Rumors began spreading like wildfire throughout Arvis when Kyle Etman suddenly arrived. It threw everyone in even more confusion when he reappeared out of the blue!
Previous rumors largely believed that Kyle had whisked the gardener and Leyla out of Arvis, and had run away with them. While Mrs. Etman vehemently denied the allegations above, no one really believed her.
They knew how much Kyle loved Leyla. It wouldn’t have been such a stretch to believe they would elope. It would have been the perfect ending for the two love birds to find their happy ending somewhere else, away from all the fuss…
And yet, Kyle was here, in Arvis.
And it broke all their illusion of a fairytale ending coming true, for even he knew not where Leyla and her uncle had gone to.
“Kyle!” a familiar voice fleeted into Kyle’s ears, making him stop in his tracks upon his arrival, “Kyle!”
Kyle turned around, and saw Mrs. Mona rush out of the kitchen doors, coming towards him in great hurry. She huffed out momentarily as she slowed down, pausing right in front of him, and Kyle bowed at her respectfully in greeting.
“Do you know where Leyla and Remmer are?” She immediately asked him without any preamble, grabbing him in her haste, and Kyle blinked in shock, before looking somber and giving her a terse shake with his head.
It was plain for all to see, he had no idea where the two people had gone.
He’d already informed his father earlier he meant to return to Arvis, to inquire about Leyla and Uncle Bill’s disappearance and figure out their whereabouts. But Dr. Etman had only chided him at his futile effort in looking for them, demanding immediately he go back to school and stay there instead of participating in this folly.
But Kyle had learned to be stubborn.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t know where they are.” He told Mrs. Mona, who looked particularly disappointed to hear him say so, and immediately waved his apology.
“Oh don’t apologize boy, I’m sorry for suddenly springing it up on you.” She quickly amended, Kyle could see her eyes begin to tear up as she looked around aimlessly and tried to wipe a tear off the corner of her eyes subtly.
Eventually, she let him go, and apologized for suddenly grabbing him. Kyle only smiled at her reassuringly, before bidding goodbye, and walking fast past the garden.
He eventually came upon the forest, and being in it, and seeing it again after so long gave him an odd sense of hope. Somewhere in his mind, although irrational, he couldn’t help but believe that when he’d reach the cabin…
They’ll be there when he opens the door. That they decided to return to Arvis after all…
And so he kept walking, carefully cradling that hope in his chest like a precious, fragile treasure. But when he reached the opening leading to the cabin, his hopes crashed to pieces as he saw the overgrown weeds around the small house.
They really were gone.
“Leyla…” Kyle softly called out, his voice trailing off in the end as he took in the cabin that had once been his home away from his parents. The longer he stood there, and stared at the cabin, the more the strength seemed to leave his legs…
And he dropped sobbing onto the forest ground, sobbing and aimlessly calling out for Leyla, her name slipping out of his lips. Birds flew overhead with his wailing, his cries echoing all over the empty forest…
But still, only silence greeted him back.
Leyla was not in Arvis.
Matthias found himself wandering around. Half of him couldn’t believe he was unable to find a more suitable thing to do after he’d been dismissed for a business meeting. And so he laughed…
And laughed some more as he walked, unbelieving and in denial of the utter ridiculousness he was showcasing.
Perhaps this was the result of the sleeping pills he kept taking then? All he knew was that everything seemed so real, and yet unrealistic at the same time. He’s awake, but reality feels as though he’s floating in a listless dream…
He also had, as of the moment, a splitting headache. His whole body was throbbing with numbness and heat, he felt as though he was burning up, and yet at the same time, he felt freezing!
Matthias couldn’t seem to stop walking, though; his legs kept pushing on, even as logic begged himself to stop and rest.
He’d endure this pain. Pain was more welcome than more memories of her. More memories of Leyla, and he’d just spiral more into the fading memories of her beauty and their time together, and where would that leave him?
Nowhere but in ruins.
Was this true desperation? If it was, this was the first time Matthias ever felt like this.
He needed Leyla to come back to him. She must come back to him. He needed her to live his life as it had been before…
And Matthias bursted into another breathless laugh as he begged her to return to him.
‘You worked so hard to make me like this, you should be generous enough to appreciate seeing me like this too.’ Matthias wistfully thought of her…
“Come back…” he muttered out of his breath, aimlessly looking around for any sign of her, as he smiled and chuckled dryly to himself when he still couldn’t see her anywhere nearby.
“Come back.” He reiterated.
He wanted her back with him, to see her laugh at his misery without her. He wanted to see her smile at the broken man she made him to be.
Even just like this, he needed to see her again. He wanted to see her again, even in his misery. Even if she hated him, he wanted her back.
And so he grit his teeth in anticipation, and his pace quickened as he continued walking around aimlessly…
Before he knew it, he reached the road back to Arvis. The familiar Platanus road in front of him beckons his calm, and the image of Leyla the last time he saw her appears in front of his eyes…
She was looking at him so earnestly, wishing for him to love her; it made him stumble in his steps as he drew closer to that spot once more. She’s always been his magnet. He’d always been so drawn to her, that without her, he couldn’t find his way back to sanity…
One step closer to her, and another and another…
She smiled at him encouragingly…
He reached out to touch her…
And she was gone.
She wasn’t in front of him. Just a mere hallucination of her.
Matthias’ breathing came in ragged puffs, his tired eyes staring desperately on the last spot he’d seen her in the flesh. There was nothing there. Just his shadow looming over her last spot.
Leyla left him. And she’ll never be his again.
Laughter bubbled up and exploded from Matthias’s chest as he threw his head back, hands coming up to grab onto the sides of his head, hoping to grab onto his remaining sanity in the process. He thought he should be crying, it certainly felt like he should be, but only laughter came out of his lips.
When the laughter died down considerably, Matthias only sighed and kept walking, and into Arvis he went.
He should be returning to the mansion, but his feet had other plans, and led him back to the forest. The forest that housed Leyla’s world in his. It loomed ominously over him, but Matthias only cared about seeing Leyla…
He needed to be with her again.
Entering the forest made him relive all of his memories, and hers as recounted in her childhood diary. Every meeting he’d had with her, every time he teased her to his heart’s content, and every time Leyla ran away from him in fear…
He remembered one incident in their childhood. He’d been so annoyed with her always running away from his presence, he purposely directed the horse he’d been riding to stop her in her tracks.
She’d been by the grass before, and when he physically blocked her from escaping, he watched in satisfaction when she froze in fear as she looked up at him. Like the child she was, she quickly turned back around and into the road she fell over and rolled on the ground…
But she just got back up and kept running from him.
As though sensing he was no longer following her, she stopped and looked back at him, physically wondering why he wasn’t following her. Matthias could feel her eyes on him, and he could only laugh at her ridiculousness, watching as she marched back into their small cabin.
She amused him, for a coward, she sure was bold. And ever since then, Matthias upped the ante on his pranks on her, wanting to see more and more of her reactions. He was addicted to her, he didn’t want to stop riling her up.
But the more he grew up, the more he realized she was like a deer instead. And afterwards, he tried acting indifferent around her instead…
And then he left, and met her again as a full-grown woman on that summer day, and a whole new obsession awoke inside of him at seeing her in full bloom.
If someone asked him when his obsession with her began, he couldn’t tell. Perhaps he’d just always been obsessed with her, so hyper-aware of everything she did; it was just normal for him to be so drawn to her.
And he kept watch of her, from the small scared girl, to his bold beautiful queen, he’d seen her evolve through the years…
And he liked what he saw.
But he hadn’t seen her how she began, nor would he ever see how she’ll end up to be. All because she left him…
Now what did that leave him?
What was he supposed to do without her? He can’t have things with Leyla be over. Even as he looked around now, all he could see were their memories together, through Leyla’s eyes. Every word she recounted…
They all kept ringing in his head, and none of them felt as vibrant before, marred by the knowledge of Leyla’s feelings. Still, Matthias couldn’t stop laughing as he kept recalling every single memory.
Always, she tried to run away from him. Always, she cried in fear of him. If what he had with her, all those nights they made love with each other were just all an act of revenge for her, then all he really had of her were her fears and pain.
Everything in him was empty, still, he couldn’t let her go. He doesn’t want to. She was meant to be part of his life, she always should be.
She shook him straight to the core on their first meeting, and he couldn’t stand that. And so he pushed, and pulled on her, bullying her with every moment that presented itself, giving her gifts in compensation…
Even the satisfaction he had at seeing her cry because of him made him feel powerful and safe in some way. He affected her, as much as she affected him.
But he never once wished for her to disappear from his life.
Looking back on his actions, he could only laugh at how ridiculous everything had been. He should have ignored her long before, like everything he did with something that bothered him. It had always been enough back then…
But Matthias didn’t want to get rid of her so easily. He wanted her beside him, even if she kept begging for him, and crying because of him, he would take anything…
So long as she stayed beside him forever, as someone that was his.
Something caught his attention in the corner of his eye. Matthias stopped in his tracks, as he saw movement. He whipped his head to its direction, and felt the jolt of hope die back down to a numbing feeling at who he saw at the end of the road…
The man who held everything he wanted from Leyla.
It was an odd feeling, Kyle mused to himself, seeing the Duke in front of him right now. He once believed if he ever saw that man again, he would kill him. And yet now, even as his heart sank, Kyle could only look at him blankly.
He wasn’t eager to see him again for sure, but when he stepped closer, his heart continued to throb painfully at the memory of Leyla begging him to leave her alone…
“I love him!” her painful cry of confessing her love to the Duke echoed loudly in the back of his mind.
As much as he wanted to believe she was lying to protect him from the Duke, Kyle couldn’t deny the small ounce of truth he could hear in Leyla’s tone.
On that day he visited Leyla in her cabin, to ask for one more chance to win her heart, he knew for sure. Even as he was blinded by his anger at seeing the Duke and Leyla having an affair with one another…
He knew Leyla loved the Duke. Some part of her genuinely did.
It wouldn’t matter what kind of trick the Duke had up his sleeve, or blackmail he had, he knew Leyla was a smart woman. If she truly wanted to, she would have found a way out of her predicament.
Some part of her wanted the same thing as the Duke. Because that’s the type of person Leyla really was. Nothing could make her do something she didn’t want to. No matter how powerful the person was.
And that’s why that night was so painful for Kyle.
More than the knowledge this wasn’t an equal relationship, more than Leyla’s rejection of him…
It was that he never really had her love.
She might not acknowledge it herself, and perhaps the Duke hadn’t realized it either. But Kyle could see it. And it seemed among the three of them that night, Kyle was the only one who could see the truth in front of them.
And what a bitter pill it was to swallow. That Kyle would lose his best friend, to a man who could never truly care for what he had. And now, the man he knew for sure only further broke Leyla, and lost her in the end.
What an irony it was.
But Kyle kept moving forward, stopping in front of the poorly kept appearance of the Duke, glaring at him with all the contempt he could muster. The Duke was glaring at him with a fierce sharpness absent in a drunken man’s gaze, but Kyle couldn’t exclude the possibility he wasn’t either.
But Kyle wanted to say something. His heart wouldn’t let him walk away without giving this faux perfect Duke a piece of his mind, and possibly, his heart.
“Are you proud of yourself, Duke?” He asked through a calm rage, “You’ve ruined Leyla like this.”
The Duke just kept his sharp gaze on him.
“Do you regret what you’ve done now?” Kyle asked, “Do you see how you destroyed the one good thing in your life?”
The Duke wasn’t answering still.
“Or maybe you don’t regret anything, huh?” Kyle scoffed, “Are you perhaps happy she’s gone? All traces of your infidelity gone, and nothing would hinder your image of a perfect Duke?”
More silence reigned between the two, and Kyle deemed it useless to talk to someone who’d never regret anything he’d done. Just as he was about to leave, finally, the Duke spoke up…
“You don’t know where she is, do you?”
It wasn’t a taunting question, but a genuine inquiry.
“Where did Leyla disappear?” the Duke’s voice asked quietly, “You, Kyle Etman, don’t know either.” He mumbled. Kyle turned back to him with a calm rage, the medical student biting his lips to prevent himself from making a bigger spectacle of everything.
He wanted to keep Leyla’s affair with the Duke a secret, to protect her.
The Duke was grinning at him smugly, as though happy he was also excluded from Leyla’s plans. And it was like he was really happy with this piece of information. Kyle couldn’t help but scoff under his breath, muttering about how crazy the Duke had gotten.
He heard from his father about the Duke’s condition, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit it gave him an odd sense of vengeance to know how devastated the Duke had been without Leyla.
The Duke was now chuckling and laughing to himself, and Kyle could only continue to watch him in great disappointment.
“Tell me Duke, did you ever see her as a human?” Kyle asked him, genuinely curious what the Duke really thought of Leyla. “Someone that’s beyond just her beauty? A prize to have? She’s not an object you can just own!” Kyle exclaimed, the hands in his pockets clenched into fists.
And Kyle went off at him at how Leyla was her own person, and not someone he could keep as his own! She has her dreams, thoughts, feelings, and her own morals.
“Do you even know how hard she tried to change what people thought of her? How hard she had to work so she could reach the life she had before you ruined her?!” He asked again, but aside from the laughter stopping, the Duke remained staring at him blankly.
He couldn’t read anything from the Duke at all. His eyes were blank and lifeless. And Kyle felt like a fool trying to get him to see what he did wrong with Leyla.
What could he expect from someone born with a silver spoon? What could he expect from someone who never had to worry about what people thought of them?
“I just, how could you do that to her?” Kyle’s voice cracked as he asked the question, “To Leyla! Leyla who-” the words got choked up in Kyle’s throat…
‘To the person who loved you?!’
He wanted to scream it in his face, but saying it out loud would only make it more real. Leyla chose someone who ruined her life, and could never appreciate her for who she really was, to someone who loved her despite his own short-comings.
He wasn’t free of fault; he knew their engagement fell apart because of him as well. But Leyla chose the Duke over him, and that only watered his hatred with the Duke. No amount of tears he shed for her would change that.
He had begged her to stop the affair, and offered to help her escape…
But she didn’t take his hand. She didn’t accept him to save her. She only answered that she knew he would destroy her, and willfully chose to stay, even as she cried admitting to it.
“You don’t deserve her.” Kyle finally said, calming down, and stared down at the Duke, “You don’t deserve to ever find her again. Not even a glance of her. You deserve nothing from her.”
Kyle held the Duke’s gaze, speaking his true thoughts on the matter.
“And I hope you never find her, so just continue on with your life as you had been. You’re good at that.” Kyle spat at him, “Good luck with your wedding next month. I hope you and your Duchess your best life.”
Kyle gave him a mocking bow, eyes still locked on the Duke’s, as well as he straightened up.
“Have a long life on your own, you son of a bitch.” Kyle finished, and finally walked away from the bane of his existence.
He prayed earnestly to the deities above to give the Duke a long life, and for them to keep Leyla away from him even to his dying death…
And for Leyla’s feelings for the Duke to forever be a secret.
Just like this, Kyle wished for the Duke to keep suffering for his actions…
Until his dying breath.