The week came and passed at a remarkably slow pace. On Thursday night, I thought I’d never sleep for I was so thrilled. I struggled to sit still and pay attention during my studies on Friday. Father, realizing that I wouldn’t be getting anyhing done, told me that I may be dismissed to prepare my belongings for my trip.
I packed my chemise, hairbrush, toothbrush, and dress for the following day all into a saddle bag that I found under my bed. I retrieved Natalia’s coat from the hanger. Grinning from ear to ear, I pulled it on over my simple gown.
"Prepared?" Father asked, entering the room. I nodded, smiling brightly. "Well, let us then go!" Father lifted the bag with ease and he followed me out.
In the foyer, Father ordered that I say goodbye to Mother.
"Mother!" I called. She leaned her head around the door frame of a room.
"Goodbye!" I said, heading for the door, anxious to get on.
"Ah ah!" Father said, catching the neck of my coat. "This is the first time you will be away overnight. You give your mother a kiss goodbye."
I huffed, irritated, and walked to Mother. I kissed her cheek.
"Have fun. Mind yourself," she said, kissing my forehead. I turned and rushed out of the house before they could delay me any longer.
Father called from behind, “Adelina, dear, the horses will still be there if you walk.”
"I would like to get there!"
"Well, I would like for you to cease kicking dirt on me with your running," he retorted, catching up to me. I stuck my tongue out at him and began to skip.
When we reached the stables, my uncle was standing outside with Greatheart saddled.
"Giuseppe, we have a mandatory Council meeting. It is on an urgent note that us men are being called in."
"I am on the way to drop Adelina at the Landry manor, then I will be right on my way," Father said, putting the saddle bag on Greatheart.
"There isn’t enough time to take her. We have to go now."
I scowled. All the talk of urgent meetings made no apparent sense to me, but I understood that I was delayed once again.
"Let me go in your place to the meeting," Alessio said, appearing from the tack room of the stable. He put down a saddle brush and wiped his hands on his pants.
"It is strictly First Order business," Uncle Bruno countered.
"Then let me take Adelina."
Father hesitated. It hadn’t been long before that Alessio had been riding his horse Levi and had an accident. Levi had stepped into a snake hole, bending his leg unnaturally and breaking it. Alessio had been thrown off, landing beneath the large horse where he was rolled over. His injuries had kept him from Shifting for a week.
"Father, it is right down the road. I will take Druele. Please let me help." Alessio hated being found incompetent for any job. He stared at father, strong, confident.
"Alright," Father said. "But be wary. You have your sister’s life in your hands." Alessio set his jaw. Father hugged me tightly. "I love you. Enjoy your sleepover. I will retrieve you in the morning." He climbed on Greatheart and Uncle Bruno mounted his horse.
As they rode away, Alessio went for Druele. I noticed as he saddled her that he did so angrily.
"What is the matter?" I finally asked.
“‘You have your sister’s life in your hands,’” he mocked. “Adelina, I can’t help that grass grew up over a hole and Levi stepped in it. I mean, of course I could have been more cautious. But I handled the situation as best I could. And for him to suggest,” he growled, yanking the girth, “that I would allow harm upon you…Well, can you see that I am royally pissed? I know he loves you and just wants to ensure your safety. But honestly, am I so irresponsible that I can’t take you a couple of miles on horseback?”
"Well, if you would allow us to get moving, you could prove him wrong," I said, trying to rush him.
"You, sister, have the patience of a damn wolf." Alessio ruffled my hair and threw me up into the saddle. He climbed on behind me and began to lead Druele.
As we turned onto the main road, realization struck. “Oh no!” I exclaimed.
"Whoa," Alessio called to Druele. "What is it, Adelina?"
"Father rode off with my saddle bag!"
"Well, we are halfway there now. I can go.back if you’d like, but it would be a wasted mile."
"No, no," I said, not wanting to waste anymore time. I would just manage with what I had.
We arrived without incident. Alessio tied Druele’s reins to a post and walked me to the door. His knock was answered by Lady Landry.
"My! Why, Alessio, aren’t you shaping out to be such a handsome young man! I hardly see you anymore, child! And, Adelina, dear, you are darling as always! Won’t you come in?"
"I have to be heading home. I am going hunting with the other adolescent pack members. I just came to drop Adelina off. Father had to rush to a Council meeting."
"Ah, yes, my husband left for that as well."
"What business do the First Order males have that is so urgent?"
"Do not ask me, those men tell me nothing."
Alessio smiled. “Well, Milady, it was a pleasure to see you.” He bowed respectfully. “I will see you at home, sister.”
Lady Landry gestured me inside. I followed, taking in the beautiful home. “I thought I’d never get here,” I said.
Lady Landry laughed. “Men are unreliable with time, darling. Absolutely unreliable. For example, Alberto here.”
A teenage male appeared before us. “Forgive my tardiness, Madre. I have good reason.”
I recognized Alberto. He Wasatch pack member. I was suddenly confused as to why he would be referring to Lady Landry as his mother.
"Adelina, you know Alberto, yes?"
"Of course she knows me, I have lived in that large castle of hers since my father died. Not to mention, she will one day rule over me in her mother’s place."
"Hush up, I wasn’t talking to you," Lady Landry said, rolling her eyes.
"Yes ma’am, I know him." I held my hands behind my back.
"Alberto is to be my son-in-law. He is soulmated to my eldest daughter, Segora." I nodded in understanding.
The Soulmate Principle was customary to all inhabitants of our world. Every one of us had our own mate, whether human or of any opposite race, whom we would meet and spend forever with.
"Anyway, he was supposed to have been here an hour earlier to help me prepare the tabernacle for you girls." She gave him a scolding look.
"It is Segora’s fault. She kept ordering rolls at the restaurant."
"I’m sure that is it. Now, Adelina, Natalia is in the library. You may go for her while we get the tabernacle ready. You remember where it is?"
"Yes ma’am," I answered, heading down the hallway.
I swung the great oaken door of the library open. Natalia was laying on the floor, indulging in a neat little picture book. I cleared my throat.
"Adelina!" She exclaimed as she looked up. She stood to give me a hug. "You’ve come at last! Oh, I am so excited! We are going to have a delightful time."
I smiled, still attempting to adjust to this new situation.
"Shall we go on somewhere? Would you like to meet my sister? She just got home, so she surely isn’t busy yet." Natalia, without waiting for my reply, grabbed my hand and dragged me down the hall. She lead me up a flight of stairs to the North Wing of the house.
The door was shut, but Natalia didn’t knock. She barged into the room. The golden haired girl was laying on the bed, staring at the ceiling. She turned her head to the side, glanced at us, then looked back to the ceiling.
"Segora, I’d like you to meet Adelina de Luca." At the mention of my name, Segora turned her focus on me.
"De Luca? Alberto’s de Luca?" I nodded in response to her question. "Hmm," she said. She turned away again.
"Alberto is Segora’s mate," Natalia explained. I didn’t announce that I’d just earlier had this conversation. I was scared to speak. The golden haired girl was like stone. I didn’t think she liked me at all. "Anyways, I just wanted to introduce the two of you."
The girl’s only response was, “Send Alberto up, if you will.”
As we left the room, Natalia whispered, “She isn’t always like that, I swear. You just have to get used to her.” I didn’t respond.
Natalia lead me to a part of the house I had yet to see. This was the tabernacle. As we stepped in the entryhall, Natalia commanded that I take my shoes off.
"The tabernacle is holy ground. Whenever there is a new moon, we sleep here with the spirits. We prepare meals and rest them on the altar. When we wake up, the food is gone and we are reminded that the spirits hunger to be with us."
Confused, I just nodded.
"I know it sounds quaint, but it is a tradition that our French side of the family began. Mother feels that it keeps that part of the family alive, in a sense. You will enjoy it."
The place was mesmerizing. Walls and pillars of ivory detailed by gold gave way to a pure golden altar. There were three pallets made up on the floor and silver platters on the steps before the altar.
"What do you think?" Lady Landry asked.
"Wow," I breathed.
Natalia sent Alberto to Segora as I took in the place. I kneeled before the altar, the sheer beauty of the place having weakened my knees.
Just then, a bell chimed. “Suppertime!” Natalia announced. She led me to the dining hall where a full course meal awaited. I ate silently, listening to the family converse.
After dessert, Natalia led me to her room. The sun had just set.
"Would you like to dress for bed?" She asked.
I explained the circumstances leading to my arrival without my belongings.
"Would you just like to borrow an old gown of mine? I’m sure I have one somewhere that will fit you."
"I keep having to borrow from you," I said, looking to her bed where the coat I’d had in my possession lay.
"Friends share," she replied, smiling. "Ah, here we are. Try this on." I changed into the gown. Sure enough, it was a perfect fit.
"Well, let us go forth to the tabernacle!" Natalia suggested. I followed her back. Servants were entering pushing silver carts with trays of steaming hot food. They placed the food onto the platters, then left with the carts.
"What now?" I asked.
"Mother will be in when she is dressed down. Until then, we may just talk, if you’d like."
We sat on the pallets, lightly discussing our families and daily routines and such. The doors opened again and Lady Landry entered. She looked elegant in her nightgown.
"Now, girls. Come." She lead us to the altar where she instructed us to kneel. She began to tell us stories about her ancestors. Natalia had already heard them all, so she nodded throughout the conversation.
When Lady Landry was done, she ordered us into our makeshift beds. We talked quietly for a bit. Then, Lady Landry blew out the candles lighting the room and we fell into a deep sleep.
In the morning, I sat up, surprised to see that all of the food really was gone. Lady Landry was picking up her pallet. She was dressed for the day in an elegant black silk gown.
"Would you like breakfast, dear?" She asked me. I nodded, then looked around.
"Where is Natalia?"
"She had to go do her chores. She should be at the table by now. Go ahead."
I ate, then Father was there to pick me up. I invited Natalia to come over to my house sometime. She respectfully accepted.
"Did you enjoy yourself?" Father asked on the way home. Still overwhelmed with changed, I simply nodded shyly. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.