Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Prompt: With a lion's strength

Thanks to Boris Indrikov for permission to use his exquisite “La Forza”!

Christabel tugged at the unfamiliar bridal cuffs and sidled away from the celebration to the patio doors. Waiting for a burst of noise from the crowd, she quickly opened one and slipped outside, closing it before anyone noticed the cold. She shivered as she ran through the garden in her sheer dress, laced with ornate ribbons of red and gold brocade. Stumbling on the small heels and long, curled toes of her slippers, she cursed her father, her dead mother, the Fates, and above all, the stranger she would soon call husband.

Needing no more than the moon’s light to guide her, Christabel dropped to her knees and leaned her head against the golden statue proudly enthroned within the central gazebo. “La Forza, la Forza,” she wept, hot bitter tears stinging her cheeks. “I don’t want to leave you!”

Warm fur brushed her cheek, and the lion’s mane swept over her back, sheltering her from the winter wind. You never will, child.

She felt the thought like a warm caress on her cheek. The kind her father had never spared her. Leaning against the lion’s body, she slid her arms around his neck. “But he wants to take me so far away! To Venezia!”

The lion chuffed. For a child who had never ventured farther from Firenze than Siena or Livorno, the northern shore would seem far indeed. He never moved, yet seemed to press further into Christabel’s desperate embrace. I will always be with you, child. It is you who are la Forza.

She sagged against him and wept.

“Christabel!” Part concern, part rebuke, her name sounded through the gardens, a deep base that wasn’t yet familiar.

She clung more tightly to the golden statue. “No! No! La Forza! Please...”

“There you are” A warm blanket wrapped around her, solid hands settling on her shoulders. “I thought you might have forgotten a wrap when you stepped outside. The chiding voice remained light, without the dark warning of her father’s. “The crowd was becoming stifling.”

He was quiet for a moment. “That’s an incredible likeness,” he said softly. Christabel looked up with surprise to find him examining the statue in the moonlight.

“You have seen a lion,” she asked with disbelief.

He looked down at her and smiled. “I have indeed. In Rome, and also in Tunis. My business takes me all around the Mediterranean.”

Her mouth dropped open, and he laughed, white teeth flashing. He had a nice laugh. Warm. Laughter was rare in her father’s household since her mother had died. He reached down and tapped her chin. She snapped her teeth closed, embarrassed. He held out a hand, and she took it, rising gracefully.

“Perhaps I will take you with me. Would you like that? Or would you prefer the familiar comforts of home?” He held her hand formally and began walking back through the gardens.  Christabel glanced behind them, but a cloud covered the moon, and she could not see the lion’s face.

She turned ahead. “I would like to see the whole world!”

He laughed. “Well then, you shall. If you like travelling on my ship, that is. Her name is La Forza…”

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

New Age Relaxation mix on youtube.com

Time writing
~40 minutes, including some research

January word count

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