Tag Archives: romance

Competing Vows – Longer Version

On April 12, I posted a 100-word story called Competing Vows. There were people who were curious about the situation surrounding it, both what had come before and what happened afterward. So, here is the full story.

Competing Vows

Our candles were the fireflies that darted around, our incense the scent of the lilacs and lavender in full bloom in the bower chapel. I arrived first, with two of my friends as witnesses. A moment later, I saw Francesca appear with two of her ladies-in-waiting, ducking to avoid catching her hair on the low-hanging branches. My beautiful, forbidden bride.

I had just taken her hand when the priest arrived, stepping in silently from the other side of the grove. He was young to the point where I wondered briefly if he even was a priest.

“Thank you for coming,” Francesca said to him. “Thank you for doing this for us.” He nodded, pulled us closer together and started the marriage ceremony.

The words of the wedding mass flowed over me, but I could hardly believe this was actually happening. I was marrying the duke’s daughter, snatching her from the arms of the man she was promised to, a week before they were to be officially betrothed. I, in my cowardice, had been willing to concede defeat, but Francesca had fought for me. At least, secretly.

We joined hands and there in front of God, a farmhand, a tavern assistant, and two ladies-in-waiting, two became one. Five minutes later, Francesca and I left the bower together.

I had no money for preparations, but Francesca had rented a cottage not far away for our wedding night. My friends escorted us there and then with grins and slaps on the shoulder and cries of “good luck!” they said good night.

There was wine, cheese and bread waiting for us on the table inside. I built a fire while Francesca served the food. We sat on the rug in front of the fire and ate together, feeding each other and laughing, nervous and excited. But we both had other appetites on our mind, and only half the food was eaten before we fell into each other’s arms and abandoned food altogether.

I awoke the next morning to the crow of some distant rooster. The air was chill but the covers around us were warm. Francesca was lying next to me, her dark hair spread out like a halo on the pillow, my sleeping angel. I snuggled closer to her and was about to fall back asleep when there was a pounding on the door. We both sat up and I saw the fear in her eyes.

“It has to be my father’s men,” Francesca said, her eyes wide. “They’ve found us.”

“What do we do?” I asked. She had assured me that although her family would not be happy with our marriage, once it was done, they would accept it. I had trusted her because I had no choice. Now I was not so sure she was right.

We got dressed quickly as the pounding continued. I was just moving towards the door to open it when it burst open and soldiers pushed their way in. There was no discussion with them. One of them knocked me to the floor and as I picked myself up, I saw two of them escorting my Francesca out the door and out of sight. The clop of hoofs and rattle of carriage wheels told me that she was gone.

They took me back to the duke’s palace, back to the stables where I had worked for my whole life. But it was too much to hope that things would go back to how they had been. The soldiers guarded me until the duke appeared, striding purposefully towards us. He drew his sword. I stared back at him defiantly and waited for death.

He rested the sword against the side of my neck. “I took you in as a child, a beggar on the street and you stab me in the back like this, by stealing my only daughter away in the dead of night? What do you have to say?”

“I love her,” I said. I had no other defense.

“My wife wants your head on a pike outside her window,” the duke said. “I will spare your life for now in gratitude for your service to us. But if I see you again or hear news of you in this duchy, your life will be forfeit.” He sheathed his sword and turned back to the palace.

The soldiers escorted me to the outer gates and suddenly I was homeless and a new husband with no wife.

I was walking to the village when I came across Maria, one of Francesca’s ladies-in-waiting sitting by the side of the road. Her dress was dirty and torn and she was sobbing. When she saw me, she fell down and clutched at my feet.

“Forgive me,” she said. “The duchess discovered my lady missing this morning and beat us until we told them where you were. They turned us out.”

“Where is Francesca?” I asked. “Is she okay?”

“They are sending her to St. Margaret’s,” Maria said, referring to the convent in the hills east of the village. “It was her mother’s wish for her anyway and now that her father considers her spoiled, he has consented.”

“I need to see her,” I said. “Can you get a message to her?”

Maria wiped her eyes, and I helped her stand. “I will try,” she said.

Maria had contacts within the palace, and that afternoon she sent me a message at the tavern that Francesca would try to meet me at the convent garden gate after the Compline prayers. I spent the rest of the day in nervous tension and finally set out for the convent long before the arranged time. I arrived as the bells for Vespers were ringing and waited in the trees as the shadows got longer and darker. The Compline bells rang, and still I waited. It was dark when I heard a creak from the garden gate.

It was Francesca, and she bit her lip when she saw me. We were both trembling. She was still beautiful, even swathed in her crisp, new habit. I wanted to embrace her, but instead, I took her hand.

“Hello, wife,” I said, still unused to that glorious word.

She looked troubled. “The abbess said the cardinal has annulled the marriage.”

“We didn’t agree to that! Did you?” She shook her head. “Then God still honors our vows. Come, you can’t stay here. Run away with me. We can go tonight.”

“Go where?” I could hear the hopelessness in her voice.

“There must be somewhere your family can’t find us.” I tried to draw her outside, my body aching for her. “Do you have some time, at least?”

She resisted. “They made me take other vows here.”

“But ours came first.”

“I know.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I felt like I was losing her, had already lost her. This day which had started so perfectly with Francesca waking up in my arms was ending with this gulf between us.

“I have nothing right now,” I said, “but if I earn enough to take you away from here and provide a place for you to live, away from your family’s reach, will you come?”

She smiled for the first time since I had seen her that evening. “I will,” she said. Then she leaned forward and kissed me. “Don’t forget about me, Bernardo.”

*         *         *

Seven years later, an expensive carriage rolled up to the gates of the Convent of St. Margaret. Even before the well-dressed man and woman were helped out by their footman, the abbess had been alerted and was waiting to greet them.

“Welcome, my lord and lady,” the abbess said, who could sense a large donation when it approached. She bowed. “How may we be of service to you?”

“We are setting up our manor and would like one of your nuns to come perform services in our chapel, at least temporarily,” the man said. “Of course, I would glad to donate something to the Lord’s work for the inconvenience to you.”

“I would be happy to be of service,” the abbess said, bowing again. She eyed the carriage, looking for a crest. “You are a count, perhaps?”

“Simply a merchant,” the man said, “at least for the moment. I provide horses to the Papal States and other kingdoms as well.”

“Please come in. I will select one of our most experienced nuns to come serve you,” the abbess said.

The man held up a hand. “Actually, my wife would like to select one, if it is okay with you. Can we see them?”

The nuns were summoned and stood around the edge of the courtyard while the man and woman strolled by them under the watch of the abbess. The woman walked in front, inspecting the assembled nuns and giving quick glances back at the man. They made it halfway around the courtyard when the man stroked his beard and the woman stopped.

“What is your name?” the woman asked the nun in front of her.

“Sister Amelia, my lady,” the nun replied. The woman glanced back and the man nodded.

“We’ll take this one,” the woman said.

“Immediately?” the abbess asked.

“If possible,” the man said. “She needn’t bring anything with her. We will provide everything.”

The footman helped the man and woman back into the carriage and then held out his hand for the nun to join them inside.

“It’s you, Bernardo,” Sister Amelia said as soon as the door was closed. “I recognized you as soon as I saw you, even with the beard and fine clothes.”

“I told you I would come for you.”

Sister Amelia glanced over at the other woman. “You’re married, I see.”

Bernardo nodded with a smile. “I’ve been married for over seven years.” He indicated the other woman. “This is Genevieve, one of your new ladies-in-waiting. I apologize that I had her wear one of your new dresses, but she needed to play the part. It’s a six-day journey to our house. Do you think that is far enough away from your family?”

“They have forgotten about me. My mother still comes once a year to see me but that is all.”

Bernardo reached over and took her hands. “I am afraid Sister Amelia must die, in order that Lady Francesca can be reborn in her place. I am sure the abbess and your mother will mourn her when they find out.”

She played with his fingers and looked up with a sly smile. “You would have me break my vows to God that easily?”

He grinned back. “What God has joined, let no man separate. Don’t you remember? Our vows came first.”

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Competing Vows

FF 202 Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

Competing Vows

We met at the garden gate after dark, both trembling and nervous. She was still beautiful, even swathed in the crisp, new habit.

“Hello, wife,” I said, still unused to that glorious word.

She looked troubled. “The abbess said the cardinal has annulled it.”

“We didn’t agree to that! Did you?” She shook her head. “Let’s run away. Tonight.”

“Where?”

“There hasta be somewhere your family can’t find us.” I tried to draw her outside, my body aching for her. “Do you have some time, at least?”

She resisted. “They made me take other vows here.”

“But ours came first.”

 

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Ain’t No Sunshine… – Friday Fictioneers

This story had a double inspiration for me, the picture below and the song that gives this story its title.

copyright Sean Fallon

copyright Sean Fallon

Ain’t No Sunshine…

She always made me laugh, my cloudy-eyed Eleanor. Light and airy, she flitted from project to scheme like an aether sprite.

But her anger struck as sudden and violently as Odin’s wrath. Her incisive fury could cut me to pieces with a single sentence.

But I loved her. I still do.

She lived on the restless wind and one day it blew her away from me, leaving only a note with many words but no explanation.

I would have given her my heart, but instead she cut it out and left it in her final farewell. My lovely, cloudy-eyed Eleanor.


A Sneak Peak at “Giselle”

Well, my story “Giselle” is finally out. Thanks again to Amy at the Bumble Files for the inspiration and Sorina at Chosen Voice for the awesome cover. Here is a sneak peek at the story:

Giselle

1. September 5, 2008

Rashid

The Lebanese restaurant and bar, Al-Diwan, was a place where strange characters would appear from time to time. No one knew this better than Rashid, the bouncer. The bar was located between the docks and the warehouse district and besides the regulars, sailors and lonely weirdos would often come to drink a quiet glass of arak and ogle the belly dancers. As long as they paid up front and did not bother the dancers, Rashid didn’t mind.

It was a Tuesday night and business was slow when a man walked down the road from the direction of the warehouses. He wore a jacket and jeans, with a bulky knapsack slung over his shoulder. He looked to be in his 40s, and the bouncer was surprised to see a thin plastic tube snaking out of the backpack and into his nose. The guy must have smoked ten packs a day since elementary school to be on oxygen this early in life.

“Excuse me, what’s the date today?” the man asked.

“It’s September 5th,” Rashid said.

“You sure?”

“It’s my mother’s birthday tomorrow. I’m sure.”

The man nodded vaguely. “Today’s Friday, right?”

“It’s Tuesday,” Rashid said. He was beginning to suspect there was more than just oxygen going through the tube into the man’s nose. “You wanna know the year too?”

“No, no, that’s fine. I’m pretty sure it’s still . . . 2008. Still, do you have the time, by any chance?”

Rashid sighed and glanced at his watch. “9:23. And fifteen seconds. You coming in or you got some more questions for me?”

“No, no, I’ll come in.”

“You gonna eat supper or just go to the bar? There’s a two drink minimum if you’re not eating.”

“I won’t be eating or drinking, thank you, but I’ll go to the bar. Here.” The man pulled out a fifty-dollar bill and handed it to the bouncer.

Crackpot, Rashid thought as he pocketed the money and ushered the man inside. Some loser thinking that the dancer was his own private show. Sure enough, the man went to the bar and sat down close to the stage. He waved off the bartender’s inquiry and didn’t even touch the complimentary peanuts—just sat and looked up at the dancer.

The man had good timing. Giselle was dancing tonight and Rashid had to admit she was one of the best dancers he had ever seen. The sinuous way her body flowed with the music seemed almost magical. It was mesmerizing. Rashid would have asked her out in a second if he wasn’t already dating one of the waitresses.

The man with the backpack seemed entranced and barely took his eyes from her. That was nothing strange—Giselle was gorgeous, but the oxygen tube, and the way he didn’t eat or drink anything made Rashid keep an eye on him. Half an hour later, the man went to the bathroom and never came out. Rashid finally went to check on him. The bathroom was empty. The man was a damned magician.

Later that night, when Rashid was counting his money, he found that the fifty was missing. He searched everywhere, but it was gone. Damned magician indeed.

2. February 19, 2024

Isaac

Dr. Isaac Chu stepped off the steel platform with shaky legs. He unhooked the oxygen tube from his nose and took a deep breath. It had worked. After all this time, it had worked. This would make history and make him the most famous man on Earth, if he dared to tell anyone.

“Computer: record video, start.” A small camera moved to track his face and a green light came on. Isaac looked up at it. “Personal notes, 02:45, February 19, 2024. I have made the first successful journey back in time, arriving at 19:44, September 5, 2008, as corroborated by a local source. Energy required was 1.9743 gigajoules.”

He paused. He needed to document everything while it was fresh in his mind, but she kept crowding out all his other thoughts. He saw her face in his mind and the way her body had moved. Giselle Guerin. It was like that line from Casablanca: of all the Lebanese bars in all the towns in all the world, he walked into hers. It was like fate.

It had been a shock to step into that darkened bar and see someone from his university physics class dancing on the stage. And not just anyone, but Giselle. He had had a crush on her all the first year and just when he had built up a critical mass of courage to ask her out, she had disappeared; dropped out of the physics program and out of the university, never to be heard from again. It was hard to believe that she had quit school just to become a belly dancer. No normal person would throw away a chance at studying at MIT to dance in bars. He felt bad for her, but also he suddenly had the desire to find her.

***

If you liked that and want to find out what happens, click on the link or on the cover below to read the rest. It only costs $0.99 so please, go check it out.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/348796

Giselle cover


Three Writers on a Bus

A group of friends, Mike, Tom, and Kelsey were traveling to a writers’ meeting when there was an accident. Here are their accounts of the incident.

Mike’s Account

It was raining—not a happy little drizzle, but a carwash set to Super Premium, hold the hot wax. We were traveling down a lonely highway halfway between Nowhere and Who Cares City and had been for over two hours now.

I was doing a crossword puzzle and failing miserably at it. Who the hell knew a 7-letter word for domicile goatee anyway? The broad across the aisle had been giving me the sweet-eye for an hour now and I kept giving it right back. She had legs like the Amazon River: long, with lots of curves.

I glanced out the window and saw a car was coming up on us, like it wanted to make our acquaintance in a hurry. The passenger side window went down a crack and the barrel of a snub-nosed Luger told me they didn’t want to chat. The bus driver—O’Malley, by his nametag—saw it too and threw the wheel to the left, trying to give the other vehicle the old cold-steel shoulder. The car swerved but O’Malley kept right with him. The front fenders scraped with a shriek of steel like the devil’s nails going down Hell’s blackboard.

There was a boom as the Luger fired, hitting our front wheel. O’Malley did his damndest to pull it back under control, but the bus tipped and started to roll. The Amazon across the aisle fell into my lap. I put an arm around her waist and held on as passengers and baggage got thrown hither and yon. I knew I was probably going to die, but what a way to go.

Tom’s Account

The Imperion-class space frigate, Reyhoun, rocketed down the warp-path towards the Orion nebula. Captain Dax Harflux piloted the 800-ton frigate with cool confidence that came with eight years of experience in the Galactic Commonwealth. This was his last trip of the cycle, transporting dignitaries and Fagullian wine to the nebula colonies.

A beeping sounded from his instrument panel. Holy meteors! A Narullion pirate craft had been detected 40km behind them and coming up fast. He had to evade it, but how? He was locked into following the warp-path until he hit the nebula jump-gate. He accelerated, sending sparks of anti-matter shooting from his proton-powered nacelles.

The Narullion pirate was approaching rapidly on his port side, firing crackling beams of scarlet energy. Captain Dax strengthened the shields but they had already lost half their power. Another beam hit and the ship lurched to one side. The pirates had gotten the gravity generators and inertial dampeners! The whole ship started to roll and with a burst of white light, they flew off the warp-path. With his last burst of energy, Captain Dax hit the emergency distress button. He might die with his ship, but the pirates could never get their filthy hands on the dignitaries or his cargo of Fagullian wine!

Kelsey’s Account

I sat listlessly by the window and watched the rain glisten down the glass. Today was the one-year anniversary of my beloved being killed in action but my heart still yearned for his gentle touch and the feel of his strong arms around me. Life had been drained of color since I had watched him leave for basic training in a bus much like this one.

There was a flash of yellow next to the bus and I saw a convertible pull up next to the bus and stay there. I was seated directly behind the bus driver and I saw him slow to let the slick sports car pass, but still it stayed with us.

Then to my astonishment, the convertible’s roof began to retract and a man stood up in the passenger’s seat. He was wearing a battered Army uniform but his head was bare and the rain soaked his soft brown locks in seconds. I let out a gasp as I saw that it looked like my beloved.

He smiled and I knew it was him. That smile, even seen through a rainy bus window going 50 miles an hour, still filled me with chills. I did not know how, but it was he, back from the dead. I flung open the bus window and leaned out, heedless of the rain and extreme danger.

“My dearest love!” he cried, “I have come back for you. Not even death can keep me from your side!”

“But how?” I shouted back in wonder and joy. “They told me you had been killed at Dieppe. I received a telegram.”

“A clerical error!” he shouted joyfully again.

I let out a sigh. Clerical error. From then on, those two simple words would be the happiest words in the English language for me.

He pulled a box out of his pocket and opened it, proffering the contents. “Would you do the honor of marrying me?” he shouted.

I fear that I fainted at that point and, it seems, collapsed onto the bus driver. With my last sensation, I felt the bus swerve and then I was thrown into weightlessness, like an angel settling gently to Earth.

I woke up in the hospital, with my beloved sitting next to me, a diamond ring on my finger. Oh, but I was the happiest woman in the world!

Bergerville Herald, June 20, 2012

A Greyhound bus traveling westward on highway 16 side-swiped a car, hit the curb and rolled once. The cause of the crash is said to be mechanical. Nine people were treated for minor injuries at the Bergerville Central Hospital.


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