Outlander Novella [01] The Space Between

Outlander Novella [01] The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon Read Free Book Online

Book: Outlander Novella [01] The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Diana Gabaldon
Tags: Romance, Historical, Fantasy
got through the Visitation before she began to feel steady again. This wasn’t quite how she’d expected her first day in Paris to be. Still, she’d have something to write home to Mam about, that was for sure. If they let her write letters in the convent.
    The maid came in with two enormous cans of steaming water and upended these into the bath with a tremendous splash. Another came in on her heels, similarly equipped, and between them they had Joan up, stripped, and stepping into the tub before she’d so much as said the first word of the Lord’s Prayer for the third decade.
    They said French things to her, which she didn’t understand, and held out peculiar-looking instruments to her in invitation. She recognized the small pot of soap and pointed at it, and one of them at once poured water on her head and began to wash her hair!
    She had for months been bidding farewell to her hair whenever she combed it, quite resigned to its loss, for whether she must sacrifice it immediately, as a postulant, or later, as a novice, plainly it must go. The shock of knowing fingers rubbing her scalp, the sheer sensual delight of warm water coursing through her hair, the soft wet weight of it lying in ropes down over her breasts—was this God’s way of asking if she’d truly thought it through? Did she knowwhat she was giving up?
    Well, she did, then. And she
thought about it. On the other hand … she couldn’t make them stop, really; it wouldn’t be mannerly. The warmth of the water was making the wine she’d drunk course faster through her blood, and she felt as though she were being kneaded like toffee, stretched and pulled, all glossy and falling into languid loops. She closed her eyes and gave up trying to remember how many Hail Marys she had yet to go in the third decade.
    It wasn’t until the maids had hauled her, pink and steaming, out of the bath and wrapped her in a most remarkable huge fuzzy kind of towel that she emerged abruptly from her sensual trance. The cold air coalesced in her stomach, reminding her that all this luxury was indeed a lure of the devil—for lost in gluttony and sinful bathing, she’d forgot entirely about the young man on the ship, the poor despairing sinner who had thrown himself into the sea.
    The maids had gone for the moment. She dropped at once to her knees on the stone floor and threw off the coddling towels, exposing her bare skin to the full chill of the air in penance.
    “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa,”
she breathed, knocking a fist against her bosom in a paroxysm of sorrow and regret. The sight of the drowned young man was in her mind, soft brown hair fanned across his cheek, eyes half closed, seeing nothing—and what terrible thing was it that he’d seen, or thought of, before he jumped, that he’d screamed so?
    She thought briefly of Michael, the look on his face when he spoke of his poor wife—perhaps the young brown-haired man had lost someone dear and couldn’t face his life alone?
    She should have spoken to him. That was the undeniable, terrible truth. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know what to say. She should have trusted God to give her words, as he had when she’d spoken to Michael.
    “Forgive me, Father!” she said urgently, out loud. “Please—forgive me, give me strength!”
    She’d betrayed that poor young man. And herself.
God, who’d given her the terrible gift of sight for a reason. And the voices …
    “Why did ye not tell me?” she cried. “Have ye nothing to say for yourselves?” Here she’d thought the voices those of angels, and they weren’t—just drifting bits of bog mist, getting into her head, pointless, useless … useless as she was, oh, Lord Jesus …
    She didn’t know how long she knelt there, naked, half drunk, and in tears. She heard the muffled squeaks of dismay from the French maids, who poked their heads in and just as quickly withdrew them, but paid no attention. She didn’t know if it was right

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