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
Friday, June 18, 2010
Juliana Series: Josephine Comes Clean (outtakes)
Lawrence sat with his Queen on a bench and rubbed her back, looking at her with a quiet smile.
"Lawrence," she said. "We needs must talk, but may we please do this the once, then leave off after that."
He looked at her sadly. "Of course, my dearest. Tell me what thou wish and ask me what thou wish. Then if thou can forgive what thou hears, we may ne'er speak of any of it again." He massaged the back of her neck. He found it difficult not to keep physical contact with her.
"Thank you, my lord," Josephine replied. "But first may I change into a robe? Will it make it hard for thee if I undress?"
The King looked perturbed and uncomfortable. "Josephine, my darling, do not feel that I shall be uncomfortable or fretful if we cannot make love for a while. If I hath learned anything in these past many months, it is that I can control my lust if I resolve to do soI love. I shall not touch thee, if thou wisheth it not. As I said in the nursery, I can be happy just to hold and gaze at thee. I shall do precisely as thou wisheth."
The Queen turned to him and pleaded, "Oh my dear, I am sorry. I am but nervous after all that hath happened. I want thee to touch me and hold me. I need it. I just need... a little time to feel back at home with thee." She reached to him and held his face in her hands. She drew his head to hers and kissed him. "I love thee, my lord. We shall not wait long to be husband and wife again."
Lawrence put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. "We ne'er stopped being husband and wife. And we ne'er shall, throughout eternity, long after we hath both ceased to be. If thou ne'er make love to me again, we shall still be lovers." He kissed the golden hair. "Dost thou wish me to leave while thou undress?"
"Nay, my darling. And thou need not turn away. I dist not wish to discomfit thee, that is all." She stood and went to where her clothing chest sat against one wall. "It is so strange to be in this room. It feels as if I never left." She turned to her husband, and in a tentative voice, asked, "Lawrence, did she ever.." Lawrence frowned and cut in. Juliana never slept in this room, with or without me. And never in mine own bed either." His voice was stern. She smiled back at him and nodded.
"Thank you for thy honesty, my lord. For this afternoon, let us be entirely truthful with each other. " She bent over her chest and lifted the heavy lid. "Oh all my gowns, how wonderful to see them again. I have had but two dresses to wear all this time." She rummaged through the chest and pulled out a soft light blue linen night robe.
As she removed the riding dress her Breton knight had given her, Lawrence watched. His heart filled with longing but he let his eyes and face show only the fondness and relief of having Josephine home. He saw that her arms still held a fading tan and that her legs still showed some scars from scratches she had gotten from brambles. She slipped out of every piece of clothing she wore, trying not to think of a night all too recent when some other man undressed and gazed at her. The King savored every square inch of bare skin and tried to think of nothing else.
Draped in the robe, Josephine took the riding dress to the bedchamber door. Opening it a crack. She called to a maidservant. "Heartha, please take this to be burned." She closed the door again after her and came to sit with the King. He enveloped her in strong arms and put his chin on her head. He said nothing.
Josephine sat a while trying to decide where to start, what to say. She finally blurted out, "Oh Lawrence, why did thee do it? Why did thee bring her here?" She turned damp eyes to his face, and saw the profound regret and sorrow in his own.
Lawrence tightened his embrace. "Oh my darling, my darling. For so long I could not have explained it to myself or to thee. But now I believe I have a greater understanding. It is difficult to say the words. I have hurt thee so egregiously already."
Josephine prompted, in a tiny voice, "Go on, Lawrence. I want to know even the worst.
He sighed. "Josie, I was heart broken by thy love for Elerde. I did try to remind myself both before and after I sent him away that thou were in mine arms, my bed, and he had thee not. But so often as I made love to thee thou seemed to think of him. I could not bear it. When I saw Juliana again in Derby I was sick with grief and loneliness. She gave me.. relief." He kissed her hair. "Then as I thought to return to thee, I think I could not give her up." He struggled for words. "She.. had a way.. she made love like.. I cannot say. It was.. different. Intoxicating.. I have ne'er been unsatisfied with thee..."
The Queen put her fingertips on his mouth. "Shhh, I know. Do not explain."
Lawrence's face flickered with conflict. Her gentleness warmed him but the "I know" chilled him. He waited, then went on. "I think somehow I thought to punish thee for the hurt I felt from thee, and I was stupid enough to think that I could get away with it. Many men have mistresses -- why not I? Of course, many men do not have a great love."
He bent over and put his face in his hands. "I shall ne'er forgive myself for what I did to thee and to our children. I have had much chiding from my friends for moping and self-recrimination and have tried to leave off. But I must tell thee that I am ashamed to the heart of what I did, how I conducted myself. It was Peter's bitter anger at me that brought me to myself."
Josephine nodded and stroked the back of his head. "twas then that thou did leave her bed?" He nodded with his face still in his hands. "And never more went to her?" He nodded again.
"I ne'er made... love to her again. I would see my son's look of betrayal if I e'en so much as thought of her and.. her body."
They sat and Josephine continued to stroke his head and his back. He finally sat up and looked at her, a look of fear on his face. "And thee?"
The Queen looked away and nodded. "Aye, he did bed me. We were together in that way for little more than a fortnight." She wrung her hands. "It was.. different for me too. He was different... he did things in ways I had ne'er experienced before."
Lawrence had grown tense and tight. She hurried to go on. "My dearest, this is something we need to know about each other. We have had lovers who thrilled us in ways we ne'er hath done for each other. But even if we ne'er use what we learned with each them in our own bed, I should want only thy love and thy passion forevermore. And I believe thou doth feel the same."
The King nodded, his head bowed. He responded tentatively, "I hope that I can satisfy thee when we are .. together again."
She gave him a sweet look and a humorous shove. "Now, sirrah, let us have none of that. Thou art not a pimply boy any more. Thou needs not worry about thy prowess in bed." He looked sidelong at her and smiled weakly.
Josephine went on. "My lord, one reason I am loathe to make love to thee this minute is that I have my blood. "
He sat up and looked at her with a charmingly open smile. "That is good, is it not?"
She laughed. "Aye. It means that the only children I should bear in future will be thine."
He hugged her and laughed. "That is good."
The Queen went on, "My lord, I need to wash the dirt of the road and sea and the Breton off me. I shall call my ladies and have a bath prepared. May I beg thy leave for a nonce?" She blushed a little, "Thou canst stay and watch if thou wisheth..."
Lawrence smiled and laughed. As he rose he said, "Aye, I wisheth, but it seems a ritual thou needs to do alone. I shall tear myself from thy side . Send for me when thou art ready."
"Lawrence?" she called, puzzled, as he headed for her bedchamber door after leaning to kiss her. "Why doth thou not use the stairs to thy chamber?"
He looked over at the door that led to the stairs. "Oh, that. Well I shall explain about that later. I have to move some furniture.. and order a new bed." He smiled at her, bowed and took his leave.
She looked after him, then sighed. "Men!" she breathed and then smiled warmly. She went to the door he had left ajar behind him and called, "My ladies, will thou please prepare me a bath? A hot fragrant bath." She uttered the last in a tired but happy murmur .
Next: Peter tells of the royal feast that night