"I came here for vengeance, too," Olivier was saying. "Only I had not realized it!"
Lucie shook her head. "I do not understand. How could you not know that you wished for revenge?"
"I had not realized how truly angry I was until I saw you speaking with Justine," he said, moving closer. Lucie backed up, just a little. "I was a fool not to let you slit her throat. I saw the scornful way she spoke to you. Did you know, my mother would have fallen all over herself with joy to have me marry Justine Rouergue?" He shuddered. "Can you imagine a vile snake such as that in your bed? Bearing your children?"
"No," said Lucie flatly.
"But until I spoke with Nicholas Lamoignon, I did not know my own rage! For that is what I feel now. Rage." Oliver grinned at her in the darkness.
Lucie wanted to take another step back, but worried that he would notice her upset. At least she had not chosen to sheath her dagger yet. Her palm sweated against the leather grip of the handle.
"I am so very angry!" Olivier laughed. "I am angry that my uncle, who I loved as a father, was murdered by an angry mob. I am angry that this city has fallen to madness. I am angry that my mother has not learned a single thing from the Enlightenment, not one, though I often spoke to her about their teachings – the virtues of being moderate, of opposing the death penalty, of wanting equality for all. I am angry that we cannot be moderate. I followed Robespierre's teachings in the beginning. I thought him to be a paragon of virtue. But in the end he succumbed to the madness of the mob. I laughed when he was guillotined."
Olivier stepped away so that he could place the candle into a holder on the desk. The wax had dripped onto his hand, Lucie saw. Hot wax, and he had not even noticed the pain.
"And I am not only angry about what has gone on in recent times." Olivier reached his arms out wide. "I am angry that my father deserted my mother and I at such a young age. I suppose you might have heard about the tragic death of Maurice Legrand, how he was thrown from a horse and broke his neck. It was all a lie, all of our servants were sworn to secrecy. He did not break his neck riding a horse, hunting in the forest. No, he broke his neck in a noose. We do not know why; I can only imagine that I, as his sole heir, was a disappointment somehow."
"I am certain that is not the case," Lucie murmured. "Many choose suicide, for complex reasons."
"Selfish reasons," Olivier corrected with a snarl. He commenced pacing. "Whether it was my fault or not, he left my mother and me. He chose to leave us."
"And for this you want revenge?" Lucie asked.
The idea seemed preposterous. She was glad that Olivier had released her, that she could keep some distance between them. What had happened so suddenly to change him? He had not seemed angry, not at all. How had she not noticed that this simmered beneath the surface?
At her words, Olivier stopped his pacing and put his arms down. He was facing away from her, and she could not see his face to read his expression. She took the opportunity to switch the blade from one hand to the other and wipe the sweat from her palm onto her dress.
The silence stretched out between them. Lucie could still smell the corpse on the ground.
Then Olivier's head twitched, cocked sideways. "You have the audacity to call my reasons for revenge weak?"
Her stomach sank. "That is not what I said."
"You," Olivier said, turning to face her, "have no right to judge me."
"I am not judging you!" Lucie exclaimed. She wished for her temperate Olivier to return. The one who had tried to talk her out of murder. Throwing up her hands, she said, "I have thought about revenge from the moment I watched my father beheaded. I have harbored these thoughts for years. I planned for how I would do it, I brought a weapon. And now... now, you have only just realized that you wish for vengeance, and you are ready to throw your life away, to condemn your mortal soul. All in the course of an hour!"
Olivier's face softened a bit. "This – you, Lucienne – are precisely why I have chosen this path! I love that you have such deep convictions, that you have thought deeply about them! Please, do not think my rage shallow simply because I have changed my opinion so quickly. It heartens me that you care about my soul." Slowly he approached her again.
And this time, she did not feel the need to move away.
YOU ARE READING
The Victim's BallHistorical Fiction
HER REIGN OF TERROR HAS JUST BEGUN... When Lucienne Reneault receives an invitation to a Victim's Ball in honor of those aristocrats who have been guillotined, she believes it must have been a mistake. Of two things she is certain, however: she wil...