Orb's Year 929
They fought bitterly over anything and everything, except Debbie's fear that Alibaba was in love with the woman.
Geoffrey L'Adventurer glanced around when he spied the woman. She was not carrying bags, which meant she was close to home. "I've not seen you around these parts before. Who are you?" he demanded.
Debbie put her hand on her hips and asked, "Who wants to know?"
"In the name of the crown, who are you?" Geoffrey repeated, stepping closer still.
"The... the.. the.. crown?" Debbie stuttered. It seemed that she might be in more danger than she had thought.
"My name is Geoffrey L'Adventurer, brother-in-law to King Barron. I am searching for the man known as the Prince of Thieves." Geoffrey bowed regally before her and glanced up in time to see her blush. "I would have your name, lonely baker woman."
"Debbie..." she stuttered. Cursed Orb, the King's brother-in-law! They were doomed if he found their hideout!
"Only every once in awhile to donate baked good to the Abbey."
"Where is your basket for your goods?" Geoffrey asked, not missing a thing.
Debbie floundered for an answer, "I... uh... I leave it at the Abbey."
"That must get awful pricey for a peasant such as yourself." Geoffrey crossed his arms and considered the woman. She was lying, he would bet on it! Which meant he was close!
Pausing momentarily, he considered the best way to ferret the information from her. Even an older woman like her was turned by a pretty compliment...
Debbie preened as the royal showered attention on her. It had been ages since Alibaba had looked at her with any tenderness. "I'm not sure I'd know where to start the gossip chain," Debbie said cautiously, "but I'll see what I can do..."
Geoffrey slowly pulled his hand back from Debbie, "Anything would be helpful. Just send me a missive if you hear anything." As he started to walk away, he glanced back with a smoldering gaze, "I look forward to hearing from you again... Debbie, the lonely baker woman."
When he'd asked her how her day had gone, she had shrugged. Not that he had paid any more heed to her. He'd immediately hurried over to Henna and showered her with affection.
"I have! I am sure to beat you this time!"
Alibaba and Henna held their hands out, "1 - 2 - 3..." Henna counted out loud, "Rock!"
Alibaba grinned at his daughter. "That's right. A promise is a promise. You have earned it fair and square!"
Sighing, she laid back down, thankful that there was no way she could be pregnant. Cursing mid-thought, she counted back the days to her last monthly. It had been all too long...
Rebecca covered his hand with her own. "We are doomed, Alibaba. For I have tried a million times to tell myself that I should not love you, but here I am." Opening her eyes, she stared at him full of regret. "I should leave. I do not belong here, with your wife and daughter."
Rebecca hugged him to her and sighed. "What are we going to do?" she asked him sadly as she sank to her knees with him. "What are we going to do?"
Orb's Year 930
"Oh!' she gasped.
Before he had a chance to speak to her, she'd turned and run deeper into the woods.
"Wait!" he called out to the girl. "What's your name?! Are you a fairy of the woods?!"
Maybe his mother was right. These woods were haunted...
But, for the first time, as she watched the boy walk away, she wished she hadn't needed to hide...
"Oh, I'm sorry, Henna," Rebecca said as she walked over to rest nearby. "Your mother was glaring at me fiercely, so I came in here. I hope I'm not intruding."
Henna closed her journal and slid it under the bed as she glanced at Rebecca. "No, you're not bothering me." She knew that she was supposed to hate Rebecca, but it was hard to hate someone she admired... and someone that made her father smile.
Rebecca gasped, "I'm not sure I should be talking to you about this, Henna."
Henna made a face, "No one talks to me about anything! But, how am I ever supposed to get married if no one is ever allowed to see me?"
"Ah, I see your dilemma. But, you know your father will look after you. You're too young to be considering this!" Rebecca tilted her head and considered Henna. "What brings upon this sudden interest?"
Henna glanced at the door and quietly whispered, "Can you keep a secret?"
Rebecca laughed, "It depends on what it is!"
Henna eagerly plowed on, "I saw a boy in the woods today!"
Rebecca was more alarmed than excited. "Did he see where you ran?" she asked. "You know that no one should know where we are!"
Henna scowled, "Of course not! I know the rules!" Sighing, she put her chin in her hand. "I didn't even get to talk to him. But, I dreamed for just a moment that he came looking for me and wanted to marry me!
Geoffrey smiled kindly and stroked Debbie's cheek. "How could anyone ever treat you in this callous manner. Of course, we'll take care of your small problem. You will show me where the Prince of Thieves is?"
Debbie nodded. "But he won't be home for some hours."
Geoffrey nodded, "That's okay. We'll wait patiently for him, then."
Debbie walked over and beckoned Rebecca over so that her back was to the door. Hands on her hips, "How long do you plan to live in my home, rubbing my nose in your dirty laundry?" she demanded.
Debbie waved her hand, "As if I could not recognize a pregnant woman! I've known since the beginning, you cheap harlot!"
Rebecca paled, "Alibaba was going to talk to you soon... he was hoping..."
"I don't care what he was hoping. Soon you won't be our problem any longer!"
Rebecca's eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, "What?..." she began to ask.
"I have not," Geoffrey whispered back, "Now help me get her up and to the other room."
"You said you would take her away!"
"Ah, but the flaw in the plan is that I need to speak with the Prince of Thieves first. And I doubt he'd hardly let me take her away when I'm done," Geoffrey replied smoothly.
"You lied!" Debbie whispered.
"A girl?" Geoffrey demanded. "You didn't tell me there was a girl here!" he yelled as he pushed Debbie out of his way.
"Don't hurt her! Debbie cried, "You promised you wouldn't hurt us!"
"Mother!" Henna screamed one more time.
"What have I done?" Debbie whispered as she dropped to her knees. "Cursed Orb! What have I done?!"
"What happened?" she asked, testing the knots that held her tight.
"Ask Mother," Henna replied acidly. "She's sold us out."
Geoffrey smiled grandly at the man before him. "Ah! The Prince of Thieves! So good to finally meet you! Please! Sit down!"
When Alibaba made a slight move towards the swords, Geoffrey shook his finger, "Tsk, tsk. Is that any way to greet a guest?" he asked.
"Perhaps not a guest that has been invited."
Geoffrey smiled again, "And how do you know I was not invited?" Winking at Alibaba, he whispered conspiratorially, "In the future, you might not want to impregnate your mistress where your wife can find out. They tend not to take it too well."
"Oh! They're fine! They just wanted to give us some time to chat and get to know each other."
"What could I possibly want to know about you?" Alibaba asked.
Instead of answering, Geoffrey nodded towards the sapphire-crusted trinket. "Such pretty things. It would be a shame if my brother-in-law, Prince Benedict, head of the Royale Guard were to ransack this place! You'd lose all of your pretty things!" Faking a grimace, he added, "And probably your head!"
"What do you want?" Alibaba asked, determined to send the vile man away.
"Get to the point," Alibaba grated.
"The point is that MY kingdom was stolen from me by my Uncle. I will take what is rightfully mine!" A gleam appeared in Geoffrey's eye. "At the King's castle, I noticed a curious mechanical man! King Baron has forbidden any knowledge of his creation to be kept secret. I want you to sneak into the castle and get me the blueprint!"
"Are you crazy? Break into the King's CASTLE? It would be impossible!"
Geoffrey sighed and frowned, "Aw, well, I had to try, didn't I? It will be such a shame to see your little family destroyed. Hopefully they won't kill all of you, even your pretty little daughter." Geoffrey tapped his finger to his cheek, "Although! I'm sure I could persuade the King that I am in need of a servant! Little Henna would fit in quite lovely at my home!"
"Where's my family?" Alibaba called out as Geoffrey sauntered out the door.
"In your bedroom, waiting to be rescued!"
She nodded quickly. "I'm fine now. All else will heal."
Henna threw herself into her father's arms. "I was so scared! I thought he was going to kill you!"
Alibaba ground his teeth. "No, I am too valuable to him alive."
Next he looked at Debbie, his wife for ten miserable years. "I should leave you bound and throw you out of the house," he said, seething with rage. "You brought that man to us!"
Tears filled Debbie's eyes. "It wasn't supposed to be like that." Her eyes darting to Rebecca, she buried her face in her hands. "He was supposed to get rid of her!"
Alibaba roughly pulled the binding from Debbie's hands and pushed her from the room, following close behind.
Orb's Year 931
Alibaba gazed at his wife dispassionately as she sobbed into her hands. "Getting rid of her wouldn't have changed anything," he said sadly. "I love her. If she had disappeared, I would have scoured the lands for sign of her."
"No!" Debbie protested. "You love me!"
"Not in the least, you desire each other." Turning, he walked for the door.
"Where are you going?" she screamed after him.
*** Months Later ***
"I know, but we must remain hopeful," Rebecca said, although her supply of hope was almost extinguished. It had been months and they had not heard from him again.
Worse yet, the lying she-devil was still in the home, as well. She claimed that Alibaba had said she should wait here until he came back.
Henna glanced at Rebecca oddly. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Rebecca leaned to support herself on the couch. "It's time!" she said, glancing up at Henna with fear in her eyes. "I'm not ready!"
Desperate to somehow weasel her way back into her daughter's good graces, Debbie appealed to her her, "Please, you must not hate me!" Debbie begged. "I did it for the family! For you!"
"Please..." Debbie cried as Henna sideswept around her clinging mother and walked away.
Debbie gasped. "The dungeon! For how long?"
Geoffrey thrust his hands into his hair. "Do you know what this does to my plans?" he railed. "It ruins everything! He cannot get me the blueprints locked within a cell!"
"But, what about your deal? You were going to take me away," Debbie pouted. "I can't stay here. Rebecca and Henna know that I helped you!"
Swiftly, she ducked behind the tree and held her breath, praying that he had not seen her. Soon, she heard his boots crunching through the leaves as he left. A long time passed before Henna trusted her legs to move.***
"Who killed her?" Rebecca asked
"The man with the scar! He said... dungeon! And... he said... blueprints!"
Much later, Rebecca thought she had the full story. With grim eyes, she sent Henna to check in on the babies. She would need help for what she planned next...
Crystal's face remained impassive, "'Tis grave news you bring me. I would not be anywhere else but here."
"Come in, we will plan."
Crystal rolled her eyes, "You're a baby." Glancing back at Rebecca, she asked, "Can we trust her?"
Crystal nodded once and then ignored Henna.
Rebecca took a deep breath, "I've been studying the layout and this is the plan..."
Henna hugged her sister to her chest and snuggled her, tears falling against the child's skin. "Everything is going to be okay, I promise," she told the little one. "Just you see... your Mommy is going to fix everything!"
So why then did her spirit haunt him so?