So confused. She was so miserably confused.
The look in Richard’s eyes had rendered her a sobbing wreck. How could she have ever thought that he hated her? She was amazed there was no accusation in them. After looking away, she had wondered why he wasn’t deriding her for crying. But then again, he didn’t know her thoughts. She could never open herself up to a person the way he had. And yes, there had been emotions she hadn’t understood in Richard’s expression but now she was certain that he loved her. There could be absolutely no doubt about her.
So why wasn’t she rejoicing?
“I convinced myself you hated me,” she choked out, full of self-hatred.
“Oh, no,” Richard replied, frowning at the confession. “I could never hate you.” He laid a hand on Corinne’s shoulder, his expression softening, and gently squeezed.
Corinne stiffened slightly.
“Don’t touch me,” she whispered. “I don’t deserve it. I am the most stupid woman in the land.”
“Of course you’re not,” Richard murmured reassuringly. “I have not made it easy for you. I deliberately hid myself.”
“But why?” Corinne asked, looking up into his now ordinary gaze. “I don’t understand.”
Richard looked pained.
“I cannot tell you, Corinne. I ... I cannot.”
“I love you,” Corinne told him. “Anything you say, I will listen to you.” Her expression became pleading. “I merely want us to be together.”
Richard sat down in his chair and refused to look at her.
“And that is what cannot happen,” he said quietly.
Corinne fell silent. Wordlessly she picked up her cutlery and began to eat the meal of a pork and leek sausage, roast potatoes and boiled cabbage. She said no more for the entirety of the meal. When the time came for her to return to her chamber, she bid Richard a silent, unemotional good night and went to bed with a head sore from trying to figure out why Richard was acting in this strange manner. A worrying thing occurred to Corinne as she lay there staring up at the ceiling of her room.
Not once had Richard spoken the words “I love you”, even when she had. Because all else indicated the phrase was true, Corinne worried that the statement which had snatched every word from her mind was as permanent as she had tried to tell herself it couldn’t be.
She slept fitfully that night, though tormented by her emotions rather than by any bad dream.