As One: A True Love Story
Recorded by Casey McKenzie
Prologue: Childish Dreams
The cottage was relatively silent, as it was on most spring mornings before dawn. A small brook gurgled past the small abode quietly, it's soft lapping sounds familiar and comforting. The deep
green hills of Ireland, lined and disected with stone walls and dotted with massive trees spread all around the house. Life at the Saint John home was as it should be at that hour: peaceful, lazy, silent.
It didn't last long. A piercing shriek, followed by the unmistakable laugh of a young girl, then the sounds of four sets of feet hitting the wooden floors at the same time cut through the early morning quiet.
Joseph Saint John glanced over to his wife, still sleeping on her half of the bed. Or feigning sleep, he couldn't be sure. What he did know was that he had shot upright in bed at the shriek,
and his apparently awake condition automatically made him "in charge" of the situation.
Joseph grumbled, fumbling in the dark for something warm to cover his feet. Anything warm. He kicked the dog and both of them groaned. As warm as Sheila was, she wouldn't do as footwear.
He gave up after a few minutes, braving the cold floor in bare feet and an open robe. He put on his best stern face, bracing himself. He knew that whatever it was, his only living daughter was involved, and that meant he wasn't going to be able to stay angry long. He'd like it to last longer than two minutes though, unlike last time.
"Matty!"  he bellowed, making his way down the hall as loudly as he could.
If he had to be awake at this un-Godly hour, so did the rest of the house. Kathleen, his beautiful and tired wife, threw something at their closed bedroom door, letting him know she didn't appreciate his racket. He ignored it with a small smile, waiting for Matty to come running. He knew she'd present herself the second he'd called for her, he just didn't expect the way in which she did so.
A flash of red curls and blue nightdress whizzed out of one of the bedrooms and slammed into his midsection, knocking the small girl backwards. She blinked indignantly, brushing her hair from her face to frown up at her father for ruining her escape. Sparkling brown eyes met his own, and it was as if he were looking into two small mirrors for a minute.
Matty was only fourteen, young enough to still be a child, yet old enough to know to act like an adult. It was an akward age, sure enough...for most children, that is. For Matty it was bliss. She could get away with practically anything, including waking her four older brothers just before the crack of dawn. She knew that as angry as they'd get, they wouldn't lay a hand on her for fear of aggitating one of her newly acquired "woman's afflictions".
Joseph fought a grin, glancing up to catch the faces of her four older brothers glaring at her from the doorway. He cleared his throat, crossing his arms.
"Just what's going on here?"
Everyone spoke at once except for the oldest boy. Colin simply rolled his eyes and glared at the others. He was too old for this, a real man...or so he thought, anyway. Joseph knew better.
"The little brat--"
"Papa, I can explain--"
"She just ran in here screaming--"
"There was a toad--"
Huge brown eyes stared up at him as the small red-haired girl slowly regained her feet. Again, she surprised him by bursting into a contagious grin. He blinked down at her, wondering what on Earth she could find to be smiling about in this situation.
"Papa, I never knew you could shake the walls with your voice! Do it again!"
Luckily, he caught his own grin before she saw it and forced a fierce frown, peering down at her. The boys in the doorway snickered and received the same unwavering look. They immediately ducked back into their room, shutting the door quietly as though they were going back to bed. Joseph knew better, he knew they were just on the other side of that door, pressed against it to hear every word.
To spare his daughter from their teasing that would come later, he took her arm and gently steered her down the hall and through the door, outside the cottage and to the wooden bench hanging from the massive oak by the brook. It was only a large plank held by two ropes, but to Matty and her father, it was a throne to view the world.
Joseph began gently, his gaze on the horizon watching the sun slowly rise.
"Matty, dear...you're getting too old to do things like this anymore. You can't keep torturing your brothers. It's time for you to know some things."
Matty stared off at the sunrise as well, so entranced that she barely heard his words. He glanced at her and sighed, turning her to face him. She smiled up at him and he gave in to the urge to smile back.
"Please, Matty, you must listen to me now. I need to tell you of things you'll need to know when you're a grown lady, like your mother." Matty snorted, about to argue, but Joseph held up a hand and continued, "I won't be here forever, and you're almost to the age where you're going to be going off on your own, just like the boys."
Her eyes widened. "The boys are leaving?"
"Yes, dear...Colin's going to be leaving to serve the king soon, and each of the boys will follow every year until they're gone. Then it will be your turn." He sighed softly, not wanting to think about that day.
"Papa...what will I see when I leave? Where will I go?" Her eyes were wide with excitement and wonder.
She was already thinking about all the adventures she would have, every emotion apparent in her gaze.
Joseph felt his heart breaking, knowing one day those eyes would not hold that same light, that same wonder and innocence.
"You, Matilda Saint John, will go anywhere you want to go, do anything you want to do. You'll see mages and knights and farmers and inn keepers. You'll see mountains so high that the clouds cover the top of them, and oceans so deep that you could fit ten mountains in them on top of each other. You'll see ships and castles and creatures you could never have dreamed of."
He smiled sadly, unable to bring himself to tell her the rest. You'll see death and destruction, burnt homes and life sucked from a living being before your eyes. You'll see pain and hurt and you'll know it all before your life is out. But my wish for you, daughter, is that you survive, and you go out smiling.
She missed the pain in his eyes, gazing dreamily off a the sunrise again.
"Will I meet my mate, the way you met Mama?"
Now Joseph truly did smile. His dear, sweet Kathleen. She was so kind, so loving and perfect. There wasn't a woman like her in the world, and for that he was glad. He didn't want to share. Nor did he think the world could handle more than one of her.
"Aye, you'll meet your mate. And you'll know in an instant that he is the one. He'll be the one that sweeps you off your feet, yet keeps you firmly grounded. He'll make you glow with pride and stumble with humility. You'll want to sing and cry and laugh and shout all at the same time when you feel his love. His heart will shine in his eyes, and you'll know. You'll see it, and there won't be any question."
She tilted her head, still unconvinced. "But how, Papa? How will I know?"
He smiled, turning away from the magnificent sunrise to glance towards the cottage where Kathleen was watching them from the open doorway. Her smile outshone nature's beauty unquestionably and Joseph smiled back, then glanced to Matty. She was so like her mother, yet different. He knew someday she would drive one very lucky man horribly insane, and then bring him back with a smile like that.
"Because, Matty, you will be as one. He will be your soulmate."
To the Present Tale... ---->