Emmie stared at herself in the glossy mirror above her washbasin, her cheeks were flushed a brilliant rose pink, her mossy dove gray eyes looking back at her dilated and perplexed. She stared at her lips, which had become red and plump from her biting them in her sleep. What was wrong with her? She shouldn't have these types of thoughts or dreams no less. These were certainly not the thoughts of a nun. Or a would-be nun for that was what she was. She was almost through with her training; she had spent years educating herself, praying to the Lord, disciplining herself into the life of a nun. The nerve-wracking pressure to be just like her mentors and elders who had years behind them full of prayer and utter devotion to helping others. In her small room with just a bed, a washbasin, her trunk, and a window overlooking the courtyard Emmie looked about her as if seeing everything for the first time. She glanced back at herself and realized she still was slightly flushed and couldn't help but groan at the sight of herself. What was wrong with her? She put a wet towel to her face willing it to take away the heat emitting from her body. Slowly she stepped back to her bed and grimaced at the tangled sheets atop it. The dream had to be stripped from her mind. It wasn't right, it wasn't
she slipped back into her bed covering herself once more. Her sheath riding up her thighs the silk giving her shivers, she quickly pulled it down and lay still. Such thoughts and dreams were what women without a purpose in life dreamed and thought about. She wasn't one of those. She had a purpose. To serve the almighty Father above in heaven, Emmie turned and looked up at the vaulted ceiling. Nothing will take me away from fulfilling my family's wishes. Nothing. Even if it cost her, her sanity she would not deter from the path she had willingly chosen for herself. She closed her eyes willing her mind to not think, not dream and she fell into a fitful dreamless sleep.
Emmie couldn't believe what she was hearing, so she asked her Abbess once more.
" You mean to take me where?"
Abbess Luciana sighed heavily and looked at the girl standing in front of her desk. Emmie was a novice set to be a nun in a matter of months and she still was as inquisitive as the day she stepped foot in this abbey 10 years before as a child. The girl was a beauty her brilliant ruby red hair mixed with gold and lighter shades of scarlet and sanguine streaks, her pink pouty full lips, pixie like nose and high cheek bones, finally her light olive-steel gray eyes which stared at her in apparent shock from the news just voiced through her wrinkled mouth. Emmie, Luciana thought, was one of those girls who men stared at with dangerous thoughts and she certainly wasn't happy about the outcome of the missive sent to her by her elder in Roma. Her old eyes gazed at the girl; she was taller than most but that was expected being that she was from somewhere near England. No one really knew where exactly just that the fair skin and bright red hair bespoke someone from northern Europe. How she ended up on the doorstep of an abbey in the middle of Italy was an altogether different mystery. She had no memory of who she was other than her name, her noble birth and that she was to give her very large dowry to the abbess at the time. Abbess Allegra decided against asking the little one questions that might send her into a confused state and welcomed her with open albeit puzzled arms. The girl stood a head and shoulders length taller than most women in the abbey, her hair had darkened with age as well as her skin tone which was now close to the olive skin worn by most girls in the abbey, she had kept the freckles that skittered around her nose but her body had become what men would call sinful, Luciana shuddered at the thought. Looking at the girl she would have liked to change the words of the missive and to keep the girl away from the wandering and prying eyes of men. It was a wish, Luciana sadly sighed again, that would definitely not be fulfilled.
" You are to be sent to Roma, little one. On the orders of the great Mother Superior of our convent." Abbess Luciana repeated
" Why?" Emmie asked gawking at Abbess Luciana.
" Mother Superior Domencia has sent a missive to all surrounding abbeys for all novices who are about to recite their final vows. Since you are the only one a few months shy of this important day, you will be the only one leaving us."
" Did she explain why?" Emmie questioned still gawking at Abbess Luciana as if something was growing out of Abbess Luciana's face.
" That, little one is none of your business. My orders are to send you to Roma and all that is to be known will be revealed there." Abbess Luciana gave Emmie a hard glare and Emmie shrank from her. Distractedly Emmie considered if this was a sort of punishment for the dream she had only two nights past, but only God would be privy to her thoughts, the Abbess wouldn't have that sort of power
maybe Mother Superior Domencia? But no that would be ridiculous. Coming back to the present and where she was, standing in Abbess Luciana's office, Emmie couldn't quite believe that she was headed to Rome.
" Now, you will have to pack quickly you leave for Roma on the morrow. Mother Superior Domencia would like most if not all novices within city walls within a fortnight. This abbey is the farthest from Roma and that missive was sent out 5 days prior. I have only 12 days to get you to Roma and be settled in the monastery to begin
ah to be with all the novices. It takes about 6 days to get to Roma from here if the roads are good. Now go, hurry, say your goodbye's, Sister Carlotta will come to you with your bags to start your packing." Abbess Luciana looked back down at her readings but could feel Emmie still standing in front of her desk, she sighed a third time and glanced up.
" Go, Emmie. Now."
Emmie nodded and scuttled away to the library where she knew all the Sisters, Novices, Postulants, and Oblates sat either reading, or being read to, a daily tradition in the abbey. She walked in looking at the small group suddenly feeling the sadness seep into her pores as she realized she wouldn't see any of the women and girls for a very long time. The noise in the library had dimmed and finally had become non-existent as all the women raised their heads, ones without a habit and ones with, toward the door that Emmie just passed through. They gazed at her expectantly wanting to hear her news. Emmie smiled at them and sat back down to where she had been before the summons had called her away to Abbess Luciana's office. After a pause novice Elisabetta asked the question all the ladies wanted answered.
" Emmie, what happened?"
Emmie looked to her friend and smiled a small smile. She glanced around her and saw that all the ladies looked at her eagerly waiting for her response.
" I am
I am to be sent to Roma." She sputtered out.
" Roma!" the group gasped in both shock and awe.
" But why?" Sister Frederica queried.
" I know not. Just that those novices who are set to recite their vows this coming year are to be sent to Roma. Mother Superior Domencia decreed it and her missive had been sent to all abbeys surrounding Roma. I am to leave on the morrow. Mother Superior Domencia would like to have all novices within city walls in a fortnight and that message was sent 5 days prior." Emmie gazed at the fire feeling the sadness seep deeper into her pores and body and gazed at each face willing it to memory.
" Oh, Emmie! We have just tonight!" Cried a little one named Grazia. Everyone chuckled but it was forlorn.
" I know, I know but we shall make the most of it, Shall we not?" Emmie smiled once more to the group sitting in the warm library.
" Yes we shall, this is to be your last night at the abbey, but it will be one you will enjoy! I personally hate sad goodbyes, yours will be a happy bittersweet goodbye." Sister Nicolina, the eldest nun after Abbess Luciana in the abbey, said to Emmie and to the group.
Emmie was grateful for Sister Nicolina, they smiled their forlorn smiles but made the night one of the best nights Emmie had ever had at the abbey. Sadly it ended far too soon with the arrival of Sister Carlotta and the trunk that Emmie would take with her to Rome. Sister Carlotta, Emmie noticed, had slipped out before the evenings end to fetch the dark beautifully carved trunk that was to be hers. Emmie said her goodnights and goodbyes to the group of women that had become her family since her arrival at the abbey and headed to her room Sister Carlotta by her side both carrying the trunk. When finally at her door, the both sidled inside her room and slowly set the trunk down beside her old one at the foot of the bed. Emmie looked up at Sister Carlotta. Carlotta was only a year older than her own 9 and 10 years and had been at the abbey since she was 8, two years later Emmie arrived and they were the best of friends since. Carlotta was the exact opposite in appearance to Emmie. She had raven black hair, bright gold eyes and a dark olive complexion. She was just as beautiful as Emmie, they shared a pert small nose, full pouty rose lips, and high perpetually blushed cheekbones. They stared at each other for a split second before they both started to cry and hug each other wanting to never let go. The tumbled onto the bed still crying mumbling " I wish you weren't leaving" or " I wish I wasn't leaving" until they both let go and started to laugh. They let out big booming laughs before they shushed each other and came to quiet.
" Oh, Emmie. I wish you had recited your vows when I did, then we would not be in such a predicament." Carlotta murmured holding Emmie's hand.
Carlotta had recited her vows a year before and wore her habit proudly as new nun. Emmie nodded in agreement but since Carlotta was a year older than Emmie it had to be that way. Carlotta gazed at her steadily.
" You must promise to write when you have the chance. I must know what you will be doing at the monastery. Oh, this is so exciting and sad at the same moment!"
" Of course I will write! There is no doubt to that. I promise you on the Lord God Himself I will write to you. Oh, you must write back! I will so miss your voice, and your face! Oh, Carla how be it we must part? How is this so?" Emmie cried her voice muffling as she embraced Carlotta her face buried into her shoulder.
" My dear Emery, do not fret. I wish we were to be together forever just as you do but! This is an opportunity for you, bittersweet be it is. Now," Carlotta said moving Emmie's face from her shoulder and wiping her tears away. Carlotta slightly started when Emmie reached up and wiped the tears off Carlotta's face. Carlotta had not realized she had begun to cry once more. " We must pack your things. It would not be a very good idea to keep whoever that is come to get you waiting as you half-heartedly pack tomorrow morning would it?"
Emmie nodded, Carlotta had always been the sensible one, the one who knew what to do and when to do it. Emmie on the other hand was the impulsive strong willed one who was curious about everything. She looked towards the girl now ruffling through the old trunk at the foot of her bed, whom had become her kin-spirit. Carlotta was more than just a friend she was the sister she never had the chance to have and she would miss her dearly more than the others who made up the abbey. Emmie stood up and began to help Carlotta slowly put away her clothes, the little that she had, and her other treasures into the new intricately carved trunk that she would travel with. Finally placing her most cherished books atop clothes and treasures Emmie closed the trunk and lay her well-read bible on the surface. She turned to look at Carlotta. She whispered
" Would it be
would you stay with me tonight?"
" Of course Emmie, I would love to. Just let me get my things from my room, I will be back in a moment." Carlotta stepped out of the room.
Emmie looked about her room it was barren now, it was before but now more so, there was no rosary on the bed or bible on her bedside table no books underneath it. Just a bed as it had been before on her first day at the abbey. She remembered that day being on of the most excruciating days of her life. Her pain not physical but emotional, her mind still playing over what had happened to her before she had been deposited at the abbey. Not that she remembered much, only a few things none of them making sense to her. Her dreams for a year had been of screams, blazing fires, then whispers, smells of the sea, the rocking of a boat. She could only remember clearly the eyes of a man who had taken her to the abbey and his words.
" Never forget, you are Emery Ó Conchubhair Donn, you are blessed with noble blood. You are kin to kings and you will always be a Ó Conchubhair Donn."
His deep voice sank into her ears as she looked up at him, memorizing the planes of his face. His midnight blue eyes and dark glossy chestnut locks, the strong jaw with a small cleft on his chin, everything about him she memorized because she felt she would never see him again. His eyes crinkled at her looking as if he too were committing her face and her essence to memory.
" Never forget me, mo milis, riamh dearmad ar." He said with such finality that Emery started to cry.
He wiped away her tears with a sad chuckle and set her next to the gate of the abbey. He looked up at the building and told her
" They will take good care of you here, mo milis, you are to become a nun. It was not something I foresaw to be your future but destiny changes," He looked down at her a second more before hopping back onto his horse. The others were a ways back waiting for him to say goodbye to his ward, " I wish I could have seen you grow up to be the beautiful woman you are set to become, I wish many things but they are not in our stars. I
" He stopped as if something was choking the words from his lips. He got off the horse again and kneeled before her.
" Mo milis, sweet child," He held her close, she clutched him willing him never to let go, " I will cherish you for as long as I live, and I hope to the dear Lord that you will fare greatly in your life," He held her back looking her in the eyes, " oh how I love you, how I wish it were not to be this way. I never wanted to leave you mo milis never, but alas I shall." He embraced her once more before letting go and settling back on his horse, its ebony head shaking as he turned it back towards where they came.
" Never forget these words mo milis: Neasghaolta a Ó Conchubhair Donn, ní bheidh mé sos, ní bheidh mé teacht isteach, beidh mé riamh a bhriseadh. I gcás go bhfuil sé dúinn, an Ó Conchubhair Donn clan a riail n ah Éireann, a ardaitheoir sé óna gÚbh agus a mbeidh sé a thabhairt ar a suaimhneas. Tá mé Ó Conchubhair Donn, agus ní bheidh méchuid eile go dtí go bhfuil Éire ag síochána. Tá mé Ó Conchubhair Donn agus tá mé síochána. Tá mé slánú"
He nodded at her, turned and kicked his horse into a gallop. She stared after him silently crying but keeping those words of her ancestors in her mind, committing them to her memory just as she had committed him to her memory. Those last and final words made her sob even harder. Tá mé slánú. I am salvation. He was her salvation and he had just left her here at these abbey walls. She shook from her cries her body convulsing with the emotional pain she felt. Finally as if she had felt his spirit speaking to her soothing her, telling her not to cry she stopped and waited. Waited for a nun to come to take her up to the abbey, where she was to live and build a new life. And where she would never forget the man who left her at the abbey's doors. That man
Emmie slipped out of her memories when she saw that Carlotta was back in her room, looking at her in askance.
" I'm sorry Carlotta, I was just
thinking back to the times we shared here." Emmie smiled a small smile and slipped off her dress and settled into her sheath. Carlotta did the same and they snuggled into Emmie's bed. Carlotta entwined their hands and said
" I will forever cherish you Emmie, and I do hope that you will return soon."
" I hope that as well, and I as well will cherish you forever Carla"
They shared a glance and a small smile before both whispering their secret goodnight saying.
"Dormire bene, sonno profondo, Dio sia dentro i tuoi sogni e maggio ha regalo che con i sogni del cielo. Che Dio sia con voi sempre e per sempre, dormi bene.Sonno profondo. Io ti amo."
Emmie kissed Carlotta's cheek and Carlotta reciprocated, they finally closed their eyes and fell asleep, hands still entwined trying to never let go.
Emmie awoke to Abbess Luciana nudging her off her bed. Emmie quickly stood to see Carlotta standing near the door face flushed. She grinned and stood still as Abbess Luciana glared at the both of them.
" Emmie, quickly change you are to leave in but a few minutes. Sister Carlotta. I shall speak to you when everyone is awake and present at prayers. Emmie I shall be waiting at the gate. Sister Carlotta, seeing as you are awake help Emmie bring her trunk to the gate, once you have changed of course." Abbess Luciana swept out of the room after glaring at the two once more.
In a fit of giggles Carlotta ran to her room to change while Emmie changed into the clothes she had set out the night before to wear. Her traveling attire consisted of her light wool dove gray travelling gown with its voluminous sleeves and a high collared neck. It had buttons down the back, a gold rope belt and linen undergarments. She slipped on her shoes and her white cap partly covering her hair. She plaited her hair to one side and put her bible into the small purse she carried at her side. Carlotta re-entered the room dressed in her black habit and nodded at her to grab hold of one side of the trunk. They lifted it and headed towards the gate of the abbey. Emmie looked back at what had once been her home and sighed heavily. Finally at the gate a priest took the trunk and set it inside a covered wagon lead by a priest and two horses. There were two other priests on horseback waiting for her to be seated inside the wagon. Emmie glanced at Carlotta and they embraced whispering wishes and love to each other. Letting go was difficult for Emmie but she slowly did. Setting Carlotta back she turned to Abbess Luciana. Lifting Abbess Luciana's hand she kissed the ring on her finger and smiled. Abbess Luciana smiled back and enveloped her into a hug. She quickly set her back and nodded saying
" This is Father Arrigo, he is the head of the journey, he will take good care of you." She motioned at the man who set her trunk in the wagon. She then motioned to the man controlling the wagon, " That is Father Beppe, and the two on horse back, are Father Sandro on the white horse and Father Valerio on the brown."
They all nodded and waved at her. Abbess Luciana turned to Emmie once more and gave her a small tied pouch.
" Inside is money that shall be used when needed on your trip to Roma. Of course abbeys and monasteries will take you in alike but if you wish to use it in any way do so. Or keep it with you until you get to Roma. There are two smaller pouches within. One is to use as token to the monastery once you enter Roma. The other is to be given to Mother Superior Domencia when she welcomes you into the Monastery. The one given as a token is a dark navy blue. The one given to Mother Superior Domencia is purple. Remember that Emmie."
Emmie nodded at Abbess Luciana as she slipped the small pouch into the purse at her side. She moved towards the wagon and turned.
"God be with you little one, Dio sia con te" Abbess Luciana called to her.
" Dio sia con te" Emmie nodded and was helped into the wagon by Father Arrigo.
Father Arrigo looked to the Abbess and nodded calling out the same words uttered by Emmie and the Abbess, the three others called the same and spurred off towards the path that lead to the village where the abbey was situated near. The wagon slowly turned an started on its way, finally Father Arrigo made his way behind the group glancing back to see the Abbess waving at Emmie. He looked at the girl sitting silently in the wagon after they had disappeared from the Abbess' sight. She was a beauty, red gold hair plaited to rest on her left side, a heart shaped face with a small pert upturned nose that held freckles. Her darker complexion was slightly off putting with the dark red hair but he was told that she had come to the abbey with alabaster skin. The sun it seemed had taken that away. She was a beauty and it was his duty to protect her from the knaves who would without a thought try to take her in every sense of the word. He looked to the others in front of him. This was turning to be a long journey and the missive which