Trailing Heart

by Joanne Grier

 

The shadow moved quietly through the passage, pausing to occasionally shrink into the inky darkness to avoid detection.  With determined stealth, the shadow reached the passage where the mystery would begin.  The bag was opened and the first rose petal was carefully deposited close to the stone wall, obvious to anyone with keen vision but not within the flow of traffic which would cause it to become lost.  The foot traffic in this section wasn’t dense, but it was one regularly used by the intended prey.

The distance to the secluded cavern required some stamina but wasn’t treacherous and as the shadow moved; care was taken to displace any stones which would cause injury to the walker.

*****

The council members gathered in the dining hall.  William brought out fresh tea and several plates of cookies, then settled into his accustomed chair. Vincent’s message indicated he would be delayed but would arrive as soon as feasible.

“I found a most unusual message in my chamber this morning.”  From her pocket Mary removed a card withdrew it from the envelope and passed it to Pascal.  He scanned the card, passing it to Winslow, who read it; and it continued around the table until returning to Mary. 

“It’s obviously a card created up top, not one of ours, and from the looks, it was quite costly.”

“Yea, sorta like some of the Christmas cards we get from our Helpers when they have hit a 50% off sale at that big card shop.”

“There was no signature; do you have any idea of who sent it?”

“Are you keeping something from us?”

Mary blushed as her friends good naturedly plied her with endless questions, talking over each other as they were prone to do.

Slipping into the vacant chair, Vincent looked slightly disheveled.  “I apologize for my tardiness. My project took longer than I’d anticipated.  Have I missed much?”

“No, we were just chatting about Mary’s mysterious friend. Let’s get this meeting going or else our meal won’t be served on time.”

Vincent observed the strange look on Father’s face as he called the meeting to order, wondering just what he had missed.

*****

Cautiously, the shadow slipped into the homey chamber, deposited the missive, and returned to the passage. The fleeting shadow moved rapidly toward a storage area, selected several items, and returned to the secluded chamber.  The items were placed with exquisite care to convey pleasure and visual delight.  Fresh candles were secured while Rebecca was absent from her workshop, enough to provide ambient light in the newly created pleasure dome, but not enough candles were taken that Rebecca would realize her tally was short.

*****

“Where have you been?  Your hair looks like you stumbled into a spider web.”  Winslow’s smile was easy, his voice betraying his delight in finding Vincent’s always immaculate hair less than tidy.

 “I was helping in one of the storage chambers; you know how dusty some of them can get when moving stuff.”

“You should’ve let me know; I would’ve been glad to help.”

*****

Puzzled, but confident, the lone figure treaded along the passage.  Almost at her destination, she noticed the petals strewn against the wall.  Sniffing the air, she smelled their lingering fragrance, wondering who Below had received roses and why the petals were scattered.  The farther she walked, the more inquisitive she became and continued past her destination, determined to find the source of the petals. As she rounded the curve, ahead was a distinct, quivering light. She couldn’t recall any chambers nearby, but curiosity propelled her forward.

The opening into the chamber was dim despite the candles she could clearly see. Their twinkling light called to her, and she stepped closer.

“Hello, is anyone here?”

A soft, melodious voice whispered, “Come, please join me.  There are untold joys to be experienced.  Come.”

“I can’t quite see.”

“Trust me.  I shall never lead you astray.  Come.”

She stepped into the circle of light, but even as her eyes adjusted, she couldn’t clearly see the source of the voice that remained hidden within the deeper shadows.  As she observed the chamber, she gasped in pleasure.  Before her was a loveseat . . . upon it rested a luxurious throw and beside it a large, well-padded chair.  The small table continued a hodge-podge of china, complete with two wine glasses and a bouquet of roses served as the centerpiece.  To the right of one of the plates rested a slim box wrapped in well-used tunnel paper. She bent to sniff the roses, and her senses were assaulted with other distinct odors.

“May I seat you?  Our meal is almost ready.”  A tall presence stepped behind the chair and waited.  Slowly, she came forward and took the offered chair.

A gloved hand appeared and wine was poured, dancing merrily in the dim light.

“Before we begin, I have a small token to offer.”  Again the gloved hand appeared, raising the box and settling it upon her plate.  “I would be pleased if you would open your gift now.”

“But it is not my birthday,” she offered in protest.

“I know.  Please humor me.”

Using great care, she unwrapped the gift. Within the box lay an exquisite, hand-tooled leather volume of poetry, and seeing the title, she smiled.  “This is too much.  It surely cost a fortune.”

“There is no cost too great when there is love. There is an inscription.”

As she opened the book, her tears began to flow, and the shadow slipped into the light.  Her vision cleared, and her voice filled with love and pride as she verbalized the inscription.

“You nurtured my young heart with love, you have been my champion, and you are, Mary, the dear mother of my heart.

“Happy Mother’s Day.

                        Your loving son,
Devin”

 

The End

 

 

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