Tatyana's Tale

Dooka ta Nasher - Pain and Loss

The sun shone cheerfully from an idyllic expanse of powder-blue, warming playful breezes and seeming to cast its encompassing light to grace even the dimmest, murkiest alleyways with golden beams. It was a lovely spring day which boded nothing more than the warm, fertile summer to come, certainly not a day to be feared or regarded with any sort of uneasiness. If anything, my home of Paris that morn seemed less threatening and dreary than ever before, awash in Apollo's glow and basking under the unusual happenstance of beautiful weather.

Since it was also one of the busiest, most profitable market days of the week, my father and I headed towards the market at the Place de Notre Dame with our fragile wares, me with a rounded vessel under each arm and my father carefully towing a small cart filled with jugs and earthenware flagons, pots and exquisite little bowls. The cart rattled slightly over the cobblestone, the birds twittered their praise of morning from doorway nests and cunning perches atop houses, and the scents of rising bread and various breakfasts floated faintly on the cool air. I tried to match my strides to the long gait of my father, squinting up to see his profile outlined by golden sun.

"I think we'll get a lot of money for this batch, Papa," I told him, and he smiled slightly.

"You think so?" he asked in his gentle, deep voice, his stride slowing a bit.

I nodded. "Yes. Especially the painted jugs you made. Monsieur Lambert the wineseller will take at least two."

"Ah, I had forgotten about old fat Lambert. You're right, Tatyana." My father chuckled and breathed in a great breath. "Then perhaps we'll be able to buy you a new dress, after all."

"No, no, Father!" I hastily argued. "I don't need anything." I looked down at my simple, tan dress and the cracked leather toes of my boots as they darted in and out from under my skirt. "I'm fine, really."

"And you think I'm not?" he questioned with a hint of amusement, and I once again raised my eyes to his care-worn, kind face, taking n the wisps of grey at his temples where there once had been light brown, his tattered old olive-colored cotehardie belted with a frayed rope, and the thinness of his yet-strong body.

"You're wonderful, Papa." I said quietly. "But you worry too much about me. I am a woman and should be able to bear life's blows. Let me worry about your needs, for once."

My father's expression was far-away and reminiscent as he looked down on me, and another small chuckle escaped his lips.

"You may not have known your mother, Tatyana, but you are more like her every day."


"Really." He was silent for a moment, thinking. "Though I don't recall her being quite so stubborn..."

"Ha! You should talk!" I returned gleefully, nudging him in the arm, and our laughter mingled together as we took the final steps into the Place de Notre Dame. As we briskly turned the corner, the glorious cathedral appeared breathtakingly before our eyes, towering over the Place like a great benevolent stone and glass giant with arms upstretched to the heavens, the shining, multicolored Rose Window the watchful gaze of God himself. As long as I live here, I never grow weary of the sight of Notre Dame- every time I look on its massive form, it instills in me wonder and hope, and it causes me to think beyond my simple, lowly existence.

On that particular blithe morning, the windows reflected the bright sky with sparkles of colorful light as the horison-dominating monument to God watched over the insect-like, bustling masses of Parisians at market. My father's usual stall lay on the west side of Notre Dame's great facade, and we headed in that direction, nodding at the friendly smiles we recieved and raising hands in greeting, listening to the loud conversations and bargaining calls all around us. The lilting music of a Gypsy flute reached my ears and I looked about to see a young, lithe Romany girl spinning slowly, almost dreamily, by Notre Dame's steps, a tambourine held above her head with one slender hand and a long emerald ribbon fluttering from the other.

Twirling with steps surely silken and sheer,

Tambourine laughter, flute lofty and clear.

My lips slowly and silently formed the words as my mind took in the scene and converted it to simple verse, the effort almost unnoticed habit. I watched the willowy girl float along the small cobblestone clearing as if her feet never contacted the ground, her deep green streamer curling in the air like some beautifully sinuous serpent.

"She's very good," came my father's rich voice from behind me, causing me to startle from my reverie and realize that I had completely stopped walking and now stood stock-still, eyes dryly agape at the Romany spectacle.

"Oui," was all I managed to say at the moment, and my gaze caught the metallic flash of a few coins as my father tossed his offering onto the dancer's outlaid cloak. I turned my face to him, and he shrugged slightly, his mouth curved in a mild smile.

"If we're going to earn so much today, we might show a bit of kindness," he reasoned, and I couldn't help but grin widely at his gesture. I knew that he certainly did not bear any particular love for the Gypsies, at least not compared to mine, but he was a generous and sympathetic man nonetheless, and this latest show of goodwill pleased but didn't surprise me.

"Etienne!" bellowed a hearty voice into my thoughts, a voice which boomed across the Place with the boldness and arrogance only a rich man's voice could possess. I looked around my father to see a rotund, well-dressed man approaching with waddling steps, fairly pushing people out of his way, one chubby hand in the air. "Etienne! Wait there!"

My father turned his head and let out a small groan, donning the wan, humble smile which he reserved only for annoying prospective customers. I smirked a bit at his reaction but then tried to keep my face blank as the wide wineseller reached us and tried to catch his breath. I wondered briefly why, as fat as he was, he didn't get his servants to go to market for him. Probably doesn't trust them to be as chea- er, frugal as possible. I mused, struggling mightily against my smirk. He might have to pay them extra, too.

"Ah, Monsieur Lambert! Good to see you!" my father cried with remarkable sincerity, though I saw his smile twitch slightly. "And how are you today?"

"I want those two there." Lambert wheezed brusquely, ignoring the pleasantries as if my father had never spoken. He pointed at me with a fleshy finger, indicating my double burden. I glanced at my father and nodded.

"I can take care of this, Papa." I assured him. "You go before someone appropriates your space."

"Alright." he agreed with full trust, bending swiftly to kiss my forehead. "Hurry over."

With that, he was gone, striding across the busy square, and I turned my attention to my wealthy customer. I noticed for the first time that Lambert had his pretty, blond-haired servant girl in tow, an acquantaince of mine named Elle. I gave her a quick smile and drew in a breath.

"That will be one livre for each, Monsieur," I politely stated, and Lambert let out a great huff, like a tightly-girthed horse.

"Oh, no, that won't do, Anna."

I frowned. "Tatyana."

"Yes, well, your price is too high." He reached into his money pouch and rooted around, dramatically feigning its near emptiness, as if I could not hear its melodic clinking as he prodded it. "I only buy from you because you're the cheapest, you and your father. I don't have to buy from you. You're not the only potter in Paris, you know."

"We're not?" I asked in a mystified voice, and Elle giggled, though her master seemed not to notice or perhaps comprehend my sarcasm.

"No. And not the best, either."

This comment set my heart beating hard and fast with anger, and I felt a warm flush creeping onto my cheeks. I was no potter, to be sure, but to insult my father's wonderful work so was truly ignorant.

"But I do want those, Anna, and I'll give you a livre for them. Together," he said, the look of smug satisfaction on his round face enough to make me contemplate a very unladylike string of curses. He knew we needed money, any money, and he was so sure I would buckle, would give up my father's beautiful artistry for a price half their worth. I wanted to storm off, to mock his greed, to throw his money scornfully to the ground...

"Agreed." I muttered, unable to keep my eyes from narrowing slightly. The exchange was made, Elle bore my former burden and Monsieur parted with his precious money, sighing a painful farewell. I raised a hand in parting to Elle and watched the two walk away, musing to myself and idly massaging my newly-gotten coin in my other hand. At least I sold something, and every little bit helps, I suppose. Perhaps he'll see fit to bonus Elle's pay with the bit of money he saved on the jugs. My mouth twisted, and I didn't restrain it. Or perhaps Madam LeBeaux's pigs will sprout purple wings.

I turned and walked after my father as fast as I could, since I knew that he would most certainly need my help with the abundance of wares he carried that day. His stall came into view and I noticed a small crowd gathered tightly around the area. Ah, he is selling quite a bit... My thoughts trailed off brokenly as I grew closer and saw the horrified, piteous expressions of the townspeople, some bending over something on the cobblestones and talking in hushed tones. My heart thumped painfully in my chest; something was very wrong.

My steps quickened and I pushed my way through the gathered throng, my mind aswirl with apprehension and uncertainty. As I reached the stall and looked upon the object of their interest, it was all I could do to keep from fainting dead away. Every inch of my body trembled sickly and seemed to sweat ice, my heart fairly threw itself against my ribcage, and my eyes spilled over into hot tears.

"No," I mumbled, hoping I was caught within some sadistic dream, feeling as if my brain would explode in agony.

There, sprawled out on his back like some broken, discarded ragdoll, my father lay, a great blotch of bright crimson staining the chest of his tunic and still spreading as if to engulf him completely. One glance at him told me he was already dead, but I dropped down beside him anyway, cradling his head in my lap, stupidly trying to wake him. His table was overturned and the shards of his fine pottery were scattered everywhere, cutting into my legs as I knelt.

"His daughter..." whispered the voices around me, but I could hear nothing other than the rush of blood in my ears, could see nothing but my father's pale, blank face. He was so strong, he was my mainstay, protective and constant. Nothing could hurt my Papa, nothing at all. He kissed away tears and worked without tire, he lifted me on his shoulders when I couldn't see, he gave me food and water and clothes. And yet here he lay, prone and lifeless, just gone...

"Don't do this, Papa, please. I still need you. You can't go yet, please don't go." I sobbed, stroking his hair, his icy cheek. "What will I do? I love you, Papa, I need you."

I suddenly became aware of the crowd murmuring all around me, the many pairs of eyes observing me, watching as I wept. Rage began to burn at my soul, a fire that melted my sadness into grief-filled fury.

"What happened? Who did this?!" I cried to everyone in general, my wide eyes searching their faces, one after another. My gaze settled on a plump woman standing stone-still to the right of me, dressed in a pink skirt, a white blouse, and a frilled mob cap. My fevered brain dimly recognized her as the breadseller who wandered the market and often sold by father's stall, and her familiar, emotionless face held my attention as I begged her for some clue. "What happened? Did you see?"

She seemed a point of calm, steady amidst chaos and grief. Her gaze was level as she spoke, her voice unwavering but soft. "A Gypsy girl was running from the guards and hid herself under your father's table. The guards told him to stand aside, but he didn't... he tried to reason with them, even offered to pay for the fruit they said she'd stolen. The guards argued with him, he refused to move, and... one of the guards slashed him through the heart. He died that instant, he didn't suffer. Then the girl bolted, and the guards ran off after her."

I breathed in a shuddering breath, my eyes locked onto her blank visage, nearly sorry I had asked. Another woman with little, watery eyes and a stupidly gaping mouth moved up behind the bakerwoman, gawking openly at me and my motionless father with a disgusted expression that did nothing to improve her looks.

"Oh, it was horrible, grisly." she chattered loudly. "The guard called him a filthy peasant cur and stabbed his sword right into his chest like carving a turkey, blood spurting everywhere. It was-"

"Shut your mouth, Flatfish, you unfeeling old hag," the breadseller snapped quickly, not even favoring the other woman with a glance. "That's his daughter. Do you really have to flap your gums every chance you get?"

The gossip's startled, indignant expression was yet another unpleasant variation on an overall ugly face.

"Look here, Baguette, you self-righteous tart, she asked what happened. I'm only helping."

"You're helping yourself look stupid, and you didn't need much aid to begin with." the breadseller countered, her eyes narrowing and her hands reflexively balling into fists at her sides. "Noone's impressed with your dramatics."

Flatfish was in the process of responding when the heavy sound of iron-shod hooves on cobblestone echoed closely, and the members of the small crowd looked around and started to move away. My head was bowed as I watched my tears spatter on my father's cold, white cheek, on the lids of those eyes which would never open to look on me again, when suddenly, a shadow seemed to be cast over my vision, like a dark cloud had passed over the sun. I raised my weeping eyes and saw a huge, snorting, black horse standing there in front of the stall, and atop its wide back sat the black-clad, imposing form of Paris' Minister of Justice. His body was not framed by the sun but instead blocked it completely from my view as if his mere presence absorbed the light and dimmed the day. I could see his thin, grey-pale face under his wide, sable official's hat, the expression there one of detached imperiousness, reminding me of cold Death himself. He sat as if carved of onyx, the only motion about him the fluttering of his hat's scarlet scarf in the morning breeze.

Upon seeing him, I shakily rose to my feet, unable to tear my eyes from his terrible, majestic presence, my chest tight with iron bands of trepidation, anger, and loss. Despite my lingering fear, I felt strangely, dangerously bold, frenzied beyond reason and acting as I never normally would.

"Your guards did this." I told the Minister with more accusation in my tone than I had meant to convey, pointing back at my father's body with a trembling arm. "They killed him."

"I've heard." responded his surprisingly deep voice, his tone icily cultured and unconcerned. He spoke louder as he addressed the remaining members of the crowd. "Let it be seen to all that noone is safe from the evil influence of the Gypsies. This man was killed by one of the devils as she tried to escape the law-"

"He was not!" I shouted with fury, and the Judge seemed startled by my outburst. "It wasn't a Gypsy that killed him! It was your guards!"

He glared down his substantial nose at me, a look of derision adorning his harsh features. "That Gypsy brought the wrath of the law upon him. I cannot be responsible for the life of anyone who associates with wanted Gypsies."

"He only wanted to keep your guards from murdering her! Aren't you the Minister of Justice? Aren't you supposed to uphold truth?" I screamed, no longer caring what came out of my mouth. "Is murder your justice?"

Frollo's eyes were intent on my ranting figure, an air of repressed fury burning deep within them. I truly didn't care. I dared him to kill me where I stood - I nearly wanted him to, so that everyone could see him for the murderer he was.

"Since you are grieving, child, and cannot mean what you say, I shall graciously disregard your comments. I recommend you learn to control your emotions."

"I do mean what I say." I growled at him, glaring with as much hate and rage as I have ever felt.

He laughed without humor, mocking me. "Traitors die horrible, shameful deaths, a pity for a little girl such as you. But if you ever say such things again, I will have your life." He glanced over to where my father lay, a casual, icy glance. "It seems as if you have as much respect for the law as your late father."

With that last insult, he shook his reins and began to ride off across the Place. I stared after him, gritting my teeth, my tears flowing freely once again and my rage boiling inside of me. I wanted to yell at him, to scream out my pain, and when I opened my mouth, the words were somehow all in Romany.

"Soverhol toot, vasavo Chivlo-gaujo!! Maurer! Beng te lel toot!" I cried in between sobs, so loud that my voice began to give out. "Curse you, evil Judge! Murderer! Devil take you!"

He didn't respond, didn't even turn. My energy was spent, my throat hoarse, and I felt as if I would collapse to the ground. The tears wouldn't stop as I turned back to face the bakerwoman, one of the few persons who had not left. I saw for the first time a flicker of pity on her stoic face, and I could take no more. I fell onto her and held her tightly, my body wracked with renewed weeping, clinging to this near stranger with whitened fingers. She stepped back away from me with her arms at her sides, but after a few long moments, I felt her arms slowly reach around my body and hold me. I buried my face in her shoulder, smelling the comforting fragrance of warm bread and cinnamon, unable to tell her how grateful I was for her presence.

I buried my father on a rainy, dreary Sunday, in a crowded cemetary, his grave marked only by a wooden cross. The priest chanted his Latin eulogies and moved away, but I still stood there, staring at the mound of earth, wanting to just lie down upon it and never ever leave. I had written a verse for my father, a fitting farewell to the one who had given me the gift of words, and I placed the scroll on the earth before I left. I knew the rain would blear the words and melt the paper, but it didn't seem to matter. Papa would see it.

Here, too soon, lies Etienne

Father, Husband, potter, friend.

His fatal flaw? What had he done?

He looked for mercy where there was none.

Raised a child, dirt-poor and alone,

Met all of my needs, not a thought to his own.

How can a mainstay be stolen so fast?

How can something so steady not last?

Although we were poor, we always pulled through-

But I'm alone now, Papa, what do I do?

I have to be brave now, I need to be strong,

I thought you were constant; I see I was wrong.

I mourn you, I miss you, I cry countless tears,

I feel so very helpless despite all my years,

You didn't mean to leave me, I know of your plight,

You always had honor, you did what was right.

So here I stand, Father, solitary, afraid

Trying to keep living the life that you made.

There is one last tie that your death cannot sever.

Papa, I love you, now and forever.

© 1997 Rachael M. Haring