AN: So, third story to Opheliac, finally. I've had it done for a while, just have been too busy with other stuff to type it up and upload it. Sorry. A bit darker than Shalott or Innocence. This story contains dubcon/noncon, lolita complex, and underage sex (all of which is non-explicit). You have been warned.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Petite Cossette manga or anime. As much as I wish I did.
I was not entirely sure what to think of my future husband. Marcelo Orlando. He was handsome, to be sure, and his family were moderately well off, and it was obvious to me without ever having seen any of his works that what he modestly referred to as "a talent for painting" was going to make him a rich man, otherwise my parents would never have consented to the match he and his mother proposed.
Over dinner, his spoke of his home in Italy. The city was called Venice, and he told me he thought of it as the loveliest city in the world, the same way I myself thought of Paris. I had resolved myself beforehand that I would not even like him, because he had been chosen for me by my parents, and they cared nothing for my will. But over the course of the meal, I found that resolve crumbling. He was simple and charming and warm. I found myself thinking of him as a friend already when I had not even known him for an hour. And... I felt I could come to love him, given time.
After dinner was over, as I was getting undressed for bed, he barged into my room, pulled me into his arms and kissed me. He held on tightly and kissed me roughly, and it frightened me- I cried out, kicked him, hit him with my fists. I think at one point I even bit him. "What are you doing!?"
He apologized, and explained to me that it had been my father's idea- he should take me now, rather than wait for our wedding night, to ensure that I would be "pure." For a moment, I hated my father. He had offered this man my body, as if I was not his daughter, but merely a whore who made money for him.
"I'm sorry," he said. He offered to wait until our wedding night and just let my father believe he had taken his advice. He seemed genuine in his apology, and in his offer to wait for me. But he also seemed hesitant to say those words. There was a look in his eyes I had seen before- in the men who line the seedier streets of Paris, men who would not hesitate to take small children to bed if the urge struck. Indeed, I had heard them whispering about it, about me- disgusting.
And yet, this was Marcelo. He was different. He was my friend already, and in a few months would be my husband. So I called him out on his hesitation.
"Do you want me, Marcelo?"
"I... yes, very much."
"Come then." I stripped for him, letting my clothing pool about my feet. "You are my husband- or soon will be. This is your right." I did not want him. The thought of bedding him, of bedding any man, disgusted me. I would sooner have put this whole business off until our actual wedding night. But Father would know if Marcelo did not bed me now, somehow. He knew everything. And his anger was terrifying.
So we did it. It was fumbling, clumsy, and it hurt. I did not like it, but Marcelo obviously had enjoyed it. So how could I avoid having to do it again? I posed that question to that maid after Marcelo left, and she recommended using my monthly bleeding as an excuse.
"But Marie, I am not bleeding yet."
"You don't have to be, Mademoiselle. Just make a cut on your leg -just here-" she traced the crease of her thigh through her skirts. "He won't know the difference. Men never do."
"Oh, merci, Marie. Merci beaucoup."
The next day, there was a magnificent garden party to celebrate Marcelo's and my engagement. I took a glass of champagne during it, so that after I could break that glass and make a cut where Marie had shown me to. And when Marcelo expressed a desire to take me to bed again that night, I gently explained to him that I was bleeding and he wouldn't enjoy it so much with myself in that state. My explanation satisfied him, and he left. Perhaps he sated that urge with one of the maids. I don't know. All I know was that in the wake of his leaving, I felt incredibly free. It was a sensation I had never felt before.
Now, in spite of all this, I still claim that I could have come to love Marcelo given time. I could have, and indeed, eventually I'm sure I would have fallen completely in love with him, if not for the complication that arose a few days after the garden party. His name was Henri.
Henri was a stablehand, hired by my father to care for the family's horses. It was mid-afternoon, and he and I happened to be alone together in the stables. I was tacking up my mare, Clarice, and he was grooming my father's horse Charlemagne.
"Mademoiselle Cossette, I... maybe it's not my place, but... I mean, I know it isn't, but... but I...."
"What is it, Henri? Speak."
"It... it musn't leave the stables, Mademoiselle. If word gets out I told you this, it'll look really bad, but...."
"We... all the servants, including me... we've heard rumors about Monsieur Orlando."
"Rumors? About Marcelo?"
"What kind of rumors?" I had to know. From the look on his face and his nervous tone, it was far from pleasant. But, all the same...
"The night he got here, his footman had a drink with some of us men in the servants quarters. A nightcap, you see? And he told us that the monsieur had been in an insane asylum in Italy for years before he came here. His father sent him there, supposed to have been for life. But his mother, according to this footman, this Sandro, his mother was soft on the monsieur. Sandro said the monsieur was the only child Madame Orlando had had that didn't die young. So he pleaded with her to get him out of the madhouse, and she sprung him. And she financed his coming here for a holiday. And then the steward, our Jacques, backed him up- he said there was doctor from the Maison des Loons in Paris there when he arrived to pick the monsieur up, trying to convince the monsieur to come and stay for a spell."
I could literally feel myself trembling. With anger at my father for allowing this man into our house -for surely he would have investigated the man who would be my husband before bringing him here, surely he had to know this- and perhaps a newborn fear of Marcelo. Because I did not for a moment believe Henri was lying to me. He was too simple for that. And his statement that it wouldn't look good for me to have learned this from him suddenly made sense. Naturally, for a stable boy to be telling his master's daughter these things about her fiance would only make the stable boy look petty and jealous. "Thank you for telling me, Henri. Where is this Sandro? I should like to confirm the story with him before I decide whether or not I believe these rumors. You needn't worry, your name won't ever come into it, if this turns out to be true."
"Well, thank you for that, Mademoiselle. But Sandro's gone."
"Gone!? Where!?" I snapped without meaning too, and Henri recoiled from me like a kicked puppy.
"Well... Monsieur Orlando's been spreading it around that he sent Sandro back to Venice to bring his mother here for the wedding. But our driver says he never took that Sandro back to the city, and none of us ever heard Sandro talk about going anywhere, least of all back to Italy. And the gardener, he told the stable master and me that he was up late setting traps for some of the animals that like to nibble the flowers, and as he was going to his shed, he saw Monsieur Orlando walking away from there with a shovel and a big bundle the size of a man. Monsieur Orlando left a lamp burning in the shed."
I felt my knees buckle, and a sense of numb disbelief stole over me. No. No, it cannot be possible. It cannot be true. Marcelo, a killer? That kind, gentle artist I know? But really, I did not know Marcelo at all. It was easily possible the face he showed my parents and I was nothing but a mask, and his real face was... was....
Henri wrapped his arms around me. He was warm. "I'm so sorry, Mademoiselle. I only told you because I was afraid of what would happen to you if you didn't know... I just wanted you to be safe from him." And then he kissed me. His kiss was warm too. And unlike with Marcelo, he was slow and gentle and I was not at all afraid. I kissed him back. We kept kissing and kissing and kissing, and eventually he laid me in the hay and he just... touched me. His hands were strong, but he was so gentle with me. He pleasured me with his hands, just his hands, and it was sweet.
"Henri, that was simply... simply amazing."
"I'm glad." He kissed my hair, then my mouth. So gently. As if he was afraid I would break. "Are you happy, Mademoiselle?"
"Cossette. When we're alone together like this, just call me Cossette."
"Whatever you want... Cossette."
I felt warm and safe in his arms, and I could have laid there in the hay with him forever. But all good things must come to an end, and the moment ended when Marcelo called my name from outside the barn. Hastily, I fixed my dress, gave Henri a quick kiss goodbye, and went to Marcelo.
He smiled like an angel when he saw me. He was so buoyant and happy- he didn't seem like he had it in him to kill a fly, let alone a man. "Come, darling. Let me paint your portrait."
He ended up discarding that first portrait. Along with all the ones that followed it. "The colors," he would always say, "they aren't quite right. They don't do you justice. Let me get some better paints and try again." And it went on in this manner for months.
I was free of Marcelo's amorous advances for a week of nights every month, plus those occasions I pretended to be bleeding just to avoid having to go to bed with him. But whenever he did have me, inevitably during the following day I would seek out Henri's comforting arms. I never permitted him to bed me, and he never asked to. He seemed content to kiss and to hold and to touch me, and I began to love him for it. My biggest fear became leaving for Venice after the wedding- I would never see my Henri again, and who would I turn to for comfort in that distant city where I would be a stranger?
But as those months ticked by, I noticed a change in Marcelo. He came an angrier, more distant person, flinging the paints and snapping his brushes when he made the slightest of mistakes in a painting. Any painting, not just my portrait, which continued to frustrate him. He was rougher in bed with me as well. Handling me so roughly I often had bruises the next day, biting me... one night he was so violent with me I swore I would break. I begged him to stop; he wouldn't, and it terrified me. Never before have I felt so small and so powerless. I began to spend every moment I justifiably could with Henri, made up excuses not to be in Marcelo's bed (or indeed, anywhere near him).
And now, as I sit here writing this, it is eleven forty-five PM. Marcelo has asked me to come to his studio -the piano room- at midnight. To finish my portrait, you see. I am terrified, but I'll be damned if I let him know that. I am to go there alone, and indeed I will. That being said, if anyone else is reading this, it means I am dead. Because, if I should leave the piano room alone tonight, I will burn this letter without ever having shown it to anyone. So, ma mère, mon père, if I am dead in the morning, you know who is responsible. No matter what he might say otherwise.
All my love,
Your petite Cossette
"Ah." The petite blonde girl smiled wryly. "It's very late, isn't it, Marcelo?"
"Hmm?" The man nearby with the canvas turned to face her.
"Oh, no." She laughed, glancing over her shoulder to look at him -for she wasn't even facing him. "I named the clock Marcelo." She patted the grandfather clock's wooden side, then finally turned to face her fiance. "Do you think this will be the last portrait?"
The man turned away, searching for something in his paintbox. "Yes, I think so." He said evenly. "I had some trouble finding the right red, though."
The girl clasped her hands together. "But you have it now, don't you? You're so brilliant you must! Tell me, what's the pigment?"
"Funny story." He turned to her, letting her see the knife in his hands. "I thought I had it, in blood. But then I did a little experiment with Sandro's, and that beautiful red dries to such an ugly brown color."
"Oh?" She was backing away from him, an expression of pure fright on her face. As though her worst fear was being realized.
"And that got me thinking, Cossette. About you, and how beautiful you are." He had her backed up to the wall, now, and he reached down to stroke the curve of her cheek, ignoring her shudder. "You're so beautiful now, but... as you grow up, grow older, your beauty will fade away. You'll be dried up and ugly, just like the blood." He raised the knife.
"Please, Marcelo. Don't. I love you."
"You're a liar. I've seen you and that stable boy together. But I love you, Cossette. That's why I have to do this. I'm preserving your beauty forever, don't you see?" He leaned down to inhale the scent of her hair, just as he buried the knife in her gut.
Her shriek pierced the night, the only alarm Cossette d'Auvergne had at her disposal to raise.
Third Installment in the Opheliac series: Fin
AN: So there we have it, my take on Cossette's death and engagement. Everything to do with Henri is completely fabricated, of course, but I feel even with that that this is a bit more realistic of a portrayal of Cossette and Marcelo's relationship. As he was chosen for her by her parents, unless they'd been betrothed and known each other since she was a toddler, I find it unlikely she would have fallen in love. But if Marcelo started off sort of like Eiri, I can imagine them being friendly easily enough. Until he killed her anyway.
Also, though, this was based on the lyrics to the Emilie Autumn song by the same title, and it's pretty dark, so I didn't want to paint their relationship as all sunshine and butterflies with Marcelo quietly going crazy without Cossette's noticing. So a lot of the darkness, in a real situation like this in that time period, most likely wouldn't have been there and I acknowledge that.
Either way, review and tell me what you thought!