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1789

 

1789, France

 

“Finally, I am free from the dark tentacles of that evil woman,” Annalisa  sighed. She felt an overwhelming sense of relief knowing that she could at last put everything behind her. She did feel slightly irritated though, bothered that she had let things between the two of them come so far. “How could I have been so utterly stupid?” she said, with a touch of remorse in her voice. “I’ve been in this situation before. It feels all too familiar, but I really cannot think when or where… déjà vu…” she thought. “And that woman! I should have trusted my gut at our first meeting! Something felt so off that day and every other day after that. But that first time I met her, I could tell there was something rotten about her… it showed! Her smell, her eyes, her touch… everything about her, rotten to the bone!”

In most things, Annalisa was a resilient woman. Not this time, though. She found it hard to look past everything that had happened. And every time she tried, memories from her past would resurface, recollecting visions of black temples and dark shadows. She had yet to discover their meaning, but there was one which really stood out to her, called at her. She knew that she could not ignore its vocation.

Everywhere she went, she’d carry her pack of tarot cards with her and at every flip, the hanged man in reverse, told her what she must do. She had sensed she was at a crossroads at that time, so putting it all behind her, as her tarot confirmed, seemed like her best option.

Being so critical of herself, Annalisa couldn’t help feel frustrated by her actions, and in an attempt to calm her lividness down she started fiddling with one of the gold buttons on her white dress. She did love wearing this one dress especially as it made her feel good, hugging her body just enough to exude her figure.

Complimenting her outfit, earlier today she meticulously chose her pearl necklace and sapphire earrings too, enhancing her grey-blue eyes and her long honey-blonde hair, which flowed all the way down to her hips. And soon enough, her resentful thoughts were quickly side-tracked, focusing her attention on this one button in particular, “luna et solis,” she whispered to herself, in the little Latin she knew.

From the corner of her eyes, she got a glimpse of two butterflies fluttering at the edge of the wheat field just in front of her. She came here often, to this very spot under the oak tree where she often laid down, watching the birds circling the tree, listening to their soft sounds, pleasantly adding to nature’s symphony of the wheat rustling in the light summer’s breeze.

Just ahead of the field over a hill was a forest, which often brought in smells of the luscious mimosa trees when the wind picked up just right. Looking up at the forest took her back to the start of a new chapter in her life, one that surfaced many happy memories for her. Little did she know that her thirst for curiosity would also take her down a very dark path…

*

 

1789

 

Annalisa took out her bronze dagger and carefully cut some agrimony. “You will certainly be of good use to me,” she giggled. She loved being here, amid the fields and woodlands, talking to the herbs and trees, caressing them with her fingertips.

Just by listening to their sweet sounds, just by looking at them, she always knew what she needed, what would be most useful to her. And as she often walked through the woodlands, rummaging around, skin rashes were part of her day-to-day routine, but agrimony always worked wonders.

“I think this should do it,” she said tapping her bag of herbs as she made her way through the field, towards the oak tree. “Let’s see now… some fennel and lavender which I will use to make some tea just as soon as I get home, and of course, agrimony – perfect!”

Annalisa had felt quite pleased that day. Though still a novice at using herbs, with practice she was slowly starting to get the hang of it, hoping that one day she would be able to offer her services to others, but for now, she knew she had more to learn. She had become accustomed to her day dreams and fantasies, but with such passion in her, giving up was not an option.

Breathing in the early summer’s air, the sun was close to setting and as it did it bloomed heavenly on her girlish-looking face and her eyes which were sparkling with joy. She was wearing a blue dress, a comfortable one that she often loved to wear when she was out on her herb-hunts.

 

Maximilian looked up at the setting sun and with darkness soon approaching he needed to find a place to rest for the night. His journey had been long, taking him through numerous towns and villages across the country.

He was pleased to have finally made it to Nice, although, just when he thought that he would continue to the Northern part of Spain, his gut told him to head to Italy instead. “Soon enough I will get there,” he said, exhaling deeply, longing to rest his legs.

Deep in thought about what move he ought to take next he was distracted by what sounded like the rustling of dried wheat and footsteps in the near distance and looked up to see what or who may be approaching, ready, if needs be, to use his dagger.

 

From afar Annalisa was able to make out a gentleman standing by the oak tree. She rarely crossed paths with another person in this part of the village and felt a little weary. She held her dagger close at first, loosening her grasp as she drew closer to him, distracted by his appearance.

“He seems nice,” she thought. She could make out his build (he was of an average stature) and saw that he had shoulder-length dark-blonde hair, pulled back into a ponytail. “I’ve never seen him before though.” She was confident that he was not from here and was trying to make out where he could have possibly come from and what brought him to this part of town.

Miles away, Annalisa hadn’t realized that she had come so close – too close, she thought and though she was dumbstruck by his good looks, she was keen on not showing it, quickly sealing her gaping mouth shut and grasping a stronger hold of her dagger.

“Bonsoir mademoiselle, I hope I did not startle you,” the gentleman said, noticing what her right hand was clenching. “My name is Maximilian.”

Annalisa stood there observing the man before her and couldn’t help but feel drawn to his soft blue eyes, she was sure that she had never seen him before, but something inside of her told her that the look in his eyes was not new.

“Perhaps I should say a little more… convince you at least, not to use your knife on me,” he smiled.

“No need for that as yet,” she said with a cheeky smile as she let go of her dagger. “My name is Annalisa and unless you plan on resting out here tonight, perhaps you should walk with me to a more central part of town.”

“That I will do,” Maximilian said, showing his courtesy towards her with a slight tilted bow.

“So what brings you here?” she asked, curious as always to know more.

“Italy. I’ve been on the move throughout the Northern region of France, working at local theatres along the way and seeing to my duties at a couple of secret group meetings,” he winked.

Annalisa giggled softly, the idea of anything secret, always made her want to pry more, but hearing the words ‘secret group meetings’ seemed all the more intriguing to her. At that point, she became aware of his white belt that he wore around his blue top and the symbol it had of a golden sun, wondering what it meant.

 

Annalisa’s inquisitive nature developed early on in her life. When she was just twelve her mother died during child birth, along with the baby. It was a difficult time for her and she had many questions about death and the afterlife, about what existed in the higher realms.

At first, she often asked her father for his take on things, but his answers were never as sufficient as she would have liked them to be. And soon enough, he grew tired of her constant questioning, dismissing her at the slightest utterance of anything unearthly. In time, she half-heartedly learnt that she was alone in this sudden spark of interest she had developed and hastily kept most of her thoughts and ideas to herself.

 

Having reached the outskirts of the village, Annalisa and Maximilian stopped to relish the view of the Mediterranean Sea watching the light of day slowly draining away, creating soft hues of pink, purple and blue.

“Heavenly, isn’t it?” Annalisa gasped. “I live just down there. Perhaps you could rest there for a while. The theatre and the harbor will keep you busy I’m sure,” she said whilst reaching for an apple from the apple tree, cutting a piece for Maximilian.

“Merci. Yes I am sure I will find plenty to do here. I have after all been led to this point by my heart and my soul,” he smiled, softly and reached out to caress Annalisa gently on her arm.

Neither of them could deny the sudden pull of attraction they felt towards one another. Maximilian could feel his heart racing, beating faster and stronger, his breath deep and composed. As for Annalisa, no man had ever made her feel this way. She couldn’t quite put it into words but she felt all fluttery inside.

Silence filled the air as the sun sank deeper into the horizon and neither of them minded. In their own little world, at that moment, time was nonexistent, they just sat there quietly, each never having felt so comfortable, so relaxed. It felt so easy.

“Perhaps we should keep walking, nightfall is well on its way,” Maximilian interrupted. As he stood up he reached his hand out to Annalisa, catapulting her into his arms, holding her close if only for a while longer.

“I will take you to where you could sleep tonight and tomorrow we will find you something better.”

And as they walked into the village, neither of them said a word. Annalisa’s heart was overcome with joy. “I wonder what would come of this?” she thought, realizing that something inside of her had been awoken by his touch, by the look in his eyes. As usual, her mind was racing with thoughts and ideas as to where this new relationship might take her.

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