Dearest Shu Lien
For the past week I have slept alone. Each night I leave for bed early, citing feeling unwell as my reason. Dear Leon thinks he is clever by sneaking in late during the earliest morning hours, but I know better. I also know that if he is with her, then Fontaine is not. And if he is not, then he is failing me,
I later confront the Marquise in private, when we can step away from the others.
“Is this girl really so hard to bed?” I ask.
He laughs at me, and I dig my nails into my arm.
“Madame, I am an artist of my craft. I must be careful and exact when I stroke a canvas.”
“Best hurry,” I turn and leave,” You may find yourself alone, grasping only your brush.”
I later find myself spending the day with the aforementioned mademoiselle. The common tradition of a girl’s debut has her performing some type of art form in front of her guests. Since her mother has let her own art stagnate, I am left alone to teach her.
Music, I believe, is the logical choice. We begin with vocals and I start the note for her to match pitch. But the sound she produces is far too high. I go again and wait for her second attempt. It is better, but not yet right. One last time, I go. This time she matches, but her voice sounds no better. Her singing voice is far from enjoyable. She realizes this as well.
“Perhaps we should try an instrument,” she suggests.
This venture fairs just as well as the first. The only instrument I trust her to care for is a harp, but she pulls on the strings to hard and holds them to long. For an hour I try to correct the girl, but I find it hard to see any improvement. Therese too is becoming frustrated. He large doe eyes are red with unshed tears and I, believe it or not, feel sorry for her.
“How about we take a break?” I offer, “I believe the caterer has prepared a new cake for us to try.’
She nods in consent and I call my faithful butler, Albert, to fetch us our treats. Being the small, kind man he is, he gives her handkerchief to Therese before leaving.
“Oh don’t look discouraged,” I tell her as she dabs her eyes, ”There are many more art forms for us to explore.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Madame, what did you do for you debut?”
Her question surprises me, but I don’t let her know that. Instead I answer honestly.
“Well, our circumstances are quite different. You have weeks to prepare, while I had hours.”
“You mean,” se says with doe eyes, “You really had that long? I thought it was only a rumor!”
Her naivety amuses me.
“The people were quite shocked that I was able to pull it off. But I learn fast. The way the society moves and acts are quite similar to the courts of my home country. The only real complication was that of my art, which I too struggled with. I did not feel comfortable singing your songs or playing instruments.”
I now find myself with a captive audience of one.
“So what did you do?”
“I did what I knew I would succeed in: language. I have always found learning another language quite easy, and it took only my journey here to learn French. For my art, I recited a poem of my creation, one which expressed not only my happiness of being in this new land, as well as honoring my future husband.”
Albert returns with our cake, a smooth pink frosted slice with a white center, and both sweet Therese and I are excited to enjoy it. I take my fork and prepare to take my first bite when the Mademoiselle asks me,
“Do you suppose that I should do a poem?”
This time it is a true smile that graces my lips.
“What a wonderful idea.”
That night, Dear Leon is with me. When I passed sweet Therese’s door, I heard her scribbling away most furiously away, no doubt trying to create her poem. Soon, dear Leon you will return to me as your first choice. Until then…