Ravyn's Nights - Book 1

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Chapter 6

Over the next few weeks, both Chantarell and her mother tried to avoid having to step foot out of the home, at least until they knew that Sean was tucked into his own meager bed for the night, anyway. Haven usually avoided leaving the home himself, as his youthful appearance was something that he definitely didn't want to be too clearly remembered by any unbound human. Just like it was rare that he ever shared his first name, either. It was true that he could easily make humans forget his name, or even having ever met him, and had had to do so on more than one occasion over the last century-and-a-half, he still found it easier, and more palatable, to just avoid them, when he could, which, of course was made easier by the fact that the only time he actually could leave his home, had he wished to, was when most of the world was tucked safely into their own beds. Hence, his well-earned reputation as an enigmatic recluse.

After October had nearly passed was when Chantarell's impatience and feelings of claustrophobia, began getting to her, as well as her missing of the one friend she had made outside of the only home she had ever known. Though it was true that, on the surface, she had seemed a thousand times freer than Claire did, the actuality was that her own short life was much, much more cloistered, and private, and closely guarded, than Claire's had ever been. Like Claire herself had stated: Claire was just a black sheep, Chantarell was something much, much different.

She took a deep breath before heading out of the house, her mother looking worriedly after her. Chantarell simply nodded her assurance, as the three of them had had many conversations since Sean's arrival about what they could possibly, safely, tell Sean if he were to ask about his remaining family again, which all of them were sure he would, if given the chance.

Pulling her long coat around her, despite her immunity to such things as the common cold, Chantarell determinedly made her way down the path from the front door, where Sean was shoveling away a bit of early snowfall, despite how rarely he even saw any of the home's occupants making use of that path. His presence made her breath catch, but she simply nodded to him as she made her way off of the path and towards Haven's own extensive stable.

"If you're planning on going to town, it's quite a way. You probably wouldn't make it back before dark." Sean called after her once her destination was clear.

"Your point?" she asked, only half-turning to him, her own worry about having to be called on the knowledge of their shared heritage, which she did now have, sharpening her tone.

Sean allowed a slightly nervous smile at her response before being compelled to continue, "If Mr. Torrence won't be accompanying you, I figured I should offer my services as a chaperone. You shouldn't be traveling alone, after night falls." he told her, though still speaking gently.

"I can take care of myself." she told him, though the drop in the volume of her words, did tend to weaken their conviction.

His smile appeared somehow sincere and amused at once, by her response, before quickly adding, "No offense, Miss Chantarell, but if something happened to you out there, alone, I wouldn't be able to forgive myself. And I have a feeling my new employer wouldn't be very forgiving either." he added, though attempted to soften the words with yet another smile that could easily shake an unwary young girl, which Chantarell obviously seemed not to be, though she still paused and took a breath, meditating on his request.

"I assume you can ride." she told him with a slightly defeated sigh.

"We had some mules at the orphanage." was his shrugged response.

"Mules and horses are two different things." she returned, trying not to let on her amusement at his own response.

"They were big mules?" he returned with another innocent shrug. Chantarell shook her head and quickly turned away to hide the small smile as she continued on her way to the stable, assuming he would follow, which he did.

The two made their slow way down the dirt road in silence, other than the sound of the horses' hooves against an occasional loose stone. Though it was late in the afternoon, Chantarell was somehow not in a hurry to reach their destination. If she had truly intended to go to town, which she hadn't, really, she was not in the mood to have to explain the reactions of the townspeople to Sean, not too mention all the other things he would eventually end up trying to wheedle her into explaining, as well.

Where she had actually pondered going was to see if by some chance, Claire's parents were away from home again. After all, it had been a month since she had seen her friend, and the last time they had seen each other, Claire had gotten a bit of a shock in regards to the truth to yet another rumor about her new friend. Having Sean meet Claire, or her parents, was also something that Chantarell wasn't looking forward to, especially before having a chance to either gauge Claire's feelings about herself now, or before having a chance to get to know Sean very well, herself, either. Chantarell was obviously torn between several decisions along the journey, all of which had their own stressful outcomes.

When the Wallace home came into view, still a distance off from them is when Chantarell swallowed hard, noting that her parents' carriage was indeed still there, and realizing that her decision was now narrowed down, as she couldn't very likely pay Claire a visit while her parents were home. But what really bothered her about the quick decision forced upon her, was when she realized that Claire was outside once again, and her eyes had caught their approach in the distance.

Claire immediately cast a worried glance towards the house her parents were still inside of, and back toward Chantarell, dropping the bucket of feed for the pigs and chickens, and taking a few slow and wary steps toward the road. She knew her parents wouldn't approve of her visiting with this girl, especially in broad daylight, right in front of their home, but she needed to speak with her again, especially after not having seen her in the entire month since that strange day in the woods.

"Town's that way." Chantarell nodded in the direction past the Wallace home, "Go on ahead, I just have to briefly speak with my friend." she told Sean firmly, the order throwing him.

"Are you sure?" he asked warily.

"It's still daylight out; you don't need to worry about me yet. Just go. I'll catch up in a few minutes." she repeated, almost as though not sure which she feared more, Claire sharing her knowledge of who Chantarell's mother was, and their strange beliefs, or Sean sharing his knowledge of who their master was, and how the reclusive Mr. Torrence was a long, long way from being some dirty old man with a thing for young servant girls.

Chantarell hated this, to put it simply. She was now torn between a series of half-truths which would cause her to be at least somewhat dishonest with either her only friend, who she was already worried about being on shaky ground with, or else with her only sibling, who didn't even know he was her sibling, yet. And either of them finding out those other disturbing truths, could cause great danger to her only love.

Now, she did truly understand why Haven and Ana told her to be wary of any relationships outside of her lifelong home, and how it had, very easily, cost her father so much, when he had tried to have any of those relationships, as well.

Sean shook his head at her tone, but said nothing as he prodded the horse into moving forward, down the road, as Chantarell stopped her own mount, still near the edge of the Wallace property which was closer to her own home, while Claire slowly made her way down to the lane to greet her, constantly casting watchful glances back toward her house, just waiting for her parents to look outside, see who she intended to speak with, and drag her back inside by the hair.

Claire bit her lip nervously as she watched Sean move past on his own horse, still a hundred or so feet from where she had made her way through the large yard. Her curiosity about who he was, was shared in his own brief glance back toward her as well as her heartbeat speeding a bit on the moment when their eyes met ever so briefly, but she quickly forced herself to remember the situation at hand, and moved more quickly down to the roadside to meet Chantarell before her parents had a chance to note the girl's presence.

"Who was he?" she asked Chantarell as she neared the roadside, casting yet another look back toward her home once more.

"Is that really your only question, hon?" Chantarell returned the greeting, forcing a wry smile as she cast her own furtive glance toward Sean's retreating form.

"And why haven't I seen you for a month, obviously?"

Chantarell took a deep breath before giving into yet another half-truth, which was designed to answer both of the girl's questions, "He's a new servant. Guess who's gotten stuck training him." she added.

"Considering certain duties that Mr. Torrence does ask of you, I'm assuming you're not training him in all of them?" Claire returned with a bit of her own less than ladylike humor sneaking out, which, though it could have been taken offensively, it somehow caused a wave of relief to pass over Chantarell.

"See, I am a bad influence on you. Good girls would never talk about such things." Chantarell returned with a more sincere grin.

"Told you I wasn't a good girl." Claire returned with her own smile.

Chantarell just shook her head with another brief chuckle, "As true as that may be, I better leave before they figure it out, too. Later hon." she told her with another smile as she kicked her horse into a quick gallop, at least heading away with the satisfaction that she had managed to get through one of those stressful situations, without much damage being done, this time, anyway.

"People in town aren't very friendly, are they?" Sean finally broke their long silent ride home from town, later that evening, which was thankfully mild enough that the light coating of snow on the ground earlier that day had melted, and it wasn't a completely uncomfortable ride home, temperature-wise, anyway.

"Guess now you know why we hardly ever leave the house." Chantarell told him smartly, her mood having slightly improved by the knowledge that her friendship with Claire did seem somewhat intact.

"So dare I ask why they seem particularly unfriendly to you?" he asked warily.

"You know the three of us just as well as any of them have ever bothered to get to know any of us. What do you think it is?" she asked with a bit of mischief, not able to help her own curiosity about what he must be thinking about his new home's occupants, as it would help her to determine what his opinion would be likely to be, if he were ever privy to the actual truth of their shared roots.

"You and Ana both grew up in the Torrence home, right?" he asked cautiously.

"We've both been there a long time." she answered as truthfully as she could, without mentioning that her mother had only lived there as long as herself, having moved in once discovering that she would be having a child that only Haven was likely to be able to deal with and accept, especially through the pain that the difficult pregnancy was sure to cause Ana. After all, each person involved was sure that Ana would die giving birth to Chantarell, the same way Sean's mother had died giving birth to him. This was also the reason Ezekial had, upon discovering Ana’s pregnancy, taken his own life. And of course, that fact led to Haven and Ana being the ones left behind to take care of Sean, neither of whom was equipped to care for a toddler twenty-four hours a day, at that particular moment in time.

"And you both obviously stayed after his parents died." Sean continued to try and relay his own thoughts on the household, trying to clarify, non-offensively, what might be the underlying cause of the opinions of the townspeople.

"Yes." she said briefly.

"So, a teenage boy, living alone with a teenage girl, and another, only slightly older woman, with no supervision, and plenty of wealth, in a house that he's obviously the master of, now?" Sean stated quietly, trying not to offend while trying to give her the answer she seemed to be requesting.

Chantarell smirked, "My my Sean, what are you getting at?" she had to laugh, though still uneasy with the fact of him delving into any part of their past.

"I swear, I'm not trying to offend, or imply, anything, but when I was inside, I did only see one bedroom." he added, though quietly, wanting to cast his eyes downwards, but needing to watch her reaction to see how much he had truly offended her with the allusion.

"Yes he is a male, and he does have reign over two attractive, unmarried females, which I suppose would lend itself to him taking advantage of that fact, I suppose." she partially admitted to a truth in his words, though still wore a smile.

Sean swallowed a bit as he then did look away before managing to continue, "So, he does then, ask favors of you and Ana?" he asked, knowing it was not his place to ask such a thing, but somehow not able to stop himself from asking, nonetheless.

"You've seen him. It's hardly a duty either she or I balk at." Chantarell admitted with a small smile, still seeming wonderfully unoffended, which couldn't help but pull Sean's eyes back to her.

He finally took a long breath as they continued down the road, trying to find some response to such an odd situation before him, which he couldn't help being drawn into learning more about, it being such an unheard of lifestyle for any woman he had ever met, as few as there were, considering his own upbringing.

"But what about husbands, and families, don't you and Ana want that?"

"He is our family." was her simple response.

"At the cost of the obvious opinions of everyone else though? It's clear they don't approve of you, and you must know that that's the reason." he told her, forgetting his own urge not to risk offending her himself, as he was too curious about their lives now that she had admitted to such a strange fact of them.

"I somehow must believe that having the love of someone close to you is more important than having the approval of strangers." Chantarell told him quietly, but sincerely, not looking over to see the look in his eyes which was a completely unexpected one of not disapproval, but admiration.

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