Imsdyn 6, 1015
Patience is a virtue. It was a hackneyed line, a perfect cliche. It was something that Tamsin had heard from her mother’s mouth a thousand times — usually growled at one of her siblings, showing just how close Lady Lilias was to running out of her own virtue, that is to say, patience. Relatively speaking, Tamsin was not often at the receiving end of that sentence. But she could still hear that growl as clearly as if her mother was sitting by her side.
She wondered if her mother would have been growling it now.
They were six days into 1015, and Tamsin wasn’t married yet. She told herself that was not the only reason for her impatience. No, she would have been perfectly happy with a wedding date any time in the first fortnight of 1015. She might have even managed to grin and bear a full month. It might have even been fun.
But here she was, almost a week into it, and she didn’t even have a wedding date yet.
The reason was simple: Elyan’s sister, Princess Gwendolyn, was expecting her baby any day now. Naturally, such things as “when a baby is likely to come” were difficult to predict. Tamsin understood that. And she knew it would be a sad thing for Elyan’s sister to have to miss his wedding because she was in labor. It would mean that two of his sisters would miss his wedding, given that one was supposed to be delivering the baby. And of course Lady Claire would want to be by her daughter’s side. So it was only reasonable and logical to try to postpone the wedding until after the baby came.
So Tamsin had suggested, reasonably she thought, a date of the fourteenth or fifteenth. Surely the Princess would have had her baby by then. But Sir Bors had stared at her, his jaw hanging. “What?” he had gasped. “We cannot possibly make wedding plans until after Gwendolyn’s child is safely delivered!”
And that, Tamsin had realized, would be that. So here she was. Hiding out in the room Tamsin had quietly named the “book nook,” trying to re-read a book she had read a hundred times before, trying, above all, to be patient.
She was not succeeding.
With a sigh, Tamsin closed the book and placed it on the table beside her. Flinging it would have given better vent to her frustration, but the poor book had done nothing to deserve such treatment. Deciding she didn’t care a whit what she did to Sir Bors’s furniture, she swung her legs up on the sofa beside her and leaned her head on her arm.
She wished she had known about Princess Gwendolyn’s condition back in Seryl, when the betrothal papers had been signed. Her father had stipulated in the contract that she and Elyan could not wed until after the start of 1015. It had seemed reasonable enough at the time. The lands that had been perfectly appropriate as a dowry when she was to marry Soren were suddenly not a good option. So her father had needed time to raise enough money to function as an equivalent. It had all seemed perfectly reasonable, all clear and aboveboard. But if she had known … well, she would have asked her father to change the date that they were allowed to wed to be Endskel 1014. It was only a month’s difference, but she and Elyan could have married as soon as they arrived in Albion, before Princess Gwendolyn’s time had been so near as to preclude all plans.
No, be reasonable, Tamsin. The problem here isn’t Princess Gwendolyn’s condition. It’s Sir Bors.
She pushed her heavy bangs out of her eyes and sighed. She had known from the moment she met Sir Bors that he was a … stubborn one? Maybe that was the best way to put it. He had firm ideas of the hierarchy of the family, and he had made it very clear that a mere daughter-in-law-to-be had no precedence over his daughter who also happened to be a Crown Princess. Everybody must be made to dance to the tune of the most highly ranked individual. Perhaps that was the way of the world, but Tamsin had been raised to believe that there was such a thing as compromise. At the very least, Tamsin lived in a world where most people understood that, at bottom, they were all Sims together, and had to try to get along as best they could. That meant even the high-ranked had to bend sometimes to please the lower.
And the worst thing? The absolute worst? Tamsin could not help but suspect that Princess Gwendolyn would have had no objection to plans for Tamsin’s wedding being made before her time came.
Tamsin sighed again —
“Ah — there you are.” Lady Claire crept into the book nook, wearing the small smile of a shy person trying her hardest to be welcoming and open.
Tamsin scrambled to sit up. “Sorry,” she murmured.
“Sorry?” Lady Claire repeated. “Why are you … oh.” She looked at Tamsin’s feet, then at the sofa. Then she shrugged. “There’s nothing to apologize for. It’s not like you’ve been jumping in mud puddles recently.”
Tamsin giggled, trying to flush. She had enjoyed jumping in rain puddles once upon a time … though not mud puddles. Getting wet was all part of the game, but getting muddy was just no fun. But she had to say something, so she reluctantly pointed out, “I know it’s a new sofa …”
“Which shall someday be an old sofa, and more importantly, was created to give people a place to sit in comfort. If we can’t be comfortable sitting on it, then I for one would very much like to know why we spent all this money to buy it.”
Money … Why, Tamsin wondered, was money sprinkled through the conversation in this house like spices over meat? It was not something you brought up in polite company … and while Tamsin wasn’t technically “company” any more, she was not yet family. But this constant mention of money … it was like a nervous tic. Or perhaps evidence of an ill-done deed. No matter what the family members were thinking or saying, money became part of the talk, clumping into the conversation like the tell-tale heart of a murder victim beating under the floorboards …
Tamsin stopped there and shook herself. She really was getting bored. When was the last time she had been so fanciful?
Lady Claire seemed to sense that something she had said was being taken amiss, for she stopped, lip caught between her teeth, unsure. Tamsin smiled and Lady Claire tried to smile back.
This was going to be the most unusual mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship ever, if neither of them could stop being polite long enough to begin to irritate each other.
“Er–anyway, what I meant to ask you is — is everything all right? I mean, is there anything I can get you? Do … for you?”
“Er … no, I’m fine,” Tamsin replied. “Thank you?”
“You don’t have to thank me. I just–want to make sure you’re comfortable, that’s all.” Then Lady Claire stood awkwardly, hands frozen stiffly at her side. It was as if she wanted to wring them together, but politeness forbid it.
“My lady …” Tamsin started. “You–I thank you for all of your concern — but you don’t need to — to worry so much about me. After all, it’s not as if I’m … a guest here or anything …” She swallowed, and before she could think better of it, added, “I … hope?”
Lady Claire’s mouth opened. She closed it. Her shoulders slumped. “Oh dear.”
“I’m sorry …”
“No — no, please don’t apologize. I … I should be apologizing … all this waiting can’t be easy on you.”
“Well, I know it can’t be helped …”
Lady Claire’s eyes narrowed. Her hands fell loosely to her hips. “Can’t … it?”
“… Well, maybe I’m just an innocent maid, my lady, but if there’s a way to make a baby come before it decides it’s ready to come, nobody’s mentioned it to me.”
A sudden laugh sprang from Lady Claire’s lips; blushing, she put one hand on her mouth as if to force it back in. Then she sighed. “That’s — that’s true, Tamsin, but … well, I think we both agree that perhaps the waiting might be easier if there was a date set for the wedding?”
Lady Claire was watching her so narrowly … so carefully … it was all Tamsin could do not to squirm. What was the older woman looking for? “Well–yes. It would.”
There. She’d said it. And now the chips could fall wherever they damn well pleased.
Lady Claire sighed. “I–I thought so. Do … do you mind if I sit?”
The idea of refusing the lady of the house a seat on her own sofa was so far past ludicrous that Tamsin was amazed she had the mental wherewithal to shake her head and gesture to the empty space beside her. Lady Claire sat. As soon as she had settled herself, she drew in a deep breath and sighed it out.
Tamsin picked at a loose thread on her skirt and tried to think of something to say, or, failing that, listed the reasons why it was better to stay silent.
“I wish I knew what to tell you,” Lady Claire finally admitted. “You–you must think we’re all so strange here.”
“Well … I can tell you’ve a close-knit family,” Tamsin answered. “I think that’s lovely, really. The–the fact that everybody is expected to make it to the wedding–I think more families of our class wish they had that.”
Everybody, of course, except her family. They had bidden their farewells to Tamsin back in Hybel. Her father still needed to be close on hand to King Constantine, always trying to seek offices and lands and preferment. Besides, her mother had told her that far from rejoicing at a closer connection to the Albionese court, King Constantine had not been well pleased to hear of her father’s plans for her marriage. To leave the country, her father would have to ask King Constantine’s permission, and sometimes it was better not to even ask than to ask and be refused.
“Perhaps …” Lady Claire agreed. “But …”
“I just wish I could make it up to you–somehow,” Lady Claire sighed. “I don’t … I don’t want you to be unhappy here, Tamsin.”
Tamsin blinked. “… Why would I be unhappy here?”
Elyan, if she had recalled correctly, had worried about the same thing … he wouldn’t say it in so many words, though. But Elyan had a problem with saying things, particularly emotionally difficult or fraught things. He much preferred half-truths, careful allusions, and perfect elisions to frank speech. Tamsin had pegged that as something they’d have to work on, but hadn’t thought too much more about it.
Now Lady Claire was doing the same thing. What the hell was going on here?
Lady Claire’s hands fell to her lap. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that my husband can be … difficult.”
Tamsin tried to think of a polite way to reply. She failed and settled for a truthful way. “With all due respect, my lady, you’d have to be quite oblivious not to notice that.”
Lady Claire’s smile came out. And it was gone almost before Tamsin could blink. “Yes. Exactly. And he … well … he spent his whole adult life thinking that, in this household, his word was law, and we must all abide by it. I–I’m afraid I let him think that …”
“So?” Tamsin asked. “My mother says that plenty of gentlemen, particularly older gentlemen, think that. And it’s the duty of ladies, if they seek to live a peaceful and happy life, to let them continue to think that while working around them.”
“… I hate to say it, my dear, but … I don’t think your mother is quite right. Maybe that kind of philosophy will work for some men … but for my husband … it just made things worse. Of course, I didn’t even seek to work around him until recently … maybe if I had, things might have been different … but you know, I don’t think Elyan is quite that way. I think–I think he’s chafed enough under his father’s restrictions that he won’t want to put someone else through that.”
Lady Claire almost sounded as if she was pleading. It was the almost pleading, Tamsin felt, that doomed her. If she’d come right out and pleaded, Tamsin might not have said what she said next.
“Has he?” she asked. “He … he certainly doesn’t seem to mind about the wedding …”
And maybe that was what was bothering her, deep down. If Elyan had shown himself just as annoyed about the lack of a date for the wedding as she was, this might have been easier to bear. But he seemed to bear it … not stoically or philosophically. If you had to be stoic or philosophical about something, that meant that underneath, you cared. He seemed to bear it nonchalantly, as if it didn’t even matter to him.
Lady Claire’s vaguely floating hands dropped to her lap. “Oh. I see.”
“Surely you’ve noticed?” Tamsin pressed. “Or … maybe he’s said or done something to you, in front of you, that shows he’s annoyed, even if he won’t show me?”
Lady Claire stared at her, mute, then looked at the opposite wall. “I … wish I knew what to tell you …”
“A hint would be appreciated,” Tamsin tried not to snap. She wasn’t as successful as she would like to be. “It’s his wedding too. And — I thought he liked me.”
“Oh, he does!” Lady Claire replied, turning back to Tamsin. She tried to reach for Tamsin’s hands; Tamsin moved them away. “I’m sure of it. It’s just — you see … Elyan … Bors …”
“What, Lady Claire, what?”
Lady Claire sighed and leaned her head against the wall. “In some ways — Elyan is his father’s son,” Lady Claire admitted. “I think–if you asked him–he would tell you that marriage is the domain of women, and … well … when he weds, he’ll wed. And then … Tamsin, I’m sorry. Elyan thinks of marriage as a duty, a necessity, not–not necessarily a pleasure. It’s something to do. Not–not so much something to look forward to. I’m so sorry –”
“Not even lovemaking?” Tamsin interrupted. “Not even children?”
“Bors — Bors always saw both as duties … and I think he taught Elyan to see them the same–”
“Lovemaking?” Tamsin repeated incredulously. “A duty? Has he tried it?”
Lady Claire’s jaw fell. “Er … it’s possible …” Her eyebrow rose. “Have you?”
“No!” Tamsin snapped, a little too indignant for her own liking. “But I’m not an idiot! Unfortunately one of my earliest memories is standing outside my parents’ bedroom door and wondering why they were making those funny barnyard noises! And Soren and I–well, we both had a care for my honor, but we were almost-betrothed for a long time! Do you think we weren’t experimenting?”
“When you put it like that … of course not.” Lady Claire shook her head. “But Elyan — Tamsin, whatever my husband might tell you, whatever he might believe in himself, we did not have a happy marriage. All Elyan was able to see is that marriage is a duty, and if he listened to his father — which unfortunately I know he did — he may have even convinced himself that it’s primarily a woman’s duty. You … you’ll have to teach him otherwise.”
Oh, she would. She would teach him all right. If he thought for one minute that he was going to get away with treating their marriage like a solemn duty that engaged only his brain and his privy parts, but not his heart, he had another think coming. Why, as soon as he got back from training today, Tamsin swore she was going to grab him by the ear, drag him somewhere private, and they would be having a talk.
But before she could say as much to Lady Claire — though she very much feared her face was doing her talking for her — a soft knock came at the door, and the steward stuck his head in. “My lady, the King’s steward is here, requesting to see you.”
“Ambrosius?” Lady Claire asked, gasping. “Oh, send him in, send him in!”
And in that moment, Tamsin realized that she and her problems had been relegated back to their proper place in the de Ganis family hierarchy — the very bottom.
Perhaps that was unfair. Perhaps it was only natural for Lady Claire’s breath to quicken and her mind to snap toward her daughter. But Tamsin was not in a mood to be fair.
And when the strange Servo steward stepped in, Tamsin knew she had been right. “My lady, the Princess is in labor. She’s requested that you come as quickly as possible. I took the carriage, so if you wish I can bring you back when I return.”
“Yes! Of course, I’ll come immediately. Just let me send for my bag –” Lady Claire stood, ready to follow Ambrosius out the door. Leaving Tamsin alone, to wait — and stew.
Lady Claire stopped. She turned around. “Tamsin …”
“Yes, my lady?” Tamsin forced herself to stand up, to smile even.
“Would — would you like to come along?”
Tamsin’s jaw fell. “… What?”
“With me. To–to see to Lynn.” Lady Claire tried to smile. “After all, you are family … and obviously, well, Lynn will be there, and so will Clarice — they might be able to help explain some things about Elyan, about our family, that I’ve struggled with.”
“Er … won’t that, um, distract from the task at hand?”
Lady Claire chuckled. “Trust me, Tamsin — there is always plenty of time at these kinds of things when nothing in particular is happening, and everybody is forced to start talking about the weather. Besides, I daresay Lynn will be happy for the distraction, when she’s able to converse. So … what do you say?”
Tamsin swallowed. “Are — are you sure it won’t be intruding? On the Princess?”
“Well, if she’s not comfortable with having you in the room, you can always sit with the men. Freddy and Prince Tom are sure to be there — and both would, I’m sure, be glad to … fill you in on some things I haven’t been able to explain. Their outsiders’ perspective might even be more helpful to you than ours. And–well, like I said, everybody will be glad for a distraction, something to keep our minds occupied.”
There was certainly that to be said. And besides, even if nobody wanted to talk to her, Elyan was sure to show up sooner or later — Tamsin could talk to him there.
So she nodded. “Then — then I thank you, my lady, for your kind invitation. Let’s go, shall we?”
After all, Tamsin couldn’t help but think as she followed Lady Claire and Ambrosius to the waiting carriage, it’s not as if I have anything better to do today …
Imsdyn 10, 1015
“Do you hear that?”
“It sounds … almost like someone’s laughing …. at me … but why on earth would anyone do that?”
“I can’t imagine.”
Author’s note: In case anyone was wondering, Lynn gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Maylis. Mother and daughter are both doing splendidly, and Tommy is over the moon.