Author's Note: The
most part of this piece (up until Cecile's personal reflections) is based
entirely on early scenes of the movie, complete with all of the dialogue.
* * *
The Marquise de Merteuil gazed into her mirror, scrutinising
her complexion as she did religiously every morning. She was no longer the
luscious creature she had been in her youth; even she had to admit to herself,
yet her many admirers assured her that her attractiveness remained unbounded.
The long process of dressing and grooming every morning was essential to her –
cosmetics, powder, and chiffon and satin were her tools for success in
maintaining her beauty, and therefore her power.
only power, she surmised, was in her charm. Beauty was merely the first step
towards this. Allowing her servant women to pull her into tight corsetry and
then a divine creation of peach silk and snowy lace, she smiled to herself.
Another strange and yet delightful day no doubt lay ahead; each one, in these
times, seemed to bring new surprises with it. And with surprises came the best
sport of all.
Sport almost always delivered to
her by the Vicomte de Valmont: her closest friend and confidant, sometimes
lover, and only hero. Her feelings towards him confused her at the best of
times, and yet she could not imagine a world without him. Treading the richly
carpeted floor between two serving maids as they curtsied, she breathed deeply,
satisfied with her appearance and composure.
It had been another morning the
same as every one before it, and yet by no means unpleasant. Touching at the
rows of pearls around her throat, the Marquise felt infinitely optimistic, and
not least because of the knowledge that she would soon be face to face with the
Vicomte and privy to all his exquisite schemes and plots.
Cecile de Valanges stepped cautiously into the salon,
catching her breath at the sight of the splendour around her. Three liveried
footmen lit a multitude of candles upon a golden chandelier, as her mother sat
playing cards I silence at a nearby table opposite the Marquise de Merteuil. At
the sight of the girl, the Marquise smiled brightly and ignored the game for a
dear! How are you adjusting to the outside world?" A friendly, or so it
appeared, reference to Cecile's recently having completed her convent
Valanges cut in impertinently, "I've advised her to watch, and learn, and be
quiet except when spoken to." The woman, her age clearly showing despite
vigorous efforts to remain young, turned her eyes back down to the cards in her
Marquise appraised mother and daughter discreetly, and with some surprise.
Madame behaved as an old woman, most disgracefully so in her friend's opinion.
There was no excuse whatsoever for a woman to deliberately allow herself
to age so. Her manner was irksome to almost all who met her, meaning that her
social circle shrank steadily as the years went by. Only the Marquise remained
steadfast, mostly out of pity, but also for her own continual amusement at the
other woman's decline in society.
she had produced somehow the wondrous young thing who stood behind her, dressed
in a marvel of white lace and pink ribbons that set off her youth and
astonishing loveliness to perfection. Demonstrating her nervousness, her small,
slender white hands pressed together and her full sensuous lips hung in a
becoming half-frown. Her eyes were enormous and soulful, her hair a shining
yellow blonde. Suppressing a smile, the Marquise pictured herself as a young debutante,
and saw more than a few similarities.
the looks of a madam in the making, not the uneasy, innocent little mouse who
wore them. The Marquise de Merteuil knew a potential pupil when she saw one.
her eyebrows at the girl, smiling pleasantly again. "So, we must see what we
can devise for your amusement."
smiled gratefully, clearly too uncomfortable to be listening properly. The
Marquise let excitement well within her, imagining how the Vicomte would react
when he met her.
plump footman carried in a silver tray bearing a calling card. She read it,
nodding at him to leave, before turning to Madame.
receive him, do you?" the other woman enquired incredulously.
Marquise replied naturally. "So do you," she then added with an exultant
Madame de Valanges, as the two older ladies sat to receive
the Vicomte, explained quickly to her daughter about his infamous reputation,
fanning herself and also her temper. Cecile remained standing, to the
Marquise's satisfaction. That way her lush body would be on best display for
the Vicomte to admire.
had finished speaking, Cecile replied perplexedly, "Then why do you receive
does," her mother defended herself, fanning faster.
strode in, having been announced, his confidence making the Marquise's heart
miss a beat. Never one to betray the strength of her own feelings, however, she
accepted his greetings sedately, offering her hand to his lips with effortless
self-control. Likewise, he behaved a perfect gentleman towards her, which he
certainly was not in private.
remember my daughter, Cecile?" Having greeted him herself, Madame de Valanges
gestured reluctantly towards the willowy teenager.
course," he said cheerfully, shooting the girl a devastating glance. "But who
could have foretold she would flower so gracefully."
Marquise let her triumphant smile spread right across her carefully powerdered
face, aiming it momentarily at Madame as she exhaled angrily. All around Paris
knew of Madame's liaison with the Vicomte when they were both young and
notorious. It would undoubtedly destroy her were he now to turn his infamous
attentions towards her fine progeny.
The day was
turning into an even bigger success than the Marquise had imagined it would.
She turned back to Valmont as he began to speak.
to call on you before I leave the city."
retorted. "I'm not sure we can allow that. Why should you be leaving?"
positioned himself beside an unsuspecting Cecile, and was now gazing blatantly
at her pert little breasts. "Oh, you know, Paris in August. And it's time I
paid a visit on my aunt; I've been neglecting her disgracefully."
Valanges grinned suddenly at this. "Oh, Madame de Rosemont has been good enough
to invite us to stay at the château! Won't you please give us our warmest
make a point of it, Madame," Valmont answered smoothly, returning his eyes to
too perfect! the Marquise thought.
Valanges could no longer contain her irritation. "I think it's time we brought
eyes darted this way and that as she sensed finally the Vicomte's scrutiny.
"I'm used to being in bed by nine at the convent."
should hope," Valmont quipped, every bit as pleased with the girl as his friend
had hoped he would be. He felt the Marquise's eyes upon him as she showed her
guests out of the door, leaving them alone finally.
sat, she swayed across the room towards him, laughing heartily. An heroic
enterprise, using Mademoiselle de Valanges, was most definitely in order. The
one thing left to do was obtain her companion's expert contribution.
* * *
Cecile went to her bedchamber that evening knowing that some
change had taken place in her life – and that an even more important one would
take place soon. Since she had been plucked from the order and simplicity of
the convent and flung so carelessly into the intricacies of Parisian society,
she had felt as a fish out of water. That morning had made things a million
times more complicated.
was the way the Marquise de Merteuil had looked in her direction, her voice and
actions kind and motherly but her eyes telling quite a different story. Almost
as if she were planning something for her.
the Vicomte de Valmont. As silly as it was, the sight of a man staring so
freely at her left her terrified, so unused to such attention was she. The only
men she had encountered in the convent had been priests. Gentleman in society
seemed to take liberties with women even with their eyes, before all the other
things she had heard whispered about and hinted at even happened…those things
that made her blush even as she knew next to nothing about them.
into her bed and pulling her nightgown down to her ankles, she found herself
unable to erase the image of Valmont's lascivious stare from her mind. Even she
could recognise his handsomeness and the lustful promises carried in his
posture, yet she cursed herself for it. He was even more brazen than most men
who looked at her that way. So why could she not force herself to forget him?
Marquise seemed to be an upstanding woman, and she obviously treated him as a
friend. It was all too confusing. He had looked at her, Cecile acknowledged
again, as she had willed him with all her heart to stop. She could not speak to
her mother of her fears…or were they even fears? She was suddenly horrified,
and at the same time perversely fascinated, as she felt heat tingling over
every inch of her skin.
curling further down beneath the sheets. These feelings were wicked, and yet
exciting. Society might not prove so frightening to her if perhaps she allowed
herself these thoughts, just once in a while.