Mila stood in front of another looming estate, her wrinkled ashen dress whipping about in the wind, the loose curls from her haphazardly done up bun tickling her face. She was resolute, bold, something as sure as the affluence of the old money oozing from the marble walls of the building in front of her. The wind was fiercer than usual, even the strategically planted trees could not stop its mischievousness. It made the world outside the iron gates groan in greeting of its mistress autumn.
Mr. Theo Adams stood beside her with his hands carefully tucked into the pockets of his modish, cotton coat. He looked fatigued and his eyes were bleak, worse than in the carriage. Because Mila took interest in subjects that mattered, she hadn’t asked him much about the estate or the family, which was housed within it. It struck her, as she looked up at his weathered face that he was somewhat glum. That raw pensiveness, the slight droop to his usually regal posture, the contagious melancholy within him.
This must be it then, she thought. It was frigid and overcast, with no comfort from the diluted glow of the sun or the familiar harmony of birdsongs.
“The Candle Manor is a respectable estate,” she said, forcing herself into a confident pose. As she did, she could feel something inside her begin to wither horridly, a sensation very much like the dread that came from bypassing starving animals on the streets for a complete lack of finances.
“One of the most respectable,” Mr. Theo Adams clarified.
She nodded calmly. “This is goodbye then?”
He glanced somberly at the building, his face betraying none of the emotion, which had been running rampant a moment ago. It had not taken Mila long to master this very same skill. She was not much for weepy farewells or ardent shows of affection to begin with, there was no point, but in that moment she felt a brick crumble in the wall around her heart. It was rather uncomfortable to mask that with emotionless apathy.
“Let’s go in then,” she said, stepping away from the carriage and towards the Candle Manor.
So they went on their final walk from the carriage to the estate as the wind made fools of their hair and brought about the painful lament of change. Mila knew she would never see Theo again, be it on purpose or accident, for that was how he operated, so she began to strike his name out from the Family Board in her heart, just as she had done with her mother and father.
“I’m sorry,” he said suddenly, his voice a perfect fit for the harsh scenery.
Mila vividly felt the crashing of another brick; it landed with a heavy thud at the bottom of her heart. Now there lay two broken bricks, digging into the fragile organ with their jagged edges. She sighed deeply and went into a yet another marble kingdom of obedience and dreams of things never to be.
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P.S. The castle on the cover is not the Candle Manor.