CHAPTER ONE: Second Thoughts

Jacqueline stood by the open window, marvelling at the joy outside. It seemed as if she were a prisoner here sometimes. She longed to get out, to dress as a girl again. But most of all, she just wanted to be free. Everyone at the garrison had been great to her but none of them, save for d'Artagnan, could ever know who she really was. Why had this happened to her? Why did Mazarin have her father killed, her brother captured? Why didn't she do something to stop it? That was her biggest problem: she blamed herself. She wanted to speak to Gerard again, to have him reassure her that it wasn't her fault. Sure, d'Artagnan told her this all the time, but it wasn't the same. She needed to hear it from one of the men whose lives she had ruined, and she couldn't exactly ask their father...

Jacqueline breathed a heavy sigh and pulled the cord to lower the dark blue curtains. The room was instantly darkened and she wished for their father's study, the room that never seemed to dull with the night. She would spend hours there as a child, trying to overcome her girlish ignorance by learning to read. She taught herself much, having no mother to do it for her. It was as she was thinking this that there came a soft knock at her door.

Jacqueline knew that there could only be one person who would knock like that. But why so late? What did he want now? She decided not to answer it. Maybe he would get the hint and walk away. Better yet, let him think she was asleep. She carefully walked over to her bed, careful not to make a sound. The knocking ceased and she heard quiet retreating steps. She was paying attention to this sound and not to the table in front of her when she tripped. Her wash basin came crashing to the floor and she heard louder steps returning to her door.

"Jacques? Are you alright in there?"

"Go away, d'Artagnan. It's late and I have patrol with Ramon in the morning."

"What's wrong, mi amigo?" There was a second voice now; Ramon's.

"I was walking back to my room for the night when I heard something in Jacque's room. He's probably alright but I just wanted to make sure."

"Ah, smart thinking, mi amigo. I was doing the same." The men spoke to each other now.

"Ramon, d'Artagnan; what's going on?"

"Well, I was just walking to my room and Ramon here was –"

Jacqueline let out a huff and through open the door. "I am fine! If you three would just go to bed so that the rest of us could –" She stopped when she saw her three friends staring hard at her. She froze. Had she forgotten to tie up her hair? Did she lose her manly voice again? Was her cover blown? Then Ramon began to laugh. Siroc hit him in the stomach and began to drag him off down the hall. Ramon's whines could be heard long after they had turned the corner at the end of the hall.