Do I love him? Yes, I love him. I've always loved him and hated him. It's
because of him and his kind that I don't have a father. It's because of him
that I was sent away from my family. It's because of him that I had to
learn of my father's death from a dictated letter not even in my mother's
own hand. But it's also because if him that I can read and write. It's
because of him that I can stand alone and fight. It's because of him that I
am free.
Florian. He wasn't always called Florian, you know. He was Gregor
Philippe Montmollin Esquire and it was that very name that sentenced me to
my fate. My father was in the service of Baron Montmollin. As was my
mother and I was born into this great house. I didn't see my father often
even when I was young. He was needed in Marianstat or at the estate of La
Jolie; while, Mother and I were shuffled off to the country house not far
from Nierkeeping.
It wasn't an unpleasant existence. I had the run of the house and I was on
friendly terms with the scullery maid, so I never went hungry. I would
often swipe a biscuit or two and steal up to Gregor's playroom where he
would read to me 'Old Kasperl' and show me what the letters meant. I was
also found to be handy with a needle and made myself useful by doing a bit
of mending here and there.
But then the day came when the Baroness decided that it wasn't proper and
Gregor was getting quite too old for a playmate such as myself. I
overheard her talking to my mother one day.
"She has to go and that's final. She will be learning a trade and
that will be far better off for her than if she were here. The
dressmaker has been calling for an apprentice and Zara is just the age
and has shown the talent. I have business in town on the morrow and I
will see her there personally."
Mother was crying and I rushed in to comfort her. We were told to say our
goodbyes and to pack my things. I didn't know then if I would ever see or
hear from her again. I did, once:
"You'll never believe it," the dressmaker called as she returned from
her errands. She had left me to clean up the shop at the end of a long
day. "I stopped by the post office and there was a letter there for
you." I ran up and tore it from her hand. I didn't know who could be
writing me. It had been three years since the Baroness had left me
there and I had been longing for news of my family all that time. I
knew my mother had never learned to read or write so she had obviously
found a professional letter writer to do it for her.
"Would you like me to read it to you?" the dressmaker smiled.
"I can read it myself," I snapped. It was true there wasn't much to
read around the shop so I was out of practice but I still remembered
everything Gregor had taught me. I unfolded the letter carefully. It
was very brief and to the point. My father's heart had failed him.
"He was always a good worker. I guess he was just working a bit to
hard," the writer had written for my mother. She went on to say that
she hadn't been with him when it happened but she had been allowed to
go and visit his grave in the servants' plot at La Jolie. I didn't
take any of this in, only the news that I would never see my father
alive again. I let the letter slip out of my hand and the dressmaker
picked it up off the floor to read for herself what had upset me so.
"Oh my dear, I am sorry," she said. "But you didn't know him well
did you? At least you don't know what you were missing." She tried to
put her hand on my shoulder but I shrugged it away. I couldn't cry. I
don't believe I ever learned how. I just vowed personal revenge on
these people who had torn me away from my family and worked my father
to death.