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Etienne and Lydia: A Love Story, Part 4

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends!

For the first time ever I managed to get all of my preparations finished before Christmas Eve. In fact, I spent Saturday afternoon READING for the fun of it – not because I was researching something for a project I was working on, or in order to evaluate a submission, or to write a review for someone else’s work, or to evaluate the current book market – I just read for my own enjoyment. It was wonderful! What a needed break.

Then on Christmas Eve after the candlelight service, my parents, adult children and grandchildren came over to dinner, gift exchanges, dessert, and socializing around the fire pot in our backyard. My husband had strung hundreds of feet of warm LED lights that created such a beautiful ambiance.

What an amazing time we all had!

Slowly the family groups left as it came time to put little ones to bed, or the older members got tired and cold, until the fire died out and those of us remaining had to retire for the night. I don’t know what it is about a good fire that is so comforting, but there is a magic to it.

I imagine that for our pre-industrialized ancestors fire must have also been more than just a source of heat and cooked food. It must have also been a source of comfort and social engagement too, as people collected around it to tell stories and converse.

Christmas morning was quiet for my husband and I with all the children out of the house. But we relaxed and played games together. Then in the afternoon we went to my parents’ house to see the rest of the extended family. That was nice too! More food and socializing. All in all, a wonderful weekend.

As we wrap up 2023, I want to share the final part of Etienne Gayneau’s and Lydia Mestereau’s love story. If you missed the previous parts you can catch up by following these links: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

The image below is an unknown couple, by Bartholomeus van der Helst, 1661.

Etienne and Lydia: A Love Story, part 4

16 March 1653

Lydia sat by her window looking out over the darken street. Sleep had eluded her, and worry consumed her thoughts. She had tried to leave the house to meet Etienne several days ago, but her father had caught her. He had started locking her into her room at night and between meals to prevent further rendezvous.

She heard the doorknob rattle and turned toward it. A key slipped into the lock and the door opened. Emma slipped inside and closed the door behind her. “Are you still determined to marry Etienne, Sister?”

“Yes. More than ever!”

Emma nodded. “Everything is set.”

Lydia studied her sister’s face. “What does that mean?”

“Etienne has lined up a Calvinist minister to marry you. His brother will serve as his witness, and I will be yours. But we must hurry before Papa wakes up and sees that we are gone.”

Emma went to the armoire and started pulling out items and laying them on the bed.

“How did you get the key to my room?” Lydia asked.

Emma smiled at her. “My secret. Now hurry and get dressed. The sun will be up soon.”

Lydia took her wedding dress from Emma’s hands and quickly slipped into it. Her sister helped her with the lacing. Then Emma helped her with her hair, adding sprigs of yellow Forsythia blossoms to crown her braided bun. Then Emma wrapped Lydia’s dowry items into two large bundles, one for each of them to carry. They quickly exited the room. Emma relocked the door behind them, and they crept down the stairs and toward the back door. As they passed their father’s study, Emma slipped inside, returned the key to their father’s desk, and rejoined Lydia a moment later. They escaped the house, crossed the back garden, slipped out of the gate without alerting anyone, and hurried through the quiet streets.

Etienne was waiting for them outside the minister’s home. She ran to embrace him.

“Not in the street, my love. Quickly!” He ushered them inside and led them into a small sitting room where the minister waited and talked to Etienne’s brother, François.

Emma took the dowry bundle from Lydia and placed it with hers on a chair by the door. The she hurried forward to stand on the other side of the minister. Lydia took Etienne’s proffered arm, and he led her across the rough wooden floor to stand before the minister.

The minister began, “Etienne, do you desire Lydia as your wedded wife?”

“Yes.” He smiled at her.

“Lydia, do you desire Etienne as your wedded husband?”

She smiled back at her betrothed. “Yes.”

The minister continued. “Will you promise to be faithfully loving and caring for Lydia?”

“I will,” Etienne replied.

“Lydia, will you promise to obey Etienne, serving him and being submissive to him?”

Lydia paused a moment. “I will.”

Then the minister opened his Bible and read, “Matthew 19:6 tells us ‘What God has joined together, let no man not put asunder.’”

Etienne embraced Lydia and kissed her gently on the lips. They smiled at each other and then turned to face their siblings.

François embraced Etienne and kissed him on both cheeks.

Emma embraced Lydia and whispered, “I am so happy for you!”

Then Etienne shook hands with the minister. He took Lydia’s hand and led her from the house. François and Emma followed them carrying the dowry bundles. They walked down the street, turned on Rue de la Cloisters, and walked until they reached a narrow, two-story house covered in white and blue patterned tiles. On the side of the house was a small garden separated from the street with a low wrought iron fence and gate.

Etienne led Lydia up the steps to the blue door and fitted his key into the lock. It clicked and he pushed open the door. Before Lydia could step across the threshold, Etienne swept her off her feet and carried her inside. He kissed her hard on her lips and set her back on the floor. Then he led her up the stairs, as Emma and François entered behind them and followed them up them up the stairs.

Emma took Lydia’s hand, led her behind a dressing divider, and helped her remove her gown. One by one, Emma removed the flowers and pins holding Lydia’s hair up. Then she brushed Lydia’s hair out until it was soft and silky. She turned Lydia toward her and looked her up and down. Then Emma pinched Lydia’s cheeks hard so they flushed, stepped back, and smiled. Emma hugged her again, turned, and left the room with François.

Timidly, Lydia stepped out from behind the divider in naught but her thin shift and saw Etienne waiting for her. His trousers and shoes were gone, and his shirt tails hung midway down his thighs. He smiled at her. She slipped out of her shoes and walked tentatively toward him. He took her face in his warm hands and kissed her again. Then his hand moved slowly to the nape of her neck, he untied her shift, and let it slide off to the floor.

Lydia felt goose pimples burst out all over her body as she moved her trembling hands to undo the buttons of Etienne’s shirt.

She started in surprise as the sound of pans clashed together downstairs and she heard Emma and François shout and cheer. Etienne laughed and impatiently pulled his shirt off over his head. She laughed too and he led her to the bed.

What would their lives together be like? She smiled nervously as her husband’s warmth washed over her.

The End

This will be the last email for this year. I hope everyone has a fun-filled New Year’s Eve! I look forward to connecting with you all again in 2024.

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