Disclaimer: I'm pro BYOFD (bring your own funny disclaimer.)
Spoilers: See the film.
A/N: For those of you who read my other Ever After story, "Stopping the Rain", I have written the prequel, I just haven't gotten around to editing it yet. I've been really busy lately. I actually wrote this at the same time as "Stopping the Rain", but somehow it got lost in my hard drive graveyard. I just unearthed it and decided to post on a whim. I hope you like it. If there are any errors, please respect my request and send me a PM about it NOT a review. Reviews are for praise, PMs are for fixable criticism. Thank you.
Lamentation: The Baroness' Tale
"Did you love my father?" she had asked.
I admit, the question caught me unprepared. Did I love him? No one had ever asked me that before.
I never was one for romantic fancies. My mother raised me so that I would one day be able to raise our family's social standing and consequence. I was a means to an end and I accepted my fate.
At the age of sixteen, I was betrothed to the wealthiest man my parents could find--a Baron De Ghent. It did not seem to matter to my parents that he was one and sixty with barely a hair on his head nor a tooth in his mouth. All that mattered were his tittle and financial worth. My mother's only words of comfort were that he would be dead soon anyway.
I did not cry at my wedding, nor did I celebrate as my parents did. My new husband just leered at me through red and watery eyes.
If I believed in love before my marriage, fifteen years of it robbed me of any such foolish ideas.
For the most part, I ignored my husband, going to him only for money or when he demanded a service of me. At meals we sat on either end of a long table with a great expanse between us.
When my first daughter, Marguerite, was born, I felt none of the motherly feelings I had been told to expect. She was merely a result of my union with the Baron. I envisioned for her only what my mother had for me: a life of greater wealth and standing than I had achieved. Like all that I was to my mother, she was all that to me.
My second child, Jacqueline, was not even that. She was an extra, a back-up plan, a nobody. She meant nothing to me.
Finally the day my mother told me would come came. My husband died chewing a piece of hard mutton with his toothless gums. For the first time in my life, I was free to live my life as I wished.
But my happiness was cut short by the knowledge that my husband was not as prosperous or connected as my parents had supposed. He died heavy in debt and left nothing for my children or me.
It was then that I decided I had no choice but to marry again.
After nearly a year of hunting for my next husband, I had almost given up hope of ever finding a suitable candidate. Then one day, I met Him.
Our mutual friend, Lady DeBorg, introduced us. He was a pleasant looking fellow with straw colored hair cut in a bowl shape common among the country gentry. He was a little stout but by no means fat—a good size in proportion to his medium height. His face was round and full and his smile hinted of a kind and gentle manner. I estimated his age to be around five and forty, only three or so years my senior.
According to Lady DeBorg, he was indeed a country gentleman widowed some eight years past. He had a not insignificant fortune as well as a profitable farm not far from the king's summer castle. Best of all, he was in the market for a new bride who could run his manor while he was away on his frequent business trips for the king.
After a single dance, I knew he was the man I had been looking for.
A fortnight later we were betrothed and less than a month following we were married.
Around him I felt like I had never felt before. There was something about him that made me feel safe and even admired. No one had ever made me feel that way before. It was both strange and wonderful to be seen as more than just an object in another human's eyes.
The day he brought me home to his manor, I admit I felt trepidation. I had never journeyed beyond the city's limit and was fearful of how his servants would react to suddenly having a new mistress after so many years. My husband hugged me and promised that they would be nothing but cordial and attentive to my wishes.
But beyond the matter of his servants was that of his daughter, a result of his first marriage whom I had never met. I was worried that it might be difficult for me to tame her for being raised by a man for most of her life was bound to leave her rough and possibly wild.
My suspicions were unfortunately proved correct as my first view of her was impeded by a layer of thick, smelly mud. One dinner together was evidence enough of her vulgarity and ill manners. I was determined to correct her.
That night as I lay in bed, I listened to the sound of my husband's heart beating. He arm fell across my body in his sleep.
How different his touch felt from that of my first husband! Even though I was in a foreign bed in a strange new house, I had never felt so comfortable. That night I slept peacefully and deeply for what I believe to be the first time in my life.
As wonderful as the previous night had been, the next day brought nothing but pain.
As my husband rode off on his mission for the king, I felt a great pang of loneliness and some other feeling I was either unwilling or unable to acknowledge. I was alone save my daughters in a strange new place with no familiar arms to shelter me.
And then I saw my husband fall from his horse.
I felt myself fly towards him, but even those seconds felt like an eternity. I couldn't lose him, not yet, not when we had barely begun our lives together. I clasped his hand, begging him to stay, to live, but he pulled out of my grip, his eyes moving off mine to stare into his daughter's. With his last breath, he said, "I love you."
He said it to his daughter, not to me.
Through the pain and waves of grief crashing through my body, one coherent thought burst through: no one had ever loved me. How could they? There was something about me that made me unlovable. Something I was missing that his daughter, despite her rough exterior, possessed.
From that day forth, I shut my heart to all emotion save indifference. It was easier to live.
Now here stood that same girl who, deep down in a place I had always tried to hide from myself and others, I envied, and she was asking me that question. The question I feared not only because I knew the answer, but also because I knew what it would mean.
And so I did not answer, instead telling her to just go away.
That night as I fell asleep, I could have sworn I heard a heart beat and felt the gentle squeeze of my husband's arm around my waist. For a second I thought I heard his voice whisper in my ear the words I had always longed to hear and in the darkness, I whispered back my response.
A/N: I wrote this story not to excuse the stepmother for mistreating Danielle, but to merely explain her character and actions. Who here thinks she really did love Danielle's father? I actually wasn't sure. I kind of liked the whole frozen-to-the-core aspect of her character, even if it is a bit clichéd. I left it up to you to imagine what the whispers were, although my sister says it's obvious. In case you were wondering what she meant by being afraid of what the answer would mean, let me explain. If she said yes, it would mean revealing to the world that she has a heart and admitting to herself that she feels pain. If she says no, it means she really is cold and incapable of being loved.