The Taverner Chronicles: First Ventures, Two

Fiction By Marlene E. Schuler // 2/8/2012

Millie sighed as she walked towards the edge of town. She had just finished a long day of sewing with the town's dressmaker. Tuesdays were always really hard days, and this was no exception. Not only were the hours long, but business in the shop was slow so that Millie had few excuses to leave her stitching to help customers. Now she was done. But instead of feeling relieved, she was far from it; she had yet to walk home in the bitter February cold.

 

As she looked up the road, she realized that it would be at least forty-five minutes to walk home with all the ice and sludge on the road. Pulling her tam tighter around her ears, she started with a sinking heart. All she could think of was how cold it was going to be at home, and how little sleep she was going to get because of it. Then her mind started to run over the course of the next day. Rise at five, work at seven, home at six.

 

She sighed. Was there ever going to be a break from the monotony of her life? Ever since she could remember, there was always hardship, always a struggle to save every last farthing to keep going. She wished for one selfish moment that she wasn't the oldest and that she didn't have to work, or at least that she could keep some of her hard earned wages. But no. They all had to go father; he would put them to use where they were needed most.

 

Then she thought of her family, how they desperately needed every pound that was earned, and she felt bad that she wanted more than her share. But was it so dreadful that she wanted a few new pieces of clothing to replenish her shabby wardrobe?

 

These thoughts occupied her mind as she trudged doggedly up the road. Soon, she was passing the Rawlings house, a sign that home was near. However, something at the Rawlings place was astir, and Millie slowed her pace so that she could see what was happening.

 

A new car was parked at the side of the house, a sign that the youngest Rawlings boy was back from school. From what she could gather, friends drove him down from college and stayed the night, and afterwards the exploits of 'those dreadful Oxford boys' were told by every gossip in the town. Apparently they stormed the Rusty Bucket, a well renown pub in the center of town, and drank every last drop that the joint possessed, followed by a few drunken escapades in the town. Millie didn't really believe any of it, especially since she knew that the gossips had a special talent for stretching the truth.

 

But as she was passing the house, a curious thing occurred. The side door opened and out came the Rawlings boy, bent on getting something from the vehicle. He saw her and shouted, 'Hallo!', causing Millie to color and sheepishly wave back. As she hurried on her way, she caught herself grinning.

 

Her thoughts instantly went from gloom and distress to anything that related to the boy. His name... oh, what was his name? She racked her brains to try and remember. The name Edward was sticking in her head for some reason, so she christened him with it. It was a beautiful name, she thought. Not that she liked him or anything... she was far too young for that sort of thing... but it was pleasant to dwell upon something that would chase the gray clouds away.

 

A cursory glance over her shoulder, however, alarmed her and made her move fast, for there was Edward, standing in the middle of their drive... watching her.

 

Now she was bent on getting back home as fast as possible. Her boots were soaked through, making her socks cold and clammy. Thankfully, though, she was in sight of her house- the grand Taverner manor. There were few buildings in the district that could compare to the grandeur of the house; the front was an elaborately carved facade that gave the whole place a look of ancient elegance.

 

Millie used to look at it in awe; she used to have day dreams of how grand life once was in the great house. But now it was just the building she lived in; there were no high-flung romances about it now, especially with the cold of winter oppressing everything.

 

As she got closer to the house, she could see light coming from the front parlor window. She saw a figure in the window, and knew almost instantly that it was Gianna. She paused, then ran as fast as she could towards the front door. If her impatient sister was waiting in the window, there must be something going on.

 

The door was opened for her, and Gianna eagerly jumped all over her with questions and exclamations.

 

'How was your day? Never mind. Mother has a surprise, she said we couldn't have it until you got home! Come on into the parlor, she'll tell us where it is!'

 

Millie smiled and pulled her wet things off as quickly as possible, dumping them onto the already-burded coat rack before ducking into the warm parlor. Mrs. Taverner was sitting comfortably in the easy chair, but rose to let Millie have it. Millie knew that something was wrong, but the look in her mother's eyes told her not to say anything about it. Gianna ran to fetch Andrew, and sooner than naught the Taverner children were gathered around their mother.

 

'I've been waiting several years to give this surprise to you, but I think you're all old enough now for it. But before I tell you, you must make a solemn oath.'

The children exchanged glances. A solemn oath? Was this necessary?

 

'Mother...?' Millie queried.

 

'I know it sounds crazy, but you must do it or never know what it is.'

 

Andrew looked at his sisters, and knew that they were all in silent agreement.

 

'All right then... tell us, and we'll make it.' he said.

 

'What I'm about to show you has been the secret of the Taverner family for almost two hundred years, and what you see or hear you must not tell a single living soul. Say “I do”, children, if you wish to make this promise. It binds you to absolute silence, save under the most extreme circumstances.'

 

One after another, the children repeated the oath, 'I do'. Mrs. Taverner looked carefully at her children, and seemed lost in thought until she spoke again, 'Go to the ballroom, you'll find it there.'

 

Andrew and Gianna rushed out of the room, but Millie lingered.

 

'What's going on, mum?'

 

'You'll have to find out for yourself, dear. Now go!'

 

With that, Millie obediently went out of the room and started up the stairs. Since it was so cold, she ran after her siblings to keep her blood moving. When she reached the ballroom, the door was ajar and voices came from within. Crossing the threshold, Millie saw her siblings standing in the center of the long room by a large steamer trunk.

 

The three looked at each other, then carefully opened the trunk. Millie's breath was taken away as she beheld the inside of the tightly-packed trunk... it was full of beautiful clothing that their grandparents would have worn.

 

'Why would mum want us to keep quiet about some old clothes?' Gianna heartlessly asked.

 

Andrew picked up a man's jacket and ran his hand across it. There was a tag pinned on it that had a list of events on it starting at the beginning of the year 1893. He shook his head as he read it.

 

'No, I think there's more about this clothing than meets the eye, girls.'

Comments

 This is so cool. One thing

 This is so cool.

One thing I'm not entirely sure of. I suddenly can't remember if they're meeting Edward on their own timeline in the present, or if they're meeting him in the past so at this point he already knows them even though they don't know him. I think it's the first one, right?

Anna | Fri, 02/17/2012

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Okay, so this part of the

Okay, so this part of the story is in the present. In fact, Millie hasn't even been in the past yet. So, you're correct- it's the first one. Edward is just outgoing and a little flirtacious, so he'll wave to girls he hardly even knows. ;)

Marlene E. Schuler | Mon, 02/20/2012

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