Anne sifted through the books on her bed. Surprisingly, they weren’t playbills or scripts for the theatre. Instead, they were history books. Anne had nothing against history, of course, but she tended to veer more toward her own interest, like literature, music, science, the like. After fully moving into The Castle with the rest of the queens, she figured it was time to really take a look.
Which led to what she’d been up to for the past week. She wanted to know about her family. Not the other queens. They were definitely her family, but she didn’t really need to know about them. No, she wanted... she wanted to know about her dear Elizabeth. The local library had been cleaned out of every book on Queen Elizabeth I in Anne’s search for information.
A small pang shot through Anne’s chest as she looked at the covers of the books. The problem with being reincarnated in the US was that she didn’t get to learn about her little girl. Most history courses completely brushed over her during the Renaissance. Seeing the portraits of Elizabeth on these books, Anne felt her eyes burn and she wiped them irritably.
She looked beautiful. Regal, poised, dignified, every ounce the queen she was. Anne stroked the bright red curls, remembering how they felt whenever she would soothe Elizabeth to sleep. Even on the page, Anne could see that sparkle in Lizzie’s eyes, the intelligence, the playfulness. From what little Anne knew, her baby girl was a supporter of music and theatre. Considering Anne loved to sing and dance, and Kit had an intense love of music, Anne had little doubt she and her cousin had some of an impact on her little girl.
Sinking to her knees beside the bed, Anne’s chest shuddered. Gods, how much had she missed? How much didn’t she know? How much did she get deprived of seeing? Her baby girl had been a princess, a queen, had made an impact on the world. And Anne had missed all of it.
Anne wanted to open the books. She wanted to read them, to learn, to find out every minuscule detail she could, but dammit, it hurt! Not for the first time, Anne found herself cursing Henry for everything he’d put her through. If not for his stupid quest for an heir, Anne could have watched her baby girl grow up. Instead, Anne ended up headless and Elizabeth ended up going through at least four other mothers.
Maybe... maybe she’d just... look at the covers for right now. Looking at the covers hurt less than the thought of finding out just how much Henry had taken from her.
Downstairs, Kit finished up the dishes and headed for the living room. Catching a glimpse of the calendar, Kit paused. August 31. Her hands shook. The date itself wasn’t necessarily important, but she hadn’t realized how close it was to September. With classes resuming, Kit barely had time to even think about that kind of thing, but now she flashed back to this day, 1540.
Elizabeth had been worried her birthday would be forgotten because all anyone could seem to gossip about was the king’s latest wife. It had broken Katherine’s heart to hear her talking like that. At the time, Katherine had promised to keep Elizabeth with her for her birthday. And she’d kept her word, both that year and the following one. One of the many regrets Katherine had, laying her head on that slab that February morning, was that she wouldn’t be able to give Liz anymore birthdays.
Shaking the memories away, Kit took a deep breath. She wondered if Anne noticed the date. Kit remembered that every September 7th since she’d come into Anne’s custody, her big cousin had been very quiet and reclusive that day. Come to think of it, Kit couldn’t recall seeing Anne at all the last few days. They usually spent late afternoons hanging out. Anne would look over theatre details while Kit did her homework, but for at least a few days, Kit hadn’t seen Anne except for brief moments when she’d be heading to her room.
Kit bit her lip and shifted her weight. Was Anne remembering Liz again? It was too early for her to be upset about Liz’s birthday, but Kit really had no idea what her big cousin might be feeling. Kit had never had any children of her own, despite the insistence of her family to bear one. Jane, Lina, Anne, Cathy, she couldn’t begin to imagine what they must feel whenever it comes around time for their children’s birthdays.
Peeking in the direction of the stairs, Kit decided to let it be for now. She didn’t want to interrupt Anne if she was grieving, that would be rude. Kit didn’t like the idea of leaving her big cousin to deal alone, but maybe this was one of those times you were supposed to? With a sigh, Kit headed to the living room to start her homework.
The next few days passed somewhat slowly for Anne. Every time she tried to open the books, her hands shook and her breath caught and she ended up silently crying as she looked down at them. She wanted to read them, but could she take that? Could she read about these people who had devoted their lives to studying her daughter, knowing she couldn’t even tell the real details from the embellished? That was her daughter and, centuries later, Anne couldn’t even defend her postmortem!
Kit grew more worried by the day. The other queens had noticed Anne’s absence by now, but none of them could quite piece together what was going on. Well... almost none of them. Every time Cathy and Kit were in the same room, Cathy zeroed in on her, almost as if she knew that Kit knew what was happening. Or part of it.
Finally, Kit had waited long enough. She knew Anne usually spent today alone, but she needed her cousin to know she was there for her. With a deep breath, Kit gently knocked at the door. She didn’t receive an answer, which she expected. It had happened before. Instead of leaving, though, Kit slowly opened the door and peeked her head in.
Anne was kneeling beside her bed. Was she hurt? Kit inched inside and shut the door behind her. Walking closer, Kit noticed all of the books on the bed and leaned closer. At the same time she saw the familiar face on the cover, she heard a soft sniffle beside her.
“Oh, Annie,” Kit sighed. “Is this why nobody’s seen you in days?”
“She’s so pretty, right?” Anne whispered, voice muffled by the blanket. “All queenly and, like... royal and shit.”
Kit gave a soft laugh and knelt beside Anne. “You know she was as much of a troublemaker as you?”
Anne turned her head to look at Kit from the corner of her eye. “She was?”
“Yup. I mean, I can only call on memories of you that I have from this life, but she would be so full of life and fire. Yeah, all these books say she was pretty moderate, but as a kid? Liz was a firecracker, smart and sharp-tongued just like her mom.” Kit rubbed the back of her neck. Damn, she didn’t expect to feel so sad talking about it. She’d only known Elizabeth a year or so, after all.
Anne lifted her head and wiped her eyes. “Yeah, sounds like my girl,” she mumbled. “You know she’s why we even have the US?”
“Yeah, didn’t she have something to do with the Virginia Company that crossed the Atlantic?” Kit felt a little better seeing Anne smile.
“That was her alright. And she backed old Billy, too. The theatre grew thanks to her.” Anne dropped her head back to the bed. “I missed so much. She changed so much history.”
“No,” Kit whispered. “She made history.”
Leaning over, Kit wrapped an arm around Anne’s back. “I’m sorry, Annie.”
“’Snot your fault,” Anne mumbled. “She deserved better than the douchebag dad she got.”
Kit bit her lip. “Do you... do you wanna hear stories about her? I was only with her for a year, but... I have a few.” She brightened. “Cathy might have some, too. If... if you wanna hear them.”
Anne heard the hesitation in her cousin’s voice. She took a deep breath. Hearing other people talk about her baby girl... would that be okay? Or would it hurt more than reading about her in the books? Her sweet baby girl had accomplished so much...
“I’d like that, Kitkat,” she finally said. “I... I wanna know about her. Maybe... hearing about her little exploits might make it easier to read the books.”
“Okay, I’ll text Cathy.” Kit kept her arm wrapped around her big cousin. It wasn’t often Kit got to take care of Anne. Usually, it would be if Anne had a nightmare. But if this was something that could help the woman who saved her, Kit wouldn’t dare deny her.
Text sent, Kit scooted closer to Anne and pulled her into a full hug. She stroked her fingers through Anne’s hair as she thought back on which memories she could share with Anne. She didn’t want to do anything that might make Anne cry, but Kit figured everything might make her cry. So, she’d focus on the happier memories.
A knock at the door made her look up.
Cathy poked her head in and hesitantly walked over. “Hey,” she whispered, laying a hand on Anne’s back.
“Do you have any memories of Liz to share?” Kit asked quietly. “Annie’s been trying to read these books, but... well, it’s the 7th.”
As usual, Cathy caught on quickly. “Yeah, I’ve got a few stories I think Anne might like. Lizzie was an absolute mischief-maker. Kind of like a certain Lady of the Theatre.”
“That’s what I said!” Kit laughed, feeling Anne give a slight laugh against her neck.
“Well, if that’s the case, we should probably start with those.” Cathy settled beside them and leaned against the bed, not taking her hand from Anne’s back. “I’m sure Anne would like those the most.”
For the rest of the day, Kit and Cathy spent time recalling as many moments as they could. Sometimes, their stories would overlap, during one of the times Katherine had Elizabeth with her when Catherine came to visit. Anne listened to them both attentively. Occasionally, they would have to stop because damn did remembering hurt all of them more than expected. During those times, Kit and Cathy wrapped Anne in a tight hug and assured her that her daughter had been a lot like her.
By the time dinner came around, Jane was beginning to get worried about the household. She left Anna and Lina at the table to eat while she went up to check on the others. She found Cathy and Kit’s rooms empty, which was perplexing because she hadn’t heard them leave. Gently, she poked her head into Anne’s room and found the three of them dozing against each other. Anne was wrapped in Kit’s arms and Kit leaned back against Cathy, who was using the bed as a brace.
In the light shining in from the hall, Jane could see tear tracks on all of their cheeks. It wasn’t any of her business, but she didn’t want them waking up sore, either. Clearing her throat slightly, Jane was rewarded with Kit waking quickly. Ever since regaining her memories, Kit had become a lighter sleeper.
“Hey, babe,” Jane called softly. “Just wanted to let you all know dinner is ready. Want me to bring some up for you?”
“You’d be the best,” Kit yawned, straightening up.
Jane retreated while Kit’s movements jostled Cathy awake. “Time’s it?” Cathy mumbled.
“Dunno,” Kit responded. “Jane came by. She’s gonna be bringing dinner up.”
Cathy yawned and Kit lifted Anne up. Anne’s eyes creaked open, sore from how much she’d been crying. “’Sgoin’ on?” she asked.
“Jane’s bringing up dinner,” Kit explained, moving the books aside to lay Anne properly on the bed. “Are you... okay?”
Anne shrugged. “I doubt the pain’ll go away any time soon, but...” She wiped at her eyes. “I think... I think hearing about her helps a lot. I’ll never get to experience that, but knowing what she was like... the way she talked and what she got up to... It makes me feel a little better in a sad way.”
Kit climbed onto the bed beside her and Cathy sat on her other side. “Henry was an ass,” Cathy sighed. “All of us deserved better. You, Lina, Jane? You all deserved to watch your kids grow, you know? To have happy families with people you loved.” She took Anne’s hand in her own. “I’m sorry, Anne.”
Anne squeezed her hand. "You deserved to watch yours grow, too," she said quietly. Cathy stiffened at the mention of Mary and Kit wrapped an arm around her shoulders comfortingly. "All of us should've had better lives, taking care of our kids. Can't change the past, I guess."
"Just because we can't change it doesn't mean we can't make the most of the good parts, though," Kit whispered. "Being able to remember the good of our pasts is a gift I wouldn't trade up, even with all the unpleasantries that came along with the memories."
Anne chuckled dryly and leaned against her with a sigh. “Honestly, just being able to hear about Lizzie is more than I could ever ask for. Even if I didn't get to watch her... it's nice knowing what she was like, even after I was gone. Thanks, Cath.” She reached up to flick Kit’s ponytail. “And thanks, Kitkat. This really does mean a lot.”
Kit giggled. “Then we can make tradition out of it. Every year, if you want.”
Anne managed a smile. Yeah, it hurt. It hurt knowing that the sleaziest asshole of a king ever (maybe an exaggeration, but Anne didn’t care) had deprived her of a chance to watch her child grow up. Still, though, she had Kit and Cathy to tell her stories.
“Yeah, I think I’d like that.”