The Protégé and His Protégére

By Serina Subterfuge

France: April 20, 1861

They were escaping now. They were running away from him-France's most notorious killer-and in so doing, they were running towards something else. Three were running-two of which were advancing towards the lake-but one faltered, running blindly towards the direction of The Killer.

"We can't leave! He'll find us, he'll kill you!" Those words were spoken by a little wide-eyed girl whose eyes were no longer wide from crying.

She was trying to release her mother's excruciatingly rough grip on her wrist, but to no avail. It was useless anyway, with her being fragile, weak, and blind. She was losing her sight. She could feel it. The antidote was wearing off.

Her father would've helped her mother drag her struggling body from the house to the boat but he was already ahead of them, leading the way through the darkness with a single oil lamp.

The little girl was Rose-so frail, so innocent, so young. Her mother, Cassandra, was too beautiful for her own personality. She had a pure, fair, flawless face-just like Rose's-but her heart (if she had one) crept with black, ebony, darkness, and cold, rough stone. Her body simply helped conceal all her flaws. It was merely a vessel of pretense.

She didn't care about her child-in fact, she never did. Her only concern was money, however corrupt or innocent it was. And money was still her one and only concern when she wedded Victor.

Now they had a child. Now they were pulling her away. Now they were ruining her.

"You do not understand the situation you have put all of us through, you silly, foolish girl! You don't understand anything! And not only can't you do anything, but you also do nothing!" Cassandra said harshly. Those words should've hurt the little girl-enough to make her wish she didn't exist. But she was used to harsh words, and none of them mattered anymore anyway.

She pulled Rose once more, and pushed her forward.

"We could have left you, and we should have. This will be the one thing I know I will regret later on. If it wasn't for your father, our status, and our reputation, I would have left you there to die and rot," she whispered in a gruff tone.

"Sandra!"

Victor's shout caught her attention. Unlike his wife, Victor was a man of minimal words. He never said the right things anyway. When asked for advice, all he gave were bunches of puffed up words ready to feed anyone willing to absorb them. And strangely, this trait is what made him so appealing with the women. He was pointing at the little rowboat, and if it wasn't for the oil lamp and for the illumination that emerged from the moon, the rowboat would never have been seen. There was still hope.

Just a few more running steps. A few more until supposed safety. A few more minutes left for Rose to convince her parents that they should stay. If they wouldn't listen to her, then her last resort would be to wait until they all board the tiny boat and row away, before jumping out of the vessel and plunging herself into the deep icy waters below. She could swim-he taught her that-they simply could not.

Rose turned around to face her mother.

Always rationalize. Know what they want to hear. Make them hear it. That is the way to persuasion. Remember this, my little Rose.

His voice was still ringing in her ears...

"Please, Mama?" she pleaded. "He'll kill you. You can leave me. No one will know. You can go escape by boat. I'll stay behind. I'll make sure he won't follow. I'll make sure..."

She started sobbing again. She wanted to go, but at the same time, she wanted to stay. She wanted to leave the killer, but she didn't want to leave the friend. He was both.

Before Cassandra could even respond, a loud, tremulous, agonizing cry of anger erupted from the house. He was back.

Without thinking, Cassandra grabbed Rose and ran.


Victor had reached the boat in under a few seconds. He laid the lamp on the ground and started ramming himself to the boat, pushing it towards the lake, expecting his wife to help him. The boat was budging, but it wasn't fast enough. He too had heard the sudden cry of desperation mingled in with anger. Not a very pleasing combination. Wondering what was taking his wife so long, he turned around and saw her running far behind him. She was so terrorized from The Killer's voice that she had lifted Rose up and carried her. His eyes lingered to what was once their home. It was his father's and his father's father, and now he had to leave it all behind. As his gaze hovered to the windows, his eyes widened with horror.

"Cassandra! Hurry!" There was now panic in his voice, and he had done nothing to hide it. He was the first human alive to see The Killer's face and survive. Rose was the second. There have been rumors mixing with truth that The Killer had no face at all, but those were just lies told by ignorant people who had nothing better to do in their stagnant lives. It would even have been better if The Killer didn't have a face. Victor could still remember every single gruesome detail in that horrible, wretched face as if it was right before his eyes at that very second. And as he thought of that, he shuddered.

He continued to push the boat. It moved a millimeter or so after every heave until there were just a few more millimeters left. It was a five minute run from the house to the lake, meaning The Killer would be there in two. They were running out of time. Suddenly, the boat budged a millimeter more than it should have. Turning his head to the left, he saw his wife who had come to his aid. She was still holding Rose, whose face was being pressed to the boat as it was being pushed. She was still resisting, and they were still losing time.

Rose whimpered as she collided with the boat. Her face was being shoved together with the vessel as its rough exterior scratched her right cheek. Her mother had made sure she wouldn't escape by pinning her to the boat. She struggled to be free-to rid herself off her mother's hurtful grip-but again, she could not. They were all inching together towards the lake. She knew, because her feet were turning cold. Her Protégé once told her that at night, the ground was much cooler because of the breezes. The sea breeze and the land breeze-she always confused the two concepts with each other.

"Sorry, Mama," She mumbled.

"What are you-"

Cassandra could not finish her sentence for Rose had stomped on her foot. In pain, she let go of her daughter. But before Rose could attain a distance beyond her mother's reach, Cassandra grabbed her daughter by the arm, and flung her to the ground. It was a bad fall, she knew, because there was a loud thud that echoed throughout the glassy waters of the lake. Her daughter wasn't moving, but she was whispering something she couldn't understand. With great apathy, she then turned around and continued setting the boat in motion. The water was touching the boat now. Pulling and pushing, pulling and pushing. Sliding back and forth.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Rose softly whispered over and over. Those words were meant for one person alone-a person, she realized, she would never again see as she heard the boat splash itself across the glistening lake. She was on the boat. Her parents has carried her there. She could move, but she couldn't get up. She then brought her hand to her pocket and curled her tiny fingers around the last memorabilia she had of her protégé.