Giselle stared at nothing at all on the ground as she strummed a simple little lullaby on her guitar. Most of the kids were asleep at this point and the ones who weren’t were faking it.
A little girl that had curled up next to her stirred in her sleep, making Giselle smile automatically and glance over. Maira had fallen asleep at her other side with her thumb in her mouth. Giselle lifted her eyes and looked around the room. A deep sense of satisfaction swept over her as her eyes traveled over all the all the peaceful little bodies who had fallen asleep to her playing. Less than half an hour ago they were definitely not as peaceful.
Oh, and it had been so much fun!
Elaine, Giselle and other of the older kids, Tauren, had played everything from covers to just jamming for most of the day. The kids had jumped about and danced and sang. The musicians weren’t perfect, but they knew what the kids enjoyed and it showed. The energy was infectious. She hoped they could continue when naptime was over but for right now she was enjoying the peace.
She smiled to herself as inspiration struck and she changed the tune, gracefully transitioning from the one melody to the next. She wished she had her violin instead as the music danced around in her mind. But there was no way she would be able to get up so she settled for the guitar.
She rolled her shoulders a bit and realized how tired she was becoming. Giselle almost laughed. They were halfway through day two! She wasn’t sure how she was going to do this for the rest of the week but she was excited.
It would be a bit sad not to have the rest of the gang with her. Rose had promised to pop in but Giselle knew it wouldn’t be the same. Her heart gave a painful flutter and she closed her eyes against it.
What was she getting herself into?
Giselle opened her eyes and glanced up when the door opened and a breeze gently swept in. Elaine smiled at her and she smiled back. She looked at the two girls asleep at Giselle’s side. "Do you want some help?" Elaine whispered.
"She met Carton and Lucie?" Shane asked as he stood back from the tire swing he and Eric were assembling.
"Yep." Eric suppressed a smile at the memory of Giselle playing tug of war with Lucie and inevitably losing. It was the first time he had gotten a chance to really speak to Giselle. He hoped they’d get another chance to. A conversation with Giselle was vastly different from what he was used to. She had a way of living with her head in the clouds but her foundations were flat on the earth.
He supposed that’s what made her the musician she was. She could keep up with anything he threw at her but she managed to incorporate creative, almost childlike thinking, a talent he didn’t possess. They discussed factors around Dickens’ writing, which led them to speak about different countries, history, cultures, religions, people. She had a big heart, especially for the lower and middle class. She wouldn’t say it out loud, but he could sense some animosity against the upper, more aristocratic class, which made him wonder what she had thought of him and what she thought now. Watching her talk about people she had encountered on her travels was a treat. She told him of how she often wandered around to non-tourist areas to experience the core of wherever she was.
"I’m not a big fan of tour guides or tour groups," she had said as they walked back to the castle together. "Local people know a lot more about their home, and they’re usually so much friendlier. Tour guides are paid to be friendly, and I enjoy wandering off, so I never stick to groups."
He could only smile. Her eyes would light up with so much joy that it was contagious. She seemed to celebrate everything about the people she met around the world and derived music from that. Before they met up for dinner later, she had promised to give him copies of what she had composed from here.
But he knew copies wouldn’t suffice, one else could do it justice. It wasn’t her music itself, it was everything she poured in as she played, it was the passion she had for the music as well as the story behind it.
"So the two of you are getting along?" Shane asked, bringing Eric’s mind back to the present. Eric turned his attention to the task before him.
"You’ve met her, she’s difficult not to like," Eric answered, glancing up at his brother as he did. He checked if the screws were tightened properly before readjusting his footing. The afternoon sun was baking on the back of his olive crew-neck t-shirt at this point. The younger kids were inside for a nap while the older kids had scheduled reading hour, it gave him and Shane a chance to set up a few tire swings to the large blue gum trees that stood outside the orphanage. Rose had decided to do what she loved and stayed with the babies while Giselle played the toddlers to sleep.
"She’s awesome," Shane agreed. "By the way, I’ve sifted through your harem."
Eric stopped himself from throwing his head back. Instead, he gave Shane a warning glance. Shane lifted his palms. "Sorry, potential brides. I’m not impressed by any of them." He crossed his arms over his chest. "I don’t know what Clarence was thinking. Most of them are from stable trading partners, well from what I could deduce. Thanks for making it near impossible to do my own research, by the way."
Eric smirked and straightened, crossing his arms and holding his elbows in front of him.
"But like I was saying. I’m not impressed. None of them are worth a marriage. We wouldn’t be gaining anything worth you giving up your single status for."
"So you recommend we keep searching."
"I would recommend you stop being an absolute twat and just call the whole thing off."
"Shane," Eric warned, his voice dipping. Shane opened his arms, acknowledging the warning, then crossed them again.
"I would, if I thought you’d listen. This is not my first day, I know what you want to hear. So here it is; your options are 1) keep searching, 2) settle and waste a golden opportunity, possibly screwing up your life, or 3) wait a few years. I spoke to Clarence and got a few more names. He gave in after realizing that I cracked most of the anonymities."
Eric raised an eyebrow, making Shane smile.
"Hey, I said you made it near impossible. You underestimate me. The ones I found most promising, or just interesting –." He shrugged. " – those are the ones I uncovered and got extra information on. I even looked at some younger candidates. One is under the required age for marriage in their culture, but if you’re willing to wait about sixteen months, you can marry. What’s to gain is an extension of the kingdom. Fertile land, a modest population, an extra foot in the EU trading. They’re high on karakul wool exports. She’s the only child of the late king, meant to inherit everything."
Eric felt a sick twist in his stomach, the same.... he had felt when he realized that he would be marrying Rosaline.
"How old is she?"
"She’s almost fifteen."
"Meaning the required age is seventeen."
"It’s also the age at which her lineage would inherit rule over the entire kingdom if she were married."
The nausea turned again. She was just a child.
"Plus, sixteen months is a decent grooming period."
Eric nodded solemnly then stopped and abruptly shook his head.
"Wait a second, you’re being very mature about this. You haven’t encouraged this from the beginning and now you’re even going above and beyond? What’s going on?"
"Hey, if you’re set on finding a bride and you’re sure this is the only way to do it then I know there’s nothing I can personally say to change your mind. I need to rebuild your trust in me so that when I give solid advice you won’t question it as you are now."
Eric’s brows lowered suspiciously.
"Does this have anything to do with you dating Rosaline?"
Shane dropped his gaze and shook his head.
"It might." He smiled when he looked back at his brother. "She’s ahead of the curve. I need to step my game to keep up with her."
Eric felt his lip tug at a smile. "Shane, you’re intelligent, you’ve just always chosen entertainment over exploring that intellect," Eric said and bent down to collect the chains attached to the tire.
"Well someone had to pick up where you slacked. You should choose fun more often. Speaking of which, can we go back to Giselle? I’m pretty eager for dessert tonight. She said she was baking."
"Yeah. Join us. I’m helping her bake carrot cake."
Shane looked at him with disbelief. "You’re helping her? Hold on, you convinced her?"
Eric picked up the tire swing from the ground and held up the chain.
"It didn’t take a lot of convincing. I said I’d assist, it’s only right."
He looked up in time to see Shane pocket his grin. "Are you sure you want us there?" he asked. Eric saw the glint in his brother’s eyes.
"Shane," he said sternly. Shane lifted his hands in innocence. "Hey. If you two –."
"Don’t get your hopes up," Eric cut Shane off. He saw how hard Shane was fighting his smile. "You’ve got to admit –."
"I don’t. Forget it, Shane," Eric said. He looked up and linked the chain attached to the tire to the one that hung from the branch then gave it a tug to test its strength. He heard Shane chuckle then looked at his brother.
"What?" Eric asked, curbing his annoyance. "You’re crazy about her." Shane brought both hands to the back of his head. He looked at the sky and shook his head in amazement. "I don’t believe it. Someone actually made it past your walls, and you don’t even know it."
Eric almost groaned. "I knew that comment about your intellect was premature," he said and looked back at his brother. "How do you even come to this conclusion?" Eric risked asking. Did Shane have the ability to enter a very unique form of delusion when it suited him?
"Okay, here me out. Just hear me out." Shane half bounced from one foot to the next and back, his grin widening and his palms together in front of him.
"Hear me out."
"Any time today!" The back of Eric’s jaw tensed up.
"Do you remember, it was your eighteen birthday, dad took us out fishing and he said something that made both of us realize something about you that was so obvious but somehow we’ve always overlooked it?"
Eric stared at him as realization sunk in.
"That’s different." Even to his own ears, he didn’t sound convincing.
"How?" Shake asked, opening his arms, his excitement only growing.
"Giselle’s not a boat," Eric said.
"Think of your behavior, not the object in question. How can you not see the pattern?"
Eric shook his head and looked away.
"You know I’m right."
Eric clenched his jaw tighter. He lowered his eyes, thinking, then shook his head again. "No." He looked at his brother. Shane had dropped his arms.
"Hey, you’re getting close to stepping out of denial and, as promised, I’ll still be here. To help you along, Rose and I unfortunately cannot join you and Giselle this evening. I don’t have a good excuse right now, but trust that I will soon. If by this time tomorrow you can sincerely tell me you feel nothing for her then I will not mention another word about it until after they leave."
"That’s in a week!"
"She’s counting down the days too."
Eric threw his head back, exasperated. "You were not breastfed long enough," he said and turned around, intending to head back to the school.
"She likes you, you know."
Eric tensed, stopping in his tracks. He half turned to look at his brother. "What?"
Shane’s lip tugged. "I knew you’d be dense enough not to notice it. She didn’t from the get-go, but for some reason she’s starting to fall for you. Rose and I have both noticed." Shane walked up to him. "Enjoy this evening," he said and tapped his brother’s shoulder as he walked past.
Eric stared incredulously at his brother’s back as Shane walked away.
"What the hell?" He mumbled under his breath then followed.
As Eric neared the classrooms, he heard Giselle playing the violin before he saw her through one of the windows. She sat up straight with her eyes closed as her fingers worked skillfully with the instrument. Eric felt a strange tightening in his chest as the melody surrounded him. The low notes seemed to hang in the air and lingered even as the next were played, creating an atmosphere very different from what he had experienced from her music before. The sounds stirred a sense of anguish inside of him. It was almost sorrowful.
What was going through her mind?
I'm very sorry about the late post. I realize now that I won't be able to keep up with work and a weekly post
I'll try to post often but because I don't want to set unrealistic expectations, I can't put a deadline up now.
Annabelle - Haha. I'm honored by that Disney statement.
Miha - Hey, no, it's so chilled :) Thank you! Uhm, I don't really have a favorite destination. It's more about the people going along that make it the best for me. My family and close friends are my favorites :)
Monicka - Lol! I actually laughed when I read your comment.
Haha. Baking in the next chapter ;)