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“I warned you you’d catch it.”
Claire glanced at Dean, who was walking two steps behind.
“I’m better now.”
“Don’t lie to me. Why didn’t you go to the doctor’s office when the cold lasted so long?”
Dean remembered the bitter medicine, and had decided he’d rather power through this sickness rather than drink the foul concoction.
“You gave the cold to me.”
“I didn’t want to give it to you!”
Claire halted and shouted at him.
“I feel dizzy.”
Claire began to walk again, taking his hand with a helpless expression.
“Anyway, make sure you take your medicine today.”
“I don’t want to take the medicine. After you drank it, you made a terrible expression.”
“Of course it’s terrible…but drink it anyway!”
“Are you going to the shopping center this weekend?”
“This sick child isn’t going anywhere!”
Claire tapped Dean on the forehead as if she were scolding a toddler.
“’M not sick.”
Dean grabbed Claire’s hand that touched his forehead. She stepped back at the sudden heat in his eyes. At the same time, the grip on her hand tightened.
“I’m sure I’ll get better with the medicine.”
“Well, you still can’t go out anyway.”
“What if you get sick again?”
His eyes still looked a little glazed over, but his hoarse voice was filled with conviction. Claire chewed her lip in contemplation.
‘I mean, that would be…’
The idea of going to the shopping center together on a day off was tantamount to a date proposal at the Academy. There were stores where they could drink tea while listening to music and buy interesting things. Couple often went together. Of course, there were many that went as friends as well.
‘I don’t think Dean wants to go with me as a friend.’
Then that left dating. Eventually, Claire shook her head.
“You know why, Dean.”
“I won’t do anything, really! I really won’t do anything that big sister hates.”
Big sister. Claire never refused a request when he used those magical words. She adored it when Dean Crissis called her by that name. And…there was nothing he did that she didn’t like.
Claire tried to draw a smile, but a cold wind brushed her cheek as if to remind her it was winter. She didn’t want to go through this season more than anyone. In this bleak and cold atmosphere, she was forced to change so much. She would graduate and leave the last bit of her freedom in the Academy, and marry a man who was a womanizer.
There was a feeling she shouldn’t have realized.
It had to be broken, for the last time. So finely disintegrated that it could never come back.
“I already have permission to go out that day. I’m going to the capital.”
Claire answered in a harsh voice, then turned around and walked ahead.
“I’ll come with you, then.”
He begged Claire again and took her by the wrist, his face was filled with longing. He was probably aware that winter was short for him as well. Even then, what could they do? Indulge in each other for a time, and then what?
I had a good time. Thanks. Will you come to my wedding next week?
…She could only laugh. She wondered if that was what people were supposed to do.
Claire spoke with difficulty. She knew how cruel this sounded to him.
“I’m going to go look at it.”
She couldn’t meet his eyes, but she guessed that he was in shock. Claire took care not to let her complicated emotions rise to the surface.
Dean didn’t say a word. It was obvious why. Although Claire couldn’t say it properly, there was only one reason why she would go to the capital to look at a dress. It would be to look at the pure white bridal gown for the wedding.
“So this weekend…”
“Okay, I’m sorry.”
He interrupted her calmly. His voice was very different from what Claire imagined. Rather than hurt or pain, it sounded more like worry.
“I just wanted to be with you, so I pushed you, Claire.”
His warm, dry fingers swept her cheek.
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