Epilogue Part One

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"Until we have seen someone's darkness, we don't really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone's darkness, we really don't know what love is." - Marianne Williamson

"You look unwell, Ban."

Lorry remarked with concern as he walked into Tarleton's library. He watched as the colonel stared languidly off into the roaring fire that attempted to ward off the chill from the winter storm raging outside. Setting down the stack of financial statements he had brought to go over with his friend and employer, Lorry rang for tea to be brought down to them and took a seat across from Tarleton.

"It's nothing a little bit of light-hearted conversation with a good friend can't solve." Tarleton smiled wearily.

"No, it's more than that, isn't it, Ban? I know you and this is not the first time I've come to call and found you staring off like that, your face just barely contorted with pain. Since November, as I can I recall, you have been far from your normal, active self. Has something happened? Is your mother unwell?"

"No, no." Tarleton dismissed his friend's concern for him. "It's nothing, I assure you. I have just never been a fan of the cold weather is all."

"Ha! An army officer of your stamina afraid of a little chill? I should sooner believe that fish despised the water."

"Enough about me, can't we bring up something more pleasant? Your fiancee, Miss Randolph, how is she?" Tarleton threw himself upon the new subject hoping that once he got going, his friend might talk for hours about the women he was so devotedly in love with. But Lorry was still quite young and inherently curious about everything, especially that which concerned a friend.

"Is this about Grace?"

Silence pervaded the room as soon as Lorry spoke until all that was perceptible was the crackling of the fire in the hearth and the whistling of the storm raging outside. Tarleton sighed, fingering absentmindedly the buttons on his waistcoat jacket.

"Do you see this? These fine clothes, this expansive estate and my financial prosperity, I try to derive some satisfaction from them but always seem to find myself in a worse state of melancholy than before. Yes, I must admit that I was more cheerful this past summer than I have been since my youth, but as time goes on, I cannot help but find more meaninglessness in the good fortune I have received. I am not ungrateful, not for any of it, but I am lonely, James."

"But you have me, Ban, and my fiancée Sophia."

"Yes, yes, I know, but soon you two will be married and with children, parading about with your own circle of married friends and shall have no more need for the company of an old bachelor like me."

"Ah, now I see it." Lorry smiled, convinced that he had come to the heart of his friend's cause of despair.

"You need a wife."

"I fear that that is both my answer and my doom. I want a wife, yes, but I cannot seem to cease loving a woman I know that I cannot have."

"So it is Grace, then."

"Yes." Tarleton groaned in defeat.

"And how do you know with such certainty that you can never have her?"

Tarleton's eyes went wide, stunned that his friend Lorry, who had been there with him during the war when Grace was his prisoner, could with such ease pose a question he already well knew the answer to.

"Because I kidnapped her and made her life a living hell when all she wanted was a peaceful existence. I was unjust and unkind in every way imaginable to her."

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