Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Phoenix - Chapter Three

Chapter Three.

     “Father is dead,” announced Andre.

     Marcella looked up from her book; her face white with horror. What did he say??

     She felt her heart begin to pound and everything around her went hazy. All she could see was her brother in the doorway and all she could feel was the dread in her body. Marcella got up from her seat and walked toward her brother who was trying to compose himself as best as he could.

     “How did it happen?” she asked. This can’t be real! Please God, don’t take my father away as well!

      “He…fell on the side of the road. Something about his heart giving out…I really didn’t hear all the details, Marcy.”

     She could hear the pathetic cries of her stepmother down the hallway. Wailing on at how they were ruined. “What does she have to cry for?? She has money! I just lost both parents!

     “If we’re ruined then it’s her fault,” Marcella said bitterly, “All of those unnecessary items she always insisted on having.”

     “Marcy, now is not the time,” said Andre as he wiped her arm across his eyes, “Pull yourself together and get downstairs. The girls are going to need someone to keep them occupied.”

      Marcella was even more confused at Andre's intense reserve. He was treating her as if she should have no emotion or grief at all.

Why is he treating me like this? What happened to you, Andre? What happened to my family?

~ ~ ~

      If Father truly believed that he could blend these two very different families, then he was by all accounts a fool. Andre and Marcella met their soon to be new stepmother and stepsisters several weeks after Father had broke the news to them.

      Lady Ysobella was elegant in an extremely haughty and vain nature. She was clearly a woman who had been through extreme hardship and blamed everyone else around her for whatever she had endured. Her oldest daughter, Constance who was eleven (a year older than Marcella) wasn’t too different from her mother. Actually, give her a couple years and she would probably be worse.

      Even at her young age, Constance was breathtakingly beautiful. She had smooth ivory skin and a river of dark red hair that glistened in the sun. After Constance curtsied to Marcella she looked her stepsister over as if she was debating whether or not to buy her.

     “Why is your skin so dark?” she asked in a way that made her sound more innocent than rude.

     “Oh...” Marcella started, completely thrown off by what she had been asked, “I spend a good amount of time in the sun…it’s very beautiful here. You could hardly want to be trapped indoors all the time.”

      Constance raised her eyebrows and with one last lookover sauntered off to greet Andre. Marcella was in such disbelief of her first greeting to the girl she was supposed to accept as her sister. She watched as Constance went from a vain peacock of a little girl to showing the heirs and graces of a young lady as she chatted graciously to her new stepbrother. Andre didn’t seem to mind this at all nor did he seem to notice Constance’s rude comment toward Marcella.

      “And this one is Marguerite, but we call her Meg,” Lady Ysobella said as she gently pulled the hand of a small seven year old girl.
     “Mademoiselle,” said Marcella as she gave the girl a proper curtsy.

      Meg executed a rather weak curtsy that almost had her stumbling over and then looked Marcella in her eyes. Although the newcomer didn’t speak, Marcella could tell that Meg was nothing like her sister. There was fire inside of this girl, a spirit that was going to be difficult to rein in, a troublemaker that could be an ally or enemy.

     “She’s something of a handful,” remarked Constance to Andre in a sickly sweet nature that made Marcella almost nauseous.

     “Well, I understand,” Andre said, “Marcy has always been a handful.”

     “Oh, such a sweet name,” Constance said looking over at Marcella, “It’s much more fitting for a child. Marcella…just seems a little too grown up.”

     “Too grown up?” Marcella said, trying to keep her anger at bay, “You’re only one year older than me. I seriously doubt your experience of the world is any more advanced than mine.”

     “Age has absolutely nothing to do with “world experience” as you put it,” Constance said walking over to Marcella, “Let’s see, have you ever been outside of Vezelay?”

     “Well, no I haven’t,” Marcella admitted.

     “Can you dance, play any instruments, been introduced to nobility?”

     “No. I have not done any of those,” Marcella said, almost at a breaking point.

     “So, one might say that I do have more world experience,” finished Constance with a sly grin.

      Marcella was shaking inwardly with anger and humiliation and having Andre just stand and do nothing while Constance degraded her did not help at all. Now more than ever, she wished that Mother was here. Although, if Mother was actually here than they wouldn’t even be in this situation.

Be brave and good to people

Brave, yes. Good was going to have to wait.

     “You’re right,” said Marcella after a few seconds, “I’ve never been outside the city and I know nothing about nobility. So yes, you may say that you have more experience than I.

     Constance smirked. Her blue eyes were cold and hateful.

     “However,” Marcella continued, “I can ride horses, swim, plant herbs and roots and know how to make healing balms and remedies from them. I know how to read maps from all around the world; I can name every constellation in the sky, I know how to speak Italian and Persian, I know how to navigate my way through the forest, I can make my own dresses. My father is teaching me swordplay and I’m the only girl in the village that can read and write.

      The smirk on Constance’s face was wiped away and her complexion went from its flawless ivory to a red the color of her hair.

     “So, I would say, that you and I are about even when it comes to ‘experience,’ in any form of living,” said Marcella, “If I ever got lost in court, I’m sure you would be the first to tell me how it’s all done. And if you ever got lost in the world, don’t hesitate to ask for my help.”

     Constance glared at like she was a snake, but Marcella refused to be bullied in her own home.

     “Children,” came Father’s voice, “Let’s come inside and eat.”

     Constance grabbed her sister’s hand and dragged her inside, but not before Meg turned to face Marcella and gave her mischievous grin of approval.

~ ~ ~

      After the marriage and Ysobella and her girls moved in, Father tried to set up some familial structure. However, Constance almost seemed threatened by Marcella no matter what she did and Ysobella always found some fault with her. Whether it was the way her dress hung, how her hair was styled, how she sat at the table, the way she spoke to people.

     “I don’t know what it is they want from me,” Marcella said to Father one day, “I am trying, so very, very hard.”

     “According to your stepmother, you were very rude to Constance within minutes of meeting her.”

     “I was rude to her??” cried Marcella, “That was over six months ago and she was the one that was rude to me! Father she’s manipulating you!”

     “No, she’s not,” Father said, “I have been somewhat lax with your upbringing and maybe Ysobella…your stepmother really does want you to become the lady that her daughters will become. Don’t you wish to marry a good man and have a family?”

     “Yes, of course I do, but Father…” Marcella was almost in tears, she was tired of arguing and feeling so alone.

     “Nevermind,” said Marcella, “I’m sorry I bothered you.”

     “Marcy,” Father began, but she interrupted him.

     “I will try even harder to be the lady that my stepmother wants me to be.”

       She excused herself and walked out of her father’s office. In the last six months, Marcella had not received one kind word from her stepmother or from Constance. Andre kept to himself and father seemed to be working longer and was away much more than usual. Her perceptions about Meg had proven to be true. She was a troublemaker, but with hardly any deceit. It was more or less for attention from her mother who seemed more focused on Constance and creating the perfect lady in her daughter.

      While Ysobella hardly made it a secret how this quaint country life would be the death of her, Constance complained endlessly of the boredom and dirtiness of ‘these peasants.’ However, Meg thrived off of the country life. She actually spent a good deal of time with Andre and thankfully that kept her out of the house, but did nothing for Marcella who was confined there all day long. Marcy’s only retreat was in the attic looking through her mother’s trunk and dreaming of the dresses that would be made from the beautiful silk that Father bought her.

      When she wasn’t in the attic, Marcella found respite in helping the servants with work that went beyond her ordinary chores. She helped in the kitchen, washing dishes and preparing meals, helped with the laundry and mending, worked inside the stables caring for the horses, anything to get her away from her stepmother and stepsister. She did try and spend some time she could spare with Meg, who had a wicked sense of humor and no shortage of good pranks she enjoyed playing on people.

      Constance started taking advantage of the fact that Marcella did a great deal of housework and overtime started giving out small chores for her stepsister to do. From washing her dresses separate from the other laundry, cleaning her room and fetching small items for her. Ysobella saw no problem in this and believed that Marcella was a better servant than a lady.

      And so it went on like this for almost two years; Ysobella and Constance against Marcella, Father always working, Andre retreating deeper and deeper and little Meg only wanting someone to see and hear her.

      One day Father announced that he was going on another trip and asked what he could bring back for them. Ysobella and Constance both rattled off lists of items that included expensive cloth, silver, and whatever else they really couldn’t afford. Andre said to bring back books for him and Meg wanted a pet snake.
     “And what about you, my darling?” asked Father

      God knows, Marcella wanted him to take Ysobella and Constance to the far side of the world and leave them there; however, she made a more reasonable request.

     “Bring me back the first dove feather you see on your way there,” she said.

     “What?” Father said in confusion.

     “Well, you will have to carry it with you all the way to your destination and you will think of me every time you look at it. And you will already have it on your way back home. And that’s all that I really want. For you to come home.”

     “My dear child,” Father said as he took her in his arms.

      Marcy felt her tears trailing down her face and she couldn’t stop them. She didn’t want to.

     “Please don’t go,” she whispered.

     “Marcy, I will be back in eight weeks,” he said as he wiped away her tears.

     “That’s still too long, Father.”

     “Darling, I will always come back to you. You believe that don’t you?”

      Marcella nodded, but something about his leaving this time didn’t seem right. She couldn’t explain it, but a nagging feeling inside of her told her that things were only going to get worse.

     The next day, Father said his goodbyes to everyone and Marcella walked with him to the carriage.

     “Now, behave yourself especially with your stepmother and Constance,” he said.

     “You don’t have to remind me,” said Marcella, “If I stay out of their way, they may stay out of mine.”

      Father sighed. This was not how he wanted to say goodbye to his daughter. Yet, if he was really being honest with himself, he knew that Marcella had never been the problem. She was a victim of both stepmother and stepsister and he had allowed it by just assuming the Marcella would have the graces her own mother had to carry through.

     “Maybe child,” he started, “I have allowed your stepmother and Constance too much sway in this household.”

     Marcella looked up in surprise.

     “You are still my child by blood and you have been through just as much as they have. Your mother leaving, your…your sickness…”

     Marcella felt a cold chill travel up her spine, “They don’t know about that. Please tell me they know nothing about my sickness and what…I really am.”

      “You’re my daughter and that’s all they need to know,” Father assured her, “And anyways, that was years ago. You are in no danger and neither are they.”

     “It would be one more thing that they would use against me,” Marcella said.

     “Which is why things are going to change when I return home,” said Father.

     “Really??” Marcella asked in disbelief. Was Father actually taking her side for once?

     “Yes,” said Father as he climbed into the wagon, “Things are going to change around here between you and stepmother and stepsister. Can you hold out for eight more weeks?”

     “Yes, I can,” Marcella said. For the first time relief seemed to flow through her body.

     “Good,” he said as he stroked her hair, “I always believed that you had the makings to become your own kind of lady. Your stepmother is simply going to have to accept that.”

     “Thank you, Father,” Marcella said, “Please come home soon.”

     “I will,” he smiled, “With your dove feather.”

      As he rode off, Marcella actually did feel relief, but as he faded into the distance, the nagging feeling began to grow.

     She would never see him again.

~ ~ ~

      Marcella felt like she was in some sort of limbo. She couldn’t tell real from imaginary. She could hear disjointed voices, movements all around her, yet she couldn’t see faces. No point of reference to anchor herself to. She was completely alone.

      As she came to Constance and Meg’s room, the door was opened and Constance was in the corner brooding about something and certainly not caring that she had just lost her stepfather. Meg on the other hand was staring outside the window and she held something in her hand. When she turned to look at Marcella, there were tears streaming down her pretty face.

     “I’ve lost…another father,” she said in a choked voice.

     “He wasn’t really our father,” Constance snapped from her corner, causing Meg to drop her head and cry even harder.

     As much as Marcella would have loved to hit her in the face, she restrained herself and walked over to Meg. She wrapped her arms around her and held her tightly.

     “It’ll be all right,” she said. It was all she could say.

     “Will you promise not to leave me?” Meg whispered, “Please don’t leave me. You’re the only person here that I can depend on.”

     In spite of her grief, Marcella felt her heart lighten. She was needed; needed by Meg who couldn’t turn to her distant mother or idiot sister in her time of sadness.

     “I could never leave you, darling,” Marcella said, somehow reminding herself of her own mother.

     “Oh,” said Meg, “They brought this back and said it was for you.”

     In Meg’s hand was a perfectly white dove feather.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Poldark Delayed

     After getting through the finale season of Downton Abbey in the winter and enjoying another great run of Call The Midwife in the spring, my mom and I were looking forward to the PBS'summer lineup that we assumed was going to be season 2 of Poldark

Sadly that's not the case.

 Ross, Demelza and Elizabeth won't be returning until the fall due to delays in filming! It seems like I've been waiting forever! And seeing stills from Season 2 isn't helping either!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Royal Families: Crown Prince Frederik & Crown Princess Mary of Denmark

Frederik and Mary in 2004 and 2015
     My absolute favorite royal couple! Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark have a love story that is the stuff of modern day romance films. I first found out about them when I saw their wedding photos on the internet several weeks after their May wedding in 2004 (May 14th, to be exact). From that point on I have followed their early marriage and their growing family of four children.

      Before they met, Crown Prince Frederik had been a typical playboy, party prince who had no desire to take his royal duties as the crown prince (he actually got so out of control that the Danish people wanted his younger brother Joaquin to take the throne instead if him). Mary’s family was originally from Scotland, but moved to the tiny island of Tasmania where she and her older sisters and brother were born and raised. Mary grew up loving horses and sports; she went to college and became a real estate agent.

Frederik and Mary with their children
     After a several years of reckless antics, Frederik grew up and started taking his role of Denmark’s future king seriously. In 2000, he decided to hit the Sydney Olympics with his younger brother. Mary was an avid sports fan and flew to Sydney as well. They were then introduced through mutual friends…at a local bar. They exchanged numbers and really that was that. A year later, Mary moved to Denmark and got a job. The press soon caught on to the secret romance and Mary became the hottest news in Denmark. After several years of dating and speculation, it was announced in October of 2003, that Frederik and Mary planned on marrying.

      On May 14, 2004 after almost two months of festivities Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark wed Mary Elizabeth Donaldson of Australia in a beautiful spring wedding. A year later, Prince Christian was born and the line of succession was secured. In 2007, Princess Isabella was born and in 2011, unexpected twins Vincent and Josephine arrived. Like most royal couples, Frederik and Mary are devoted to charity work and international causes that they want to bring to the world’s attention.

     Frederik has made a name for himself for his work in military and environmental causes and Mary works tirelessly for women’s rights and the welfare of women and children all over the world. It’s not unusual to see both of them with at least one of their kids with them. Frederik and Mary remain one of the world’s most popular and well loved couples for their warm and friendly natures and how they have been brilliant representatives of Denmark’s history and future.

Wedding Day - May 14, 2004 --Waiting for Mary to arrive.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Character Sketch: Kenickie

     He’s handsome and charming as well as arrogant and reckless. Seventeen year old T-Bird greaser Kenickie holds the title of the most popular guy at Rydell High in the mid 1950’s. Every girl wants him and every guy wants to be him. Now in his senior year of high school, life is great for Kenickie. All he has to worry about is getting his dream car ready for the race at thunder road against the rival greaser gang, the Scorpions.

      Then along came Rizzo, the sassy brazen leader of the Pink Lady’s, who doesn’t waste time in getting into the back seat of Kenickie’s car. Soon, they become an item, until Kenickie insults her on a date (“A hickey from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card”) and Rizzo calls of the relationship. No hard loss for Kenickie though. He can just pick the next girl that’s dreaming to be with him.

      However, Kenickie’s teenage dream lifestyle comes to a screeching halt when he gets the news that Rizzo might be pregnant...with his child. By this point in the story we have gathered that Kenickie is an arrogant and self-centered teenager who lives off of adrenaline and sex. So, one would think that upon hearing this news, Kenickie would wave it off, deny that he’s possibly the father and tell Rizzo that she should deal with it. However, Kenickie does just the opposite. When he confronts Rizzo, he immediately offers to help her, even after she tells him that he may not be the father.

      And that’s when everything gets personal with Kenickie from that point on. After Kenickie and Rizzo broke up, Rizzo get back at him by going as his rival’s date to the Rydell dance. So now, this baby may be his, but it may also be the baby of his rival who Kenickie knows is a terrible person and never cared about Rizzo at all. Conflicted with guilt for leaving Rizzo and also with a sense of responsibility, Kenickie goes through an incredible coming of age story arch that isn’t seen in any of the other characters.

      By the time the story ends and out characters have graduated, Kenickie is a very different person. His hard hit with reality of how his reckless behavior wakes him up and made him realize that it’s not all about him. He goes from boy to man with an agenda to help Rizzo whether she wants it or not. Now while Rizzo holds her own share of the blame and doesn’t demand anything from her X, she feels that her own stand-offish nature and inability to see the good in others are her greatest downfalls.

      Although Rizzo’s pregnancy ends up being false alarm, the shock and fear of becoming teenage parents as well as not knowing who the father is, really molded Kenickie and Rizzo into admirable characters. Kenickie, especially as a greaser with a reputation to protect, was willing to risk everything to help a troubled girl that he had hurt. Although his story arch is a small one that gets lost in the film, there is no denying that Kenickie (more than Danny) really ended up as an unexpected hero when he took responsibility for his actions and began to live in the adult world.

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