if they didn’t. He’d heard of how her father had already given his blessing to a suitor; some other man had already claimed her as his, and while it wasn’t official, it might as well be. All that fellow had to do was ask and she’d be gone; it was just better to not get involved in the first place and make the inevitable any more messier than it would be.
“…Then why don’t you just court me?”
He spluttered. “It doesn’t work that way. I’m not going to court you just so you can prank some people at the festival.”
“I wasn’t asking because of the festival.”
Stunned, he could only blink as she leaned in closer. Eyes fluttering, he crossed his eyes as he tried to keep her within his field of vision. Their lips just inches apart, she paused to say something, when he began to tell her how Rivalz was planning on asking her, when it was too late and before he could stop himself, he had leaned in and was already kissing her.
Eyes closing, he briefly remembered the last time when they had been huddled around the fire under the willow tree after a day of swimming and he had leaned in like he just had and given her his first kiss and took hers in kind.
“Won’t you take me to the festival?” she asked softly. Looking down at her, his resolve couldn’t help but soften. Taking hold of her hands, he sighed to himself – why did he always let her have her way? Was it because of the way his knees weakened and his heart raced around her? Because she was always on his mind? – before slowly nodding.
“I don’t have to get it in writing, do I?”
“No, but…” He sighed. “After the festival, you and I need to discuss some things.”
But seeing her glow, he couldn’t help but softly smile to himself. Ah, damn. She really was such a weakness for him, wasn’t she?
Not that he minded. A distraction she may be, she was one he wholeheartedly embraced and pined for.