Posted July 4, 1997

[Several scenes from this chapter were inspired by a movie called "Golden Earrings," which is based on a book of that title. (I wish I could remember what year it was made...). I would recommend seeing it if you get a chance. You could find it on AMC, or another "old" movies television channel. It is about a Gypsy romance with a soldier during World War II. It is a wonderful movie to say the least.]

The Gypsy Princess

Chapter Six - Far From Sanctuary

"Did we absolutely have to leave?" Melisande asked in a near-whimper, fiddling with the knot in the pale pink scarf over her hair.
"Isn't it a little late for that?" Jehan said sarcastically. They were on a road that was a good distance from Paris. Jehan had traded his tent for his friend Robin's wagon, which had an open back and a rounded wooden roof. They had left the Court at an hour when very few people, if any at all, were awake. They had traveled without interruption for two days.
Now they were settling into a place inside the forest to spend the night. Jehan unhitched the horse from the wagon as Melisande climbed down off the driver's bench. "Jehan, I mean it," she said, fretfully biting her lower lip. "Could you not have talked to--"
"I was tired of talking to him," Jehan interrupted. "Besides, it was time to move on."
"But we are hardly old enough to be on our own!" Melisande protested feebly. The idea of being alone on the road was preposterous to her after knowing the safety of the Court of Miracles for so long.
The horse snorted after her remark. "My sentiments exactly, Tristesse," Jehan muttered, loosening the bridle.
"I don't think that it was a good idea to leave," Melisande continued to fret as she gathered fallen branches for a fire.
"Are you doubting my judgement?" Jehan demanded sharply. His tone cut her with such surprise that she dropped the firewood. He instantly regretted snapping at her. He went over and put his arms around her. "I am sorry. I should not be angry with you. I am sorry." He hugged her close. "Please, Melisande...I had to get away, and I could not leave without you. I love you."
Melisande drew back slightly. The moonlight danced around the glade. She looked at the expression of sadness on his face. There was a deeper pain in his eyes. "I understand," she whispered. She bent to retrieve the wood. He helped her.
A little while later they sat beside a warm fire, the night forest sounds their only other company. Tristesse, tethered to a thick tree branch near the wagon, silently seemed to be watching them.
Melisande leaned back on her elbows, her gaze wandering to the sky. She spoke up thoughtfully, " is different out here."
"It is open space," Jehan replied with a grin.
"There is something else, too. A certain...peace. One that you would never find in Paris--"
"Or any city," Jehan added.
She thought for a few moments, then said decisively, "A freedom."
Jehan chuckled. "You know very well what the saying is. 'Gypsies don't do well inside stone walls'." He turned his own gaze to the stars. "Even the Court of Miracles has brick walls."
A cool breeze blew through the trees, causing the leaves to dance and whisper. For a moment Jehan thought he heard a voice. He shook off the feeling as just sleepy imagination. He looked over at Melisande. She had fallen asleep. He smiled and picked her up and carried her to the wagon.
"Hey," he said softly, waking her. She gazed up at him drowsily. He smiled again. "At least fall asleep under cover. You never know when it might rain." He helped her climb in, where she lay down on the wide, thick blanket and immediately went to sleep again.
Jehan sat alone by the fire for a little while longer, thinking. The wind blew through the trees. Once again he thought he heard a whispering voice. You need sleep, Jehan. That is why you are hearing things, he told himself. He used the surrounding soil to put out the fire, making sure that no ember remained. Still alert, he went over to the wagon. He was uneasy about letting his guard down out here. For some reason he felt safer within the walls of the city.
He looked at Melisande curled up at the left side of the wagon. He climbed into the back and sat where he could look out at the sky. The bright jewels in the deep blue velvet provided a soft glow that bathed the land in quiet light. Jehan gazed upward, watching the stillness of the heavens and thinking thoughts that he would never reveal.

* * * * * *

Jehan found Melisande by the bank of a nearby shallow river the next morning. He was startled to see her wearing a plain gray-blue dress with a gray apron. She heard him approach and looked up from her usual green dress which she had been washing. She noticed his stare and smiled. "Unlike other gypsies, you and I can travel without fear, since we look like regular citizens." She motioned for him to sit down. "We will be able to get into any town, and no one will try to stop us."
Melisande grinned. Jehan was still staring at her face. Her joy faded as her hand went up to her right ear. Jehan's countenance held a slight frown of sadness. Melisande said softly, "You will have to take yours out, too." She reached out and removed the ring from his left ear. "I will keep them safe," she assured, almost puzzled by the concerned look on his face.
"No, let me," Jehan suddenly insisted, putting out his hand. Melisande gave him a hesitant look, then placed the earring in his palm. She fished her earring out of her pocket and handed that one to him as well. Jehan slipped them into a pocket inside the brown vest he was wearing over a blue tunic.
"Traveling will be easier this way," Melisande insisted. She wrung out the soaked dress and hung it over a tree branch. "When shall we leave?" she asked. There was a new tone to her voice, he noticed. Something like a song.
Free on the open road. Jehan thought. He wasn't sure what he thought of that. "I would not mind staying here for today. Take a small break from sitting on that hard bench for hours." He laid back against the grass, enjoying the view of the sunlight dancing across the leaves as the wind blew.
"It is quite nice out here," Melisande agreed, sitting against a tree. "Quiet. Not at all like the city."
And boring, Jehan said to himself. The conversation was on the same track it had been on the night before.
"But we cannot stay too long," Melisande considered. "We will need to buy supplies..."
Jehan suddenly groaned. He had not thought about money when they had left Paris. He had only thought about getting away from Clopin. The protective king -- protective of his daughter. "I guess we are still gypsies no matter if we change our appearance -- we will still have to perform to earn enough to continue traveling." He frowned. "I should have learned another skill. Rope-walking is only good at festivals, and we will not know what will be occuring at any given town when we arrive."
Melisande stared at the ground. "I...I could dance..."
"But your--"
"If I had to, I would," she interrupted, looking straight at him.
"There must be other ways," Jehan mumbled, glancing away from her.
"Let's not worry about that now," Melisande tried, smiling. "We should relax now that we are not tied to one city."
"Hmm," Jehan murmured indifferently.
Later they moved to sit by the road to watch for other travelers. Or rather, to watch for anyone coming from the direction of Paris who might be looking for them. No one was.
That evening Melisande set up a fire in the clearing while Jehan brought Tristesse down to the river. As the horse drank, Jehan patted her back. Suddenly he became aware of a soft sound to the side. He left Tristesse and pushed aside the leaves of a tall plant to reveal, to his surprise, that someone else had camped in the forest. A rickety wagon stood at the edge of a small patch of dirt where a quiet fire was burning. Sitting with its back to Jehan was a cloaked figure.
Jehan looked around warily. The person seemed to be alone. He glanced back once at Tristesse, then began to creep toward the fire. He somehow felt drawn to the figure. He heard a low-pitched humming as he came closer. About a yard away he stopped short as a soft, feminine voice said, "You need not sneak around. I would talk with you if you had approached face-forward."
Jehan gulped nervously and stammered, "I -- I am sorry, Madame..."
"Come, sit, boy," the woman invited in a kind tone.
He came around to sit nearly-beside her, facing her. She, however, had her face hidden by the hood of the cloak. "Who--" Jehan began, but she interrupted with a shake of her head.
"I speak first." She went back to humming. Her head was up-turned, but the hood did not fall back to reveal her face. Then she said, "You are traveling although you wish to stay." She paused, as if waiting for him to reply. But even as he might have begun to speak, she went on, "The open road is not home to you. You want a place to stay before you continue your journey."
Jehan considered this and found that it made no sense. The confusion must have shown on his face, for the woman chuckled. "You will understand what it means if you listen," she said as if reading his thoughts.
"Jehan? Jehan, where did you go?" Melisande's voice called.
"Over here, Melisande!" he answered.
The woman had her head tilted. "Your love," she asked, although it did not quite sound like a question.
"Y-yes," Jehan replied hesitantly. This woman seemed a little odd to him. He moved to get up. "I had better go find her--"
"Wait!" A light brown hand shot out and slender fingers grasped his chin as she forced him to look straight at her. Within the shadows of the hood Jehan swore that he saw a pair of light-colored eyes staring back at him, green or blue, he could not tell. They gleamed mysteriously. The woman hummed softly, gazing straight into his eyes. He repressed a squirm of discomfort. Then she tilted her head back, appearing to look at the sky. Then she spoke, "If she knows you will be true to her, she will be true to you." After a moment of silence, "And she does know...It is meant to be...Forever..."
At once she let go and stared at him. "You must follow your heart! Believe in what it is telling you! Sometimes your head tells you the wrong things." She sat back calmly.
Jehan did not move. His gaze searched out her eyes in the shadows. There was an unreadable emotion there, but somehow he recognized something. He could not figure out what, though.
"Jehan--" Melisande suddenly stepped into the clearing. She glanced from him to the woman.
Jehan leapt up. The woman chuckled, a scolding sound. "I wanted to meet my neighbors," she addressed Melisande. "Apologies if I alarmed you, mademoiselle."
"Oh, I did not even know you were here," Melisande commented, blushing slightly.
Jehan glanced at her, then said, "I think it is time to turn in for the night." He nodded to the woman. "Fare thee well, Madame." He made his way over to Melisande and they started out of the clearing.
The woman chuckled again, and called after them, "Safe journey, boy!"
A jumble of thoughts ran through Jehan's mind as he pushed through the foliage toward their camp. Melisande hurried to keep up with him. "Who was that? How long has she been here? I never saw her on the road, and she was not here when we first came."
"I don't know," Jehan murmured blankly. He focused enough to help her into the wagon before he himself climbed in. She curled up and was immediately asleep. Jehan, however, could not sleep. He was thinking about what the woman had said...What had she meant by his head -- what his mind told him -- being wrong sometimes? He felt confused. Your mind tells what your thoughts have considered. How could your heart ever be correct over plain logic? And of course he was faithful to Melisande! What was that madwoman talking about?!
He gazed up at the roof. A sliver of moonlight streamed through a crack between two boards. He saw a bit of the deep blue sky through the break. It somewhat reminded him of the woman's eyes, although he was still not sure of their color. A breeze blew by and he thought he heard a whispering voice. This time, he knew it was real.
Follow your heart...

Melisande rubbed her eyes at the bright sunlight streaming into the wagon. She looked out the front and saw that Tristesse was standing at ready while Jehan fixed the bridle.
"Leaving already?" Melisande called. "You could have at least woken me first."
"I wanted to let you sleep," he replied as he climbed up onto the driver's bench.
Melisande combed out her hair as they headed toward the open road after they had stopped by the river. She did not notice the direction they were going at first. Then she saw a sign post, and though her reading skills were not great, she knew names of towns and cities when she saw them. She glanced at Jehan in surprise. "Why..."
Jehan stopped the wagon, then turned to her. "I am following my heart..." He drew her close to him and kissed her. "...My love." He took the two earrings from his pocket and fondly set one in her ear, then put the other in his. "We are going back to Paris."
Melisande's expression was half-confused, half-disappointed. "Why?" she repeated. Then she narrowed her eyes. "Does this have something to do with that woman?"
Jehan laughed quietly. "Somewhat. But, Melisande, I realized that this is not my place -- traveling around. I need a sure home to continue with my life -- home. Paris." He smiled.
She smiled as well. "Home it is, then."

Coming next: The Gypsy Princess, Chapter Seven: Dreams and Nightmares Come True

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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