Author's Note: Alright, this story is back up and running. I had to take down the old version because there were certain things that had to change. It is part of a series, along with "Devil's Gold" (which is also going through revision as I type this) and the characters and events of each have to connect with one another. Some things will remain the same if you read the original but I am adding more things to it. Anyway, enjoy the new version everyone.
CAPTIVE AT SEA
France. September 1756
The youngest of the Rousseau daughters stared longingly out of her third story window, overlooking the vast Atlantic, while fantasizing about a life less ordinary. Brigitte Rousseau was nearly twenty years of age but possessed a soul that had no doubt lived countless times before. Always inclined to think that she was meant for more than what high society had planned for her, she spent much of her time daydreaming about the life she wished she could lead. She just could not accept her current lifestyle without complaint or regret like so many like her had done. She wanted more excitement than a typical noblewoman experienced, with adventure around every corner. Although many people thought her daft, she longed for the uncertainty of life and death trailing her every move. She wished for freedom.
She was disheartened to realize that her wish would remain unfulfilled. Today, she would put away her dreams and allow them to slowly disappear somewhere in the back of her mind. She was about to enter into a prison sentence. She had committed no crime but her punishment was only fitting for a lifelong criminal, in her mind anyway. Her incarceration was not to be served behind bars or in some dank dungeon, but in the suffocating confines of a marriage. The day of her wedding had arrived.
She detested the very idea of it. She had always thought of herself as a free spirit and to think that society was trying to break that urge to fly away was loathsome. She could only see her impending marriage as the key factor in her unhappiness. For after the ceremony, which was to take place in seven hours, she would be subjected to every humiliating idea a spirited girl could face. The worst of it would be that she would have to answer to her husband from that point on. Brigitte could not think of anything more dreadful at the moment. Her betrothed seemed like a gracious man, and for that she considered herself lucky, but she had no doubt that his expectations of her would exceed her desire to please him. She was not a girl known to hold her tongue and as she understood it, a wife was expected to do as she was told and not make a fuss. The only thing that gave her a bit of comfort was knowing that she was not the only girl in the world to have her fantasies and wishes crushed by a man.
Sitting on the windowsill, as she did every morning just before dawn, Brigitte prayed to be spared from a life of matrimonial captivity. She simply ignored the fact that the God she was praying to never seemed to be listening to her pleas. She wasn't even sure if she believed in miracles anymore. She simply sat there, staring out at the horizon, and regretting every single day of her life in which she had done nothing to make herself happy.
Eventually, the sun began its slow ascent into the sky to bring about a new day, brightening everything in its path and cutting through the fog that was spilling in from the ocean. If there was one thing Brigitte was grateful for, it was her current position high above the ground. It lent her a fabulous view of the sea and the connecting harbor, which would be filling up with the approaching ships within the hour. It was a beautiful canvas, causing her to smile shortly at the endless rays of light falling upon the blue waters. The ocean seemed to go on forever, in all its unpredictable glory. In its own way, it was a lot like life. She knew it had to end somewhere though.
Her smile faltered as a knock sounded at the door. Pulling herself away from her lovely view, she walked across the room and, holding her breath in anticipation, opened it to find Marie standing just outside her bedchamber. Brigitte's anxiety left her and she quickly drew in a fresh breath of air as her shoulders slumped. She smiled briefly at her best friend.
"What are you so nervous about?" Marie asked form the doorway, seemingly taken aback.
"Not a thing," Brigitte answered, shaking her head as if to obliterate the thought. "I thought you were someone else, is all. Come in."
"Ah," Marie replied as she waltzed into the spacious chamber that was in its final day of occupancy, "like who? Sebastien, perhaps?"
She moved to sit on the edge of Brigitte's bed, eying Brigitte with an analytical gaze.
"Yes, as a matter of fact," Brigitte answered, sitting opposite her friend. "He hasn't stopped calling on me these last few days. I was hoping I would get some peace these last several hours before…"
"Before the wedding?" Marie finished for her just as Brigitte trailed off in mid sentence. Brigitte silently nodded.
"You know, it won't be so bad, Brigitte. Sebastien's a good man. He'll take care of you. We should all be so lucky," Marie assured.
"Yes, I know. I'm the envy of the entire female population of the town," Brigitte voiced sarcastically as she stood up.
"You are, actually," Marie informed her. "I overheard Josephine and her little cronies fawning over Sebastien yesterday on my way to visit Helene. You know she always had her eye on him since the moment she turned fifteen. You and I both know how utterly gorgeous that girl is. It's absolutely sickening. Sebastien could have had his pick of any woman, but he chose you. That has to mean something to you."
"I know I should feel special. Everyone has reminded me of that since the start of this engagement but I don't feel especially blessed, Marie."
"Why exactly? What is your problem with being Madame De Fornier?" Marie inquired. "I have known you for years and I'm well aware of your unusual attitude toward marriage, but I thought you would eventually settle down and accept your fate as a high ranking citizen."
"I don't really want to get married," Brigitte revealed.
"You're still stuck in that little fantasy world of yours, aren't you?"
Brigitte said nothing in return. She assumed her friend would already know the answer to that question. She just sat at her vanity, with her cheek resting in her hand, feeling condemned. She watched in the mirror as Marie walked up behind her and knelt down until her face was reflecting next to Brigitte's in the looking glass. Brigitte felt Marie's hands close around her upper arms as her friend tried to console her.
"You must let go of these wild notions, Brigitte. They can never be. You know that. These fantasies of yours will only make you unhappy with your life. You have a chance to possess all of the things a young woman strives to have. All you want to do is throw them away. For what? An impossible dream that doesn't belong in a woman's head. So many women would love to have what you have been presented with. A life filled with security and wealth with a man who would devote himself to your happiness," Marie said.
"If that were true, and he's so devoted to my happiness, then he'd let me live out my dream," Brigitte responded sullenly.
"Your dream is impossible to live out," Marie replied.
Brigitte sighed in frustration and turned away from her friend, "You wouldn't understand anyway, Marie."
"You're right, I don't," Marie agreed. "I cannot understand someone who cannot see what is directly in front of them but instead chooses to spend their time wondering about the things they cannot have. It's a waste of good thoughts, as far as I am concerned."
"Who says I cannot have them? Why can't I?" Brigitte inquired in a heated tone.
Marie was looking at her as if she could not believe she had just asked that. Thankfully, she did not argue with her since Brigitte was in no mood to spar.
"Fine, Brigitte, you fantasize all you want. I suppose, as long as you go through with the wedding, there is no harm to it. If it helps you make it through the day, so be it. Just make sure it does not go beyond that. You are my closest friend and I care for you. I wouldn't want to see any harm come your way from any of your wild ideas. Curiosity can be dangerous. I just hope you can always separate fantasy from reality," Marie warned.
"Of course I do," Brigitte confirmed. "Reality is just so boring."
"It's what you make of it," Marie philosophized.
"Thank you for that disheartening statement," Brigitte smirked.
"You're quite welcome," Marie replied, grinning.
They shared a giggle as Brigitte got up from her chair and fell back on her bed, splaying her arms out to the side.
"I don't know, Marie," she sighed, "I'm just not sure this type of lifestyle is right for me."
"Where have I heard that before?" Marie responded in a cynical manner.
"Don't you wish there was more to life?" Brigitte wondered thoughtfully.
Marie shrugged, "I know you do. I think you spend countless hours thinking about that subject. Sometimes, I suppose I do as well. However, I am smart enough to realize my foolishness and that normally forces me back to reality, which is more than I can say for you."
"Did you come here to insult me?" Brigitte asked from her spot on the bed, looking at her friend with bright eyes.
"No, actually I came here to ask the bride-to-be if she'd like to take a stroll with me before succumbing to a life behind bars, as she puts it. Insulting you just seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up," Marie answered.
"Well, at least you're an opportunist. I'll say that much," Brigitte scoffed.
"Are you coming?" Marie asked urgently.
Brigitte rolled her eyes, "Yes, I should take advantage of my last day of freedom, should I not?"
"Good, now get dressed. I'll wait for you down in the parlor," Marie instructed, opening the door.
Brigitte nodded as she heard the door close behind Marie. She glanced out the window one last time before calling in Virginie, one of the house servants, to help her dress for the day.
Nearly an hour later, Brigitte emerged from her private chambers and headed for the parlor to meet Marie. When she arrived, she found her friend in quiet conversation with her mother.
"Pardon me for interrupting the gossip you two are no doubt concocting but I have a bit of a busy schedule today. Marie, let's be on our way," Brigitte said as she grabbed her white shawl to wrap around her shoulders.
"I'll see you at the ceremony this afternoon, Madame," Marie said to Brigitte's mother as she rose.
"Yes, I am sure you will," Madame Rousseau remarked. "I hope the two of you do not get into too much trouble before the day is through."
"Now mother, when have I been known to cause trouble?" Brigitte asked, knowing her penchant for mischief.
Her mother glanced her way with a stern look that spoke louder than words and Brigitte knew she was expected to mature completely from this point on, adding to her frustration. The fact that marriage was forcing her to grow up was another thing she disliked about it. It's true, she was not a child anymore but she couldn't help but feel a longing for the whimsical days of youth.
Without another word, she backed out of the parlor and turned to join Marie. Grabbing her friend by the arm, she made a beeline for the front doors. She just could not stand to be trapped indoors any longer.
"So where are we off to?" she asked after they were outside.
"To the baker's," Marie answered as they began walking. "My mother wanted me out of the house for some reason and she has sent me on some errands that I find more suitable for a servant. I didn't want to go alone."
"Why not? I would have been thrilled if my mother allowed me to go anywhere alone," Brigitte replied.
"Your mother has a right to want you escorted, especially after that day you wandered by the Bastille to watch the executions take place," Marie argued.
"I don't see what the controversy is all about. Many people go to the executions," Brigitte reasoned.
"True, but not many of them try to start a riot by shouting obscenities at the executioner and derogatory remarks about the King's punishment tactics," Marie stated.
"I do not agree with condemning criminals to death," Brigitte firmly admitted.
"My friend, some of them deserve to die," Marie countered.
"Perhaps, but I believe that by condemning a man to his death, we condemn our own souls in the process as well. It's a decision that makes us no better than the criminal we are punishing."
"I can see your point, but I am afraid I do not share your belief," Marie responded, "in my opinion, it is simply justice."
"I don't expect you to agree with me, nor do I think any less of you for not doing so. I seldom find anyone who thinks like me and while I always find disagreements challenging, they are a bit frustrating. They remind me that I will always be alone in this world," Brigitte explained.
"You will not be alone after today. You'll have a husband to confide in," Marie reminded her.
"Yes, but my fear is that he won't be listening," Brigitte replied.
They walked the rest of the way in silence. Awhile later, after purchasing the bread at the bakery, the two girls started out with the goods in hand. They didn't get very far, however, due to the crazy idea that was brewing in Brigitte's head.
"Let's go down to the water," she exclaimed, glancing at Marie with hopeful determination.
"What?!" Marie replied, eyes wide with disbelief.
"Nobody will know," Brigitte reassured her. "There's a little spot, away from public view, down on the beach. Come on, I just want to dip my feet in."
"You're insane," Marie informed her, though it did no good.
"Do you want to have some fun or not?" Brigitte asked. "I will not tell anyone if you won't."
"But I have to get home. My mom will worry if I am gone too long, unlike yours who must be used to this sort of thing by now," Marie said.
"Just for a few minutes, I promise," Brigitte pleaded, grabbing her friend by the hand to pull her towards the beach.
Marie looked at her with big, brown eyes but, like always, she gave in to Brigitte's coaxing and said simply, "I know I am going to live to regret this."
"You always say that," Brigitte reminded her as she led the way.
"That is because, most of the time, it's true," Marie said from behind her.
"You know as well as I do that there is a bit of a wild side to you, Marie. Do not try to deny it. It's what makes us such good companions," Brigitte reasoned.
The spot Brigitte had picked out was deserted and, as far as she could tell, away from any prying eyes. As soon as they got there, Brigitte plopped down on the sandy beach, not caring if she soiled her expensive skirts. She began removing her shoes as best she could, although it was quite difficult to bend at the waist with her tight bodice on. She eventually managed to get them off successfully and followed with her stockings, tossing them aside carelessly. She realized she was having more trouble trying to get back up than she did sitting down.
"Marie, help me out, would you?" She asked her friend, who was watching her silently.
"What are you going to do when I am not around to help you up anymore?" Marie asked, grabbing her hand and pulling.
"I will think about that when the time comes," Brigitte said breathlessly. Her abdomen constricting as Marie pulled on her hand, causing her to take shorter breaths.
"That has always been part of your problem. You never think about the consequences of your actions. You are always concerned with the moment at hand instead of thinking about what is going to happen down the road," Marie informed her, giving a quick yank to Brigitte's wrist with both hands.
"Why should I do that?" Brigitte wondered. She could not believe her best friend was trying to lecture her again. The final pull was successful and Brigitte made it to her feet. She looked at Marie questioningly.
Marie shook her head at her as if Brigitte would never understand her friend's point of view. Brigitte felt ashamed, but it only lasted a moment. She shrugged it off, since she did not think the conversation was worth her time any longer, and dusted off her skirt.
"Let's just have a good time, Marie," she said, picking up her skirts with small hands. "Forgive me, but I don't want to be serious today. I have to be proper and ladylike for the rest of my life, let me take advantage of my last hours of freedom."
The fact that she had just spoken from her heart must have had a positive effect on Marie, because she smiled warmly and agreed to give Brigitte her wish. Marie nodded toward the water and rolled her eyes.
"Go on," she said, "get it over with."
Brigitte pranced toward an oncoming wave as it rushed up the shore, splashing as she went.
"Come in," she yelled from the water.
"I can't get all wet!" Marie yelled back. "I, unlike you, care about what society thinks."
You are only going to live once, Marie. Why not make the most out of it?" Brigitte called from across the sand.
Brigitte watched as Marie kicked out of her shoes and tried to look for a dry place to lay the bread. She pulled a branch from a nearby tree, set the bread down on the leaves and placed it on the ground. Brigitte continued to frolic in the cool water as she waited for Marie to join her.
"You are going to be soaked," Marie warned her as she calmly made her way towards the water.
"Who cares? I have other gowns," Brigitte replied, completely carefree.
"What do you think everyone is going to say when we get back to town?" Marie inquired. "They are going to take one look at us and then try to lock us up in the loony bin."
"For having a bit of innocent fun on the beach? I don't think so. Stop being such a worrywart, Marie. Have some fun!"
At that moment, Brigitte kicked her foot up in the air, causing a generous amount of seawater to hit the front of Marie's gown. Marie's mouth dropped open in shock.
"Oh, you are going to get it," she said, no doubt allowing the playfulness to emerge from within her.
She returned the favor, splashing Brigitte in the face with handfuls of water. Brigitte screamed and ran a few feet away to regain her composure. Laughing, she dropped her skirt, not caring if the entire bottom was drenched, and prepared for water war.
"Alright, you asked for it," she said, just before kicking more water in Marie's direction.
They continued with their game without a care in the world. They intended to take full advantage of their time alone. It never occurred to them that they were being watched.