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Charles stared at his wife and remarked, "You have really changed, Autumn." He paused briefly, and then continued with his observation. "If it were the old Autumn, you would have asked to see Wendy immediately. You used to trust her so much and would have begged your grandfather to let her go. But now, your choice is completely different, and the change in you is so evident."

Autumn was eager to know what her husband thought. "But it's a good change for me, right?"

She had already felt the changes in herself.

For one, when Rachel had lost everything, she still convinced Roger to break up with her to further humiliate the woman. She justified her actions thinking there were just people who were like snakes that did not deserve sympathy, because they had a tendency to bite the lifesaver once they recovered.

And to her mind, Rachel was one such snake.

So, Autumn felt no guilt kicking her when she was already down.

Besides, she was really tired of Rachel's constant pestering.

Charles gave his wife a reassuring smile and said, "Honestly, I have to say the changes are very good."

And he added, "Now, I don't have to worry about you being taken advantage of by people because of your kindness."

He was actually referring to Wendy, who often took advantage of her daughter's unconditional love and trust.

During those times, he was wishing for Autumn to be a little more selfish just to protect herself.

While Autumn insisted Wendy and her fate were of no concern to her, she was haunted by nightmares about her mother. So she slept poorly, and dark shadows circled her eyes the next morning. She freshened up, but slumped in the living room waiting for Nancy to serve breakfast.

"Good morning, Autumn," Nancy greeted her brightly.

"There is soybean milk and porridge for breakfast. What will you be having?"

Still reeling from lack of sleep, Autumn had very little appetite and settled for a little soybean milk and two dumplings that she asked Nancy to prepare.

As she ate the fried dumplings, Autumn asked, "Why don't you prepare milk for me these days?"

Nancy was startled by the sudden question and a funny look flashed across her face. She regained her composure before replying, "Well, you didn't drink the milk I prepared for you a few days before your travel. And you didn't ask for it after you came back. So, I was thinking you didn't like it anymore. Now you want to have milk again?" she inquired.

Autumn nodded.

Then she explained, "I don't sleep well without drinking milk. So I think I will have it again every night."

Curious but not wanting to pry, Nancy remarked, "All right, I will prepare milk for you from tonight on.

By the way, how are the dumplings?"

Autumn gave a small smile and said, "They're delicious. Thank you."

After a few more minutes, she announced, "I am full now. Thank you. And I have to get to work. So goodbye."

Except for Gary, everyone went to work by noon, so Nancy didn't have much to do. But just as Autumn arrived at a restaurant where she was meeting Isla for lunch, she noticed a commotion in the street. Some burly men had blocked a woman's path and suddenly began dragging her away. Autumn caught a glimpse of the woman in distress and it appeared to be Nancy.

She tried to catch up with the group, but was not fast enough. By the time she got there, they were gone.

Autumn returned to the restaurant, sat down and kept looking outside. Isla, who had ordered, was puzzled at her friend's behavior.

"What's wrong, Autumn?" she asked while handing her the menu.

"I thought I saw someone I knew," she replied.

But it bothered her that the place where she saw the men and Nancy was suddenly cleared of people.

"Never mind," she said, thinking she had made a mistake.

Straightening herself, Autumn saw the huge diamond ring on Isla's finger.

"Isla… what is this?" she blurted out in excitement, lifting Isla's hand.

"Oh my God! Aron has asked you to marry him, hasn't he?" she nearly shrieked.

Isla lowered her head slightly, and then replied, "Yes!" When she looked up, Autumn noticed the radiance in her face.

"I almost freaked out. We were out on a date last night. He suddenly knelt down in front of me while everyone having dinner started to look at us. I was so embarrassed," Isla narrated.

Autumn could not help but smile.

"Embarrassed? Not touched by the gesture?" she teased.

Isla let out nervous laughter. "Of course I was touched, too. I had mixed feelings, you know…

But I was really speechless with his proposal. And the people around us kept encouraging me to accept, so I said yes!"

Isla kept thinking about the incredible evening and how excited she felt. She told Autumn that in her excitement, she hardly remembered how the ring got on her finger.

"That's wonderful! Congratulations, Isla," Autumn beamed at her friend.

It was so hard not to feel happy for Isla or share in her excitement. "So, have you set a date for the wedding yet?"

Isla shook her head but continued to smile.

"Not yet. It will have to be discussed between our families. I did tell my parents about the proposal. And they're supposed to sit down with Aron's grandparents in the next few days to talk about it. We'll decide on the wedding date then," she explained.

According to custom, it was the man's family that should go to the woman's home to discuss wedding arrangements. But since Aron's grandparents were already quite old, it was decided by Isla and her parents to go to Aron's house instead so the elders would not have to be inconvenienced.

"I better be the first to know when that wedding will be," Autumn demanded excitedly.

She was happy that people she cared about were having their turn at happiness by finding suitable partners. First Chris, now it was Isla's turn.

"Of course you'll be the first to know," Isla assured her.

Their orders arrived and Autumn and Isla ate and talked and enjoyed their time.

They had been through many challenges together, which only strengthened their bond as friends. It was heartening to know they continued to support one another.

With the Spring Festival coming, Charles came home early each day. And Autumn could not be happier. She felt life was getting better and their relationship more comfortable. Autumn invited Chris to go shopping with her for New Year's goods after dinner.

When Autumn got home, the first thing she saw was Nancy, her face all black and blue. Immediately concerned, she rushed to her and asked, "What happened, Nancy?"

Keeping her head down to hide her face, Nancy mumbled, "It's nothing."

She had thought of what to tell Autumn. "I fell down while buying vegetables.

Don't worry, it's nothing serious and it will get better in a few days," Nancy assured.
"Are you sure?" Autumn insisted. Nancy looked awful, she thought.

"I think you'd better see a doctor," Autumn said.

She was worried the injuries looked more serious than what Nancy claimed.
"Really, Autumn, I'm okay. Stop worrying," Nancy said.

She dodged the hand that Autumn reached out to check her face. "Dinner is ready. Go and wash your hands," Nancy ordered. She went to set the table.

As Nancy turned, Autumn stared at her back, recalling what she witnessed earlier at lunch.

She tried to imagine whether the woman was really Nancy.

Nancy had been the family's housekeeper for most of her life. If it was her that she had seen earlier, how could she be involved with those people, Autumn wondered.

As she was pondering, Charles entered the room, and gave his wife a warm hug. He noticed the worry on her face and asked, "What's the matter?"

You've been standing here for a while. What are you thinking about?"

Autumn wanted to share her thoughts with Charles but decided it was not appropriate. First, she wasn't even sure whether it was Nancy that she saw, and if it really was her, it was none of her business.

"I was waiting for you," she lied. "You seem to be a little late today."

Charles sighed.

"Well, it's the end of the year. And I have a pile of work to finish. Plus, I got stuck in traffic coming home," he answered.

Autumn pulled at him. "Come on, wash your hands so we can eat."

Then she added, "Oh, I'm going to buy fruits and snacks for the Spring Festival after dinner with Chris. You want to join us?"

Charles smiled but shook his head.

During dinner, Charles also noticed the bruises on Nancy's face and began inquiring as Autumn did. Nancy gave him the same answers. He frowned at them, unbelieving.

"Nancy if you're in trouble I want to know about it"


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