A young lady early to mid-twenty years old stood in the bathroom looking at her tearstained face in the mirror. Tears ran down her pastel cheeks. Dark brown eyes, messy and tangled brown hair, and pale skin. Her nose appeared red from her snuffles.
Life would have been a whole lot easier if she hadn't run away, but how could she have stayed? Her father was going to marry her off to a murderer. Yes, there was no proof to put in him jail…or he paid the guard, but everyone knew he killed his late wife. How could her father do something like this to her? Yes, the man had money, but was that really worth risking his daughter's life?
Carlynda McBeth, formally known as Countess Claudette Bellamont, quickly wiped away her tears as she heard someone entered to the washroom. She quickly left the washroom, knowing it wasn't the best place for privacy. She ignored the lusty stares of the men looking for a woman to warm their beds for the night as she walked down the stairs. She quickly left the brothel house through the front door. The owner, an overly large lady with no manners, called out her name, but she was also ignored.
Carlynda ran behind the brothel house for the privacy she sought. She leaned against the back of the building and slid to the ground, ignoring the murky smell of the garbage that was thrown out the window everyday around six in the evening. She was already dirty, why bother worrying about getting anymore dirty? She used to never be dirty.
Her new life since she ran away had been hard. She quickly used up all money she had brought with her and she didn't know how to do any jobs, since she didn't have to worry about them when she was at home. With no money and no job, she had no choice but listen to a young lady telling her about the 'perfect job' that would bring in a lot of money. It sounded very pleasing and the young lady said it was easy to get hired, but Carlynda didn't really know about life as a lady of the night. She had never heard about them in the shelter of her mansion. She never heard of them until she became one. This was only her third night doing it and she couldn't stand it. She was not raised to defile herself so. She did not grow up thinking such thing was necessary and right. She couldn't do this any longer.
Carlynda felt something wet on her cheeks. She reached up and wasn't all that surprise to know she had been crying again. She coiled up into a ball, her arms wrapped around her knees hugging them to her body. She willingly let herself cry into her knees. She was delirious leaving home. Did she seriously think life away from home was going to be adventurous and easy? Truthfully, she did. She read too many romance novel, too many fairy tales.
She felt so alone, by herself in this strange world. No one was there to help her. Ever since she ran away she had to do everything by herself, there was never somebody there to help her. Even at the brothel. She got hired, told that she worked night and that was it. It was up to her to get the money from the men.
Carlynda shook her head. She had to get out of here. She couldn't take it any longer. This life of hers was too much for her to handle. How was she going free herself?
She gasped for breath, trying to breath through her tears. She wanted to go to someone for help. She was completely by herself, no one to talk too and no one to go to for help. It felt like the world was caving in on her.
Her shoulders felt so heavy from the weight of her stressful, lonely life. She hadn't smiled in days and she had used her body in ways that was looked down upon in the society she was raised in. Never in her life had she ever even thought of using herself in such a way. She was being used, used to pleasure a man. What honor was in that?
She couldn't stay or she'd die. Carylnda sat up and slowly left the alley. Her mind was fogged up with sorrow and loneliness. She didn't know where she was going or how she would get there. All she knew was she had to get out. She wanted to go home, but she knew she couldn't.
It was dark and fog had drifted in. Her heels clicked on the stone side walk. The clicking echoed around the empty street, reminding her of the emptiness in her heart. Carylnda stumbled to walk right, no doubt she looked drunk, but she couldn't think straight much less walk straight.
Suddenly, she heard something behind her. Heavy footsteps echoed behind her in rhythm with her own steps. It belonged to a man. That was easy to tell from the heaviness of the steps.
Carylnda stopped walking, ears focused on the footsteps behind her. To her outmost horror, they stopped when she stopped. She felt like crying again. Her life had gotten so dreadful and it was getting worst and worst by the second. She didn't know how to fight. She didn't grow up like that. She wasn't raised to fight.
She started walking again, gasping for breath in terror when the footsteps behind her began again. She walked faster, the man behind her matching her pace. She walked even faster. Soon she was running; the man behind her started running after her. Her breath grew short with horror. She started chocking on her breath with horror. She was blinded with terror. She couldn't see where she was going.
"Leave me alone!" she yelled her voice hoarse because she was crying. The man behind her didn't respond.
Suddenly, she saw something ahead, a big structure that stood over the foggy streets of Paris. Her mind, filled with the need to live, cleared from the misery she was stuck in for weeks. She made her way towards the building, barely noting the broken windows and the rusty bronze busts columns near the front door.
Before she could enter the building, the man grabbed her arm and pulled her back. Her back rammed into his chest. She struggled for freedom, but he only held on tighter. His breath felt hot on her ear. She could smell the alcohol on his breath. She slumped forward in tears, to weak in despair to fight any longer. "Ya don't wanna go in there, pretta," the man whispered huskily into her ear. "It's full 'f ghosts an' danger."
"Please," she begged pathetically. Her voice choked with tears.
"I saw ya steppin' out of thee brothel. Ya workin' t'night, pretta? I'll pleasure ya reel good. I'll even do it fur free." One hand reached up and roughly squeezed her breast.
She winced in pain and fear. So far, she had managed to avoid getting raped, but she knew her avoidance was coming to an end. This man was about to rape her and no one was around to help her.
Suddenly, when all hope seemed lost, there was a quiet, beautiful voice near her left ear. "Get inside. I cannot help you out there." It was but only a whisper, but it gave her hope and strength. This new found strength allowed her to elbow her assailant in the gut. The sudden pain momentarily distracted him and his hold loosened as he let out a groan.
With his hold on her now loose, she was able to easily escape and ran toward the door of the building. However, the man recovered quickly and ran after her. "No, ya don't, pretta!"
To her horror, the door of the building was rusted shut. She cried out in fear, but luck seemed to be on her side. In the man's need to claim her, he ran faster than he should have and he rammed into her and they hit the door hard. His momentum was what the door needed. It banged opened and they both fell in. She was crushed under his weight.
The man chuckled as he straddled her. "Prefect," he purred. Carlynda started to pound on his chest with her fist and struggled underneath him. He grabbed her arms and pulled them above her head and held them there with one hand. His other hand grabbed her breast again. He started to rub himself against her and she screamed, hoping someone would help her.
Suddenly, there was a whisper in the air and the man froze above her. The whisper turned into two and then three and then many. The whispers of the voices were all around them, getting louder and louder. Carlynda couldn't make out what they were saying. The louder they got, the more powerful they became. Then, suddenly, it stopped, leaving a noticeable silence in the air. Then, there was a clear, powerful voice that came from all around them.
"Unhand the young lady right now, monsieur and get out! You are not welcome here!" It was the voice that had whispered to her outside, but it was deeper and stronger than before. It almost made the building shake.
"Not welcome…not welcome…not welcome…" The whispers started again, repeating the same two words over and over again.
The man above her shook with fear and Carlynda could not blame him. She, herself, was rather fearful, even though the mysterious voice was helping her. The first person to truly help her since leaving home. She was fearful what this voice would want in return for helping…
The man quickly got up and ran faster then she thought possible out of the building. The door slammed shut behind him, enclosing her in darkness. As soon as the door had close, the whispers stopped. Once again, there was a stillness in the air.
She sat up fearfully and looked around, trying to find some sort of light. Her body shook in fear of, not only the voice and its whispers, but of what could have happened to her if they weren't there to help. "Tha…thank you…" Her voice shook slightly as she whispered her gratitude. Her next question was caught in her throat. She wasn't sure if she wanted to know the answer. How would she ask him what he wanted in return?
She heard footsteps coming towards her from somewhere beside her. She crawled away in fear and gasped.
The footsteps suddenly stopped. She could sense someone there, staring down at her. "You have nothing more to fear, mademoiselle. I will not harm you." It was the voice again, deep and beautiful. It spoke so honestly and eagerly, like he couldn't wait for her to leave.
Carlynda ignored the tone and didn't dare respond. She pulled her knees to her and tightly hugged them to her chest. She heard the rustle of clothes from the man with the voice.
"He's gone, mademoiselle." The voice was closer and it did not take a genius to realize he had knelt down to her level. "I will not harm you," he repeated. "If you would just follow me, I will lead you to a side entrance."
His words would have been calming, if she knew where to go once leaving the building…if she knew what he would do to her before they get to the side entrance.
She had no home. She had nowhere to go. She was determined not to go back to the brothel, but she couldn't go back to her parents either. She was tinted and used. She was no longer clean for marriage. They would not accept her back if they knew and, if she kept it a secret from them, they would marry her off to Monsieur L'Angley, the man that murdered his previous wife, and be done with her. They would have nothing to do with her because of the disappointment and embarrassment she caused them for running off. She would not have been surprised if her father had disowned her because she had left.
"Reach out your hand, mademoiselle, and I will take it and led you to safety. I give you my word," the man said gently.
Carlynda did not reach out. Instead, she held onto her knees tighter. "What's safe out there, monsieur?" she whispered into her knees.
There was a silence as if not even he could answer her. "Surely your home is where you are most safe?" he finally asked.
"What home?" she whispered more to herself then to him. "I have no home. I'm alone." She buried her head into her knees. "So alone." She wept.
The man let her weep there for a moment before standing. "Do you not have any means of getting by, mademoiselle?" She shook her head and hugged her knees closer to her, if it was even possible.
To her disappointment, she sensed the man's presence leaving her. She wanted to call out for him to not leave her, but the words would not escape her. Soon after, she was alone, literally. Despite her fear of him, she was more afraid of being alone. He had, at least, been kind to her so far. Far better to be with him then some drunken man out on the street. "Monsieur?" she called out. Her voice echoed in the empty hall, making her feel even more abandoned and alone. She slumped in defeat. She was feeling the despair eating away at her. She was lost with nowhere to go or anyone to turn too. She was very, very much alone.
She did not know just how long she sat there, frozen and unresponsive. She seemed to have just given up on life, wishing to die right there. Might as well die here then out there.
She jumped, suddenly aware of someone kneeling close to her. It was the man from before, the one who rescued her, the one with the voice. "M—Monsieur?"
"I'm here, mademoiselle."
She couldn't believe the amount of relief that washed over her at the sound of his voice saying he was there.
"Hold out your hand."
Her head snapped to where the sound of his voice came from, confused. She hesitated. Was this when he lead her to some inn or his bedroom to tell her his price for helping her?
"Mademoiselle, I won't hurt you. You have my word," the man said.
She hesitated a moment longer before she slowly reached out. Her hand was outstretched in the open air, until something cool and leathery touched her. She jerked in surprise and the leathery touch grasped her hand firmly to prevent her from moving it away. "M—Monsieur, is that you?" she asked, needing to make sure it was her rescuer and not a fiend.
She immediately relaxed, now feeling the hand beneath the leathery exterior. He must be wearing some custom made leather gloves, she realized. His touch was so smooth and careful, like he was afraid of breaking her or scaring her. He gently turned her hand over so her palm was facing up and placed a heavy round bag into it. He closed the palm of her hand over the bag with his other hand and held it there. She felt his long, thin fingers gently and firmly tighten her hold over the bag. "Perhaps with this, mademoiselle, you will be able to start renew." He stood up, pulling her with him. "I'll lead you to the side exit." He let go of the hand with the bag and took her empty hand. She could do nothing but let him guide her.
Unable to see anything in front of her, she blindly allowed him to guide her as she turned her attention to the bag in her hand. She used her fingers to assess it. It felt like there were many round and hard objects inside, like coins. The objects clinked together as she moved the bag around with her fingers.
She looked back up when they stopped. She stiffened, wondered if he would tell her what she owed him. There was a creaking sound like something was moving on a rusty hinge. A sudden light blinded her. "Ah," she gasped when the light hit her eyes and quickly turned away.
"I apologize, mademoiselle. I did not realize they had that street lamp lit. I shall leave you now."
She did not know why she did it, maybe it was the thought of being left alone again, but he as said he was leaving; she quickly grabbed on his arm in a tight grip and froze. She did not want him to leave her. He had given her the first sense of safety since she left home. He was also the first one to show her any kindness and he hadn't asked for anything in return, not yet anyway.
"Mademoiselle, it's time for you to go. I gave you enough money to get by for a while. Find work or find a husband, then you should not worry about running out of money." He sounded annoyed, but Carlynda did not let that sway her.
"Work?" she questioned. All her life she was told that proper ladies did not work. Men were the ones with a job. A woman's job was to be the perfect wife and mother. "I am not good at any labor, monsieur." She looked up, eyes having had adjusted to the lamp light outside, but she still couldn't see him. All she could see was his dark silhouette figure hiding in the shadows. She could tell he was tall and broad and he must have been wearing dark colors.
"Apply for a governess job, mademoiselle. There are some noble families nearby that might hire you to teach their children. If you know how to teach that is. That should not be too difficult, I can imagine."
She looked down and shook her head. "I cannot, monsieur," she responded sadly. She couldn't be seen by any noble families. One of them might recognize her and take her to her father.
She heard the man sigh, but she couldn't decipher if the sigh was an annoyed sigh or an indecisive sigh. She suddenly realized what she was doing, making her rescuer come up with all the solutions. She mental cringed. She was just so used to having somebody else make the decisions. She didn't mean to be so…so…selfish! She quickly let go the man's arm. "I apologize, monsieur. I did not mean to impose for so long or to be so selfish. I thank you for your help and…" She held out the bag of francs to him. "…here. I can't take this, monsieur. It's your money. You earned it. I will…will try to get by. I did not mean to take advantage of your kindness, monsieur. I should not have been so willing to take your money. I have nothing to offer in return, unless…" she shakily reached up to touch the collar of her dress.
The man did not take the bag from her. Instead, he stared intensely at her. She could feel his stare burn within her. Finally, he reached out and she flinched, thinking he was going to touch her. Her flinched made him pause, but he continued to reach out, more slowly, cautiously, this time. She could see his hand now. It was covered by a black leather glove that fitted tightly around his hand like a second skin; custom made, as she thought before. That showed wealth. It made her wonder who he was and why he would be in an abandoned building at this time of night. He gently closed her hand around the bag again.
"I don't want anything in return, but your silence. Keep the money. You did not suggest in any way to give you money, mademoiselle. I gave it to you in my own freewill. You need it. I did not want you to argue with me. With this money, you may buy a home and restart your life."
"Buy a home? Monsieur, how much francs did you hand me?" she asked astonished. Surely, he wasn't wealthy enough to just throw money around to a total stranger.
"There is just over two thousand francs."
"Two thousand?! Oh, no, monsieur! I couldn't possibly take that much from you!" she said shaking her head. "That's too much! I feel like I am stealing from you and I can't possibly take it without doing something in return."
"It's your money now. You needn't repay me. It's the least I could do for all I have done in the world." Before she could reply he said, "If you wait here, I'll be back momentarily." Still shock, all Carlynda could do was nod absentmindedly.
She looked up just as he disappeared from sight. It seemed like he was a part of the shadows, as if it swallowed him whole. "Monsieur?" There was no response. All she could do was wait there. She glanced outside at the open door. There wasn't much to see. There was a street with lit street lamps and another building across that street. Some sort of business building that was closed for the night. There wasn't another soul around. Fog was drifting in slowly. It was creepy and she shivered nervously. Without the man to keep her safe, she felt vulnerable. She did not feel safe in the outside world anymore, not in the dark. She hugged herself fearfully.
Movement across from her drew her gaze away from the open door. She sighed in relief when she recognized the tall dark figure hiding in the shadows. He shifted and the light outside reflected off something white on his face, but she didn't have time to figure out what it was. He reached out and handed her a piece of paper.
"On it is an address of a woman who may help you. Just tell her I sent you. She will know who you are talking about."
Carlynda took the paper and glanced at it. She couldn't read it in the dark, but she could just see the childish handwriting written in dark ink. "Thank you, monsieur, for everything." She glanced up and found herself talking to the shadows. The man was gone.
Saddened, she left the building, hoping someday she may pay him back for all that he had done for her.
Carlynda shifted nervously on the couch. She glanced at the stern older woman before her with anticipation. The older woman was standing with a cane in her hand. "Who did you say sent you to me for help?"
"I don't know his name, Madame. But he said you would know who I am talking about. He was in that abandon building in the middle of Pairs. He was tall and he wore custom leather gloves." she explained. "He had the most beautiful voice," she said, almost dreamily. She shook her head. "I apologize, Madame. I cannot tell you much."
The woman placed a hand over her heart and slowly sat down. She looked stunned. "He's alive?" she whispered to herself. She shook herself out of her surprised thoughts.
"Will you be able to help me?" Carlynda asked.
She glanced at her with a stern look. "Yes."
Carlynda smiled in relief. "Thank you, Madame." She gave her appreciation meekly. She leaned forward. "Madame Giry, I want to pay him back for his kindness, but…" She shook his head. "…I don't know him." She gave the older woman an uncomfortable look.
Madame Giry leaned back and nodded with a satisfying look. "He is a composer and musician. A man of beauty and art. He is a sophisticated man, but lonely and isolated. He has a nasty temper and a certain child-like need for company."
Carlynda stored the information in her mind, briefly wondering if she ever heard of him before or, at least, heard his work. Was he someone famous? "I want to give him something meaningful, Madame. What does he want? What would be a thoughtful gift to give him? What is something he wants but can't seem to get himself?" she asked, wanting the gift to be special and sentimental to him. She owned him so much. He saved her life and gave her means to get back on her feet.
Madame Giry gave her a look. "The thing about him is, he always finds some way to get what he wants. Nothing is unreachable to him. And the things he wants, but cannot get are usually something no one can easily give him."
Carlynda sighed disappointedly and turned away.
"However…" She glanced up with hope when Madame Giry continued. "…there is one thing you can do for him that would do more than pay him back, but it will take time and a lot of money to get. You'll have to start right away and build up money and resources."
Carlynda leaned forward excitedly. "I'll do anything, Madame."
"He already considers it his, but, legally, it is not. He has a certain fondness for the Opera House."
Not too proud of the first chapter, but it gets the point across.