Coming Out of the Shell

I have kept this journal since I was 12 years old, more or less. It serves as a record of my thoughts and experiences, an outlet for things I have little chance to express elsewhere, and as a reminder to my admittedly unreliable memory. I never thought to show it to anybody else, so never expected it to serve as an example.

And yet, it seems it has done so. I came by the tavern earlier yesterday, to find Aoibheann there with the book that Emanuel have asked me to give to her and some paper. It seems that she has decided to keep a journal. I must admit I was a little surprised at first, given how she struggles with the writing, but, on the other hand, it may be a good thing for her to practice. She seemed at a loss as to what she could write, though. I told her that it was entirely up to her; if she wanted to write about her breakfast, the important things of the day, her dreams, ideas that had occurred, it really didn’t matter. That it was her journal, her thoughts and she could write as she wished without the fear of being judged by anyone. After all, I told her, my own journal rarely contained much of significance, especially when I first started it. I suggested she might want to record the more pleasing happenings, such as reading a poem or hugging a fairy. She seemed to like that idea and remarked that the fairy episode, while unusual, it was something to which she was getting used, and beginning to regard as normal. I told her a little of my first few days in London, getting used to all the fanciful creatures there.

We spoke a while of poems and writing and the relative values of different types of work. She seemed to have difficulty with my believing all lives to be equally valuable and that I would as likely step in to save the life of a maidservant as I would a king’s. Perhaps things were different where she comes from. This led to a slightly uncomfortable discussion on death, as she seemed to think I knew little of that matter, so I told her about Mother, about Alexandra, and the six colleagues who met their death during my time at Haskins. She apologised for making me think of such sad things, but I assured her I was over my losses and now just cherished the lives I had known.

Aoibheann was curious about this and said that it must take strength to be so positive. I took this as an opportunity to try to boost her self-esteem and told her that though I knew little of her past, I did know she had suffered a lot, had lost a lot in getting here to Jasper Cove, and yet, here she was now, a respected member of the community and keeper of a tavern, so, if anybody had strength, it was her.

I am afraid I think I made the poor girl blush. Then, when she had recovered, offered to tell of her past, if I asked, which I think was a very hard thing for her to do. I told her that her story was hers to tell as and when she felt she wanted to do so. She told me about it anyway; how she had been raised by her brother, a physician, in a land plagued by dragons, and she herself not highly regarded in the town, how there had been an attack and how her brother sent her to an area she did not know well with the excuse of enquiring of missing crops. And, in essence, that was how she came to be here. She got lost, found herself by a river… And that part of the tale we know well.

I tried my best to comfort her; telling her that I was sure that her survival was what her brother would have wanted, even if his fate was unknown. She recovered enough to joke that he might not approve of her being a tavern-keeper, but I reassured her that I was sure he would be pleased that she was offering sustenance to weary travellers. By now, she was feeling better, so I left her in the kitchen, to make herself some dinner, excusing myself to do further work on my business agreements. Some day I shall have to tell her. I am running out of excuses for not eating.

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