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The Waking Breaths of Spring - 1st chapter

by Cyndi Ali 

Posted: 30 May 2013
Word Count: 4057
Summary: Dual heritage orphan Victoria Ravenshaw was one of few able to penetrate her adoptive father’s steeled emotions and love him, despite the fact he’d been rumoured to have an insular attitude toward blacks. She meets Aramis, but their relationship is complicated by his past. He eventually faces his past, challenges his sexuality and learns how to forgive. Victoria is confused about her origins and identity when she discovers the truth about her colonial bloodline

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The Waking Breaths of Spring


“What is wrong with the truth” Victoria demanded.
“A truth will always be told my dear - and hidden truths hurt!” her Uncle Edward told her when she questioned why he and her father had fallen out “We have differing opinions Victoria”
“Yes, and because of your silly argument, you both missed my performance tonight” she said and stormed up the stairs to her bedroom; she slammed the door behind her, threw herself down on her bed and burst into tears – all she’d wanted was for her father to see her dance.
A week later, Victoria’s father told her he was dying of cancer – he never saw her dance professionally and passed away fourteen months later – Uncle Edward didn’t attend his funeral.

Victoria Ravenshaw was a graceful dancer with a unique style that was both eloquent and pristine - as was her babied character. She’d been indulged by her adoring father and wanted nothing more in life than what he wanted, for her to become a beautiful princess. She grew up in performing arts - she was a stage child - well balanced, courteous and understanding. She was educated, well spoken and naive beyond understanding – she had a history she knew absolutely nothing about, a past her adoring father failed to tell her about – a painful truth he himself had procured and one that had cost him his family. Through her privileged upbringing, Victoria had cultivated good manners, poise and confidence, and was honoured to be one of the last students to graduate from the Italia Conti Stage School in London before the new owners changed its’ name in 1984 - she buried her mother that year too. Her father fell ill soon after his wife passed away, and though filled with the dread of losing the one person she adored with an immeasurable passion, Victoria turned her back on her career and nursed her elderly father until he closed his eyes in January 1986.
Basil M. Ravenshaw MP was once a venerated man, however, his political career ended in 1969 amid damaging rumours he’d endorsed practices demonstrating an insular attitude toward blacks dating back over two decades when he served as a magistrate in the juvenile courts. It was a claim Victoria refused to believe. She knew him to be a charitable man with an unimpeachable reputation for helping migrant West Indians settle in Britain after WWII, had he not been so caring, who knows what would have happened to her after her parents abandoned her. The elderly Englishman had a cup filled with love and adoration for Victoria – she was his life. The truth was, none other than his daughter, was able to penetrate his steeled emotions and love him. So when he passed away she was left alone in the world, for the second time. That was when she asked herself what she wanted out of life; her birth parents had given her up for adoption, her adoptive parents had passed away and she was an only child. Victoria had no real reason to stay in Cambridgeshire among adoptive relatives with blinkered attitudes towards her heritage and jealous eyes on what was left of her inheritance after they contested her fathers’ Will, so she accepted an offer from an exclusive dance academy in Shaftsbury Avenue and began her new life in London as a single woman of the eighties.
She exercised and practised her routines daily; a streamlined physique was her passion and her profession – choreography came as natural as breathing. Victoria’s inspiration – the subliminal depth of her infatuation with the highly esteemed, Aramis DeVignê - she met him soon after settling in London in the spring of 1987.
Aramis had a preternatural aura about him, something transcendental that drew her instantly to him. She was fascinated by him in very much the same way she idolised her father; there was a thing so otherworldly about Aramis that Victoria couldn’t put into words, but fused the emotion into her choreography of both classical and modern dance. He was free spirited, eccentric, extraordinarily matchless in every way - a man to which know one in her life could compare, and had she not seen it herself, Aramis would never have been able to convince Victoria he could dance with the elegance of a gazelle, but he could, and gave breathtaking re-enactments of the raw, naked emotion he felt for her, with only the moral restrictions of a public stage keeping his unruly carnal desires at bay. He had a muscular physique, a most powerful stature - yet his natural bearing was poised, sophisticated, debonair, and very much in contrast to the superior image of a man who’d once brawled in a cage for money. The retired Cage fighter was one of the first people Victoria met when she relocated to the capital to work at the academy where she taught children to waltz, tango and foxtrot - until the summer of 1989 that is, when she resigned to run her own public entertainment business. By which time, Aramis was her lover, her business partner and her lead dancer. Wherever Aramis’s natural talents came from, he was Victoria’s favourite pupil– and she loved him even more because he’d made her dream of composing and performing erotic dance come true.
But Victoria’s mystical lover was like the phantom of the opera - a sensational performance she loved eternally, no matter how passionately deep and sinister his undertone – he was like her father, in that no matter how close they were, she always had the feeling that deep down inside there was something hidden, and she really didn’t know him at all. Aramis and Victoria loved in dance, and theirs was truly an unequivocally unique union.

However, in the summer of 1990, for the first time since she’d known him Victoria was unable to draw on her feelings of deep eroticism for her tireless lover and arrange it into their next performance, which was the coming Friday. Concentration was an increasingly difficult task that morning. She was in pain – she had a gash inside her right cheek, it was throbbing and made her whole face ache; she was hot and uncomfortable - the temperature was at ninety degrees in the shade, there was no breeze coming in the window and it was noisy outside! Torturously noisy, and the lack of cool air only made her feel worse. Then in a fit of frustration, Victoria screamed at her reflection in the mirror for getting the moves all wrong and threw a wild tantrum around her bedroom in which she ripped her leotard and tights off, screwed them up and flung them to one side. Then she grappled up the duvet, threw it into a crumpled heap on the carpet and flung herself down on the bed in tears.

The midday sun was at its peak in the cloudless sky and she could hardly breathe in the stifling heat - the overhead fan made the sultry air in the bedroom oppressive and she couldn’t even close the window to drown out the resonant boom of industry. It was a crude din intruding on her privacy - thunderous clashes of steel and iron, grinding engines of tug boats and barges chugging along the choppy river - blowing horns, loading and offloading - fused - with a relentless clamour of protest from the breakers yards. A riotous bacchanal - intermingled with the naked cries of seagulls and the deafening roar of ascending aircraft taking off from City Airport. How could anyone think with all that going on, let alone dream up a dance performance that would outshine the one from the month before.
It was all a deeply disturbing reverberation; a senseless racket; and the only sounds Victoria missed from the bustling anthem of the River Thames in Greenwich on that sweltering September morning, were the joyous hymns of innocence – the children – but the Thames Barrier playground had been abandoned - the picnic area was deserted too, because the children had returned to school for their autumn term. Victoria was fretful, the blistering heat was cooking her alive - her day couldn’t have been more depressing, and the joyful melody of happiness was all she really wanted to hear to remind her misery, wasn’t the only emotion she should feel - her upset was clearly showing in her reflected performance and was the last thing she wanted to show on stage at Cyn City, her and Aramis’s exclusive nightclub in Shoreditch.
“Oh for crying out loud” she yelled toward the open window “Someone turn that flipping...”
She was interrupted by what she thought was a thud on the glass front door; she sprung up from the bed and peered out the window and was right, there were two police officers standing on her door step – and for a moment she was tickled. One tall and slim, the other short and so round, from above it looked like someone had placed a policeman’s helmet on a whale in uniform.
“We do have a bell” Victoria moaned.
Both officers removed their helmets and looked up at her – tall and slim was also very young and fresh faced, he smiled nervously up at her - she smiled back. But short and round looked far too old to be anything but a wrinkly old man in fancy dress and she couldn’t help sniggering at how comical he looked.
“Are you okay madam?” short and round asked politely.
“Yes thank you” she said and glanced around the small cul-de-sac. Their car was parked across her drive and conveniently, most of the neighbours were busying themselves throwing rubbish out or doing some other chore in their front gardens.
“Can you come down to the front door please?” he asked.
“Why?” Victoria said, then she realised how grumpy she sounded when her neighbour - who just happened to clipping the hedge separating their front gardens looked up and frowned, so she added “I’m sorry, late nights and early mornings. Give me a minute”
She pulled on her dressing gown, loosened her braids so that they covered the sides of her face and nipped down the stairs. She checked the conservatory first and Aramis was still there, still silent, and for a moment she just stared at him, then she turned to walk away and caught sight of the only picture on the dining room wall. It was of her father, she smiled with admiration at the portrait of the distinguished English gentleman. The painting was done on the morning of summer solstice 1953 on the porch of Beauvallet Hall, a nineteenth century country manor, the affluent Cambridgeshire domicile was her fathers’ ancestral home and where Victoria had grown up. He was attired immaculately in full morning dress, his entire ensemble set atop the blank canvas of a plain white shirt, his tie, a fine silver and red stripe, a dove grey double breasted waistcoat, matched with cashmere striped trousers and a charcoal grey cutaway morning coat. He was eminent, even in his youth and was never without Victoria’s admiration; she blew him a kiss and went to open the front door.

“How can I help you?” Victoria asked and did her best to smile at the police officers, though the effort really was painful and all she really wanted to do was close the door again and shut out the rest of the world.
“Good morning Miss - I’m Inspector Grayson, this is PC Wogan. Do you have a minute?”
“Depends” Victoria said suspiciously. The problem wasn’t so much the police as it was her frame of mind, she simply didn’t want to talk to anyone face to face.
“Can I ask your name?” PC Wogan said and readied his pen and note pad for her answer.
“Victoria Ravenshaw”
“Thank you Miss Ravenshaw” the young constable said and scrawled her name and door number down “Do you live alone?”
“No I live with my partner”
“And his name” he asked politely.
“Aramis DeVignê”
Grayson rudely interrupted his colleague by putting his palm up to silence him, and Victoria couldn’t help noticing the ugly scar on his hand where the piece of flesh between his thumb and forefinger had been gouged out, as though it had been mangled in some kind of machinery. It was crude and reminded her of an injury her father had on his hand - it made her shudder. As Grayson’s curious eyes searched beyond Victoria’s shoulder into the house, she wondered if he even realised he was edging closer to her.
“Yes, and he’s sleeping” she said and took a furtive step back.
“You look a bit sore” Grayson said and pointed his gouged forefinger at Victoria’s right cheek which was still swollen from the day before “What happened there?” he asked and frowned.
Victoria’s heart leapt, she thought her braids had concealed the injury; instantly her hand flew up to cover her cheek “Birthday party, fruit fight and water fight” she said all at once “I lost, they were all bigger than me” she added and chuckled – and though it was true, she was the smallest among the group of people she’d celebrated Aramis’s birthday with at the weekend, she also knew the gash inside her mouth happened the day after the garden party and was nothing to do with drunken behaviour.
“Sounds as though you had a wonderful time” Grayson said, but she wasn’t sure if his tone was meant to be sarcastic or if she’d just heard it that way “The weather was good the weekend, had a few beers myself” he added.
“Actually” Victoria said recalling her garden party and all that transpired afterward “It was exhaustive. Anyway, how can I help you?” she said and looked at Wogan.
“There was a serious” Wogan began “Excuse me a moment, just turn this off” he said and fiddled with the dial on his radio. He seemed nervous, his face was flushed and his fidgety eyes didn’t know where to settle; or maybe he was just young and inexperienced she thought; however, he fumbled with the dial until he silenced the crackling voices; he cleared his throat, smiled nervously at Victoria again and said “That’s better, I can hear myself now – okay right, there was an incident in this area at the weekend Miss Ravenshaw, we’re speaking to local residents simply to advise on ways to protect yourself and your home”
Even as PC Wogan spoke, from the corner of her eye, Victoria couldn’t help noticing Grayson was busy flicking through his notepad as though he was looking for something specific; and he kept glancing past her and wasn’t hiding his efforts to see inside her house. She turned to see what he was looking at and that was when she saw Aramis standing in the shadows behind her.
“Hey baby” Victoria said nervously. She wasn’t sure what frame of mind he was in and hoped it was a good one for everyone’s sake.
“Hello again Mr Aramis DeVignê” Grayson said in that familiar sarcasm “Read any clouds lately?” he asked and offered Aramis his crooked hand.
Victoria was confused and looked questioningly into Aramis’s eyes as he approached her; she could tell he wasn’t fully recovered though, there was no gaiety in his stride and instantly her nerves were set on edge – it was a rare thing for an outsider to see him when he wasn’t well, such was the secluded life they lived.
“Much better these days thank you” Aramis said and he wasn’t being at all sarcastic when he added “Sorry Mr Herb Grayson, Sir, you did ask how I was didn’t you”

Aramis was wholly shaken by the presence of Herb Grayson on his doorstep, after their altercation the day before, it was the last thing he expected and all at once he was feeling afraid and alone and was just thankful he had Victoria at his side. He ignored Grayson’s offer of a handshake and looked down at the gouged hand with disgust, then he took the hair band from Victoria’s wrist and used it to tie her braids back into a pony tail; he slipped his arm around her waist and gently kissed her forehead. Aramis was obsessed with her braids being pulled back because it showed off her plump baby girl cheeks and reminded him of his mum; Victoria however, didn’t feel it was the appropriate moment for sentiment and gave him a cold stare - he’d made her swollen cheek look even more obvious. Aramis however, was sending the only message he could at that moment to Grayson.
“So Mr Grayson” Aramis began curiously “Did you find out what happened?”
“Beautiful artwork” Grayson smirked.
“Pardon” Aramis demanded and took a challenging step closer to him.
“The angel, the detail is so precise - you have gifted hands Mr DeVignê, very gifted hands”
In some respects, Aramis thought Grayson was referring to the life size angel statue at the foot of the stairs behind them; Aramis really was a gifted craftsman, talented beyond his own realisation and had a proud display of his work all over their home, but he knew it was a silent reference to history. Though the recollection had been with him since the day before, Aramis had neither the courage nor the will to think about it, but it reviled him and that was prevalent in his attitude toward the ageing policeman.
“Thank you Mr Grayson, Sir” Aramis said and pulled the door too behind him.
“You’re welcome, Mr DeVignê” Grayson grunted and returned Aramis’s barren stare with the same iced hostility Aramis was giving him.
Clearly there was disdain between them, enough to discomfort PC Wogan who was fidgeting nervously; his lips were twitching, but he wasn’t sure if he should ask Victoria another question or stay in the background. He slipped his pen and notebook in his pocket, drew in a deep breath and readied himself for a fight. Though tall, he was of slender build and no competition for a man of Aramis’s stature - he’d almost lost the battle to prevent the two men coming to blows the day before when Grayson had proved Aramis without justifiable cause. He had not the physical strength to do it again, but knew he’d have to try if it came to it. That morning when he turned up for his shift, Grayson forced him to show him where Aramis lived; they’d knocked on his door under pretence – though there had been a serious incident the previous weekend, they certain hadn’t knocked on any of the neighbours doors and didn’t intend to either. Wogan glanced at Victoria and realised she too was discomforted by the silent disdain between the two men.
Victoria wasn’t sure if it was her suspicious mind though, or if Grayson really did deliberately look down at Aramis’s hand then at her swollen cheek and back to Aramis’s hand again, but she didn’t like it anyway – he was wrong, so wrong. She didn’t like the disgust she saw in Grayson’s eyes when he looked at Aramis either, and wondered how they knew each other and why Aramis kept calling him sir. He was much older than Aramis, he didn’t look like a fighter, he was too soft and round - and she’d never seen him at the club so it was unlikely they were old acquaintances, yet Grayson’s eyes were familiar to Aramis and it unnerved her to think what she could see in his wrinkly old face was despise.
“You of all people must have a good alarm system Mr DeVignê” Grayson said “I’m sure it would take some effort to get in here without being noticed”
He turned his eyes studiously around the door frame; too studiously for someone advising on security Victoria thought.
“We do” Aramis said “Top of the range CCTV and a damn good security team when we need them. But around here, people leave us alone!” he emphasised “There’s no kids around here Sir - they’re all old age pensioners – retired!”
There it was again, Sir; though he was well mannered and always polite when he had to be, in all the years she’d known him, Aramis never cowered to anyone’s authority, not even in humour and there he was in front of her eyes calling a policeman Sir! The rest of his response confused Victoria all the more, their alarm system was basic and as for CCTV and a security team, they simply didn’t exist! Though the couple held an esteemed position on London’s elite social platform and were often in the public eye, they certainly weren’t celebrities and had no requirement for the levels of security Aramis was implying.
“Victoria” Grayson said – the sarcasm was gone and had she even liked him, Victoria would have sworn there was genuine concern in his voice when he continued “Should you ever find yourself alone in the house at night, please remember to lock all doors and windows”
“I’m very rarely home alone at night” Victoria assured him “We spend most of our time together, but what’s this all about” she said glancing from Aramis to the policemen.
“There was a murder at the weekend baby” Aramis said “A woman was found dead in a flat a few streets away”
“Oh, oh my gosh” Victoria said “Oh”
“We’re asking everyone in the area to be alert and to ensure their own safety” Grayson said “But Mr DeVignê and I discussed security yesterday, so thank you for your time Miss Ravenshaw, and if you’re ever worried or concerned about your safety, please give us a call”
Even though he said us, Victoria really couldn’t help feeling the few extra moments Grayson held her gaze meant call him! Her suspicions were aroused and Aramis really did have some questions to answer – as far as she knew, the only place Aramis went the day before was to feed the ducks on the Thames and sulk.
“Thank you” Victoria said and closed the front door; she hadn’t the slightest concern as to whether they’re visit was over, for her it was.

“What happened, how do you know him, what was that about reading clouds and why did you keep calling him Sir?” Victoria demanded from Aramis all at once.
Aramis turned away and Victoria followed him through to the conservatory; she stood in the doorway and watched him cover whatever he’d been doing on his workbench; he pulled a chair, sat down and looked at her for the longest time.
“To be honest baby” he began in a shallow voice “I don’t know what happened. I was sitting down by the Thames yesterday after our argument and I remember that same young policeman talking to me and then we went up to the barrier control room and replayed the recording and there I was, like a statue for hours. It’s quite funny actually because two little boys searched my pockets and stole all my money, that’s why the security guard called the police – little sods” he said and made a deep sigh “But other than that Torii, I really don’t know what happened – to be honest, I thought I was only there for a few minutes, an hour at the most. I was quite disoriented, so the policeman walked me home and when we passed the house that was taped off, Grayson came out and flipped out on me, he wanted to fight me. That’s about as much as I know”
“Fight you, why?”
“History baby, history” Aramis said carefully and gazed off into space “I was a bit of a wild child as my brothers kindly informed you at the weekend, and he was a shit teacher, we had a fight in the woodwork room and his hand got crushed in a broken clamp. They had to cut him out, hence the scar on his hand. Then he became a policeman and arrested me, bastard. But that’s a long time ago baby, I’m not that kid anymore and he should have retired by now anyway, he’s an old man – by rights he should be dead”

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