Back to Lawrencium...
Percy replied, "But the air is much warmer than in these damp halls. Still we shall not take that chance. I shalt go tell Lady Juliana we will be staying indoors. Thou stay and sit with our little sparrow." He gave his wife a kiss and went out to the garden where Juliana was just arriving for their daily walk.
"Well met, lady. I fear that our little Jolie is not well and we must disappoint thee." He gave Juliana a warm smile.
Juliana was disappointed as these walks with Percy and his wife and daughter was practically her only diversion. After several years in a close community of courtesans it had been difficult to adjust to being alone so much of the time. Percy and Jocelyn, unlike Larisa, who was kind, were also more to her taste.. young and so happy. And so grateful to her. But she did not wish for Jolie to be put at risk, so she smiled and made light of the disappointment. Percy suggested she walk anyway.
"Aye," she said. "I suppose I shall."
When Percy had turned to go back indoors Juliana had let her disappointment show on her face. She decided she may as well walk, since she had dressed in warmer clothing for that very purpose. Looking about her she took care to walk slowly and to place one palm against her belly. She was affecting looser clothing, mostly full kirtles that started just under her breasts.
She did not at first notice the Irishman standing, leaning against the tree near Josephine's marble bench. But Shannon was there expressly to meet her on the path. He had guessed that Jocelyn would wish to keep little Jolie inside.. Juliana may have gone back inside or stayed to walk, but if she did the latter he would be there to be happened upon.
"Good day, me lady," he said in a cheerful voice. She looked up and smiled. Since their work together at Jolie's birth, these two had had many friendly conversations, that is, when they happened both to be in the corridor or outside. Shannon had not yet come to visit her in her chambers.
She now liked the man. Before he had had the stuffing knocked out of him by the King, she h ad found him shallow and offensive. She deeply resented his interference between Lawrence and her, even if it manifested only as angry looks at him and Juliana. But since he had suddenly appeared again at the castle, and the look of understanding they had shared at Jocelyn's lying in, they had begun to smile and laugh together.
"Mayst I walk with thee, dubhin?" he asked gallantly.
She stopped, keeping her palm on her belly, and smiled up at him. "Aye, but only if thou wilst tell me what 'dove een' means."
He gently took her arm to escort her on the pebbled paths. He looked wistful and smiled. "It means 'dark lady'. In my language, Gaelic."
They walked slowly, Shannon playing along with the pace she set as a "woman with child". His quest was actually to decide for himself if she was with child, the King's or anyone else's for that matter. And to keep an eye on her and try to divine what plot she was hatching. "Along with her wee egg," he joked with himself.
"Shannon, art thou married?" Juliana thought she had heard snippets of a story about Shannon's even more turbulent marriage than Lawrence's.
"Aye, to me darlin' Heather, a Scots girl."
Juliana hesitated, then prompted, "And? Where is 'darlin' Heather'?"
Shannon replied, "Oh she left me."
Juliana peered into his face. "Do I know why?" she asked in a familiar and suggestive tone.
He had taken his arm from hers and locked his hands behind his back,. As he replied he took a small skipping step to mime jocularity. "Aye, I think ye do." He gave her a quick wink.
"Scoundrel and libertine," she called him and laughed.
"Loose woman," he replied, with a smile. They laughed.
"Dubhin," Shannon started. "Ye are not full blood Sassa.. Saxon, are ye? Ye are too dark for that thin blood."
She gave him a measuring look. "Thou art right, Shannon. My mother was Welsh. She was tiny and dark."
"Sure, an' I thought so. May I call ye Juliana, me lady?" he asked, taking her arm again.
She cast her eyes down demurely. "I shouldst like that very much, Shannon."
They walked some distance further, then stopped by a patch of daffodils swaying cheerfully along one side of the path. Shannon hesitatingly took one hand and stroked her hair with the back of the fist. She let herself tremble a little.
Juliana turned to him. "Shannon?"
"Aye, Juliana, dubhin?"
"Where is Rory?" She had noticed the tall man was no longer around, although his constant companion stood right in front of her.
He grinned conspiratorially. "Can ye keep a secret?"
Juliana was all ears. "What dost thou think?" She smiled.
He nodded and bent to whisper in her ear, "He is gone in search of the Queen."
Juliana went pale and swayed on her feet. He reached out and took her arms to steady her. "Dubhin, are ye ill?"
Juliana deftly took the situation back, pleading faintness because of her condition. Shannon played along, acting solicitous and concerned. He thought to himself, "Well, old son, that's just what ye wanted to know."
And Juliana was thinking, as he led her back to the keep, "Dear God, not so soon. I shall have to start putting my last plan into preparation." With that thought she leaned her weight against the Irishman and gave him a little weak smile of thanks.
Next: Shannon Keeps an Eye on Juliana
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