Chapter Three

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Paris, 1889


"Mademoiselle, I simply adore your story, but could I hear some of yours and Erik's past?"

"Why of course, Monseiur Leroux."

"Please, call me Gaston."

"Monseiur Leroux, I do not think that we are on a first-name basis yet."

"But I already c-"

"Monseiur, may I please continue?"


Persia, 1860


I set down my suitcase in the foyer of the palace.

"This is so amazing!" I cried. I looked all around the magnificent palace, taking in its glory. I saw a tall boy walk in. He looked close to my age, so I went and spoke to him.

"Hello! I am Lia Vialdi. May I ask your name?" He looked stunned. The boy did not speak. He only looked at me.

"Can you speak?"

"Lia! Do not frighten the boy." I turned around to face my mother.

"Mother, I'm not frightening him. I need to make friends as soon as possible, so why not start now?"

"Yes." I swiveled around to face the masked boy. It seemed as though his lips did not move.

"Yes, I can speak. Just because I choose not to, does not mean I cannot talk. You do not need to know my name."

I could hear his voice, but did not realize that he was wearing a mask.

"Oh, I did not mean to-"

"You! Down there!" I looked up. A young woman wearing a veil was addressing me on a balcony.

"Yes, miss?" I called up to her.

"Are you my new attendant?" At that moment, I realized that she must be the khanum.

"Yes, miss."

"Good. Then get up here now."

"I apologize, sir, but I must leave."

He chuckled.

"It is quite alright. I suppose I shall see you again soon enough, correct?"

"Correct." I smiled at him and walked up the stairs to the khanum's balcony.

"You are late," she said as soon as I entered.

"Miss, I-"

"Two months late. I should punish you, but I won't, since you are new to this country."

"I apologize, khanum. It will not happen again."

"Good. Elisa and Meia shall take care of you, and get you out of those hideous clothes." She motioned to the two girls on either side of her.

"Yes, miss." Elisa and Meia grabbed me by the arms and led me to a room.

"You will love it here!" Elisa screeched.

"She is lying. I absolutely hate it here. I am not even allowed to read my books!" Meia huffed. They both had very thick Persian accents, which was somehow soothing. They probably thought my Italian accent was annoying. I hated it, and still do. They sat me down on a stool in front of a vanity, and began to do their work.

"First, let us take out all these pins. Hmm, we should twist it then pin it up. No, we just braid it and leave it down. Ooh! Maybe a flower in the hair! No, it seems too...extraordinary." Elisa would not stop messing with my hair. It was then that I noticed they both had the exact same hairstyle, makeup, even style of clothing.

"Maybe something less...ordinary?" I suggested.

"No!" They both shouted.

"It would be insulting to the khanum. She must be noticed, and only her!" Maia cried.

I quickly apologized.

"But may I choose my own clothes, please?"

"Of course!" Maia said. I stood up after Elisa had finished on my hair, and chose a coral pink outfit.

"Ooh, that will look very pretty on you, Lia." Elisa gawked.

"Thank you."

After I changed, I stopped to admire how I looked. By then, Maia and Elisa had already left. The next thing I heard were screams. I rushed onto the balcony.

"Oh Allah!"

"Someone get a doctor!"

"It's horrible! Horrible!"

What I saw was the aftermath of something truly terrible.

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