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The Lessons That Spelled 'I Love You'
By Myra

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bullet  I stayed up and looked through the book for a couple hours.  Though I
didn't understand a bit of it my interest kept growing, my yearning to read
every line and understand what the idea of the book and picture the story in
my mind raised higher and higher with each object I couldn't read.  I was
staring at a page to no avail of teaching myself anything when Clopin stirred and awakened.  I could tell he was at first shocked I was not next to him,cuddling where I had started out three hours ago.  He rubbed his eyes a bit and then looked up to see me sitting at the table.  By this time I had hid my book and was eating some grapes that were in a small purple bowl I had in the centre of the table.  I had to pretend I was preoccupied and not realizing Clopin was looking at me, I watched him from the corner of my eye.
Pretending I didn't know he was watching was easy, I had done it before when people in the Court would follow me and gossip among themselves about me as I would walk past, but the first one, of being preoccupied, was difficult.  I had a lot on my mind and the grapes certainly weren't making any of it go away, and the grapes were rather sour anyway and I had to strain not to make a puckering face.  Clopin started at me a little while and didn't say anything.  I started feeling uncomfortable and finally looked at him, acknowledging I knew his eyes were on me.   "Herli, what are you doing?"  He was still half asleep and seemed confused at what time it was and what he was even saying and perhaps he even believed he was in a dream.  After realizing he wasn't, he sat up and reached for his purple robe, wrapping it around him, his eyes squinting having to adjust even for the small candle I had lit.  He tied the belt around his robe and pulled up a chair next to mine.
    "Oh, I was just not feeling well and thought I needed something small to eat."  I choked down a few more grapes and made a mental note to get rid of them tomorrow morning before he ate any or I did forgetting what they tasted like.  I smiled weakly at him and he put his hand on my knee.
    "Do you really feel unwell?  Do you think it's serious?"  He immediately became concerned and I knew I had to downplay it so he didn't tell anyone it was something severe when I was lying anyway.
    "No, no, just a bit of a stomach ache, that's all.  Nothing serious, promise.  Now go to bed and I'll be there in a minute, I'll be alright."  I tried to sound reassuring so he would go to bed.  He pushed my head toward him and kissed my forehead.  He smelled of sweet herbs, I wondered if he had taken a walk and then taken a shortcut to the Court through a garden of a simple minded Parisian and the smell had lingered with him, or perhaps it was one of the smells Ariel and Pipes had brought along with them and since he had spent more time with them then I had the smell had clinged on.
    "All right.  But you had better come to bed soon.  It feels too empty without you."  By now he was fully conscious and well aware of what he was saying to me, which made me smirk at his last comment and I smiled again.  He got up off the chair and went back to bed.  I knew he was tired, especially because he probably would go up and perform tomorrow, weather permitting, and he would need all the sleep possible for his early rise.  But he had gotten up anyway to see what was wrong with me.  I couldn't help but feel special.  He sure knew how to make a woman feel like the only one and it was no wonder every girl in the Court wanted him for herself before I came, I certainly spoiled all their plans.  I remembered how he had been so kind to me when I first arrived at the Court years ago even though he was against the premarriage agreement as I was.  I knew that Clopin was no award to win at a festival but nevertheless, I felt like a winner.
    I smiled to myself remembering the past when my buttox started to hurt. I remembered the book I was sitting on and took it out.  I patted on it
lightly.
    "You're going to have to wait until tomorrow," I whispered and took the book over to my unicorn chest, stuffing the object under all my clothes.  I closed the chest quietly and took off my robe hanging it on the corner of the bed.  I moved against Clopin and I knew I felt him relaxing because he knew I was there.

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bullet I woke up shortly after Clopin that morning.  He was pulling on his bright yellow shoes with the curled toes.  I caught sight of his purple and yellow smock and knew he was going up to perform because I also heard the  jingling of the bells hanging off of his outfit.  I saw his fusia colored mask in his hand, it hanging down to show the profile of its long nose.  He walked over to get his hat and leave when I moved a little in bed.  He turned around toward me and walked over.  He rubbed my upper thigh a little and I looked up at him.
    "Leaving so soon?"  I smiled at him, still only half awake.  I yawned and then rubbed my eyes so I could completely focus on my colorful husband.
    "Well I didn't go out yesterday because of Pipes and Ariel so I need to make double profit today."  I guess that confirmed his smell.  He gave me a pleading look to let him leave but I wasn't so easily persuaded to let down my guard.  I grabbed his hand and after last night's episode of his attention being taken away by another woman I wanted him to stay.  Part of my wanted just to be with him, but the other part just wanted him to stay because I wanted to inquire about Pipes and Ariel.  I sighed and stared into his eyes, challenging him.
    "Alright, alright but just a little while.  I really do need to make money today, I can make many different things appear out of thin air, but money isn't one of them."  After saying that he reached behind my ear and pulled out a beautiful blooming rose.  I wanted to keep it for Clopin's sake but he knew that I had my fetish of eating roses and would understand.  I sat up and gave him a peck on the nose half smiling before I started plucking the petals one by one and placing them in my mouth, chomping quietly on them.  He  rolled his eyes and got up, walking to a chair by the dining table and sat facing me.  I decided it was now or never and I should get right to the point, no good beating around the bush.
    "Clopin, why do Ariel and Pipes have so many books?"  Clopin's expression changed to a look of complete shock.  I think I caught him off guard and was surprised I even knew what books were.
    After a minute or so he composed himself and answered my question, giving the reply I had anticipated.
    "Why, because they can read of course.  You know you should go and get to know Ariel better, she likes you.  She sees you as a person she wishes she was, and I yelled at her for that, one of you is enough, nevertheless she envies your spirit and personality immensely." I noticed he had gone off subject of my question after answering it quickly. I also became a bit confused since Ariel and I had barely spoken two words to each other but I listened attentively.  Clopin continued, "Don't throw away what could be a great bond.  I'm asking you nicely to be her friend."  I was still flattered at what he claimed Ariel had thought of me but was a bit skeptical.  Maybe
she just wishes she was me because I'm the one who lays in bed with him every night.  Clopin read my mind, "As for feelings she has for me now, there are none, so get  your sweet revenge ideas out of your head!  You two could become very close, if you give her the chance."  At that Clopin stood up and bowed, "And now mon amore I must go.  The children await and must be upset at my yesterday's absence."
    "Don't flatter yourself," I muttered and he simply chuckled as he lifted
up the tent flap and skipped out.  I decided to go wash up and then get
dressed and talk to Colombine.  Not about the idea I had in mind but just a
friendly chat.  I put on my robe, my golden slippers and grabbed the book out of my chest, hiding it in my robe and made my way to the bathing tent.

    I soaked in the water longer than usual as I hungrily flipped through
page after page, getting more and more frustrated that I couldn't understand
a word of it.  I finally decided to get out of the tub and head back to my
tent.  I was actually glad Clopin had left since it had now given me time to
think.  I dressed in a dark orange dress with silver trims which I didn't
wear much because it was so loud, but I enjoyed making a statement and being noticed, of course, from time to time.  I sat on our unmade bed and sighed deeply.  After getting so angry I threw the book against the tables and chest and was determined to make myself forget about it for now.
    I cleaned up the tent a little and went to the children's tent.  As I
walked in I saw Clopin my son close his eyes, trying to trick me in to thinking
he was asleep, but I knew better.  I also knew they liked the feeling of
victory.
    "Aw, all my babbies are sound asleep," I said loudly and over exaggerated.   I heard some giggles from the beds and realized they were all up.  I put my hands on my hips.  "Now, how will I wake them up?  Maybe I won't wake them up and then I won't have to feed them!"  In reply I heard some quiet gasps or terror but they still didn't move.  "Well, all right, I didn't have enough to give them any food anyway."  I started to walked out when right on cue Harlena sat up.
    "But mama!  I'm hungry, I was only joking!  Can I still have breakfast?"
Her large eyes gazed up at me, begging, pleading for me to give her and her brothers food.  Then they all sat up, their eyes waiting for my answer.  I
gave an overplayed exasperated sigh of defeat.
    "Oh all right, come one."  They all cheered and followed me single file
into mine and Clopin's tent and sat around the table.  They talked amongst
themselves and eagerly looked up at me waiting for breakfast.  I scrambled
some eggs I had 'borrowed' on a walk some days before through the streets and some rural areas.  I gave them each utensils and plates and they squealed with delight at their special meal.
    They finished shortly and continued rambling on to each other about
various childish things.  I just cleaned up the dishes until Lena stopped her
conversation with her brothers.
    "Mama!"  I turned to face her as she got out of her chair and walked over
to me.  "What's that?"  She pointed to the book that was still sprawled open
over my chest.  I had thrown it a short while ago and realized I had
forgotten about it and never did pick it up.  I looked down at Harlena with
her exquisite eyes and thought up a quick excuse.
    "It's just a new decoration maman got.  It must have fallen off the
table.  But it's an ugly decoration so I'm just going to put it right in
here."  I bent down and picked it up, stuffing it in my chest.  "Now, I think
it's time you go get in appropriate dress."  They all scurried out of the
tent and ran to their own.  I put the washed dishes away and wiped my damp hands on a nearby towel.  I decided I needed a walk.  I went out of my tent,
only stopping in front of my mirror first to make sure I was pleasurable to
the eye, giving my hair a few strokes with the brush, and then stuck my head
into my children's tent.
    "I'm going to go for a short walk and maybe to visit Aunt Colombine,
promise to be good?"  They all responded with their 'yes mama's'.  I smiled
at them and then energetically skipped through the walkways.  I went past
Christophe and waved.  He waved back and gave me a quick smile.  I walked past a stand with flowers and slyly picked a few head off of some roses and stuffed all but one into the top of my dress.  I heard some chuckles and saw a few of the men shaking their heads.
    "You are a devil!"  A few slapped their knees laughing, I could tell they
were drunk, but so early in morning?  Well, I supposed nothing surprised me
in the Court of Miracles.  I smirked at them, deciding to amuse myself, and
replied pleasantly, knowing they'd find humor in whatever I said and
regardless the tone of voice I used.
    "Boys, I am only a little devil, you're making me sound much worse then I
really am."  The same who had laughed before only laughed harder this time at my reply and I bathed in the attention.  "See you later gentlemen!"  I saw their over exaggerated, sloppy waves and then caught the face of Pipes behind them all.  My expression changed from a face of superiority to a face of surprise.  Pipes simply smiled and nodded, I saw he wasn't drunk as the rest of the group was.  I hoped he didn't think me an indecent person for my flirtatious habit of just having some fun.  He didn't seem to be disgusted in any way with my enjoyment so I just smiled back to cover myself.  If he did think I was a bad person he would just be joining the rest of the Court who thought the same.
    I walked, eating roses all the way to Colombine's tent.  I didn't even
make my presence know to her.  I sat in a chair and waited for her to turn
around from folding her clothes.  After waiting what seemed like hours but
were only minutes she turned around and I didn't only get a scream out of her but a jump ten feet high as well.  I could've sworn her black hair went
straight up.  Of course I was laughing uncontrollably, tears streaming down
my cheeks.  My stomach felt like it had been tied into a double knot because
I was laughing so hard.  I would've given anything to be able to freeze that
moment and then be able to look at it whenever I was upset to cheer me up.  Colombine, however, did not show that she was amused, although inside I knew she was congratulating me on being so sneaky.
    "You are evil!"  Hmmm, evil and a devil, that's two for two today.  She
walked over to me, I was now standing and still wiping the tears from my
eyes.  She tugged a piece of my hair.
    "Maybe, but it's worth it for the expression I got on your face."  I
started laughing again and she sat on the bed across from me and crossed her arms, but she still smiled anyway at me.
    "So how was dinner?"  She raised a brow, remembering how much I loathed having to go yesterday afternoon.  I sat down, not wanting to give away any details of the dinner because I was still unsure of how I felt myself.
    "Oh, fine, Ariel cooks very well and they seem like pleasant people."
She seemed uninterested seeing as though there was no gossip worthy speaking of.
    "So what do you think of that man that came with her?"  Pipes, yet
another topic I didn't even want to think of right now.
    "He's nice, yes, very nice."  I looked off around her tent not wanting to
make eye contact, she'd know I didn't want to tell her any information about
it.  Colombine stood up and put her hands on her hips.
    "Now, Herlikin!  You know very well you have a husband and of many years besides!"  I realized what she was concluding of my words and saw she was actually serious and became outraged.  Never had Colombine been so wrong about something in her life.  My eyes went wide with fury.
    "Colombine, how dare you accuse me of such things, you know me much
better than that!"  By now I was on my feet as well with one hand on my hip
and the other shaking a finger at her.  "You're impossible!"  I stomped my
way out of her tent without looking back and went immediately to Abigail's.
    She was feeding her pets when I arrived, angry and out of breath.
    "Dear child, take a deep breath, I don't want your rage in here."  I did
as she said and felt a little better.  "Sit down," Abigail commanded and I
did as was told.  "I know you have a lot of mixed feelings on your mind right
now so calm down, stressing your nerves certainly won't help it."  I nodded
and closed my eyes, taking some more deep breathes.  When I opened my eyes, Abigail was sitting directly in front of me, she stared into my eyes.
    "I came for your advice.  There's this thing I want to do but I can't
decided if I should trust my instinct because it might just get me into
trouble and I don't want that kind of trouble because it would be very bad
trouble and I don't want Clopin mad at me and....." I was babbling and
stopped talking so she could speak.
    "My child, you usually have battles with other people, or the entire
Court but this one is with yourself.  And fighting against yourself only
means you'll win, but you have to decide which side will win.  I will not win
this battle for you, but I want you to know that I can tell you know what you
want.  And you should do what you want, you always do, you've never had
anyone's thoughts stop you before, why now?"  Though I had thought most of these things myself in my head, it helped to hear it and her words were all I
needed.
    I stood up and hugged Abigail, kissing her on the cheek.  "Thank you," I
whispered to her.  I walked quickly out her tent and through the walkways and came upon Ariel and Pipes' tent.  I knew it was now or never.  I breathed deeply again and swallowed hard, knowing I wasn't only swallowing the saliva in my mouth, but my pride as well.  I stepped into the tent to find Ariel
stitching a ripped dress and Pipes no where to be seen.  Ariel looked up at
me blankly, questioning my unscheduled appearance.
    "Ariel, teach me to read."

 

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