Galen’s words upset her, but Marie could find no fault with him. He was from a much earlier time. He did not know that both she and her husband were several years away from their twentieth birthdays when they were crowned King and Queen. Both she and Louis had been raised with great privilege. In retrospect, those privileges had been extreme and not only excessive, but damagingly so. As for playing with power, her Louis had never, ever abused his rights as King.

He was just… naive. We were too young to rule.

She stared out the window, glad that Nyota carried the conversation. Soon, they were in the city again, and St Denis rose ahead.

Nyota spoke to their coachman and it occurred to Marie that she had no idea who he was or where he came from. She was so used to having everything done for her, she hardly noticed all the people who made everything happen.

Galen is right. We should find out what has happened to us and why, not simply accept it.

The cathedral was busy as usual. They all stood at the back of the nave for just a minute before all four heads turned in unison, the mysterious pull telling them where to go. She caught Galen reaching for a sword that wasn’t there, and although Moose seemed outwardly calm, his eyes scanned everything. It was much more than simply admiring the artwork; he was obviously a trained military man.

They had to wander a bit through various halls before they came to the room with her husband’s tomb. Tears crept unbidden to her eyes. She thought she had shed all the tears she would shed for him, yet there always seemed to be more.

Doesn’t Louis deserve to be here too? With me? With Sophie?

No answer came to her. She realized that Moose had asked her something, but Nyota answered for her.

She does that a lot… and it is my fault.

Nyota took care of Marie. She knew that now. Nyota kept track of everything that happened to them. Nyota made sure the children were cared for. Nyota held her at night when she cried, mourning not for the life she had, but for the life she’d thought she had.

She thought the people loved her.

Perhaps, once, they had.

And then they killed her.

Marie truly and deeply cared for her subjects, but even though she had encouraged Marie Therese to play with the children of the peasants in the hamlet, there was an unbridgeable gap between the aristocracy and the people. The older, wiser Marie knew that the downfall of the regency had been inevitable.

She just wished madly that it had not happened so violently… that it had not happened to her, or her children.

What could I have done differently?

She touched the tomb.

What could we have done differently?

She had never put the question into such words before, but it had weighed on her mind in those hours when she was just about to fall asleep, or just before she fully awoke.

Should we have declared an abrupt end to the decadence as soon as Louis was crowned?

Marie looked down at her shoes, the simple, comfortable shoes she’d worn since arriving in the place.

Would it have mattered if we did?

She looked up and realized that both Galen and Moose looked distinctly uncomfortable, as if they had intruded on a private funeral. She forced herself to see through their eyes, to understand what they were feeling.

The strangeness affects them more than it has the others… I wonder why?

They had both ended up far from the Hamlet, even though it was clear in her mind that both of them belonged there. Then again, other people must belong in the Town, in the City, and in the other areas that she knew existed but couldn’t name. Although she and Nyota had given the men food, clothing, and as good an explanation as they possibly could about where they were, it was not enough.

These men have needs.

“Let us go home. Sophie and Lark surely miss us, at least a little.”

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.

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