These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder
Which as they kiss consume.
Christine slid her hand slowly down the window pane, marveling at how the world appeared before her in streaks as her fingers swept away the morning frost. It would be spring soon. The deep winter snows were already melting away to reveal the tips of fresh grass, and the air was starting to loose its heavy chill. The road leading up to the manor was still white, fresh tracks revealing the frozen earth in crescent markings. She sighed deeply as the sun peaking over the distant hills, feeling the warmth of a new day. She stared at the seemingly insignificant details of their country home, trying to commit it all to memory. But her eyes kept drifting to their stable, and she smiled sadly as she saw her horse Lady being fed her breakfast by the stable boy. She was an Andalusian, and Christine had had her since she was a young child. She would miss her dearly, but despite how much it pained her, she knew there was no way she could bring Lady to Paris with her.
"Christine?" She jumped at the loud knocking on her door. "Are you awake?" Realizing it was only her brother, she called out to him.
"Come in, Charles." He strolled in, beaming as he handed her a pastry wrapped in a napkin. She raised an eyebrow at him, noticing it was still warm.
"Oh calm down, Christine! Mary won't even notice it's gone! I swiped it from the oven while she wasn't looking." He said, giving me a wink. He ruffled his blond hair lightly as he leaned against the wall, shaking his head as he looked at her. "Christine, Christine... I could have sworn you were seven only yesterday, but I guess time truly does fly. You still don't look eighteen, though." Her eyes flashed slightly as he mentioned her birthday.
"I'm a bit surprised you remembered, to be honest. You've been very distracted with the Coulson sisters as of late..." She said with mock sternness, unwrapping the warm croissant. She bit into the pastry, tasting melted chocolate. "Thank you, Charles. This is really good. It's a shame that Mary's going to skin you alive, though..." Charles scoffed, pretending to look offended.
"You have little faith in my stealthiness, sister! Mary is none the wiser. And I would never forget about your birthday!"
"Oh really, Charles? What about last year? And th-" He waved his hand, quickly interrupting her.
"Fine, maybe I'm not the most attentive brother, but I wanted to make this one special. It is after all, the first time Father has ever agreed to let you leave home..." He said almost sadly. Giving a small smile, Christine put down her pastry and stood up, hugging her brother tightly. "I'm going to miss you so much, Christine. Nothing will be the same here without you."
"I'm going to miss you too." She said softly. "Just try not to get into too much trouble while I'm away."
He grinned, pulling away. "I won't."
"Good. And I'll be back before you know it! It's only a month. You won't..." Christine turned back to the window, her sentence fading as she became distracted by the sound of hooves on gravel. "They're here," she said almost nervously. Whether those nerves were excitement or apprehension she couldn't tell, but she was suddenly struck with just how definite the situation was. For better or for worse she would be gone, beyond the help of Charles and her father. It was something she'd never had to go through, and frankly she wasn't sure if she was ready.
"I guess this is really happening," Charles said, running a hand through his hair. She nodded, still facing the glass. "I'll head down to greet them. Come down when you're ready." He said quietly, leaving her to her thoughts.
Christine gave a small smile as she watched the pair exit their carriage, looking very stiff from their journey. The Bellemonts were a curious couple, very quirky despite their high place in society. They were her aunt and uncle from her mother's side, Jeanette being her mother's sister. Jeanette had always been a genuinely kind person, but her loud, confident nature often led people to assume she was prone to gossip. This however, could not be further from the truth. Both Jeanette and her husband Bernard considered trust the key element to relationships, their discretion having led to their outstanding reputation in Paris (although, they often shared various tales with Christine and her family). Jeanette had lived there her whole life, growing up in the heart of the city with Christine's mother, Aurelie. When Aurelie fell in love with Christine's father, a humble musician; she was scorned. Jeanette however had remained faithful to her older sister throughout the entire scandal, and in turn to her husband and children. Christine was incredibly thankful for not only their support during the period after her mother's death, but for their insistence she come to Paris with them as well. She had always wanted to see the city her mother had spoken so fondly of, particularly the Opera Garnier. This trip had been the only thing keeping her sane these past years, and Christine knew this had to be her chance at a fresh start, something she needed more than she dared admit.
Christine shook her head, pulling herself from her wandering thoughts. There was no use worrying about the future, especially when she had almost no idea what to expect. Knowing she needed to hurry she scooted off the window seat, stretching her toes as they touched the freezing floorboards. She had neglected to put on shoes this morning, and had to hobble to her wardrobe on her numb feet. After covering her feet, she turned to the mirror, pinning half of her hair into a loose bun. Moving towards the door, she caught sight of her packed trunks, biting her lip as she tried to calm the knot in her stomach. She felt as if she had been caught in a hurricane, her thoughts spinning so wildly, it was a miracle she made it out of her room. Making her way down the stairs slowly, she couldn't help smiling at the loud conversation that had already begun in their foyer. No doubt another story of the Bellemonts' wild dinner parties. She stood at the base of the stairs, enjoying simply observing the scene in front of her.
"Can you believe it? He made it all the way to India as a stowaway on a cargo ship! No doubt the most daring story I've heard in a long time, especially considering they were transporting live animals! Have you ever seen a tiger, Gustav?" Jeanette asked, completely caught up in her tale. Gustav looked completely lost and Christine found herself starting to laugh at her father's baffled expression. Quickly hiding it behind her hand, she leaned back against the banister. Her father's gaze soon found her, and he lost complete interest in Jeanette's tale. Jeanette however, didn't seem to notice as she had started speaking to Charles."Well, I hear their paws are as large as large as a grown man's head! Monsieur Baudin is lucky to be alive, indeed! And he is going to bring us a pot of spices he received from the..." Christine attention drifted as her father reached her, hugging her tightly.
"Happy birthday, Christine." He said, smiling warmly. Sighing as he turned back to the scene, he watched Jeanette's fervent expressions and gestures as she began to speak of elephants. "Well, you certainly won't have to worry about Paris being boring." She smirked, not realizing how true that statement was.
"I'll be surprised if I make the acquaintance of any less than five dukes." She said in her best impression of a pompous aristocrat. He laughed, but looked almost sullen. Feeling like she could be making a mistake, she quietly asked, "Are you sure you're okay with me doing this?"
"What? Of course, Christine." She relaxed visibly with this assurance. "It's just that you remind me so much of your mother, and she would've given anything to show you Paris herself... You have her sense of humor, you know." Christine's serious expression twitched into one of happiness. "I don't know what I'm going to do with myself while your gone." He said with complete honesty.
"You and Charles will probably be at each other's throats." She said, earning a chuckle.
"Probably." He glanced over to his son, watching him being forcefully entertained by a very driven Jeanette. "We ought to save your brother before he dies of excitement." Christine nodded.
"Just please... There's no need to worry about me. It will all be fine." She said, giving his hand a squeeze. He nodded, but she could tell he wasn't entirely convinced. Not sure there was much else she could do though, she went to her brother. After turning Jeanette's attentions to herself Charles slowly stepped away, whispering a 'thank you' into Christine's ear. Although feeling overwhelmed by the entire situation, she was happy to discuss the details of their trip and listened attentively for a time. Still, after awhile her mind began to wander. Not to any place in particular, but she couldn't seem to refocus her thoughts. When Mary announced breakfast to Christine's relief, she quietly slipped away, asking her father to make her excuses. She needed some fresh air, and she knew just how she was going to get it.
Closing the front door behind her, she walked briskly to the stables. Lady nudged her playfully as Christine retrieved her bridle and lead rope. "Be patient, Lady! We'll leave soon." She had hoped to be able to ride her this morning, but changing into her riding clothes seemed quite impossible with the short amount of time she had. Brushing some loose straw off of Lady's back, Christine led her out of the stables and towards the road, grabbing a cloak as she went.
Lady whinnied loudly, startling Christine from her peaceful state. "I know you're bored, but I just can't ride you today..." They had been walking around the fields beyond her home for a while now, and Lady seemed quite fed up with their slow pace. Christine began to think sadly that this was the last time she would see Lady for quite some time, and she wanted so badly to ride her before she left. She gripped the lead rope tighter, knowing that doing this would be socially unacceptable."I can't believe I'm doing this." She said, giving a nervous laugh. After a quick look around to make sure no one was walking by, she tied the lead rope to the bridle to fasten reins. Making sure Lady was ready, she mounted her horse, a leg on either side. Christine had never learned to ride sidesaddle—despite its impropriety in society—and she wasn't about to learn now. Soon, she and Lady were in a fast canter, flying across the grassy land. She didn't dare move to a gallop though, fearing that her skirt would fly up if they went any faster. Still, this ride gave her that giddy feeling of breaking the rules, and the cold air gave her a strange feeling of contentedness. By the time she dismounted, she was breathless and her eyes were watering from the wind. Smiling wider than she had in weeks, she undid the lead rope and hastily pulled her skirt down over her legs, sincerely hoping no one had seen her.
After putting Lady back in the stables, she ran towards the back entrance, hoping to look a little less wind-blown before seeing the Bellemonts again. She moved through the gardens quickly, nearly falling over as she ran straight into her father. He frowned, taking a long look at her disheveled appearance. Before she could even open her mouth though, he started laughing. She smiled as he tried to catch his breath, relieved he wasn't upset with her. "You are my daughter indeed, Christine! Never let those stuck up aristocrats change you!" He said, squeezing her shoulder. "Now, you'd better hurry and get some breakfast from Mary. If you want to reach Paris by nightfall, you need to leave soon." He kissed the top of her head and sent her inside. As she closed the backdoor, she could hear him faintly chuckling.
Once she had fixed her hair, Christine went to the kitchen to get something more to eat, but Mary was nowhere to be found. Knowing that the Bellemonts needed to leave, she quickly cut herself a piece of bread and wrapped it in a cloth napkin for later. "Christine? Christine, Darling, we really ought to be going soon..." Jeanette said, entering the kitchen.
"I'm really sorry for delaying our departure! I just have to grab my travelling cloak and then we can leave. It won't be but a minute." Christine quickly explained, feeling guilty for taking so long with Lady.
"No harm done!" Jeanette assured her. "This is your first time leaving home, right? I know this is new. We'll be in the carriage when you're ready and we should still be able to reach Brookside while it's daylight, so take your time saying goodbye." Christine nodded, relieved that Jeanette was so understanding.
"Alright, I'll be there soon."
After retrieving her cloak, Christine descended the stairs for what felt like the last time. She knew she was only going away for a month, but the house suddenly had a strange feeling of finality to it. The uneasiness didn't lessen as she saw Charles waiting for her. "Christine!" He called up to her as she reached the ground floor. She ran and hugged him, dread twisting in her stomach as she held onto him tightly. He laughed until he pulled back and looked into her eyes, suddenly becoming serious. "Are you okay, little sister?"
"I have this horrible feeling that something's wrong." She said softly. She didn't want to say that she felt like this was the last time she was going to see this place. She didn't want to worry him. Besides, it seemed absolutely ridiculous.
"Don't worry! You're just nervous to be leaving home. Nothing is wrong!" Christine bit her lip, not convinced. "But if you're feeling this way, you probably just forgot to pack something!"
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely! And you can write me every day if you need to. If something goes wrong, I'll come rushing to your aid! Not that you've ever needed anyone to save you..."
"He's absolutely right, you know. You can handle almost anything that comes your way." Gustav said, entering the foyer. Christine hugged him as well, realizing just how much she was going to miss them.
"Thank you for believing in me all these years, papa." She said, smiling.
"Of course, Christine. Now what's this I hear about something going wrong?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
She quickly shook her head, speaking with as much confidence as she could. "It's nothing! I probably just forgot to pack something. I'll know soon enough, anyways." She was probably just being silly, as nervous about the trip as she was.
"If you say so." He said carefully. "Goodbye, Christine. I love you so much."
"I love you, too." She said, giving him one last hug. "You too, Charles."
Gustav opened the door for her, walking her out to the carriage. As he helped her into the carriage, he whispered one last thing to her. "You're ready. All will be well." A little confused, Christine nodded and sat down across from the Bellemonts. After a few moments the carriage lurched forward, her eyes remaining fixed on the large country house as it became smaller and smaller in the distance.