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Teaser Tuesday: A Parting Gift

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 - 07:00

Although it's a motif that needs to be used sparingly, I enjoy the times when I can show the same event or interaction from different points of view. In Mother of Souls we see Serafina shopping for a small statue of Saint Mauriz to give Celeste as a parting gift. It's an expensive keepsake: more than Serafina can afford to spend and more valuable than anything else Celeste owns (though this aspect is only hinted at). From Serafina's viewpoint, we see her trading the pearl necklace she was given as a parting gift from a lover for the intricate carving that she gives in turn as a parting gift to her...student? Friend? Surrogate daughter? They're still working out what they mean to each other when Serafina feels she has no other options than to return to Rome. We see only the briefest glimpse of Celeste's response.

In Floodtide we are allowed to see that other side.

* * *

I’d thought to find Celeste lying in bed, so when I didn’t see her there I wondered if she’d slipped out during the morning while we were working. Then I heard a catch of breath and saw she was sitting on the floor up against the wall next to the erteskir where she kept her candles and charms.

She was holding something in her lap. I couldn’t quite make it out in the dim light until she set it gently on top of the erteskir and scrambled to her feet. It was a little carved statue of Saint Mauriz. A fancy one—the sort you might expect to see on a table at Tiporsel House. Maisetra Sovitre had a lovely statue of her name saint in her bedroom, along with a gilt crucifix and a Madonna painting.

“That’s beautiful!” I said, touching the base to turn it so I could see better. The saint was carved out of some sort of dark wood—darker even than Mefro Dominique’s skin—and his halo shone like it was real gold. I wondered where Celeste had gotten something that nice. The answer came when she threw her arms around me and wept.

“She’s gone. She’s gone to Rome and she’s never coming back.”

So I knew Maisetra Talarico had been here and given her the saint as a farewell present. I don’t think I’d ever seen Celeste cry before. I’d seen her mad or sad, but not like this. She’d dried enough of my tears over the last year, so I held her as tight as I could without saying anything. At last she moved a bit and we sat on the edge of the bed, side by side.

“Why did she have to go?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” There was still a little catch in Celeste’s voice. “It doesn’t matter. There’s nothing I could have done.”

I thought about putting my arm around her shoulders again and got a funny feeling in my stomach, but that moment had passed, so I pointed at the little statue on the table of the erteskir. “You’ll have that to remember her.”

She leaned over and picked the statue up and handed it to me. I was real careful, holding it only by the base. I could see the details now even though the lamps weren’t lit during the day. Ebony, I thought, because in Maisetra Iulien’s stories things were always carved from ebony. You could see the features of Saint Mauriz’s face and the tiny tight curls of his hair. Bits of it were painted, but his armor was laid over the wood in thin metal plates. I couldn’t guess whether it was tin or silver, but I decided it should be silver. And the halo was real gold—or at least silver-gilt, like in the stories. It was much too fine a thing for a dressmaker’s shop. It wasn’t the sort of gift you gave someone you were just friends with.

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