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The summerhouse

I was only beginning to understand the attributes on which I, imperfect and unworthy creature, had been bestowed.
All who saw me swore I was perfect loveliness. Gauvain, now my champion, claimed my beauty to be remarkable and I, bewildered as I was mute and disabled, could only accept the compliments and fealty with bewilderment.
It was not till I saw Oskar once more that I loved. Then I looked into the mirror with changed eyes, anxious to please his gaze.
He came to the castle looking for work. My brother assigned him to the winery. The old winemaster needed replacement and was anxious to confer his trade while he still retained strength.
Oskar worked intently. There was a hard, near cruel determination in his face that affected me keenly. I little knew the same determination was writ on my features time to time, and derived from the same paternal source.
Days passed, and he never came near the house. Could it be that he had forgotten me?
I contrived to make myself known to him.
There was a summerhouse I liked to visit when the weather was warm. In these days my illness was in remission and I no longer had need for a wheelchair. I walked as often as I could to retain my strength and managed quite admirably with a cane.
The summerhouse was long abandoned, but had captured my fancy in the past year, which was wont to prey on all things morbid and melancholy.
Oskar worked in the field all day beneath the blazing sun; I cast him a look as I made my way languorously toward the woods. He stopped what he did to meet my gaze. My look was reserved, yet my face grew hot when he looked upon me. I knew at once that he remembered me.
The look of startled joy writ on his features induced in me an answering rapture. He knew me—he might even share a small part of the anxiety in my breast which had not settled since his return. I had just opened a Pandora’s box and was afraid of the unfamiliar sentiments that drifted unfettered.
I moved quickly to my accustomed summerhouse, unable to tamp down the blaze of joy writ across my face. He had looked fondly on me. I could think of nothing else as I settled the mantle from my shoulders and arrayed myself on the moldering boards to view nature.
Footsteps on the forest path brought me to awareness. I felt it was a miracle which had induced Oskar to leave his work and follow me here. I stared at him with blazing eyes. Suddenly I was very afraid—but mingled with fear was an excitement that shook me with its violence.
He took my hands. “Oriente, dear—“ He kissed my face.
I stared at him, tears dropping unheeded to our clasped hands. Unable to plague him with the questions foremost in my mind, I merely watched him tenderly.
“You wonder why I am returned—I would not dwell on such depressing stuff for all the world. Let me look at you. I never dreamed you would grow so beautiful.”
His unguarded tongue embarrassed me, and my face grew hot.
I had always felt doubt that Oskar’s ardor could equal mine. In our childhood, I needed him in ways he would never need me. I was disabled, limited, speechless—scarcely a fit companion for one so energetic and imaginative as himself. I believed that his friendship for me, founded in kindness, must dissipate without underlying passion of its own.

Whether or not there was truth in my assumption, I understood now we were on equal footing. Something existed between us which made words needless—and we were no longer children who needed to run.

He told me odd, disjointed stories of where he had been and what he had seen when he had been away. His mother was now dead. His eyes told me, when his words did not, that he had known little happiness since leaving the burg. I did not understand on what terms he now remained, but I believed it was for good, and my joy was boundless.

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