Title: Life After Death
Summary: Iverny, France, 1927. A young journalist interviews the author of 'The Moulin Rouge' and other classic works.
Disclaimer: I don't own it, and unless I'm very, very lucky, I never will.
A/N: This may seem Christian/OC at first, but I promise it won't be. This story is kind of hard to explain, so you'll just have to trust me on it! Oh, and I know no French, so I might mess up the language a lot. Sorry!
Annette Badeau stepped off of the cart, thanked her farmer driver, and began up the long, muddy road towards the mansion at the top of the hill.
Annette had arrived, by train, in the small village of Iverny that morning early that morning and had spent most of the day trying to find the house of the great philosopher Thomas Stratten. The Englishman had moved to Paris about twenty years ago and was now a recluse. He didn't talk to anyone, but when Annette, a fan of his work, was given the opportunity to persuade him to, she jumped. Mademoiselle Badeau was a writer for Périodique du Pays, the most widely read monthly magazine in France. She was going to make Stratten talk; her job was on the line.
She reached the door and set down her equipment to bang the heavy knocker against the solid wood. She waited, almost five minutes, and was about to try the knocker again when the door cracked open slightly, then wider. A middle-aged man with a few silver streaks in his hair and light wrinkles around his eyes stood there, an annoyed expression on his face.
"Bonjour. Monsieur Stratten?"
"I don't speak French well. I prefer English." The look in his eyes challenged her to try to pretend she hadn't understood that, and she was tempted, but she needed his cooperation too much.
"I am sorry," she said, accent heavy. Her English was a little rusty and hadn't been used regularly since her school days. "Monsieur, my name is Annette Badeau, and I write for the Périodique du Pays. I was wondering if perhaps--what are you doing?"
"I have no interests in magazines and interviews, Mademoiselle. Good day." He began to shut the door, but she put her hands in the way. "I will chop off your fingers if necessary." Somehow, she didn't doubt it.
"Please, sir, the paper will pay well, and we will write the article however your chose."
"I'm not interested." He tried to close the door on her again.
"No! Sir, please, this is the largest job I've ever had, and if I cannot get you to speak, I will be fired!"
"I think your boss is trying to get rid of you. The press knows I don't give interviews."
"But this would be much more than an interview. We could probably dedicate an entire issue to you." If there isn't anything else in the news. "Think how much this could help your career."
"My career is fine. Really, Mademoiselle, if you do not leave I will be forced to call la police."
"Please, Monsieur Stratten!" She almost yelled, but not in a menacing way. He stopped. "All I want is to be a writer, like you. I have admired your works since I was old enough to read and understand them. Please, let me do this."
Stratten sighed deeply and furrowed his brow. "Why do women insist on making ridiculous face?" His expression lightened, and he almost chuckled, then his eyes hardened. "I will do your interview."
"Oh, thank you, Monsieur Stratten, merci." Annette wanted to hug him, but used her better judgment. "When may we start?"
Stratten led Annette to his sitting room, where she placed herself in a chair across from him and pulled out her notepad. "I was thinking we could learn of your background in England?"
"That is of no interest to anyone. I grew up in a small village in southern England with no brothers or sisters and an overbearing father. My real life began when I came to Paris in 1899 at the age of twenty-three," He paused. "You claim to love my works. Have you read 'Le Moulin Rouge?'"
"Yes, it was one of my favorites."
He looked at her strangely. "How old are you, Mademoiselle Badeau?"
"Twenty-six," she replied a tad confused.
"You look younger. You would have had a long and wealthy career as a prostitute."
It took Annette a few moments to wrap her brain around his words. When she did, she was horrified.
He broke into a few light chuckles. "You should have seen your face. I was only joking. Your hair is too short." She was shocked, again, and touched her hand to her closely cropped brown hair. "And the color is too plain, you would have to dye it. Men want excitement and something to run their fingers through."
"Why are you telling me this?" He ignored her question.
"Le Moulin Rouge. It was a whorehouse, but it was the one place where I was happy. That was my life. Le Moulin Rouge." He looked off, seeing another time and place.
"But Le Moulin Rouge is just a story!"
He turned to her with angry eyes. "No it is not! It happened, all of it, exactly as I recorded. It happened to me." He paused. "My editor suggested that I either change the main character's name, or change the name under which I published it. People want to hear stories like that, but they don't want to know whom it happened to. I wanted to preserve the story, so I chose the latter." He sighed, a pained expression on his face. "But no one believed that my story actually happened. They liked the idea of it being a fantasy."
"So your name is not really Thomas Stratten?"
"No. My real name is Christian Kennicot." He smiled slightly. "I must admit, Thomas Stratten has a certain ring to it."
"This is in--incredible! I can't believe I'm getting this!" She was writing as fast as she could, attempting to get down every moment of the conversation.
"Now I'm going to have even more people dropping by...there's no way you can omit any of this, is there?"
"I'm sorry, but this is too interesting. This will make my career." She paused as he furrowed his brow. "Why? Are you having second thoughts?"
He did not talk for a long while. When he did, he was very serious. "I'm merely concerned. The reason that I do not speak to the press is that I do not know when to shut my mouth. I am too old and set in my ways to change, and I fear I have already revealed too much. The problem is...when I was younger; I gave an interview to a member of the press, one Jacques Bagot. I revealed a strange habit of mine, and when the interview was published he had twisted my words to portray me as something I was not. After my publicist did some damage control, I never again spoke to the press. Until now, that is." He smiled slightly.
Perhaps he was not so bad as he first had seemed.
TBC. Please review!