The next day, it was cloudy with some light rain. Although it was early summer, the temperature was pleasant. On a rainy day, shopping in the glass-roofed Galleria was delightful. Normally, Lydia would go out and sketch the town or go shopping with her friends. However, she began preparing for her journey in the morning.
Lydia pulled out the old trunk and packed her clothes and essentials. She didn’t forget to include her painting tools.
“I can’t let go of these earrings either.”
Lydia pulled out the earrings from the desk drawer and gently fastened them on her ears. The simple amethyst earrings were a memento from her mother. It was an inexpensive stone, but she felt bad about matching them with her paint-covered apron, so she usually left them tucked away.
However, today would be a life-changing day for Lydia, so she put them on to encourage herself slightly. Then, she wrote to her grandfather that she would hide for a little while to escape from Jerome. That when Jerome came barging in, she wanted him to act welcoming toward him about the matter of him wanting Lydia.
And that she wanted her grandfather to act like he was trying to find his stupid run-away girl. Then, she wrote that she would continue to paint and would contact Hicks as soon as her safety was ensured. Such were the letter’s contents.
“Okay, let’s put this in grandpa’s room…”
After feeding her cat, Lydia left Hicks’s art store. If she wandered around for longer, she might run into Jerome. Therefore, she left the place just before the shop’s regular operating time.
As for her destination, it was a large town south of the capital. She didn’t expect it to be easy, but she knew she’d find a job in that region where commerce was thriving.
Mother was also alone 19 years ago…
Wondering what the cause was, Lydia picked up her trunk, braced herself, and walked toward the river port. When she reached the point where the Galleria’s roof was gone, she saw a large bridge before her. It was drizzling, but Lydia spread her umbrella just in case. Then she realized she could hide her face.
Without crossing the bridge, she walked along the river to the port. There was a docking station where merchant ships anchored, and the passenger ships would stop ahead.
“Wait, Miss Lydia. Where are you going?”
As soon as she heard the voice, Lydia’s heart sped up. She didn’t have to look back to see who it was. Lydia moved her gaze slowly toward the voice as cold sweat permeated her skin.
Jerome was egressing from a luxurious black-painted carriage.
“Hello, Master Nevel. I’m visiting a client’s residence,” Lydia replied casually.
“Is that a painting?” Jerome asked, pointing to the trunk.
“Yes, of course.”
“Then I’ll give you a ride in the carriage. You’re going to Lylefield, right?”
From her brief description, Jerome assumed she was headed to an area where many aristocratic mansions were located. Lylefield was not a riverfront community, so if Lydia wanted to go there, she would use a stagecoach.
“No, there is no need. The steamship will arrive sooner, so please don’t worry.”
“Come on. You’re going to become my lover. You don’t have to go out on a cramped boat, do you? Where is the residence? If you’re late, I’ll explain everything to them, so there won’t be any problems.”
“I apologize. Please forgive me, but I can’t give you customer information. ”
“Don’t be so stubborn! There’s no way you can win fame as a female artist. If it’s just a hobby, then I can allow that.”
His thinking that Lydia already belonged to him left her stunned. Jerome grabbed Lydia’s arm without hesitation.
“No, let go!” Lydia shouted.
The surrounding area began to buzz. Since only a few stores were open this early in the morning, more residents were walking the streets than customers.
“Master Nevel! Lydia is clearly uncomfortable. Cease this at once,” a bookstore owner tried to admonish Jerome for his behavior.
The Galleria’s inhabitants knew that Lydia was unwilling. Some approached to pull Lydia and Jerome apart.
“Why are you encouraging Lydia’s selfishness!? You should convince her that what I want is good for her!
Those trying to help were astonished and stopped in their tracks. They all knew what happened when they defied the nobility. No matter how strong one’s sense of justice was, one hesitated to take reckless actions that could put one’s family on the street. Lydia could not put her trust in them.
“Coward! Let me be clear. Even if you are rich and an aristocrat, it would be tough to say that you are an attractive man! You’re so selfish and worse than a kid begging for a toy!”
Lydia was quite short-tempered. Thinking of Hicks, she knew she shouldn’t have made such a statement. However, the truth suddenly wouldn’t stop pouring out.
Jerome’s face instantly turned bright red.
“You damn… I knew you were strong-willed, but I was foolish enough to think that it was worth my while to win you over. I have to punish you firmly for this.”
Unwilling to be caught, Lydia shook off his arm and ran off, leaving the trunk behind.
Even though Lydia ran desperately, her opponent was much faster. He quickly caught up with her. She lost her balance due to Jerome forcefully grabbing her clothes.
Lydia rolled onto the cobblestone sidewalk. Pain shot through her hand, which she put forward to defend herself. Her umbrella also tumbled to the ground.
“Hmph, you should have just listened to me from the beginning!”
Lydia tried to stand up. Still, she knew she couldn’t get away anymore. Jerome’s hand reached out again.
A tall young man rushed to shelter Lydia and struck Jerome’s arm with a stick.