La Rose Noire: Part Two, Chapter Three

The next night, my parents were gone as they often were. They travelled and visited frequently. Although we lived on an estate just outside the city of Paris, they were forever travelling and socializing for business or pleasure. Mid-morning had brought a visit from Dominique. It had been a short one for I complained of a head ache -- which wasn't a lie.

He had seen my father first and apparently my nuptials were already being planned! After a stifling day indoors, I needed an escape. A retreat..

I dressed with a dark hooded cape over a dark grey dress and had one of our carriages take me into the city. I did not even take Therese along, though I did leave a note telling her I was going into the city. She knew that if I went near or after dark, I was going to one place. The theatre.

She had been a couple times, but I liked to go alone. In recent months, I had gone rarely. Of course, I was going without permission and my parents' knowledge. They would never approve. Our class did not act or sing, especially not in a small theatre in a shady area. For me, some release had come in singing. I had been stuck in the city for the night about a year ago and had found the theatre, in which I had quietly entered with Therese. I found myself returning. Not regularly, but now and then. The night had much appeal for me and it never ceased to fascinate me how different the city, people and the world was. Another world, almost. Altered.

Of course, my identity had to remain anonymous for several obvious reasons - that is where the nondescript clothing and hooded cape came in. Going to the theatre was something I wasn't suppose to be doing. Thrilling a bit in that regard, and add to the fact that it was dangerous. I did not even have any guards with me, but that was part of the appeal. I was anonymous and it was incredibly freeing to stand up on the stage and perform. All manner of people came to the theatre. Rich and poor, shady and ordinary alike. Sometimes there were large crowds and sometimes the audience was sprinkled with only a few patrons here and there. And then sometimes it was all but empty -- but I didn't care. In fact I almost always sung only when there were very few people present. I didn't go there for the attention.

The theatre was an old one, but of the usual style - though smaller than most in Paris. It was worn and dusty as well as darkly lit. As was customary, I had the carriage wait for me behind the theatre as I entered the side door. When I entered the theatre, I felt apprehension mixed with elation - strange for me.

I noticed there was hardly anyone about. Sometimes I performed art songs, which were accompanied by a piano at least. However, I did not see anyone about. One quick peek at the audience and I saw that there were only a couple people sprinkled around, which was perfect for me. In this theatre there was rarely any usual theme to the evenings or the performers. People came and went, usually in small groups and performed at usually no specific time.

No one who worked here knew who I really was. They didn't even have a name. So the man who announced the talent, came out and said simply, "la chanteur de femme", as I was always introduced. Meaning simply the woman singer or the woman who sings. I checked my hood to make sure it was in place and then stepped out of the dark corners onto the dim candlelit stage. I sang unacompanied and to tell you what I sang, I can not recall for it was simply one of many and perhaps the words were not significant, but the emotions that I released when I sang, always were. I at times glanced at the audience, from what I could see in the dim lighting that is - but I often did not focus on them.

But then my eyes glimpsed a figure seated more to the back than the middle. He was sitting casually and still, with his feet crossed on the row in front of his. I almost saw - or thought I saw, the shine of his eyes all the way to where I stood, though I could not see or imagine I could see much else. He never took his eyes off of me for even an instant. I finished my song and decided not to start another and instead leave. I glanced back at him but his space was empty. I thought there was a flickering of a shadow behind me, so I turned back around. There was nothing. I proceeded to exit the stage, but saw something on the floor in front of where I would exit the stage. I stooped down and picked it up and knew before I even stood up and held it in the glow of the candlelight what it was - a long-stemmed rose. Dark. I left quickly, walking through the empty back of the theatre.

I was walking outside of the theatre and was about to turn to the back, when out of the still darkness, an arm grabbed me so quick and pulled me back into the dark shadow of the building. I was about to react, when the hands abruptly pulled away. I spun around only to be confronted with the shadowed face of Lucien D'Lamaire whom I recognized at once. He pulled the cape's hood back from my face in one swift gesture and it fell back.

"I recognized you at once. Your voice is nearly the same..." He said.

"Have you heard me before?" I asked.

He only smiled slightly.

I was not satisfied with his enigmatic non-response. "Why are you following me?" I demanded to know.

"Who says that I am?" He said. And then, "Perhaps I am enjoying the city's night life - just as you are."

"I see." I said, not entirely convinced. "Well, I am quite certain this belongs to you." I said and held the rose out to him.

"Keep it." -He said.

"Why?" I asked.

He shrugged slightly. "Or not... it is merely a token."

"A token of what?" I asked.

He only looked at me. His eyes looked dark blue and gleaming, even while most of us was in shadows. I began to feel a pull of some sort, before I glanced away. I turned away.

"I thought I recalled you saying you were not frightened." He said.

His voice turned me back around. I stepped back to him slightly. "I am not. But this is not normal behavior. You keep speaking in riddles and with mysterious responses. You leave roses... strange, dark ones! And you gave me that gift... I know it was you. This is not ordinary behavior Monsieur D'Lamaire. And I am becoming wary *and* weary of this."

"Surely you must realize this is beyond ordinary. What does ordinary matter. And I know you're not weary." He said. "Never weary. I know your heart beats in exhileration. I hear it... I imagine I hear it even now." He said.

"More such responses." I said and turned again, this time fully intending to return to my carriage no matter.

At the edge of the shadows he was in front of me as I was rounding the corner to go to my carriage. I stopped directly in front of him.

"I will tell you more if you wish. But not yet. Can you not trust in me?" He said, and his eyes rested fully on mine, very seriously this time.

It was difficult to not see earnestness in his eyes and youthful face, not to mention his smooth, enchanting voice with some sort of accent I could not touch upon below the slight french one. His hair was pulled back from his face, but even so - the sheen from it and his face and eyes, all of it - happened to compose a picture that was wholly beautiful and angelic, if not somewhat sharp in the strength of its particular beauty. I was confused and standing in the dark, figuratively and partially literally in that moment. He did not make perfect sense to me, but something in his eyes told me he was telling the truth. And couldn't I always read people well?

"I will trust in you... but surely you must realize this is madness." I said.

"A relative perception." He said.

"I must return home." I said.

"I shall escort you." -He said.

"No." I said quickly. "You must see that this is secret. An escape for me. You escorting me would not defer attention."

"We shall be discreet." -He said.

"Thank you, but no." I said and turned.

"Danger is everywhere." -He said.

"I'm aware of that." -I said.

"Are you?" He said, pointedly.

"I've done this before." I said simply and walked back to my carriage, though I had no doubt that he stood there and watched as I made the rest of the short walk to it.

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This was necessary, but not a lot going on this chapter. At least one (probably two) new chapters will be up during this week. Thank you D.H. L'Orange and Eunaristar for reviewing last chapter!!