The Charred Tree

Bound By Silence: Catching Up

“Thomas!” Faithe rose from her chair and ran across the room. “I am so glad you came. You’ve been gone far too long.” Her embrace brought the smell of roses to Thomas’s nose—not cloying like with their mother, but fresh and clean. “Come sit. Collette, please have Mags send more tea and breakfast.” The serving girl left the room through the door Thomas had entered.

“Thank you, Faithe. I appreciate your letting me stay with you while I get settled back in London. Will Robert be joining us?” Thomas had not yet met his brother-in-law, Robert Fitzsimmons.

“Not this morning. He has already left for work at the bank but he will be home for dinner this evening. I hope that Arthur will come, too.” She poured him tea in a porcelain cup.

“How is Arthur? Does he still hate me?” Thomas sipped his tea.

“He doesn’t hate you, Thomas. He felt a lot of responsibility to mother and me after you left. It didn’t matter that he was the youngest of us; he was the man of the family and had to try to take care of us—at least that’s how he saw it. Mother took in washing when she could find the work and Arthur ran errands for several of the merchants in the area. He eventually apprenticed with Mr. Franklin, the butcher. He’s very good at the meat business. Mr. Franklin hired Arthur after his apprenticeship and made him a partner in the business a few months ago.”

“I’m glad he is well and is doing well.” Thomas set down the teacup. “I’m not sure that I wouldn’t hate me for leaving either, so I can’t blame him if he does.”

“But your leaving was part of a divine plan for your life; it lead you to the church. Had you stayed here, you wouldn’t have become a priest. That is very important and Arthur has to realize that.” Faithe’s argument was meant to comfort.

Thomas stared into his half-empty cup. “True enough. But that doesn’t change the fact I ran away from London for my own selfish reasons. I should have stayed and provided for all of us. And protected Arthur.”

“Perhaps, but those were choices made a long time ago when you were a young man. Not even that, really. You were only a boy, Thomas. You forget that I was there and know what life was like for us. I don’t blame you for leaving.” Faithe placed her hand no his arm. He could feel the coolness of her touch through the sleeve and it comforted him.

Collette tapped on the door and brought in their morning meal. While they ate, Faithe asked her questions about his past—his trading his labor for passage to the continent, the different types of work he had taken to survive in France, his joining the priesthood and changing his name, the years he spent in Novalesa Abbey studying.

“I need to begin the search for a permanent residence, Faithe. Did you say dinner is at eight?”

“Yes. Robert should be home by seven so Mags will have dinner ready by eight. Will your luggage arrive today? I will have it brought to a proper room—you are not staying in that pantry another evening!” Faithe shot him a look almost identical to the one their mother had used to say that she meant business.

Thomas chuckled. “Just a small trunk; the captain said he would have it delivered here. That pantry would be just fine with me. It is larger than my cell at the abbey and it’s cozy.”

“That may be, but I can’t have my brother staying in my cook’s quarters. Besides, while Maggie’s hospitality allowed for a road-worn priest to use her bed while she’s working, I don’t think it extends to a more permanent stay and my staff need their rest.”

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