When Tanya returned to the waiting room, she put her hand on her lower abdomen and said, “They said it’s the second one!” with a flush in her cheeks.
I knew it.
When married women who were a kind of “I’m feeling sluggish”, I suspected that was it! Both seniors and juniors had many of these symptoms.
Tanya, who had no idea when John was born, said she was going to visit the midwife like this.
While everyone in the waiting room was waiting and congratulating each other, Dan, the blacksmith, came running in at a great speed his work clothes with a blue face.
“T-Tanya, are you alright!? I got a message to hurry and get here, but what’s wrong?”
“Hey, Dan, calm down.
Can you take John and return first? I’ll go straight to Grandma Chris.”
Grandma Chris was the only midwife in this village.
Dan, still breathing heavily and pouting, could hardly seem to get his head around it.
“Eh, Grandma Chris? Eh, eh? Tanya, that’s-”
“Ah, god, you’re so slow.
John’s going to be a big brother.”
Everyone in the waiting room took turns calling out to Dan, patting him on the back, and telling him to the point that his blue complexion had turned red, he had become weak and slumped down.
The air was filled with so much happiness.
Ah, I was there for a wonderful scene.
There were natural smiles.
Tanya stroked John’s head again, this time letting Dan take him in his arms.
“John was said to have a mild cold.
Sorry, I had a fever myself, so I didn’t know John was hotter than usual when I was holding him.
Thanks for noticing, Margaret.”
After waking up Mr.
Dan, who was still a bit absent-minded, the three of them left the clinic with smiles on their faces.
“So, Hugh, you will be returning to the capital this afternoon, huh.”
Walter’s still here, though, because he’s being sent on vacation as well.”
‘Thank you for your help in the short time I was here’, he said, bowing lightly over lunch in the clinic’s break room.
Yes, in fact, Hugh’s visit to Meissery was over today.
He ended up staying at the doctor’s office both nights.
Charlatan… No, the amiable Mr.
Hugh had become a friendly conversationalist with the doctor and Mark.
About the monologue I heard when I came in this morning, Mr.
Hugh acted as if it never happened, so I was following right along.
It was somewhat awkward, but… there mainly was Mark’s gaze.
I felt like I was being watched.
Hugh turned his head toward us and pointed to a magical tool in the corner of the table.
“Just let Walter have that magical tool when he leaves, until then, you can use it.
You can also tell Walter what you want to change.
I’ll come back to give it to you as soon as I’m done with the improvements.”
My hands and mouth were full, so I nodded meekly.
Today’s lunch was scones.
The recipe, in which the flour was mixed with a bit of whole wheat flour to add flavor and make it a meal instead of a snack, was made by Lady Adelaide.
The truth was that freshly baked food was the best, but oh well.
I borrowed the kitchen at the teacher’s house and reheated it a little.
The rest was meatloaf with lots of carrots and green beans and a bean salad.
Yes, it was also delicious today.
“I don’t really mind if Hugh doesn’t bring it, you can send it to me.”
“Mark, don’t be such a bore.
Isn’t that ‘We look forward to seeing you back soon’?”
“I’m not going to tell you.”
“You’re not being honest.”
What good friends, just like high school boys.
I could see the view of them on the rooftop, poking at each other and spreading out their lunches.
The casting was a bespectacled vice president and a brown-haired secretary.
Then Sir Walter would be the chairperson… I don’t know, that could be interesting.
And Mark, for what it was worth, had completely lost his honorifics to Mr.
Oh, that had been happening to me lately, too.
“… that Margaret…”
Eh, what? Sheesh, I was on cloud nine and didn’t listen.
What about me? I hurriedly wiped my hands and wrote on my magical tool, and Mr.
Hugh looked straight at me with a radiant face.
“I’m always on Margaret’s side.”
He said with a vague smile, and then started talking about the report and the work with Dr.
Daniel… They didn’t tell me anything more than that.
When I looked at Mark, who was supposed to be talking with him, he just looked at me knowingly and said nothing.
I nodded, not really understanding, for the moment.
I saw off the carriage that he had somehow arranged for in front of the clinic.
Many villagers had come to say goodbye, surprising Mr.
Hugh, who was given a mountain of souvenirs in each hand, being told to take these and eat them in the carriage, smiled as if he was troubled the whole time and seemed to be trying to hold back tears.
“Ah, look, Sarah, come here.”
“Yes, we were neighbors.”
Pushed out from behind the crowd was Sarah, the baker.
She was a year older than me and had always been a good friend of mine in the women’s club.
She had been married in a neighboring village, but her husband passed away and she returned to this village the year before last with her only daughter, Emily.
An uncle who was nearby told me that they had been neighbors and family friends until Hugh’s family moved away.
They were childhood friends, I guess.
Finally, Sara handed Hugh a smaller package and told him to be back, and that was all she managed to say as he finally got into the carriage.
As we watched him off until he was out of sight, the people who had gathered there naturally dispersed.
As I was heading back to the clinic, I noticed a group of girls clustered a short distance away.
Mark, who was standing and talking with several young men of the village who were about the same age as him, glanced at me with a cute face.
He would be aware of the favors being directed at him, but his eyes would never catch them… Wasn’t that usually more or less pleasant?
As far as I know, I was the only member of the opposite sex that Mark had involved himself with.
The hand that caressed my head, the arm that always supported me when I was about to fall, the eyes that met when I suddenly notice them… I was not so insensitive as to be completely unaware of the meaning that was so plainly implied that it could not be explained by egotism or self-consciousness.
I knew that it was not intended to be because I was an ‘Orison’.
I’d only been in this world for a few months, and I was still waiting for that side of things.
I didn’t even know myself well.
“Margaret, did you get lonely?”
I stopped dead in my tracks at the entrance to the clinic, and was brought back to myself by Dr.
Daniel snapping me back to my feet.
Lonely?… I was not lonely.
I was just a little nervous again about something I’d been thinking about for a long time.
There was nothing I could do, even if they called me a ‘Spirit Orison’.
I didn’t even have the magical power that everyone else had in this world.
I could see fairies, but that was all, and they didn’t do anything with me.
Why was I here? I wondered if I, who could do nothing, should be treated so politely.
Weren’t there other people who should be cared more?
I didn’t feel like I could explain well.
Hesitant to cause concern, I smiled vaguely and faked it, and he patted me on the head, as Mark always did.
Warm, big hands.
For some reason, I suddenly remembered my father, whom I had lost sight of fifteen years ago, and a single tear that I had been holding back spilled out.
I saw a glint on Margaret’s cheek as she followed the doctor through the front door of the clinic.
“Hmm, what’s up Mark?”
“Sorry, I’ll be returning.”
I cut off the conversation in mid-sentence and said goodbye without even looking at the person I was talking to across the street, who gave me a knowing pat on the back… Was it that obvious?
The waiting room was unoccupied.
As if waiting for me to enter the examination room, the doctor went upstairs with a book and a letter, telling me to call him when a patient came in.
I heard sounds coming from the break room at the back of the examination room and realized that Margaret was continuing to clean up.
I passed through the partition curtain and called out to her to turn to me as she closed the lid of the basket with her back to me.
Her slightly reddened eyes were faintly wet.
“…Do you miss Hugh when he leaves?”
I was sure there was no pretense of that, and Hugh himself said no.
I just felt sure that there was a subtle air between them today, but not romantic feelings… It just wasn’t?
She shook her head with a surprised look and I gripped her moving wrist that was in a hurry to find her magical tool.
As I touched the moistened corners of her eyes with the opposite fingertips, she looked at our joined hands as if in contemplation and began tracing letters on my palm with her other hand.
Margaret nodded awkwardly.
She said that when the doctor stroked her head, it reminded her of her late father.
She laughed in annoyance, saying that she had hardly ever been petted by her father.
‘I thought I had cried so many tears that there would be no more tears’, was what she said.
I felt relieved and relaxed.
When I piled on to see if Hugh had anything to do with it, she said that the lively person was gone and it was quiet.
When I heartily agreed with Margaret, who wrote that she was worried about whether Lady Adelaide and Walter would be able to keep up with her, I realized that I was almost holding her in my arms.
…I’d done it.
Even just recently, I thought it was dangerous and even this was weighing me down.
Margaret peeked in curiously at my suddenly silent self.
She was usually carefree, but occasionally her eyes glazed over as if she was remembering something.
It was clear from looking at her that she was confused about her position as an ‘Orison’ and was hiding her uneasy feelings.
It was easy to let her meditate, to surround her, to protect her, to keep her calm.
But that would not be good for her.
It was more like Margaret to fly in the sky and sing in the forest than to be a caged bird.
I had hoped that over time, she would gradually become familiar and accept this world.
‘What’s the matter?’, her fingertips moved.
She didn’t even seem to question the close proximity to begin with.
I got a response to my question, and I needed to stay away.
I knew it was no good anymore, but I couldn’t pull myself off as if it felt melting and sticking to the place I touched.
I was at a loss for an answer, and after a few moments of hesitation, her fingers moved again.
As I read the words spelled out in the palm of my hand, I heard something snap inside me at the content.
I slid my hand, which had left at her eyes, to her face and made her look up.
When I caught her eyes, which were wandering about in a daze, realizing her blunder by now, I saw myself smiling fearlessly with a face I had never seen before in her eyes….
I knew that I was scaring her, but whose fault was it?
“… Margaret? Listen carefully.
I never look at a man as a love interest.
I do not flirt with the village girls when they court me because I am not interested in a woman I do not like.
It’s just a source of hassle.
There’s only one person I’m interested in.”
Where did she get this outrageously oblique idea that I was not interested in village girls because I preferred men? Was that normal in the world she was in?
I thought I was getting the message across a little, but it seemed I was a long way off.
All that spilled from her mouth, which opened and closed like a goldfish, was sweet breath.
“Completely…I had to be careful because I was about to lose my mind.
I won’t wait any longer.”
I stroked her vermilion-tinted cheeks with the back of my fingers and kissed the tips of our joined fingers.
“…Margaret came to this world to meet us.
Whatever other reasons there may be, such things are secondary.
You can stay here forever.”
Here, in my arms.
Gasping for breath, her eyes looked up at me, searching for something, lips voiceless, forming my name.
Yes, call me more, in small steps.
“If you want a place to stay, make one.
You can find as much meaning as you want.
So, don’t worry, you’ll like it just as much as I like you… Margaret.”
I embraced the slender body with no resistance.
We could hear each other’s heartbeats as close as this.
I was afraid to touch her.
If I were to touch her, I would break her.
Even though I found that she wasn’t so soft as I spent time with her, I restrained myself from getting out of control this time.
Thin shoulders, black hair that had grown a little longer than when she arrived.
I wanted to own all the smiles that masked her crying face.
I was even jealous of the pampered expression she showed only in front of Lady Adelaide and the pure trust she had in Buddy.
I was amazed at the variety of feelings I had toward others.
I didn’t know I felt this way.
And I was surprised again that I didn’t hate myself like that.
All of this was given to me by Margaret.
I was not going to let go.
Come to love me.”
After a slight hesitation, a hand was discreetly placed behind my back in reply.
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