Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Everyone sympathizes with Shannon… Heather knew that. Perhaps they just liked him and enjoyed him so much they could not see him as she did.. irresponsible, self absorbed, unable to control his impulses. And she knew he had that bad little boy appeal that so many women.. not her.. found attractive. The women he went with themselves were libertines, as light in their affections as their morals and as Shannon. But he drew women who should have known better as well.
Heather rode along in the monks’ cart and thought about those first months filled with both pleasure and heartache and during which she came to know Shannon for what he really was.
Waking in his arms and feeling the smooth warmth of his bare skin against hers, she remembered their lovemaking all at once and could not quell a shudder of pleasure. He slept on. She studied him for a while, then carefully rose and dressed. She set to making their supper, the first of their married life. She smiled to herself at the prospect of a long companionable time spent with him this way with the children they would have together, growing old in her little cottage and surrounding themselves with grandchildren and their friends.
Heather believed in taking her clues from actions and not words. She had begun to fall in love with the Irishman as she watched him repairing the dilapidated cottage. This was a man who was making a life for himself and her. The very things that mattered to her, her simple life, the garden, the animals, the more lyrical things such as the view of the sea from her doorway, were all things he paid attention to. She had also watched him at work, come to realize how lonely she was in heart and body.
She tried now not to think about how hurt she had been that he had gotten so drunk before their wedding. Aye, Emily had chided her for her reaction then, but Emily had not seen into Heather’s heart and seen the disappointment she had felt at having this sacred day ruined. The whole of their lives together started with that ceremony, and the way that life began augured poorly. It had taken a lot to get Heather to think of sharing her life. Now she had to wonder whether she should have relented.
The next few months were spent half in pleasure and half in heartbreak. In bed or on the hillside, the beach, there was lovemaking and tender looks and touches. She intuited that Shannon was experiencing something as new as she. For her it was any pleasuring of her body. For him it was combining love with that pleasure. She knew he loved her, deeply and with a poet’s fervor.
But she came to know also that this love could be pushed to the background for his other loves, music, riotous behavior and the charms of other women. And he had a restlessness she could not tame even if she tried. It was that restlessness that led to the first true heartbreak of their lives together.
Emily was right, Shannon did warn her he could not change.. but Heather knew it was that he would not, saw no real reason to. He assumed she would follow him. But then what man of her or most other eras would not assume that? Part of what had drawn her to Shannon, a hope of shared dreams, was shattered. And she was pregnant.
Finally she relented, rather than lose him, rather than be left laughing stock with a child, and they left her little cottage and headed for Christenlande. She turned many times as they climbed the hill road and looked back at her home, her garden, her seashore, and the tears came but would not fall. A step ahead of her Shannon practically skipped he was so happy to be on the move again. He chattered ceaselessly of all the wonders they would see together, the people in Lawrencium who would welcome her, the fine life they and the child would have.
There was something in how Shannon talked about Christenlande’s Queen that set her on edge. It was more warm than respectful. She, like everyone else, had heard of Josephine’s beauty and the ardent love she inspired in so many men. Sean had told her of her and of the tension that her devotees caused in her otherwise almost legendary love story with the King. She wondered, “Not Shan, too, please not Shan.”
Along the road she watched him greet and be merrily met by one and all. She readily saw how popular he was or could be in an instant with any person he met. She was shyer, so his extroversion was both useful and foreign to her. She did not mind that he got all the attention but it was the attention he paid to the women he met that bothered her. He would flirt shamelessly right in front of her. When she spoke to him about it he looked genuinely surprised. It did not occur to him that she might feel slighted. “Heather, me colleen, it is harmless. Ye are the only woman for me,” he would say and slap her on the bottom in front of total strangers. If she insisted he grew shamefaced and apologetic, but next time next village, he would be thoughtlessly at it again.
They did welcome her warmly in Lawrencium, the King and Queen, the Duke and his wife and the many others. When the King and Queen came to greet them, Heather stole a glance at Shannon and saw the look he gave the royal lady.. and she saw that Lawrence saw it to and bore it as gracefully as he could. At least the Queen seemed oblivious and not to return the regard.
With all the pomp and activity of the court she nevertheless felt isolated and out of place. The odors of the castle were only eclipsed by the stench of the village of Lawrencium. What passed for a garden was an ordered glower path, not a teeming vegetable and herb plot. The castle was damp and cold. She had no occupation for her hands and mind. And Shannon was nowhere to be found half the time, as he went into the village to the tavern or down to the quay to chatter with sailors and the odd whore he met. When he was in the castle he was here and there joking and singing. That she held back and was alone much of the time did not seem to come to his attention. His answer when she complained was that nothing was stopping her from joining in.
Their time alone together, little as it was, was still the magical sensual time she had known from the first. She could find respite from her loneliness and anxiety then, in his arms, with all his attention focused on her. But as her belly grew with the child who would be Seamus she felt less and less like making love, and Shannon to his credit did not press. She could not stop herself from watching him carefully to see if he would stray. He never did but it weighed on her mind and heart anyway.
Heather was glad of help with the birth and caring for her little son, from the other women of the court if not Shannon, but she did not expect it from him. He had watched the birth and even held and soothed her, with a sweetness and tenderness that touched her to the core. That was the problem with Shannon, he could be so loving and dear and yet so neglectful at different times.
She loved and honored Rory when he joined them from Ireland, but she saw even less of Shannon. Then they had gotten word of the feud between the O’Neills and O’Donnells and in spite of all her protests and pleading, he had gone with his friend, like great big boys playing at war. She told Shannon if he went she would not stay alone in Lawrencium and would return instead to her home in Scotland. He seemed to think that was a fine idea, not picking up on the unvoiced plea not to make her make that choice. But when he left, after the grief and regret of his departure, she found herself excited to go home to her cottage and her friends and her seashore. She had not told Shannon, but she was pregnant again.
Heather would never really know how to feel about what happened next. She heard of Rory’s hanging and knew that Shannon would be crushed. But beyond her grief for him, she became hurt and angry when instead of going to her her husband returned to Lawrencium. “To her, “ he found herself thinking. She remained with Seamus and the daughter she bore, Deirdre, which means “sorrow” . She heard little from Shannon. Her heart ached .
When Sean left for Lawrencium to help Lorin and the loyal knights and men overcome the usurper Gaylorde, she and Emily had spent all their time together, terrified, waiting for news of their husbands’ loss to come. When after the usurper was vanquished and Shannon, who learned from Sean of his daughter’s birth, sent for her Heather suppressed irritation at being asked to travel with two small children to a place she had been unhappy and went to him. And for a short time they were in each other’s arms.
Shannon’s grief at believing his friend was dead had wreaked havoc on him, and she wept inside at the sight of him when she arrived again at the castle. The grief had driven him to drinking and she suspected many other women’s arms. If that changed now, she could try to be content, and he did leave off whatever philandering he had done but not the drink. Even though Rory had escaped death and was with them again, Shannon was drunk every night and often came home only in the wee hours of the morning. What love they made was stolen between those times, and it seemed more urgent and needful from him now. She began to feel like it did not matter to him what woman was under him. She was wrong about that.. he sought her more fiercely than any of his dalliances, but she did not know that.
The last months it seemed like they both were at a wake for their own dead marriage. Neither tried to save it, as if there was no hope. Eventually she packed her things and her children and told him she was leaving. She told him never to come to her again, and never to try to see the children. He accepted the cruel ultimatum mournfully. She wanted him to shout and carry on and demand she stay. But as always, he took his knocks like a guilty little boy who knew he had done wrong. As she rode in a wagon north from Lawrencium, she hid her face in her cloak and wept long and bitterly. She loved Shannon dearly even then but she knew now that they could never live together in harmony.
Now she was on her way south again to break both their hearts with a finality that frightened even her.
Next: Shannon's and Rory's Journey, Part 1 - Leaving Lawrencium
Labels: Shannon and Heather series