Another Chapter of the Story

And so the mistral was blowing. They called it the “masterly” wind, but to her it always reminded her of a minstrel. A minstrel that had taken to the streets in a big way. Bringing with it the tastes, smells and memories of other towns; other people and places. It shook the heavens and cleaned the Earth. It stirred up people’s imagination and made them stay up at night; sitting curled up by the fireplace drinking cups of tea, chocolate, or hot wine.

Yes, the wind cleaned the Earth as it stirred up people’s imagination and made them empty their thoughts into the night. After they’d seen what they’d kept hidden for many months, they were cleaned. Left in the air however was the residue of thousands of voices that the wind had carried with them. Violette liked to listen to those voices. Hear little segments of what was going on in the world. Catch whiffs of the scents from places far away.

If the rain came, of course, all foreign voices were cleaned away. Instead the Earth rose into the heavens and you smelled the scent of home. Violette liked that too. She loved her home. Yet, she liked the temptation of far away lands. Of travelers’ tales. Once every month or so she’d take her carriage and drive to Avignon to stock up her cupboards with new ingredients. She could have gone less often, but she liked her produce fresh and she wanted an excuse to go there. To smell some different scents in the air. Hear foreign accents. Be intrigued by scholarly talk.

During such visits she’d often have random encounters that’d leave her smiling. Whilst some people could go to a city and not meet a soul, she found she’d often meet strangers as easily as others spent money for milk. In shops where she went often she knew the owners and they’d introduce her to fellow patrons. Sooner than she’d know it she’d be sipping tea or hot chocolate in a salon with some person she’d never met before. Though many were country folk and rather than sipping tea they’d exchange herbal recipes, tales of births and miracles; hard to cure diseases and the joy of the new harvest, or the first spring blossom.

Once on such a trip she’d met a man who had quite the air of a refined man. He was a gentleman. Yet it was clear he’d traveled the world and learned to live in ways no gentleman lived. The adventurer could never be held entirely responsible for always behaving with tact when dealing with pirates and demons in seas unknown. It made a man grounded, because rather than speak it made him live. Face the dangers and the beauty of life. It made some jaded, it made others wide awake to wonder.

This man, James, had many a story to tell. For hours he’d charmed her with tales of everything from the perfect orange blossom for perfume to the most intriguing tea ceremonies in Japan. He was intelligent, knowledgable and not one bit conceited or proud. He was a gorgeous man.

His refined manners and rough hands would charm most any woman in a skirt. And given all women wore skirts at the time, that amounted to a rather large number. She was charmed too. She wanted to stay. Listen to more tales. Yet, as someone who knew most anything from looking upon a man, she knew that he would be like a giant in her town. He’d go there. He’d rumble around. Then he’d leave, only to come back at times, always longing to go again. And she, she’d enjoy the road for a while. She’d be curious. But she had a town to care for. And there’d never be harmony between the two. He’d never fall in love with her town, even if he would with her. And she’d never fall in love with taking too many too long journeys, even if she’d adore him.

There was discord and she could feel it trembling in the Earth, like the murmur before an earthquake.

No, what she dreamed of was slightly different. A bit softer somehow. Trips that went further than she’d been, but not too far. As for a man she wanted someone who would long to return. Someone who’d love her town like it was his own, even if he traveled.

Temptation is what temptation is though. Like anyone else she was tempted. If so only for a night, but night brings morning and morning brings light. She did not want to raise a child on her own with a father unknown, although the romance of one night with a man did appeal to her. One night. One single night of life and wonder. Not long enough to see the things that in daylight would break the two of them apart liked a cracked eggshell. But one night can bring heartache if you look upon it in the eyes forever and wise as she were she did not fancy the idea. So she left, but her body was aching for more.

It had been different when she were a mere eight or nine summers old. She’s been with her grandmother to Avignon, shopping for herbs and spices, as well as special orange water. A boy had looked at her from behind a sack of potatoes in the store. His eyes were green as grass, his hair dark as a raven. His cheeks were red as if someone had pinched them, but it was only the sun. The sun and joy of life.

He’d seemed so confident, yet completely unaware of his own confidence. There was absolutely nothing frightening about him, just an intense sense of warmth and some resemblance of the beginnings of strength. He’d smiled at her. One big beautiful smile. And she’d felt butterflies fluttering in her belly.

They’d spoken and he’d taken her outside. Showed her tricks with his yo-yo, followed by all sorts of other tricks. He’d done handstands and backflips, taken a dice out from behind her ear and juggled some eggs. Not a single one broke. And just like that she’d known that she wouldn’t break around him. That he caught what he said he’d catch.

She’d never seen him again.

He was, as she understood, part of a traveling carnival. Her grandma had smiled when she spoke of him – she’d met him as she’d given them rock sugar when she exited the shop. And she’d let them play as she carried on with her errands – they’d followed her around town, but stayed outside shops when she went inside.

He’d shown her so many tricks which she’d later memorized. At least the ones she could remember. Sometimes she’d looked into his eyes instead of at the trick and forgotten what he was doing as soon as it was done. He’d made her laugh.

They’d spoken. She’d spoken about recipes and kitchen delights; he of marvelous travels along winding paths. He’d spoken about bringing people to their heart; she’d spoken about curing people with herbs and spice. He’d spoken about the joy of watching acrobats performing new tricks; she’d spoken about the joy of sitting cuddled up by the fire in the kitchen, as the scents of what was baking slowly filled the room.

To her he was beauty. Plain and simple. He’d understood her. Everyone else was a stranger with whom she shared moments. He was listening to her soul. As if he could see it and she could see his. As if they were actually touching each others souls with their hearts. It was magic. Not the pulling of coins and dice from weird places, but that feeling of being seen. Of belonging. She knew they had different lives. Different experiences. But it was as if they understood each other perfectly. They weren’t the same, but their world was the same even if they went on different journeys.

Her grandma understood her too. She belonged to the same world. Her grandma had taught her about life. About everything she knew. She’d taught her to look inside people to see what they felt and what they needed to feel better. And the boy did something similar, only in a very different way. He understood.

Some people fascinated her and struck a chord with her, like the gentleman adventurer. He was exciting, yet refined. He was intellectual and he understood her as intellectuals do, but he did not feel what she felt. The boy did. That boy from so very long ago.

By Maria Montgomery 

Want more? You can find chapters of what is now turning into a novel here.