Chapter 20 - Corinne

Corinne awoke, confused and disorientated. Where was she? Was she where she was supposed to be? Where was she supposed to be? All she could see was a timber beam supported by the longest wall in the room and while this did not seem remotely familiar, she could not find a memory of the room where she usually woke up.

A light tap on a door somewhere alerted her to someone else’s presence. But who could this person be? She couldn’t recall if she lived with anyone or not. She wouldn’t know if this were her home or if she were lodging in an inn for some reason. Oh, how puzzling it all was.

‘Have I always been unable to remember?’ she wondered as she called, “Come in.” ‘Or am I just suffering temporary memory loss?’

“Morning, Corinne,” called a warm, friendly voice as she sat up.

She stared in wonder at the gorgeous man in front of her.

‘Oh, please let this be my husband,’ she thought.

The man smiled and asked, “How are you, my lady?”

“I’m fine,” she replied eagerly before realising she probably ought to tell the man she didn’t know where she was or whoheeven was. “Though I’m having a little trouble with my memory. Could you help me?”

“I can try,” the man answered kindly. He perched on the end of her bed - if itwasher bed. “Your name is Corinne Kingfisher, you’re from the town of Periville and you’re currently in my home. I’m Eric Stag. You’ve met me but we didn’t really spend time together after that meeting. I rescued you from a place called Dachshund Manor.”

Corinne frowned, vaguely recognising the places he mentioned.

“Dachshund Manor? Why was I there?”

Eric’s brow furrowed a little, as if he needed to really pay attention to what he said. How odd.

“Well, initially Lord Dachshund saved you from poverty. But I don’t think his intentions were very good. He asked for your hand but you never seemed happy as a couple.”

Corinne was astounded by this revelation.

“I was rescued by a lord?”

Eric nodded.

“But he wasn’t very nice,” he reiterated.

“Wow,” she murmured. “Do you know how incredible that is?”

Eric nodded, his expression wry.

“But the ring is on your finger,” he told her.

She looked down and was shocked to see a diamond ring glimmering from the fourth finger on her right hand which was resting upon the sheets around her.

It suddenly occurred to Corinne that she had no reason to trust this man. He could have kidnapped her maliciously rather than saved me. He could be trying to make Lord Dachshund look bad so that she stayed with him. And then he might harm her himself!

“How can I know you’re telling the truth?”

Eric’s face took on the saddest, most sincere expression she had ever seen.

“You don’t,” he murmured honestly. “But I would never hurt you, Corinne. I ...” He hesitated, looking and sounding like the words were difficult to get out. “I care about you.”

Corinne’s heart went out to him. Even if she couldn’t trust him, she wanted to. He seemed a beautifully kind man.

“Do you know why I lost my memory?” she asked quietly, hoping there was a way in which she could get it back.

Eric nodded, surprising her. She grew wary at the apologetic expression on his face, though.

“I gave you a potion. But it was only so you wouldn’t want to return to Lord Dachshund. You have such a sweet heart that I knew you would want to let him know you were safe, even if living with him were not the best choice for you.”

“You took away my memory?!” Corinne cried, horrified that the kind man could have performed an act so cruel. “But that is unfair - you could take advantage of me; you could tell me lies and I would not know what to believe... This is so wrong!”

Eric’s look was pleading.

“Corinne, please. I did it because I love you. And if you ever suspect my behaviour, you may leave my cottage. The door will not be locked while you are here. You may try it now if you like. And then you can tell me if it is really so difficult to trust me after all.”

She stared at the man in astonishment, her mind having paused at his declaration of his feelings for her.

“You ... you love me?” she asked incredulously.

Eric nodded, looking sorrowful.

“But ... you said we had not spent time together... You can’t have seen much of me.”

Eric shook his head.

“It is true. But you made the strongest impression on me when I first met you that I knew I would always care about what happened to you. That is why I rescued you, Corinne. I know that you cannot trust me; I know that it is impossible for you to think positively of me. But I want to treat you well, Corinne. And I hope that it could become clear to you that I genuinely love you. I love you.”

He buried his face in his hands, looking distraught.

“You were so honest to tell me it was you who took my memories away,” Corinne whispered, unsure of what to do. It was evident that this man felt something strongly. Whether or not it was love she could not tell. “And to tell me that a man had asked for my hand. I ... I do not want to mistrust you.”

Eric looked up, his expression hopeful. He seemed young to her: his emotions amplified by an inner purity and a lack of exposure to the savage of the true world.

Corinne sighed. “I will see if your treatment of me is fair, Eric. If it isn’t, I shall escape. I do not think you can ask anymore of me at this moment.”

“Of course not,” Eric said, his expression very serious. “I understand.” He reached out a hand and patted one of hers. “I am so glad that you do not hate me completely.”

Corinne felt shy as she inquired, “Am I often one to hate a man?”

Eric shook his head, smiling widely.

“You’re a gentle creature, dear Corinne. So full of light and love.”

Corinne beamed, despite the situation. Eric seemed to be so charming.

The End

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