Each week, I am surprised by the direction in which I am tugged by Thomas and Celeste. Last week, it looked like Celeste had been backed into the corner. As Patrick Swayze said, Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner.
Tucked away in her cramped room, Celeste spent a restless night mulling the meaning of Peter’s words. What did it mean when he said he saw her? And what did he think she needed to accomplish? Did he really see her, or was he acknowledging her position in the household where his wife would not?
When she eventually found sleep, Celeste fell into a series of visions. One vision was so intense, she wrenched herself out of it, chest heaving, breath coming in painful gasps as she fought for air; her lungs hurt, her sides ached.
The feeling of something – or someone – chasing her was too strong; she could not shake the fear from her head. Wiping the sweat from her neck, Celeste lit a nearby candle and rolled over, hoping to fall quickly into a dreamless slumber. A howl in the distance brought momentary comfort. The animals of the night were paying tribute to the heavy moon.
When next she woke, it was because a wet nose burrowed into her limp hand, dangling off the side of the narrow bed. Opening one yee, her gaze fell upon the largest beast she had ever seen inside a home. Nearly the size of a child’s pony, the brindle dog sniffed at her, poking her with that cold nose and licking at her affectionately, long tail thundering into the bare stone floor.
Celeste fought the urge to shriek or dive under the covers. Never let them see your fear, Nan’s voice echoed through her head. Clenching the thing quilt against her body, Celeste slowly sat up. The beast seemed friendly enough so she slowly reached out, patting his head tentatively.
The great, ferocious beast whuffed and whined in response, leaning into her hand. The more vigorous she rubbed the dog behind his ears, the more thunderous the beast’s tail became, drumming a staccato into the floor.
The heavy door into her room flew open, and Thomas stepped into her view. He was a glorious, welcome sight, and her heart soared.
“Grendel, you ninny. What are you doing inn – oh.” Thomas stopped laughing as he caught sight of her. Brushing a fall of thick black hair from his face, his eyes grazed over her. “Why are you hiding away in the east wing?”
Snapping his fingers at the large dog, Thomas continued, “This explains why you weren’t in your chamber last night. I went looking for you.”
“You didn’t look far then, did you Thomas?” Narrowing her eyes, Celeste forced a laugh, brittle and too loud. “And where did you search for me? Rather, when? I barely left this chamber last night.”
“At the supper gong, and again before I retired for the night,” he said. “But not here, no. We do not use this wing. I looked in the suite adjoining my own.”
“Then you and old Hagenbrock need to have a conversation, Thomas.” Spreading her arms wide, she said, “This is the chamber I was shown to last night.”
Thomas frowned. “There must be some mistake. You must have misunderstood.”
Celeste bit the inside of her lip to suppress the scream working its way up her throat. Before she could defend herself, Thomas was on a different subject.
“No matter. Now that I have found you, get dressed. Breakfast grows cold, and we have a ball to plan.”
Celeste smiled, saying, “Are we to have a ball celebrating our marriage, my lord? How delicious.”
Thomas gave her a queer look and said, “No, we celebrate Eleanor. Erm, Eleanor and Baldwin, I mean.”
Clenching her jaw, Helena ignored the sudden urge to kick the jackass wearing her husband’s clothing. Eleanor and Baldwin, indeed.
“And when do we celebrate our own nuptials, Thomas?” Sliding out of the bed, she let the quilt fall to the floor. Repressing a sigh, she allowed her husband to help her dress in the wrinkled dress she had worn the day before.
“We celebrated in London, Celeste. You are the one who chose not to have a wedding trip, after all.”
“Surely we shall have a small celebration here with the Council and your family?” Looking over her shoulder while Thomas tightened her dress, she asked, “When do I get to meet your father?”