19

CHAPTER 38

She returned to her normal duties at court. There were so many things on her agenda. One afternoon and page entered her chambers carrying a small pillow. He bowed and presented her with it. Pinned to the little purple pillow was the voucher she had given him for a homemade dinner. Things had been quite busy the past week or two and they had not really had any alone time together except at night in their bedroom. She figured Louis was feeling the loss of her company and was anxious to remedy it.

After bidding good afternoon to the Duchess of Montagu, who had come for refreshment Elora made her way to the kitchens with Suzanne faithfully following behind her. She had not been in the kitchens since before the wedding. She had neglected the servants atrociously, but was sure they would be forgiving because of the circumstances.

There was hundreds of kitchen staff and she knew most of their names. She spoke with the head chef, Jacques, who was directly responsible for preparing Louis' food. She explained to him what she wanted to do. He was amused for a moment, thinking she must surely be jesting.

"But your majesty, your rank must take precedence. You should not soil your hands."

"Don't be silly, Jacques. Though I am queen, I am first a wife. As King Louis' wife it is my vowed duty to serve my husband. He requested this of me and I am more than happy to fulfill his wishes. Anything I can do to give him in return the joy he has given me I will do, even if the task is humbling."

"Very well, your majesty. What do you intend to prepare, I will assist you."

"I am not sure. Might I take a look around at your meats and produce?"

So they toured the kitchen. She saw the chickens flapping about before the butcher caught them. "I'll take four chickens and see that they are plucked well." She would make him some fried chicken. She glanced over the vegetables. For the first course she decided on zucchini sautéed in garlic and tomato as well as garlic bread. The side dishes she chose were roasted potatoes smothered in caramelized onions, steamed green beans drizzled with red wine vinegar, and spinach and cheese stuffed mushrooms. She found a box of coconuts on the floor. They had been shipped from the Americas and there were so many. She found out the French were not familiar with the fruit and hardly used. "I'll make him some coconut cream pie!"

Now she did not have any recipes, but she had cooked these dishes enough times she believed she could remember them for the most part. He had the kitchen staff below him fetching all the ingredients needed for the recipes. She let Jacques handle the chicken, at least until it resembled the chicken in the meat department of the grocery store. She began with the pie, for she believed that would take the most time and skill.

She sent a note to Louis asking him to join her in her private dining room in the Queen's Chambers at seven and before she knew it afternoon had passed. The only thing completed was the pie. There was only two hours before dinner and she could not be late, for Louis would be most upset.

They made the garlic spread for the bread, the tomato sauce, cut up the vegetables, caramelized the onions and stuffed the mushrooms. They started frying the battered chicken in the heated lard and Jacques practically took over that job. She pan-fried and put into the oven all the other vegetables.

"Are you certain," said Jacques as he flipped the chicken in the pan, "that this will be enough for His Majesty?"

"It will have to be. He asked me to make him dinner and this is what he gets. He would not dare be unsatisfied with me." She laughed. "At least I hope not."

ooOoo

Louis sat in the Queen's Salon awaiting her for dinner, just as she planned. She carried in one hand a platter of fresh out of the oven, bubbling buttery garlic bread and a glass carafe of wine in the other. He stood, even though she entered with no announcement.

He seemed flabbergasted at the sight before him. "Elora, what in heaven's name? Why are you coming from the servant's door? And why are you carrying bread? Is that an apron?"

Placing the platter and carafe on the table she said in such a casual manner, "Didn't you send me your voucher for a homemade dinner? Well, here it is. There are so many more yummy dishes to come. Why don't you start on the cheesy, garlic bread and I'll bring out the next course."

"No, Elora. Truly I sent that to you in jest. You were busy all day with the Duchess of Montagu, which is why I knew you could never complete such a task. You were not supposed to prepare my food."

"But you sent me the voucher. I finished with the Duchess early in order to cook you a dinner myself. I have been slaving in kitchens for the past five hours."

"You actually cooked yourself?"

Her frustration with Louis transformed into anger. "And baked a dessert."

"I see. It cannot be helped now I suppose. You must at least sit and have the servants bring out the meal."

"Louis, you've used up your order-quota for the day."

"But Elora—" She stuffed a slice of garlic bread into his mouth to shut him up.

"Eat up! I'll be right back." She ran back to the kitchens to bring out the casserole dish of the zucchini baked in marinara sauce and sprinkled with a bit of melted cheese.

When she returned he was still eating the garlic bread, but half the loaf was gone. She could not understand where that man put all the food he ate. He ate portions for three men, but still kept his trim figure.

"Elora, you must forgive me."

"There's nothing to forgive." She sat down across from him and began eating. It had turned out well considering she had no recipes to go by. She watched as Louis took his first bite of zucchini. She truly hoped he would like it.

As he chewed a smile formed. "Excellent, Elora. It's so good I would have believed one of my master chefs to have prepared it."

"Now don't go overboard. You haven't even had the main course yet. You may regret such compliments."

"I doubt that. There is one thing I can always depend upon, you never disappoint."

He had finished his course before she was halfway through hers and began to ask, "Will you feed me no more, wife?"

She got up and he took her hand to stop her as she walked past him. "I love you," he said and kissed her hand. "Please do not leave me. Have the servants bring the rest."

"This will be my last trip. I'll be right back."

She left and reentered with two servants all hands full of food. When the servants had stepped out she explained the dishes. "I know there is not the variety you are used to, but I made a lot of everything." She dished out several pieces of fried chicken and the vegetables until his plate was piled high.

He could not believe how she had cooked the chicken to such crispy perfection. It looked dry and lacking sauce or juice, but in fact the skin was crisp and meat juicy and flavorful. "I've never had it prepared so…so…"

"That's how we make it in the future."

"This food has all the earmarks of Elora Roux. Even if I had not known you prepared this I believe I still would have known. I cannot completely understand it and there certainly is no reasoning behind it."

Then a pie was brought out. Elora was quite proud of it, since it was difficult to make without the equipment she was used to. "I have never tasted anything quite like it. Coconut may be a common fruit for you, but not for me."

After perhaps too many compliments Elora was moved to say, "Perhaps we should make this something we do every week. I'm sure I could think of dozens of more meals to cook for you."

"Elora, my love, though I fully enjoyed myself tonight and could not be more pleased with your willingness to do such, I do not believe it is in your best interest to do this again."

She hated being bound to such strict codes of conduct. "Yes, queens are not supposed to cook. I understand."

"Is that what you really think?"

"No. I think this charade of proper conduct is bullshit. I am queen. I am the second most powerful person in this country and no one should dictate what I cannot do. My conduct is not sinful in any respect. So unless you order me never to go to the kitchens again I most certainly will."

"You have made your point. You may still cook time and again, but it cannot be a weekly ritual or courtiers will talk."

She thanked him. She was glad he was willing to compromise.

"The voucher was for six courses, did you think I would not be able to count that high?"

"Louis, are you serious right now? I've slaved for hours. Are you any less full short one course?"

"Two."

"What?"

"You were short two courses. Though there were several foods with the main entrée."

"Did I not make enough for you? You ungrateful, husband. I'm home slaving in the kitchen all day–" When she moved to clear the plates away he pulled her down into his lap and kissed her fervently without restraint.

"I was only teasing, my love," Louis mumbled through his kisses. "To be honest, I was expecting you to say you would be the remaining courses."

"Is that so? I suppose I can accommodate that desire."

ooOoo

Louis desired a grand celebration held for Elora's upcoming birthday. This would be the first of many birthday celebrations for the new queen. She wanted nothing quite as grand as Louis was planning. She was tired of big parties. She wanted a small group with only their dearest friends around them. There would be a celebration with the courtiers in the afternoon, then a quiet dinner with Louis.

Spring had arrived at Versailles it seemed overnight for her special day. Elora was now twenty years old. There were so many fun activities that were set outdoors in the gardens. She did not want for enjoyment that day. Louis was by her side throughout. It was a very happy day. Louis' gift to her was a solid gold key giving her sole entrance to the newly refinished Queen's Garden.

"You may feel free to do anything you wish in your garden without the fear of prying eyes."

"Like going on my runs or sword-fighting practice with the guards?"

"Yes, though why I encourage such manly activities is beyond me."

They began to walk indoors for dinner. "Will it just be us for dinner then?"

"No. There will be a surprise guest."

"Who? Philippe? That's not so great a surprise."

"Perhaps."

They adjourned to the King's Chambers. "Close your eyes," Louis requested as a page opened the door to the Venus Salon. When he told her to open them, what her eyes beheld was nothing short of a miracle. Therese, Cesaire, and even Chris were there. Friends were embraced and gifts were extended.

"Oh my goodness! I'm so glad you are all here! But how is it possible. Last I heard Therese you were still settling into your new home and Chris you were too busy with the spring planting." She turned to Louis before waiting for an answer. "I thought I told you not to impose upon them, Louis."

"I did not, Elora, on my honor."

"His Majesty speaks the truth, Elora," Therese interceded.

"It was my idea to surprise you. Christophe took a little convincing, but even he is here."

"I am so happy! Thank you all for coming! You have no idea how special you have made this day, just by letting me see you."

They laughed and made merry as they consumed a feast. A small ensemble played music as they danced gaily. They played at cards for sometime through the night, drinking rich wine all the while. When they began to disband all five found themselves more than a little intoxicated, but pleasantly so.

ooOoo

When the king woke on a warm, sunny morning he immediately kissed his sleeping wife beside him. He brushed a single curl off her face. Elora was truly stunning. He would have thought that such a beautiful woman would ever be his wife. He thanked God once again for giving her to him.

When Elora stirred he spoke to her, "My love, do you know what today is?"

"Sunday." She slowly stretched her arms above her head.

"Yes, Sunday, April nineteenth. Does that remind you of something?"

"Should it?"

He tenderly pulled her into his embrace beside him. "It is the day I woke and found you in my arms."

Elora turned to see his face, smiling at him. "How could I forget? It's the day my life began."

"Now when did you become so poetic, Elora."

"Louis, since today is the anniversary of the day we first met perhaps we could play hooky from our duties. I have been planning a nice surprise for you and just waiting for an occasion. I think our one year anniversary is perfect!"

They decided go on a rather vigorous few hours of horseback riding in the depths of Versailles. They got to talking about ballet. Louis was determined to have her dance once again in the stage.

"I'd like to Louis, but the shoes I brought with me I cannot wear again. It was bad enough practicing in the shoes Monsieur Pelletier made for me."

"I thought you approved of the shoes he made."

"Don't get me wrong I was impressed with how closely he replicated my pointe shoes, but they were still not the same. I was going through a pair of shoes just about every day practicing for that ballet and it seems like the shoes he made had less wear to them. There was not as much support as I am used to. Perhaps if he works more at the reproduction more he will perfect it, until then I really do not feel it would be safe for me to do so much pointe."

"I will put Monsieur Pelletier to work then. Perhaps we can have another ballet by my next birthday."

Louis was really something. "We'll see. If I don't feel I can dance pointe safely I will not attempt it."

"Now you know I am not pushing you to do something that would compromise your safety merely for the sake of my amusement. The queen's wellbeing is most important to me."

ooOoo

The queen retired with the king into his royal bedroom. He poured a glass of sherry wine for his dear wife and himself. She pulled out a small trinket box from under the bed and unlocked it with a small key. He wondered how long that had been under his bed. From the box she took out something he had not seen in months. It was her futuristic music box.

"All right Louis, you are just going to love this surprise, but you will only get to see it once, so enjoy it."

"Are we to listen to your music?" he questioned.

"No, something far more exciting. Do you remember how I told you that back home there is a musical version of Don Quixote." He nodded. "Well I have it in this."

"You mean the music?"

"No. I have the movie, Man of La Mancha."

"I do not understand."

She only smiled as she put little plugs into his ears. When she touched the machine it lit up. Merely that amazed him; light without a flame. "Since this is new to you, you may have a hard time, but just try to focus your attention on the moving-picture on the screen."

He had never seen anything like it. What he heard through the plugs was completely synchronized with what he was seeing. He could hardly explain what he was seeing. It was like a small world with people performing in it. "And these are full sized people?"

"Yes. They just look small on screen."

As he watched he saw the characters he knew and loved so well come to life in these actors. It was the most brilliant, sincere performance he had ever seen. The actors made the story seem really, like it was truly happening at that moment in Elora's little box. It must have been hours that they sat there absorbed in the performance. When it had ended he turned to Elora who had wrapped her arm around his and her head tipped against him.

"Elora, this was…I hardly have words…it was the greatest performance of my life. I have never felt quite so privileged, so honored to have seen such a masterpiece. Are all movies like that?"

She laughed. "Yes some are. Most do not have singing and dancing, at least not the modern ones."

"Shall we ever see it again?"

She shook her head as she put the machine back in the trinket box and locked it. "The battery is just about dead now and I'll never be able to recharge it again here. I've known for a while now and wanted to use it for the last time to share it with you."

"I love you dearly." He kissed her affectionately. "Shall we to bed, wife?"

ooOoo

The morning came; Elora was the first to wake. She wanted to go out to her garden and jog around a bit. She put a robe over her naked body and took in a deep breath, ready to greet the day. As soon as she stood her head began to spin.

"Louis," she cried. "I'm so dizzy!" Her head was so heavy and it was like there was a weight pushing her eyelids closed. She fell back onto the bed.

Louis woke with a startle. "What shall I do? Shall I send for the physician?"

"No! I think I know what this is! I've felt it before! I'm going home."

"This cannot be happening! He's taking you away? My life is meaningless without you. Elora, you cannot leave me here!—God, don't take her from me!"

She wished she were merely dying. For then the wait to be with Louis again would not be so long. "Come with me." Elora held out her hand. God could not separate them. He had to give Louis to her.

Louis bent and kissed her lips hard. "You know I cannot, my place is here."

She hugged him, refusing to let go. "Thank you for sharing your world with me."

"I would give it to you forever if it were mine to give. Thank you for bringing me to life and sincerely loving me.–Love me forever. Think of me often because I will always be thinking of you. You are the most wonderful thing that ever came into my life. We will only meet again in heaven, I think."

She kissed his tears away. She felt this heavy sinking feeling in her chest like there was a weight inside, pulling her down. She was being ripped from her only love. He had brought her to life. Now as she was going away from him she felt that life, that spark, that reason to exist, draining from her being. "Louis…hold me for the last time and don't let go. I love you so much."

"I love you with all my heart, Elora Roux. Never forget you are a Queen of France. I know I will set eyes on you once again. In your future life never feel like you are alone. I will be there beside you whenever you need me, even though you will not be able to see me. I promise you, we will reunite in heaven, in the celestial city."

That was the last thing she heard him say. Everything all around her seemed to fade away, the room, the bed, Louis' teary-eyed face; even his warm, strong, comforting embrace. She prayed when she woke this all would not have been a dream. Dreading even more so the idea she might not remember him at all.

ooOoo

Louis lied in the bed even though Elora was no longer there. He could not explain what had just happened. One moment she was clearly in his embrace. He could feel her warmth against him and her sweet breath on his shoulder and the next moment she was gone.

"Damn you, God!" Louis screamed. He had just lost the best thing in his life. How could God give her to him and then decide to take her back? He never dreamed God would be so unjust with him. Now what was he to do? How was he to explain to France that their queen no longer exists?

King Louis thought at length before taking any action. Once he began this there was no going back. He rang for Elora's servant girl to come. No one else was to gain entrance to the king's bedchamber. No one could yet know that Elora Roux was no longer present.

Just as she entered he finished tying his robe. "Yes, your majesty?" Suzanne bobbed a curtsy. She looked around the room obviously looking for the queen. He locked the door behind her.

"Suzanne, the queen is gone. She has gone back to her home."

She began to cry. Louis graciously gave the servant his handkerchief.

"You cared for her well. I know you loved her. Now we must make the world believe the queen has died."

"But Your Majesty, where are the remains? If we say this we will need a body."

Louis already knew what was to be done. He sent for his council and his doctors. Once assembled in the anteroom adjoining the bedchamber he announced with great remorse, "Her Majesty, the queen is dead. I found her lifeless body when I woke. She surely died in her sleep." Real tears issued from his already swollen eyes.

Signs of the cross were made by all and small prayers were muttered. Only Doctor Dubuque was bold enough to dare say, "I must examine, Her Majesty, your majesty."

"Indeed? Why must you? What conclusion could you make? She has passed from this world; that is all anyone need know."

"I must see if the cause was possibly infectious, your majesty; as it may concern your health as well."

"I will not have you enter that room, disturbing her body. It occurred from natural causes, she was not ill." He turned to Colbert who indeed seemed grieved. "Have a casket delivered to the room immediately. We will proceed with the funeral today. The queen's servants are already preparing her body for burial. See that the announcement is made throughout France."

Louis would not have her bathed or anointed with oils as the clergy were accustomed to, since there was in fact no body. The guards brought in the casket and King Louis excused them saying he would place the body into the casket himself. It was not the grandest that a queen deserved, but it would do.

"Now how are we to weigh down the casket? I had not thought of this."

"If I may, your majesty," spoke Suzanne. "I know of a room containing builder's supplies. I could smuggle in a dozen or so bricks."

"Perfect!"

So the servant completed the suggested task. He was not entirely sure how much of her past Elora had explained to Suzanne, but from her calm attitude he believed she knew enough.

All of France was told Queen Elora died of heart failure in her sleep. Many courtiers grieved her death. Versailles echoed with sobs, even from the servant's quarters. The casket was carried off to the church once the court had assembled to pay their respects. The clergy prayed over the empty casket for a couple of hours.

Philippe appeared to be suffering the loss, but would not speak a word to him. Now that Elora was gone Philippe once again seemed to see no need to be civil. Lady Therese wept openly and even Christophe was very discomposed. The Morlaix siblings knew of Elora's secret, therefore it would only be just to tell them the truth of today's events. He should have told them before the funeral began, before they heard the worst, but he honestly had not considered them until he saw his weeping cousin. He would have to send for them later and give an explanation.

The casket of the queen was sealed and sent to St. Denis for burial. He sent two dozen of the royal guard to ensure its safe delivery. Louis did not return to the confines of his chambers until after dark. He had his meal sent for. It was rare for him to do so, but he would eat unaccompanied tonight. Suzanne delivered to him a thick letter written by Elora. The servant explained that the queen had written it some months ago in case such a situation ever occurred.

Dear Louis,

Thinking of the possibility of leaving you and this life we have built together devastates me, but if you are reading this then what I have most dreaded has come to pass. God placed me in your loving care when I came to Versailles. We have been through so much together and I have loved every moment. You gave me love greater than I could ever have imagined. Your kindness, generosity, patience, faith, and love have lit the flame in my heart.

There are so many memories with you I will cherish. Like when I almost knocked you out with a poker, when you first told me I was beautiful, when you caught me running through the gardens with the guards, when you taught me to dance, when you took me in your arms and told me you would take care of me and the baby, our first kiss, when you proposed (both times), our wedding, our wedding night and every night since.

You know it was never my plan to marry at such a young age. You, Louis, were the exception who changed my mind. You have been the best husband I could ever ask for. I can't imagine loving anyone other than you, but if God has chosen to separate us then I hope I might find love again. I have the same wish for you. You need to remarry…as soon as your heart lets you. You might have an arranged marriage and not know her well. All I ask it that you try to love her and honor her as you honored me.

I don't want to read in history books that you became a player again after I left. Raise your children with love and give them the attention you always wanted as a child. Try not to be a spendthrift; Versailles Chateau is grand enough. If I take a tour of the chateau in the future and find you've wasted one more piece of gold on another fountain in the gardens I will be most upset. I'm sorry to say all of this, but I wanted you to know this in the case that we do not get to talk about everything before I go.

I love you so so much. Louis, please don't ever forget me.

Yours forever,

Elora

How could he ever remarry as she had instructed him to? No woman could ever compare to her. No queen could be as humble and caring. No love could ever please him as Elora had. He would never love any other woman again. His heart was locked tightly, waiting for Elora to come back to him and open it.

Not long after reading such a powerful letter Louis received the Duc de Chartres in parlor, at Chartres' request. "Your Majesty," Christophe spoke as he entered. He was dressed in black from head to toe as if it had been his wife that had died.

"I did mean to send for you today. What is it you want of me?"

"There is something quite wrong with the queen's death. I am told you were there with her at her last. I need answers."

"What do you mean? Who are you to make such a demand of your king?"

"My sister received a letter, bidding her goodbye from Her Majesty. Why was her casket closed with no one granted to view her body? And, your majesty, heart failure? You must really imagine I am gullible if you want me to believe the queen died of a bad heart. Elora was the strongest and most healthy woman who ever lived. It would take a great deal more than a weak heart to kill Elora Roux."

"I thought I was the only one to receive a letter. Oh Elora, what a mess you have made here!" He rubbed his forehead. That servant girl had given him a letter, but he had not known there were others. "What did she write?"

"All she would mention was advice for our family's future. Though it will not be in our lifetime, she wants us to somehow pass down through our family that we must leave France before the year 1789. She said lives would depend on it. Your majesty, can you imagine such a devastating turn of events, which would make it necessary to evacuate our country? War?"

"Worse…a bloody revolution. Elora mentioned something about it to me only once. Chartres, I must tell you, Elora did not die."

Chris practically grabbed the king's arm. "She lives!"

"Not exactly; she went back to the future. So I suppose she does not really exist at this moment. She will not be born until the year nineteen-hundred ninety."

"So she is still gone forever." He put his arm on Chartres' shoulder.

"Yes." A tear fell down Louis' cheek. "God keep her safe, for I no longer can."

ooOoo

Dear Readers,

I hope you enjoyed Chapter 38! Sorry I took so long posting, I've been out of the country on vacation. I hope you are not too disappointed in the turn of events, but I felt while writing, The Celestial City, this was an inevitable happening. Do not worry too much; Elora's adventures do not end here. There is still more to be revealed!

Will update soon! Thank you for your continued support and all your encouraging words. As always, I appreciate feedback! Please leave a review and let me know what you think!

God bless,

L.B. Tempia