Charlotte Fortesque: Age 14


I look around me and I know Mere hates me. A rather large man in an expensive red suit with gold buttons is eyeing me up and down. His hair is a flaming red, much like my own. His mustache is obviously jelled at the ends to make him look like even more of a creep. I stand here awkwardly in my flowered blue dress, tugging at the bottom so my hand won't twitch out and slap him. It's my favorite dress in the whole world, and the one thing I'll be able to remember home by.

Mere prods me once in the back, and I stiffen like a board. The large man nods approvingly. "Yes, she will do."

No. Can't he say I'm ugly? I'm ugly and quiet and terrible for business! Nobody will ever come to the Moulin Rouge if a girl like me is around. This is what I want him to say.

Mere needs the money. Papa is out of the job and we're barely holding on. My older brother, Jean, is looking for work too, but he can't do much. He mostly finds the occasional job lifting rocks and mining. He makes enough to put scraps of food on our plates, but not enough to pay the rent.

So Mere decided she would put her innocent, fourteen year old daughter into the prostitute business. People who actually participate in it will call me a 'courtesan', but it really just means prostitute. I'll be selling my love, my body; my innocent, untouched body.

Mere didn't even try to do it herself. She wouldn't dream of becoming a courtesan. Never in a million years. But, of course, it's fine if I do it.

I've always known Mere hated me. She always gives the best hunk of chocolate to Jean. If Jean says I do something bad, she automatically believes him. All the terrible chores like cleaning up animal waste goes to me. Jean doesn't have to do anything because he's a boy. He does enough just sitting there, presumably strong, as I'm the real one lifting all the weight. I hate Jean more than I hate Mere. This was his idea. He's been wandering around Paris (of course, he's allowed to go for nice strolls) when he saw a sign for the Moulin Rouge. It needed pretty, young girls for dancing. I, unfortunately, can dance and sing. I always have. I suppose I'm not terrible looking either, except for my infamous red hair. Stupid Jean came running home exclaiming how we could make a fortune off of me. Everyone loved the idea.

So, because of Jean and the rest of my terrible family, I am standing here trying not to vomit as Mere and the large man discuss what my fate is going to be.

I want to plug my ears and scream so I won't here the details. Hear that people will pay 40 francs to sleep with me. Hear that Mere will be paid 50 Francs a day for me dancing around in huge dresses.

I'll be fed, and have a place to sleep. I'll get expensive jewels and meet pretty girls who want nothing more but to be my friend.

I don't want any of that. I want to play on the streets with my best friend, Lucille, and wait for the daily bread and cheese to be thrown out so we can eat. That's life for me. I don't want anything different.

Fate isn't in my hands anymore. My fate is in the hands of that large man in the expensive looking suit, Harold Zidler.

This is the beginning of my life at the Moulin Rouge.