Lucie felt a warmth at her face before she opened her eyes. A fire crackled, and with a start she thought she was still at the hotel. Had she imagined her escape from the building? Then she recalled the explosion that had seared her back, and how it had knocked her flat. Olivier had removed his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. It had been well past midnight when they passed under the arch that marked the entrance to the Hotel Thellusson. The streets were empty and only the moonlight lit the way back to Lucie's apartments, and as yet no alarm had been raised about the fire, though the explosion meant that soon someone would come.
Now, Lucie shifted on the couch before the fireplace, feeling the clean nightgown she wore and the bandages on her back. Olivier had helped her wash away the blood, both real and fake, and had applied a salve. His hands were gentle and firm. "It will not be so terrible, the scarring," he said. The quiet and the intimate light of a single lamp made this moment feel private, separate from the outside world.
"It will be a reminder," she had whispered, staring into the fire.
There was no food set out for her; she had grown to used to this sort of waking in the past two years. The hungry, gnawing kind of waking. If only she could return to the days when a servant might wake her with a tray of breakfast. But there were no servants here. It shamed her to think that Olivier might still be here, and know what life she lived now.
Sitting up, Lucie shrugged her shoulders and tested how badly her back hurt. The pain was not so great. She wrapped the blanket over her shoulders and moved between the finely upholstered chairs and couches that crowded the small space. Olivier was not here, but she could hear him in the kitchen.
He straightened up when she appeared in the doorway. "How do you feel?" he asked, immediately stepping forward to take her hands. "You should not have gotten out of bed. I was trying to find something for us to eat."
"There is nothing," she said, looking at the cupboard doors flung wide. "I had not planned to return."
It was strange now to think of how she had imagined last night ending. She had imagined she would walk into the night and disappear. But for one to disappear, one would have to be outside of oneself.
"I should have brought you to my apartments," Olivier said, raking a hand through his hair. "We have servants there, and plenty of food. Mother might have thought it improper, but..."
His costume looked ridiculous in the morning sunlight, garish and inappropriate.
"There are some of my father's old clothes upstairs, if you would like to change and wash up." Olivier had scrubbed at his face last night in the dark, but he had not had a mirror, clearly. "Come. Let us dress and leave this place."
She led him back through the cramped front room. "I did not realize your sister was your twin," Olivier said as they passed the enormous portrait that took up most of one corner and blocked one of the windows. Lucie looked up at it and smiled. In their first Paris apartment, this portrait hung over the fireplace in the grand salon. It had not even seemed as significant as the portrait of her father, which they had left there.
"Yes," said Lucie. One could hardly tell which girl was which in the painting. Only Annette and Lucie had known the truth, for Lucie had worn the rose-colored silk dress, and Annette the blue.
After bringing Olivier upstairs, Lucie opened up the trunk where Maman had packed some of her father's things. She did not know why her mother had kept such garments. Her father had already been executed. Maman had told them that now they would have to find work, and they might be safer to pretend to be young boys. They could sell newspapers, if they became truly destitute. Or perhaps Maman had wanted to take a piece of Papa with her, a souvenir, like the scars on Lucie's back now.
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...