Farha glanced over at the boy and returned Gemma's giggle, slapping her hand playfully as she leaned to whisper in Gemma's ear, "No! Stop! Never say it's true!"
Lance sighed when the girls seemed more interested in giggling to themselves than talking to him. Perhaps it would be best to go by Farha's shop later when Gemma wasn't around...
Farha had laughed so hard after Lance had taken his leave that she needed to stop to gain her breath. "It's just that he's so... so..." Farha searched for the right word.
"A boy?!" Gemma laughed with delight and soon Farha joined back in, laughing until her sides hurt.
And it was obvious by the crowds how people respected her and listened to her knowledge!
Gemma whispered, "Sit down!" while glancing around to see who was watching.
Farha shook her head with a twinkle in her eye and Gemma's eyes widened. Whatever Farha had to tell her was probably too good to wait!
Farha sighed deeply and rested her hand under her head. "I have the most important news and I couldn't wait a moment longer to tell you." Taking a deep breath, she announced, "I'm going to find my father a wife!"
Gemma smiled wistfully, "I have heard it said that he can love no one other than your dear departed mother! If only someone would love me that much!"
"Isn't it romantic?" Farha said. "But, I'm determined!" Lowering her voice, she added, "I see how sad he is and how much he misses her. What about your father? Does he miss your mother?"
Gemma scoffed, "No. He's very happy with his 'Englightenment', as he calls it. But he says that if he had known the horrible care I would have with my mother that he would have forced her to hand me over much sooner. He hadn't even known she'd abandoned my sisters and I until after I'd already been taken away."
Farha frowned and reached for her friends hand. "Do you miss your sisters?"
Gemma glanced down and hid her hurt. "I have missed them very much, but they have never come to visit me. They must not miss me very much."
Farha looked aghast at Gemma. "I'm sure that is not true! I'm sure they love you and miss you very much, as well! They were just young girls when you came to live with your Father!"
Gemma leaned back and dismissed the subject, "So, have you talked to Lance?" she asked with a smirk on her face.
Seeing the blush on her friend's face was all the answer she needed.
Orb's Year 930
Mark rushed over to make sure she didn't fall. "When are you going to stop acting like a child?" he asked. "You are close to becoming a grown woman and grown women do not slide down the stair railing."
Gemma sighed, "But, father..." she began, but stopped short as her father continued his lecture.
"And where were you sneaking off last night during the lecture Abbess Belinda was giving?"
Gemma opened her mouth, "I just..."
"It's unseemly to run off the way you did last night!" he continued.
"Daddy!" Gemma raised her voice to be heard and was pleased when he stopped to give her a chance to defend herself. "I did not mean any offense to Abbess Belinda. But, Farha needed to tell me very important news!"
Mark's eyebrows went up and the disbelief on his face made it clear what he thought of her dearest friend's important news.
Hanging her head, she clasped her hands tightly in front of her, "I will try harder," she said quietly.
Gemma hurried away before he could list any more of her faults!
Hearing her cries, Abbess Belinda materialized by Gemma's side.
Rest in Peace Abbott Mark Grocer, Orb Years' 884-930
Orb's Year 931
Gemma glanced up sharply. "Of course not," she whispered raggedly, wishing to be alone.
Farha attempted to reach out to Gemma, "If you need to talk... I'm here..." she said solemnly.
Gingerly, she reached up to touch her cheek, closing her eyes to imagine it was Mark's hand as he bid her farewell in the secret room so many years ago.
Disheartened, her eyes popped open. It just wasn't the same...
"Oh congratulations, dear!" her mother, Abbess Mallory called from across the table. "Just what you've always wanted!"
"Yes, and should you have any questions, you know you may always ask me. But, I know you have many ideas about how to make the Abbey a better place!"
As Belinda still floundered for speech, Mallory winked at Abigail. "Perhaps we should give her a few moments to compose herself!"
With a blink, they were gone.
All her dreams were coming true!
Rest in Peace Mallory Kratz, Orb Years 882-931
Orb's Year 932
Spotting her sister, Fiona waved happily and raced out to greet her.
Farrah laughed. "Hopefully not! I have grown quite used to having my own bed!"
Fiona smiled. "I promise not to steal your bed!"
"So how go your grand plans involved piquing the interest of a nobleman!"
Fiona sighed, "Alas, the only nobleman I had any access to was your Blaze Noble... and from the sounds of it, his mother kept him locked up tight!"
"Besides," Fiona added, "It never would've worked. You know, I hear that Deanna has made herself a thorny bed! It's rumored that Camelot Bradshaw is going to marry another and that she'll live in the household as his mistress with his children!"
Farrah gasped, "No! Really? Who is he going to marry?" she asked, worried about her older sister.
Fiona shrugged, "I haven't heard. Must be someone that doesn't know about Deanna or doesn't care..."
Farrah patted her sister's arm. "Cheer up! We're going to have so much fun together! Now, it's time for me to visit with Head Abbess Abigail."
Fiona stopped her sister, "Oh no, it's Head Abbess Belinda now! Abbess Abigail wants to spend her remaining years pursuing enlightenment."
"I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long," Belinda said.
"Oh no! Of course not, Abbess Belinda!"
"Good!" Belinda announced, still smiling. "So I hear that you would like to learn the path to enlightenment."
With trepidation, she sent away a message for the matchmaker...
And so profitable for herself, Nerissa smiled.
"I have considered a few options and believe I have found a perfect match for you," Nerissa said flamboyantly.
"Oh! Who is it? May I meet him?" Fiona asked excitedly.
Nerissa held her palm out and looked at it pointedly.
"Oh yes! Yes! Of course!" Fiona fumbled with her drawstrings and pulled out the gold that Nerissa had requested.
"Very nice, very nice," Nerissa mumbled, then glancing to the side, she called out, "Robin! Come!"
Nerissa made the introductions, then waved the two away. "Go! Talk! Shoo!"
Robin nodded, pleased with the match Nerissa had arranged. "I am just returned to town and am quite anxious to settle down," Robin told her pragmatically. "Are you sure a marriage of convenience is what you wish?"
"Then it's decided. I will speak with your brother to arrange a wedding quickly."
Fiona blushed and nodded, eager for her first kiss.
"I... I just miss my Dad," she said sadly. Then, more quickly, she poured her fears, "He's all I had and now I have to stay here because I have nowhere else to go!"
"Ah, but there is where you're wrong young one. He made us all swear we would tell you of your heritage when you were ready. Are you ready to begin your life away from the Abbey?"
"Oh yes, Abbess Abigail! I am!"
Abigail smiled fondly at the girl. "Then let us go for a walk..."