A Different Blue Page 19

“Hi, Brandon,” she purred, her eyes glued to his face, her breathing shallow.

Gracie's skittish behavior suddenly made sense. She had known they were coming. What was she thinking? That we were all going to hang out? The way her eyes clung to Brandon made her feelings fairly obvious. But I knew for a fact Brandon wasn't interested in Gracie. Thank God. In fact, he'd been flirtatious and suggestive toward me on several occasions, and I wondered at what point Mason would see his brother as a possible threat.

“So, Blue,” Brandon suggested after a few minutes. “I was thinking you and I could take a drive or something. Cory and Matt will babysit if you want to take off.”

Manny huffed in indignation at the term babysitting, and Cory's eyebrows shot up like that wasn't what he had planned on at all.

“Brandon!” Matt warned.

“Brandon!” Graciela cried, as if Brandon had slapped her. Then she shot me a look of such venom that I fell back a few steps.

“Does Mason know you're here, Brandon?” I said flatly.

“Mason says you and he have an arrangement, not a relationship, so I doubt he'd care.” Brandon smiled at me like it was my lucky day. Gracie glowered at me like I had stolen her soulmate. Time to send everyone home.

“Really, Brandon?” I cooed. “I don't remember you being part of that arrangement, so I think I'll pass on that ride. And look at the time! Darn it, my aunt is gonna be home soon.” It was a lie, but Brandon wouldn't know that.

“You guys better head out.” I opened the door and looked at them, one eyebrow raised expectantly. Matt and Cory stood obediently, but Brandon looked a little peeved. He was slower to rise, and I thought for a minute I might have trouble on my hands.

“I'll walk you out, Brandon,” Graciela purred and rose to her feet beside him. Manny's brotherly instincts finally kicked in, and he stood abruptly and grabbed Graciela by the hand.

“Come on, Gracie. We need to go, too.” Gracie yanked her hand away, and Manny's eyes flashed. He spit something out in fiery Spanish and Gracie snarled back at him like a cornered cat, but she let him pull her from the apartment.

“I'll text you, okay, Brandon?” Gracie flung the words over her shoulder, and Brandon's friends snickered as Manny launched into another tirade that faded away with their footsteps. Brandon and his friends followed them out, and I breathed a small sigh of relief.

Brandon said something under his breath, and the snickers became snorts and sly suggestions. They jostled each other as they headed down the sidewalk leading away from my apartment.

“Hey, Brandon,” I called after them. “Stay away from Gracie, please.”

“Gracie isn't the one I'm interested in, Blue,” Brandon called back. “You let me know when you're ready to take that ride, all right?”

I shut the door in response.

“Joan of Arc was born in 1412 in a little village in eastern France. Her family was poor, and they lived in a region that had been ravaged by conflict. Three years after Joan's birth, England's King Henry the fifth invaded France and defeated the French at Agincourt, leaving the country very divided.” Wilson's hands were shoved into his pockets, his eyes serious as he gazed at his class.

“In surviving documents, Joan has been described as resembling a mere 'shepherd girl.' But to me she is one of the most fascinating people in history. At thirteen she began having visions of a religious or spiritual nature. She described them as admonitions to be good or pious, to go to church. Very simple, as far as visions go.” Wilson smiled, a quick flash of straight white teeth, a concession to the fact that visions weren't commonplace or simple at all. “It wasn't until she was closer to sixteen years old when the visions changed. She started getting specific instructions to 'go to France.' She obeyed.

“Joan of Arc was sixteen years when she petitioned Charles de Ponthieu, beliguered heir to the throne, and told him she had been sent by God to help him. Can you imagine a girl of our day going to the President of the United States and telling him she was sent by God to assist him? I submit that it wasn't any less dramatic for young Joan to petition a king. The fact that she was even granted entrance is remarkable. She was actually turned away twice before she was finally successful. But eventually Joan was able to convince Charles that she was sent by God by relaying a prayer that he had recently given asking God if he was the rightful heir to the throne and if he wasn't that he would suffer and not his people. She told him God had heard him, and he was indeed the rightful King.

“She sent a letter to the English, telling them that the King of Heaven and son of Mary, even Jesus Christ, supported the claim of Charles to the French throne and that they should go back to England. She was also given control over an army and allowed to lead them into battle. A seventeen-year-old peasant girl!” Wilson looked around the room at his audience, many of whom were seventeen years old themselves.

“Joan became an almost mythical leader among those who fought against English rule. People were in awe of her wisdom and knowledge and her spiritual maturity. She gave them something to believe in and something to fight for. Within a year, Joan of Arc had led the French army to victories at Orleans, Patay, and Troyes. Many other towns were also liberated from English control, making possible the coronation of King Charles VII in July of 1429. However, a year later Joan was captured and sold to the English.

“The English and members of the French clergy decided to put her on trial for witchcraft. Whenever they wanted to put an end to a woman in those days, they would just accuse her of being a witch. You'll see this accusation leveled at strong women throughout history. Initially, the trial was held in public, but Joan's responses in her own defense were much sharper and more astute than her prosecutors could have ever imagained. She actually garnered support and sympathy among those listening. Her accusers couldn't have that, and her trial was made private.

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