Collard paced the halls. The iron doors creaked and it seemed like the stone palace was swaying with the wind. He was on patrol only until his carriage arrived to take him into the next town where he'd attend a fine arts night the following day. It was invitation only, and he was not too conceited that he didn't consider himself grateful of the request of audience.

As he paced, his mind again trailed to Elise. Simone. They looked so alike. Although small differences; eye colour, slight facial lengths that were measurable, and Elise's pallor compared to exotic Simone's made them noticeably different, they were still memorably similar. But it was in vain, Collard saw his Simone in the young patient. In her movements, her demeanor, her gaze.

He shook his head; he would not worry himself with tiresome memories now. Right now, he thought, my carriage should be arriving. And with that, he ventured off into the night struck asylum to collect his things.

Elise woke with a start. She was face down again; her back ached oh so much. The old laundress lay at her side with a bowl of water that tried unsuccessfully to look soapy. She held a damp cloth and a smaller bowl filled with the white paste. Fresh bandages were strung across her neck and she looked down at Elise, beaming like a mother would a newborn child even though Elise knew she was as blind as a bat in daylight.

"Good morning child." She said happily. Elise broke a small smile and laid her head down on the pillow so all she saw was the woman's knees.

"Good morning." she mumbled.

"I've brought ye some clean bandages and some fresh water. Just relax." The laundress said quietly pulling back the sheet from Elise's body. Elise shuddered as the cloth tickled her skin as it was removed. The old woman left the sheet at her waist and instructed Elise to stretch out her arms. Elise did as she was told.

The woman slid the dress up the length of her body and over her shoulders. It was much more awkward the second time around, Elise thought back to the first time she was applied bandages naught a day ago. The laundress pulled at the base of the bandages around her lower back and put a small tear in them so she could remove them quickly. In a sharp move, as fast a cat, she ripped them off and let them fall to either side of her patient.

Elise gasped in pain, but there was none. The woman was so effective in removal of the bandage that all Elise felt was a tingling sensation where they had once been. Her cuts felt dry on her back; she laid very still in fear that the slightest movement would rip them open yet again. As the woman applied the cream, Elise wondered what to say.

"How are you today?" she began.

The laundress replied with a grin.

"Just fine child. Just fine. How be you?"

"Tired, and lonely." Elise said before she could check her words.

"Now, why would ye be lonely? You've got lil 'ole me and Coulmier to talk to. Coulmier's a fine fellow. I've known him for quite some time, much longer than he's been a patient here. He was once the Abbe of this very-" the laundress stopped short, realizing she'd said too much in her enthusiasm for a tête-à-tête. She quickly bound the last of the bandages and sat back, folding her hands.

"What did you say?" Elise said incredulously. She sat up, wincing at the pain in her back.

"Nothing dear, no matters of your business. Forget what I said, lets concentrate on those cuts." The laundress said, groping for the young girl. Elise slid out of reachable grasp and backed against the wall, for all the pain it caused, the cool stone was oddly comforting.

"Coulmier, my Coulmier was Abbe of Charenton?" she asked. Then she heard the words in her head. My Coulmier. They rang in her ears. She saw the old woman smile, a weak and bitter smile.

"Yes, yes dear. Coulmier before you knew him was a great man of God. A wondrous, caring, generous and honorable man. He loved this place almost as much as he loved-"she stopped short.

"Loved what?" Elise begged. This was news. Coulmier, Abbe of Charenton? She could see it, but she could not believe it.

The laundress groped for her doctoring things and collected them, spilling some water on the floor. She stood and shuffled her way to the door. Elise crawled after her.

"Please, tell me. I've never told a secret in my life!" she begged, pulling at the woman's dress lightly.

"Child let go!" the laundress said angrily, immediately regretting it. She turned her head down to look at the girl curled around her feet, she could not see her, but she envisioned her laying there, here eyes pleading with the woman for answers. But not now. She couldn't give them now, it wasn't her place. "I'm sorry Elise. I didn't mean to get upset. You just touched a nerve, that's all. I've told you before, if you want all the answers, speak to Coulmier."

Elise felt her lip tremble as she watched the Laundress shuffle through the doorway.

"But I promised not to..." she whispered as the door shut and the laundress locked the door. She let her head droop until it touched the chilled rock floor and as it had become a regular habit – cried.

That night, Elise lay in bed. She hadn't needed to work today. Collard had shut down the press for while he was gone. She lay on her stomach with her head on her arms. She was examining the block of granite in front of her and trying to estimate how thick it was to the other side so she could figure out the volume of the stone and then move on to the volume of her very room.

She heard the iron bolt creak as it opened and she slowly rolled over so that her lash wounds were not too deeply disturbed. The window a few feet above her head shone into the room and stopped short a few feet from the blackened door way.

"You've got one hour Coulmier." She heard a voice whisper.

"I understand Lady LeClerc."

Elise peered into the blackness and it was feet she saw first. Bare feet that soon turned into a young man. Her door bolted shut behind him and she sat up clutching her thin sheet to her chest.

"Coulmier?" she whispered. The young man stepped out of the shadows and smiled.

"None other." He replied.

Elise rose quickly to her feet to embrace her friend. Her arms reached around his neck and Coulmier was at a loss of what to do. Finally, he settled with his hands on her lower back, close to but not touching her buttocks. While the priest in his head shouted at him for the blasphemy, he couldn't help but notice how well she fit into his arms.

"How are you?" she questioned. He smiled and took her hands.

"Quite well now that I see you're doing fine." He said.

"Here have a seat," Elise whispered excitedly. This was the first time they'd ever seen each other face to face. The hall encounter didn't count because she wasn't completely observant and she was sure Coulmier wasn't either. The midnight comfort didn't count either because there was no moon to exploit their features. She'd merely looked for a shape, a form for which to embrace.

There was a second of silence.

Coulmier sat on the straw mat so similar to his own and he studied the young woman's face. Looking at her, he realized she was not much younger than his own 24. Her skin was pale, a small cut on her lip was still slightly puffy and oozing, but it was mostly clear. Her eyes were a brilliant blue and her hair, he'd seen its long luxuriousness upon her arrival, and he'd glimpsed it after being cut, but in the few weeks she'd been here, it had grown a good few inches and the once shattered locks were softly layering her gamine face. That face sat upon a small-framed body. Not very thin, but appropriately proportioned so she looked minutely healthy. Her wrists still worn raw from the irons were slowly healing. In a instant he saw that she was truly beautiful. A full pouted smile shone at him, and for a moment he thought that her very smile could lead him to heaven.

On the opposite, Elise was quietly taking in all that was Coulmier. His strong jaw line showed fantastic bone structure. His skin was as pale as her own. Her eyes roamed his face and she noticed his nose was slightly crooked, but she knew – as he'd explained it weeks ago – that it had been broken as a child while he was playing handball with a friend. His eyes wore a pale green that shimmered in the glittering darkness. She saw that his hair hung in thick loose waves just under his ear. Something about his hair made her want to thrust her hands into the black mess of locks and feel the weight of it in her hands. His eyes made her want to blush and giggle like a little girl, but she simply smiled. This was her Coulmier. Yes, it felt right saying that in her head. Her Coulmier. Her truest friend. His head tapered into wide shoulders and arms that were not necessarily muscular, but you could tell he was a strong man. He wore a stained tunic and tattered black pants, the standard Charenton uniform for men. She looked down at her own knee length, shapeless outfit and smirked.

For a moment, just a moment, it seemed that everything was perfect.