Dearest Shu Lien,
I did not expect this. Somehow Therese is able to keep together affairs not only with Monsieur Fontaine, but also still with my husband.
Fontaine tells me that he spends the afternoons with her and “inspires” her as I have instructed him. He recants to me that after their hours of passion they will lay together and bask in their happiness. However as he leaves, dear Leon will enter her chambers to enjoy her. I am again alone, with my husband still offering a piss poor excuse to comfort me. Every night I claim to feel ill just so I can have some peace of mind.
They may have Therese in the nights, but in the mornings she is mine. Almost a month has past since Madame Begarde’s departure. I have spent several days with the Mademoiselle and she has recently confessed to me that I am her first true friend.
“My dear girl, I am quite fond of you as well.”
Her smile was brighter than any star. I myself have no qualms with her claim, except the obvious of course.
It is late when she approaches me. I am in my room, brushing my hair with my eastern comb. It is usually apart of my luxurious hairstyle, but I find its teeth to be a comfort in my solitude. She barges in, tears running down her face like a wild river, and chest heaving uncontrollably. Her frantic expression halts once she lays eyes on me.
“Madame what is wrong?”
She is so used to seeing me in mask that this downcast face of mine must be a shock to her.
“Nothing,” I lie, “I just thought you were Leon.”
Guilt cracks through her, as it often does when I mention him. Apparently it is not enough to stop her from spreading her legs for him.
“What is wrong dear girl,” I tiredly say.
Guilt leaves and is promptly replaced by panic once again.
“Oh Madame,” she sits upon my bed, nearly weeping into her hands, “I have just received a letter from my mother. I am to be married!”
I tuck my comb into my sleeve and move to sit next to her. “And? What is so wrong about that?”
She sniffs and answers, “I am in love with another!”
Her body collapses upon me. My arms wrap around her just so I can stop her from knocking me over. I force myself to remain calm.
“Who dear girl, has stolen your heart?”
She is sobbing into my shoulder and my nightgown is becoming damp. I gently rub her back in an attempt to soothe her.
“Who” I urge, “Do you love?”
“The Marquise, Monsieur Fontaine.”
My face may be blank, but inside I am giddier than a child on Christmas morning. Fontaine certainly is a master of his trade to have worked his will upon her.
“Oh what am I to do,” she continues on, “I am bound to uphold my family name, but I cannot help to love him!”
I lift her head so she is looking me in the eye.
“Listen well, dear girl. You would find this truth regardless, but it is best if I told you now. A woman’s only care, at the end of days, is herself.”
Therese looks perplexed by this; so I carry on to enlighten her.
“We are afforded so little here in our life. Men can drive us into ruin and marriage is merely a finely dressed synonym for slavery.”
“But what of you and Monsieur Gaboury? Do you not love him?”
Not so long ago I knew the answer would be no. Dear Leon was my husband by business. If I did not love him, why would I be doing this? This was merely a chess game of three pieces, all playing to my whim. Why?
“When a foreign woman comes to France in order to marry, she is forced to leave everything of her old life behind. I was stripped of my belongings, my ladies, and my clothing in order to submit myself to my husband. I was even forced to relinquish my name and take on a more… polite one.”
“Is that slavery? Forced out of you home and thrust into a world that looks down on you as not only a foreigner, but as a woman. That is slavery.”
I pull the comb from my sleeve and show it to her.
“This is all that remains of my past life, and only because Leon gave it to me as a wedding present.”
“But that is so kind of him,” she starts.
“Yes, but I prefer it if he was here with me.”
The guilt with her has been building up now. It is at its strongest and it seems that she may confess her infidelities, but not today, sweet Therese.
“I felt unwell,” I lie, “You must leave. Your day is coming and I’d hate to see you ill.”
She is understanding and takes her leave, before she is at the door I tell her,
“Remember Therese, do what best benefits yourself.”
That night I do not dream. I live through a memory. The mockery and harsh whispers usually confined to the loneliness of corners are now shouted at me from each of the four winds. Faces of friend and foe alike are conspired against me and grow in my anguish.
The morning comes and I search out the all too familiar Marquise.
“She is in love with you.” I tell him.
His fare brightens, much like Therese’s smile.
He sounds so happy…
“Yes. Do with that as you will.”