SIXTINE Book I / Chapter 6
Updated: Sep 18, 2019
“This is my ‘something new’ to ward off the evil eye,” I said to Gigi, attempting to sound light-hearted. I walked from the mirror to her armchair, and brought the fabric of the skirt to her hands.
I had asked everybody to leave me alone with my great-aunt, in my hotel room overlooking the Louvre. She was eighty-three years old, and lately she had been easily exhausted by noise and people. But if I was honest, it was more for me. Thaddeus’ words had carved such a raw wound inside me that I wanted to gather my thoughts before the ceremony, and Gigi always managed to soothe me when I was anxious. She was the one who raised me after my mother’s death, with a tenderness I had not always deserved.
She had also been blind most of her life.
Her battered fingers stroked the long, ample tulle skirt. The dress was a simple off-white A-line with a strapless silk corset. No lace, no embellishments or embroidery, with only barely visible speckles of gold sewn into the tulle. I had picked it for its simplicity.
“And this is old, blue and borrowed,” I said as I sat gracefully on the luxurious rug at the foot of the armchair. “It’s three thousand years old. Found in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.”
Gigi’s fingertips discovered a woven necklace of fine gold filigree with blue gemstones, which covered all my neck, shoulders, and décolletage. As if by magic, the dress adorned with the jewels acquired a royal dimension.
“How precious,” Gigi whispered. “Fit for a queen.”
I lowered my gaze, letting silence fill the hotel room for a while. I toyed with the soft carpet tufts under the hem of my tulle skirt, until I finally found the courage to say what had weighed on my mind.
“Gigi, do you think we’re rushing into things?”
“Ah,” Gigi smiled, as if she was relieved that I had finally asked the question. “Well, Jessica, I never expected anything else from you. Ever since you were a little girl, you’ve always embraced things as they came, with all your heart. Patience was never your strong suit, was it? Neither was caution.”
I laughed. “Touché. At least you’re not asking me if I love him. I mean, of course I do. I couldn’t marry someone I didn’t love, not in a million years.” I paused, my smile fading gradually. “But is love enough?”
She didn’t answer, but instead cocked her head slightly, a faint smile on her lips. When I was a little girl, that meant that she knew I hadn’t told the whole truth, and was waiting for it. I considered for a moment telling her what Thaddeus had said, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. My stomach had become a ball of bitterness again.
“I mean, Seth and I grew up in such different worlds, and I barely understand the one he lives in. With all that wealth and power and influence, I feel if I make a wrong move there is so much at stake, and there are so many rules and expectations. It’s terrifying. Perhaps I should have waited until I became a bit more– “
“Someone else?” Gigi said gently.
“Ready,” I corrected.
After a pause, she said, “Love can mean many things and take many forms, and we’re not always good at recognizing them for what they are. But true love? True love is always enough, my darling.”
“How do I recognize true love?”
“You don’t. It shows itself to you when you stop asking for proof of its existence.”
“I was hoping for a bit more than the ‘when you know, you know’ cliché, my Gigi.”
She fumbled to take my hands in hers.
“It exists beyond time, beyond loss, beyond death – it becomes the immortal part in us. It doesn’t fear anything, least of all proofs. But if you’re searching for it, I’ll tell you the one place where you are likely to find it.”
I smiled, rested my chin on her lap and whispered: “Tell me the secret, Gigi.”
She drew closer and, in the same soft voice as my mother when she bid me good night, murmured:
“True love requires the greatest leap of faith you will ever take.”
And with those words, as if by magic, the weight of several months of questions lifted. I closed my eyes, my mind finally appeased, and my heart filling with gratitude. I sat at my great-aunt’s feet while she stroke my hair and listened to the everyday sounds of Paris outside my windows, like a quiet, simple lullaby.
When church bells finally tolled in the distance, it felt like I was awakening from a long, peaceful sleep.
Carry on reading Chapter 7 here.
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