Anecdote of the Lioness
I am incredibly afraid. I said words that I don't know if I meant them. I proclaimed my love to Clopin, after him to me. After such a short time, am I permitted to say such a thing? Every time he speaks I find myself with no other thoughts than him. No problems, he somehow takes them away. Could he just be a distraction? Or is he really the one my soul has secretly longed for? I still miss my dear cousin terribly, but now the time he comes back has become irrelevant to me. I do not care to leave now. I just remembered my birthday is within a fortnight. I believe I will be seventeen. I will write at a later time.
As she sang it was amazing how much she had changed with the influence of one person, Clopin. Her depression of her parents now seemed out of place of her cheery personality. Still a bit insecure because of the large city, she was a very sensitive person. Her features were even more radiant as her pearl white teeth were added to the long list of attractive features. Her smile seemed to always be on her face, and with good reason. Within days a complete make over had taken over her.
Clopin burst into her tent a little after her own departure, hoping to spend the day with her. Running in he found the place empty. Slouching he looked around, making sure she hadn't seen him coming and decided to hide. "Ariel?"After receiving no answer three times and scanning the tent one more time he pranced out, on a hunt for his lioness.
She sang with enthusiasm. Angelic notes and sweet words floated out of her mouth with ease. Her smile was still on her face as she sang. The seductive eyes and music drew people in like bees to a beautiful flower. She was so pleased with the large crowd that had gathered she didn't bother to notice the stranger who hung solemnly toward the back with a large black hood and cloak.
Her session had ended, but not before the profit came in, and very much of it. It seemed as though the money grew every time she sang. Maybe word was getting out about the remarkable girl. She grinned at the thought. Walking away from the musician after some light conversation she proceeded to the Town Square. Seeing people mill about with their wives and children, performing their daily and trite chores actually intrigued Ariel. She had never paid attention to the way of the world around her until she came to the Court. Being isolated in her small traveling cart didn't give her much time to get out and explore her surroundings.
Suddenly it all went dark. She tried to struggle away from the grasp and swung her leg behind her in an odd backward kick, but it did the job she was hoping for. She heard a yelp of pain and immediately escaped the person's tight hold. She spun around ready to strike again but instead covered her mouth and gasped, "Oh!" Running to Clopin's side she kissed his cheek quickly. "I am terribly sorry! If I would've known...." She held her head up with her hand in disbelief, he shook his head, dismissing her apologies.
"My fault mademoiselle," he choked out in a whispering tone. She made sure to keep her amused smile of him crouched on the ground like a helpless goat to herself and continued giving him support.
They walked down the dirty streets. Vendors who would usually beg the passersby to buy their products turned their noses up as the duo of gypsies strolled casually past their stands. The two cheerfully walked side by side, Clopin enjoying the walk so much more after catching his breath. "Why were you up here in the streets? I am surprised you took such a risk of being alone." She shrugged, not wanting to tell him of her secret employer. Her act attracted many, she was afraid he might believe she was trying to show him up.
"I don't know, fresh air I suppose." He nodded, accepting her answer. They walked to Ariel's flute playing friend who looked at her, almost calling her up to perform with him, until he saw her motion to the left. He shifted his eyes to Clopin, protectively standing next to her. As they watched another flute player from the crowd joined in and her friend stood up and started to make his way over to Ariel, dancing. He pulled her out and they danced together, Ariel's dress pleating out like a cloud around her as she jumped and twirled around. However, the players motives were not just to dance.
"Who is he?" He asked softly in a kind tone, curiosity had gotten to him. He spoke in a low volume, not wanting to anger Clopin by making it seem as though they were flirting. "Your brother?" She smiled.
"No, I'm afraid not, a friend of mine," she whispered back as they danced closely to hear each other.
"I believe I've seen him around here, popular with the crowds, especially with the ladies. Be careful." She nodded, still smiling. "You will be back tomorrow to sing?" She nodded as they spread apart to go back to their original positions. "A demain mademoiselle." He grinned as he patted her away, the crowd softly clapping at the end of the routine.
Ariel spun her way to Clopin giggling. He had a frown on his face and his eyebrows raised in question. She stopped her giddy nature and cleared her throat, looking away. "Who is he?" Clopin asked, in a bit of a mocking tone. They began their walk again.
"A polite man who took on the act of dancing with me and nothing more. Do I sense a slight edge of jealousy in your voice? You are a ridiculously possessive jester!" He grunted and crossed his arms, refusing to reply or even turn to her. She smirked at him. They passed a few shops and made their way to the Court of Miracles. As they walked she kept looking at him. He was so attractive, even when he was being childish. She placed her hand on his arm, moving it down to take his hand and swing it between them. Clopin's face flickered a smile for an instant but returned to being stubborn. They went on to her tent and she kissed him quickly on the on the cheek and vanished behind the flaps of her tent. He smiled quickly at the flaps to himself and strolled on his way. As he walked Ariel poked her head out of her tent and watched him walk. Smiling wide she laughed to herself and went back inside.
Clopin went to the Centre. Sitting he made his greeting to the men and the waves to the ladies. He laid his head on his hand which rested on his knees. He sighed, the unusual quite nature of Clopin caught some of the men's attention. Christophe slowly made his way over to Clopin.
" 'Allo, that woman got your tongue?" They both chuckled to each other.
"And my heart, I wish it was as simple as you said. I am getting myself into heaps of trouble mon ami, and I cannot seem to stop it, nor do I want to." He looked at Christophe who was sitting there with a look of confusion on his face. "Years ago I was betrothed."
"Betrothed eh?" Christophe uttered, sipping from his mug. "Not to the one you are currently with I take it." Clopin nodded. "Well which do you prefer?" Clopin laughed.
"If only it was that simple Christophe. The one I am betrothed to is a boisterous spark whom will probably argue and disobey when she is able. Whenever she is to arrive in the years to come that is. This one though, she's not like my casual affairs. She's a kind, and enchanting flame who makes me smile at her touch." Christophe shook his head.
"Well, I suppose I know which one you will be choosing," he laughed dryly.
"No, I am afraid my parents will refuse to call off my betrothal. To send a message to India would be breaking a promise. I am in quite a bind.
"Then it sounds as if you should call off your relationship now, before you regret what you started." Sadly, Clopin agreed.
"Yes, I suppose that should be my decision. I will go to her tonight, or the next morning. But first I must go to my tent and think." He muttered a farewell and went on his way. Clopin held his head as he approached his tent. Sighing, defeated he walked slowly into his tent. He looked up and gasped. Looking around there were candles all lit up, giving the room a soft angelic glow. He gazed around the tent and saw his bed. Flowers covered it, along with Ariel. Holding a single lily in her hand she laid out on his bed, smiling at him in his state of confusion. In a plum colored dress with gold trim, she had made an extra effort to look elegant. Bracelets decorated her arms and flickered an extra light from the candles. She stood up and slowly made her way to him. She placed her arms around his waist and kissed his neck. Although he enjoyed it, he still stood their, stiff.
"What is all this?" He looked down into his soft features, enhanced only a bit by make up.
"It is to prove to you that you have no reason ever to be jealous. No one will ever steal me away from you." She kissed him again, this time on the lips and with more passion. He gladly returned it and placed his arms around her waist as hers had moved up to around his neck. Giving into the moment they both leaned against one of his tables, embracing. Her warm body pressed against his and he smiled as he kissed her. They parted.
"You made this all for me?" Clopin inquired.
"Of course," she whispered. He smiled as he inhaled her lavender sent. The candles produced a halo around them as they fell onto the bed. A bit scared Ariel was apprehensive. She looked down at him on the bed as they rolled over and he got on top with a frightened stare. He just smiled at her and kissed her lips reassuringly. She closed her eyes and let him lead. Always afraid of her first times at anything this was no different. It was hard to loosen her muscles, especially when her violet dress was tossed aside. She breathed faster, frightened. She almost yelped in pain from him but Clopin rubbed her body softly, comforting her, relaxing her. After some time she began to enjoy it. The sensation made her even smile as she looked down into his eyes. She soon laid on top of his firm chest and closed her eyes. Still awake she hummed almost silently to herself. Taking in deep breathes she caressed his arms, running her fingers up and down them slowly. He sighed, grinning at her, though she wasn't looking. It was all going so fast. Ariel wasn't sure if it was too fast though. Maybe they were rushing what Ariel had wanted so much. The thought struck her that maybe she was his object again. Had she fallen into his trap? No, she thought, he wasn't the type to use a woman only for one night. She tried to throw the doubts away but they only temporarily subsided.
She moved next to him after they had finished, his arm around her shoulder. It all kept getting better and better, something had to go wrong soon.
She woke up a bit sore and groggy. Rubbing her eyes she tried to move but saw Clopin next to her. She groaned from the pain in her thighs and the fact that she had never left his tent the previous night. Slowly, Ariel got out of the bed, frantically searching for her garments which had been tossed carelessly aside in the heat of the moment. Grabbing her dress and underclothes she hurried to cloth herself. For going so fast she only tripped over her feet once. Quietly she sneaked through his flaps to the world outside. She was glad no one was stirring yet to see her.
"Hello!"Nearly hitting the stone ceiling of the Court she heard a voice call for her from behind. She turned around to face Isabeau. Preventing herself from rolling her eyes she forced a large, obviously false smile and walked to meet her, right in front of Clopinís tent.
"Ye....yes?"She tried not to sound intimidated but her hesitation gave her away, and Isabeau knew it.
"A bit early to be,"she paused mockingly to find a politically correct term, "casually strolling out of the prince's tent, wouldn't you say?"She gave a teasing grin and continued. "Have you become his next phase? We were all curious who would be."Ariel looked away.
"Yes, possibly, I mean no!" she stuttered. How on earth was she to answer that question? With silence? she thought to herself. She knew she wasn't a phase, she had had this argument with not only Clopin but herself.
"Well my dear, morning duties call. A bientot mon amie."Isabeau grinned with her unconvincing smile as went on her way, the coldness in Ariel's area seemed to go with her.
Isabeau had smiled at Ariel's doubtful face as she talked to her. So small and weak, thought Isabeau, what could Clopin want with her other than their late night bed rendezvous? Nothing, she smirked.
Chewing on her pinkie
finger Ariel slowly made her way back to her own tent. Plodding to her
small dining table in the center of her dwelling she picked up her journal,
still laying from her previous entry.
Uncertainties are everywhere in my life. After all my reassuring to myself it never fails for another to come and pressure me to doubt myself. I have never thought myself a terribly confident person, but my new friend is giving me this level of respect I have never received before. I enjoy his attention, his kisses, his touch. I have never felt this before. And yet, what if it is going to end before it began? Maybe we shouldn't go down the path we're headed for, but I can't help wanting to travel down it, it is so tempting. If this is doomed to end in heartbreak, perhaps I should stop it all at this moment.
Thinking about what to do to make her life run a little more smoother she took out the earnings she had been given after singing. She counted it up and left her tent. She'd be able to get the first picks of the day. Holding a woven basket she had made on the road she carried back all the food she had bought for that night's meal. She wanted to prove her duty of a wife could be filled, if Clopin should hold auditions for the position.
She walked into her empty tent and brought out pots and pans to start the meal. It would take the whole day to complete her mission. Ariel pulled out pepper and stuck her tongue out, she had never cared for the seasonings taste but it added a preferred flavor. She poured a small amount in her hand and dumped it in the pot which held her stew she had started.
While the stew simmered and her chicken cooked Ariel set the table for two. Making sure the napkins were folded and she took out her finest wine glasses. She wanted to surprise him in a way she thought no women had.
The aroma of the cooking vegetables was comforting to Ariel. The smell hung heavy in the air, proving Ariel could create a masterpiece. She checked the food and the grabbed one of her nicer dresses, everything has to be perfect, she smiled.
She made sure to be quick as she ran to take a bath. She used her best fragrances in the water as she dipped in and out of the tub. She twirled in her dress and then splashed cold water on her face form the underground stream.
When she returned she finished up cooking the meal and let it all cool to a room temperature. She hurried to find her guest.
She didn't have to go far, she found him just coming out of his tent. Coming from the opposite direction toward Clopin was Isabeau. Ariel walked faster to reach Clopin first. She succeeded, put only in that.
"Clopin!" she called out to him so he would turn in her direction. She ran up to him, ignoring Isabeauís presence. "I hope you have not had your evening meal yet."
"No, not yet ma cherie."He planned on continuing his conversation with Ariel but Isabeau finally walked close and let her seductive grin show, it seemed as though she wasn't complete unless she was causing trouble somewhere.
"Bonjour!" she shouted cheerfully, almost too cheerfully. It almost made Ariel sick to her stomach to see girl throw themselves at Clopin as Isabeau did. Ariel was glad she was never part of his harem. She may have become smitten, and eventually in love, but she never lusted after him, only wanting him for his body or his voice, she wanted all of him, inside and out.
"Mmmm," was Clopinís only reply to Isabeau as she stood there, disappointed.
"How are we? Now that we're all fully away and coming out of our own tents?" she tried to ignore the fact the Clopin was trying to pay her no mind and went on in her happy disposition. Ariel still blushed a bit at Isabeauís remark while Clopin stood there confused at the comment.
"We are fine, thank you. Clopin was just joining me for dinner, no?" She looked at him and he took the hint and smiled, nodding. "Yes, so we must be off. Terribly sorry, good day!"They both excused themselves and hurried back to Arielís place. Clopin stopped and sucked in the sweet smell of the homemade supper.
"This is wonderful, I didn't know you could cook."He grinned as he sat himself at the table, his tongue nearly laying on the table with a puddle of droll in front of him. Ariel simply served him and large helping and then herself. They mostly ate in silence, until Clopin broke it.
"Ariel, what do you do while I perform all day? You must be awfully lonely. Have you made any friends? You shouldn't isolate yourself from the Court."He chomped on his food and she tried to think of an excuse to excuse her daily activities.
"I just roam about in Paris, or I buy food or wash up. It differs from day to day."She avoided eye contact as she sipped her wine and ate a little faster. She was scared he would interrogate further but he didn't, only laughed. He was sure she was keeping something from him, it only took but ten minutes at the most to wash up and only about thirty to shop, she must have had other activities that keep her occupied. Trying to distract him from the subject she got up, but Clopin didn't say anything more.
They both finally finished dinner, Clopin taking three helpings and parted, after several compliments from Clopin. But of course he didn't leave without a quick kiss and a small wink in Ariel's direction.
She sung to the audience with feeling this time. She had always sang with emotion, but she tried acting it, it made the performance a bit more interesting. As the days went by she became better at having feelings during her songs.
In between songs her friend who's name she learned was Johann pulled her close. "After out session is over today I want you to be careful. I have noticed a man with a hood on the back of the crowd that has been watching you for many days. He could be out to harm."Johann gave a wary look in the man's direction. The manís face was not even distinguishable from where Ariel performed.
"Or he could just enjoy out performance," she chirped, grinning at him.
"My little song bird, always the optimist."He smiled at her and then started their next song.
After some time their
act has ended and she started back to the Court. It felt so good to be
performing again. Even though it wasn't Pipes it was the act that made
her feel alive. As she walked she noticed the hooded figure not far behind.
She quickly took a detour which they didn't follow.
I received my first real fright today. I have often been scared, as in when I came here but today it was different. Some man has come to my performances for many days and barely given us any coins. I am very curious to who the man, or lady for that matter, is. But I refuse to go and speak to him, it could hold hidden dangers. My birthday is in three days. I cannot wait! I am still not sure if I should tell Clopin about my turning seventeen. I will think about it tomorrow.
"Bon soir Rosa,"Ariel said politely. Rosa smiled, which seemed more genuine then Isabeauís, but Ariel had more common sense then to trust a promising smile.
"Toi aussi,"Rosa replied in almost a whisper. "Things going well with your new life around the Court I hope."Ariel nodded, looking away. Rosa moved closer to Arielís seat. "I hate to disappoint you but you know Clopin has been misleading you for so long."Ariel attention became fixed on Rosaís face, one that looked very serious.
"Mmm? And what way is this?"Ariel tried not to sound interested, she didn't want to feed the pleasure Rosa was already getting out of this.
"Why every one in the Court knows of his betrothal years ago to a gypsy princess. You are simply a lioness with a piece of raw meat being pulled in front of you, just out of your reach."Arielís violet eyes grew wide in disbelief.
Clopin merrily walked into Ariel's tent, ready to surprise her but he found it vacant. He groaned in disappointment. "Why must this woman be on the run everytime I want to visit her?"
Ariel had soon left the center of the Court. Hearing the comments from Rosa nearly sent her into a state of shock, dizziness had almost gotten the best of her. She finally made it home. She bumped into a chair and growled in frustration, not remembering when she pulled it out. Why would Rosa lie? She wouldn't gain anything from her fibs, Ariel had done a good job of pretending to know of this betrothal and excused herself gracefully. Either she had foiled Rosaís plan of getting the best of her or she was actually telling the truth.
Clopin had a smile on his face as he sat in the centre of the Court, telling a story to the few children who gathered to listen, a few in rags, a few in finer fabric that their parents had bought after a good days earnings. Rosa fluffed out her skirt and crossed her legs at the ankles, putting on a smile for Clopin. She hadn't spoken to Clopin in what seemed forever. Rosa had only become a friend of Isabeauís because of her bitterness toward Clopin. She laughed silently at Ariel because she too had been a follower of Clopin. Though not to her knowledge Clopin did not like Rosa as he loved Ariel. She thought Ariel made a ninny of herself any time she was around him.
"After noon Clopin," she said dryly as she looked around. He bowed his head in acknowledgment and crossed his legs as well as the story ended and the children scattered away. After an awkward silence he spoke, he was growing tired of being so silly with her.
"Rosa, have you met my friend Ariel? Do you know where she is?"Rosa seemed a bit surprised at the conversation starter, but she folded her hands in her lap and made a sophisticated smile.
"Why, I believe I have. She left not long ago. I think she went for a stroll, perhaps she'd like to be alone?"Clopin knotted his brow. He wondered if Rosa had forced her to leave, or if she had seen Ariel at all. Clopin muttered his thanks and left the centre, making his way through the tents toward Arielís. He was topped in his path by Isabeau. He rolled his eyes but she seemed not to notice.
Ariel frowned and rubbed her feet. She wasn't an active type, no acrobatic abilities and hurrying from that stranger had left scrapes on parts of her feet. She undressed and put on a purple cloth robe. She laid on her bed, pondering over Rosaís claim to this hidden wife of Clopinís. She fell asleep soon and didnít wake up until the next morning.
Clopin stormed out of Isabeauís tent tearing his hat off this head. I donít know why I believe your lies. Please leave me in peace Isabeau!" He hurried into Arielís tent but found her asleep. She looked so peaceful he tiptoed out quietly.
Ariel woke up refreshed. They day beforeís events still bothered her, but she didn't want to think about it. She fixed herself up and changed into a pleasent navy and dark green outfit which she found at the bottom of her chest. Smiling she went to an awaiting audience.
She seemed to improve everday and the public noticed. Even though their crowds were large they seemed to gain a few more people everyday. Johann pulled her to him. "I want you to be very careful, the man has come back, he is watching you. Donít be going home late or alone."She made a quick nod of concern and was careful not to look in the disguised person's direction.
Ariel sang, but she couldn't help be nervous in knowing the man was watching her. Her voice cracked a few times and she went off key twice. Of course no one noticed except her and Johann. They group was enchanted by her, her looks and voice. The fake smile she had to plaster on her face that day seemed nothing different from every other day to the crowd, they were taken in by her sweet charm. And yet, Ariel didn't know the praise she was given by the common folk, she only took the coins given, and was content with that.
They finished their usual routine and because the audience gave such a wondrous respond they performed an encore. Johann almost laughed at how Ariel had once accompanied him in a few songs and now he wouldn't play without her. She became so animated with his notes, it brought a smile to his face every day.
He laughed at Ariel as they split the money. Ariel always seemed surprised that he wanted to give her a share of their earnings, as if she didn't deserve a thing. "A demain, mademoiselle," Johann sang as she made her way home.
She counted her coins and smiled at the total as one slipped onto the cobblestone. Frowning, she bent down and picked it up. As she stood up she caught sight of a figure some yards back. As she had feared it was the man in the hood and cloak. She seemed almost tired of the figure and rolled her eyes. Despite her attitude she had fear that wouldn't stop pulling at her stomach. She went down the same detour to loose the man in case was following her. She peered over her shoulder to find he was no where in sight. Smiling at the victory she continued on her way until she saw the world go black.