“Phillip… what did she mean by “You’ll have to ask Phillip?”

After unconventionally arriving in The Meadow, the party had unceremoniously tramped back to The Trianon, dusting themselves off as they went.

Galen was not with them.

Phillip blushed. His manner was usually nervous, but he seemed more confused than ever.

“Forgive me Madame, but I believe there is more to… This Place… than a collection of people out of time.”

“How so?” Nyota answered. It seemed odd that Phillip had addressed her as “Madame,” not Marie.

“Well… I have been comparing histories with as many people as I could. Of course, I’ve just been here for a couple of days, but there seem to be discrepencies…”

“Discrepencies?” asked Marie.

“For example. King Louis the fifteenth of France was beheaded during the French revolution. His grandson, who would have been King Louis the sixteenth, and his grandson’s wife Marie Antionette…” Phillip paused as the import of what he was explaining began to sink in to all around him. “Well, Louis and Marie spent their lives in exile, mostly in Austria. Louis Auguste was never crowned, but he and Marie lived well into their sixties.”

“So, you are from a place where history took a different path.” Nyota nodded solemnly. It was just one more strange fact to include in the puzzle.

“And… I haven’t quite figured this out yet.” Phillip was looking directly at her, and Nyota couldn’t figure out why. He seemed intimidated somehow. “But I take it that you… Nyota… you have no… er… political situation?”

“Political situation? No. My husband, Adjate, he was the one with political aspirations. But he died before Lark was born.”

“I grew up in South Africa. Adjate and Nyota Mbedze ruled the Democratic State of Rwanda for sixteen years. Adjate was elected for four consecutive terms. His wife, Nyota, although she had no official power, was well known and respected as being a key in the transition from a state of chaos to a state with one of the most stable and productive governments in all of Africa.” Phillip let out a deep breath, letting his body relax. He reached out his hand, grasping Nyota’s almost desperately. “Madame… it is a distinct pleasure to meet one of the most admired women in history… even if your own history did not follow the same lines.”

Nyota looked at the little man, and laughed out loud. “Well, why not?” She laughed again, and the stunned entourage slowly began to feel the infection of humor. “How wonderfully fantastic! But who is to say it would not have happened that way? If Adjate had…” she paused, deciding not to think about it. It was past. She had never told Marie about the simple grave marker she had found for her husband in the Hamlet’s churchyard. Nyota hardly wanted to acknowledge it herself. She felt that Marie was being given a life without Louis because it had been an arranged marriage. The young King and Queen may have been affectionate with each other, but Marie’s descriptions of her late husband sounded more like he was just a good friend, not a real lover. Nyota and Adjate had chosen each other…

Or did we? Our families were close long before either of us was born. We were always together. Everyone just assumed we would marry…

The clattering of hooves in the yard outside interrupted her train of thought. Galen burst in, his eyes immediately going to Marie. He paused for a moment, then said “Are… is everyone all right?”

He means “Are you all right, Marie?”

Nyota smiled at the thought. A passionate young man like Galen was just what Marie needed, if only her friend could see it.

Moose took over the conversation. “Yes, we’re all fine…” the two men continued talking, Moose explaining to Galen how they’d suddenly been transported to The Meadow, and Galen relating how he had found himself suddenly alone in the room, with neither the entourage nor Jane Charlotte.

The clattering of more hooves outside interrupted the lull as the men finished comparing notes. A maid scurried in, approaching Marie. “My lady, there is a messenger here to see you.”

“Show him in.” Marie nodded. Nyota was glad that Marie seemed to have retained much of her royal confidence, even when dumped rather rudely into The Meadow. Of course, Marie had held onto Nyota’s arm rather tightly all the way back…

Not just one, but a series of uniformed men strode in. Their dress was fanciful, as if from a children’s storybook about magical castles. The first one strode to Marie and bowed low, handing her an envelope. Each of the others bore armsfull of flowers, all beautiful and fresh and fragrant. A constant stream of delivery-messengers continued to bring in more and more blooms as Marie carefully read the message.

“It is from The Madwoman…” Marie announced, still reading. “She apologizes for the loss of her temper…” the French Queen’s eyebrows knit together, as if confused. “And she had issued a royal command…” Marie addressed her entourage as a whole. “I am to throw a ball.”

What Would Have Been

What Would Have Been is a short story (or novella… who knows?) that I am publishing one chapter at a time… as I write it. It’s a fun exercise for me, and hopefully a bit of entertaining reading for you!

This story is dedicated to the Janes. The real ones and the fictional, the ones who survived, and the ones who didn’t. For all of you.

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-kD