“The past never is truly passed.”
-The Lady, Tarot Ranseur
“Awake my darling.” Ranseur’s pleasant but unwelcomed voice washed through Taja’s sleepy ears. “There is much to be done today.”
“Wha-what?” Taja rubbed her eyes and stirred in her bed. She had never been, in her short life, more comfortable. The furnishings smelled of freshly stained wood, and she was surrounded by four oaken posters that stood tall from each corner. Sheer silk hung from the poles, a gentle ripple spreading through the material as Lady Ranseur approached.
“There’s no time for lounging.” Ranseur pulled open a set of heavy curtains, allowing the morning sun to flood the room.
Taja raised her hand to shade her eyes, but there was no escape from the warm glow that entered the chamber through vaulted windows that ran almost from the ceiling to the floor. Before Taja could protest, Ranseur opened a set of glass doors and stepped onto a small balcony that Taja hadn’t noticed the night before.
“Come,” the lady waved and walked into the morning air.
Taja closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. The terror of the night before hovered in her near consciousness and the memories of running away from her adoptive parents still hung in her mind’s eye. Yet she somehow found rest in her new bed and wondered if Ranseur’s magics had anything to do with it.
Then the sound of distant waves lapped at the nearby shoreline and the smell of sea spray filled her senses. The dawn’s delicate rays greeted her cheeks with warmth. Her eyes peeked open, and she drew another breath, clearing her mind of the dangers of Notre Nouveaux.
“You are quite safe now,” Ranseur remarked, her back turned to Taja.
Taja rose slowly and found herself dressed in clean bedclothes that she didn’t remember changing into. She looked at the foot of her bed and noticed her performing gown folded neatly along with her shoes tucked under the bedframe. It was a dress that her mother, Yasmine, had made for her.
“You look to the past.” Ranseur’s voice caught her staring at the garments and for a brief flash, she felt guilt for thinking about Yasmine. When she turned the lady had somehow made her way back into the room. “Today you start fresh. Today you look to the future.”
“Future?” Taja managed.
“Yes, your future. And much will come with the knowledge you will gain today. Many decisions for you.”
Taja followed Ranseur onto the balcony and stopped suddenly at the beauty of a never-ending seascape. From east to west the coast ran, giving way to an aquamarine coastline that melted into the azure blue of the morning sky.
“I remember when my husband and I found this place.” Ranseur put her hand on Taja’s shoulders and pointed into the bay below. “We walked together on that very beach, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes. It was then I knew he was my future. And you little Taja, your destiny lies here as well.”
Taja wasn’t sure what Ranseur meant, but the picturesque views reminded her of the parson and his wife. For an instant, she wondered what life would have been like if she was allowed to stay in Ashray Cove. Fond thoughts of playing on the beach just outside the back door of the parsonage rolled back into her mind. She recalled retrieving sand with her little pail and sifting through its contents hoping to find shards of sparkling sea glass or other baubles the tides would wash ashore. She smiled at the memories.
“Don’t forget child that I can read your mind.” Ranseur frowned and lowered her eyebrows. “And do you forget how you came to arrive at Ashray Cove?”
Taja took a step back, pulling away from Ranseur’s guiding hand.
“Ah, you don’t, do you, girl?”
Taja’s posture stiffened, and she felt her emotions begin to well within. She didn’t recall much but for a second, she thought hard about it, trying to understand Ranseur’s meaning.
“No,” she mumbled. Her eyes rose to meet Ranseur’s. “What do you mean, come to Ashray Cove?”
“Of course you wouldn’t, dear,” Ranseur added, trying to dispel the look on Taja’s face. “You were far too young. But let’s take a stroll to the beach and on the way, I will tell you.”
Taja remained silent, thinking of what next to say. The thought of not being native to the cove suddenly had struck here and Ranseur’s tone was clear and honest. She followed Ranseur down a skinny pathway that led from the balcony toward the beach. At first, the path was paved in polished flagstone, but as they continued, the stones gave way to powdery grains of white sand.
She looked up to Ranseur, whose gaze was affixed on the horizon.
“How do you know about my time in Ashray Cove?” Taja managed after some thought. “I had only met you on the road. We met after a performance, did we not?”
Ranseur glanced down at Taja with a smile and a wink.
“You had washed ashore, stuck in the net of a local fisherman.” The lady ignored Taja’s question and returned her gaze to the sea.
Taja’s face scrunched in disbelief.
“Oh, it is true my girl.” Ranseur turned an eye back to Taja. “You are not from the cove at all.”
“But I was—”
“I know what you believe,” Ranseur interrupted, “and perhaps what tall tales Ramsay may have told you. But it is not true. You were dragged from the sea, caught in the net of a fisherman and nearly died.”
“Wha?” Taja wondered before she could stop the jumbled word from leaving her lips. Her stomach turned at the thought. If anything, Ranseur had always been honest to a fault with her.
“The good parson rescued you from the drunken fisherman and brought you to the parsonage.”
“Rescued?” Taja blurted, this time regaining some composure in the face of the preposterous story. “Rescued from what?”
“Poison,” Ranseur’s eyebrows raised, as she turned a somber look to Taja. “And likely the sharp point of the fisherman’s harpoon.”
Taja’s words left her. She stood frozen, a perplexed gaze chiseled onto her countenance. The story made no sense to her. The parson and his wife were always kind, always understanding.
“I know this is hard for you to believe my daughter.” Ranseur reached for Taja’s hand. “Come to the water with me.”
The woman tugged gently on her arm and the two walked to the water’s edge together. Taja could feel the warm waters of the bay washing over her toes as she neared the ocean. The white froth of the first waves bubbled around her, and Ranseur stepped back, releasing her hand.
Taja looked to her to find the lady smiling, holding back tears.
“I told you, you are home.” The lady’s voice quivered, and she motioned with her hand for Taja to walk deeper into the waves. “It’s there where your secret lies. Let the ocean teach you what you really are.”