Cry, Even Better if you Beg - Side Story 12
Side Story 12
The tea party with the Herhardt family’s three regal duchesses was in full swing, the atmosphere crackling with a moderate calmness tinged with awkwardness. As conversation hit a lull, the soothing splash of the fountain and the melodic chirping of birds filled the air, providing a serene background to the delicate dance of teacups and saucers, aiding a little to conceal the awkwardness for a little while.
Leyla gingerly placed her cup on the table, trying to imitate the graceful movements of the two elder duchesses, her heart stuffed with suffocation of royalty while avoiding the intoxicated gaze of Elysee von Herhardt.
“You are truly a duchess now,” Norma said with a warm smile, catching Leyla’s eye. To everyone’s surprise, even Elysee von Herhardt nodded in agreement, casting the web of unpredictability.
“Indeed, Leyla is becoming quite the elegant lady. She never fails to impress me,” she said with a faint trace of admiration. Leyla couldn’t help but beam with pride, her face aglow with happiness like a glass greenhouse being filled with sunlight, while her eyes remained cool and composed, the epitome of poise and grace.
The lush vibrant roses were beaming through the vases on the table. Elysee von Herhardt’s gaze flitted to the roses adorning their table as she turned to Leyla and asked, “Isn’t that right, Leyla?”
The question caused Leyla to flush and fidget like a nervous child, getting flooded with anxiety. She took a warm sip of tea, trying to compose herself and to distract herself from sharp gazes.
Leyla was not the daughter-in-law she had hoped for as Elysee had to admit that.
She attempted to mold Leyla into a proper noblewoman yet her efforts had gone in vain. But she couldn’t let her disappointment show, not when it came to protecting her family and her own dignity. Deep down, Elysee wondered with a heartache if Leyla would ever meet her expectations, but the presence of her son, Matthias, made things no different than before.
It was amusing to see Leyla struggle, especially when the biggest obstacle in her transformation was Matthias himself, who seemed content to keep the “traces of Arvis’ child” in her, even after she had become his wife.
“Leyla, you’ve earned the recognition of even the discerning Elysee. You must be working very hard,” Norma interjected, her words skillfully changing the mood as she gave a subtle wink to the waiting-maid.
The maid returned hurriedly with a boxed package and handed it to Leyla, the box took Leyla by the uninvited surprise. “This is…” She looked at the two mistresses with widened, doe eyes.
“Open it. It’s a gift from us,” Elysee von Herhardt said, her voice soft and gentle.
Leyla hesitated before carefully untying the ribbon and opening the lid. Inside, she found a glass frame wrapped in thin paper. As the paper was lifted, she froze like the earth underneath her feet became an iceberg. The frame contained a photograph taken by the Arvis family, and among the many people in the picture, Leyla spotted her beloved father, Bill Remmer, standing stoutly on the far left, looking profusely peeved after being dragged into the photograph.
“I found a nice place to put pictures of you and Felix,” Norma said, her eyes becoming increasingly gentle as she looked at Leyla, whose words stuck in her throat and the tears welled in her eyes. “It’s a picture that records the history of the family, but it’s the only picture left of Bill Remmer. He really hated taking pictures,” Norma said as she remembered stumbling across the picture that had been sitting in the bottom compartment of the cabinet, collecting dust.
“But really, is it okay for me to have this?” Leyla asked, her voice unsteady as the frame trembled in her shaky hands. Elysee von Herhardt, who had been watching amusedly, laughed.
“Yes, I will give it to you. Even if you come to possess it, it’s our family’s history,”
“Thank you so much,” Leyla said, her nose turning red as she bowed her head in gratitude. “Thank you so very much. I must say, it’s very precious. Thank you very much,” she repeated, her voice unsteady as she struggled to mask her overwhelming feelings.
In every way possible, Leyla did not seem to have the dignity of a duchess, but Elysee decided not to point that out, at least not yet.
Leyla had calmed down before she began to cry, she pressed her eyelids tightly with her fingers, took off her glasses and smiled brightly as she gingerly put them back on again. She may have been an unsatisfactory daughter-in-law who did not meet the expectations of royalty, but it wasn’t all that bad, as Elysee shared the same sentiments.
She may have lacked a little in dignity, but she was a brutally honest child, and when Elysee saw her smiling face and realized it looked just like Felix, her tolerance for her widened just a little like a glitters of light through a cracked door.
“Leyla, it’s time you need to learn some royal manners,” Elysee said, her voice stern yet hushed, like the sound of the fountain. Leyla’s head shot up in surprise. It wasn’t expected at all. “You cannot call yourself a proper lady if you act so politely towards your family,” Elysee continued, shedding Leyla off the little pride she gained before.
“Family,” Leyla repeated quietly, her mind racing like a wild horse with the blend of thoughts.
“You are now a von Herhardt, so we must hold you to a higher standard,” Elysee added.
Leyla’s lips quivered once more as she processed the word “family.” Elysee, who was studying her face, offered a dispirited smile. “I find it difficult to fully understand and accept you, and I suspect that will continue in the future,” Elysee admitted, choosing not to sugarcoat the truth and display honesty in her demeanor as much as she could afford. Leyla nodded, understanding.
“You are my beloved son’s wife and my little grandson’s mother. I must respect that and I do, even if I do not fully accept it. You are a member of the Herhardt family, and while you may not be the perfect duchess, you do have certain advantages.”
Elysee calmly conveyed her true feelings to Leyla, who was not entirely satisfied but not overly bothered by the critique. It was simply the conclusion Elysee had come to after observing Leyla for the past year. “I still do not understand why Matthias sent you to college, but it was quite exhilarating and pleasant for the Duchess of Herhardt to triumph over the sons of the women who once spoke ill of our family. How agreeable a situation,” Elysee said.
“Yes, I’ll do my best next semester too,” Leyla said with a bright smile on her face, her previous apprehensive expression now gone.
“I look forward to it. By the way, Leyla, would you like to take advantage of anything else?” Elysee asked.
“Pardon me?” Leyla replied, profoundly confused.
“Perhaps the great advantage of having a child like Felix,”
Elysee said seriously. Leyla didn’t couldn’t comprehend her words. Even then, she remained silent, knowing it was not her place to speak when not spoken to.
“Wouldn’t it be so good for you to have at least another well-mannered child?” Elysee hinted with a gentle smile. Even as they expressed their expectations so openly, both women remained impossibly graceful. Leyla was envious of their respectable, lady-like performances, born and bred to perfection.
“If I’m being honest, I would love to have many children… but Matthias doesn’t seem to share that sentiment. He says that one child, Felix, is enough,” Leyla mustered up the courage to explain herself despite feeling flustered. Elysee, observing her daughter-in-law nonchalantly, opened her fan with a cold and unfeeling gesture.
“What does it matter, Leyla? You’re the one carrying the child,”
“What?” Leyla exclaimed, caught off guard.
“Men only have the choice of whether or not to participate in activities that may lead to such results. But the Duke’s morning routine is simply to visit the Duchess’s bedroom – doesn’t she have a choice in the matter?” Norma added, with a scrutinizing gaze. Leyla was at a loss for words, feeling embarrassed and unsure of how to respond to such private and intimate topics being discussed so casually.
“Even if he doesn’t want to, when the time comes for him to have his own child, he will fulfill his duties as a father. Isn’t that right, Elysee?” Norma asked, glancing at her daughter-in-law.
“Sure, Matthias will do as you please,” Elysee readily agreed, her eyes briefly pausing on Leyla’s flushed and reddened face.
After that, the conversation soon returned to its original, tasteful orbit. It was hard to find any trace of the conversation that had only occurred a moment ago – the one that made Leyla so ashamed that she developed the growing urge to faint in front of the two hostesses who were now enthusiastically planning a party to be held in a few weeks.
Between the birdsong, crystal-clear and melodious against the backdrop of the fountain’s steady trickle, Leyla found herself surrounded by her own thoughts amidst the quiet conversation between the two older ladies, reflecting on how similar her husband Matthias seemed to be to his grandmother and mother.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, she supposed.
It echoed through the bedroom door, gaining Matthias’ attention as he looked towards it. It was soft, but then it came around a second time, a little louder. Almost as if it was an urgent matter.
Upon further investigation, the knocking came, not from the main bedroom door. But rather from the connecting door, which led straight down the duchess’ bed chambers.
Finally coming to action, Matthias took his time in setting down and covering his business files on the table as he tilted his head towards the closed door.
With no answer, Leyla finally turned the door’s knobs, finding no resistance in opening them before she peaked her head in as she grew more restless with the continued silence. Upon seeing him just staring at her, she can’t help but frown in irritation.
“Why didn’t you answer? You were quite clearly in the room.” Leyla’s eyes narrowed in annoyance at him when she found Matthias reclining back on a chair.
“Why were you knocking on the door?” he rebutted in nonchalance. Matthias himself had never once knocked on the door leading to the duchess’ room; so in turn Leyla decidedly became more confident.
“It’s rude to open the door so suddenly.” she pointed out additionally. Whatever I am, I am foremost a lady.”
The rambunctious laughter erupted out of Matthias, who stared at his wife who had made a fairly sly joke, gently flowed through and entangled itself with the melody of the waltz filling the duke’s bedroom.
Leyla had finally crossed the line with a bright smile plastered on her face. Matthias’ eyes did not leave her for a moment until she came and stopped by.
“You must be very busy today, too.” She eventually added as she stopped right in front of him.
There was a stricken tension in Leyla’s eyes as she quickly alternated between looking at the documents piled up on the table and looking at Matthias. It signified that she had something to say.
“Yes.” Tension in the room quickly turned into embarrassment when she heard his short, and succinct answer.
Matthias, who greatly enjoyed the amusing reactions of Leyla at this moment, revealed his inner mischief by doing his best to hold back a little smile at the end of his lip.
“But it’s over now.” He loosened his legs, rose lightly and stood face to face with his wife. “Say it, Leyla.” He expressed his willingness to listen, but Leyla couldn’t open her mouth and began to pace in circles.
For his wife, who probably needed more time, Matthias leant comfortably against the glistening, glass window frame. Only after enough time had passed for the white muslin curtain to swell and sink several times did Leyla come through with a determined face. The posture of holding her head upright with the back of her hand was indeed quite bold.
“Can I really be as greedy as I want?” Leyla stared at him in a slight apprehension, her tone genuinely serious.
“As much as you like.” Matthias nodded encouragingly, he had the same composure as that of a full predator. Leyla, who gazed up at his intimidating face quietly, reflected her greed and hunger in her eyes shamelessly to him.
“I wish to have another child.” she leaned in closely to his lips, her breath hitting his as she eyed him sultrily.
“Another child?” Matthias quirked up a brow at her, but his eyes darkened upon hearing her request.
“Yes. I want a baby.” she reiterated, blinking up coquettishly at him, “I can’t help but crave for another, you see.”
“Leyla,” Matthias breathed out in a low growl, matching her intensity tenfold. Leyla paused hesitantly before uttering her words clearly, with a caring face, looking at him in a manner she knew he’d be weak against.
“Give it to me,” she whispered against his lips, “I want your seed inside me.”