“Annette Rosenberg.”


 

[This is Fabien Saint.
Miss Rosenberg, as I said, I checked and the alimony payment is still in effect.]

 

“Ah…”

 

Annette was relieved.
It was because she had expected that Heiner would refuse.

 

Even if she had the legal authority, she would have difficulty filing a lawsuit.
And even if she did go as far as litigation, there was no way she could take on the position and connections of the Commander-in-Chief.

 

“So, should I go to the official residence to collect my fees? Or do I have to pay a visit to the lawyer’s office?”

 

[Oh, that part will be settled on your ex-husband’s side…]

 

“If it’s settled…?”

 

[Someone will be coming from there this week.
To where you live.
They will call ahead the day before the visit.]

 

“In person?”

 

It was a situation that could not have been anticipated.
Annette did not want to be reunited or involved with that man in any way.
She pondered for a moment, then cautiously asked.

 

“If it’s not rude, can Mr lawyer take the alimony payment for me? I’ll get it from your office.
I’ll give you a reward.”

 

[Oh, I suggested that earlier.
Apart from the gratuity fee, I was madam’s lawyer, so I thought it would be fine for me to represent you to the end.
But….]

 

The lawyer stretched his words.
Annette waited for the words that would lead to her uneasiness.

 

[The contract between me and the madam is over on the paperwork, and that alimony could not be left in the hands of others.
It is difficult for me to insist any further since the parties involved wish to communicate directly …]

 

“…… no.
Thank you for your time to the end, Mr.
St.”

 

[You’re welcome.
If you have any other questions, feel free to call me.]

 


Annette squeezed out a bottomless dose of sociability, said thanks again, and hung up.
Her head was still in a complicated state.

 

But she was fortunate to have settled the biggest alimony issue.
This didn’t seem like such a bad compensation or parting gift.

 

Annette let out a breath.
It felt like everything that had been faint and far away was slowly becoming clear.

 

She had gotten used to making arrangements for her departure.
It was her talent, the only thing she had left.

 

***

 

The next day Catherine did not open her store.
A paper was posted in the store saying that she would be closed for a week.

 

The excuse was that she was not feeling well, but the reason was obvious.
Annette didn’t argue or ask her further.

 

It was sure that Catherine would be evasive with her anyway.
During the time they lived together, they were always like this.

 

They laughed and fussed on the surface, but never went below the surface.
They knew that the deeper they dug, the more they exposed each other’s wounds.

 

Annette sat with Catherine while she nursed.
Annette looked at Olivia with kind eyes.

 

Her chubby face moved eagerly.
Annette touched her lovely cheek with her fingertips.
The softly pressed flesh was unbearably cute.

 

“She eats well.”

 

“Doesn’t she look like a fat kitten?”

 

“She seems to suck very hard, doesn’t it hurt?”

 

“It hurts a little.
And sometimes it hurts really bad.
When all her teeth come in, I’m in big trouble.”

 

“You’ll have to wean her then.”

 

“Will Annette make baby food for her?”

 

Annette smiled at Catherine’s question without reply.
Olivia sneezed at that moment.
The two burst into laughter at the sound of the small, insignificant sneeze.

 

When the laughter slowly subsided, Annette carefully brought out the main subject.


 

 “Um, Catherine, I think someone is coming this afternoon, can you pick up one item for me?”

 

“Of course.
What is it, by the way?”

 

 “I have something to receive from my ex-husband…”

 

“Oh, I understand.
It must be difficult to meet in person.”

 

“I wonder if it’ll be someone I know.”

 

Naturally, Heiner’s entourage and attendants knew Annette’s face.
It was unpleasant to face them again.

 

“Just accept the goods, right?”

 

“Yes.
Just in case, I will leave you my identification and my proxy certificate.”

 

“Understood.”

 

“Thank you, Catherine.”

 

When Catherine laughed lightly saying no need to thank her for this, Annette smiled silently.
She was thankful for her.
Always.

 

***

 

It was quite late in the evening when someone came from the commander in chief’s office.

 

Annette had retired to her room after dinner and was sewing.
When she saw a carriage parked outside her window, she knew someone had arrived.

 

She sat down on the bed by the window, holding the sewing kit.
The coachman opened the back door of the carriage.
A pair of long legs appeared in the open door.

 

A man in a long black coat and a deep hat got out of the carriage.
He was a man so large in stature and built that he stood out even from a distance.

 


Even without the gray military cap and boots visible under the long coat, his strong physique and imposing movements gave him the appearance of a soldier.
The stern, cold atmosphere…

 

Annette stopped sewing and squinted.

 

It was a familiar figure.
And it was not uncommon to see a man of that stature.
However, she could not think straight because of the assumption that it could not be true.

 

The man then removed his hat with his gloved hand.
Annette, who had doubted her eyes, opened her mouth involuntarily the moment she saw his face.

 

‘Heiner ……?’

 

A low murmur drifted out.
Her sewing case in her hands fell onto her lap.

 

Heiner approached the door with his characteristic confident strides.
Annette could no longer see him from her vision.

 

The sound of knocking on the door carried to the floor above.
Annette clasped her hands to her chest as if in prayer.
In an emotion she didn’t know if it was nervousness or fear, she wondered.

 

‘Why on earth?’

 

Of course she thought he would send an attendant.
The assumption that he would come in person had not been made in the slightest from the beginning.

 

It took three hours each way by train from Lancaster to Cynthia.
It was not far, but it was not close either.

 

Furthermore, it was now a situation where Padania had declared war on France.
There was no way that the Commander-in-chief could afford to travel all the way here.

 

‘Has he come to see where I live? To see how well I’m living? Or he’s going to get his alimony back?’

 

Only questions kept popping up endlessly, but no clear answers were forthcoming.

 

While she was confused, the door opened.
Catherine said something shortly first, followed by Heiner.
Downstairs they seemed to be having a conversation, but Annette could not hear it.
She held her breath as she placed her fist-clenched hand on her lips.

 

They talked for quite a long time, though it would have been better if they had only handed over the goods.
It was only after a physically long time that the door finally closed.

 

Annette remained in her fixed position, only raising her eyes to look out the window.
Heiner turned and walked back to the carriage.

 

The fallen leaves that had been scattering the city swayed in the autumn wind.
The hem of his long coat fluttered along with it.
Annette half hid her face behind the curtains and stared at the scene.


 

Suddenly, he looked back.

 

A moment later, his gaze turned toward her direction.

 

Annette reflexively ducked behind the curtain.
Her breath shook like a soldier whose position had been revealed to the enemy.

 

She wasn’t sure if he saw her or if their eyes met.
Annette wanted to check again to see where his eyes were going.

 

But she could not move the curtains.
The very fleeting time she saw him just now, his face was gaunt.

 

He seemed to have lost some weight.
However, she was puzzled at the only passing glance.

 

Annette moistened her dry lips.
Her head was in turmoil.

 

‘Why so…?’

 

Why was she so nervous?

 

Her heart seemed to rattle out of its cage.
Annette dropped the hand that was on her pounding heart.

 

She could not define her feelings for him.
At one time it had been love, but now……..
it was too complicated.

 

At least the love she knew never felt like this.

 

Come to think of it, it was foolish to still love someone who had been through such a trial.

 

Even if it was still love, Annette had no emotional capacity for it.

 

She had her hands full just taking care of her own heart.
And, in fact, she couldn’t even do it properly.

 

Whatever it was, it didn’t change the fact that they were now strangers.

 

As her thoughts lingered, she heard the sound of the carriage leaving.
Only then did Annette gently open the curtains and look out the window.

 

The street where the man was standing was now empty.

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