Octavian remembered that morning with Elizabeth well.
The captain had made introductions and excused himself; leaving the two alone. He had been a nervous wreck trying to figure out how to politely interact with her when interaction with her was forbidden. Add to that the worry of a mysterious illness and the betrayal of his vocal chords and you’re left with an absolute mess of a man.
And then she spoke.
She had an angelic voice to match her appearance. Octavian had been awestruck. She told him of her schooling and how much she loved it.
She loved to read and write and learn. She was intelligent, open and honest; which at the time, was a rarity.
Women still weren’t allowed an education back then. In order to have one, a woman would have to rely on the men in her life to provide it. Luckily, Elizabeth had a father who believed everyone not only had a right to an education but that it should be required.
“Too much ignorance in the world.” He was known to say.
The men hadn’t even flinched when the captain had mentioned a daughter that went to school. They all agreed entirely with his stance on education. The topic had arisen one night after a provision meeting in a foreign battlefield.
They were in a strange place that they couldn’t wait to leave; everything there had been completely different than to what they were accustomed.
One of those things being education policy; everyone there was educated from an early age. That included the women and the poor.
Octavian smiled fondly at the memory now. They had been ahead of the times; more modern than other parts of the world. When the time came for them to leave, they did so begrudgingly.
That place also had no witch hunts. They were peaceful people and the men had grown fond of them and their homeland.
As he sat, listening to Elizabeth talk about all the things she had learned from the tutor she practically lived with, Octavian thought of that foreign place. If people here found out about her education, she might be labelled a witch. In that land, she would be given awards.
Octavian had become worried for her. She was an intelligent woman and he was in awe of her. The rest of the world would fear her and try to hurt her. He had suddenly realized why the captain kept his daughter a secret.
His fear for her made him feel a fierce need to protect her. It also made his voice and vocabulary return with sudden urgency.
He had spent the duration of their first conversation learning everything he could about her; especially all of the places she frequented. He had made a mental map of the locations and specific directions as she spoke.
He was familiar with most of the areas and the kinds of people in and around them. A couple of them concerned him but when he advised her to keep her distance from those places she had laughed and told him he sounded like her father.
He had taken it as a compliment but when he thanked her she only laughed harder.
Octavian found himself laughing too, despite not finding the humor in their words. Her laugh was more than contagious. It held some enchantment that made him feel proud to be responsible for it.
As the days passed, Octavian learned that the captain had intentionally sent the other men ahead to give him time with Elizabeth.
He told Octavian that he had been right behind her on the stairs that first morning; he had laughed when he added, “not that you noticed”.
He had seen them fall for each other immediately. He also confessed that the more thought he put into it, the more sense it made. He decided that since his daughter would inevitably marry one day, Octavian could be a good husband for her; with proper training, of course.
The captain had taken it upon himself to ‘train’ Octavian to be the husband Elizabeth deserved; but seeing them together at the table that morning had convinced him that training wouldn’t be necessary after all.
In the present, Octavian’s smile grew wider at the fondness of his memories of the captain and his daughter. They had become his family and he still loved them fiercely.
The captain and Octavian had agreed that he would court Elizabeth once their campaign ended. Then they would become engaged and married soon after.
They had gone back into the fray like father and son.
Octavian’s smile faded as he recalled his last conversation with his future father-in-law. The captain had confessed that he had an incurable illness that would eventually cause his death. He said he had spent the last year keeping the diagnoses to his self and he expected Octavian to keep quiet about it too.
He had been severely concerned about Elizabeth’s life without him to look after her but since he didn’t have to worry over that any more, he wanted to be as much a part of their future as he could.
He didn’t think he would live long enough to see the wedding or the birth of his first grandchild but he didn’t want his death to hinder their plans.
Octavian had bluntly told him that his death would absolutely hinder their plans and that the only solution was to marry Elizabeth as soon as they returned.
The captain had refused at first, not wanting to rush them or alert Elizabeth to the reason for rushing things.
Octavian had leaned in conspiratorially and whispered “Maybe my eagerness to have her as my wife due to the utter incompleteness of my heart in her absence has convinced you to allow us to expedite our plans a bit…”
Captain had laughed and slapped his hand on Octavian’s shoulder before clasping it and giving him a shake.
“You, my boy, are a fine son to have indeed.”
The words still echoed in Octavian’s mind today. He had never felt that kind of pride in himself before, not even with his own father.
Captain Giovanni Romano was a man who would be forever missed.
*End of Story 6-Part 3 *
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