In the last month of the hot season, I was pleased. Everything calmed down around Shaeriden. The next harvest will be in by the cooling season. We had a surplus of food. And there was movement in the Holy One’s decision. The news came on an unbearable day. James and I were called to Ploum by Archbishop Alfred. We packed immediately, pleasantly, and left not even two days later. Momma brought John, Allen, Peter, Michelle and Johanna outside to wave us farewell.
When James and I reached Ploum, it was almost the cooling season. All of my ladies were dropped off at their homes to tend to their families or to give birth. James and I continued our way to Fyrum House. We sent servants ahead to the palace to notify Nora and Char of our arrival. We were going when Alfred called us.
In the coming days, without a reply in sight, James and I had to live in harmony. James was set hosting several meals, inviting the neighbors for games and drinks and calling for musicians and singers. I followed through, if only to keep up the appearance that we were happily married still. Even if I tried to run, James would find me. He was always at my side.
Soon, we were back to meet new charities and speaking to the people of Klenard. James and I were now sponsoring orphanages in Shaeriden, for the children of solders. Then, we were preparing food and sending daily meals to the homeless shelters in Ploum, Olette and Gawsh. There was a line of tents that sheltered the homeless along the Kisslie River and we helped to direct them to a better place. In the evenings, we helped to serve food before changing and going to one of our own.
When James and I did not see the poor of Ploum, we visited people who worked for a living. Mostly, we met with merchants in the capital and discussing trade in and out of the Kisslie River. Once, I visited a place where the women sewed clothes solely for the poor. They tried giving me a dress, but I felt too embarrassed to take it and told them to give it to a woman most needy.
Even though I adored helping the less fortunate, I hated every moment of it. I reasoned: if God intended for married couples to learn how to love, then I would have loved James with all of my heart and done this with good faith. I did not. Then, I remembered that this was all supposed to be a show anyway. It made people happy. They liked to talk about how James and I are getting on.
The ugly head of scandal only rose when the neighbors asked about the report to the Holy Healer. My husband was smart. While I was not allowed to speak about it, he fed into the gossip. Knowing that he was slighted by a healer, he made his rounds to our many acquaintances in Ploum and told them a story I also repeated. They noted James’s good humor over the matter and how concerning he was over the report, especially since most of it was not public information.
“Of course, my wife’s privacy is of the utmost importance,” James smoothed over. “I am hopeful for the future.” If I was nearby, he’d pull me right next to him.
The story remained the same: Master Rosius used his influence and his cunning to push through the ban in a short period of time. James and I did not expect this coming. None of us placed such a plea. While it was the truth, it painted my healer as a mysterious and unusual man. Some people, encouraged by James, called him evil for trying to interfere with my marriage with him.
By the end of the hot season, Nora and Char still did not invite us to the palace. They both sent us letters, apologizing. First, there was some sickness in the palace and it affected Edward and Robert (who were visiting Nora and Char). Then, Archbishop Alfred claimed to have found some heretics and wanted a full investigation. When he was satisfied with the investigation, he made another excuse about purifying the kingdom and set the court to prayer.
I honestly do not believe you’d like this, Nora wrote to me. I commend my Archbishop for his devotion for God, Jesus Christ and His Word. But sometimes, the Word of God gets taken a little too far. Stay where you are, Miranda. It cannot be worse than this.
I was so terrified! Every moment with my husband made me believe that he was going to change once we were behind closed doors. He always did.
But he never did! James was kind and compassionate. He deferred to me in all things, made me feel comfortable wherever we went and showed me love when we were supposed to be alone. None of it was in our bedchambers, but he always kissed me or complimented my appearances when he could. Sometimes, he made a suggestion and declared it fit it better.
Regina did not trust it. “He is playing a game,” she warned me boldly one night.
I looked at my reflection in the mirror, frustrated. “I know. It always has been. When this be over with? When will he stop pretending? I am sure everyone knows he has a mistress.”
“When he no longer has anything to hold onto,” my maid replied. She brushed my hair. “Everything is an illusion, Your Grace. If someone lies and keeps up the pretense, then people will believe it. That is true power and it is dangerous.”