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Friday, December 10, 2010

A New Novel, Part 68 Chapel and Spiritual Illness

I put a clue in the title today--I usually don't do that.  I know you'll get the point anyway.  Aksinya and Natalya are ready for school.  They start their first day.  Do you remember, the first event every day at Sacré Coeur is chapel.  I wonder how that will work out?

They went down together for breakfast and more tea. Aksinya was very fond of tea, especially the tea Natalya made for her. They sat together and no one dared to sit with them. After breakfast, everyone marched to chapel in the church. They went through the dormitory to the second floor and entered the nave from the back of the choir. The moment Aksinya stepped through the door, she felt a pain in the pit of her stomach. Natalya took Aksinya’s arm when she faltered and helped her to her seat near the back at the main floor.

In their seats, Natalya put her hand on Aksinya’s forehead, “Mistress, you are pale. Are you well?”

Aksinya bent over a little, “I just feel a little ill. I’ll be all right.”

Natalya bit her lip. She steadied Aksinya when they stood, and when they knelt. The entire time, Aksinya clasped her arms across her chest and couldn’t raise her head. Natalya held the prayer book for her. Aksinya seemed to get worse as the service progressed. She mumbled in Latin, a counterpoint to the priest, but luckily in a throaty whisper that only Natalya could hear. When the bells announced communion, Aksinya gave a groan. Natalya put her arm around her. No one else seemed to notice, or they carefully ignored the two. Natalya and Aksinya didn’t take communion. Aksinya was happy they couldn’t. The very thought made her nauseous. At the blessing, Aksinya slipped out of her seat and hurried to the side door up and out through the choir. Natalya followed behind her.

On the other side of the door, Aksinya doubled over and leaned against the wall.

Natalya held her, “Mistress, you look terrible. What’s wrong?”

Aksinya’s eyes were wild, “I’m wrong. That’s the problem. I’m not sure I can stand this, but I must. I must.” She stood straight and grasped Natalya’s hands, “Lady Natalya, you must ensure I am at chapel every day. This is necessary…for my soul. Please.”

Natalya frowned, “I will, mistress. I promise. Please, I don’t wish you to be ill.”

Aksinya touched Natalya’s face, “Don’t cry, lady. Just help me, I beg you.”

Natalya slipped her arm around Aksinya’s shoulders. Before the crowd of girls came through the corridors, they returned to their rooms, and before the bells announced the beginning of class, Aksinya drank another rejuvenating cup of tea. They walked together to their first class. Natalya carried the official Sacré Coeur briefcases for them both.

The "they" are Aksinya and Natalya.  I don't give you much description about the breakfast room or their breakfast.  In this case, I think a little is enough.  You should have the picture of the school and a little more is generally unnecessary.  If you assume they had breakfast in the dining room or if you assume they had breakfast in a smaller place--either one is good.  The fun information is that no one "dared" sit next to them.

I give you a little more on the way to the chapel.  The entry is through the dormitory, so that is interesting in itself.  Then Aksinya's problem.  This will be a recurring problem until the initial resolution--she gets nauseated when she enters a church.  Sweet Natalya is just too innocent about Aksinya to get it.  This is a recurring theme too.

Natalya thinks Aksinya is ill.  Well she is ill, but her illness is entirely spiritual.  I didn't play this story the way I did Aegypt, but I might eventually.  In Aegypt, the reader was never sure if the main character was completely right about his observations of the events.  In this, I let you see everything, so you assume Aksinya's illness really is spiritual--it could easily be psychological.  Just a minor point.  We get the dialog about the illness, and note, I don't tell you she is nauseous until at the end.  The description is sufficient to give you all the information you need.  I hope you feel her pain.

I also hope you can imagine Aksinya and Natalya in the service.  You should wonder what Aksinya is mumbling--surely not a spell, but is she praying?  I don't tell you.  In any case, the climax comes at communion.  Remember why they can't take communion?  They are Orthodox and not Catholic. 

Aksinya made it to the end.  She almost lost it, but didn't.  Then Aksinya tells Natalya the straight out truth, but we get little comprehension from Natalya.  She still thinks it is a problem of illness.  Then a little trick.  Did you know Natalya was crying.  You might have guessed--she's just that way.  I show you through Aksinya's eyes.  That's a fun way to make a connection.  The important point is the Natalya is thinking entirely about Aksinya, and Aksinya is thinking about Natalya.  That's why Aksinya noticed.

In the end, Natalya cleans up the mess (no literal mess this time)--that is, she helps Aksinya back where she can have tea, and she prepares her for school--again.  At the end of this section, we see Natalya carrying both their books and they are headed for their first class.

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