(AN- So here is my third story, and the first one not set in Next-Generation, I hope you enjoy it, it is very close to my heart, and is what gave me the confidence to start writing original fics too)
Chapter One: But It Didn't Begin Like That...
Of Bells and Babies
It was found at the bottom of a trunk. The photograph. Long lost, and long forgotten, but the memories- they were still there. They could never have been forgotten, should she live to four hundred. All of the memories. Ninety two years of them, each one crystal clear, and often crystal sharp.
The photo was old and faded, very little of the original colour left. You couldn’t see the faint, delicate pink of the tumbling cherry blossoms, or the sundrenched cerulean of the sky, it was the first sunny day of that summer. You could not even see brilliant red of her glossy new lipstick, the single most fashionable thing she had ever bought. They were only twenty-two, impossibly happy and hopelessly in love. But it didn’t begin that way, and it most certainly didn’t end that way. The words impossible and hopeless had never been more apt.
It had started with a bell. It was a thunderously clanging, insistent bell that was clearly designed so as to attract the attention of the current nurse on watch, who at this present moment in time was a Miss Wiltshire. She strode out of the staff’s sitting room, down the corridor and to the bottom of the grey stone steps. There, situated about chest height on the large, flagged wall, was a small, square pair of wooden doors. It was over a century old, and looked even older. It was as if those fateful doors had somehow absorbed all the years worth of tears, poverty, despair and abandonment. The last, soul-torn looks of destitute mothers, closing the outer doors on their children, never to seen them again, and the agitated, constant watch of the children who lived within those cold stone walls, wondering why those doors had been shut on them, and by who.
She pulled them open, reaching forward into the hatch and cradling the large, tartan bundle. She extracted it slowly, and pushed back the tattered and badly darned blanket to reveal two tiny faces, presumably twins. They were newborn by the look of them, maybe three days old at the most. They were both sleeping silently, their lashless eyelids fluttering with butterfly dreams. Did they know what was happening to them? That they were now to be institutionalised for the rest of their lives? That they were to grow up in a ‘Home’ not a home, where things were always hygienic, always well-managed, but never cosy, never comfortable? It was a world ruled by logic, and sentiment rarely entered the equation.
She took them up to the medical room, holding them gently in her arms. She laid them on the sheep skin mat softly, supporting their heads tenderly. She unwrapped them from their threadbare blanket and washed them down with a large sponge and warm water. As she did so she checked them fastidiously for any signs of illness, injury, lack of food, or mistreatment. The doctor would check them again tomorrow, just to be sure, as well as weighing them and making a rough guess to their age. The children were regularly checked by the doctor, a monthly ritual which all looked forward to as it was always proceeded by a sweet, a bonbon or liquorice twits, rare objects at the Home.
She dressed them in identical napkins and gowns, hardy, if faded, navy blue calico ones which should last them a long time. They were put to rest in adjacent, identical cots, where they would be separated from the other children until it was definite they had nothing contagious. It was now to choose their names. She scanned through the lists of first names, hoping to find something appropriate. They were ill-fated to have the name of McGonagall, of a man who was widely acknowledged to have been the worst poet in British History, but she had no choice in that, as the surnames ran on a rota.
She flicked her eyes over the slightly plumper of the twins, then over the lists again. Rachel? No, not quite right. Rebecca? No, too biblical for this rather blonde and pink baby girl. Rhian? Rita? Ah, Rose. That was perfect, exactly fitting for the blonde downy hair and pink round cheeks. She carefully scribed the name onto a band of white muslin, blew it dry so that the ink wouldn’t bleed, and tied it carefully around the baby’s left ankle.
Now for the next one. She examined the child pensively, and as she did so, it awoke. Opening its eyes, still at their newborn shade of periwinkle blue, it fixed it gaze on her, as if daring her to look once more. There was something in that gaze, a steely strength, intelligence and determination that caught her. In all her thirty years of working at the Children of Magdalene Home, the spinsterly, stiff backed women she had never seen something quite like it,This was not an Emily, a Charlotte or a Mary. This child had some indefinable quality that defied such commonplace- if charming- names. She brought to mind the gods of old, Diana shooting any man that dared look upon her without permission, or Hera, who refused to admit any woman lying with her Zeus. Then it hit her, the name that sprang up out of the memories of the classics they sometimes taught the children; Minerva, the virgin goddess of wisdom. Although it may seem odd to associate a newborn, slightly scrawny baby with a proud and shrewd goddess, nothing could have been more suited- although she did hope that the child would not live forever in chastity as her noble namesake did.
As the two girls grew, their names grew along with them, seeming almost as if they had been created for that sole purpose. There was Rose, sweet natured, glowing eyed and ever coming up with new and exciting games for the other children in the Home. Their routines may have been strictly scheduled, running and shouting prohibited, and toys simply unaffordable, but Rose could make a stuffy broom cupboard into a mad king’s dungeon, and a worn, oak-panelled corridor into the bow of a pirate ship. Even the oldest children, were entranced by her enthralling, complex story-lines. The way she thrust her flaxen braids away from her face with the air of a true and indisputable Pirate King, and the malicious sneer of cold command had once so truly convinced Baby Jonathon of her wickedness that he bawled inconsolably for several minutes until she took him in her arms and produced- from some totally indefinable source- a gloriously sticky peppermint.
Minerva played along too, ever the second mate or the Princesses handmaiden- but she did not care a jot. She may have seemed the plainer of the two, as she was skinny, with hair that was more mouse than blonde and dark, smudged eyes, and perhaps likely to become jealous or bitter, but those two sisters loved each other more than anyone had ever seen before, even in twins. They shared a small, bare room, and more often than not they shared Minerva’s small, bare bed, as even that most famously brave and dashing orphan of the Magdalene Home, was sometimes, a little afraid of the dark.
But it wasn’t only the night-time demons that Minerva protected her sister from. Not once over the eleven years of their shared life at the orphanage had Rose been punished. Not for any of her many misdemeanours, small though they may have been. Take for example, the instance, over three years ago now, of Baby Jonathon and the peppermint. Passing along the corridor towards the lavatories, she passed Miss O’Connor demanding of the little boy where he had acquired one of her own personal peppermints, taken from her own personal desk drawer. Knowing that Baby Jonathon- who was, in fact, not a baby but a boy of four- would see no reason not to tell Miss that it was Rose who had bequeathed him such a satisfyingly sticky sweet, even through his now abundant tears, Minerva informed Miss that yes, it was her that had given him the sweet, and yes, she had snuck into the woman’s own personal bedroom (she seemed very fond of those two particular words.) And yes, it was her that had to bare her drawers to the woman’s rather bracing swing, and her own personal- and rather sturdy- cane. Needless to say, Rose was never to hear of the episode.
But for some reason, fate always seems to have a smug sense of irony, and takes great pleasure from tearing twin from twin.
(AN- Like it? Hate it? Think it could have been better? Please leave reviews no matter what, and try my other stories if you did like it :D )