In Their Beginning
Book One of the Lumiere & Babette Fanfiction Trilogy
Written by Faith Kelter
Characters © Walt Disney Company
She had arrived the night before to the usual sounds one would hear from a village inn at late evening time. Clinking, clanging of different pots from the finished dinner, people rushing up to bed or staying around for drinks and chatter. No one bothered to look up as she entered; there was no need to. Strangers were regulars at an inn, and hence nothing worth interrupting a sip or a word.
The innkeeper sat at a desk in a dimly lit corner of the room, and the young woman approached him noiselessly. There was no need to talk except for necessary information.
He looked up impassively. "May I help you?"
"A room for tonight."
He raised an eyebrow and looked her over. "Very well." He rose only to get a key, handing it to her as he sat back down. "Twenty francs."
She handed him ten. "Half now, the rest tomorrow."
He nodded. "Up the stairs, fourth door on the left; who is the room billed to?"
She pocketed the key. "First name Babette...that shall suffice." She looked up at him, and reassuringly answered his silent question, "You will have the other ten tomorrow, I assure you."
Without even waiting for his response, Babette turned and walked to her room.
Locking the door, she placed her small bags under the bed; she had only a few valuables, no need for much of anything when one was born and bred a servant's life.
After changing quickly, Babette sat down in front of the tiny guest mirror and started brushing her short hair as if the little brush would take everything that happened previously that day out of her mind. She only stopped a moment to gaze at her reflection distantly, remembering...
The gravediggers had just finished their most recent project and started walking away. Finally she could go to look in peace without anyone to say they were sorry or they understood. They meant well, their intentions were good, but nothing helped. All she wanted was to shut everyone out and just sit there with her mother.
Babette walked closer, slowly, cautiously, almost expecting and hoping that she would wake up and this would have never happened. She sat down. Everything about this spot seemed to give the signs of recent death. Untarnished headstone that had no wear, the dirt freshly dug into. She wanted to think of it as a blanket keeping her mother warm from the freezing French December winds. It put her more at ease with the thought that her only family was officially gone.
She could not say a word, not a word to the grave that replaced the vision of her mother, the woman who gave her everything. She had taught her all she knew, even if it was only to be a maid. That was her life and she made it the best she could, thanks to her mother's teachings.
This same woman who turned nothing into something, problems into solutions, was gone. She had turned a duster into a doll when Babette was a child and there was only a bit of money for a gift. She remembered the time she was playing with other children and the glue they were using for a project became the projectile of a fight, getting all into her dark brown hair, seemingly ruining it as it dried. Maman had to cut every strand to get it out, and after the normal lecture, looked her child over and said, "You should keep it short. 'Tis not the preferred style but on you, it makes you pretty enough to show that it should be." To this day, Babette kept her hair short in result.
Why did it seem that all of that was gone?
Only the voice of Jean Claude, the son of another servant, stopped her thinking. "I do not mean to bother you...but Madame de Crochet wishes to see you."
Babette nodded, leaned over to kiss the cold stone and went inside, expecting the worse. Her mistress despised her. According to her, the maid was a mischief maker, "too pretty not to cause trouble." It was a wonder she could keep the job as long as this.
Madame de Crochet frowned as she entered. "You always did have trouble coming immediately after you were sent for."
Babette bit her lip, and only nodded. "I apologize, Madame de Crochet, but with all due respect I do have a right to see my mother alone."
The older woman's eyes glared right through her. "Indeed." A harsh business expression followed the single word. "While I offer my condolences, I ask that you understand the reasoning of my action."
She remained silent; it was best not to argue.
"Might as well have all grievances occur at once I say. Your mother was the finest of my servants, God rest her soul, but as she is gone, there is no reason for you to stay."
Babette paled. "No reason?"
"None. You know very well what I think of you, girl...your mother was the only reason I kept you here as long as I did. She was a good woman and did not deserve to have her only child sent elsewhere. With her gone, do you see any reason for you to stay?"
Babette took a deep breath; she had the losing argument and she knew it. Even with expecting the worst, one always prays they were wrong in doing so. "Non, Madame."
"Good, you do have a bit of a brain in your head. You are dismissed."
"With no where to go?"
"That is your own decision, and if you are so worried as your eyes betray, then I suggest you make it soon. Although with what little you know, I do not see where else to go but back to this profession, or another of such ill repute, I dare not mention it. You are too grown to learn anything else. Good day."
A quick wipe to the eyes rid Babette of the tears she did not want to let fall; tears like these were a weakness. Besides, she did have somewhere to go. Jean Claude's father, the kind old man he was, had friends in higher servant places; a few days before, he had sent a recommendation, receiving the affirmative reply some time after. Having that and a little money in her pocket, she decided there was no need to cry, not now.
With a tired sigh and yawn, she slid into bed and attempted to sleep. She would meet the relay escort to the new household tomorrow and everything would be fine.