Saturday, 8 December 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 26

The music washed over my body as Dante held me close. I didn’t even think about the steps as we glided across the floor.

“Are you happy?” Dante asked.

“What?” I shook my head. The music had me lost in its rhythm.

“You’re smiling.” He twirled me out and then pulled me back to him.

“I always smile,” I said.

Dante smiled down at me and swung me to the side. “But you are smiling more now. Is it me or the dancing?”

I pretended to think for a moment and then laughed when I saw the look in Dante’s eyes. “Relax, Dante. It’s you, not the dancing.”

He laughed and bowed to me as the dance ended. I curtsied and then clapped with the rest of the dancers, turning slightly towards the musicians. Dante offered me his arm and I took it. We walked off the dance floor towards the punch table. Savannah and Dominique joined us and we stood sipping our drinks.

“I think it’s going just fine, Dante,” Savannah said. “At least there isn’t too much tension.”

“Don’t speak yet, sister. The evening is still young.” Dante leaned over and kissed her cheek.

“Hey, that would be my fiancée you are kissing.” Dominique shoved Dante.

Dante retaliated and Savannah and I stepped away from the two.

“Are those two still at it?” a voice asked from behind us.

We turned around and saw President Tyson standing there. We both curtsied.

“President Tyson,” Savannah began. “I’m so pleased that you could make it.”

“I’d never miss this party, Miss Savannah.” The president turned to me. “Miss Crystal, I believe you were saving me a dance?”

I nodded, unsure how to speak to this man. If I said the wrong thing it could all go pear shape for Dante and Dominique.

“This seems about as good a time as any,” President Tyson said, holding out his hand.

I glanced behind me at Dante and saw that he was still play fighting with Dominique. I bit my lip and put my hand in the president’s. As we stepped onto the dance floor I had to smile. It seemed that the whole night I had been putting my life in other people’s hands or taking steps into my future. Why couldn’t I just have fun?

The music started and I found myself laughing as the president swept me around the dance floor.

“You are very light on your feet, Miss Crystal.”

“Life taught me that and Dante taught me all the dance steps,” I replied, stepping to the side and then back to him.

“If life taught you to step lightly, I want the life you had. So many people stumble around or march up and down the halls making too much noise.” President Tyson stared into my eyes and I was unable to look away from him.

How much did the man know? If he knew where I came from the gig was up before we had even gotten started.

“You are going to fit into this world so much better than most people do,” he whispered before handing me off to Dante.

“What was that all about?” Dante asked as he swept me across the floor and out into the crisp night.

I shook my head. “I think he was trying to tell me that this was where I belonged or maybe that he liked me or maybe he was warning me. I really don’t know.”

I took a deep breath and braced myself against the railing. Lifting my head I stared into the star studded sky. The air was sharp and burned my lungs as I dragged it in.

“Crystal, are you okay?” Dante pulled me around to face him and stroked my face. “Come on, tell me what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. That’s the problem. I thought this night would be a lot harder. But so far things have been going along smoothly.” I turned back to staring at the stars. “What am I doing here, Dante?”

“You’re going to help us save the world, Crystal.” Dante moved behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “And you are going to marry me and we are going to take the world by storm.”

I laughed a little. “The whole world? Isn’t that a little much?”

I felt him shake his head against me. “Nothing is too much for you and me. Apart maybe, but not together. We can do it.”

“But what are we doing, Dante? Really, tell me what are we doing?”

Dante turned me around and held my shoulders. “We are saving ourselves from ourselves. If the world keeps going as it is, there will be nothing left. Another war will destroy us. We have to stop it.”

I shook my head. He was so full of ideas, of dreams. How could I crush them? How could I tell him that the world didn’t want saving? And how could I help him save the world when I needed so much saving myself? I wasn’t the angel girl he thought I was. I had enough secrets to drown in.

“I don’t know how I can help you, Dante. My life has changed so much in the last while. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

Dante framed my face with his hands and rested his forehead against mine. “You are Crystal, the girl with the angel hair. My girl, the only one who truly understands me.”

I shook my head. I didn’t really understand him at all. All this talk about saving the world, it didn’t really make sense. How could I save the world? One person couldn’t do it. Neither could two. It would a revival of a lot of people. But maybe that was what I was meant to start. Maybe I could show people that those on the other side weren’t all that bad. And maybe those on the other side could begin to see that the rich weren’t all that bad.

Dante touched his lips to mine and I leaned into his embrace. He pushed me up against the railing and I could feel the cold of the stone seep through my dress. His hands roamed down my arms and tightened around my waist. I wrapped my arms around his neck. This was where I belonged, here in his arms.

But as the kiss deepened my mind flipped. Suddenly the clean, crisp smell of the evening air took on a foul taste and the gentle hands at my waist became hard and pressed into my skin. His breath changed from peppermint laced to the rotten smell of bad teeth and cigarettes. The chatter of the guests turned into the maniac laughter of men who couldn’t think because they had had too much of the good stuff.

A cry wrenched itself from inside of me and I tore myself away from Dante or whoever I was seeing. I could see the confusion in his eye but I couldn’t stop to explain. I gathered my skirt in my hands and ran.

The snow didn’t slow me down even if I had to hop through two feet of it.

“Crystal!” Even Dante’s cries didn’t stop me.

I had to get away, from him, the nightmares of what I was remembering. I ran and found myself on the path to the stables. With a sob I tore down the path. My feet slid a little on the cobblestones but I managed to keep upright.

I looked around wildly. Were to go? Amour poked her head out of her stall and nickered softly. It was as good a place as any. I fumbled with the latch and managed to open the door. Pulling it closed behind me I sank to the straw. Burying my face in my hands I let the tears flow down my cheeks.

Amour nuzzled my head and blew into my ear. What was I doing? I reached up and stroked the horse’s nose and leaned my head back.

“Amour, what am I going to do?”

The mare gently lipped my hair and then went back to eating her hay.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 25

As we walked down the stairs to greet the guests that I one day would call friends, I had a horrible thought. My strand of angel hair was in full view for everyone to see. I would be dead before the end of the first dance.

“Dante.” I stopped, grasping his arm. “I can’t go do this.”

He frowned. “Why not?”

I touched my braid and closed my eyes, willing the acid in my throat to slide back to my stomach. “My hair. They’ll all know who I am.”

Dante gaped. He looked at me and then my hair and then Elise. No one had an answer and the footman was hurrying to the door. We had about five seconds before everything went really, really wrong.

Footsteps clicked on the stairs above us and we all turned. Once again Mrs. Young had come to the rescue. In her hand she held a hair piece covered in flowers and feathers. Without a word she tucked it into my hair and placed a kiss on my cheek.

“There, your angel hair is covered and no one will question anything.” She hurried back up the stairs and disappeared.

I shook my head and turned to Dante. “Let’s go.”

“That woman needs a raise,” Dante muttered. “My lady, are you ready?”

I smiled and took his arm. “As ready as I’ll ever be, my lord.”

And together we walked down into the hall and joined Savannah and Dominique at the front door. The first couple through the entrance were young and beautiful. The footman took their wraps and handed them to one of the maids standing behind him.

With smiles on their faces the couple walked towards us.

“Sir William Pelts and Lady Sierra Pelts,” the concierge said.

Dante nodded to the couple and kissed the lady’s hand. “William, Sierra, this is Miss Crystal Reynolds, my fiancée. Her sisters, Robyn and Macy.”

I bobbed a short curtsy to Sierra and allowed William to kiss my hand. “Welcome.”

Robyn curtsied beside me and Macy hid her face in Elise’s neck.

“Miss Crystal, it is such a pleasure to meet you,” Sierra said. “Savannah told me so much about you. I can’t believe that you are Dominique’s cousin. He never mentioned a cousin.”

“Sometimes we forget people we haven’t see in years,” I replied.

And so it went as couple after couple shed their wraps and where announced. Names and faces blended into one solid mass as the time passed.

I curtsied and nodded to the guests, taking my cue from Dante. If he addressed them as a lord or lady or some other title I curtsied. I nodded at those with no title since we were on the same level. I don’t know how many people kissed my hand but eventually I felt Elise behind me. A cool cloth was in her hand and while Dante had a quick conversation with the next guest she wiped off my hand. I smiled. Not daring to look behind me, I squeezed her hand.

“How much longer do we have to be here?” Robyn bounced on her feet trying to catch a glimpse of the ball room. “I want to dance.”

I laughed and settled a hand on her shoulder. “Soon, little sister, soon.”

“Crystal, the President, Lucas Tyson.” Dante bowed beside me and I dropped into a deep curtsy. “President, this is my fiancée, Miss Crystal Reynolds. Her sisters, Robyn and Macy.”

I stood up again and looked into the kind face of the president. His blue eyes twinkled and his grey hair was slicked back. “Welcome. Thank you for coming.”

“Miss Crystal Reynolds.” The president took my hand and kissed it. “What a pleasure to meet you. Dante mentioned you last time we spoke. Now I see why he was so enamoured. Please, do me the honour of saving a dance.”

I nodded not knowing what else to say. The president had just asked me, a nobody from the slums, to dance with him. Was that normal? Not by the look on Savannah’s face. I looked at Dante and he was just as shocked as Savannah.

“Thank you, President Tyson. It would be a delight,” I said.

The president smiled. “I think we shall get along very well, Miss Reynolds.”

Then taking his wife’s hand he led her into the ballroom and swept her into his arms.

I had no time to ask Dante anything because me guests were arriving. Each woman that came in the door seemed to be trying to out do the one before her. Precious gems dripped from throats, arms and ears. Dresses in every colour swirled through the ball room, the black and dark grey of the men’s suits kept the colours from becoming to overwhelming.

The last guests through the door had me shrinking back against Dante and Savannah gasping.

“Lord Gregory Brooke, Lady Kaitlyn Brook.”

“What are you doing here?” Dante growled. “I told you not to come back.”

“Please, Dante,” Lady Kaitlyn begged. “It would look bad if we weren’t here. Your father promised not to speak against your young lady.”

I took Dante’s hand and found it tight. Reaching up I whispered into his ear. “Let it go. They can’t hurt me.”

He took one look at me and I knew that the words I had said were the right ones. The anger and pain slowly receded from his eyes and he managed a smiled. Turning back to his parents he lifted my hand to their view.

“I just want you to know that I have asked Crystal to marry me and she had agreed.”

Lord Gregory opened his mouth but his wife beat him. “Congratulations, my dear boy.”

She reached up and kissed Dante’s cheek. With a smile she leaned in and did the same to me. I found myself surrounded by the sweet scent of her perfume.

She pulled away and taking her husband’s hand pulled him away to greet her daughter and her fiancé.

“Well, that wasn’t to bad, was it?” I smiled up at Dante and he smiled back.

“No, it wasn’t. Let’s just hope Mother can keep him under control the whole night. They’ve see your angel hair.” He bit his lip. “It will only take one word and everything will be undone.”

“Dante.” I grasped his lapels and pulled him down to my level. “Let’s not think like that. Besides, the president is here. Do you really think your father will try anything that will harm his position in the Elite government?”

Dante stared at me long and hard. “He wouldn’t have to risk anything. They all want you dead.”

“Not the president. He likes me. I don’t think anyone in that room would dare to harm me.”

Dante laughed. “You have a very uncanny way of making everything go right, Miss Crystal. And I love you for it.”

“I have been touched by an angel, maybe he left some of his miracles with me,” I quipped reaching up and kissing him. “Come on, our guests are waiting.”

I took his arm and we walked to the door into the ballroom. Savannah and Dominique followed us with Elise and the girls behind them.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, your gracious hosts, Lord Dante Brooke, Miss Crystal Reynolds, Lady Savannah Brooke and Lord Dominique St. Clair, Miss Robyn Reynolds and Miss Macy Reynolds. They welcome you to their home and wish you a blessed Christmas season.”

As the echoes of the words disappeared we stepped into the brightly lit room to a round of applause. As we stepped over the threshold I knew that it was more then a simple step. It was a turning in my life. After I entered that ballroom as the fiancée of a lord there was really no turning back. I was one of them.

Holding my head up, refusing to be ashamed of my roots, I stepped into my future, my destiny and the place I belonged, beside the man who held my heart even if he didn’t know it and I didn’t want to admit it.          

Saturday, 29 September 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 24

The night of the ball arrived too fast for me. I spent the day in the sewing room with Mrs. Young, the seamstress. She was determined to make me the bell of the ball.

Fifteen minutes before the guests were to arrive I stood in front of the mirror in my room. I didn’t recognize the girl that smiled nervously at me. The dress was a strange combination of blue and green. Mrs. Young called it teal. I ran a hand down the fitted bodice and over the wide skirt. The hoop skirt and petticoat made the skirt float around me. My tanned neck and shoulders were set off by the wide neckline and off the shoulder sleeves. A ribbon, the same colour as my dress, held a single gold teardrop around my neck.

I careful touched the curls Elise had coaxed my hair into. She had pulled it all to one side and pinned the curls with sparkling tipped pins. I couldn’t believe it was me. My strand of angel hair was braided and wove through my curls.


I turned to Dante and smiled. “What do you think?”

Dante returned the smile and walked across the room. “I think you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”

I laughed. “You biased.”

“And with good reason.” He opened his hand and nestled on his white glove was a gold ring.

“Dante?” I slowly looked up at him. “How did you get it so fast?”

He carefully pinched the ring between his fingers and held it up in the fading light. The sapphire was in the middle, a diamond on either side. The yellow of the gold gleamed softly. I touched it with one hand. It was warm and beautiful.

“A jeweler owed me. I ordered it last night and he just delivered it.” He reached for my left hand and slid the ring to my ring finger knuckle. “Crystal, will you marry me?”

Unlike last night, I felt no reluctance to give my answer. “Yes.”

He pushed the ring on the rest of the way. I smiled and lifted my face to his. I kissed him and then looked at my ring again. It fit perfectly. I didn’t know how he knew, but I didn’t care. It was the most precious thing I had ever received. I had held beautiful pieces of jewellery before but I always knew I couldn’t keep it. This ring was mine and I would never give it away.

“It’s beautiful. Thank you.” I pressed my lips to his cheek and held him close. “Thank you.”

Dante just smiled and took my hand. “Come, the guests are arriving. Let’s go greet them.”

“Wait, I don’t have gloves.” I spun around and searched the vanity table for them.

“You don’t need gloves,” Dante said. “Unmarried women never wear gloves.”

“What? Why?” I frowned at my reflection.

Dante shrugged. “I don’t know. To show that you’re not married.”

“What about the men? You’re wearing them.”

“Yes, because it isn’t polite not to.”

I rolled my eyes. “You have some strange rules.” I turned my left wrist up, revealing the scars there. “How am I going to hide these?”

Dante gently took my arm in his hand and stroked the white lumps. “What is this from?”

“I had to get away from someone once.” I wasn’t going to tell him the whole story. That would unleash a whole box of problems.

“I’ve thought of that.” Mrs. Young hurried into the room, a piece of silk in her hand. “That’s why I made this.”

Taking my arm in her hand she wrapped the piece around my wrist and wound a gold ribbon around it. “There. That will hid the scars and make you even more unique.”

I kissed her cheek and smiled. “Thank you, Mrs. Young.”

“Yes, thank you,” Dante said. “Let’s go.”

I held my head high as we walked down the stairs together. I was on equal footing with these people now. I would not be ashamed of who I was.

At the top of the stairs we paused. The hall was empty. Somewhere we could hear Savannah giving last minute instructions and Dominique telling her to hurry up. As I scanned the grand entrance I realized that tonight would be the first of many. The ring on my finger sealed that. I had had my chance to turn away from all this, but something had stopped me. I don’t know if it was love or knowing that my destiny lay among the Elite.

“Do I have to wear this dress?” Robyn’s annoyed tones interrupted my thoughts.

I turned to her and smiled. Her dress of dark green and white trim suited her. And as much as she stated that it was a nuisance I had caught her spinning in front of a mirror like any little girl would.

“Yes, Robyn, you do,” I said. “Where are Macy and Elise?”

“They’re coming.” Robyn smoothed her skirt. “Dante, how many people are coming?”

“At the last count, one hundred.” Dante patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry. They’ll all love you. Just be the little lady I know is in there somewhere.”

Robyn smiled. “I’ll try. Will you dance with me?”

I laughed. “Robyn, you know how to dance.”

She hadn’t even stuck around for five minutes when Dante was teaching me.

“Yes, I do,” she said indignantly. “Elise showed.”

“That’s a miracle,” I muttered.

Dante sketched a bow. “Miss Robyn, I would be delighted to dance with you.”

Robyn curtsied back and I laughed. Maybe there was hope for Robyn. Elise joined us in the dark blue dress Dante had asked Mrs. Young to make for her.

“After all, we can’t have the nanny looking like one of the maids,” he had said smiling. “People need to recognize that you are in charge of the girls.”

Elise had done her hair up in a loose bun. Her dress had short, puffy sleeves and a scooped neck. The natural waist line dropped into a modest skirt.

Macy was wearing a white dress with a red sash. A red ribbon held back her curls and she grinned at me.

“Does she talk?” Dante asked.

“Yes, all the time.” I rubbed Macy’s cheek and gave her a kiss. “She talks my ear off.”

“I’ve never heard her say anything,” Dante frowned.

I wrinkled my brow and realized he was right. Macy never spoke in his presence. That was a blessing in disguise. At least she wouldn’t call me ‘Mama’ in front of him.

“Maybe she’s just not too sure of you yet,” I said, cheerfully. “I think your first guests are arriving.”

“Right.” Dante offered me his arm and we swept down the staircase.  




Saturday, 22 September 2012

Car Smashing, Hayrides and Mud Puddles

By defination 'hick' means 'a person who lives in the country, in a small town or in a backward community; unsophisticated person, a farmer, a countryman.'

A party is defined as 'a group of people gathered to have a good time together.'

Put the two words together and you get 'hick party.' A hick party is a party wherein people who like to play in mud, discuss or destroy cars and go to bonfires gather together in the middle of nowhere.

In previous years, the St. Thomas Hick Party has involvd carving pumpkins up with chainsaws and dropping pumpkins from the haymow. Last year was the first time the mud pit showed up and despite the rain some people had the guts to get into the mud. Old cars are also a must. Smashing them or driving them into ponds seems to be the thing. Why? Who knows. But it is fun in its own way.

When one of the girls described to her friends what happened at a hick party, the most common reply was "Don't die."

The Annual St. Thomas Hick Party, the fourth of its kind, kicked off Friday night with the destroying of an old car. First it got rolled down the hill a few times and then smashed some more with a sledge hammer. After that some brilliant boys had the idea of using a battering ram to remove the engine. Then those same boys, with some brainstorming from a girl, decided to hoist the car up to drop it from a great height.
Well, it only went up about two, maybe three feet, before the rope broke and seven boys stumbled backwards. They didn't land on the ground which would have made it so much more fun. The car, having been well smashed, was deserted for hotdogs and carrot sticks.

When everyone was full of hotdogs and carrot stick it was time for the hayride. Sixty odd boys and girls clambered aboard two wagons and headed down an old railroad track. Singing, talking and joking ensued as we bounced along.

When we finally arrived at our destination, about an hour later, we found a fire burning merrily. It was about, oh say, four or five feet high. In about ten minutes numerous bags of ships were consumed. Unfortunately, before we could get really excited about the bonfire, the rain started.

So back onto the wagons we went and rode to the shed. There we gathered around and sang some songs before closing with some words of encouragement. We were reminded that we should forgive as God forgives us.

Then the girls and guys seperated ways. The boys stayed behind at the shed to sleep on the straw, in the wagon of beans and a pile of corn. Sounds real comfortable. Of course at around three, a.m. that is, the traditional bacon cook off started. The boys fried bacon on the woodstove without a frying pan and then ate it. Most likely with their fingers.

The girls went to the Westervelds house. Close to thirty of us crammed into three bedrooms, the living room and the upstairs hall. Did someone say fire hazard? Try sharing one bathroom with that many girls. Thank goodness for kitchen sinks. Who needs a mirror to brush their teeth and wash their face? It is after all a hick party. We don't do things normally.

By eight o'clock Saturday morning the boys had arrived and started breakfast. Bacons and eggs were fried, filling the kitchen with their delecatable scents. Dutch pancakes, made the day before by Jake, were warmed up in the microwave and at nine o'clock the girls started filling their plates. After the girls were through the line, the boys began to wolf down.

Then it was time for the games. And in St. Thomas they are always interesting. The games began by dividing into four teams. Taking turns each team particapated in four different events.

One of the stations involved pulling an empty hay wagon through a course marked out with orange pylons and orange spray painted arrows.

Then there was the 'Plunger Plop.' The idea of the game was to toss a plunger into an old toilet. Depending on where you landed the plunger a certain amount of points was awarded.

Next was the tire change. Everyone knows how to change a tire, right? First the boys did it and then the girls. And we found out that some girls can actually change a tire faster then the guys. Hopefully the lug nuts were replaced tight enough or Kyle might just lose a tire somewhere along Iona Road.

Last but not least was lawn bowling. Only we used tires and logs. Not as easy as you think. Try tossing a tire at a bunch of logs. You can't roll it, it curves, tossing takes muscle. One thing that did work was the granny toss. That managed to knock quite a few logs down.

And then the real reason we were all running around. The Mud Pit. And it was muddy. What started out as a few fist fulls of mud being gently tossed turned into a full out brawl. After the first few minutes of timidity the mud began to fly in earnest. People were tackled to the ground and shoved into the mud, others were carried in whether they wanted to be or not. Fifteen or so people tossed mud, tackled friends and had a lot of fun. The on-lookers, or shall we call them wimps, sat on the sidelines and watched. They called encouragement and took pictures. And those pictures will most likely end up being posted before too long. What a sight they will be!

When everyone was muddy we climbed out and began the long process of hosing off. By the time everyone was cleaned it was lunch time.

For those who got changed fast there was the opportunity to shoot off a few rounds with some pellet guns and take pictures in the photo booth.

Mrs. Westerveld provided a  delicious soup and we all warmed up with that. After lunch the teams were directed to places to clean up and leave the place spotless.

The weather cooperated for us. It started out kinda seasawy, with the clouds hiding the sun, but after a bit the clouds left to bother other people and the sun stayed to warm us all.

So, a great big thank you to the St. Thomas Young People for putting on a wonderful, fun filled weekend. Nobody was hurt and God gave us good weather. Next year's should be just as epic.

A hint for all those bringing home your muddy clothes. Hose them all off before handed them to your mom to wash. Otherwise the mud pit might not happen next year.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass. part 23

There was tension in the air for the rest of the week after Dante kicked his parents out. Savannah went crazy with decorating for her party. Everywhere a person turned they were met by swags of evergreen and holly. Mistletoe hung in almost every doorway on the main floor. So far I had managed not to get trapped under a bundle with Dante. Savannah and Dominique on the other hand seemed to enter the same doorway at the same time all the time. Not that it surprised me. Those two used every opportunity to kiss or brush up against each other.

“When are those two going to get married?” I asked Dante the day before the ball.

I was cracking walnuts in his office while he worked on something.

“Next spring,” Dante replied. “Crystal, why are you doing that? That’s the servants’ job.”

I rolled my eyes. “Because it was either this or following Savannah around. And she keeps getting ‘trapped’ under the mistletoe with Dominique. ‘Sides, I like cracking walnuts.”

I tossed a piece of walnut meat at him and he caught it. Tossing it into his mouth he stood up and came around the desk.

He knelt beside me and brushed my hair away from my face. “You are the strangest girl I have ever met. You’d rather run around shooting things or crack walnuts then shop and try on dresses.”

I laughed and pushed up the sleeve of the day dress I was wearing. “Dante, the only reason I wear this contraption is to please you. If I had my way, I’d be in jeans and a sweater. And I would not be cracking walnuts. I’d be out in the woods hunting for supper.”

Dante reached for a walnut and the extra nutcracker I had brought with me. “I used to love cracking nuts. Then I grew up and Father decided I should pursue a career. Suddenly I didn’t have time for the pleasures of this life. Crystal, since you have come into this house, I find myself searching for minutes to something that doesn’t involve work.”

“I’m glad,” I said simply. “What were you working on?”

Dante sighed and cracked another nut. “I was writing letters to the government trying to reverse their decision.” He popped the meat into my mouth and I bit down on it.

“Do you think they will?” I shifted so I could see Dante’s face.

He shrugged. “I don’t know. President Lucas Tyson likes me and Dominique. He always said he likes people with new ideas. But he doesn’t hold complete power. The Lords of the Government can make decisions without him. He can reverse them but that might make him look bad.”

I stroked his face, trying to wipe away the anguish I saw there. I hoped this President Tyson had a heart and let Dante back into the government. I may not have understood politics but I understood that to Dante politics where his life.

“I’m sure he will help you,” I said. “I could always put a bug in his ear.”

“A bug?” Dante laughed. “No, you’d hold him at knife point and demand he bring us back in and to a higher place.”

“Do have so little faith in me? I can be a lady.” I laughed with him. He was right and it felt good to laugh. Maybe this whole relationship was a good thing. Actually, now that things had settled down I was beginning to look forward to get to know him better.

“Dante, I don’t know if I can do this whole hostess thing with Savannah.”

“Crystal, you can do anything you put your mind to. Just talk to them. They aren’t going to bite.”

“They might,” I said in dead earnest. “These are your friends, the great people of this world. I’m a nobody.”

Dante shook his head. “Don’t say that. You are a somebody. You’re my somebody. And it would give me great pleasure to introduce you as my fiancé tomorrow.”

I choked on walnut I had just popped in my mouth. “What?”

“Marry me,” he said softly, capturing my hands in his. “There is no use hiding the fact anymore. I love you. Do you love me?”

That was a good question. What was love? I knew I liked him a great deal. I could imagine spending the rest of my life with him. But was that love?

Then the laughter of Robyn and Macy floated into the room. Even if I didn’t love him, those two girls deserved a place where they could be safe. And if I was Dante’s wife no one could touch them.

Love might be a while in coming, but I would become his. One day I would love him, but for now I just needed someone to keep my girls safe.

I took a deep breath and looked into Dante’s eyes. “My answer is yes.”

“To both questions?” Dante asked, his breath hitching as he waited for me to answer.

I bit my life. Would one little white lie hurt? “Yes.”

The smile that spread across his face was enough to erase any guilt I felt. He pulled me to his chest and plastered my face with kisses before softly touching my lips. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled myself closer to him. If this was what love felt like, bring it on. I had never felt safer in my life.

Later that afternoon we walked in the garden with the girls. Macy clung to my hand while Robyn bounded ahead with the dogs.

“Do you have any preference to the stone in your ring?” Dante asked.

“I don’t know. I guess I like diamonds and sapphires. But aren’t you supposed to pick it out for me?”

I watched as Macy toddled to a snow drift and fell backwards into it. She struggled to get up and did it again. Dante laughed and I joined in. My Dante was learning to find joy in the simple things.

“Usually the man does pick out the ring but since this is so different I figured why not go all the way.”

“Different? How?” I looked into his face.

“We are different than most of the people our age. We are marrying for love not money or higher powers. We want each other for each other.”

I nodded. That twinge of guilt was back. I wasn’t exactly marrying for love, more like for convention. Well, that wasn’t exactly true either. Whenever I thought of another girl on Dante’s arm I got this jealous feeling inside of me. So maybe I was in love with him. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

“So, diamonds and sapphires. Can I ask why a girl like you knows that much about gems?”

“You could. But I don’t know if you would like the answer,” I said, grinning. “You know, you’re going to get a lot of shocks when you marry me. There are a lot of things that you would never guess people did.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, like finding things that have gone missing and then holding on to them until the reward went up pretty high.” I shrugged like it was nothing.

“You did that? What kind of things?’ Dante had stopped walked and was staring at me now.

“Jewelry mostly. Some of that stuff had rewards for thousands of dollars. It was the best way to make money.”

“You did this by yourself?” Dante took my hand and led me to a bench.

“No. I did it with three other men in the slums. One was a patrol. He was the one that called the detectives. That was the only way we got all the money. It kept us alive some winters so I won’t apologize for it.”

“I’m not asking you too,” Dante said.

He kissed my hand. I knew he wanted to say more but Robyn launched a snowball at us and a snowball fight began. Dante proved to have quite the arm.

Our shrieks and laughter attracted Dominique and Savannah and they joined in with us. It was a free for all and snowballs flew. The dogs joined in, jumping and snapping at the flying spheres. People tripped over them and were pummelled with snow.

It was almost dark when we called a truce and went into the house. As we stripped off our outerwear I looked around at the people who were now my family. Dominique lifted the snow covered cape from Savannah and she brushed snow from his hair. Dante tugged Macy’s boots off and helped her into her inside shoes. Robyn tossed melting snow around the back entrance and was scooped up by Dominique who threatened to toss her back outside.

I smiled at the scene. This was family. The laughter, the fun and later the tears. I could do this. I could become one of them without losing myself. And with God’s help I would love them all and never let go.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 22

I stood by Dante in the office. He hadn’t let go of my hand since I had sent Robyn upstairs with Elise. Savannah and Dominique stood together on the other side of the room. Gregory and Kaitlyn Brookes had nothing against them. It was my relationship with Dante they couldn’t accept.

But we didn’t have relationship. At least not the kind they thought we did. We were only friends.

“You can’t marry her,” Gregory stated. “She’s below you.”

“How do you know?’ Dante was angry. “You know nothing about her.”

I hated the fact that they were arguing about me while I was standing there. But every time I tried to talk I was shut down.

“Now, Dante, you know we are only looking out for you,” Kaitlyn said softly.

“No, you are just looking out for the family fortune. Crystal can’t bring anything to help build it up so you think she is worthless.”

“Miss Reynolds.”

I started. Gregory was actually deeming me important enough to talk to? So far he had ignored me and cut off my words with a gesture of his knife like hands.

“Yes?” I wasn’t going to be polite or simper to these people. Dante didn’t deserve parents like these two and I wasn’t going to let them push me around.

“What can you bring to this family?”

“I’m not looking to be a part of this family. The only family I will be part of is Dante’s and Savannah’s. I don’t want anything to do with people who think they can just waltz in and start demanding things of people they supposedly love.” I raised my chin, keeping eye contact with this pompous man.

“You have no right to talk to me like this, wench!”

I cringed. He was mad now.

“I’ll ask you never to speak to Crystal again like that.” Dante’s voice was a sheet of steel and Gregory stepped back. Kaitlyn gasped and pressed a dainty hand to her chest.

“Dante, don’t speak to your father like that,” she said. “We are only trying to protect you.”

“Mother, sometimes I wonder how you can act like this,” Dante said, his voice only a little gentler. “You know nothing about me. You pushed me towards Virgilian and look where that brought me.”

“Virgilian is a lovely young woman. She would have protected us. Her money could have brought us to greater power then her father’s.”

“Like I said you don’t know me.” Dante collapsed in a chair and I sank to the floor by his side. My hand was still in his vise grip hold. “I don’t want a woman for what she can bring this family. I want one who will make me happy.”

“And you think this nobody will?” Gregory asked, his arms crossed over his chest. “And that child, she’s going to make us all the laughing stock of the Elites.”

Savannah giggled and her parents turned their ire on her.

“Just what do you think is so funny, young lady?” Gregory stalked across the room and planted himself in front of his daughter. “You at least have the sense to marry a man of fortune.”

“What’s funny is that you two think you can come in here and tell us what to do,” Savannah said.

I raised my eyebrows. Where had Savannah found her backbone? From what I had heard and Dante had told me, Savannah was more likely to back down and do what she was told. I applauded her silently.

“You are still our children,” her father said.

“Yes, we are. But we’ve been living on our own for years now. This house is mine and Dante’s. It was our money that built it. We can have who we want in here.”

“Are telling me that your brother’s wench is here by your consent also?” Kaitlyn had risen to her feet and a look of utter horror spread over her face.

“She is not a wench,” Savannah said. “She happens to be a distant cousin of Dominique’s. Her family fell on hard times and we took her in. I’ve come to consider Crystal one of my closest friends. So I too must ask you to treat her with the respect due to a young woman.”

The laughter that came from Gregory was neither sweet nor happy. It was more like the laugh of an evil scientist who has finally come up with the solution to destroy the world.

“You have no right telling your own parents how to treat a nobody. And you’d better watch your tongue, young lady. You might find yourself without an allowance and your engagement broken.”

“Father, I want you to take Mother and find a place at a hotel. I won’t have you threatening my guests and my sister.” Dante had stood up and again and was making his way over to his sister. “Savannah is under my protection and you have no right to assault her like this.”

“You can’t tell me what to do! You’re my son!” Gregory’s rage must have reached its end for his hand flew up and before anyone could react, Dante’s cheek sported a red handprint.

I had never seen Dante truly angry before, but the strange fire burning in his eyes scared me. He stood face to face with his father, both of their chests heaving.

“You get out now.” Dante pointed to the door. “You have one minute or I am calling the police.”

Gregory stared at his son and then turned sharply to his wife. “Kaitlyn, get your cloak. We won’t stay in this place.” He turned back to Dante. “I was going to offer to get you and Dominique back into the government but not anymore. From this day on you and Savannah are on your own. No more money will come to you until your mother and I are dead.”

Dante said nothing. Gregory spun, grabbed Kaitlyn by the arm and dragged her to the door. “I won’t darken this door again as long as that slut is living here.”


I sank lower to the floor. Was this what I was going to get from the rest of the Elites? Name calling and insults? I had half a mind to marry Dante just to keep his parents away.

The tension in the room slowly dissipated. The front door slammed and only then did Dante turn to me. I could still see the imprint on his cheek. He held out a hand to me and I slowly climbed to my feet. The fire in his eyes had burned out but I was still scared that any remaining embers would turn on me.

“Leave us,” Dante said quietly. “I need to speak to Crystal alone.”

Savannah opened her mouth to protest but Dominique pressed her arm and led her out of the room. I was still standing by the fire and I could feel its heat seeping through my skirts. I couldn’t move anywhere and I trembled as Dante came closer.

He groaned when he saw my hands shake. “Crystal, I would never hurt you. I’m sorry you had to see that. Father always gets my blood up and when he insults people I love, when he demeans the woman I love, I can’t control it.”

“What?” He had hinted at, Dominique and Savannah had told me that he did but he himself had never said the word. And now just like that he said.

“Oh, Crystal, how could you not see? Since that first time we talked you’ve been mine.”

My heart was pounding and my feet, although I protested that they couldn’t, shouldn’t didn’t want to, had minds of their own as they walked across the room towards him. I placed my hand in his red cheek wishing the handprint away. He closed his eyes and leaned into my embrace. The air in my lungs constricted and I struggled to breathe properly. When he had composed himself, Dante removed my hand from his cheek and held it gently. He pulled me to the couch and I sat down in a daze.

“Crystal, you have to know this. I love you as I have never loved another. I thought I knew what love was until that day you left. My heart ached with pain, real pain. I went after you because I knew that life without would be impossible. You make all this worthwhile. Please, tell me I have some hope.”

I pulled my hand away from him and sank back against the couch. What could I say? My heart and mind were in turmoil. I didn’t want to love him. The people I loved always went away. How could I risk it? And even if what he said about me going away was true, what about the way he treated me when he dragged me back? Had that all been out of love and fear for my life? As I looked into his eyes I saw in them a look of possession and love, something I had seen in Pete’s eyes so many times when he looked at Quincy. I had never thought a man would look at me that way. But was this for me? Could I, a girl from the East Slums, really become the wife of a man who had grown up with all the comforts of life? Was I ready to commit myself to this life style, these dreams?

Robyn’s grin and Macy’s shining eyes popped into my mind and I knew that they would have to come before anything. I may not have loved Dante as much as he loved me, but the feelings in my body told me that one day I would. And Robyn and Macy needed someone to care for them. I couldn’t alone. But Dante would see too their wellbeing. I knew he would. He wanted to help the poor, at home was the best place to start.

“There is always hope, Dante. I don’t think I love you as much as you love me. But with each day those feelings grow. Just please, don’t rush me.”

Dante laughed gently. “I would never rush you. Come here.”

He put his arms around me and I sank into his embrace. His lips pressed into my hair and I smiled. This could work. I would no longer fight against what had happened. This was my destiny, my fate. And with Dante at my side I could face anything.

God, let this happen in your perfect time. Dante loves You as much as I do. Help us to keep You in our sights before all else. Please, let this be for real. I need him, I really do.

With the words spoken a peace unlike any I had known in my seventeen years, surrounded me and I knew I was doing the right thing.

I didn’t fight as he lifted my chin and kissed me, his lips soft on mine.