Orb's Year 941
King Barron dropped by every now and again to hear reports from CG regarding any suspicious activity. Thankfully there had been no sign of Celeste's ex-husband since the night he snuck away with his tail between his legs.
But Barron would not risk his sister or his nieces safety, not now when they were finally happy and healthy!
Perhaps that is what made her decision all the easier...
Elyssa and Celeste turned shocked eyes towards her. "The Abbey?!" Elyssa asked with surprise. "Won't it be dreadfully boring?"
Faith sighed. Perhaps her sister didn't understand that Faith was dreadfully boring - always reading and wondering. She always felt like an odd duck compared to her beautiful older sister! Glancing at her mother, she offered, "I know that before you married, you had thought to go to the Abbey. Perhaps you would join me there?"
"Mama! No!" Elyssa said, dropping her spoon on the table. "You can't wish to! Do you?"
Celeste glanced between her girls. It felt that her youth had been a lifetime ago. Smiling with fond memory, she remembered arguing vigorously for the chance to avoid marriage and live out her life at the Abbey. If only her father had allowed her that wish...
But! Then she would not have her two, beautiful daughters before her. "Let me think on it and I will let you know," she said to Faith.
Faith glanced back towards her mother and hesitated.
Celeste hugged her daughter tighter, wishing she could keep her by her side. "I wish I could go with you, but my path has changed far too much to be happy at the Abbey." She lifted Faith's chin up and wiped her tears from her eyes. "You be happy there, Faith."
"I will, Mama," Faith said. Taking a deep breath, she pulled away and turned to Abbott Haydin. "I'm ready now," she said quietly.
Orb's Year 943
Elyssa had nearly shut the door in Phillip's face when he'd come to see her. She'd heard rumors that he was newly betrothed to her cousin, Princess Felicity. No wonder she had not seen him for so long! He'd been busy ingratiating himself to King Barron!
"Please, let me explain," Phillip had begged, asking for a few moments of her time.
"Fine, a minute," she snapped.
"Don't you love me anymore?" Elyssa asked quietly, terrified of the answer that he might give.
Phillip swallowed audibly, "I do! I swear it!" But," he hedged, "If I must marry Felicity, then I thought it best to give us every bit of a happy marriage..."
Phillip attempted to reach for her again, aching to comfort her somehow, "Elyssa... I'm so sorry... I never meant to hurt you... I love..."
Elyssa evaded his arms and interrupted. "Don't say it! Your minute is at an end. You're right. You must do your duty. There is no room in this world for love," she added bitterly.
Phillip hung his head.
"Please just leave," she said, wishing him gone already. Thankfully he left without another word.
Orb's Year 944
"I'd like you to come with me," Celeste said.
Elyssa shook her head. "I don't want to go out," she said, continuing to paint.
Celeste turned Elyssa towards her and made her set aside the palette. Grasping her heads, she looked Elyssa in the eye. "I want you to come with me," she said, unwilling to allow any argument.
"Just a little further," Celeste said mysteriously.
"Your artwork! You've been selling it?" she asked with surprise. "For how long?"
Celeste sighed, "For years, now. I started after I found myself alone with two daughters to raise. Since I had no wish to marry again... I had to do something! I have sworn Darius to secrecy. No one knows that it is my artwork."
"You work for money... like a commoner?" Elyssa could not suppress her shock.
Celeste's lips thinned. "There is nothing common about putting food in your bellies or keeping the roof over your head! I took my gift for art and turned it into something that made me money."
Now it was Celeste's turn to stare incredulously. "No wish to marry? But you're so young, Elyssa!"
Elyssa rolled her eyes and waved her hand dismissively. "My reasons are my own," she said simply. "Now, may I partner with you in this endeavor?" she asked excitedly.
Celeste nodded. "Of course, darling. It is why I brought you here." Celeste longed to say more, but now was not the time or place.
She wondered what had happened to make Elyssa so set against love. She hoped with time, her daughter would open up to her.
For now, they would just bond silently with their paint. For if anyone in the kingdom would understand the solace that came from putting paint on a canvas, it was Celeste!