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The Children of St. Ives
Jeannine Van Eperen
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Jean-Marie spoke softly. "We were man and wife once, Sister, and we were so very happy until I died giving birth. Poor Philippe was so foolish. He walked into the sea to join me, leaving our child an orphan.”

Sister Hillaire shivered and crossed herself quickly. What had come over the child? Jean-Marie had suddenly looked so adult and spoke of marriage, childbirth, and suicide, things that were beyond her comprehension. What would a child of eight, living always at St. Yves Orphan Home know of things like that?

Jeffrey was in the music room strumming the guitar the sisters had given him on his eleventh birthday two years ago. It was an inexpensive instrument, but he held it lovingly as he concentrated on the song he played. Jean-Marie silently watched him until he completed his song, then she applauded. "Jef, that was lovely!”

"Do you like it? I’ve been practicing and practicing, and I think I’ve finally got it right.” His hand reached up and touched her face. "What’s wrong, Jean-Marie? You are crying.”

"They are tears of joy and of sorrow, Jeffrey. I am leaving St. Yves Home.”

He gasped as if he’d been kicked in the stomach. His heart beat fast in apprehension. "You’ve been adopted?” A few children were adopted from time to time, but usually the younger ones. Josette had left the home only last month. He shook his head denying her words. "People don’t adopt thirteen-year-old girls.”

She placed her hands over his. "Not adopted, Jef. I’ve been offered a scholarship to the Paris Opera Ballet’s Academy. It is like an apprenticeship. Both Gaby and I have been accepted. Isn’t it wonderful? Aren’t you happy for me?”

Through pale lips, he asked, "When are you to leave?” Certainly not before summer. She would not leave in the middle of a school year. He fought to control his alarm.

"Soon. Madame Ponetska and Monsieur Bonnet are discussing it with Sister Marie at this moment. Irena Ponetska used to be a famous ballerina. She is lame now, injured in an air raid during the war, Pierre Bonnet told me. He is the ballet’s director.” So engrossed with her news and happiness, Jean-Marie did not at first notice how distressed Jeffrey was, but prattled on about her coming adventure.

"This is the most wonderful thing that could happen to me, Jeffrey. Just think, I am going to Paris and I will be in the ballet. In a few years, I’ll be a ballerina, earning money--”

"You are so happy to leave me?”

"Oh, Jef, I don’t want to leave you, but I must. Don’t you see?”

"No, I can’t see.” His voice was bitter.

With sympathy, she said, "That is why I must do this, Jeffrey. The sooner I leave, the sooner we can be together.”

"We can be together if you stay here. You want to leave me,” he said angrily.

"Oh, no, no. My heart breaks at the thought of leaving you, but I must. It is my dream. I will be a ballerina. I will earn much money, and then, we can marry. We will have a school of the ballet. I will teach and you will play the piano. It is the perfect solution for us, truly it is.”

"I don’t want you to go. I’ll never see you again.” Jeffrey felt panic. "You’ll forget me. You’ll forget Maurice and the sisters.”

"I won’t forget you.”

"You will. You will never return to St. Yves.”

"I will. I promise. Besides, Madame Ponetska says I must spend each August here. Whenever the academy isn’t in session, I must return to St. Yves Home. Jeffrey, just think how wonderful it will be. Be happy for me, please.”

"No, I am not happy for you. I don’t want you to go, Jean-Marie.” He stood up and walked away from her. She put her arms around his waist but he pushed her away.

"Don’t be angry with me, Jef. Even Sister Marie and Sister Hillaire said it is for the best. I didn’t expect them to approve, but they did, and I’m happy even though you are not.” No longer able to control herself, Jean-Marie began to cry. She had been so happy with her good news, she didn’t consider Jeffrey’s feelings of abandonment.

"Don’t cry, Jean-Marie.” Jeffrey sighed. He felt he was dying inside. "Do what you must, but don’t expect me to be happy for you. I can’t.” Tears flooded his sightless eyes. "Now, go.” He didn’t want her to see him cry. He was too old for tears. "I thought we’d always be together. I don’t want things to change.” Jeffrey shrugged and tried to stifle a sigh of regret. "Goodbye.”

FAR-Award-winning author, Jeannine Van Eperen, currently lives in Wisconsin, the state of her birth, but she lived for many years in New Mexico and sets many of her novels in New Mexico and Albuquerque, the place she calls home. You Can Bank on It is a fictionalized version of her early years working in the Albuquerque National Bank and also the Bank of New Mexico. She is a people-watcher and "what-ifs” often become the basis for stories. Some incidents happened but most are made up, just as the characters are.

Jeannine attended schools in Chicago and Albuquerque, attended the University of New Mexico, College of St. Joseph on the Rio Grande and Western States University College of Law in Anaheim, California.

Besides the banking industry, Jeannine worked in the insurance industry as an office manager, in the travel industry as a motel manager, and was the director of publicity at the University of Albuquerque. She and husband Lou love travel and have been to all fifty of the United States and Puerto Rico, most Canadian Provinces and thirty countries. She is particularly fond of New Zealand and England. She is a private pilot, enjoys reading, euchre, downhill skiing and needlework.

Fiction Books :: General Books

ISBN: 1597058599
ISBN(13-digit): 9781597058597
Copyright: 2008
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
Binding: Perfect
No. of Pages: 330
Paper Weight (lb): 13.8

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