Chapter Two Thousand Four Hundred Forty-Three
11th March 1976
In transit, near Grants, New Mexico
The windows of the van were rolled down and the was radio playing on a pleasant spring morning with John, a man who Sjostedt had last seen as a little boy some thirty years earlier. Compared to Flensburg it was dry and warm, which was a nice change. Sjostedt was under no illusions though about what this place would be like in a few months, this region was famous for the extremes of weather. Sweltering heat in the summer and bitter cold in the winter.
Looking at the back of Monique’s head, Sjostedt wondered if he ought to wake her up so that she could see the uplands of the Colorado Plateau. He didn’t though because she had endured traveling with him and his sisters without complaining as people her age tended to do. He had also seen how she had quietly read her book the night before. It was a small mercy that she spoke little English after what had been said to her the night before. Why did she need to have encountered the sort of small-minded bigotry that seemed to thrive in the United States within hours of arriving here? Despite Monique’s largely Gallic background, that man had only seen the bit of her that was Diné, probably based on who she was with.
“Let the girl sleep Piers” Nina said, she had taken time away from her own grandchildren to take this trip. So, she was probably an expert on that matter and could tell the direction of his thinking the way she had done since they were children. Still though…
“Moni should be seeing this” Sjostedt said gesturing towards what they were passing.
“She also gets terrible motion sickness” Nina replied, “As much as she tries to hide it from us, we don’t want to have to pull over out here.”
“She will have plenty of time to grow bored and just want to go home in a couple of weeks” Tilde said. Tilde had always been the most cynical of them, with Nina as the optimist and Elisabeth as the peacemaker. Besides all that, Sjostedt considered this home with everywhere else had just been places that he had lived. To Tilde, Flensburg was where her children and their families lived as well as where both of her late husbands were buried, so that was home. He realized that he had never spoken to Monique about where she considered her home was. He had the impression that she had never been particularly welcome in Fossoy and sincerely hoped that Flensburg had been better for her.
“I can think of a lot of reasons why Moni might want to return to Flensburg” Elisabeth said, “She has a few friends and is doing well in school. Not just because she is getting bored out here, I figure that will take longer than just a couple weeks for that.”
“She has also caught the eye of a few boys” Nina said, “I remember last year she certainly made an impression on Ilse’s boy, Niko. He looked so dashing in that Cavalry uniform.”
Sjostedt snorted at that, trying not to laugh aloud. He knew that his sister was referring to Prinz Nikolaus von Richthofen, the grandson of König Manfred von Richthofen of Silesia. Which was incredibly optimistic and considering that her late husband had been Walter Horst it was hardly a surprise. However, her oldest daughter Nizhoni was married to Stefan von Mischner, Ilse Tritten’s younger half-brother. Which made Nikolaus her nephew by marriage, so there was a good possibility that she might contrive reasons for Niko and Monique to be in the same vicinity in the months ahead. There was also the inevitable reaction of Manfred von Richthofen himself to his grandson consorting with a girl who was inarguably French with Monique’s background in petty thievery. That alone was almost enough to convince Sjostedt to stand clear. His sisters seemed amused by the prospect though, probably for different reasons. He also knew in his bones that Monique would probably resist her great aunts’ machinations without a whole lot of encouragement.
It was deeply aggravating for Marie Alexandra that in order to make her grandmother happy, she needed to pretend to be Catholic. That included giving up coffee for lent, something that Margot Blackwood had been extremely fast to suggest, putting her on the spot. With great reluctance Marie had agreed, knowing full well that as a student she needed the caffeine to keep moving as she rushed from class to class, studied late into the night and was up early the next morning.
Henriette had told her that she just ought to limit her intake of coffee to when she was away from her grandparents’ house. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. Her mother had told her many times that when in hostile territory you needed to play the role or else you would start to slip up in more ways than you could keep track of. Her dealings with her grandmother were the very definition of hostile and that was one of the few times that her mother had told her about what she did in the portion of her life that she had always shielded Marie from. Forty days wasn’t that long, so it wouldn’t cause her too many problems.
As it turned out, Marie could not have been more wrong. First there had been the headaches and feeling like she was sleepwalking between classes. Now, with Easter still weeks away she wondered if the whole stupid thing had been a mistake and not just the coffee.