Galen regarded himself in the tall mirror. Clovis’ voice cut through the quiet murmur of scurrying servants preparing for Marie’s Grand Ball. “It’s about time there was some kind of event, some sort of…” the older man made an odd sound, and Galen couldn’t tell if he was just clearing his throat, or somehow commenting on his life situation. “…organization. Cohesion to the community.”
The community was growing. The Hamlet, The City, The Town and a half dozen other unnamed places seemed to be coming together, looking to Marie and Nyota, somehow knowing that something big was on the horizon.
“Sir?” A young officer appeared in the doorway, looking to Galen for instructions. Galen rattled off directions to his subordinate, then turned back to Clovis. Just as the community was growing, so was Marie’s entourage. Galen and Moose had stepped into the roles of ensuring the security of both Marie and Nyota.
Clovis stared at the mirror. Galen tried to imagine what the man must be contemplating. He knew Clovis had been some sort of nobility from Marie’s time. He knew that, from Marie’s perspective, Clovis and Anne had been beheaded in the beginning of the revolution.
He knew that, in this place, Clovis was… indeterminate. He was a husband and father, a businessman. But no longer nobility.
Galen liked the strange clothes. Surprisingly, he was able to move in them, even though they were fitted rather snugly. What he did not like was the fact that he was expected to appear at the ball and mingle with the guests. He much preferred to circle The Hall from a distance, and leave the close contact to Moose.
“I suppose we should head up there. Anne will be looking for me.” Clovis said. “Would you like to ride with us? Or will you get there on your own?”
“I’ll be riding Homer…”
Clovis laughed, interrupting Galen before he could say any more. “I suppose you like having a quick exit ready, eh? Just in case?”
Galen didn’t answer. He just gave a noncommittal grunt which, fortunately, was more than enough for the older man.
A stable-boy was on hand to take Homer as soon as Galen rode up. The Hall had appeared weeks ago in a field uphill from The Hamlet, presumably for the purpose of hosting a Grand Ball. Galen had thoroughly inspected The Hall both inside and out, and designed exactly the plan he wanted to ensure the security of guests, hosts, and the small army of workers who would make sure the Grand Ball was a success. He made a round of the building, speaking with each and every one of the men and women who worked under him. Guests began to arrive; early-comers who seemed to be afraid of missing out on anything.
Anne and Clovis were also making the rounds, talking with guests and generally being social. As the crowd grew, Nyota appeared on Moose’s arm. Galen stiffened a bit to see them together. It wasn’t that he was jealous that the two of them seemed to be developing a relationship of some kind, it was that Galen trusted Moose to ensure Marie’s safety. He didn’t like having to trust the underlings who were newly hired to watch over…
Marie entered the ballroom and there was a tangible wave of interest as heads turned to her. There was no official announcement, she simply entered, alone, exuding a confidence that Galen knew was mostly for show. She did not feel confident. She was scared to death of being alone.
But she did it anyway.
Marie began to move through the crowd, her royal smile shining on one and all. Galen was riveted. This was the queen the others talked about. This was the woman…
I can’t think of her as a woman.
Galen’s thoughts were interrupted by an artificial voice announcing that the dancing would soon begin. Majel stood on the small stage, her voice mysteriously amplified. Galen had been privy to the discussions regarding how to handle dancing at the ball, considering that people came from so many different backgrounds. Marie and her coterie had worked out something that worked, including selecting a few simple social dances that could be easily taught during the festivities.
He watched as a small group of hired dancers demonstrated the most basic of dances, and guests began to pair off, eager to join in. Marie was instantly surrounded by prospective partners. He tensed, tempted to get between her and the overly-familiar young (and older) men. He relaxed when Marie took Clovis’ hand for the first dance.
Galen’s attention was demanded on several occasions over the night. Once, a sheep decided to wander in for no apparent reason. There were a few drunks who needed to be escorted home. What disturbed him the most was the glimpses he caught of Jane Charlotte, sometimes as an older woman, sitting with the grande dames, sometimes as a younger woman, dancing with some handsome young man. There were other faces he recognized from The Castle, but whenever he tried to get close, they were gone.
Hopefully, they’re just playing, or spying, not here to cause trouble…
After one fruitless search late into the night, Galen realized it had been a while since he’d seen Marie. The Hall was a large place, and not only was there a ballroom, but several other rooms as well where people were gathering in smaller groups to play cards or converse away from the music.
Galen almost wished he had The Pull again. At least then he would magically know where Marie was.
After passing through several rooms without finding her, he asked Majel, who told him to look outside. There were several interconnected porches and gardens, with meandering paths leading out and back where a couple could easily have a private tryst. There were quite a few guests doing just that.
His ears found her before his eyes did. He didn’t want to believe the sounds he was hearing were coming from her, but it was unmistakable. He moved quietly, conscious of her right to privacy while forced on by his need to ensure that she was safe and well. He came upon them from about ten yards away, close enough to see her shapely calves drop slowly to the floor from where they had been… wrapped around the waist of a tall, well dressed man.
The man pulled away from Marie, leaving her slumped against the wall, a sleepy smile on her face. The man’s hands were busy fastening his pants when his eyes met Galen’s. The man showed him a self-satisfied smile before striding off in the opposite direction.
Galen’s eyes snapped back to Marie. She was watching him.
She didn’t move.
Her little smile remained, though it faded as he watched.
He had no idea whether he should say something…
She held his gaze, as if refusing to apologize for what she’d done.
And what has she done? She is free to take as many lovers as she wishes. What is it to me?
As Marie’s smile faded into a neutral expression, Galen suspected she had been waiting for him to say or do something. But it was too late. Although she’d held his gaze for long moments, she did not acknowledge him at all as she rearranged her clothes and turned to go back to her guests.
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: Together
- Chapter Eleven: Getting to Know You
- Chapter Twelve: One is Silver and the Other Gold
- Chapter Thirteen: An Old Old Friend
- Chapter Fourteen: Oldest and Youngest
- Chapter Fifteen: The Return to the Crypt
- Chapter Sixteen: Next
- Chapter Seventeen: Do What You’re Told
- Chapter Eighteen: Jane
- Chapter Nineteen: A Donkey Named Xote
- Chapter Twenty: A Horse Named Manny
- Chapter Twenty-one: Tea and Politics
- Chapter Twenty-two: The Long Ride Home
- Chapter Twenty-three: Afar
- Chapter Twenty-four: Comparing Notes
- Chapter Twenty-five: Audience and Entourage
- Chapter Twenty-six: Phillip
- Chapter Twenty-seven: The Ball
- Chapter Twenty-eight: Seduction
- Chapter Twenty-nine: Kindred Spirits
- Chapter Thirty: Meddling Madwoman
- Chapter Thirty-one: The Penultimate Ingredient
- Chapter Thirty-two: A Clear Path
- Chapter Thirty-three: A Transition
- Chapter Thirty-four: Have Fun Storming The Castle
- Chapter Thirty-five: A Beginning
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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