Marion got the manicure Kristoph said she should have, and with an easier heart than before she went with Aineytta and Lily to the Fashion House to choose not one, but two outfits now. Because it was unthinkable, they told her, to wear the same outfit to two social functions in the same week. She protested that one was only a family dinner and that it was a waste of money, but her resolve crumbled as she talked with the designer about what would suit her, and suit the occasions she was dressing for.

“I’ll NEVER get used to this,” she said when they were eating lunch at the Conservatory and looking over the sketches of her proposed new outfits.

“Yes, you will,” Aineytta assured her. “I did. My goodness, the first time I went to the Fashion House as a client I was terrified. I was wearing one of Kristoph’s sister’s dresses and I am sure the designer KNEW that. But by the end of the day they had designed me an entire wardrobe.

“Besides,” Lily said. “You DO need two different dresses. A dinner and a reception are different events entirely.” Marion was still dubious. Lily smiled. “Think of it this way, then. The designer and seamstresses and the young girl who picks up the threads and sweeps the floor will all get paid more for making you TWO dresses than just one. THEY thank you for indulging yourself. And so will Kristoph. Yes, I know he loves you for your mind, not your body. But he is a MAN. He will appreciate you in the finest gowns in southern Gallifrey.”

After that, she could hardly dispute them. She began to enjoy herself a little more. On the evening of the family dinner she was happy to allow the maids to help her do her hair and make up and dress her in the dinner dress and when she descended the stairs into the hallway she felt like Cinderella turning heads at the Prince’s Ball.

Kristoph was the only one to see her descend. The rest of the family were in the drawing room. But he was waiting at the foot of the stairs, resplendent in a robe of black and silver. As she reached the bottom of the stairs he reached out his arm to her formally.

“That dress is beautiful,” he said. “And quite original, too. Nobody else on Gallifrey would have thought of that style. Though you can be sure they will all want one now.”

For the dinner dress, she had gone away from the formal gowns of Gallifrey, with rich fabrics heavy with embroidery. Instead she had chosen a simple black satin with silver trimmings that by coincidence matched Kristoph’s outfit exactly. Li Tuo would call it a cheongsam dress. It was in the style she had seen worn by Li’s princesses and concubines and lovers in the portraits and drawings he kept in a secret place in his house. He had shown them to her many times, speaking in bittersweet tones of all of the women who had made his millennia long exile a little less lonely from time to time. The dress had a high neckline and round collar with short sleeves that covered the top of her arms. It was a slim fit, accentuating her figure and the skirt was straight and tight, slit to the thigh to allow her to walk freely, unlike Li’s ladies who would have had to take very small steps.

Kristoph kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand before he brought her through to the drawing room. The sight of so many people almost made her courage fail, but Kristoph brought her to where his father sat with Aineytta. The elderly Lord de Lœngbærrow looked a little weary around the eyes, but when Kristoph presented her to him he spoke clearly and vigorously.

“I am delighted to meet you, my dear,” he said. “I have been told so much about you. I am sorry this is the first time we have been able to talk.”

“I am glad to meet you, sir,” Marion answered.

“Sir?” His Lordship smiled graciously. “You are not one of my employees. You are the woman my son loves and has chosen to be his wife. I understand that you have no parents of your own, and I would be honoured if you would call me father.”

That just about did it for Marion’s nerves. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But she didn’t have time to do either as she was introduced to the rest of her ‘family’. Remonte, Kristoph’s brother she already knew. But this was the first time she had met his wife. A few years ago, being introduced to such an immaculately dressed and elegantly poised woman as Idell de Lœngbærrow would have made her feel thoroughly inadequate. Her outfit was maternity style. When Marion asked the obvious question ‘when is the baby due” she was initially surprised that the answer was ‘another eight months’ before she remembered that a Gallifreyan pregnancy was nearly twice as long as a Human one. She wondered how tiring it must be to carry such a burden for so long, but she had almost no time to think about it before she was introduced to more relatives.

“This is my eldest sister,” Kristoph told her. “Oriana, my dear, this is Marion, my future wife.”

Oriana, who was, like her sister in law, immaculately dressed and made up, was perfectly polite to Marion, but stiff and formal. She couldn’t be sure from that first meeting if she liked her or not. But the next introduction was more reassuring.

“My aunt Thedera,” Kristoph said, and Marion found herself smiling in response to the perfectly natural smile of this lady. She sat next to Aineytta and immediately drew Marion into conversation. Marion mentioned the school she had visited and discovered that Thedera was a patron of it, visiting often and giving prizes to the children for excellence in their work.

“They are always so well-behaved and polite to me,” she said. “I think it is lovely that you were able to just sit and read with them and have them talk to you. You must be a natural teacher, Marion.”

“It’s what I have always wanted to do, teach,” she said. “But if I have to be Lady de Lœngbærrow I don’t suppose I will.”

“You can do anything you want to do,” Thedera told her. “You’ve got the brains for it. Look at Oriana there, and Idell. They know how to produce heirs for their husbands and hold fashionable luncheons. You’ll always be smarter than them. And…” Thedera bent closer and whispered. “You have better taste in dresses.”

Marion laughed softly. She wasn’t sure that was true, but it was nice to feel that somebody was on her side. She didn’t really think Oriana and Idell WERE.

The last dinner guests arrived as Marion talked with Thedera. All the men stood politely to greet Lady Lilliana D’Argenlunna D’Alba and Kristoph and his father both went to take the hands of the lady who arrived with her.

Marion tried not to stare, but she had been quite taken aback by the sight of Renita de Lœngbærrow. When Kristoph spoke of her as belonging to a closed ‘Sisterhood’ she imagined somebody quite plain in black or grey and sensible shoes. But Renita looked like a fairy creature. She was covered from head to foot in pastel coloured layers of sheer silk that made her seem to float as she walked. Marion looked down and saw that her small, delicate looking feet were in silver-coloured sandals and then up to her veiled face. Only her eyes were showing at first, until Kristoph reached and lifted the veil and kissed her affectionately on the cheek.

“My favourite sister,” he told her with a wide smile. “I am so glad you could come tonight.”

Marion was completely at a loss to know how to talk to Renita. She seemed so serene and remote from all the fashionable people around here. She clearly adored Kristoph, though, and in THAT she and Marion had something in common. Kristoph seemed to treat her far differently than anyone else in his family. He held her hand gently and though they didn’t say anything out loud, Marion thought they were having a very long conversation telepathically. When Renita’s face crinkled into laughter she was sure of it. Kristoph laughed, too. And then caught Marion’s eye and smiled at her.

“I am sorry to neglect you,” he said. “But I do see Renita so rarely. And when I do… Reading her mind is like walking in the quiet cloister of a monastery. She revives my spirit just by her own goodness.”

“You, also, my brother.” She answered. “I can see such a change in you. You ARE very much in love. I never thought you would EVER allow yourself the chance. I’m glad. Now you go and look after our mother and I shall get to know Marion.”

She smiled so sweetly as she took her hand and brought her to a window seat where they sat and watched the fountain in the garden uplit at night by coloured lanterns.

“It’s all right,” she said. “You ARE allowed to talk to me. I am not in the cloister now.”

“Kristoph is very fond of you,” she managed to say. “His eyes lit up when he saw you come in.”

“He was always that way. When I was a child he was always so attentive to me. Whenever he came home from the Academy he would have a little gift for me. He called me his favourite girl. He was so proud when I chose the contemplative life. He said I was the best of us all.” She laughed softly. “I think my brother always believed I was too precious to be merely a Time Lord’s wife. He wanted more for me. I don’t think I would have made a good wife, anyway. My mind is too far away. I am too used to contemplation. Being mistress of a house, ordering servants, holding luncheons and dinners would be so very mundane.”

“I’m not sure I could do that, either,” Marion said. “But not for the same reasons as you. But… I’m trying to imagine Kristoph as a student, as a young man. What was he like?”

“He was delightful,” Renita answered. “A handsome charmer. You know that he and Lady Lily were in love, of course? But if they were not I believe the womanhood of Gallifrey would have fallen at his feet. And he laughed all the time. He read poetry and sang. He WROTE poetry, and he thought beautiful thoughts. I thought he, too, would have chosen contemplation after he transcended. But the war came. And he felt it his duty to defend our world. And it needed defending. It was a dark time. We all lived in fear of invasion and defeat and wondered what would become of our lives if that should happen. Oh, the Cloister was a place of solace for my grief for a long time. Then he was returned to us, and there was a new grief. Because he was so changed. He wasn’t the same man. He didn’t sing any more. His very thoughts were different. Even when he was recovered, body and soul, he had lost something. His thoughts were not beautiful any more. For a little while he took himself to the brotherhood on the mountain. He tried to find inner peace, but it eluded him. He was changed too much. He had only one burning passion. Patriotism. He gave himself to the service of our world in any way it called him, even if it cost his soul.”

“I wish I had known him before he was wounded so grievously,” Marion said.

“But you do,” Renita assured her. “The light is back in his hearts, in his mind. The darkness is there, too. But he has the light within him. I can see it, even now.”

Renita turned and looked at her brother as he talked with his aunt and his mother. He was smiling, and the smile was in his eyes as well as his mouth.

“Look,” Renita said. And she put her slender hand on Marion’s forehead. It felt cool against her, and she felt as she did when Kristoph entered her mind. That feeling of quicksilver running through her brain. Renita’s eyes were closed, yet Marion had the feeling she didn’t need them open to see with. And that she could see much more and much further than anyone.

Then her own mind’s eye blotted out her ordinary vision and she found herself looking at a slow kaleidoscope of colour and patterns and felt a wonderful peace and serenity and utter happiness envelop her. She felt as if she was hearing the most exquisite poetry, the most beautiful music, and the sweetest sounds of nature, waterfalls and birdsong, gentle waves on a seashore. If she let herself concentrate, she knew she was still hearing the ordinary noises of a room full of people, but when she relaxed her mind it was filled with this serenity.

And she knew where it came from. She recognised a resonance in it. It was the same source as the beautiful lovemaking of the mind she had experienced. It was Kristoph whose mind was filled with that serenity.

“That’s how he used to be,” Renita told her when she gently withdrew and the reality around them crowded back. “He is whole again. And I think we have you to thank for it. You mended him.”

“I didn’t think I did anything,” Marion answered. “I was the one who was hopeless until he found me. I didn’t think he needed me so much.”

“Oh, he did,” Renita told her. “You gave each other what was missing from your souls. You are BOTH complete now.”

Renita smiled radiantly and Marion felt herself smiling, too. They were both looking at the object of their affections, Kristoph. He, in his turn, looked at them and as he smiled back at them Marion didn’t need any intervention from Renita to feel what was in his mind.

The butler announced to them that dinner was served and Kristoph took Marion’s arm and his sister’s, too, as they all stepped through to the beautiful dining room with a great table elegantly laid with silver and china and flower arrangements. Renita and Thedera sat either side of Marion, with Kristoph opposite her. Lily and his mother were beside him. His father, of course, was at the head of the table.

There was a sort of brief moment before they began to eat, that was, Marion supposed, a little like saying Grace on Earth. It wasn’t a prayer as such, just an invocation of goodwill among those gathered together. And then the waiters served the meal.

As they ate their first course, Remonte raised his glass and proposed a toast to Lord de Lœngbærrow and his continued health, and everyone was happy to do so. Kristoph followed it with one welcoming Marion to their family.

It was a pleasant meal. Marion enjoyed it. She appreciated the attempts by most of the family to draw her into their conversations, even though they knew she was new to the planet and not able to comment on aspects of their political life or society. Remonte was the one who brought up the fact that she had made a study of Gallifreyan literature and she was able to talk about that confidently.

“I have been trying to understand your history, too,” Marion said. “It’s very interesting but I do get a bit confused by the system of dates. I keep trying to convert the Gallifreyan years mentally to Earth ones and I don’t think it is possible. But it does seem as if Gallifrey was already very technically advanced before humans were even learning to write.”

“That IS true,” Lord de Lœngbærrow told her. “But it is complicated by the fact that Gallifrey exists in a different time frame to your world. Time passes more slowly here than in the rest of the galaxy.”

Marion was puzzled.

“But… then that means that when Kristoph is away, he is away less time here than he is in his own personal time? I mean… Oh dear, I’m not making much sense am I?”

“No, you’re making perfect sense,” his Lordship assured her. Because of all his travels offworld my eldest son is actually older than his mother in our years.”

Marion still didn’t get it. But nobody thought she was stupid for not grasping the concept. Thedera told her it was something they got used to in their family, because Kristoph had spent so much time away from them, between his former work and his diplomatic work.

“He’s still my boy,” Aineytta said, proudly. “I only hope he does come home a bit more often in future. Perhaps to stay finally?”

“Mama,” Kristoph chided her. “You know that I am happy living on Earth with Marion. We will visit. But you must understand…”

“And YOU must understand, Brother,” Remonte said in a tone that was more serious than any before in what had been a pleasant conversation. “YOU are the heir. It is time you lived up to your responsibilities. I cannot carry them for you forever.”

There were some sharp looks between Kristoph and his brother, and between both men and their father. The women of the family, too, exchanged glances. Nobody explained to Marion what Remonte had meant. Thedera broke the tension by commenting to Lily about a play they had both seen in the Capitol and the light air of the dinner conversation was resumed.

But later, when the guests had departed and Kristoph managed to get Marion alone in the drawing room with a glass of sherry to round off the evening she asked him about that outburst from Remonte.

“My brother has been carrying much of the responsibility for the estate, and for family matters since my father’s illness. By rights, it should have been MY role. He doesn’t resent the duty. I think Idell does. I think she regrets marrying a second son and not having the chance to be ‘Lady’ de Lœngbærrow. But Remonte is a good man. If he seemed sharp when he spoke, it is only because he HAS been worried about our father of late.”

“They ALL want you to return to live here permanently, don’t they?” Marion said to him. “Your mother and Thedera and Renita just miss you like mad and want to shower you in affection. But the others want you here for other reasons.”

“I want to be with you,” Kristoph assured her. “And you want to live on Earth. You want me to be Kristoph de Leon, literary teacher.”


“I told you before, your happiness comes first. My family is important to me, but you are going to be my wife, the mother of my children. And you come first. I will do nothing that you are not happy with. I promise you, that. And THIS time I WILL keep that promise.”

“I know you will,” she told him.

But did she have the right to hold him to that promise, she wondered. And how long would he be content to be a teacher of English literature in Liverpool when he had so much calling him home to Gallifrey?