Her red box of memories

Tidings Travel South – Part 4

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Culanir downed the last of his glass of wine.  Carandil was half asleep in his chair and the empty bottles on the sideboard stood in judgement on the evening.

I’m not far off finding my bed. I’ve got an early start tomorrow” Culanir said, yawning.  He stretched out luxuriantly; highlighting the lean limbs and, beneath his linen shirt, the well-tempered body which was the envy of his slightly younger but less active brother.

“Will you check in on Leoba?” asked Serindë.

“That was my intention” Culanir replied. “I might take her up a nightcap in fact; I suspect she may welcome it tonight.”  Getting impressively steadily to his feet he helped himself to Carandil’s decanter of finest Amroth brandy; he poured a glass for Leoba, swiftly followed by one for himself and for Carandil.

“She’s been ever so quiet all afternoon and evening” commented Serindë.

“Yes. It’s the silence I find most unnerving,” added Carandil, taking the offered glass of brandy from Culanir. It was the first day any of them could remember without a snatch of song from Leoba; ordinarily her music drifted liked incense into every corner of the house but, since they had come home that afternoon the silence from that quarter had been suffocating.  Culanir wrinkled his brow in a frown and the two men shared a worried look.

“You have to promise me, the pair of you, that you’ll look after Leoba properly after I’ve gone back up north” Culanir said.  “She needs to eat, to keep physically well, or I worry that she won’t have the strength to fight this battle.”

On the other side of the door, Leoba heard her name and froze. She set her tray of half-picked-at supper down on the hall table, hesitating whether to turn the door handle or not.  She knew full well that eavesdropping was unlikely to bear healthy fruit but curiosity was a powerful drug; she simply couldn’t tear herself away.

“Don’t worry”. That was Serindë’s voice. “We’ll keep her well-occupied and the children will be a great distraction.  And we’ll get her out and about before long. She won’t need to go into mourning after all; it’s not as though she was married to him.”

Leoba heard Culanir bellow: “Araw’s Teeth!  Serindë!  You can’t say that to her!”

Her ears smarting, in that split second Leoba decided to intervene in the fray.  She entered the room, her appearance effectively silencing Culanir mid-oath, and they all turned towards her; faces riven with guilt.

“Leoba” said Serindë and Culanir together.

“Yes, it’s me” she said, sounding bruised but far more measured than she felt. She hoped she had left her tears upstairs; bundled in a box with Dirk’s letters.  “I heard my name mentioned.  And I heard the rest.”

“But you weren’t married.  That’s all I said” Serindë said defensively.

“How does that make a difference? Having or not having a ring on my finger doesn’t dictate how I feel,” Leoba replied. “This knife-thrust in my guts could not bite any more keenly if we had been married for a lifetime.”

In that moment Leoba saw the months in Pelargir stretch out before her:months of constant calendar engagements; months of forced smiles; months of Serindë clinging to her life-raft of social mores. She loved her sister-in-law and knew that Serindë spoke unthinkingly, not from malice but from a solid and deeply ingrained understanding of what Pelargirian society expected of its belles and its matrons, but that did not make the reminder any more palatable. Leoba knew what would be coming next: she would bet a purse on there being a dinner scheduled with Turaglar before the fortnight was out.

“Oh sweet Nienna, give me strength” Leoba murmured. “I don’t think I can do this anymore.”

Culanir looked worried. “Don’t say that, Leoba. Look, I don’t want to dump a load of platitudes on you. It’s not my style and I know how crass I would sound. But I know this is difficult, going to be difficult for as long as it is. ”

“You have to give it time” Serindë added, unhelpfully.

Leoba bit her bottom lip in a gesture equally open to interpretation either as pain or as frustration, and which was undoubtedly a bit of both. Her lips thus darkened as though berry-stained were in stark contrast against her face, pale like porcelain; she stood straight and proud. She gathered herself carefully, desperate not to give more offence than was likely to fall out in any case. “I don’t have to give anything” she replied, before turning to address Culanir: “when are you going back to Minas Tirith?”

“First thing. I’ve got a letter to deliver as quickly as is humanly possible. Why do you ask? Do you want me to take a letter for you to anyone there?” he asked.

“I want you to take me there” Leoba said. She saw his face cloud; she could read Culanir like a book, especially after a few drinks and it was abundantly clear that he wasn’t keen on the idea. “Lots of reasons, before you ask. I need to see B again. I was planning on making a trip to see her in any case and I can see no reason why not to bring it forward. I want to be where I have been with Dirk. It’s probably a mistake but I will find that out when I get there. And I need to find out more…” She left the remainder unsaid: more about what had happened, certainly; more about where they had buried him too. The room before her faded and a great and strange stillness within seemed to consume Leoba. She resolved to go, she presumed to the far reaches of the north, to find Dirk.


Written by leobavorima

March 11, 2013 at 9:49 pm

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