Celestine didn’t stop running until she was back in the convent. Ste. Mary Clarisse and Mother Superior followed her into her cell.
“What’s happened, my girl? Has someone harmed you? Speak to me, child.” The Reverend Mother knew a broken heart when she heard one. Was she wrong about Capt. Dubois? She was told his ship arrived earlier in the day, and Celestine was indeed heart-broken.
How could Celestine tell this woman, who had been more a mother to her than her own, that this man had taken her heart and thrown it to the wind and watched as birds of prey attacked and devoured it. But Celestine herself summoned the birds of prey, and now he would probably have her arrested. A girl didn’t threaten to kill a mighty Sea Captain on his own ship, with his crew aboard; it was rude and most likely illegal.
“Sister Mary Clarisse, lock the big gates. We’ll not be receiving Capt. Dubois again.” The Reverend Mother’s voice was controlled anger, and she wouldn’t be taking back her decision anytime soon.
Celestine buried her face in the Reverend Mother’s bosom and cried.
She did not leave the convent for a week, and Maurice was turned away several times. The Reverend Mother had to admit, he seemed confused and contrite, but neither he, nor Celestine would tell her anything. Celestine knew what the mighty captain wanted and she was not about to give it to him again. She had learned her lesson, and he could find another woman to please his lust and answer his disgusting needs. It would be so much easier if she had not enjoyed it so. Her guilt over her own pleasure was as strong as her anger at the captain for his exploitation of her good nature. Colette came to visit but could not get Celestine to talk. A mistake was made about Capt. Dubois, and she wished him well, that was the only statement Celestine would make.
Celestine looked for three days before she found her knife in the back of the linen closet, under some old bandages, and began to wear it again in her stocking. Killing the man was one option, but the punishment was too severe so she changed her mind, but he did deserve at least to lose an ear, or maybe a finger. She would see him sooner or later and then her attack would be sure and swift, but would be considered by all… an ‘accident’. She was not stupid, she had no wish for jail, but she could strike a blow against everyman who had ever taken advantage of any woman, ever… and walk away as an innocent young girl. Her anger, hate and guilt were filling her with poison and robbing her thoughts, taking her energy from her daily work. She wasn’t good for anything but planning the mutilation of the man who stole her heart, made her body betray her, as it came wonderfully alive to his touch.
Maurice couldn’t fight Mother Superior and the whole convent, and they had made a fortress that was damned powerful. If he ever became a wanted criminal, he knew where to hide. He was leaving on his next voyage soon, and he wanted this settled before he left. If she would just tell him what he had done, he could deal with it, but he didn’t know if it was something he had done the day on the ship, or something from her past that appeared as a result of their love making.
He couldn’t allow himself to think about the love making. The sweetness of the love, and the horror of her grabbing his knife and running away from him, were too strange to relive. He knew too well the feeling of love and hatred in the same moment. But he didn’t have his Anna to advise him in this. Had Celestine been raped by the men who took her mother, was that it? No, she was a virgin. The answer seemed to lie in Maurice’s own actions. He begged Pierre and Colette to find out for him, but they were unable to get anything other than… she made a mistake about Capt. Dubois and she wished him well . Well, I’m not well and it’s her fault. Damn, women could be irritating. God forbid they ever went to war, the generals would have to throw down their arms, surrender, and beg for mercy.
On the fourth week he wondered if maybe he had made a mistake. Maybe she was too complicated and broken for him to fix. He was not a healer like Anna, and didn’t want to be. Maybe this young woman was too far from his expertise, and her demons were too big, and too ensconced in her being, for him to conquer. He thought God would help, but so far no miracles had come, and he was leaving in a few days for a very long voyage. By the time he returned she could have taken her vows, or married some little boy she could mold and control. She certainly didn’t have any problems in the bedroom. He would like to take credit for that, but he couldn’t be sure anymore.
Colette was determined to get to the bottom of what was happening to her friend. If Maurice had purposely hurt her, she would cut his heart out. Knowing someone in the parlor doesn’t mean you know them in the bedroom, and men could cover up their bad behavior without blinking an eye. Pierre was no help, he just kept saying he knew the Captain loved her, and would never hurt her. It took Colette nagging constantly three days before he finally gave in and told her the truth about Maurice and Anna. Pierre had sworn her to secrecy, but he really didn’t know his wife. She had no secrets from Celestine, and she was bound and determined that Celestine would have no more secrets from her.
Celestine finally agreed to dinner and ventured out to Colette’s and Pierre’s. She needed the good fun company, and to feel alive again. She carried her knife, just in case. It may take time, but she would know when and where.
“Darling, you look wonderful.” Pierre took her arm and ushered her into the drawing room through the courtyard. The night was beautiful with the soft breeze sweeping the big lace curtains into the lovely room, across the worn cypress floors. The candles in the chandeliers flickered in the breeze making wonderful shadows on the high ceilings, but threatened to go out in spite of their crystal shades if the breeze picked up. Celestine loved this house; she had always felt at home here, and hoped she would always be welcomed.
“Celestine, how beautiful you look.” Colette was walking down the curved staircase, wearing a new dress that fit her perfectly; Celestine could not help but wonder if a sea captain had given her the new material.
Celestine was wearing the blue dress she loved; she had decided not to burn it. It was not the material’s fault an ass bought it. They would be having dinner in the courtyard, and the table was lovely and inviting.
“Celestine, we want to talk to you.” Pierre was not expecting this. He hoped the women would wait until he had gone to bed before Colette started her inquisition.
“I have nothing to say, Colette. Please, let’s have our dinner. Pierre, tell us some funny stories from the workmen up river.”
Pierre scratched his head, and rang for dinner to be served. He wanted to eat before this got out of hand. Colette had two glasses of wine before dinner, and was saddling up for some high hurdles. She was always too involved with Celestine and her love life, and it made Pierre nervous on several levels.
“All right, Celestine, have it your way, since you and I aren’t good friends, and we never tell each other everything.” She said in a mocking, almost angry voice. “I’ll not ask why you’ve broken the heart of my friend… who loves you… and is heart-sick over your treatment of him.” Colette was getting angry just thinking about Maurice’s face, begging them to find out what he had done.
Celestine knew this moment was inevitable, besides, it was their fault for introducing her, and pushing her to the man. It may as well be now.
“Colette, it’s embarrassing, but if you must know. Your friend took advantage of me on his ship, and when I was leaving he blew a whistle to warn his men to hide so his ‘harlot’ could leave unrecognized. I was on the deck of a strange ship, just having given myself to a man I thought loved me, and he showed his true colors as the womanizing, whoremongor he is. Not to offend you, Pierre, I find you are the exception to your gender. All other men are pigs.”
Colette was up and holding her friend to her.
“Oh, my darling, how awful.” She looked at her husband as if to say, your friend is a cad, but Pierre was laughing and shaking his head.
“That’s it? That’s the horrible thing he did?” He could not believe the ignorance of these two women.
“You women are such idiots. That’s a Captain’s privilege when a lady is aboard ship, so the men don’t think her of ill repute, or, in your words, a harlot. Why do women never ask before jumping into a bayou full of alligators? Would one of you answer me?” He was calming down enough to eat his dinner, and shake his head again at the foolishness of women in love.
“Celestine, take that damned knife out of your stocking and give it to me. I owe the Captain too much to watch you gut him like a fish. I’ve seen the scar you gifted him.” Pierre reached out his hand and took the knife from Celestine.
“So, the old man got your virginity before the wedding, eh? He makes me proud to be a man… or pig.” It was hard to chew his food and laugh at the same time.
“Oooh.” Celestine could not believe she had just confessed to what she was doing on board the ship, and… she had announced very loudly to Maurice’s crew that she was, indeed… a harlot. She would die of embarrassment.
Celestine started crying, and Colette knew it was going to be a long one. There was so much to cry about. One, she may have chased away the love of her life… two, she had given up her virginity, and confessed it to her friends over dinner… three, she would have to find a way to tell the convent it was all right for Capt. Dubois to call if he ever wanted to see her again… and four… she had given her knife to Pierre and Colette knew he would never give it back.
Colette took Celestine upstairs to a guest bedroom; undressed her and put her to bed. Celestine would not be good for anything until this news had settled, and she could figure out what to do, and how to make amends. Colette sent Pierre to find Maurice. She knew her husband would be back soon… he had not had his dessert.
Pierre found Maurice in a bar a few whiskeys away from sober, and helped him get his coat. Maurice paid the bartender , took the young lady off his lap, sat her on the stool at the bar, and steadied her. Pierre buckled the sword belt around his old friend and told him if he hurried, he could share his dessert. Maurice walked unsteadily out of the saloon with Pierre, having no idea where he was going, or why.
“You’re a good son, Pierre; yes, sir, a damned good son. Your papa must be very proud.” Maurice slurred as he walked into a wall of a building turning the corner onto rue du Maine, and gave himself a black eye.
Pierre set him straight, and they walked into the courtyard. Colette sighed, and asked Petal for some hot water. She helped Pierre clean him up, and nursed his swelling eye, gave him mint leaves to chew, and escorted him into the dark bedroom, and into bed next to Celestine. Neither Colette nor Pierre knew why they did this; it just seemed like a good idea at the time. They backed out of the French doors, and went to have dessert.
“I guess if we hear a scream it didn’t go well.” Colette put to Pierre.
“If I know my Captain, there’ll be no scream.” Pierre admired his boss, and his way with women. The man had been an inspiration when Pierre was courting Colette.
The storm clouds were rolling in and the wind came up the river from the Gulf to attack the trees in the courtyard. The rain soon followed and Pierre and Colette ran to close the big double doors and windows. Thunder and lightning made for a safe, and romantic night at home.
Maurice thought what good friends Colette and Pierre were. God only knows where he would have ended tonight, if Pierre had not come and gotten him. He was confused about his sex life. He didn’t know if God wanted him celibate and waiting for Celestine, or if he could spread his seed in every port, and walk away. He was tired and he wanted to sleep off the bad whiskey. He would think about things in the morning.
Celestine cried herself to sleep. God sent her a beautiful husband, and her jumping to conclusions, and depending on her shady past to guide her, destroyed her chances of being happy. When would she ever learn not to go off half cocked? Of course what Pierre said made sense. A whore would not care if other men saw her leaving the Captain’s quarters… she would probably consider it good advertisement. The Captain certainly would not care that his men saw a harlot leaving his quarters. What was wrong with her, that she could not figure these simple things out before she ran off like a ninny with a knife in her stocking?
Maurice awakened just before dawn. His first thought was whether he had paid the whore in his bed, or should he get up and find his coat and get his money ready. He might like a little slap and tickle this morning, but he wanted to see her first. He had awakened in strange ports with really strange women in his life, and he knew not to start something he may not want to finish when sober. He rolled over and smelled a hint of cloves and saw the blonde curls spread on the pillow. This was not your ordinary whore, he thought. Is this what Pierre had in mind for me last night and did I enjoy her? Oh my God, it’s Celestine. His heart was racing like the storm outside.
She rolled over to see him looking into her eyes; his hand began brushing the hair out of her face as she began to cry, and begged him to forgive her. She reached up and traced the little scar under his chin and his swollen eye and started crying again. He held her, and thanked God for her. It was as if they had been sleeping in the same bed forever, warm, familiar, and safe. God was good to give him back his woman.
He kissed her with all the love he held for her.
“Do you still want me?” She sounded so small and helpless. He took her bottom in his hands and pulled her closer, and she felt how much he forgave her and how much he wanted her. She didn’t care about the men in her mama’s past; she wanted to lie under him while he entered her, and make her his woman. God was good to give her back her man.
“Open to me, my dove and let me pleasure you.” He made love to her until the aroma of good strong coffee forced them to deal with the day and the storm.
“I want to wake up every day making love to you.”
“Yes.” She smiled, and wished on it.