The Long Road - ‘The Summoning’
Copyright 2018 Cindy Brandner
(Just a small preface to this excerpt- this is part of Yevgena's story and the glimpse today is from when she's about seventeen years old. She's using a pan of water as a scrying glass, essentially, and hoping to summon someone to her aide, as she's in a bit of a crisis situation. That's just to give you a bit of context, before I plunk you into the centre of a scene).
Long ago, a travelling puppet show had stopped in our village, and I had begged my father to allow me to attend. He had taken me the second night of their performance and I had been wonderstruck with all of it. The puppeteers were Roma, and the tale their theatre told was of a young maid who left her family to travel the wider world, and how this had led to her tragic downfall. At first, I thought it was this I was seeing in the water, a memory coming up through the strange clouding in my vision—a caravan, painted in a shimmering crimson, with shutters of ocean blue and puffs of grey wool smoke coming from the chimney. Beside the caravan, a fire, like the one I’d seen so long ago in the puppet theatre—strips of scarlet silk, with threads of violet fluttering amongst them. And then the puppets, a man, a woman and a field all around them which ran down to a rippling sea. The field might have been a bolt of velvet, spread all about, the sea, wrinkled banners of silk, tufted with a spray of salt, glittering under a tip-tilty moon. And there she was—the Gypsy girl, with a long braid of black hair, clad in a flared skirt and a blouse that kept slipping from one shoulder. The other puppet seemed wrong though, he wasn’t the dark-haired *gadije* seducer from the show but a different sort altogether—golden hair like a prince in a fairy tale, and not a top-hatted rake at all. The girl puppet had something on her hip, a basket filled with tiny bits of plant—lichens and soft rich mosses, miniature mushrooms, both poison and edible. I peered more closely—not a girl, but a woman, long full grown, with lines on her face and a touch of silver-gilt in her hair.
The picture changed then, rolling quickly as it had that time with the crystal ball, giving me the same feeling of having been shaken, and this time the scene was of a field of gold, with a line of people, as tiny as ants—at least from where I hovered above them—curving their way through the landscape. The plains were so vast that it was like the people walked within a great amber sea, small splashes of colour and motion within the greater movement of the grain. There were wagons— small and light—some open, some covered in canvas, weaving back and forth, a few children sitting within their shelter. I could see men singing, women stooping to pick scarlet-petalled flowers, children dancing and setting the grain to ever faster swaying, as light as though they were little more than petals themselves. Walking behind the wagons, his hands running through the grain, as though it were something terribly precious, was a young man—my young man, the one who had promised he would wait for me.
Can longing cross miles, span a world, pull another from across the sea? Can it speak to the object of one’s desire, even when your two minds are not yet well acquainted? In truth, I did not know, I only knew what I felt. I could feel the man all through me, the love he had for the earth, for the open road, for movement and forests and water, and rich soil and horses, and the things a man could make with his hands. And I simply said it then, “Come for me, please come now, before it’s too late.” I spoke the words as though I stood right there before him, and could reach out and touch him, draw him to me, feel his heat, and smell the earth and grain that was intrinsic to his scent.
He looked up then, startled. I could feel his surprise, and the ripple of his skin, as though he’d been touched by the chill hand of a ghost. His face was quite blank, and then suddenly he smiled and gave the smallest nod of his head.
Three nights later, I heard the music.
The Long Road - ‘The Commander’
Copyright 2018 Cindy Brandner
(This particular bit is from very early in Yevgena’s story).
In our house, there was one corner of enchantment, however, which I loved in particular. It was in the root cellar, well hidden behind burlap bags filled with potatoes, carrots and onions. A magic portal existed there behind those bags, for there was a small library, no more than a hovel dug in the earth, but containing all the riches of Byzantium in my estimation. Banned books, two full shelves of them. Books from the West, books which seemed to hold the perfume of far off places—America, England, India, Africa. When I sat in there, with my lantern, sweater hugged tightly about me, I didn’t live in Communist Russia, instead I roamed the streets of Victorian London, took tea in the British Raj, climbed mountains with Burton, went mad with Raskolnikov, and fell in love at a grand ball with Anna and Vronsky. It was dangerous to have books from the banned list, in fact the banned list changed often enough, that at times it was dangerous to have anything other than Soviet propaganda tracts.
It was in that little grotto of enchantment that I was planning to spend my afternoon one day late in April, with my lantern and a few apples, reading about Candide fleeing into Paraguay, with his servant, Cacambo. I’d put the book down at a crucial point and was eager to return to it. My mother put paid to that notion at lunch, though, by telling me over tea that we were expecting company later in the afternoon, and I would need to be nicely dressed and make certain my hair was combed. I scowled, pushing my hair out of my eyes. Nothing good had ever come of my mother insisting my hair be combed.
“You will be in the parlour, washed, dressed and with your hair up at three o’clock, Yevgena.” She returned my scowl with interest, over the top of the delicate teacup she held.
My mother rarely commanded me in such a tone, and I knew to protest would still end with me doing exactly as she’d told me to.
Accordingly, I presented myself in the parlour ten minutes past the time I’d been commanded to show myself. It was a small act of defiance, but those were all I had in those days. I wore the dress my mother had left out—a summer dress of blue lawn with a delicate print of pink roses. It was not the most flattering dress, for I looked better, I knew, in bold colours. My mother, however, had a distaste for bright colours and designs, and preferred to put me in pale cottons and silks. I did not care to be attractive this afternoon though, so I put the frock on and went down to meet our company. I’d braided my hair, contrary to my mother’s command, however. My hair, I will admit, was my one true vanity. Thick and black, it hung in a shiny fall to my waist. My mother would not be happy that I’d left it down, but I didn’t care. I would present myself—for I had no choice in the matter—but not entirely as she wished.
One of those small premonitory shivers went through me just before I entered the room, a small voice which said, Be wary of what lies ahead.
I believe we all have rooms in our head, rooms in which we keep small memory paintings, ones so perfect in detail and light, that they might have been painted by a Dutch Master. There is a stillness in those rooms, a stillness like you find in a church— that perfect hush which speaks to something sacred. The memory is held so exactly, that it appears a painting, static limned in gold, with brush strokes so tiny that you can’t even see them with an eyeglass, but which you know are there all the same. The parlour that afternoon, hangs whole in my memory. I can see my grandmother’s shawl over the back of the big armchair, the embroidered spirals of roses and briars, and the rising fire bird, bright as drops of blood, against the thick wool of the shawl. The spring light was so pure that day, that it was tinged green where it fell through the long windows, and the trees beyond shimmering in their new mist of unfurling leaves.
The scene was laid out like something Vermeer might have painted—formal, aligned and caught fast in time’s amber, with that pure attention to minute detail. It was all very proper—the gleaming samovar and the floury white tea cakes, the dish of raspberry jam and the delicate porcelain of the tea cups, a-glow with the heat of the tea. It was my great-grandmother’s tea set and had travelled with her from Poland to her marriage home in Arkangelsk. It was old and fragile, and my mother only took it out for truly special occasions, and very special company. Even my favourite piece of china was on display—a chipped bleu celeste Sevres ice-pail, inset with delicate cameos, which my father claimed had been given to my great great grandmother on the paternal side, by Catherine the Great, in exchange for having her fortune told. He’d added that it wasn’t a story I should share with my mother, as the beloved pail might disappear as a result. I didn’t understand his warning at the time, but many years later I would and would wish he’d told me the truth—all of it, from the beginning.
My mother’s company was a man. A man in a well-tailored, if severe, suit with the palest blue eyes I’d ever seen. He stood as I came in, smiling, though it was a cold smile, and didn’t stretch beyond his thin lips. He was nearly the age of my parents, and I was confused as to why my mother would want me present for company which was clearly hers.
I could tell merely by the dishes used that this man was important, and important meant high up in the Communist Party. There was a tightness to his aspect, to the rigid way he held his body, and even to his movement as he stood when I entered the room. I knew he was military, even though he wasn’t in uniform that day. He wore the air of cold command that so many of our leaders seemed to have.
“Yevgena,” my mother said, casting a despairing look at my plaited hair, “this is Commander Mikhail Egorov, Commander, my daughter, Yevgena Vasiliovich."
He bowed over my hand and kissed it, and I might have been touched by his old-fashioned courtliness, had his lips not been so cold that they sent a shiver straight through to my soul. I wanted to yank my hand away from him but knew I could not do such a thing without incurring the wrath of my mother. I sat down as soon as I could, for my knees were shaking, and he, formal and correct, waited until both my mother and I were seated before he too, sat down on the chair opposite me. My sight was blurred, as though a cold fog had gathered in the room, shrouding both sofa and piano, chairs and rugs, plants and porcelain. The man alone remained in a sharp clarity in the centre of my vision. My mother had called him Commander, and I knew the title was reserved for those high up in the various branches of the military. After the revolution, all military ranking had been abolished but due to necessity the idea of rank had crept slowly back into the Army, though the titles were general rather than specific for a few years, and rank was most easily discerned by the bars on the man’s uniform rather than his title. This man however was no mere division or battalion commander—my mother wasn’t likely to put out Catherine the Great’s ice pail for anything less than a Supreme Commander. Thus, he was powerful in both the military and the party—in short, he was a man to be reckoned with. He was of an average height, with a strong jawline and blond hair which was buzzed in the military fashion, and the pale blue eyes which are like ice, freezing you fast as an insect which has blundered into a pot of frost skimmed water. He was of the sort who took up all the space around him, and was clearly aware of his own power, but also very comfortable with it. I felt a humming fear begin to slide along my nerves.
Copyright 2018 Cindy Brandner
THE PALLADIAN FAÇADE of White’s Club in St. James, rose above Richard’s head, its dormered attic windows and famous bow window where Beau Brummel had once sat and allowed London to gaze upon his magnificence, giving it an air of far more raffish times. Originally a chocolate house and then an infamous gambling den, it had, over the years, morphed into one of the most exclusive gentleman’s clubs in the world. It was also—and more pertinently to Richard’s visit this afternoon—the unofficial meeting place for members of the British Intelligence community. His observation of the building itself was strictly a matter of memory, for the entire building was shrouded in a thick December fog. As Dickens had once said—Fog everywhere—fog up the river and down, on the marshes and in the yards, fog wrapped in tendrils around the sails of ships, fog sheathing bridge and boat alike, fog hovering near firesides and settling in the lungs of pensioners. There was so much fog that Richard felt like he was wading through the streets in a clog of wet wool. He stepped in through the doors of White’s, happy to be out of the fog and into the warmth and luxury of the club.
Richard had long been a member of White’s; his entry having been guaranteed by his boss’s endorsement. In theory, he rather objected to the snobbery of a private gentleman’s club, in practice, it was a good place to conduct business.
The man he had come here to meet, waited for him in the coffee room, where the fog, thick and creamy, curled and purred against the long rectangular windows and gave the room an aura of cozy secrecy. He sat in repose, though in truth Richard had never seen the man ruffled in the slightest degree. Beautifully cut suit, neatly cut iron grey hair, body as lean and well-ordered as that of a whippet, and a look of studied bemusement on his ascetic face. Not many men put the fear of God in Richard these days, but this one still did. A holdover, he supposed, from his training days.
He wended his way through the plush chairs and small tables. One could almost hear the conversations which had been conducted here over the last few hundred years—conversations which had changed the balance of global power, had seen empires rise and fall and had, he thought, tugging at his tie a little, likely resulted in the deaths of more than a few.
When he arrived at the table, the man indicated the chair opposite, and then proceeded directly to the point, as was his usual way of doing business.
“I want you to bring one of your agents in from the cold,” he said.
“Which one?” Richard asked, undoing his suit jacket before sitting down across from the man he privately referred to as the Grey Man, for his ability to blend into his surroundings regardless of the environment. The man took a sip of his pink gin before replying.
“Our little Irish golden boy.”
Richard felt a spark of panic. There was only one man to whom that description could apply, and he was only a slightly less difficult bastard than the man in front of him. James Kirkpatrick, who had been off their radar for three years, and Richard had hoped, off their books for good. He supposed he ought to have known better. James Kirkpatrick had been one of their best operatives. Charming, intelligent, ridiculously good looking, with connections to a variety of spies, crooks, thieves and shady operatives all over the continent, as well as overseas, he’d been an asset the service couldn’t resist recruiting. They’d used a woman to draw him in, and the result had been rather mixed, to say the least. They had landed James Kirkpatrick, but they’d also had to cover up an affair with a Tory MP’s wife, and a child who had learned only a few years ago—at the age of twenty, no less— that James Kirkpatrick was his father.
The second James Kirkpatrick—Jamie’s grandfather—had worked for them also, during the war years, though Richard, despite spending near to a fortnight going through old files, had never found out exactly what it was the man had done for them. Which told him it had been highly classified, and likely highly dangerous. There had been a scandal surrounding him as well, for he’d left his wife and lived with a Gypsy woman until his death but hadn’t ever divorced the wife.
The man sitting across from him now, knew all this firsthand, for he’d known the grandfather as well as the grandson, in fact he’d been Jamie’s first handler. Something had gone awry in that relationship though, beyond the scandal, for he knew neither man felt warmly toward the other. Richard held the man’s gaze—which was needling its way over his face now, assessing, he thought, how much Richard knew about Jamie’s current circumstances.
The man’s name was Oliver Hughes, and within the SIS, he was legendary. He was widely considered one of the greatest spies British Intelligence had ever put out in the field. He sat back now, pinstriped suit immaculate, plum tie a rare blaze of colour for him. Richard considered that he must be celebrating the season, though trying to imagine this man with a home and a family, sitting down to a Christmas meal was frankly beyond him. He thought of him as always here, in this club, pink gin in hand, flawlessly cut suit always the same, the man himself only animating when someone needed something, or when, God help them all, things went cock-eyed. The latter of which was, Richard feared, the reason for his summoning.
“He broke off all ties with us, he wants nothing to do with this business anymore,” Richard said, taking a sip of the brandy which he’d ordered as soon as he’d arrived. He took a second to savour it, before continuing; it tasted like a golden apricot dropped from the tree at the perfect moment. “I think we owe it to him to leave him alone, after his time in the Soviet Union.”
“Owe him for what? He got out of Russia alive, after all. He’s had three years to lick his wounds, and from what I can tell he’s not been idle during that time.”
Richard merely lifted an eyebrow at this, though he knew exactly what it was Oliver referred to. Jamie had spent two years in a Russian gulag, and come out with a son, leaving behind a wife who turned out to be a KGB agent. A KGB agent who had appeared again in his life, just when he was moving on with another woman—one with whom he’d had a daughter, now only a month old.
“He doesn’t want this life anymore. I’m not certain he ever really did.”
“It’s James, he finds peace boring. I suspect he’s good and bored by now, after his stint at playing house these last three years, with that American girl.”
Richard rather thought Jamie loved that American girl a great deal and hadn’t been merely playing house with her. That they had a daughter together he knew, but beyond that he wasn’t quite sure about the parameters of their relationship. What he did know is that Jamie had put in a great deal of effort to find the woman’s husband when the man had disappeared some three years previous.
“I’d think you’d have a better notion than me. You had the training of him, after all.”
“No, I didn’t. His first handler was Mordecai.”
Richard’s heart sank a little closer to his toes. He had a feeling he now understood just why this man wanted Jamie pulled back in from the cold.
“Mordecai?” he said, the dismay evident in his voice.
“Yes, Mordecai. He plucked Jamie out from under my tender ministrations right at the beginning and took him under his crooked wing.”
Mordecai was the stuff of agency legend, half chimera, half tall tale, and yet still the greatest spy the SIS had ever laid claim to. Mordecai—he’d only ever needed the one name. If you asked ten different people about him, you’d be the recipient of ten different stories—he was a Sephardic Jew who’d lost his entire family in the Holocaust, he was an Israeli assassin, who’d been instrumental in the Six Day War, he was the Nazi hunter who’d hunted down escaped Nazis and killed them in the streets of Bueno Aires, or—and this one was Richard’s favourite—that he was a lost royal from the Romanov family and the only one to survive the execution of the family in that bloody basement. Richard had no doubt Mordecai had planted the seeds of all those stories, because that was how Mordecai operated. He was like a ghost, more story than substance. Of late though, he’d heard rumours, that Mordecai may have gone rogue. Gone over to the Soviets, hiring himself out to the highest bidder. Even that though, could be a story fabricated by Mordecai himself, and then diffused through his elaborate and very effective grapevine which ran through both Europe and Asia.
“I didn’t know Mordecai ever ran agents,” Richard said. Mordecai had operated by his own rules and was always rumoured to be in some obscure corner of the globe, but he’d never heard of him handling any other agents.
“Officially, he didn’t. But he knew Jamie’s grandfather, and when he heard we were trying to recruit the grandson, he slipped in at the last minute with his usual sleight-of-hand and spirited the boy off.”
Richard paused to take another drink, and to forestall any look of amusement that might cross his face, due to the very idea of something not going this man’s way.
“Needless to say,” Oliver continued, crossing one leg over the other in his usual fastidious manner, “this has caused James to have some rather unique ways of going about the intelligence business. But of course, you know that, having been his handler these last ten years.”
“I’m not his handler any longer though, as you know,” Richard said, putting a slight emphasis on the personal pronoun, so that Oliver might understand that Richard knew he was being manipulated. “He was serious about being done with the service.”
Oliver smiled, and it was not a pleasant thing to witness.
“It’s not a job one can quit, as you well know, Richard. Besides we still have uses for His Lordship.”
“How do you propose to keep him chained to the business, when he wants out?”
“In the time-honoured fashion,” Oliver put his glass on the polished mahogany table. It glowed with the delicate rose flush of the gin. Richard had never seen the man finish a drink. “Blackmail.”
Copyright 2018 Cindy Brandner
He smelled the land before he saw it. They were still a day out from Cobh when he felt the change in the wind—a change of scents, something less salt, something softer and sweeter, the smell of refuge and sanctuary. There was a soft thrum of excitement in his blood merely from that whiff of land, and a hope, caught in his chest like a needle, that this land would give him back his memory, or even just the end of a thread which he might follow through the labyrinth of finding out who he’d once been.
The fog had gathered in, thick as a wet wool blanket, just after noon. Sea smoke it was called by some, making it sound far more romantic than the reality. Casey had been twitchy ever since the smell of the land had invaded him, his blood pulsing in quick, bright sparks and making this last day at sea near to unbearable. The restlessness had driven him out onto the deck, to peer through the thick draperies of fog, straining for a glimpse of shoreline.
Suddenly he sensed movement in the water below. It was instinctual, he supposed, that prickling uneasiness which came over a man as he sensed a great body sliding through the waves. He could see it in his mind’s eye—a phantasmagorical creature rising from the depths of the abyssal plains, to emerge in this world of smoke and illusion. He felt that way himself—as though he was just now emerging from the bottom of the sea—not, he thought peering down toward the water, that that was a particularly attractive metaphor for his life, but it was, he supposed, as apt as any. A long time of submersion and living in a place where no light could reach, and sight more a thing of instinct rather than knowledge. And then to emerge in a world filled with light, and yet find it foreign and strange, as though he was a wild creature who had to relearn the ways of man.
The sound of the whale surfacing came a moment later, that great watery exhale which carried the scents of the sea within it—fish and plant, salt and dark, and echoes of a mystery as old as the planet itself. The scent niggled at him, like an itch beneath his skin that he could never relieve—that this too, this breath from the deeps, was memory, and spoke in some way of that other life, and the man he’d once been.
The whale lingered upon the surface of the sea, and then slid back into the depths from which it had come, silent as dark stealing over the land. The breath lingered upon Casey’s skin and in his nose, condensed into fine droplets of mist.
'…and I shall broadcast, saying nothing
The starry echoes of the waves…’
The scrap of poetry floated through his mind, and yet he did not know the poet, nor the voice which spoke the words in his mind. The voice still there, just a faint echo lingering. A woman who had loved poetry? Echoes. That was all he had, bloody echoes of a life that might have been real, or merely something he’d conjured up like a Potemkin village in his head. A beautiful façade but when you peeked behind, there was only a yawning space.
He stood there for some time, staring into the fog and sea, until the soft disturbance of a gull, passing through the mist, moved against his skin. He hoped the poor thing wasn’t lost, flying blind wasn’t advisable even for a seabird.
“’Tis said,” a voice emerged near his elbow, startling him from the reverie of fog and leviathans, “that seagulls are the souls of Irish migrants who died overseas, an’ return home as birds or the mist off the waves.”
“Is that so?” Casey asked, the hair prickling along his arms and chest, and rising stiff on the back of his neck. He’d not heard the man come up beside him, and his defenses were now on full alert.
“Aye, that’s so. We’re romantic fools, we Irish, no? When ye’re dead, ye’re dead, an’ there’s no comin’ back as a gull or a bit of fog. Ye’re merely rottin’ in the ground, providin’ a bit of food for the worms. Still, sometimes it’s wise to pay heed to the old superstitions. My nan used to tell the tale of a young girl who died of fever while away from home, an’ her father thought it best to bury her there, an’ not risk carryin’ the fever back to their own place. An’ so she was buried in the nearest churchyard, an’ the father then made his way home. A few nights later he heard a scratchin’ at the window, an’ then a mournful cry of ‘I am alone, I am all alone in my cold grave.’ An’ he knew what it meant an’ that he must bring his daughter home, or she’d never rest easy. So off he went, an’ had the coffin of his dear daughter dug up, an’ then put in a cart. An’ he took her home then, all the way from Wicklow to Kerry, an’ buried her again, there amongst her own, for the dead can only rest peacefully when laid down with their forefathers, for ‘tis ill to perish amongst strangers.”
A chill chased down Casey’s spine, feathering out like a fan of ice to his very extremities. There were times he had felt this, that he was a dead man making the journey home, where he might find rest amongst his own.
copyright 2018 Cindy Brandner
(A little extra information on the background of this scene. If you remember back to 'Mermaid' when Pamela and Jamie are at the monastery and Pamela loses the baby she is carrying. Brother Gilles was the monk who looked after her at the time. This monastery is where they've just had Kathleen christened).
After the christening, Brother Gilles showed her to a sitting room, where she could feed Kathleen by the comfort of a roaring fire. She sat in the chair closest to the fire with relief, taking off her shoes and wiggling her toes in the heat. The chapel had been chilly, and her feet felt like blocks of ice. Brother Gilles ducked out to give her privacy, but returned shortly thereafter, with a mug of hot broth for her.
“Tea is lovely, but broth heats the bones,” he said, which seemed to Pamela a very French and very accurate sort of observation.
“It is so wonderful to see you with a healthy baby in your arms,” Brother Gilles said, stretching his hands out to the fire, as he settled in across from her in an ancient leather armchair, and beamed at Kathleen, who sat forward in Pamela's lap, tiny chin tucked in the vee of Pamela's hand, while she rubbed the baby's back.
“She is my third healthy child,” Pamela said. “Oh, good girl,” she added as Kathleen let out a small belch. She tucked the baby back into the corner of her elbow, and gazed down at her face, feeling the melting love that one did with babies, as if their flesh was still one with your own. It was different for fathers, she supposed, for having never carried their child inside, they wouldn’t feel that insistent aching tug which came once a child was outside your body, and yet still entirely dependent upon you for sustenance and life.
“Your third? How wonderful! Children are God’s greatest blessing in this life. I am glad to see he has been abundant with you.”
“He has been indeed,” she said, thinking Brother Gilles had no idea just how abundant the universe had been of late with her blessings.
“The last time you were here, you were married, no? It was clear to me that you and Jamie had a great deal of love for one another, but that your heart belonged to a different man.”
“Well, that’s a rather long story,” she said, “but the situation is much the same now.”
Brother Gilles feathery eyebrows shot up. “I believe I have time for you to tell me, if you so wish.”
So, she told him, sketching it in briefly in some spots and filling things in more fully where she felt it was warranted—Casey’s amnesia, Jamie’s situation with Violet and why and how he’d married her. She touched carefully on her relationship with Jamie and just how far back it went. It fell short though, for there were never adequate words to explain how entwined this man was in her life, and how complicated it all felt now that they had Kathleen. And then, the miracle of Casey’s return, and how it all felt like it should be simple, and yet it was anything but.
Brother Gilles was silent for a moment once her story came to an end, his hands steepled in front of his face, hiding his expression so that she could not tell if he was shocked or dismayed by her recounting.
“Well, that is wonderful in many ways, and yet as you say, rather complicated. I see why you chose such a small and private christening.”
“Yes, well we did give Violet and Casey the option of coming, but they both, not surprisingly, declined.”
“Then you have been as fair as you can be in this situation. May I ask where James is in all of this?”
She sighed. Explaining her and Jamie’s situation was a bit like trying to give directions in an overgrown labyrinth which wasn't actually possessed of an exit. This man, however, had known Jamie since he was a child and loved him as well.
“You know what it means to him to have a child whom he can love without fear.” Even Kolya, blessed with the rude good health of a Russian peasant, didn’t come entirely without strings—as had been evidenced by Violet using him as a pawn to hold to her marriage with Jamie.
“I do,” Brother Gilles agreed.
“Suffice it to say that for now, we’re just happy being parents to this little girl,” Pamela said, kissing the top of Kathleen’s silky red head.
“And yet, I still see a great deal of love between the two of you.”
She looked up from the baby and knew that her face was transparent with a truth that was undeniable. “Of course, you do, has anyone ever stopped loving Jamie once they’ve started?”
“No, I think not. But he loves you as well. I have not previously witnessed such emotion in him, as I have today.”
She looked away and swallowed. The day was threatening to overwhelm her, and her throat tightened with the tears which had hovered throughout the christening. Tears of both joy and sorrow.
“You can speak of it, if you wish. I have been told,” he smiled, long nose twitching slightly, “that I am a good listener.”
“I feel like no matter what I do, I hurt someone. It’s like I can’t put a foot right in this matter. I love them both, and the laws of man and church say that’s wrong, and a sin.”
“I sense a question within that statement,” the monk said shrewdly.
“How do I reconcile the laws of man with those of my heart?”
Brother Gilles leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees, a contemplative look in his brown eyes.
“Perhaps if I were a different sort of priest, you might get a more traditional answer but as I am not, I will simply tell you what I think and not quote doctrine at you.”
She nodded, shifting Kathleen so that the baby was over her shoulder.
“Love is what we all come to this life to experience. Love in all its many variations with its myriad faces and complexities. Love with all its beautiful complications. To love is not a sin, not if you do it with a full heart and good intent. The good Lord does not say, ‘love this one, but not that one’ does he? And so, should we say thusly? It seems to me that the two men whom you love, have come to a certain peace with this situation—if your husband could live with the knowledge of it before, can he not reconcile himself to it now? I realize that circumstances are somewhat different than those which he left behind when he disappeared, and yet might he not come to view this petit chou as a further blessing, and a being who will only enrich his life that much more?”
“I do not think he sees it in quite such a…” she hesitated, searching for an appropriate term, “shall we say—divine light, as you do.”
Brother Gilles laughed, and Kathleen burbled as if in agreement about the humor of her mother’s comment.
“It could be the Creator felt that after a lonely childhood, you deserved what love he could bring to you. Perhaps the love of both men was a pattern laid down in your being before you were even born. The Creator might occasionally make monsters, but he does not make mistakes.