Chapter 1 : A String of Pearls
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Chapter One: “A String of Pearls”
Valerie Tudor had not seen the familiar walls of her childhood home in Prague in four years, since she was seventeen. Shifting her one year old daughter Fiona in her arms, Valerie knocked on the maroon door of the manor which seemed to fly open immediately. She stepped back in surprise, holding Fiona a little tighter, taking care to not drop the sleeping infant.
Standing in the doorway was Winona Tudor, Valerie’s mother. It looked as though Winona had just woken from her afternoon nap, her blonde-and-gray hair a mess from sleeping on the couch and the dark circles under her eyes showing her exhaustion. Winona was all smiles, however, as she stared happily at her daughter.
Winona stepped out carefully and gently held her daughter and granddaughter, making sure to not wake Fiona. She then stepped back, carefully lifting Fiona from her mother’s arms, and holding her against her own shoulder to continue her nap as she silently ushered Valerie into the house.
Her mother quickly disappeared upstairs to lay Fiona down for the rest of her nap, so Valerie wandered into the living room, still remembering well where it was and what it had looked like last. All of their belongings were still the same, only repositioned. The cream colored couch was in the middle of the room facing the fireplace while the white sofa stood back-to-back with the couch, facing the bookcase standing against the opposite wall. The family portrait of Valerie and her parents, Winona and Duncan, was placed over the fireplace, which seemed to be on a different wall, if Valerie recalled correctly.
The most important part of the room, though, was her father, Duncan Tudor. The man was sitting on the white sofa, the pipe in his mouth blowing bubbles as he read the newspaper. He didn’t yet seem aware of her presence and he grunted as he moved around, searching for a comfortable position before settling and blowing his salt-and-pepper hair out of his gray eyes.
Valerie grinned and giggled at her father who didn’t appear to have changed as much as the room. His hair was a bit grayer, the lines on his face a bit deeper, but it was still the same exact Duncan Tudor.
“Hi, Daddy,” Valerie said, deciding it was time that Duncan discovered that his daughter was there.
Duncan grunted again, peering up over the paper. He grinned broadly when he realized who is was and instantly folded up his paper and tossed it aside onto the floor, patting the space on the sofa beside him. Valerie happily obliged, placing herself beside her father, leaning her head on his shoulder as he hugged her with one arm.
“How’s my baby girl doing?” Duncan asked, pressing a kiss to the top of Valerie’s blonde curls.
“I’m fine, Daddy,” Valerie said, sitting up straight when Duncan moved his arm away. She pushed two strands of her hair behind her ears, getting them out of her bright blue eyes so that she could turn to look at her father. “Mum’s putting Fiona upstairs. She’s sleeping.”
“Aw…I wanted to see the little thing,” Duncan said. “You’ll be here for the night, though, so I’ll see her when she wakes up.”
“Yeah, if you want to deal with a grumpy baby,” Valerie said, laughing. Duncan hadn’t had to deal with babies in twenty years, so she doubted Fiona would make a great first impression on her grandfather. It was the first time Valerie had been to Prague since she turned seventeen and only Winona had come to see Valerie and Fiona in Manchester since Duncan’s frequent illnesses prevented him from doing much traveling.
“I can handle grumpy babies,” Duncan assured her. “That’s why Silencing Charms were invented, you know.”
“Dad!” Valerie teasingly reprimanded. “You know you can’t cast spells on children unless they are medically related until they’re three.”
“Didn’t stop me from doing that to you when you’re mum wasn’t around,” Duncan muttered, grinning as he blew more bubbles out of his pipe. “You turned out okay.”
“Okay? I turned out great!” Valerie corrected, laughing.
“Valerie, dear!” Winona exclaimed as she entered the living room, Fiona-free. She walked in, arms extended, causing Valerie to rise to her feet to hug her mother properly as Winona had been hoping to do since before Valerie and Fiona arrived. “Ooh, I’ve missed you so much!”
“I missed you guys, too,” Valerie assured her. In fact, Valerie had not known she would miss her parents so much. Every teenager all through school had waited anxiously for their freedom, to become adults and leave their parents. Valerie, however, had always been very close to her parents and had missed them terribly, especially when she was going through her pregnancy alone.
“Okay. Let’s see the ring, dear.”
Of course, Valerie hadn’t had to take care of Fiona by herself for long. At the hospital where she gave birth to Fiona, Valerie met a handsome healer by the name of Kumar Melville. He cared for not only Valerie, but Fiona as well. It was easy to fall in love with Kumar, and the man often said the same thing about her. He had proposed only three months after they began dating, but Valerie didn’t view it as moving too quickly. They loved each other very much, so there was no need in waiting a long time to marry.
So Valerie placed her left hand in her mother’s for inspection. Nudging her wand in her pocket, Winona grabbed her glasses out of midair and placed them on, studying the ring carefully. The band was gold and the diamond was gorgeous and glittering.
“It’s perfect,” breathed Winona, smiling happily. “Just like my perfect daughter.”
Valerie laughed and shook her head at her mother. It seemed that Winona was always bragging about her daughter, claiming that she was so perfect and had the perfect life to prove it. Valerie knew she was far from perfect, but appreciated her mother’s ongoing affection. She was right about one thing, though, and that was that Valerie had had a perfect life thus far.
“You’re ridiculous, Mum, but thank you,” Valerie said. She took her hand back and gazed down at it, letting out a deep breath. “Wow.”
“What is it, dear?” asked Winona as she linked arms with Valerie, leading her back to the couch to sit between both of her parents.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to become Mrs. Melville,” Valerie said. “Valerie Melville. Healer Melville’s wife. Welcome, I would like to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Melville. Kumar and Valerie Melville.”
Valerie had gone over them all in her head countless times when Kumar proposed to her. In her mind it even sounded perfect. She wasn’t sure it was allowed for one person to have such a great life, but she wasn’t about to start complaining. It seemed that every time someone boasted about how calm and wonderful their lives were, something always seemed to go wrong.
“It sounds wonderful, darling,” Winona said, gazing at her daughter with such pride and happiness that Valerie felt very glad. “I love you very much.”
“I love you, too, Mum,” said Valerie. “Thank you…For being so great.”
For a moment, Winona glanced away. Her hand rose to her face for a moment before dropping and she turned her eyes back to her daughter
“You deserve only the greatest, my darling,” Winona said, kissing her daughter on the cheek. “Now, your grandmother and Aunt Dagmar are out in the gardens setting up for the wedding. I think I’ll go see if I can be of some help.”
Winona quickly left the room, and if Valerie had seen correctly her hands had been shaking violently. Valerie raised an eyebrow and turned to question her father about it, but he had already turned to speak to her.
“Now that she’s gone, I have something very important to give you,” Duncan said. His body was tense, as if he was afraid Winona would walk back in at any given moment and his eyes held an odd, sad sort of expression that was hard to place. “Promise not to tell?”
Valerie nodded slowly. She knew there weren’t many things Duncan and Winona kept from each other. In fact, Valerie was sure that Duncan and Winona hid nothing from each other, and for Duncan to ask such a thing of her told Valerie that whatever it was was of great importance.
Nodding, Duncan turned and opened the drawer of the table beside the sofa. Out of it he pulled a long and thin rose pink box. Valerie took it and opened the box, gasping when she saw what was inside. There laid a string of pearls…A necklace that would go perfectly with her wedding gown. She fingered the pearls, mesmerized by them and their familiarity. She couldn’t place it, but she had seen them before. Maybe they were a family heirloom from the Tudor family or her mother’s family.
Valerie wasn’t entirely sure why keeping the pearls a secret was important, as they didn’t appear to hold much importance, but she vowed to herself not to break the promise she’d made to Duncan.
Not the most interesting chapter but a half way decent introduction I guess.