Disclaimer; I do not own HnKnA
Memoirs of the Broken
Long ago, he thought the only lovers he needed were the literary kind. Novels were his most beloved mistresses; words his most passionate paramours.
There was one secret love, a love so forbidden that it rivaled that of the star-crossed Romeo and Juliet.
He held a secret passion for flowers. Much like his botanist mother, he found intense pleasure caring and being around them. He loved watching those little seeds grow into new life, into something so beautiful.
His father highly disapproved of that hobby. Taking care of flowers was a not a masculine occupation and would never allow his son to indulge in something so girly.
He never minded and contented himself into caring for one kind of flower in secret. It was always his favorite, the most challenging kinds to grow - orchids.
"You know, Henry, I have never seen you with a girl before."
Henry rolled his eyes, keeping his attention on his book. "That is ridiculous, father. You saw me with Elizabeth last week."
"Then we saw you two broke up a few days later!" his father shouted. He bit his tongue after his outburst and took a deep, calming breath. Henry heard him move closer, seating himself beside him. "It's just that you have never had a true, steady girlfriend. Sure, your mother and I have seen you with several women, but they never last for very long. At this rate, how are you supposed to find a wife and bear us grandchildren?"
Henry resisted the urge to laugh. Not this nonsense again.
"Father, please don't worry. When I meet that special girl, I'll meet her," he said calmly. "For now, the only lover I need is Paradise Lost. You are distracting me from my reading."
"Paradise Lost indeed," his father grumbled sourly under his breath. "Farewell happy fields, where joy forever dwells."
"Hail, horrors, hail." Henry smiled and turned another page. In the corner of his eye, his father shook his head and massaged the bridge of his nose.
"Listen. Are you still interested in a job? I remember hearing you say you wanted one while you were on break from the university."
"Why? Do you have something for me?" Henry asked.
He sensed a smile curl at his father's lips, adding a twinkle to his eyes. "Well, I have a friend who's looking for a tutor for her child. You're an intelligent man. You can tutor this person no problem."
Henry's attention drifted away from the book as he considered the offer. Despite it sounding decent, he was suspicious. His father sounded almost... excited, eager to hear his response. There had to something more to this than he's realizing.
Still, despite his suspicions, he nodded his head. "Sounds good to me. Who exactly do I have to tutor?"
"Oh, just one of the Liddells."
He should have known.
Henry closed the book shut. He turned to face his father, his face still alight with hope.
"Father, even I know the Liddell children are all girls," he said evenly, meeting his father's gaze head-on.
He only beamed. "Why, yes they do. Their two eldest daughters grew up to be lovely ladies. One of them is in her late teens while the other is actually your age." Henry rolled his eyes and returned his attention to his book. His father scooted closer to him, frantically gripping to his sleeve. "Henry, please. If you're not interested in the girls then you could at least continue tutoring. Just... indulge your old man. Please?"
Henry stared at him, at the pleading look in his father's eyes. He sighed heavily and reopened his book.
"Fine. I'll humor you and take the job," said Henry. His father exhaled a breath of relief. "But I'm doing this for the money. Not just to meet some girls you and mother are trying to set me up with. I doubt I'd be interested anyway."
He ignored his father chuckles as he settled back into the couch.
"I don't know, son. Liddell women can be quite captivating."
When he arrived at the Liddell household, he took a moment to admire it. It was a grand structure, possibly Victorian in design. Though his family was not poor, the Liddells' house showed they definitely had money.
He quickly snapped out of his musings. He was not there to admire the family's affluence or taste in architecture. Henry was there for platonic, business-related reasons. Emphasis on platonic.
Once he knocked on the door, it swung open. He quickly lit up and smiled.
"Good day, Mrs. Liddell. I'm Henry Anderson. I'm assuming my father mentioned me to you?"
"Yes, Mr. Anderson did tell me that his son was to tutor my daughter." She paused a moment, her expression curious as she studied at him. "My, I knew he said his son was a university student, but I never expected you to be so young."
"I may be young, but I assure that your daughter is in good hands."
"And quite handsome too..."
Henry struggled to keep his expression composed and remained silent, shifting uncomfortably in his place. By the look in her eye, he feared she shared the same marrying conspiracy as his father.
"I'm sorry. Where are my manners? Please come in!"
He nodded his head in thanks and stepped inside, taking a moment to admire the decor.
"Alice! Your tutor is here!" Mrs. Liddell announced. In response, there was a low muffled shout and the sound of footsteps. She said to him, "My daughter should be here shortly. Please, relax!"
Henry nodded his head, automatically drifting towards the book shelves. After a moment of regarding their selections, nodding his head in approval of several titles, he heard a voice.
"I'm here. You said my tutor has arrived, Mother? Where is he?"
Henry turned around to face her. The girl froze in her place, her jaw falling slightly ajar.
Her mother stood in between them and smiled. "Alice, this will be your tutor, Henry Anderson. Henry, this is my daughter, Alice."
"It's nice to meet you, Alice," he greeted politely.
Alice could only nod her head in acknowledgment. He hated to admit, but his father was right. Alice was definitely a pretty lady.
"I'd introduce you to my two other daughters, but Edith is with a friend and Lorina is out at the moment." Mrs. Liddell looked at both faces and clapped her hands together. "Well, I have things that need tending to! I'll leave you two alone to work. Have fun!"
Bowing his head slightly, he watched the woman head out of the room. Henry returned his attention to Alice and waited for her to speak. All she did was stare at him. He shifted under her gaze, wishing she would say something.
To dispel the awkwardness of the situation, he said, "Um, I'm sorry if I done something that made you upset or frightened you. I didn't mean to."
She blinked. "Huh? What are you talking about?"
"Well you have been so silent that I was worried I said or did something to offend you."
She shook her head. "No! It's not that I'm offended. I'm just surprised. You're... a lot younger than unexpected my tutor to be. I expected him to be old."
Seeing the confusion in his face, she added, "When I said old, I meant old. Like old geezer old. My parents always did know how to get the most interesting people."
"Oh? Then I'm sorry to disappoint. I guess I'll leave then..."
"No!" She stepped towards him and laughed. "No, I'm not disappointed. Like I'd rather have a cute, young guy to tutor me than some stuffy, old person any day..."
She quickly slapped her hand to her mouth, her cheeks darkening at her verbal slip. Seeing him arch a brow at her, an amused smile curling his lips, her cheeks got even redder.
She turned around to hide her red face. "Um, well we should get started! Follow me!"
Alice stumbled forward, trying to hide the redness in her face. Henry only followed, chuckling quietly under his breath.
'Tutoring this girl may not be so after all...'
He had been working with Alice for several weeks after their initial meeting. It was enjoyable to be around her. She was witty and definitely intelligent. He barely understood why she even needed a tutor to begin with if she was so smart already... then he would catch her falling asleep in the middle of their lesson. Laziness and short attention spans can definitely be a problem.
"Oh, Henry, welcome!" Henry nodded his head in greeting to Mrs. Liddell and stepped inside. "Alice! Your tutor's here!"
They waited for a moment, expecting to see her to be bounding up to them like she usually did when he arrived.
There was no answer back. No one came running.
Mrs. Liddell exhaled sharply. "That girl probably didn't even hear me... Leaving you standing here to wait… Feel free to go look for her. I think she's in the parlor room."
Henry nodded his head and walked through the halls. It was almost funny how easy it was to navigate the house. He had been coming so often for their tutoring sessions that this place felt like a second home to him.
And still he had yet to meet the eldest daughter, Lorina Liddell.
Out of the many topics she talked about, Alice loved to talk about her elder sister the most. She always said she was so smart and an avid reader. It was amazing how much she adored and respected her.
He had always wanted to meet Lorina, curious about the woman that made such an impact on Alice. Every time he came over it seemed like he never had any luck. Lorina was always out or they just miss seeing each other.
As he turned around the corner and walked into the parlor room, he wondered vaguely if today would be the chance they will meet.
He shook his head and laughed inwardly.
With his awful luck, he probably will not meet this mysterious Lorina today or the entirety of his sessions with Alice.
Unbeknownst to him, today was the day.
He stumbled to a halt. Alice was nowhere in sight. Sitting in her place was a young woman with curly brown hair and green eyes. There was no denying it. It was her.
He swallowed hastily, somehow finding the voice to speak. "Hello there."
The young woman glanced up in surprise and blinked.
"Hello," she answered and smiled.
What a smile it was. He was nearly bowled over by that simple action, but he chastised himself.
'What's wrong with you? Don't act like some fool. Keep your cool.'
"So you are the tutor I hear so much about?" He only nodded his head, not trusting his voice enough to speak. She took a moment to appraise him, astute green eyes scanning him up and down before meeting his gaze. "Well, you're much younger than I thought you were."
"Probably no older than you, Miss…?"
"Lorina," she answered. "It's Lorina Liddell. I am Alice's elder sister."
"Ah. Miss Lorina Liddell…" He paused for a moment in reverence, briefly examining her more closely. He can tell that Lorina was related to Alice. They both shared such similar features, same eyes, same color of hair, and same shape of face.
At the same time, despite similarities, she was not the same. When Lorina smiled at him, looked at him with those gentle, green eyes, he just felt like something was different. What this feeling was, he did not know nor did he take the time to examine them.
He politely bowed his head. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. You're sister talks about you a lot. She says you're quite the reader." Henry turned his head, studying the novel's cover, and smiled "And I can see that. You're reading Wuthering Heights?"
"Actually I read it several times before, and I am rereading it. I simply adore this story," she admitted bashfully, her cheeks coloring.
"No kidding! This is one of my favorite stories as well!"
Soon they found themselves having an intense conversation, discussing the novel's themes and characters and continuing on to discuss other novels. It was the sort of conversation he had never had with another girl, nevertheless an extremely intelligent one. Most of the girls he met with rarely touched classics and spent their time reading trashy novels. Other times girls could not be bothered opening a book.
Never once in his life had ever imagined he would be arguing how Brutus, a character from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, was a valiant tragic hero and did what he believed was good for all of Rome.
Lorina scoffed. "Oh yes. Brutus truly was as honorable as Antony says. So honorable that he allows Antony to live and give a speech that turns all the plebeians against them. If that isn't gullibility at its best, then I know not what is."
He gasped in mock horror, drawing a smile to curl at her lips. Before Henry could counter, a voice caught their attention.
"I'm glad to see you two getting along so well!"
They both turned their heads to see Alice standing at the doorway, a bright smile on her lips.
"Oh, Alice, I was just entertaining your tutor like you asked me," her elder sister said. She turned to look at him. "Now I guess you are going to start your lessons now?"
"I guess we are." The young man tore himself away and walked over to the Alice. Just as the two were going to leave, he paused for a moment and turned to face her. "Goodbye, Miss Lorina. I hope we could continue our conversation another time. It was very nice talking to you."
The eldest Liddell smiled and nodded her head. Henry felt his own lips curve and he followed Alice out the door.
"I'm glad that the two of you get along so well!" Alice said cheerfully. "I hope I wasn't all talk. She's pretty great, right?"
"Yes, she is." He could not help, but look back for a moment at the doorway, thinking about that girl with the sweetest smile he has ever seen. "Pretty great indeed."
If Henry was anything, he was most definitely a man.
What man hasn't lied about liking something just to get a girl's attention?
He actually hated Wuthering Heights. To him, it was a stupid book. The characters were deplorable and the plot was romanticized and unrealistic. Heathcliff was a crazy bastard and Catherine was selfish idiot. It was impossible that a love and passion of such exaggerated magnitude could even exist.
Talking with Lorina did make him second guess himself.
He closed War and Peace with a decided thud and turned towards his bookshelf. His fingers skimmed over the titles, running over the worn spines of his classic books before pausing at Wuthering Heights.
He did not know what came over him. Before he knew it he grabbed the book off the shelf and began to read.
"Henry, I hear you are making excellent progress with Alice."
He blinked, turning his head up momentarily to see his father enter the room, leaning against the side of his seat. "Academically, yes. Alice is a smart girl already. She just needs a little help focusing herself."
"Yes, her mother sends her compliments. She's truly impressed how much you helped Alice improved," said his father.
Henry offered only a modest smile, returning his gaze to his book. "It's nothing really…"
"And we both suppose it's a matter of time before you can move on and tutor someone else."
He snapped his head up to face him. "W… what?"
His father took off his glasses and began to wipe them. "Why, yes. Since she's improving so much, we think that she will reach a point when she will no longer need your services. Mrs. Liddell has been recommended you to many of her friends so finding more work shouldn't be difficult."
"No longer needing my services…"
His whole body suddenly felt numb. The words on the page began to blur, and he could scarcely make them out anymore.
"Now there is no reason for the long face." His father roughly patted him on the shoulder. "I know you and Alice have gotten quite close the past weeks, but I'm sure you can still visit her. Unless…" His father leant down with a sly look on his face. "Unless you have come to harbor affections for one of the Liddells?"
Henry scoffed and waved the old man off. "Now you're just being dramatic. I am not interested in them like that. We are just merely friends. That is all."
"Alright." His father straightened out his back, looking unconvinced. "I'll leave you to your reading. Just keep in mind you have a few more sessions left. Good day, Henry."
Then his father left him in his solitude, allowing him to think. He shut the book closed and leant back into the posh chair, groaning loudly.
Henry knew this day would come. With Alice's intelligence, she would not require his service for very long. It was only a matter of time until he would have to move on and tutor someone else. It was the part of the job, a part he once thought he understood.
Never had he expected it to come so soon. Not when he and Alice became such good friends. Not when he had finally met her.
At the thought, Henry glanced down and stared at the title, his fingers tracing over the faded letters of Wuthering Heights.
"Mother told me this is our last session together."
At the announcement, Henry glanced up. Alice's gaze remained fixated on her paper, her pencil twirling around her fingers.
He attempted to keep his voice light. "Y… yeah. It is. This is the first time I tutored someone who improved so quickly. It's almost like you didn't need me in the first place." Silence. Alice's frown seemed to deepen. He struggled to think of something to say. "Well, it truly was nice getting to know you and your family. You all treated me very nicely."
"You don't have to go."
"I think I do. I mean. I have to go looking for a new job! I'm sure I can still visit and…"
"I don't want you to go."
The pencil stilled in her hand. Henry watched as red crept up her neck and touch her cheeks.
Henry straightened himself in his seat. "A… Alice?"
"I… I don't want you to go, Henry. Th… The truth is…" She swallowed a large lump and glanced up at him. "The truth is I like you. I really like you."
Alice kept staring at him bashfully, bright green eyes never leaving his. Henry struggled to keep his jaw from dropping. He could only blink, his mouth refusing to cooperate.
"How do you feel about me?"
"Well I admit I do like you too, b..."
"Then please go out with me!"
At that suggestion, Henry almost choked. He studied her face for a moment, half expecting her to say she was just joking and laugh. Her face, though rosy red with embarrassment, was firm and resolute.
He swallowed hard, a nervous chill racing up his spine. She was serious.
He quickly glanced down at the table, desperately buying time to figure out what he should do. He had never thought of Alice in that manner, let alone realized she had liked him in that way. What was he to do? How did he feel about her?
As he looked at that face, looking at him do sweetly, so sincerely, he released a sigh.
What could be the harm?
"Yes. I will go out with you."
His times with Alice felt like a whirlwind. Before he knew it, one date multiplied into two then to five then to who knows how many.
He did like Alice. She was a fun, energetic girl who he enjoyed being around. His parents nearly jumped for joy when they discovered he got a girlfriend. Her parents were happy and liked him a lot for their daughter. He hoped Lorina liked him too.
At such a strange thought, he mentally smacked himself.
"It was a great idea to get these flowers for Mother and Lorina." Alice skipped through the door, carrying a rose and a crown of daisies.
Henry followed suit, closing the door behind him with his own flower in hand. "Well, it only seemed right, especially since neither could join us for our picnic." At the thought he frowned, idly turning the flower around his fingers. "So... How are they... Your mother and Lorina?"
Alice turned to face him, a frown appearing on her own lips. "Well Lorina has been doing better than our mother. The doctor ordered both to rest in fear that their conditions would worsen." Her gaze fell down to the flowers in her hand. "It's kind of scary. One moment Mother was fine and in the next she's bedridden for days. Then there's Lorina, and I always worry about her..."
She couldn't speak any more. She sniffled and roughly rubbed her glassy eyes. Henry immediately stepped forward and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. Alice looked down at his hand and up back at him with an appreciative grin.
"Well that's enough of that." She sniffed once more and quickly brightened up. "I'm sure everything will turn out just fine! Won't it?"
Henry followed behind her, his gaze fixated on the red blossom in his hand. He didn't know why the news troubled him. He heard before that both women were poor in health, but still it came as such as such a shock. He never realized that such a compassionate woman like her mother was so terribly ill. He could not believe that Lorina, a girl with such bright eyes, with such a kind smile, could be struck with such a horrible sickness.
The thought left him so distraught that he barely noticed where they were going, failing to hear Alice declare she was going off somewhere to retrieve something.
He shook his head and refocused himself, his eyes coming into contact with a certain brunette.
He stood frozen in his place, his heart aching to see Lorina look so sad, watching her fingers absently toy with the string of her stitching. He remained perfectly silent, unsure what to say or do to help her situation.
His mouth seemed to act on its own, blurting the first thing that came to mind.
"Are you really not well?"
Surprised, Lorina snapped her head up and met his gaze, her glassy green eyes like morning dew on his flower's leaves.
She dismally shook her head. "We just went to the doctor's office the other day, and there doesn't seem to be any improvements in my condition." She paused for a considerable moment. Her hands released her stitching and gripped the fabric of her dress, her voice dropping a disturbing octave. "It's just… getting hard now to pretend I'm okay lately. I'm worried about the day when I can't pretend anymore. I don't want Alice to worry even more because Mother isn't fairing any better." Lorina then came to the realization she was rambling and dropped her gaze in embarrassment. "Oh dear… I'm so very sorry. I don't mean to bother you with my troubles. Maybe you should go see…?"
Before she could say any more, Henry pushed the flower in front of her face.
"I found it while we were in the meadows and thought you'd like it. I hoped it would make you feel better since you were unable to join us," he said quickly, surprised by his own impulsiveness. He added, "And don't worry. You don't have to keep pretending and go through this alone. Your parents are there for you, Alice is there for you… even I am there for you."
She released a low gasp. Henry mentally kicked himself. What the heck got into him? Never once had he ever acted so stupidly. Shoving a flower in her face? Rambling like an idiot? He barely resisted the urge to slam his head against the wall because he was acting like such a dunce. He knew he was bad at comforting girls, but never this bad. He braced himself, readying for her to yell at him for his stupidity.
It surprised him when he felt her take the flower from out of his hands.
"T...thank you," Lorina mumbled under her breath. "I truly appreciate it."
She kept her gaze focused on the flower and inhaled its sweet scent.
At that moment, he felt a strong need to her and wrap his arms around her. He wanted to do anything to bring that smile to her face.
He did not move, could not move. Somewhere in him, he knew that he was not in the position to do so.
"Hey, Henry, Lorina! I got lemonade!" Henry took a step away from Lorina when Alice arrived. She was balancing three glasses on a tray, her countenance smiling, yet stiff. He cringed away from her, feeling the strangest need to apologize.
'What? Why apologize? I didn't do anything wrong.'
Still, he could not help feel this guilty feeling curling in his stomach or noticing Lorina evading his gaze.
Alice distributed the drinks, her eyes darting between him and his sister curiously.
"Well, we should've going to see Mother!" Alice hooked her arms tightly around his, so tight he feared that it would snap right off. "We'll leave you to rest, onee-san. I hope we're not bothering you."
Lorina meekly shook her head and uttered a quiet goodbye as they walked away.
'I am dating Alice,' he reminded himself, looking down at the girl holding onto him. 'I am dating Alice right now.'
He kept repeating this to himself for the remainder of their walk, stamping down this strange sensation in his heart for Lorina.
A grieving couple stepped aside to allow him into the room. His eyes darted, searching everywhere for Alice. He could hardly imagine how she felt after her mother's death. He wouldn't even know since he hasn't even talked to her throughout the entire ceremony.
She had stood there quietly, not uttering a word, staring blankly at her mother's grave. At first, he accepted the silence, partially because he was terrified of saying stupid and offending her.
Now that was enough. He needed to man up, be a good boyfriend, and comfort her already.
Too bad for him, comforting her was harder than he expected.
At the thought, Henry sighed deeply and looked around, for a certain brunette.
He finally found her.
"Alice!" He waved his hand. She made no indication of hearing or seeing him. Her gaze remained fixated on this one room. "Hey! Alice!"
He drew closer to her, waving his hand wildly to get her attention.
Before he could reach her, she rushed off once again, diving back into the crowd.
He cursed under his breath, wondering why the heck she kept running away. He knew he should go after her, keep running after her until he finally got her.
Something kept him rooted in his place. He stood directly at the doorway, of the room Alice was staring into before she ran off. He turned his head and peered inside.
His heart twisted in his chest as he stared at the crying girl inside.
Before he knew it, he moved closer and stood directly over her. He wanted to reach out and wipe the tears from her face, to push a long curl behind her ears so he could properly see her face.
He did not move. He stood completely still.
She snapped her head off, her eyes expectant and hopeful. Her eyes widened, staring at Henry in surprise. Their gazes locked. They remained silent.
Soon all his restraints disappeared. He couldn't help himself. Before he knew it, he wrapped his arms tightly around hers.
He knew that was the best he could do. Just hold her as she cried into his shoulder. For some reason he felt that was enough. It just felt so right.
For that moment he let himself forget everything as he held Lorina tightly in his arms, chasing away her cold skin with his warmth, not realizing that someone else was watching right from the doorway.
"Oh you're here, Mr. Tutor," said Lorina. Henry entered the door with his hands behind his back, nodding his head as greeting. "Well I'm sorry, but Alice isn't here at the moment."
He groaned. "Oh really? Darn! I knew I should have called before I came over."
Lorina resisted the urge to smile. "Well, since you came from so far, you can stay here for a while? Alice should be home soon."
"Don't mind if I do, Miss Lorina."
That was it. She couldn't hold back the smile any longer as she led him inside.
Henry broke into a smile as well, almost laughing at the situation.
The exchange itself was merely a formality. After several weeks, it became a predictable process. A quick exchange between him and Lorina and an invitation to come inside to wait because he coincidentally missed Alice.
Emphasis on coincidentally.
He wasn't avoiding Alice or coming when he was sure she wasn't home. There were a few times when he came over and she was there to greet him, and they spent time with one another as per usual.
Still Lady Luck must have held something against him because he seemed to miss her more often than not. Hanging out with Lorina was a nice consolation though.
"Well since Alice isn't here, I'll show you first." He plopped himself beside her, eyes glittering his excitement. "What I have here is something so great that you won't believe how great it is."
"I hope it isn't Julius Caesar, and you want to discuss again why Brutus is such a gullible dunce."
"Brutus is a valiant tragic hero, but that's beside the point." Henry took a deep breath. "Here, check this out!"
He revealed what was behind his back, earning an appreciative gasp.
"Wow, such a pretty flower!" She leaned forward and took the flowers into her hands, touching the delicate, purple petals. "What kind of flowers are these?"
"Orchids. I have been growing quite a few of them, but these turned out the best." His chest swelled with pride, admiring the vibrancy of the flowers.
Her brow arched. "Oh. I never knew Mr. Tutor was good with books and plants."
"Yeah. It's sort of a secret hobby of mine," he admitted, almost abashed.
She inclined her head slightly, looking at him with scrunched brows. "Secret? Why's that?"
He exhaled sharply and sunk back into the seat, staring absently at the ceiling. "Well, my father never approved of it. He says growing flowers is a woman's hobby and not a man like me. So I keep the flower growing a secret."
"That's a shame. You shouldn't hide it, especially if it's something that you love," she mumbled.
Noticing her sad expression, he only smiled and knocked her lightly on the arm. "Hey that's nothing to get upset over! It's not really that big of a deal. I'm happy that I was able to show you my favorite flowers!"
"Oh? So these are your favorite? Whys that?"
He leaned forward, running his fingertips along the purple petals. "It's because something this beautiful is very hard to grow. If you don't know how to take care of them they could die. I like them because they are a fragile kind of beauty."
His muscles tightened, suddenly overly conscious of their proximity. He slowly raised his head. Both of them were breathless, their faces inches apart.
Then he was struck with such a strong need. As he looked at those pink petals part, he felt the desire to lean forward and feel them on his own lips.
Before he could lean forward, watching as her lids fluttered to a close, there was a sound.
"Lorina, I'm home!"
The spell was broken. Lorina and Henry gasped and immediately separated, move to the very edges of the couch.
Upon entering the room, Alice broke into a smile. "Henry, you're here! I didn't know you were coming!"
"Yeah. I wanted to surprise you," he said, willing himself to remain calm and hoping he didn't look as nervous as he felt.
"And you've been keeping Lorina company! Aw, that's so..." Alice trailed off. Lorina looked almost pale, her hands shaking. She settled beside her older sister, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Onee-san, are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just I suddenly feel a little... dizzy."
Henry nearly shot out of his seat at such an announcement. "Alice, I'll..."
"I got this!" Alice helped Lorina out of her seat, wrapping her arms around her as support. "I'm taking Lorina back into her room. I'll be back, okay?"
He forced himself to remain in his seat and limply nod his head, watching the two girls leave the room. He picked the orchids up from the couch and studied them. Perhaps it was the lighting, but the petals seemed to be paler, almost wilting in his hands.
"A fragile beauty indeed..."
He looked back up, watching a glimpse of his orchid exiting the room, disappearing in a swirl of purple.
"I just have to a grab a few things. We'll leave in a few minutes!" he had heard Alice say and his head bobbed in understanding. To kill time, he wandered aimlessly around the house, walking towards no particular direction.
Or so he thought.
Henry paused in vague surprise at the doorway of one sick girl. He leaned against the frame and frowned, studying Lorina's sickly disposition.
"May I come in?"
Lorina turned her gaze up, her mouth parting slightly at his arrival.
"O… of course. Please, come in."
He nodded his head in thanks and entered her room, standing by her bedside. Both figures merely stared at each, remaining in a state of awkward silence.
Just what the heck was he doing there? He should be waiting for Alice. She could be done at any moment. Not wandering around. Not going to visit Lorina.
Still, why did he feel drawn here?
Her voice snapped him out of his daze. "I thought you and Alice were going today for a picnic."
"Alice is still preparing a few last minute supplies. I heard you aren't joining us today so I decided to check up on you in the meantime," he replied, his eyes never leaving her for a moment.
Honestly, why was he so drawn to her? Sure, she was definitely unlike any girls he had met. She was intelligent and witty, capable of holding her own in verbal combat. They had so much in common and got along so well.
Then again, he got along well with Alice too.
Lorina shifted restlessly under his gaze, twisting the covers of her blanket in her hands. "Y… yes. Sadly, I'm not feeling well right now. I urged Alice to go along anyway to enjoy a day with her boyfriend after all."
Such emphasis brought him back down to reality.
"Yes… I am, aren't I?" he mused under his breath, his face unreadable.
He never regretted agreeing to date Alice. Being with her was like bring around the blue passion flowers his mother grew - vibrant, full of life, drawing his attention with her energy and beauty.
When he spent time with Lorina, it was different. Instead of time racing, everything seemed to freeze in place. He would find himself completely mesmerized by her, entranced by every little movement, by each word that passed through her delicate, pink lips. He felt spellbound by her presence and captivated like the orchids he grows at home.
'You shouldn't hide it, especially if it's something that you love.'
Those words seemed to unlock something deep inside, annointing him with new insights he never known before. He understood his feelings exactly.
"I don't think I can stand this anymore."
"Huh, what do you…?"
Free from his restraints, ruled now by his impulses, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers, sinking his fingers into her soft curls. He felt his being nearly explode with such warmth when she kissed him back, her dainty fingers gripping his collar tightly. He was intoxicated, he was relieved, he was the happiest he had ever been in his entire life.
When he felt a pressure against his chest, Henry backed off. Lorina stared at him, her breathing heavy. "W… what are you doing?"
"I'm sorry, Lorina, but I just couldn't help myself. I have been fighting this feeling for far too long, and I can't hold it in anymore. I was so misguided…" He paused for a long moment.
Kissing Alice may be pleasurable, but kissing Lorina had felt so right, like her lips were meant to fit his, like their bodies were molded perfectly for each other. At that moment, everything fell into perspective.
He stood a little taller and said firmly, "I don't love Alice."
She released an inaudible gasp, her eyes widening a fraction of an inch. He swallowed a lump in his throat. There was no turning back now.
Cupping her face between in hands, he allowed the words to flow through him, "The one I love… is you, Lorina. You're everything I've ever dreamed of. You're intelligent, beautiful, graceful… you're simply amazing."
He watched as he face shifted from shock to happiness and finally to a conflicted sadness. Her eyes suddenly became glassy, droplets streaming down her face.
"N… no! No, that's just not right! You're not supposed to love me or tell me that! My sister loves you, and she's more important to me than anything else."
"I know, but I cannot deny how I truly feel any longer." Lorina persisted to sob, shaking her head. "He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. You remember that from Wuthering Heights, don't you? That is exactly how I feel for you. You are my Catherine, and I am your Heathcliff. I have no business being with Alice when my heart clearly belongs to you. You are my perfect match, my soul mate." His heart began to ache watching her cry, her tears nearly burning through his flesh. "Tell me that you truly don't love me as much as I love you. If you say that much, I will leave you alone. Just say those words and you won't hear from me ever again."
Everything fell into a heavy silence. Lorina stopped crying, considering his question carefully. He held his breath. Watery green transcended to meet his expectant eyes.
His heart seemed to beat faster in his chest. He nearly ceased breathing as he waited for her reply.
Soon, she opened her mouth, answering in a nearly inaudible voice, "I can't… if I say that than I would be uttering the greatest untruth of my life."
At that moment, his heart exploded. A smile lit up his face.
'She… actually feels the same way as me!'
Before he could reply, wrap his arms tightly around her, a stifled whimper sounded in the air. All euphoria died, turning into a frozen dread. Slowly, they both turned towards the doorway.
Standing at the doorway was Alice Liddell, pools of tears slowly forming in her eyes.
He suddenly felt numb inside, cold ice striking his heart. He stepped away from Lorina, staring at the pain and betrayal piercing through her eyes.
"Oh my god… Alice, this isn't what you think…"
But Alice didn't hear her sister speak. He barely heard her say a word. The moment he saw Alice rush off he dashed after her.
"Alice!" Still she kept running, refusing to stop and look at him. He picked up his pace and reached out to grab her wrist. "Alice, stop! We need to…"
"Don't touch me!" Alice snatched her arm out of his grasp. He halted in his place, his stomach twisting painfully at her angry glare. "Was my sister the one you were really after? Did you date me to get to her, Henry? Huh?"
"No. No! I never meant for things to turn out like this." He was tongue-tied, not sure what he can say that will fix this situation, if he can even fix this situation. "I really do like you, Alice, it's just…"
He sighed heavily, running his fingers through his black locks.
Alice only glared at him, her eyes still puffy with tears. "Well, why don't you tell me this? Who do you really love? Me or Lorina?"
She crossed her arms across her chest as she waited for a reply. He lost all will to speak, dropping his gaze to his shoes. He knew the answer to that question.
Unfortunately, so did Alice.
With one final, angry scream, Alice slapped him squarely on the face. "That's it! We're through! Never show your face here again!"
He swore that no one's life sucked more than his did at that moment.
After the debacle at the Liddell's house, he made it his mission to avoid the residents and the house in general. His parents were disappointed to hear the break up, but never questioned what happened. Not that Henry could even begin to explain how badly he screwed things up.
'How could I be so stupid?'
Nothing could make things better. He could not focus on his reading, the words blurring and escaping him. Everything seemed to remind him of his time tutoring Alice, of his time with Lorina.
To make matters even worse, his orchids were even dying.
He sighed heavily and collapsed onto his chair as he studied at his group of flowers, flicking the drooping petals in futile hopes they would stay up. They would all plop unceremoniously back onto the table. He dropped his head into his arms and suppressed a loud groan. There could not be a person more pathetic than he probably looked at the moment.
'They probably hate me now…' Henry thought in the midst of his depression, quietly banging his head against the back of his seat. 'They probably want nothing to do with me.'
He could not imagine either of them wanting to even see him again, especially Lorina.
At the thought of the girl, his heart pounded painfully in his chest. It was unbearable not being able to see her again, especially without any closure.
'…one more time wouldn't hurt.' He immediately sat up from his seat. 'One more time to apologize. To see Lorina again.'
It seemed like a decent plan at the time, albeit a rather desperate one.
He scanned his row of dying flowers before settling on one that was still alive.
'One last time, and that's it. I swear.'
"Who are you?" a little girl said after she opened the door. Edith, he quickly realized.
With his orchids held tightly in his hands, he gathered his courage and asked, "Just an acquaintance of your two sisters. Are they here? I would like to have a word with them if you don't mind."
Edith's bright eyes dulled and dropped to stare a spot on her shoes.
"Well, now may not be a good time. Alice is currently indisposed at the moment," she answered quietly.
A chill raced through his spine, but he quickly waved it off. He was just being paranoid, he told himself. Nothing was wrong.
"Oh that's fine. How about Lorina? She wouldn't mind if I speak to her, would she?"
She snapped her head up. A frown curled at her lips and he brows knitted together. "What? You haven't heard, sir?"
"What is it? What happened? Is Lorina still okay? Did her sickness get worse?" Panic quickly rose up, causing his breath to become uneven, his hands to shake.
'Nothing's wrong with Lorina,' he assured, fighting back the dread, the fear. 'Nothing's wrong.'
Her frown deepened. "I'm sorry to tell you this, sir… but Lorina died this morning."
At that pronouncement, Henry felt the orchid slip right through his fingers, watching them wilt against the cold floor.
A/N Notes: Ah, I haven't written in a while so this was nice. Kind of long and winding, but nice to do. I'll probably kick myself later for the sucky and rusty writing.
So this story is in the point of view of Alice's tutor. I wanted to explore his character a bit because all we ever get was A) he looks like Blood and B) their completely different personality-wise. I hoped I captured the second part well enough. I forgot that he was compared with Blood to begin with when I was writing this so hopefully that a good sign?
Anyway, since I doubt we never got a name I made one up (Go Henry!).
Also the story parallels with my other story Days of Lorina. Not necessary to read, but kinda gives his perspective on those events.