Marie had no idea what Moose and Clovis were discussing, but whatever it was, both men were engrossed. She was enjoying an afternoon with Anne, and Moose, as usual, had accompanied her. Both girls had also come to The Town with them, as well as a maid. Nyota was spending the day by herself; Marie wasn’t exactly sure what she was doing, but her friend had embraced their new life enthusiastically and was constantly doing things to benefit both their little family and all the new arrivals it was their job to welcome.

Galen was off exploring… somewhere. Again.

“Clovis misses having the boys around, but they all have lives of their own now. Of course, they come back to visit all the time, but it’s just not the same.” Anne said, sipping her tea delicately.

Marie was constantly aware of the duality of her friendship with Anne. They had grown up in similar situations… Anne the daughter of a duke, Marie the daughter of an Emperor. But although they had been born mere months apart, decades had passed for Anne in… The Place… while for Marie it had been only a few months.

Sophie walked up and took two cookies from the plate, watching her mother’s face carefully as she did so, trying to look cute and innocent. Marie tried not to smile, and said in her sternest voice “Sophie, you’ve already had two cookies…”

Sophie looked very serious. “Lark wants a cookie!” Sure enough, Lark was sitting at the tiny table Anne had brought out for the girls, her eyes wide and watching to see if Sophie could successfully coax an extra sweet for them both.

Marie sighed, and looked at Anne. Her friend had a wistful look, watching the two little girls. “All right. But that’s the last cookie for each of you now.”

“I do look forward to being a grandmother. I hope at least one of the boys has a little girl. I would so love to dress them up and spoil them as only a grandmother can!”

Sophie and Lark were already the beneficiaries of Anne’s talent with clothes, wearing dresses reminiscent of the most elaborate fashions Marie had once loved. They loved dressing up “fancy” as Lark called them, although after a couple of hours there were several stains and at least one tiny bit of ripped lace. Sophie had cried over “breaking” her “bootiful” dress, and Lark had worried over her, crying in sympathy. Marie had gathered both girls in her arms and promised that it was all right, and the bit of lace would be fixed for the next time they dressed up fancy.

“A grandmother… I can hardly imagine it. I…”

“You’ve only been here a few months, Marie,” Anne said. All honorifics regarding their previous titles had been quickly discarded. Even though everyone else in the room was ignoring them, Anne lowered her voice. “Your marriage to Louis was more…friendly than passionate. And it is over; you have mourned both in your previous life, and here, at Saint Denis. Perhaps it is time…” Anne let her sentence trail off, but her eyes went straight to Moose.

Marie’s lips curled ever so slightly. Moose was wonderful. He was a handsome specimen of man, kind, protective, and coming from a time centuries beyond her own, he knew things and understood things that were beyond her. She depended on him.

Yet even though he remained close to her almost every day, her self-appointed guardian, he never gave any hint that he was attracted to her. Certainly, she had caught his gaze straying to her bosom more than once, and she was fairly certain that he had become hard at least once when they had brushed together more closely than usual.

He is honorable. That’s why he hasn’t responded to any of my flirtation… if you can call it flirtation. There’s definitely a gap between society as he understood it and the society in which I lived…

“…and society here is fluid. It changes…” Clovis was saying to Moose. The former duke’s raising with enthusiasm.

Anne was going on about her boys again, and how one of them had a lady love and might decide to marry soon. Marie listened, but her gaze kept wandering back to Moose.

It is time I figured out what flirtation means to a man from the moon.

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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