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Aribeth Centath

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The Centath family was a succesful cloth mercantilist.  Aribeth grew up surrounding by fabric and thread.  Naturally she grew up sewing, anything that took her fancy.  At first it was dresses, of course, but later hats, gloves, boots and belts.  She appreciated that something as fragile as thread could, when woven and sewed properly, exhibit great strength as well as suppleness.  Her skill grew and by her teen years her work had developed some reputation and value.  As she blossomed into a young woman her attention turned to dresses that might catch the eye of some young man. 

Her family arranged the betrothal.  Some shudder at the thought of an arranged marriage but Aribeth rejoiced.  Balthazar Eygor came from a prominent family, was courteous to all, charming to Aribeth, and rakishly good looking to boot.  He was tall and wore his dark hair in the rumpled waves that was all the rage.  By the end of the engagement year Balthazar’s conquest was complete, both of Aribeth’s heart and dowry.  Before Aribeth’s nineteenth birthday she had husband, son, and a large, well-appointed apartment in one of the more fashionable districts.  Parliament Minister’s daughters-in-law, however, don’t sew and Aribeth regretfully abandoned her fledgling dress shop.

The Eygor family had modest roots which Balak was quick to sweep under the rug once he achieved political influence.  His son, Balthazar, hoped to inherit Balak’s parliamentary seat and so needed “ nouveau respectibility.”  Marriage to a wealthy local merchant family was the quickest way.  When Balak lost the next election, Balthazar put on a brave face, telling Aribeth that he would win back the seat and in so doing, polish his own political star.

Aribeth was completely bewildered when she returned home one afternoon to find herself locked out of the apartment.  When she inquired at the landlord’s office, he accosted her, shouting that she was evicted but still owed a months’ rent.  When she asked to retrieve her belongings, the landlord informed her that all the furniture, dishes and linens were also rented.  Her dresses were seized as collateral.

Balthazar knew it was useless to polish his political star; Balak’s parliament defeat was resoundingly final.  The Eygor family was exposed.  Balthazar polished his heels, instead.  The dowry was largely unspent.  Everything had been rented to preserve his “compaign funds.”  One afternoon after lunch he just walked away from the apartment, and his life with Aribeth, with a heavy purse and a light heart.

Aribeth had with her only enough coin for the ride to her parents’ house.

The Centath’s attorney handled the investigation.  Several rogues were hired, very hush-hush, to inquire around.  One had no trouble getting the landlord to tell the tale.  Several times Balthazar had been seen entering and leaving the apartment with what he called the “nursemaid,” but who was actually a scribe at the ministry.  On the fateful day when the landlord had evicted him, he had left with the “nursemaid,” who carried his son and wore the finest dress Aribeth had ever sewn.  Another rogue discovered the ship’s registry where Balthazar had signed himself, his wife and their son.  Her son, Aribeth’s son.  He had been whistling when he signed.

Time stopped.  For certain, day still followed night, but it was only the same day, filled with the same empty loss, and the same night, filled with the same bitter, lonely tears.  Aribeth had no comfort.  Her family took her back and held her tight to their bosom, but she had lost her son, her own flesh, her own family.  The Centath estate could support her physical needs but could do nothing for her spirit.  Aribeth’s spirit died, rather quickly, as she spent every night locked in her room and all her days in the music room, in silence.  In a day her hair was distended, in a week her skin was listless, and in a month she had lost enough weight to frighten her mother.  Her brothers and sisters treated her with tenderness but none had the means to breach her disconnect.

Aribeth had lost her dowry and her reputation.  She had lost her husband and her home.  But the loss which caused her to stumble, every day, was the loss of her heart and her son.  She could find no way to pick up the pieces and begin again.  She found no path to follow to lead out of her wasteland.  How does one go forward, when there is no path?  What do you seek when you have lost everything, and what has been lost is irreplaceable?  How do you live?

After a year of mourning her family forced her to leave the house, to go out into the city.  They took her to an opera.  She endured it with the same stony face she wore in her silence in the music room.

The Centath family left the theater that night.  Crossing the street, Aribeth didn’t even look up.  Her sister screamed, her father shouted, and Aribeth finally looked up, into the eyes of four horses pulling a fancy carriage.  Her brother swept her out of its’ path at the last moment.  “Why didn’t you step out of the way?” her brother insisted with concern.

“Why didn’t I step out of the way?” Aribeth asked herself.  “Because I didn’t want to.  I didn’t want to save my life.  I would have gladly laid it down.”

A week later Aribeth went away.  The Centath family had brought her up to believe that life was sacred, even the empty shell of hers.  But if she couldn’t die she needed to find a reason to live, a purpose to fill the emptiness in her heart and in her days and in her life.  She didn’t know what she was looking for.  She didn’t know what she would find at the monastery.

Her family hoped she might find peace.

 

 

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