Seeing Flora again was like a surprising burst of dawn after the longest night of the year. Arlwyn’s eyes had been reopened, and Flora was all he could see. He heard her voice in the songs of birds that chirped on his windowsill each morning. When he sat down to the complex work of calculating land taxes, his mind drifted away, and he instead found himself writing poems about her dark, intoxicating eyes.
“My apologies, but I will be unable to attend today,” he repeated time and time again, turning down countless invitations to dine or dance or call upon the homes of important people. Instead, he slipped away to visit Flora in her tiny cottage, or took her to the neighboring town to pass the day together.
He lavished her with expensive gifts, which she tried to decline.
“I love you, Arlwyn,” she would say. “Not your money.” Still, he bought her a few cows and a sturdy horse, and would not take no for an answer.
“Whatever has bewitched you brother,” remarked Douglas one afternoon when he caught Arlwyn staring off into space instead of conducting family business, “you had better snap out of it. You and Priscilla are to be married this summer. Or have you forgotten?”
Arlwyn had not forgotten. He had been trying to block the inevitable event from his memory. But as much in love as he was with Flora, the wedding could not be stopped. He would have to forget about Flora, put on his mask, and pretend, though he hated himself for it.