In-between the lines
Jacqueline sat, with head down, hands on her forehead, at the Musketeer dinning room table. Not eating, but sitting facing outward from her plate, she was deep in contemplation over her growing issue with Mireille, the laundry maid, who had developed an attachment to Jacques Leponte—her counter self.
It had all started when d'Artagnan unscrupulously solicited the woman's attention in the first place, and then couldn't seem to shake her off his tail after that. In his own words, "I had coffee with her one time and she acts like we're engaged." So he had lied to her. He told her he was going off on a mission, far away.
The problem with that was that he hadn't gone anywhere. He had just been avoiding her. Inevitably, that fateful day at the laundry house, all four of them ran into her. And that's where Jacqueline's problems began. Feeling sorry for the rudeness her comrade had shown toward the woman, Jacqueline, as Jacques Leponte, intervened to soften the girl's letdown.
Now, she had the clinging wash-maid all but engaged to Leponte. It had gotten way out of hand. Jacqueline had to get rid of her. But how? Sitting there, she pondered over her predicament.
She had refused to lie like d'Artagnan had to Mireille. But after seeing the annoying persistence of the poor misled girl, she began to wonder if there was any other option. She hated to admit to her flippant comrade that perhaps his actions had been acceptable, given the situation.
"Anything I can help with?" a voice startled the pondering Musketeer.
Looking up, Jacqueline saw d'Artagnan leaning over her in question. Rubbing her face, she replied, "No. I'm just thinking."
"Thinking about what?"
"That's none of your business."
Changing the subject, he teasingly asked, "So, it's your day off. Where are you and Mireille off to today?"
Making a disgusted face at the man, she retorted, "Very funny." Shaking her head in annoyance, she swung her legs around to the inside of the table. "If anything, I'll be avoiding her today," she answered. Taking a fruit from the bowl in the center, she bit into it for something to do other than face her jeering tormenter.
D'Artagnan's face lit up. "Ah. So you're getting tired of all her attention, are you?" He smiled and took a seat next to her at the table. "What are you going to do about it?"
Swallowing her mouthful, she looked at him with a frown. "What do you mean, what am I going to do about it? Nothing. I'm just going to avoid her that's all. She'll eventually get tired of chasing me down and leave me alone."
Seeming to enjoy her affliction, he taunted, "And what happens if she doesn't? Are you going to marry her?"
Appalled, she faced him. "D'Artagnan, you're sick."
Amusedly, he backed off, holding his hands up in defense and inserted, "I'm not suggesting anything. I'm just following our friendly wash-maid's logical train of thought."
"Well, you can just be quiet and leave me alone. I can handle it."
"I can see that." He observantly eyed her. "You're handling it extremely well. She's been around the garrison every day for…how long has it been?" he teased.
Her only response was a look of oppression at the thought. In truth, there had been laundry deliveries at least once a day for the past week straight. And that didn't include all the times she had just shown up with her picnic basket and homemade meals. More than the female Musketeer's immediate comrades were beginning to notice. And there was one thing Jacqueline did not want to do—draw attention to herself.
D'Artagnan looked around the lounge to make sure they were alone. "Want some advice?"
With her mouth full, she could only offer him a dirty look in reply.
He leaned in to whisper, "Seriously, I've been thinking about how you can get Mireille out of your hair." His eyes lent themselves to admire her hair along with his comment.
Finished eating, she glanced at him from the side of her eyes and licked the juice off her fingers. With sarcasm, she asked "How? How would Paris' noble d'Artagnan tell a woman he's done with her?"
Offended by her accusation, he backed off with a straight face. "Are you suggesting that I cold-heartedly use women, and then willfully subject them to rejection afterward?"
"Skip it, d'Artagnan. Do you have advice or not?" she wasn't in the mood to delve into his womanizing behavior just then.
Considering her receptiveness for a moment, he began, "All right. You need a fiancée."
"A fiancé?" she echoed in shock.
"A fiancée," he confirmed.
Jacqueline rose from the bench to be followed by her advisor. "You are out of your mind, d'Artagnan."
"What do you mean? It's a great idea. If Mireille thought Jacques Leponte was already spoken for, she'd be obligated to leave you alone. I know it would work." He pleaded his case as he followed her down the hallway.
"Ah. So you're saying that Leponte would have to find a woman willing lie to Mireille that they are engaged." Arriving at her room, she turned on her pursuer to offer one last question. "Supposing it would even work, where would I find this fiancée to lie for me?"
Smiling at her, he inferred, "I'm glad you asked. I've already given that some thought."
Paused, with her hand on her doorknob, she gave him a look of consideration.
Seeing that he held her interest, with a playful flicker of his brow, he proceeded. "Do you want to hear it?"