Saturday, November 27, 2010
Excerpt from Castenata: Renata Writes Her Early History With Antonie
April 5, 1883
In the afternoon, when I got back to the convent after shaving Antonie's face, Teresa and I escaped to the shade of the grape arbor where I let her read Antonie’s tale, "Roseblade." It made me ill to see what he had written.
When Teresa finished, those normally cheerful blue eyes of hers -- the color of a summer sky -- were muddied and solemn.
“Oh my poor Renata.” She took my hand. “He…your cousin will destroy you for sure.”
“Yes, I fear that he will. But what am I to do?”
She gazed out to the golden hillside, still holding onto my hand. And slowly she shook her head.
“I don’t know that there is anything that can possibly help. But one thing you must absolutely do.” The sky color sailed back into her eyes.
“Record everything that happens. Write it all down. Leave out nothing, not a single detail.”
I nodded. “God knows, I am writing in the diary every blessed day.”
“Yes, yes. You must continue.” Teresa stood. “And one other thing you could do. Remember I told you to write the story of how things were when the two of you were growing up?”
“Yes. I remember. And I have considered it. But how is writing such a history going to help?”
“You will see for yourself, and show others too, how the past, your past with Antonie, has shaped things. You will see how things have come to be the way they are.”
I considered her. Usually such a jolly soul, Teresa was wholly serious today.
“Yes, I suppose it can’t hurt,” I said.
“And now Renata, I’ve got to head back. Mother Yolla instructed me at lunch to attend to the henhouse today and I dare not show my face at supper without having done it, or I will pay dearly.”
“Oh yes, of course, and I’ll come, I’ll help,” I said, standing. But she stopped me.
“NO.” She held up one hand in commandment. “You my dear sister, you are going to sit down and write.”
“But it might wait, I could…”
“NO.” Another hand up. “Go fetch the diary now. Go straight to a clean page. And begin. Write about your cousin and you. In the old days, when you first came. Maybe buried in your words you will see, if there were clues, already, back then.”
So I do. I take my diary and a blanket up the golden hillside and decide which live oak I will sit under. And then I close my eyes and try to remember everything. Soon I am writing down all my early memories of my cousin.
This excerpt is taken from Castenata, an on-line novel that is part of the Albany Times Union's Writing In Motion project. The project features seven writers committed to completing writing projects by the end of the year. Castenata is a time-travel murder mystery featuring a nun, Sister Renata, who in 1883 was falsely accused of murdering her cousin Antonie. Renata's version of the story is contained within her diaries on the Castenata site. A companion book, called Sister Mysteries, tells the story of how Castenata came to be, and the mysterious phenomena tied up with the nun story.