Monday, November 9, 2015

Ana's Secondary character Samat

In Ama's time travel, the heroine wakes in 1497 Brittany after the villain hits her with his truck. In these two scenes, the past life nurse named Samat reveals valuable information to her (and the reader).

 “These things take time, my lamb,” the frail woman soothed. “Your memory will return. Lean forward and let Samat plump your pillows.”
   Angel pressed the tips of her fingers lightly against her chest. She had already concluded that she was not in hell because the devil would not tend her with such fastidiousness. Nor was this heaven—the people did not look, act or smell like angels.  
   What if she was in a coma and this was a vivid, catatonic dream? The pinched, old nurse named     Samat, in the cream-colored habit and pleated wimple, insisted that the year was 1497.
    Impossible as it seemed, she felt very much alive. Her body fit her like a long lost glove, stiff and tight, bendable in all the right places. She had a painful cut along her breastbone and one very large, very sore lump under the cap that covered her hair.
   Her head throbbed with unanswered questions. How did she get here? Could she wake up, and if she did, would she wake up back home in Boston?
   She slipped her hands under the coverlet and pinched the skin on top of her wrist as hard as she could.
   “Fie, Angelique.” Samat clucked disapprovingly. “Stop that. You’ll set a botch for naught. Listen to your maman and have some patience.”
   She sighed and leaned back. Maybe she’d be able to extract an explanation from the two women before her. When she relaxed, she was fluent in the old French that her self-proclaimed mother and nurse spoke. She also lost control over her body’s hotheaded emotions. “I want a bath right now,” she whined.
  “Precious, you are not well,” Maman fretted. “It is too soon. The chiurgeon’s ill-made incision has not yet sealed. You’ll catch a chill. I think it best that you stay abed.”
  “I will have a bath exactly as I like it.” She stood on the bed, tugged at the white lace ties of her cap and included the nurse in her defiant glare.
   Her mother yielded instantly and rushed out calling, “Betia. Setia.”
   Within seconds, the room bustled with people doing her bidding. To her surprise, she recognized the maidservants. The others were familiar strangers, like regular commuters on a bus. All addressed her as Angelique.
   “Stop pulling, Angelique. You are making it worse,” Betia, the twin with the mottled bruise on her cheek, worked an embroidery needle into the knot under her chin. “If I cut your cap free, you will have to make another. Do you want that?”
   Somehow she knew that she did not.
  Two yeomen carried in a deep brass vat. They were followed by a parade of kitchen maids, each with a pail of steaming water. By the time the tub was filled, Betia had freed the knot.
   She yanked off the restrictive cap. Thick raven-colored hair cascaded down her back. Astonished, she turned her head to admire it. What other secrets did this trance body hold?
  “Too much, Angelique,” Maman protested. “You are as white as a sheet. You need more respite.”
  “I am fine,” she countered. She plunged her hand in the bath and tested the temperature. “Leave me.”
   The last pair of scullions dropped their buckets and crossed themselves.
   “My lily, what do you say? You have never bathed alone in your life.” Her mother rushed over and felt her forehead. “She is warm. Summon Denbigh. This could be the onset of the delerium.”
   “Tis merely one of her jests, Lady Jeanne,” Samat pronounced. “See? The vein in her neck throbs and betrays her. We will have no more of that, young lady.” The nurse spanked her behind with three forceful thwacks.
   Angel hopped into the tub to avoid a fourth. Her bottom smarted as much as her pride. Reflexively, she tried to recall which saint’s day it was, and realized that she had no idea what day, month or season this world was in. She needed to keep her wits.
            “What choose you?” Samat held out a small, open chest.
            This time Angel was prepared to play her part. She fingered the jeweled necklaces and earbobs, selecting and discarding like a spoiled heiress until she spied a set of stunning opals. She picked them up.
            “Not those,” the old nurse rasped. “The baron sent those. Remember not so well, Angelique.”
            Uncertain of everything, she decided to take Samat’s words as a warning. “I’ll wear none of these tonight.” She shut the lid. “After all, I am recuperating.”
Samat’s eyes glinted with approval. She’d have to find out why.

Samat, Betia and Setia fell in step behind her. She followed the pages down a stairway into a broad corridor. You can do this, she told herself firmly. It’s no different than a negotiation.
Her confidence faltered when she stepped into the great hall. Everyone expected Angelique.
A hush swept like a silencing wave over the nearly one hundred folk seated face to face across trestle tables made from massive hand-hewn timbers. Some stared; others crossed themselves. Still others pointed and whispered behind their hands to their children or their neighbors. A young child wailed fearfully.
No different than a difficult negotiation, except that she had no idea where she was supposed to go. She rose up on her toes, searching for a spot in the back where she could sit alone. Every place was taken, except those immediately in front of a raised dais. No one moved to welcome her. It occurred to her that she had few friends.
Sucy tugged at her sleeve and pointed.
“Second past Jeanne,” Samat hissed.
Praying that, in this time, beauty trumped ignorance, she climbed the dais steps and walked past the ornate chair that Jeanne occupied as sovereign of the keep while Edouard was away in Paris. 
Her chair's legs scraped noisily across the plank floorboards as she pulled it out. She sat, hid her trembling hands in the folds of her gown and held her breath.
           Whom was she kidding? This was a high-stakes negotiation for her life.
The mighty doors leading the kitchen burst open and crashed against the cut stone walls behind them. A dozen serving maids bustled in and fanned out, cheerfully distributing huge platters of boiled meat, white cheeses, dark bread, crocks of butter and jam and tureens of what proved to be a spicy vegetable soup.
The portly butler avoided her eyes as he filled the large earthenware goblet in front of her. Clermont. His name was Clermont d’Agles.
“Mulled grapeberry wine,” he whispered. “One of your favorites.”
Once the head table was served, everyone set upon their repast with obvious relish. 
Samat talked to the striking man everyone called the Brehon. Something he said must have angered her, for she jabbed her index finger against his chest and launched into an animated, but muted, rebuttal.
To her surprise, he sat through it patiently. Perhaps it sprang out of respect for Samat’s age or her piety. After all, she had left a convent to serve as her nurse.

More probably he deserved it.


  1. An intriguing scene. She seems far more confident than I would be if I found myself in the same situation!

  2. Love the scene, Ana. You create just the right mood. And I'm so curious to find out what happens next!

  3. Both interesting and intriguing. Like Jennifer I'd be interested to read more.

  4. Spoiler alert: Angel and the Brehon fall in love...

  5. I have a time-travel idea in the back of my mind, but I'm not sure if I can capture the right feeling of being out of place (and time!)