A.N.: This is a companion piece to White Roses, so the ages and all that stuff are told there. This takes place just after Chauvelin has left Marguerite in her garden, before Chauvelin is back in France and drunk in the tavern with Andre, just to clarify. I'm also using Baroness Orczy's (for those who do not know, she wrote the Scarlet Pimpernel books) first name for Chauvelin, and that is Armand, not to be confused with Marguerite's brother Armand.
Marguerite paced back and forth, trying to cool her nerves, calm her senses. The long trail of her skirt made a soft "swoosh, swoosh," sound as it dragged against the cobble stones and early autumn leaves.
She'd noticed the white rose resting on her garden bench almost immediately. She'd refused to look at it, sick with this utter loneliness and despair. She covered her tear stained cheeks with her delicate, white hands, trying to focus. Oh, God above! Heaven help her, for she felt as though she were dying on the inside!
She wanted to run. She wanted to run straight to Percy and to cry on his shoulder, and to have his arm's encircle her and hold her and whisper tender words in her ear as he used to. But that was so long ago.....
And yet, not more than a few minutes ago, another man, whom she had once loved a very long time ago, was offering to be the one to hold her, to dry her tears. He offered to remind and renew the passions she had once felt, the glory that she once had.
She remembered Paris as it once was. She remembered it when the revolution had only just begun, when she was young, and impulsive, and a foolish, utterly foolish child. Had she been happy then? Blindly so! But the happiest days, days too long gone, it seemed, to remember, were the days that she spent with Percy, who was sweet, and loving, and debonair. Percy, who would see every single show she was in, and then wait for her in her dressing room. The handsome man, who pledged words of love and stole kisses now and then.
Why had she refused Chauvelin? Because she still loved Percy. That was the great tragedy of it.
Finally, Marguerite decided she wanted to be by the river, to watch it slowly drift by her husband's grand estate, and briefly divert her sad attentions onto something else. She turned to go in that direction, but felt as though something stopped her. Suddenly, impulsively, she turned and grabbed the white rose, not even flinching when it cut her delicate hands. Four petals fell off, and she scooped these up, taking them with her to the river.
And so, along it's calm, smooth banks, she sat upon a large stone, the rose clenched tightly in her small hand, not noticing that her finger had been pricked by it. A warm, late summer wind blew past her, brushing locks of hair from her eyes, and cooling her tear stained cheeks. And so, Lady Blakeney sat, nearly motionless, and thought.
She remembered when she had met Chauvelin so long ago, the day the Bastille was stormed. She'd been pushing through with the rest of the huge crowd through the narrow streets, when an arm had reached out and grabbed her, pulling her out of the way of cannon that fired directly into the crowd, but did not have the patience to aim at the fewer people at the side on the walk way.
"Out of the way!" he'd shouted, snagging her by the elbow and yanking her back. "What's the matter with you, mademoiselle? Do you wish to die a pointlessly noble death? Sacrificing pretty young girls will not give birth to the republic, so watch where you stand!"
Marguerite had practically ceased to listen after she looked up at the slightly older man who addressed her. She was caught in his pale eyes, glowing with a passion for the work which he hoped would bring the birth of that which he would come to prize most. Young Marguerite had not known at the time that her own blue eyes had ensnared him as well.
The young idealist flushed when he mention pretty young girls, and opened her mouth to respond, not usually at a loss for words, but found it impossible. She looked up at him again, and flushed a deeper shade of red. Finally, she stuttered out "Marguerite St. Just. That is my name."
She then tried to walk away, but he stopped her again. "Armand Chauvelin," he said, and she silently tucked the name away, determined not to forget it.
And she had thought that that would be the end of the matter. Hardly. Along with the birth of the Republic was the birth of her marvelous acting career, and she soon was receiving dozens and dozens of white roses every day, along with the card. And each time, the card said the exact same simple thing: From Chauvelin.
Naturally she recognized the name. Her heart beat quickened at sight of the elegant scrawl, and she felt this electric energy run through her fingers and veins.
And then it had come; the note to change it all. This time, a detailed letter, telling a few things about himself, and promising to be in the audience tomorrow. If she wanted to meet him again, he'd wait for her by her dressing room door. He would know she'd agreed to meet him if she wore one of the white roses in her elegant hair.
It had always been
just Marguerite St. Just and her elder brother Armand. Always for a
very long time. Both her parents had died when she was very young,
and it had been Armand that had cared for her. Now, for the first
time ever, someone else was coming into her life that could be more
than a friend, and more than a brother. Something different,
something exciting. And young Marguerite yearned for the
Naturally, she wore the rose in her hair. How could she not, when something new, and surprising pulled keenly at her heart strings? She yearned to break free of the life she had known, and this man, this Armand Chauvelin, was the one who could do it.
And there he'd been, after the performance, and Marguerite's heart had started doing somersaults. She found herself at a loss for words, and finally, blushing furiously, requested "Just let me change out of my costume."
And so she did, and he remained outside the door, waiting for her. Waiting for her! Marguerite had had crushes as a child, of course, but this was something new, and deep, and her skin became like gooseflesh just at the thought of him.
So, dressed nicely, she exited her dressing room, and into the year of "Chauvelin and Marguerite."
The handsome young man extended his arm to her, and she excepted, her heart beating a crazy tattoo.
And that was how it all began. Well, that, and dinner, of course. And they just talked. He was so easy to talk to, though she did not doubt now he'd saved every word, just in case the need to ever use one against her would arise. For that was how Chauvelin was.
She remembered every moment, now. From the terrible, to the heavenly, though the terrible had been closer to the end of their relationship, when she'd met Sir Percy Blakeney, Bart. For Percy had sparked this terrible, vicious jealousy in Chauvelin. He had won over Marguerite, and he intended to keep her. No questions asked.
But Marguerite did not want to be kept. At least, not by Chauvelin. Not after Percy started calling on her, and taking her places, and telling her things.
And kissing her.
Yes, that was the most maddening part of all; when he kissed her. That was the moment she knew she would have died on his command, ready and willing. Would she have died for Armand Chauvelin?
And yet, it was all as clear as crystal to her; the way he held her, and how he kissed her, and the words he whispered to her. And mere moments ago, he'd held her, and whispered to her, and would have kissed her if given the chance.
Her husband had become a stranger to her, her brother was constantly in France, away from her, and finally, someone had arisen, who had told her to come back home.
Home to him.
And Marguerite, who felt utterly alone, would have melted into Chauvelin's arms – for she yearned for some kind of home. A home that loved her. And Chauvelin had promised that. Only one thing had stopped her.
To have accepted Chauvelin as her lover again would be to have given up on ever finding the man she truly loved again, for another sting would have completely turned Percy away from the queen bee.
Somewhere, inside the charade, the fop of her husband, was the man she fell in love with. She would never stop loving him. Not ever.
Marguerite did not notice that she was crying. She did not sense that she was bleeding ever so slightly, from the thorns of the rose she clutched. But finally, the four fallen rose petals in her hand were tossed to the breeze, and she watched them settle upon the smooth water of the river, and drift away.
She'd made her choice. And she would not make a different one.