Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Magenta - Part Two - the Finale
Mildred did her job as capably as ever over the next month, but it was clear to all that her spirit was gone. She pretended to be fine, but no emotions ever reached her eyes. Her parents had tried hard to be understanding, but the subtle pressure that had been building for months if not years finally came to a head.
Her presence in the tiny house had been tolerated as long as it had because she was going to get married and move out. Now that that was no longer possible, tempers were running hotter than ever. Her brother roared in frustration.
“She has to go!”
His wife looked to the floor in shame. “With our third child in my belly, we're going to need the space she takes up more than ever.”
“She makes enough money that she should be able to afford a small boarding room,” her brother added.
John sighed heavily. “I don't feel right about this. No matter what, any child of ours should be welcome here.”
Bernice put a hand on his arm, her expression sad. “They're right. We simply cannot have her here any longer. We don't have the room...”
“But where will she go?” John demanded angrily.
Bernice shrugged. “A boarding house, maybe, or perhaps her boss will give her a room in the Tavern.”
John growled as his expression darkened. “You know that the women who stay in the Tavern end up working as whores...”
“Well, that will be up to her,” Bernice murmured, giving him a look that reminded him that Mildred was a strong woman who could make her own decisions.
“I still don't like it...” John muttered.
“Doesn't matter, it's time.”
Mildred could easily hear them as they discussed her from where she rested in the loft before work. A sense of surrealism filled her until she was numb again. After her brother finished eating, he climbed into the loft and packed her few belongings into a bag before tossing it at her.
“Tell your boss that you need a place to stay until you can find somewhere permanent, because you can't come back here!” His tone was utterly harsh, but that was because he didn't think he'd be able to go through with kicking her out if he didn't squash all tenderness.
Mildred silently grabbed her bag and slipped out of the loft. She didn't dare look at the rest of her family as she trudged towards the door. They watched her in shocked silence, not one of them believing that anyone would actually kick her out. The moment she stepped through the door, her younger siblings all erupted in outrage.
“How can you just let her go like that?!?!”
Shutting the door so that she didn't have to hear the argument, she simply walked to work early. Her oldest younger sister, Callie, caught up to her about two minutes later. “Mildred!”
Mildred stopped and stiffly endured a smothering hug.
“Just because they kicked you out, it doesn't mean that you can't come visit us all the time! I'm going to miss you so much!”
Mildred patted her sobbing sister on the back. “I'll miss you too...” A minute later, Mildred pushed her sister away. “I have to go or I'm going to be late for work.
Ben noticed her bag the moment she entered the Tavern and frowned in concern. “Going somewhere?”
Mildred shrugged numbly. “Not particularly. It's just that I've been kicked out...”
Ben sighed sadly, knowing that her family couldn't let her stay with them forever. “You're welcome to stay here tonight... You know... My offer still stands.”
“Offer?” Mildred asked in confusion.
“You could always marry me and take over my Tavern when I die,” Ben stated seriously.
Mildred twisted her lips from side to side as she thought this over. “Maybe someday, but I'm not ready to get married yet. It's too soon...”
“I wouldn't ask you to share my bed or anything like that, I just want to make sure that you're taken care of,” Ben informed her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
This made sense to the part of her mind that had to worry about her future. She gave Ben a tiny smile. “I'll think about it...”
“Good,” he stated in relief. Tilting his head toward the kitchen, he ordered her to: “Go on; get something to eat.”
Mildred didn't feel particularly hungry, so she only took a small bowl of stew. Far more appetizing was the pitcher of milk in the cupboard that had been delivered fresh that morning. She poured herself a cup, downed it in practically one swallow, and then refilled her cup before carrying her food and drink to an empty table in the common room.
“The festival was better than expected,” Onyx murmured after he finished counting their earnings.
“We'll have plenty to support us as we travel to the next festival,” Jasper added.
“No, the next place we're going is Lord Carver's castle, remember?” Onyx reminded his lover.
“Oh, that's right! He's throwing a party to celebrate spring...” Jasper murmured, nodding his head. He noticed that Mildred was busy staring at her uneaten stew, her mind clearly as far away as the clouds. Nudging Onyx, he pointed her out and then grabbed his guitar.
Onyx nodded in understanding and pulled out his drums. Without a word, the two of them began to play a moderately lively tune. They hummed to themselves, catching a secretive wink from Ben as he realized that they were trying to cheer her up.
Mildred wasn't really paying any attention to them until she realized that her foot was tapping ever so slightly. Then she sat up in surprise and closed her eyes as she listened to the music. It didn't take long before her mind went blank and songs filled her. She burst out unexpectedly.
“Ah-da-da-ba-da-dum! Dee-dee-do-dum-ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-doo-doo-doo!” As usual, her lyrics made no sense, but sounded pretty.
It was a lot like the music they played since they were just playing whatever came to mind. It was a beat with no lyrics. Gradually, they started playing actual songs – the same bawdy ones she'd sang before. A handful of patrons entered the Tavern just then and clapped in time to the music.
Encouraged, Mildred stood up and sang the song that matched the music. The happiness that the patrons showered on her was catchy, making her smile. For the first time in a long time, she was able to forget her problems.
The tavern got ever more crowded as the hours passed. Mildred danced and sang until her throat felt raw and her feet ached. Just one man dared to grope her, but she slapped him full across the face without a second thought, and Ben sided with her by throwing him out.
Patrons left after last call feeling inexplicably cheerful and amorous. Mildred hummed as she wiped down tables and swept the floor. Meanwhile, Jasper and Onyx carefully packed up their instruments. Ben sat behind the bar and counted his earnings and took inventory.
When Mildred reached their table, Jasper pulled her into his lap, making her squeal in surprise. He kissed her on the cheek. “I'm glad you're feeling better. Have you given our offer any thought?”
“We leave tomorrow,” Onyx added absently as he counted up the tips they had made that evening.
Mildred stared at the floor silently for a few moments before nodding faintly. “You know what? Why not?” She stated abruptly.
“You mean that?!” Jasper asked incredulously, hugging her exuberantly.
“What offer?” Ben demanded with a jealous and disapproving frown.
“To travel with us and sing,” Onyx stated with an eager smile.
Ben wanted to protest the fact that it was obscene for a woman to travel alone with two men, but he knew that these two were together, and likely weren't interested in her in that way. Then he wanted to protest that she couldn't go because he needed her here. Pursing his lips, he finally decided on something that might make her reconsider her rash decision.
“Wait, what about my offer?”
Mildred sighed sadly. “I wouldn't feel right marrying you. It may sound silly, but I don't want to get married at all if my heart's not in it.”
“I see,” Ben murmured in disappointment.
As soon as the Tavern was clean, Mildred found a spot in the attic where the other maids slept to lay down. In the morning – almost afternoon – Jasper and Onyx paid their bill and gestured for her to follow them. She hesitated for only one moment before hugging Ben impulsively.
“If this doesn't work out the way they say it will, I'll be back. I promise!” Mildred informed her boss. He nodded sadly, smiling at her.
“I've heard you sing. I'm almost certain that you're going to be famous,” Ben stated before nudging her. “Go on...”
Kissing him on the cheek, Mildred pulled free of his embrace, grabbed her small bag of belongings, and then left the Tavern for the last time.
They had been traveling for almost a week – practicing songs and teaching Mildred how to defend herself with a staff – when a thought occurred to Onyx. He held up a hand to get their attention. Squinting, he scrutinized Mildred.
“What?” She asked with a wary blush.
“You should come up with your stage persona,” Onyx informed her.
“My what?” Mildred asked, confused.
“Well, no offense,” Jasper murmured apologetically. “But we can't exactly introduce you to our audience as Mildred!”
“You can't?” Mildred asked in surprise.
“Nope!” Jasper confirmed. “That would be like me introducing myself as John and him as Robert.”
Mildred stood completely still in astonishment. Slowly, this started to make sense to her. “Oh...”
Onyx bit his lip as he rummaged through his bags. “I had a thought... You remember that wig we made for the fire festival?”
“Yeah?” Jasper murmured.
Locating it with a soft aha, Onyx took a moment to swirl Mildred's long blonde hair up into a bun before setting the wig on her head. It was made from real hair that had been died a dark yet bright shade of red, and softly framed Mildred's face in becoming curls. Long wavy curls.
“I see,” Jasper remarked with a grin.
“Why do I need to wear a wig?” Mildred asked slowly in confusion.
“To create your persona, of course,” Jasper replied as if this was the most logical reason in the world.
“Magenta!” Onyx blurted out excitedly, holding up a small hand mirror for her to look in.
Mildred turned her head side to side, a smile slowly stretching her lips. “I like it...”
“Then Magenta it is!” Jasper pronounced, lifting her off her feet in a tight bear hug.
Mildred giggled as he set her on her feet and Onyx pulled her into a hug. They each kissed her on the cheek. Tucking one of her hands in the crook of each of their arms, the three of them resumed their journey.
“Just you wait,” Jasper stated. “Before you know it, everyone will be shouting your name.”
“Magenta, Magenta!” Onyx called out cheerfully.
“If you say so,” Mildred – now Magenta – murmured with a laugh.
It took them almost a month to arrive at Lord Carver's castle. Even so, they were in plenty of time for the celebration. Lord Carver greeted Jasper and Onyx jovially.
“My friends! I'm so glad you could make it! This may be my best party yet!”
Jasper clasped hands with the Lord, and then gestured to indicate Magenta. “Meet our new singer, Magenta. She's guaranteed to make your guests fall in love with her!”
“Is that so?” Lord Carver asked with interest. His eyes took in her wild red hair and flushed cheeks. Bringing her hand to his lips, he bestowed a soft kiss. “I look forward to hearing you sing.”
Magenta bit her lips to prevent herself from squealing in astonishment. After Lord Carver walked away, she hit Jasper on the arm. “You never said that he would actually talk to me! He's a Lord! I'm just a nobody from the poorest part of the city.”
Jasper shook her roughly. “Stop that right now! You are now Magenta, world famous songstress extraordinaire!”
Magenta laughed at the absurdity of his statement, rolling her eyes.
The trio spent the next two days rehearsing for the party, and then, it was time to perform. They were given a prime spot near the bonfire, which meant that very few people were around until after a massive amount of food had been eaten and the sun started going down. After the bonfire was lit though, people gathered around them – making the other performers (who had been dominating the attention) jealous.
As Jasper and Onyx had predicted, her repertoire of bawdy songs was perfect for the party. It put all the guests in the right mood and made everyone jolly. Magenta had long ago gotten over any embarrassment she'd felt and sang as if flirting with the entire crowd.
Despite her partners telling her that she would be popular, Magenta was still astonished when the guests all demanded her to sing at their parties. Onyx negotiated all deals, setting their fee fairly high. Magenta couldn't believe her ears as Lords and Ladies bid ever higher for her services.
“Whoa...” she murmured in awe.
When the party was over, she'd had at least half a dozen marriage proposals!
For the rest of spring and all of summer, the trio made their way to all the biggest parties thrown by the nobility. They earned such an excellent reputation – despite Magenta's ever growing belly – that a major theater hired them to entertain guests before plays and during intermissions. It was good work, but didn't pay nearly as much as they earned at parties.
At the end of fall, the King himself attended one of the plays and invited the trio to stay in his palace and entertain his court. Simply everyone loved the way she sang! Magenta held her hands to her face to cover a blush as Onyx and Jasper accepted the King's gracious invitation.
“This means that your child will be born in the Royal Palace,” Jasper whispered in her ear, rubbing her large belly for luck.
“Wow...” Magenta exhaled reverently, never having imagined such a situation.
The King overheard their whispered conversation and tilted his head curiously. “If I may ask, who is the child's father?”
Magenta looked down, a shadow crossing her eyes. Onyx bowed deeply before answering for her.
“My King, Magenta was married to a soldier in your army, but he died a Hero.”
The King frowned in confusion. “He died in battle?” The last official battle had been over a year ago.
“No,” Jasper replied with a shake of his head. “He intervened when an innocent man was being mugged by a group of robbers, and they ended up killing him before they got away.”
“Is this true?” The King asked.
“Yes...” Magenta confirmed, daring to look him in the eye.
“You have my sympathy,” the King murmured softly. “I look forward to hearing you sing in my palace.”
Magenta curtseyed deeply as he walked away. After he was gone, she looked to Onyx. “How could you lie to him like that?!”
Onyx merely shrugged. “Only one tiny week separates you from actually being his wife when he died. In the grand scheme of things, claiming to be married to the father of your baby isn't a lie.”
Magenta twisted her lips in a wry smile. “Hmm, maybe you're right.”
“I am!” Onyx stated firmly.
As it turned out, even the King agreed. Boredom and curiosity during the winter had prompted him to investigate her background, and when the investigator reported that Gordon had actually died before they could get married, he knew that there was only one thing he could do. So, he summoning the trio to play for him privately one evening.
Magenta felt a wary shiver run up her spine as the King smiled at her. If he demanded that she grace his bed, she literally couldn't refuse! Her expression became guarded, as if bracing for a devastating blow.
“Ever since my beloved Queen died,” the King began, his head bowed reverently for a moment. “I grieve whenever I hear of any of my subjects losing a loved one. Especially a soldier in my army. I understand that it is not fair for a petty squabble between my brother and I to take the lives of so many good men...”
Taking a deep breath to push away the sadness, the King continued. “Thus, when I learned that your fiancé actually died before your wedding day – leaving you to care for his child on your own – I just knew that I had to make things right...”
Magenta's hand trembled as she reached to accept the document he held out. She wasn't sure what he had in mind, but this decree could be literally anything. If he felt that she should spend the rest of her life as a priestess in service to the Gods, she would have to obey!
“I have declared you legally wed to your man dating back a couple of months before his death,” the King announced. “That should protect you if anyone tries to claim that your child is not legitimate!”
Magenta gasped incredulously. She was so touched that she started crying. “Thank you, my King!”
He shook his head. “It is I who should thank him for defending my Kingdom, even when he didn't have to.”
With a smile, Magenta burst into a completely new song to honor the King. Her time as part of the trio had taught her how to spontaneously compose songs that made sense, and her partners easily managed to play music that complimented song. The King listened to the song intently, thanked her when it was over, and then dismissed her for the night.
The three of them repeated the same pattern for the next several years. They would play at festivals and parties in the spring and summer, appear at theaters and opera houses in the fall, then spend the winter in the palace. They became good friends with the King, even playing at his wedding when he decided to get remarried.
Before long, they all had enough money to support them quite well for the rest of their lives. Magenta breathed out a sigh of relief every day that her daughter would never have to learn what it was like to live in poverty. However, as time passed, she missed her family more and more.
Her partners could sense her melancholy. Secretly, they planned out an elaborate surprise for her. Once spring arrived and the weather warmed up enough for them to leave the palace, they loaded up their large and homey wagon and prepared to leave.
Magenta thought nothing out of the ordinary was going on since Onyx had always been in charge of booking their engagements. Only when they got close enough for her to recognize the city of her birth did she realize that something was up. Her only request – from the very beginning – had been that they never play this city if they didn't have to, since it reminded her of her beloved.
Vastly different from the last time they were in this city, this time, they had the means to stay in a nice inn. As usual, they booked a large suite with a room for Jasper and Onyx, and another room for Magenta and her daughter Amethyst. Amethyst ran around their room excitedly, oblivious to the sadness in her mother's heart.
“Will you watch her for me?” Magenta asked Onyx and Jasper. They nodded with an expression of of course!
Magenta pulled her daughter into a tight hug. “Behave for your uncles, understand?”
“Yes mama,” Amethyst replied impatiently.
Deciding that her plain travel clothes were perfect, she didn't bother to change before leaving the inn. Her actual hair was done up in a loose bun at the nape of her neck, several strands escaping to blow in the wind. She tucked a strand behind her ear as she walked through the city. Even six years later, she still knew her way around as if it was just yesterday.
Strangely, she was no longer used to people not knowing who she was. True that her real blonde hair could be used as a disguise when she needed it to be, but normally, her wildly curly magenta wig was all people needed to see to know exactly who she was. True to Jasper and Onyx's long ago promise, she was famous now.
It felt strange to think about her fame as she wandered down memory lane. Never in her wildest fantasies as a child would she have ever thought she'd be wealthy one day! And her mother had told her that her voice was terrible!
The light faded as evening and dinner time approached. The children that roamed the streets slowly disappeared, knowing that they needed to return home promptly if they wanted to eat. Magenta wondered if any of her younger siblings passed her without her recognizing them.
“I wonder how they've grown!” Magenta blurted out.
Suddenly excited, she rushed the rest of the way, faltering only when she saw the crowd of her family waiting outside for her father to return from work. A highly suggestive tune growing louder announced that he wouldn't be long now.
The moment her father and brother came into view, Magenta felt her heart explode with happiness. “Daddy!” She cried out like she used to as a child.
He stopped short, not sure he had heard that right. Turning, he looked at her as she ran towards him. “Mildred?!”
Magenta threw her arms around him and squeezed him tight. “I missed you so much!”
“Mildred!” Her oldest younger sister, Callie, squealed happily, hugging her even as she still hugged their father. Her other siblings joined in on the group hug – even her brother, who looked strangely relieved to see her.
The door opened in response to all the shouting, and a woman who looked years older than she remembered her mother being literally burst into tears. “Oh my baby! I thought for sure that you were long dead!”
Magenta could help but giggle inappropriately at that. “Why ever would you think that?”
“You just disappeared – run off with two strangers – and none of us ever heard from you again? What else were we to think?” Her mother chided, shaking her slightly.
“Why didn't you ever come back, or at least write?” Her sister asked, her voice betraying how hurt and worried she'd been.
Magenta sighed heavily. “I guess I was just too angry at being thrown out... I didn't not write on purpose,” she explained with a helpless shrug. “It just seemed like every time I'd sit down to start a letter, all the anger and frustration would come back. I felt like I was being punished for becoming a widow before being a bride!”
“Oh honey...” her mother murmured, stroking her back. “I'll admit that we handled the situation badly, but that was no reason to just run away. Although, it looks like you found a man to take care of you after all. You're looking well...”
Magenta shrugged again. She felt that they wouldn't believe her if she told them what she had been up to, so what was the point? Feeling mischievous, she smirked.
“I guess you could say that! The King himself is a very good friend of mine,” she stated with a grin. “He lets me stay in his palace whenever I want.”
“Oh sure he does!” Her family all burst out at the same time.
Before Magenta could say anything else, a woman who was well known as a notorious gossip came running down the street. “Did you hear?! The King is coming to town!”
“What?” Magenta asked in confusion. He hadn't said anything to her before she left the palace.
“He's planning to attend the spring festival in three days time! And!” The woman was obviously beside herself with excitement, attracting attention from the entire neighborhood. “And! Better still, he's bringing Magenta with him!”
“What?!?!” Magenta demanded incredulously. This seemed like news she should know! The woman ran off to tell others.
“Magenta?!” Her sisters all squealed in excitement.
“Oh Mildred! This couldn't have happened at a better time!” Callie cried out happily, hugging her again. “You'll be here for my wedding, and then I can finally see Magenta at the festival! Those lucky enough to have seen her before say she's so beautiful!”
“Wait, what?” Magenta blurted out incredulously. “You're getting married?”
“Yep,” Callie confirmed with a grin. “It only took him years to finally ask me, but we're getting married the day before the festival.”
“C-c-congratulations!” Magenta stuttered in astonishment. It was rare for a woman in her twenties who already had a child to find a husband. “I wish I had been here to help you work on your wedding dress.”
Callie giggled happily. “Don't worry about that! Ben bought me a beautiful dress.”
“Ben?” Magenta asked with a frown. “Why would my old boss pay for your dress?”
Callie laughed again. “Well, he's been my boss for a couple years now, and...” Callie let a few moments pass in suspense. “He's the man I'm marrying!”
“Wow...” Magenta exhaled in genuine shock.
Her father gestured into their house. “Let's not stand out here all night!”
Magenta joined them in the tiny kitchen, but declined to eat. She listened as they told her about some of the things that had happened over the years. Eventually, she had to politely excuse herself so that they didn't stay up too late and miss out on valuable sleep before work.
Even so, she looked around in surprise. A bed with her mother's favorite quilt now dominated the corner where Magenta had once worked on her wedding dress, and a quick peak in her parents bedroom showed that her brother and his wife must stay in there now. A quick count of the children told her that there was five more than she knew of, making this house more crowded than ever!
“I have to go, but I promise I'll be at your wedding, Callie.”
Callie waved happily. “It starts an hour after noon!”
Magenta nodded, and then left.
Callie's wedding made Magenta cry harder than she remembered doing so for a long time. She tried her best to stay for the celebration afterwards, but it hurt too much. She gave her sister a hug after the ceremony was over, but then excused herself.
“Maybe I'll see you at the festival tomorrow,” Callie suggested insistently. “The entire city has the day off in honor of the King!”
Magenta smiled wryly. “I know you will!”
As she was escaping, her father insisted on claiming a dance. She rested her head on his shoulder and swayed to the soft music. No words were necessary, but when the dance ended, he kissed her on her forehead.
“I love you,” he murmured.
“I love you too,” she informed him honestly.
“Try not to stay away too long this time,” he suggested.
She snorted a wry laugh. “Don't worry, after the festival tomorrow, I fully plan to come for another visit.”
“Good,” he stated, finally allowing her to run away before the emotions overwhelmed her.
The irony was that Ben had once offered to marry her but she had turned him down. If she had wanted, she could have had a beautiful wedding day after all. Instead, all she had was a piece of paper that proclaimed her legally wedded at the time of her husband's death.
“It still hurts!” Magenta informed no one at all as she walked back to the inn she was staying in. She'd worn a dress that would be considered a small step up from the best a poor woman could afford, so she wasn't concerned when she tripped and landed in the mud a street away from the inn. A kind man stopped to help her to her feet.
“Thank you,” she murmured absently.
“No problem, it's my pleasure to help out a beautiful woman,” he replied with a grin.
Magenta held up her hand to show off the ring she wore. It was one of her defenses. Decent men would usually leave her alone at the sight of it. This man shook his head with a wry smile.
“I didn't mean it like that. I'm married too.”
“Oh,” Magenta responded with a smile.
“Good day,” they each wished as they went their separate ways.
Magenta twisted the ring in thought. Perhaps it was time to take it off and see if there was a man brave enough to be interested in her... As she thought, the helpful gentleman called out to her.
“Hey wait, don't I know you from somewhere?”
“Not that I remember,” Magenta stated with a shrug.
“No really, you look familiar...” he said, biting his lip as he tried to remember. “Did we dance at a party? Do you perchance stay in the Palace?”
“Are you a Lord then?” Magenta wondered, not sure why she didn't recognize him. She was actually pretty familiar with all the Lords and Ladies after entertaining them for several years.
“No, but my older brother is Lord Carver,” he explained.
“Ah!” Magenta exclaimed as if solving a puzzle. “Well that's how you know me. I sing at his spring celebration nearly every year.”
“Hmm...” he hummed with a frown. “That must be it...” With a shrug, he walked away.
Magenta giggled as she finished walking to her inn. “It's rather fun to be just plain Mildred every once and a while!”
The next day, she was amazed to see that Jasper and Onyx's surprise for her was a huge collaboration between all the musicians that stayed in the palace during the winter. The King loved music and collected the finest players, singers, and dancers from across the Kingdom. Therefore, pretty much every person who had true talent in the Kingdom was currently preparing to put on a one of a kind performance.
As for Magenta, she had two maids dedicated to helping her style her signature red hair and apply a delicate layer of makeup. When they were done, she stared at her shimmering reflection in amazement. It still impressed her that she could wear expensive gowns and look like a princess!
Even Amethyst was impressed with this nearly glowing red dress. It clung to her in all the right places while leaving her heart-shaped cleavage and upper back on display. Magenta smiled at her daughter's expression.
“You look very pretty too!” Magenta assured her. Amethyst wore a gorgeous silk dress in a soft shade of purple. It had a multitude of wispy tendrils that would float in the breeze, making her look ethereal. Her nearly golden blonde hair was arranged in layers of long curls that looked adorable. At just five years old, she was used to being a part of her mother's performance.
“Ready?” Magenta asked with a warm smile.
“Ready!” Amethyst confirmed.
They made their way to the back of the stage that had been built specially for this performance. A good look around showed that everyone was ready. Now, they just had to wait for the King. Fortunately, the crowd on the other side of the stage fell silent as a carriage arrived and guards surrounded the King as he made his way to the stage.
“My dear citizens, as your dutiful King, I try my best to visit every city and town in the Kingdom at least once every few years. A very dear friend of mine recently reminded me that it has been many a year since I last came here, so I thought: What better timing than during your spring festival? It brings me joy to see so many of my people happy!”
The crowd applauded his statement for several long moments before he asked for silence once more. Smiling, he continued his speech.
“But I am not a fool! I well know that you're not really here to see me! So – without further ado – allow me to introduce my beloved friend... Magenta!”
Magenta stepped out from behind the curtain that separated the front of the stage from the back. Arriving at the King's side, she curtseyed to him, slipping her hand in his as he expected. He kissed her on the back of her hand.
“You're looking as beautiful as always, my dear.”
“Shh!” Magenta hushed him exaggeratedly. “The Queen might grow jealous if she heard you say such things!”
The King laughed. “Never fear, she knows I love her above all else!”
Sweeping her hand out to indicate the crowd, Magenta informed the King that: “This is the city I was born in, you know. I ran away rather abruptly several years ago and haven't returned. Even now, this city brings sadness to my eyes as I look around and see all the shadows of what might have been.”
“Well I – for one – cannot stand to see you sad,” the King stated. “So tell me, what can I do to cheer you up?”
Magenta grinned brightly. “It seems to me that we're about to have a party! Allow me to sing for you, that always cheers me up!”
“Very well, my dear,” the King permitted graciously, kissing her hand again. Right on cue, a dozen musicians – including Jasper and Onyx – filed onto the stage and began a beautiful melody. Magenta would sing some of the bawdy songs she was famous for later on, but that wasn't all she sang. She now had a wide repertoire of songs to choose from – although it was usually Jasper who chose the songs and handled all the little details. Such as the back up singers who arrived near the middle of the song.
“Spread my wings and prepare to fly, for you have become a butterfly. Oh-oh-oh-oh, spread your wings, butterfly!”
The King bowed to her and left after the song was over. He was planning to watch the rest of the show from a special box that had been made specially for his visit. In it, he would be sheltered from the crowd, the weather, and be supplied with food and drink.
Feeling energetic, Magenta was glad to hear that the next tune was going to be a lively one. She bounced and danced lightly – her daughter joining her. Amethyst held a tambourine which she tapped all over the place as she danced. Magenta clapped to the beat as she sang, feeling like she was having more fun than she'd ever had before. At the end of the song, both mother and daughter curtseyed to the audience.
“Ladies and Gentlemen – and all my darling fans – please put your hands together for my daughter, Amethyst!”
Amethyst stepped side to side so that she could curtsey to as much of the audience as possible. As she did this, Magenta signaled for a tiny break so that she could confer with Jasper. He nodded in agreement with her suggestion, and spread the word.
“My sister Callie got married yesterday, and I'd like to sing a special song just for her,” Magenta announced. “Put your hands together for Callie – who I just know is in the audience somewhere.”
Sure enough, Callie squealed as she had her husband and father help lift her above the crowd. They were about 3/4ths of the way to the back, but fortunately near the middle. Therefore, they had a pretty good view of the stage.
Magenta waved and then signaled for the song to begin. It was a song of hope and love with a catchy tune. The moment it ended, another began, this one a powerful ballad that Amethyst danced to without the tambourine.
Jasper gestured for Amethyst to go backstage during the tiny break between songs so that the audience could believe that she wouldn't hear it. In truth, she knew all the songs – even the bawdy ones – by heart, but she was still so young that she didn't understand them. Even so, she danced behind the curtain, loving how the beat of the drums made her heart thunder.
The performance showcased all of the talented people even as it centered on Magenta. Between songs, those who weren't performing strolled through the crowd with collection hats. By the end of two hours, it felt like every song ever written had been sung!
Magenta smiled as she performed a trick she'd learned when working in theaters. She would curtsey to the audience several times as the rest of the performers all gathered, and then she would introduce them all one by one. At the end, they would all bow to the audience. The crowd chattered excitedly as even the King got back on stage to thank Magenta. He even picked up Amethyst and kissed her on the cheek as he congratulated her on a job well done.
“So is the King your lover then?” Bernice asked with a suggestive grin.
Magenta had taken the time to change into a much less expensive dress with no wig, but then had been surprised when her family sat waiting for her on the stage. The crowd had taken a long time to disperse, and quite a few of the musicians had opted to stay and party.
Normally, Magenta would have stayed for the party too, but tonight, she had planned to go visit her family. Thankfully, not too many people seemed to recognize her without her vibrant wig and fancy gown. Chuckling, she shook her head.
“No! He's just a very good friend,” Magenta replied. Then she beckoned to Amethyst, who was flittering around the stage like a butterfly. “Amethyst, my love, come meet your grandparents!”
Amethyst whooped with joy and threw herself into her grandfather's arms. “I always wanted a grandpa! A real one, I mean.” She looked over at her mother. “He is a real grandpa, right, not pretend like uncle Jasper and Uncle Onyx and the King?”
Magenta laughed. “Yes, he's real.”
“Hooray!” Amethyst cheered, hugging him all the tighter.
John chuckled, trying to pry her arms open so that she couldn't choke him. “That's some grip you've got there!”
Callie's daughter was only a year and a half older than Amethyst. She and the aunt that was literally the same age as her babbled excitedly at Amethyst as John set her down. “You danced on stage!”
“Of course!” Amethyst stated with a grin. “I dance at all of mama's shows!”
As the girls chattered, Bernice put an arm around Magenta. “I'm dying to know, who's her father?”
“Gordon, of course!” Magenta stated. “I plan to bring her to his grave tomorrow so that I can introduce her to him.
“But when...?” Bernice asked in confusion.
“Probably the night he died...” Magenta murmured sadly. “I didn't realize I had her inside me until months later.”
“Oh...” Bernice said, looking away. “I really thought that maybe the King was her father...”
Magenta shook her head. “Nope!”
Callie shook her head impatiently. “Enough of that, why didn't you tell us that you're the famous Magenta?!”
“I didn't want to hear you laugh...” Magenta stated with a shrug. “You wouldn't even believe me when I said that the King let me stay in his palace.”
“That's... true...” Callie muttered, biting her lip when she realized that she couldn't argue.
“Oi!” Onyx cried out to gain their attention as he lightly jogged over to them. Jasper was right behind him. “We're ready to go. Are you coming or are you staying, and do you want us to bring our little lady back to the inn?”
Amethyst promptly yawned as deeply as she could. “I don't want to go back yet!” She protested even as she held out her hands in a silent demand for Onyx to pick her up. She rested her head on his shoulder. “I'm not tired at all!”
Onyx laughed. “No, not at all!”
Jasper ruffled her hair before kissing her on the cheek. Magenta giggled at her daughter's silliness, and then sighed.
“I don't know, Onyx. You're the one that decides when and where we're going next. How long are we planning to be in town?” She wondered.
“We're not due to perform again until Lord Carver's party, so we have some time,” Onyx informed her.
Jasper took a moment to wave at her family. “You all saw the show, right? What did you think? Too much?”
No one quite knew what to say to that because the only time they ever saw any entertainment was when people performed at festivals. Magenta's brother chuckled and shrugged.
“I think that the King being part of the show might have been a tad much, but other than that, I found it thoroughly enjoyable.”
“Who knew that our little Mildred could sing?” John asked, slinging an arm around his daughter.
“I still don't think she can...” Bernice muttered with an unapologetic smile.
“Tone deaf!” Both Jasper and Onyx blurted out with a laugh. Each gave Magenta a kiss on the cheek. “Have fun catching up with your family, Magenta. We'll make sure to tuck Amethyst into bed for you.”
“And sing me a story,” Amethyst insisted sleepily, rubbing her eyes.
“Thanks!” Magenta called after them as they walked away. “Oh, and Jasper! Remind me that I've got a new song stuck in my head and I need to write it down tomorrow.”
“Is it easy to dance to?” Jasper wondered.
“Should be,” Magenta answered with a shrug.
“Then I'll be happy to write music and choreograph a new dance to go with it!” Jasper replied, waving as he resumed following his lover.
“That's Jasper and Onyx,” Magenta explained with a fond smile. “They're my partners... the musicians I 'ran away' with all those years ago.”
“Two lovers?” Bernice asked, sounding impressed.
Magenta laughed harder than she had in days. “No!” She gestured to the stairs leading off the stage. “Let me walk you all home and tell you all about my life...”
The next day was bright and sunny as Magenta and her daughter stood in front of the gates to the Temple dedicated to the God of Death. The spring grass was already vibrantly green and inviting. A priestess let them in with a soft smile.
“You're the woman who's fiancé was murdered...” the priestess murmured. “You wore a beautiful wedding dress dyed black...”
“Yes,” Magenta confirmed with a sad smile.
“Follow me,” the priestess invited before leading them to the grave they wanted to visit. “We tend to all the graves – of course – but I have made this one my personal responsibility.”
“Thank you,” Magenta murmured, sitting on the ground next to the well-tended mound. Amethyst sat next to her, absently picking blades of grass and twisting them into a braid.
“Gordon, I'd like you to meet our daughter...”
Between the two of them, they told Gordon all about the things he had missed. Magenta told her daughter the story of his death, though she had heard it before. Several hours passed in remembrance before Magenta realized something important.
Even though she still missed him deeply, she no longer felt like crying. She no longer felt like her life had been robbed from her. Slowly, she realized that she could feel Gordon as if he was sitting next to her. A warm feeling of peace and love filled her.
Twisting the ring she wore to honor him, Magenta abruptly took it off and placed it on the grave. “I still love you and I always will, but I think it's finally time to think about falling in love again.”
The wind blew across her so softly that she thought she might have imagined it, but instead of feeling chilled, she felt warm. Magenta would even swear that she had heard Gordon's voice agreeing with her. This was all she needed. With a smile, she placed her hand on his grave.
“Thank you for understanding,” Magenta murmured, and then stood to leave. Taking her daughter's hand in hers, she knew with certainty that her future would be happy.