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   Chapter 17 Old Memories, New Hopes

The Enchanted Night By LEIGH COBBETT Characters: 8489

Updated: 2019-04-20 00:20

"You have no right to say no. As the daughter of Qin family, you should be thinking about how to serve the family well. This marriage is a step forward for all of us. Whether you want to marry or not is not up to you!"

"Stop being selfish! Marrying into the Tang family is not a sacrifice."

"You must marry!"

"Cassandra, I'm so sorry. Forgive me, but I have no choice..."

Cassandra shot up from her bed, her body covered in damp sweat. The nightmares had come back - old, painful, memories that held the burn of words. She thought she could feel her mother's wet tears and hear the haunting voice of her apology echo in the room and reach her. She took deep breaths, trying to steady her breathing. Lying back down on her bed, she wrapped the quilt around her, as if it gathered her own sufferings as well.

Prompted by her earlier remembrances and unable to sleep, she let herself surrender to memories from farther back. Four years ago, it was supposed to be a time of hope. She was a senior high school student who was about to graduate. The future ahead of her was painted in bright warm colors. However, life isn't always what one likes, is it? That year, the Qin family suffered huge business failures. It was teetering at the edge of closing down when projects failed, one after another.

Soon, their business partners had terminated agreements, and the banks refused to grant them loans. The company was close to biting the dust, and it was as if the world was taking her future away piece by piece. It was at this time of crisis that the Tang family appeared like a last thread of hope, offering a helping hand to the Qin family.

But of course, it came with a price - her hand in marriage to the Tang family's son. In retrospect, the Tang family did not simply extend their hand as an act of graciousness. The two families had been intertwined in complicated relationships. To put it simply, the fall of the Qin family would have adverse, albeit indirect, damage to the Tang family's interests, so they could not just watch as they fell down and in turn pull them a few steps down as well. In the end, they figured out that marriage would be a simple way to deal with their complex positions.

Marriage would solidify the pact established between the two families, as other families sometimes did to gain a more favorable position. Finding no other alternatives, the Qin family grasped tightly at what seemed to be their last thread of hope for survival and agreed.

Cassandra was the cost of the sacrifice. At just 18 years old, she found herself in a strategic marriage with a man she had never met, and she was powerless to say otherwise.

She remembered how she had desperately tried to escape, rejecting the marriage and running away from home. At that time, she felt as if the world was playing a cruel joke. First, take away everything that she had, and then offer a sliver of hope at the cost of her freedom. She was determined to live her own life, but she could do nothing else when her weeping mother knelt in front of her and pleaded for her to agree. The image of her mother's tear-streaked face and trembling voice were still haunting her to this day. It was as if her heart was ripped from her chest, and with closed eyes, she faced her own despair to save her family from theirs.

Perhaps it was for the best, she thought that time.

The day of her wedding came. It was small and simple. Horace's original plan was to have a grand wedding, as was the tradition of their family, and of course to prove the Tang family's power. However, it was strongly opposed by his son, Lionel.

From Lionel's attitude, Cassandra could tell without any other indications that he was in the same boat as her - he was also forced into a marriage with a stranger for the sake of families. It was all so very ironic that such a happy event would bring two young people nothing but grief and loss.

On their wedding night, Lionel drowned his despair in alcohol and was dead drunk. He kicked the door of their wedding room open and staggered inside, grabbing Cassandra by her wedding dress and staring down at her. His eyes spilled out his disgust as he looked at her.

"Because of you, the woman I love le

ft me. You're no different from a prostitute, selling yourself for money. You think you won? You think you could be happy by marrying into my family?" He choked on a bitter, drunken laugh as he continued, "I will never touch you. I promise you, you will have a miserable life. You may be my wife on paper, but you'll never get anything from me!"

Cassandra was dumbfounded and hurt. She could almost feel the venom in his words, but a part of her also understood why he was acting this way. The marriage cost him his happiness, and he was now bound to her instead of the woman he loved. She could feel his anguish from his fingertips as he gripped her arm, ignoring that she was also a victim of the marriage.

With those words, Lionel pulled away from Cassandra, as if touching her skin burned him. Then, he slumped on the couch beside the bed and slept there.

Sleep evaded her that night, thinking of how unfair everything was-her family, his family, and even him. She felt as if she had already lost everything. She too, was a victim. Cassandra recalled his earlier words: "You think you won?" She waited for the morning, sitting still on the bed with her hands and feet as cold as ice. She had never known how cold the world could be.

Emotions crashed over Cassandra with the painful reminder of her memories, and finally, she succumbed to the tears she was keeping at bay. She wrapped the quilt tighter around her, letting out all the bitterness she harbored for years. She tried to think of the brighter times to cast light into the gloom she was feeling. A month after their wedding, her mother helped her request the Tang family to let her pursue her studies in Rome.

Those four years that followed were the happiest days in her life. She basked in the freedom of the present, pursuing her dreams and carving off her pain. It was as if the towering basilicas and the stained glass windows breathed new life into her, filling her life once more in warm colors.

But even as she was in bliss, she knew that she had a time limit, and that she had to go back eventually to the dreary reality of G city and the life she left behind there. After her graduation, she no longer had any reason or excuse to stay, and so, she painstakingly packed her bags and the four years, hoping to bring them along as she went back to face her past and the reality.

As dawn slowly painted the world in its soft light, the old memories dissolved into dust.

Cassandra took a deep breath, her pillow still wet with her tears, and she knew that she had to be strong and move forward. She felt the dampness on her pillow, and resolved not to let her tears go in vain.

The bright rays of the sun fell on the ground and warmed everything they touched. Gone was the girl from last night, scared of her own shadows, Cassandra faced the day with a determined smile on her face.

She started to prepare for her first day at work. She chose a well-fitting white lace shirt and a black knee-length sheath skirt, and tied her hair in a high ponytail, which made her look fresh and professional.

Inspecting herself in the mirror, she nodded at her own reflection approvingly and encouragingly. The Tang Group was a real estate company. Cassandra studied architecture in Rome, and she was especially good at designing. She had even won awards in various international design competitions.

Needless to say, she had received offers from several established companies even before she graduated. However, she rejected them all.

Her position as the wife of Tang family's son left her no choice but to go back to G City, so she could not accept offers from elsewhere. Despite feeling weighed down by this connection, she did not waver. She was going to make something of herself wherever she was.

Besides, taking aside her relationship with the Tang family, the Tang Group was actually a good place for her to start and demonstrate her capabilities. Gathering her courage, Cassandra decided to devote herself into her coming work with hope for a new start.

She was standing in front of the Tang Group' building. Taking a deep breath to cheer herself up, Cassandra walked inside with her shoulders squared and a bright smile on the face.

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