Galen watched as Moose and Marie mounted the horses and rode on ahead of the carriage.  That was unusual… Marie rarely rode. But nothing seemed amiss, and they rode away from Anne and Clovis’ house at a leisurely pace. As they neared the edge of The Town, Galen let Moose see him. If there was anything wrong, a simple signal was all it would take. But Moose simply continued talking with Marie, riding along as if they hadn’t a care in the world.

Galen turned his horse directly away from The Road, straight into The Woods. “Homer! Let’s go see The City,” he ordered. The horse nickered obediently, then headed into the trees. The branches grew more dense, then less again after just a short time. Soon, he saw The Road again, and in the distance, The City.

He let Homer graze while he made himself comfortable on a fallen log not far from The Road. The Castle glinted in the distance, all pink and purple today.

The girls will like that. I’ll have to make sure they see it.

Galen only had to wait about half an hour before the carriage rumbled over the horizon, approaching the outskirts of The City. Both Moose and Marie waved and he fell in with them. “How was your visit?” he asked politely. Marie launched into a monologue about everything from tea and biscuits to how quickly the girls were growing. “Speaking of the girls, they should see The Castle today. Look…” Galen said gesturing towards the gleaming pink and purple towers in the distance.

“Well…isn’t that fanciful?” said Marie, admiring the spires. “They’re napping in the carriage. When we get to the last rise before home, I’ll wake them so they can see.”

Travelling through The City seemed to take forever. There was some kind of awkwardness between Moose and Marie that Galen didn’t understand.

These people…my friends… are from another time. Sometimes I have no idea what it is that goes on in their heads.

It had been weeks since The Madwoman had removed the force that pulled all the others. Sometimes Marie, Nyota, and Moose all seemed to understand something that Galen did not. He was never sure whether it was because he was from a much earlier time, or because they could be pulled while he was not.

It set him apart.

“Let’s go by The Tower on the way home. The girls can see The Castle from there.” Moose suggested when they reached the far side of The City, close to home.

Lark was awake when they reached The Tower, but a sleepy Sophie clung to Galen as he carried her up the steps to the lookout place. “Look! See? The Castle is Pink and Purple today.”

“I cold.” Sophie insisted.

“Here…” Galen said, and wrapped his riding cloak around both of them. It was a bit chilly at the top of The Tower, where the wind could whip by unobstructed. Sophie snuggled against him, and only peeked out from under the cloak to see the pink towers in the distance. She seemed more interested in being held than in seeing something fantastic.

Of course, to her, the changing colors of The Castle are no more fantastic than the fact that a sheep named Radish likes to follow her around the meadow…

Galen smiled at the thought, and pressed his lips against the little girl’s forehead. His mother had yearned for more children, but his father died when he was still a boy. A gladiator, though having gained his freedom, he had been enslaved to the arena because he knew no other trade. His mother, being enslaved to his father yet no less loved than any other gladiator’s wife, wanted nothing more than to raise a family with her owner husband.

There are no Roman guards chasing me here. No boy king to throw a temper tantrum and demand my head on a platter. I have no reason to leave, and every reason to stay.

He glanced up, his lips still pressed to the tiny girl’s forehead, and his eyes caught Marie’s. She was watching him, but for the life of him, he could not figure out what might be going on in her head.

I’m not sure I want to know…

He glanced away, rocking the sleepy girl back and forth, pretending the meeting of their eyes meant nothing.

It meant nothing. She was watching her daughter, and I glanced up. That is all.

Much about Marie disturbed him. At times, it was obvious that she was born to be a queen. She cared deeply for all those around her, even those she had just met. But there was also a raging insecurity inside her. He knew that her own subjects had demanded her head and got it, but there was something more…

Something that had nothing to do with being a queen, and everything to do with being a woman.

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! At this point, on chapter 23, I’m asking myself “Great googlie mooglies, isn’t it done yet? I thought this was a short story!” So I’m working towards tying things up and moving to the end. But not too soon… a few things need to happen first…

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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