Posted June 27, 1997
[Author's Note: The term "gadje" (Romani) means a non-Gypsy male]
Every sleep brought a nightmare. She was afraid to go to bed, afraid to wake to find a
gleaming knife above her. And she was afraid of what she had done; she had not been thinking clearly, and had forgotten about the other girl...and her papa had not been the same since he had uttered that word. Or maybe that was because of the blow to his head. Hearing the concept of that word had been a terrible blow, too.
She heard voices arguing. She turned onto her side, pulling the blanket over her head. The voices became more heated, more furious with every word. She could not shut them out, so she listened. Two male voices. Coming from the tent beside hers.
Papa. He had been hostile toward anyone he spoke to. She could understand why. He would not speak to her. She understood that as well. Three days had gone by. She turned restlessly onto her other side.
Shiriluna could not sleep. Besides the angry voices, she had an uneasy feeling inside. She rose and smoothed out her hair, adjusted her skirt over the bandage around her side, and then silently left the tent. She walked stiffly toward the other side of the Court.
It seemed such a long way to the orange-and-yellow tent. She thought some more as she walked. What will I say to him? What will I find?...Will he be alive?
The last thought caused her to stagger. She grabbed the tent front to keep from falling. She did not call or anything, just pulled back the tent flap and looked in. Melisande sat on the side of the bed at the left side of the tent. Shiriluna bowed her head. The form lying on the bed appeared unmoving.
Shiriluna silently entered the tent, keeping toward the curtain that divided it, watching. All of a sudden Melisande stood. Shiri quickly ducked behind the curtain. Melisande, looking flustered, hurried out of the tent.
Now is my chance! Shiriluna moved toward the bed. No other movement. No other life... Please let him be all right, she prayed, tears coming to her eyes. Please don't let him die because of me. She sat down on the side of the bed and looked at him. Jehan was pale, and when she could not resist reaching out to tenderly stroke his cheek, he was cold to the touch.
She gazed at him and ran her hand through his hair. I killed him, she thought blindly. She could very well blame Andry; he was already dead. Jehan could be dead right there in front of her. She did not know how to tell.
Her hand trailed down his cheek as he suddenly drew a shallow, shaking breath. She stepped back slightly, holding her breath. His eyes slowly opened halfway. "Sh-Shiri..." he breathed out.
She gazed at him dumbly for a moment. He let his eyes close, his head turning to the side. He coughed weakly. "Oh, Jehan," she murmured, clasping her hands to her chest in worry. He went still again. Shiriluna felt a tear roll down her cheek. Her voice was a trembling whisper. "Oh, Jehan..." She leaned over him and could not resist the urge to hug him, still whispering, "It is my fault, isn't it?" She leaned her head down so she could listen for his heartbeat, if there was one at all. "It is my fault...my fault...Oh, Jehan..." She began to sob softly.
Andry was the killer, she reminded herself. She answered back, Yes, but I was the one who could not try to protect myself. Jehan is dying because he wanted to save me. The Noble Fool.
She trailed her hand over his cheek again. She wanted to kiss him. She cared for him greatly, even though she had not known him for very long, and she had realized that she was foolishly in love with him. It was absurd, since he and Melisande were in true love. But Shiriluna loved him anyway. She did not mean any harm...No harm at all...She leaned down to kiss him...
Suddenly a shriek sounded from behind her. Shiriluna turned fast, her expression shocked and frightened. Melisande stood in the entranceway, her look enraged.
"M-M-Melisande," Shiri stammered, edging away from the bed. "I -- I w-was just--"
"Get out of here!" Melisande shrieked, rushing toward Shiriluna with a snarl on her face. "Leave! Now! Get out!"
Shiriluna dashed out of the tent. It was wrong, it was all wrong..! "I--I'm sorry!" she called back in a desperate tone. Her side began to ache. She pressed her hands to the wound as she stopped, gasping. She managed to turn and look at where she had just come from.
Melisande stood in front of the tent, her arms crossed, her expression unforgiving. "I don't care if you are the princess, you brat! Jehan is mine! You stay away from him!" She finished in a shriek, "It's your fault!" Then she disappeared into the tent.
Stunned, Shiriluna walked away. I did not kill him. Why is she blaming me? she thought numbly. Her movement wavered as the pain in her side stabbed deeper. Did she forget that I nearly died that night? No, that was a selfish thought. Jehan, Jehan, Jehan... She gave a cry as she stumbled. Calm down, she told herself, regaining her balance. There is nothing you can do...Just rest...
She gasped at the pain in her side. She was so stupid to have left her tent! She staggered, and grabbed for the nearest supposedly-steady object. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a tent flap. Although, fortunately now, the inhabitant happened to be about to exit the tent, and he caught her before she fell. She leaned unsteadily against him before opening her eyes and seeing a black-gloved hand gently grasping her arm.
She quickly drew back. "Papa, please do not be angry--" she began in a pleading tone, after knowing his quick temper over the past few days.
"I am not angry, Shiri," Clopin said softly, drawing her into his arms for a reassuring hug. "I have been afraid, that is all. Seeing my little girl like that..." His voice was tremulous, yet there was a bit of an edge to his tone.
Shiriluna wanted to cry about Jehan. But she knew that was what caused the hard edge in his words. She could not stops the tears, however. She felt the drops streaming down her cheeks
"Hush," Clopin soothed, tenderly stroking her hair. "They will not hurt you ever again. Do not worry."
But that is not what I am worried about, she wanted to tell him. But she just could not bring herself to speak of what she was truly weeping for. He would not understand. So she just wept as he murmured comfort to her, until he said, "Come, child, you must rest." He helped her to her tent and fatherly tucked her into bed. Shiriluna was worn out from her crying by now, and immediately she drifted off to dreamland.
Clopin looked down at her half-sadly and whispered, "Sleep well, my sweet moon song." He turned and silently left the tent.
Dream, or daydream? He could not remember if he had been awake or not. The image...images had been too...unpleasant to be a fickle dream. A true nightmare was more like it. Now, he could not get the pictures out of his head...That-that gadjo holding his daughter so tenderly! It could not be true, it could not be true...His daughter, a princess, being with that insufferable foundling!
Clopin paced through his tent, his fists clenched tightly at his sides. How could this be happening to him? The greatest joy in his life, and she was to fall by the wayside of gypsy life...
He had had three dreams -- nightmares -- and he preferred none over the others.
The first was about the situation that he had come upon. That so-unloved-that-he-had-been-abandoned brat was holding his daughter, kissing her with true love...But Clopin knew that future was impossible. Specifically because Jehan and Melisande were soul mates without a doubt.
The second, the one Clopin hated the most, was a truly evil dream. He was gone, and the foundling had turned on his friends...He hit Shiriluna, and hurt her, and broke her more than if he only broke her heart. Clopin shuddered just thinking about it.
He wondered if he perferred the third over the second. Clopin himself was gone. The gadjo had left the Court of Miracles. In the dark, Shiriluna had fallen. Clopin was reaching down to help her, but the distance was too great. There was no one to help her...
Clopin hugged his arms around him. Why was this happening? Why could life not be fair for once? He had regained his daughter, yet more tragedy had followed. His thoughts churned with the turmoil of the events. It is not fair! He paced more quickly. Not fair not fair not fair not fair. He suddenly sighed. No wonder everyone thought he was mad...But he had good reason to be. A sound mind could only take so much grief.
But now, now he had to figure out what to do with the foundling. If he lives... the thought pushed up through his stormings. He quickly shoved it away. Excommunicate him from the Court? That boy was old enough to travel on his own. If he lives. Clopin shoved the thought away again.
His own words suddenly came back to him, 'When I first met him, he was my son. Now he is my brother.'
Clopin fiercely fought away the thoughts. But they continued to echo. "Son...brother...my child...my family..."
Abruptly he bellowed, "Now he is a betrayer!" The other thoughts stopped. Now a new chant began: Traitor, traitor, traitor!
A dying traitor.
Why did he have to keep thinking like he cared?!
Because you do care, you old fool. He sighed and sank down on a stool at the table. Why was he trying to hate the boy he had helped to raise, the boy he himself had grown older with. Jehan was almost an echo of himself, only...only, Clopin hoped that in four years time Jehan and Melisande would still be together.
Now at a loss, Clopin sighed again. What a mess everything had become, and his poor daughter was caught in the middle of it...
The first nightmare came back to him. Why was this happening?!
Over the next few days, Shiriluna made a habit of sneaking over to Jehan's tent to see how he was doing. She did not try to get inside, lest Melisande find her. Shiri faulted herself more every day that there was no word of recovery.
Jehan will tell me if I am to blame, she thought one day. But he was not speaking, he was not moving. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
One morning Shiriluna awoke to someone calling, "Clopin! I have news!" She recognized the voice as belonging to Jehan's friend Dovev. She turned toward Clopin's tent to listen. The voiceslowered so that she could barely hear them.
"About Jehan?" Clopin asked in a tone of indifference. There must have been an affirmative answer, and then Dovev spoke in an anxious voice, "He is finally speaking, and also moving around. It seems that he will live!"
There was no answer from Clopin for a few moments. Then he cleared his throat and said quietly, "That is good to hear..."
Shiriluna's heart skipped. He would live! She had to go see him! She hastily straightened her dress and smoothed down her hair, then hurried out of her tent and headed across the Court. She slowed as she neared the orange-and-yellow tent. Melisande might become furious with her again. But she had to talk to him. She hesitantly entered.
Jehan was sitting up in bed, less pale than he had been before. Melisande sat on the side of the bed. They were almost close enough to be kissing, but instead they were talking quietly.
"H--Hello," Shiriluna stammered out. They turned toward her voice.
Melisande's expression twisted into anger. "What are you doing here?" she demanded and started to get up. Jehan caught her arm and gave her a meaningful look.
"I -- I heard Jehan was better," Shiriluna mumbled, nervously staring at the ground. "I wanted to see if I could talk to him..."
"You cannot," Melisande said authoritively, crossing her arms. "He will not talk with anyone--"
"I can speak for myself, Melisande, thank you," Jehan interrupted gently. She looked at him fretfully. "I would like to speak to Shiriluna. Alone." Melisande paused before getting up again. Jehan gave her another meaningful look, taking her hand and kissing it, his gaze remaining on her face. Melisande nodded slightly and then slipped out of the tent.
Jehan sat up straight as Shiriluna came over. "How have you been, Shiri? I was worried about you."
She tried to stifle a look of surprise. "You--you were worried? Not angry?"
"Angry? Why would I be angry with you?" He smiled and motioned for her to sit down.
She took Melisande's place and stammered, "I -- I thought...well, it was my fault that you...nearly died..." She stared at her hands in her lap.
He smiled again. "Is that why I would be angry? Do you think I blame you?" She hesitated, then as she began to nod shamefully, Jehan said, "It is not your fault that Andry was mad with jealousy and Corgee is...Corgee." He placed his hand over hers. "Don't blame yourself, Shiri. None of it was your fault."
She blushed almost inconspicuously. "I am still sorry. I should not have..." She could not continue. She should not have, but she had wanted to kiss him.
Jehan lowered his voice to a softer tone. "It is all right, Shiriluna. I am not angry about that, either." He gave a crooked smile. "Although I get the feeling that Melisande is!" Shiriluna blushed noticeably. Jehan tried to stifle a laugh. Then he continued, in a more serious tone, and more quieter now, "You do understand, don't you, that I am not in love with you."
She swallowed the hurt as she nodded, but it showed on her face. He brushed her hair back. "Don't fret, Shiri. Someday you will meet your true love. For now, it is not me." He smiled reassuringly, then said, "You are a sweet girl, Shiri. It is hard for anyone not to like you." He leaned forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
At that moment the tent flaps burst apart, and Clopin stood in the entranceway. Shiriluna leapt back and gasped, "Papa!"
He scowled at her. Then he turned a sharp glare on Jehan. Jehan shrugged sheepishly. Clopin stormed over and pointed at Jehan accusingly. "You traitor!!"
Shiriluna lay on the rug in her tent, tracing the patterns of the stars with her finger, her
expression blankly sad. Clopin had all but dragged her out of Jehan's tent, a sore silence
between the two men. She had not tried to speak of innocence. She only remained silent
and embarrassed as everyone stared as they came past. Still, it is better than the Dark Gypsies, she told herself. She nestled her face into the softness of the rug and let herself fall drowsy.
It seemed only a short while later when she awoke from a dream. In the dream, she had
watched as a symbol of the sun, like the ones woven into the rug, crumbled and broke apart. She did not ponder on its meaning long, as she yawned and stretched, for in the next moment she heard voices. Angry voices.
Papa again, she realized sadly. She looked toward his tent, focusing her attention on the two voices. Then she realized that she could see their shadows on the tent's wall. All was dark inside her tent and outside; it was most definitely night, and there was obviously a light source within the tent of the argument.
The shadow on the left was her papa...No mistaking that profile. The other was moving, gesturing, too frantically for a clear outline. She listened some more.
"I was not imagining things! I heard what I heard!" Clopin shouted.
"But you would believe Andry?!"
Clopin's voice came flatly, "And I saw what I saw."
"Y-You saw th-the kiss??"
The reply was hesitant and broken. "Y...Yes."
There was a shocked silence before the other sputtered, "But -- but -- y-you did not do anything? Andry would have killed both--"
"I was betrayed!" Clopin bellowed, "My own daughter and-and gadje foundling!"
There was another shocked silence. Shiriluna watched the shadows with wide eyes. Clopin's shadow held a dagger. The other appeared to have its fists at its sides.
"So..." the other voice began coolly. "I am not good enough for your daughter, eh? I saved her life! And this is the thanks I get for risking my neck and saving her skin? Another threat of death? I am lucky to be alive right now! I could have died, I almost did, I almost gave up yesterday -- and Shiriluna lived another week because I protected her -- and you are hardly grateful! What happened to you, Clopin? You find your daughter and you forget about everyone else who has been your friend for years!"
"You don't understand," came Clopin's voice, suddenly soft. "You will never understand, boy."
"Boy? I am no boy! I have seen eighteen years! I am no longer a boy, and hardly in your authority anymore."
She watched the shadows. Clopin's turned its back on Jehan's. "I will call you boy for as long as you are younger than I," the King's voice sneered.
"I do not love her," Jehan's voice proclaimed. "I never loved her. I only love Melisande. So your precious princess is safe, Clopin." Now his voice was the one sneering. "Does that make you happy, Clopin?" Does it? I don't love her, and I feel sorry for whoever will!"
"Get out of my sight, boy. Now!"
It was a few moments later when Jehan slipped inside his tent. He strode over to the curtain dividing the abode and pushed t back. He went to where Melisande lay sleeping. He shook her awake. "Get up," he said calmly. "We are leaving."
Coming next: The Gypsy Princess, Chapter Six: Far From Sanctuary
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(c) 1997-2004 Autumn Loweck. This work may not be copied, distributed, or reprinted without the author's permission. All characters are property of Autumn Loweck (aka Shiri), unless specified otherwise, and may not be "borrowed" or mentioned in other works without notifying the author first