Marie found herself walking into one of the larger cottages in the Hamlet. She only vaguely remembered meeting some sort of housekeeper, then being led through the gardens by the young nurse with Nyota and Lark.
Sophie was wrapped to her chest in the fabric that Nyota used to carry the baby. It felt good to have her little girl so close to her heart; it seemed like some kind of dream, to find Sophie alive and well. The nurse seemed perfectly happy to babble on about how the rooms had been aired out and luncheon prepared; she didn’t even hint that she should take the baby so that Marie could do more… queenly things.
Seeing the food, she realized just how hungry she was. How long had it been since she had eaten? She couldn’t remember.
“I hope the food will be to your liking…” the same housekeeper appeared, but Marie did not remember the woman walking with them from the Trianon. Perhaps she had some kind of servant’s shortcut she used. “Of course, once you’re established, you can choose whatever foods you like…”
Marie shook free of the cobwebs that had taken over her head. “I don’t understand… who has provided all this? Where are we?”
“You’re at the Miller’s House, in the Hamlet.” The housekeeper smiled warmly and puttered about the dining room as if that was all the explanation needed. “And the Castle provides for everything.”
“The castle? Who lives there?”
“Oh, the Royals.” The housekeeper busied herself pouring tea, and adjusting the curtains so they let in just the right amount of light. Marie noticed that Sophie was trying to reach a biscuit from a nearby plate, but she couldn’t quite reach as she was strapped to her mother. Marie took one, then cautiously bit it before handing it to her daughter.
The taste was amazing. It wasn’t particularly sweet, or buttery, or special in any particular way. It was simply as if it was exactly what a biscuit should be, only more so.
She looked at Nyota, who was cradling Lark in one arm while the baby nursed, and sampling the food with her free hand. By the look on her face, she was enjoying the meal immensely. Nyota was tall, but exceedingly thin. Marie wondered how long it had been since her new friend had a decent meal, if ever.
Marie decided to eat. The only servants were the nurse and the housekeeper, and neither seemed inclined to serve the food, but there were numerous dishes that were both familiar and strange to her. She scooped up a spoonful of something that looked like rice, and helped herself to some roasted vegetables as well. “Royalty? Of what? Are we in Spain?”
Marie knew the answer was no, but she had no idea what else to ask.
“Spain? No.” The housekeeper didn’t seem to mind the question. Neither did she understand Marie’s inquisition, as the only answers she gave referred to places as “the Hamlet” or “the City” or “the Castle.”
Marie tried to be logical. Perhaps the Royalists had found a way to save her after all. Perhaps they had snatched her from the very jaws of the guillotine at the last second…
No. I know that’s not true. Waking up in a field, and finding my husband’s tomb in a church that resembles Saint Denis, yet is not. The Petit Trianon, and Sophie…
Sophie was the biggest part of the miracle. The babe was most certainly her own. There was no mistake, no doppleganger. And Sophie knew her too, babbling “Mamama!” while happily chewing on the biscuit.
It seemed inane to be simply sitting in a cottage, eating a meal while there were so many unanswered questions. Yet there they were.
And there they stayed, until a distant bell tolled, sparking their curiosity and drawing them all outside.
What Would Have Been
- Chapter One: Epitaph for a King
- Chapter Two: Nyota
- Deleted Scene from Chapter Three: Flavor
- Chapter Three: Trianon
- Chapter Four: Hamlet
- Chapter Five: The Miller’s House
- Chapter Six: The Bell Tolls for Thee
- Chapter Seven: Galen
- Interview With Ulysees “Moose” Umbra
- Chapter Eight: Moose
- Chapter Nine: Found
- Chapter Ten:
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.
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