Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Phoenix - Chapter Two


Chapter Two.
Three Years Later - 1185

     Over the years, the de Bourde family continued on with their day to day lives without the presence of the dearly missed wife, mother and mistress of the house. Marcella, now ten, grew with her mother’s words close to her heart. She was a happy child who loved reading, writing, horses, new dresses, swinging on her swing in the rain and trekking through the family woods with her brother. Andre, who was approaching thirteen, was all right as far as brothers (older or younger) were concerned. Actually, if Marcella was being honest, he was much better than most boys she knew.

     Andre was much like his father, independent and stubborn, but also generous and good natured. He dreamed of becoming a soldier, but knew that eventually he would become a merchant like his father. He wasn’t too depressed about it though. As a merchant, you traveled, made money and met important people. And that was what Andre wanted to do, leave home and see the world.

     Of course, Father had difficulty at first raising a high spirited son and a reserved daughter without the assistance of a loving mother, while also being gone for weeks or even months at a time, but he managed. And of course, he was not alone. There were the servants that managed the home and Reynard, the house steward, who he had complete trust in. Andre and Marcella were given a loving and safe home where they received high educations from their own father, who would bring back from his trips, books of history, art and languages, and maps of all of his travels.

     Eventually, Father and children, settled into comfortable routines of daily living that consisted of work, school, life on the estate, trips to town and, of course, church. For Father, church was a necessity, whether he was home or not. While Andre kept his feelings regarding God to himself, Marcella found herself denying the existence of a deity who didn’t have the capability to save her mother. If Marcella wanted to believe in something, then she had to see it. If she could no longer see her mother, then her mother was gone. If she could not see God, then God was not there. At only ten, Marcella only relied on the teachings of her well travelled father and the words of her mother.

     “Be brave and be good to people.”

     Marcella tried to be brave. When she was afraid of the dark or got lost in the woods or had to meet new people. Being brave wasn’t very hard, because she had Father and Andre. However, being good to people was much more difficult. Being good meant, holding your tongue when someone spoke out of turn to you or giving the last treat to someone else who didn’t get any or simply walking away from a confrontation.

     One rainy spring day, Marcella was on her swing that was hung from a cloistered area outside the house. Rain came in through the windowed areas and dripped through the slats of the wooden overhead. Slowly it started to soak her, but she didn’t care. She twisted herself up tightly and then let go. For a few seconds she was just a blur of red dress, long hair and the small sound of childish giggling. When she stopped she dug her bare feet into the mud and sighed with relief.

     Father is coming home today! She thought, I wonder what he will bring home with him! Soon Andre came down the stairs that led down from the house to the outside swing and told her that she needed to come inside, bathe and change for Father’s return.

~ ~ ~

     Father returned home later that evening and brought with him more books, maps and other gifts of his travels to England. While Marcella was paging through the new book she received, Father placed two large bundles in front of her.

     “You probably won’t be using these for a while, but I want you to have them now,” he said with a smile.

     Marcella put her book down and eagerly opened up the bundles. Inside were two bolts of brightly colored silk cloth, one was gold and the other a deep burgundy.

     “Oh Father!” Marcella exclaimed, “How beautiful! Thank you so much! You found this in England?”

     “From a Syrian merchant in England who was selling his country’s finest cloth,” Father explained, “When I saw the red and gold, it reminded me of the glorious sunrise on the morning you were born,” he smiled, “Yes, you came in with the sun and when I held you for the first time, we watched it together.”

     He bent down and gave her a small kiss on her forehead, not just out of love, but also to hide the pain in his eyes that he still harbored for the loss of his children’s beautiful mother.

     “The colors reminded me of the Phoenix; from the story you tell us,” Andre said as he ran his hand over the smooth cloth.

     “Oh, Father, do tell us that story!” said Marcella, “I haven’t heard it in so long and I have so missed your stories.”

     Father smiled as he stroked Marcella’s hair, “Another time, my pet. However, there is something I must speak to the both of you about; a matter that could have a great effect on all our lives.”

     Both children sat down in front of their father, eager and even a little frightened at whatever he was about to reveal to them.

     “Two years ago,” Father began, “I had the privilege of meeting a fine man, Lord le Bastone and his wife, Lady Ysobella. They have two girls; the oldest is close to Marcy’s age. Well, I have done much work for Lord le Bastone and he and I have…well had became very good friends.”

     “Had?” interrupted Andre, “Was there an issue?”

     “He died six months pass and before his death, he asked me to handle the financial welfare of his widow and two girls. In the last several months, I have become much better acquainted with Lady Ysobella as well as her daughters.” Father paused for a second and then went on, “Lady Ysobella is a lovely women, and her girls miss their father terribly-“

     Suddenly, Marcella had a sinking feeling in her stomach. Where was Father going with this? What did this family, most especially her and Andre, owe to this woman and her girls?

     “Children, I know you miss your mother and I miss her too, but I believe there is an opportunity to regain what has been lost in both of our families.”

     Everything was happening so fast and Marcella was having difficulty taking it all in.

     Andre, like always, was the first to speak, “So, for the last six months, you have been seeing a widow and playing temporary father to her girls and have completely left your own children in the dark? And you just expect us to accept the idea of a stranger coming into our lives to replace our mother?

     “Andre,” began Father, “That’s not how it’s been. I have simply been taking care of the finances for Lady le Bastone and she has been gracious enough to host me in her home when I pass through on my travels. Anything beyond that only exists in your head.”

     “Do you love her?” Marcella asked, unable to raise her eyes to him, “Do you love her like you loved Mother? Could you love another man’s children like your own?”

     “My darling, I still love your mother very much, but we are not meant to live on this earth wrapped in grief and sorrow. We must learn to live on even after death. Like the Phoenix,” he said with a smile, “Nothing, no not one thing, can ever stop-“

     “The Phoenix from rising,” Marcella finished. That was the final line of her father’s story that she loved so much. A simple story of life, death, sacrifice and hope. A story that was definitely much more interesting than anything she could have found in the Bible.

     “Why are just now telling us this?” Andre asked.

     “Because, Lady Ysobella has received a marriage proposal from a lord in England, but she doesn’t want to leave France. Also, she knows me better and knew that her husband trusted me as well. To say that this is short notice in an understatement-“
     “Of the century,” Andre said under his breath.

     “However,” Father continued, ignoring his belligerent son, “I believe that this arrangement between our families could work very well.”

     After few seconds of silence, Marcella asked, “When will we meet them?”

     “Hopefully in a fortnight,” Father said, “If everything works out well. I do want you children to be happy. Please, please, give these three ladies who have already suffered a great loss a chance. You know the pain of losing a parent and all I’m asking is that you extend some grace to others.”

     Andre let out a sigh, “All right. If you think we can be happy…together…be far from me to stand in the way.”

     “Thank you,” Father said, “Marcy?”

     “I…” she started, but she couldn’t form the words, because she literally didn’t know what to say.

     Then her mother’s words came, “Remember, always be brave and good to people.”

     “Be brave, be brave when new situations arise,” she thought, “Be good to people who have also lost and need to see goodness in others.”

     “I need to…put this cloth in the attic,” she finally said, “I can’t keep it in my room if I am to have two sisters sharing it with me.”

     Father smiled with relief, “Thank you, children. That you very much.”

     Andre rolled his eyes, still not happy about the whole ordeal, but he would get over it. He probably just didn’t like the idea of having more girls in the house. One little sister was enough.

     Marcella managed a small smile, but focused her attention on lifting the heavy bolts of cloth.

     “Don’t carry those,” Father said as he took one, “Andre, you take the other one and follow me to the attic."

~ ~ ~

     Andre and Marcella loved the estate attic. True it was usually dark and dusty, but what was stored on its shelves and in its corners always held fascination for the children. Old books, torn maps, portraits of relatives long dead, wooden chests, banners, shields and other such intrigues. The children had spent many a rainy day playing hide and seek due to the attic’s wonderful hiding places. The attic was their own private world where the two children were on an equal standing with each other.

     “Where do you want these?” Andre asked Marcella when they got to the top of the stairs.

     “A place where the moths won’t get to them,” said Father as he looked around, “And I know just where to put them.”

     He went to on old ornately decorated trunk; a trunk that both children knew very well. It had belonged to their mother; her dowry chest when she married father. Marcella had always loved going through the chest, but Father was insistent that she be very, careful with its contents. What lay inside were the only remains of their mother; all that hadn’t been burnt after she left.

     Several old dresses, beautifully sewn blankets, embroidered pillows, three necklaces that were made of silver beads and pearls and were carefully kept in an elegant metal box and Marcella’s favorite, a pair of delicate slippers that had real glass flowers sewn to on the sides, making the slippers appear that were made entirely from glass. Mother had worn them on her wedding day and that was the only time she ever wore them.

     While Father took everything out of the chest, Marcella carefully placed mother’s glass slippers on her feet. They were still a little too big, but they were beautiful. She imagined one day, she would wear them to her wedding or a ball with noblemen and ladies.

    " I’ll dance all night in them," she thought, "and my dress will be made from the silk father bought me! And a nobleman will fall in love with me and ask me to marry him and I’ll be a great lady"…

     “Marcy!” Andre broke into her thoughts by snapping his fingers in her face; his most aggravating tactic to get her attention.

     “What?” she asked, growing more annoyed with her brother as the evening wore on.

     “We need to put the shoes back,” Father said.

     “Oh, I see,” Marcy said as she took off her shoes and gave them to her brother.

     “They are stunning,” Andre remarked as he ran his finger over one of the glass flowers, “Where did mother get these?”

     “I had them made for her,” smiled Father, “She always loved flowers. She hoped that one day a daughter would wear them.”

     He wrapped them up, placed them on top and slowly shut the lid.

    “Now, I hope we don’t forget that lovely cloth is in there,” Father said as they walked down the attic stairs.

     “I won’t forget,” Marcella said, “I go through the trunk every couple of weeks." It’s a way…a way I can remember mother, when I start to miss her, she thought. And right now, with the idea of having a new mother in the near future, Marcella missed her own more than ever.

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