CHAPTER 12- NEW TERRITORY
They were deep in unknown land now.
They were in a place that Marie had never even heard people in the village talking out. Fields and forests went passed, and as she looked at them they were mute, and did not speak their names to her.
She felt herself shrinking, as she sat in the seat of the carriage. She alone was all that was left of her entire world. And she looked at Isabella, who smiled crookedly back at her.
“Cheer up.” she said “It’ll be fine.”
The friendship between these two girls, which was to survive murder, abduction, fire, terrors and hardships beyond counting started sedately enough. For around an hour and a half they sat in silence. Finally Marie broke the silence.
“Do you want to see my comb?”
“There it is.”
“That’s an angel.”
“So it is.”
“My Papa gave me that.”
“Did he now?”
“It belonged to my Mama.”
And that was that.
“Do you like fish?”
“Me neither. I hate fish.”
A lake had settled on the horizon, great and blue and fat.
“Except cod.” Marie mused “I hate fish except cod. Do you like cod?”
“Cod’s nice. With butter.”
A mountain in the distance, bare and grey and jagged.
“Scariest thing that ever happened to you.” Isabella said.
“I saw a devil once.”
“Wow. Okay, my turn.”
It was now night, and a large moon hung in the sky, tinting the fields and hills silver. Marie, half-asleep now on Isabella’s shoulder, tried counting the stars as they drifted over the carriage.
“Are you cold?” Isabella asked.
“No.” she murmured “I’m fine.”
But she was still glad when she Isabella gently drape a hand over her shoulder.
“Don’t falls asleep.” Isabella whispered “We’re almost there.”
“Le Canard Blanc” was a cosy little inn on the outskirts of Bordeaux, that took in weary travellers as well as keeping the local farms watered. It was a lovely little pile, with a large thatched roof and whitewashed walls, and small little windows that winked yellow and warm to the trudging pilgrims making their way down the road, their backs aching for a warm mattress to sink into, their throats crying out for cool beer, their bellies for thick meaty stew. It nestled in the shadow of a softly rolling green hill, on the edge of the farmland, and had a wonderful way of feeling like home to whoever stepped through the door.
“Two beers please.”
The barman squinted down at the dark haired girl who was looking up expectantly at him, a smile that would charm tigers on her olive brown face.
“It’s for my Papa.” she explained “He’s over there.”
And she pointed so quickly that he couldn’t follow the direction.
Deciding that it wasn’t worth arguing over, the barman poured two cool ones, and set them on the counter.
“Drink up.” said Isabella as she set the glass in front of Marie.
The two girls had nestled themselves into a quiet corner of the bar. It was fairly full, the air thrummed with laughter and loud talk, and it was wonderfully warm after the biting cold of the cart ride.
“What shall we drink to?” said Isabella, raising her glass boisterously.
“What’s our driver’s name?”
“I dunno. He’s just some guy from the village that Madame Mariana hired to bring you here. He never talks. I don‘t know his name.”
“Wait! I remember. It’s Ignatius!”
“To Ignatius! Long may he reign horses!”
Isabella threw back the glass and downed half in one go.
Marie tried the same, and then did it in reverse, spitting the beer back into the glass.
“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeuuuuughhhh! Puh! Puh!”
She spat the last dregs out of her mouth, oh God, she had swallowed some. It tasted like pee. Not that she’d know, but she was sure it did.
Isabella was doubled over with laughter.
“It takes a while to grow on you.” she said kindly.
“I don’t want it to grow on me, I don’t want it anywhere near me!”
“You get used to it.”
“How? How could you drink enough of that to get used to it?”
“Trust me. You find a way.” said Isabella quietly.
She looked up when she heard Marie giggling.
“You’ve got a moustache.”
“What? Oh.” she wiped the foam off her lip “All gone?”
“Wait…still a little…” Marie wiped a white spot that was still on the corner of her mouth “There. Should have kept it, made you look distinguished.”
“Hey look, sorry about the…” Isabella gestured to Marie’s wrist.
“Oh, hey, no.”
“It was my fault…”
“Is it sore?”
“Oh that’s fine. I’ve had worse.”
“Well, I’m sorry anyway.”
“Me too. Really. Really, really, really.”
Isabella took another swig.
“So. Explain to me about this door…”
“The door. Well. The angel…”
“The angel. Sariel?”
“The blonde angel?”
“There was only one. After my father died, and she told me that a door was about to open for me.”
“Yes. And then you came, and you said, well…you know.”
“So you think this person who told Madame Mariana to bring you to her was this angel?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“And that would mean that she can see angels too.”
“You really saw one?”
“I told you, yes.”
“What was it like?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Worse. What‘s she like?”
“Madame de Babilu?”
“She’s…she’s difficult to put into words.”
“Is she kind?”
“Yes. I mean, she doesn’t seem kind. But she does kind things. But you wouldn’t think of her as a kind person. I mean…”
Isabella grunted in frustration.
“She’s…she’s very tall. She speaks perfect French but it sounds like she’s speaking with an accent but she’s not. She wears clothes that look absolutely normal, and then you go away and you realise that you’ve never seen clothes like them before. Her voice is deep like a man’s but softer than a child’s. She never smiles. I think she’s crazy but she never acts crazy. You can’t tell how old she is. Not ever. She’s ancient but she doesn’t look over thirty…but her hair is grey. Her eyes are always looking at something else even when they’re looking at you. And when she looks at you it’s always with this…it’s horror, and pity. It’s like she’s walked into a room and found you dead and she’s looking at your corpse.”
“Don’t look at me like that. You talk to angels.”
“Yes. But I talk to them like a sane person.” Marie said.
“Come on.” said Isabella, “I’m tired, let‘s get to bed.”