Points of Light
A thousand points of light flickered in the evening air, and Oscar, in her youth and naïveté, reached out with eager hands to take it for herself.
"Oscar!" André shouted, forgetting his station, his place, his rank. "Oscar, no!"
Initially, the clap of her palms coming together meant success for the young girl. She had captured the luminosity for her own.
But when she opened her hands, she saw only a bug, its insides smeared across the palms of her hands.
The walk to the royal stables was long and uneventful as usual. The silence gave Oscar time to think, to ponder, to wonder about her role in the French monarchy. Where did she stand, exactly? Would her advice be warranted, understood, regarded?
The dim glow of a lightning bug caught her interest from where it sat on André's hair.
"There is an insect making a home of your hair," she said sternly, pushing away the tiredness she felt lest it leak through her voice and worry her companion.
He reached up to brush it away with a soft, "Oh?"
But before he could do anything, her fingers were gently lifting it off of his ponytail. He coughed, maybe in embarrassment. She couldn't be sure.
Hours later, she tried to remember the reason for her intervention. His hand had been moving too quickly toward his face, and, she thought, she had feared he would inadvertently kill the innocent bug that had landed there.
How silly, she chided herself as she readied for bed, that she would be so worried for the life of nothing more than a bug.
Bugs never lived long, anyway.
Two drunken buddies made their way home after a night on the town. That was the picture they painted, with André hiccupping and Oscar swaying unsteadily on her feet. They supported one another—they were good at that—and continued on their way.
The de Jarjayes mansion was quiet, but the lawn and the gardens were lovely in the stillness. All at once, she understood why poor Rosalie had mistaken the place for Versailles. It was so much more than others had.
"For you, Oscar," André said, and presented a rose to her. It was small and white—it had not yet fully bloomed. His hand was bleeding from where he had drunkenly let himself be stuck by thorns, but he didn't seem to mind.
She laughed, but took it from him. "You're crazy! Flowers're for girls."
"But you are a girl, Oscar," he said, and wiped the blood on his shirt.
She glared at him for a moment, but was distracted by the fireflies whose lights flickered in the quietness. It was beautiful, and she said so aloud.
"That's beautiful?" André scoffed. "No." And he pointed up, toward the sky.
Her eyes followed and saw, above her, a starlit sea. Millions, billions, trillions of stars littered the heavens. She swallowed and looked at her friend, who was still watching them.
"But they're not alive," she argued. The fireflies were amazing because they were living beings.
He did not look at her, but kept his shining eyes on the heavens. "You don't know that."
Their only night together was on the forest floor, surrounded by lightning bugs and the smells of a warm summer evening. She wasn't sure if it was romantic or not, but it was most certainly a beautiful night.
It was only too bad, she thought, that André could not see it himself.
Instead of wasting her time falling into a restless sleep, she told him about it—the endless, clear sky above them, sprinkled with stars, and the dark forest, lit only by occasional pinpoints provided by fireflies. The stars were especially brilliant, she said, because she remembered how he had enjoyed looking at them in his youth. "There are more than you could possibly count."
His lips stretched up in a smile. "Do you believe them to be alive?" he asked.
"I know they are," she murmured in response, curling against him, "because when one dies, it falls to the Earth."
Oscar had not entered into the Revolution intending to die, but then again, neither had André.
She had wondered for many years about the firefly she had killed as a selfish, wanting child. Was death painful? Could a person see it coming, or, like it had come to the firefly, did it descend rapidly, and without warning?
As the Bastille was stormed, Oscar found the answers to all her questions. The cobblestone street was hard beneath her, and though she felt excruciating pain from her many injuries…she found that she did not care. Her eyes were turned toward the sky, and she felt blessed to be able to see.
There weren't stars littering the sky at high noon, nor were there lightning bugs to make the bloodied streets beautiful.
Instead, the sun burned overhead, one big ball of warmth and light. She blinked, and it was gone.
Rosalie wailed from beside her, but Oscar did not understand why.
The dying never lived long, anyway.
Happy Bastille Day! It's been a long time since I've written something for Rose of Versailles, and what better opportunity than Bastille Day?