Story of Antoinette

by dantewilde

Authors note: This is an extract from one of the many projects I’m working on at the moment.
I’m currently trying to decide if I should kill it or rewrite the 20,000 words I have down.

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The small girl watched the other moonlight child as he rose from his rock, and stepped down onto the grass. The moon light penetrated the holes in his umbrella as it fell all around his feet. Carefully he proceeded towards her, once within arm’s reach he extended his arm out towards her. His finger tips caught the moonlight and blood dripped from him as a shrill wind blanketed the valley and chilled the bones of the pair as it curled the tips of the grass. The small girl reached out to the extended hand of the boy. Blood ran down her fingers and dripped at her wrist as she took his hand. The bugs had once swarmed the body of the boy crawled up her legs and landed on her face. The beating of the moth’s wings grew louder as they landed over her ears. The grass hoppers pricked her skin as the covered they covered her fingers. A dragonfly landed on her nose, its mate landing on her forehead. Slowly the girl was covered with various bugs as the boy led her into the centre of the clearing.
“I haven’t seen you around here before. Is this your first time feeding?” he said gently.
“Yes” she nervously whispered in reply. “So, tell me” He went on “what is your name? How did you get here? How long have you been here? Where are you from?” She responded to him with only silence and after a short while he continued “I’m sorry, so many questions and we’ve only just met. Oh, and where have my manners gone, I’m yet to introduce myself.” He tilted his umbrella to the side as he did a half bow and blood softly trickled down the side of his face. “I am Wilhelm of Germany. Nice too meet you.” He took her hand the bugs parted temporarily and he kissed it.
“Nice too meet you!” She beamed. Wilhelm took her by the hand and the two continued through the clearing.
“If you will not tell me your name, at least answer some of my questions through telling me your story.” Although his accent was thick, the girl couldn’t help but notice that Wilhelm’s English was perfect. His grace and flair intrigued her and so she began her story.
“Firstly my name is Antoinette, after my grandmother, but I shall get back to that in a short while. I was born into a wealthy family, my father is an aristocrat and my mother is by cousins a member of the French royal family, she is the first cousin of Louis Philippe I, whom at the time of my death was the King of France. Father is very much a loving and graceful man and the two meet at a party of sorts at the house of Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, what none of them could have known at the time, was that she was to become the wife of my mother’s cousin, King Philippe, though how this came about is not a story for the present time, but one for another. Father was well acquainted with Maria, in fact, as well as his responsibilities as an aristocrat; he was very much a lover of Italian and French poetry, so much so he began to write his own. In order to find the peace required he would often holiday to the southern cities of Italy, Naples being his favourite, where he would stay with his dear friend, Maria. Father was staying with Maria and she on the third day of the fourth week he’d been staying she announced that she felt there was need for him to become more social. For, he’d been holed up in her study for days on end and the nights he spent partaking in a mixture of long walks and star gazing, all of which he recorded in his poetry. Three days later in the closing days of his fourth week at Maria’s Maria came to his door. “My dear, I come with news of the house hold, will you allow me entry so I may deliver it?”
“One moment Maria.” Father stood from his desk and turned the handle on the door, receiving Maria with a great hug and bringing her into his room. The floor was littered with scraps of paper and the desk covered with pages of compositions.
“Tonight” she began, “There will be a ball, within this very house. It will begin at seven o’clock and I have invited some dear friends of mine. It would be very appreciated if you would attend. I have become gravely worried about your days spent locked away. And although you bid me not to disturb you, I have found I cannot suppress worries and I cannot not try to help you in your quest for a love greater than poetry, even if you are still so certain that such a thing does not exist.”
“Very well Maria, I will attend, albeit only for a short while, as I feel as though I am on the verge of creating my greatest master piece and after the ball I shall very much like to finish it in peace before I am to depart again for France.” He kissed her on both cheeks, and she smiled as she left the room.
Father returned to his poems and the day grew into night before he could have them finished. Maria knocked again on the door. “It is becoming nearer to seven o’clock and the guests have begun to arrive, how much more time do you require?”
“It’s okay Maria, I am changing in to appropriate dress and will endeavour to be down to meet the guests as soon as time allows.” Father replied.”
“The scents of the ballroom flirted gingerly with his nostrils and the sound of the music was harmony in his ears. He stood temporarily and composed himself outside the great ballroom doors before flinging them open and immersing himself within the party. Two his immediate left sat a chair big enough to hold four people, to each side of which sat a single sitting chair. The chairs were occupied by women of fair skin, with long down curled hair, which on some flowed down their backs and on others was neatly woven into a bun which sat atop their heads. Their lips were of a deep red and elaborate gowns gathered at their feet. The gowns were of red, pale green, black and white respectively. On each of the single chairs sat a handsome young man. They both had looks in common with the other, strong jaws, full cheeks and bright eyes, though ones were blue and the others were a dark hazel that reflected the light of the chandeliers. Both had teeth of a pearly white and together they made the four women laugh as they all spoke merrily in Italian, clattering their glasses in toasts to each other. In front of him the ballroom spread out, the floor on which they danced was large and as the large grandfather clock, that he’d given Maria from one of his trips to England, struck eight o’clock the floored with more with the swirling of gowns and smooth steps of the gentlemen. On the other side of the dancers, a table stretched near the width of the room. It was dressed with cloths of pure white, golden candelabras upon which burned tall white candles, with flames that appeared to float against the back drop of the white table cloths. Sliver plates with dishes ranging from the light soups of Brodo to the heavier Acquacotta and further down the down the table, separated by bruschetta, Grissini, and La Focaccia Liqure breads were Arrosto Morto and Bue alla Moda roasts. The very end of the table was home to the various desserts that had come together from across Italy, but were mostly out of range of the eye for immediate recognition.
To the right of the large room were more seats, still occupied by fair skinned French looking women and darker olive skinned Italians, whose beauty, he felt was more than rival to that of the French woman. Large Velvet drapes hung from the walls and numerous self portraits of Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun, Rosalba Carriera and Ulrika Pasch dressed the walls where the drapes did not.
“ You have joined us at last!” Maria greeted him as she entered the room. Her gown was of a magnificent elegance and her hair raised in such a way that it left her neck exposed, her skin was fair and as she spoke she took his breath away. “Have you not found yourself a date yet? Oh, this just simply will not do, I shall find one for you. There are lots of eligible and beautiful women here.”
“Maria, it is fine. I am going to have a drink, then perhaps I will socialise a little.” The two conversed for a little while longer in Italian, speaking of the extravagance of the ball and Father was about to question how Maria managed to organise such a party, but was addressed from behind by a woman speaking French. “Bonsoir Monsieur.” He had no sooner turned to address the woman before Maria took his hand and in Italian said “Oh, this is wonderful, I am so glad the two of you have meet, how wonderful it is, I shall leave you to get acquainted with one another.” With the swish of her gown Maria turned and left the pair standing watching the ongoing dancing. Father turned to the woman and in her native tongue he addressed her.
“ Good Evening Madam, I can tell from this recent experience that you are new to Italian. My name is Chamonix of Geneva. However, your French is impeccable, where is it in our beautiful country that you a call home?” He bowed and taking her hand kissed its top.
“I am Lafayette of Versaille, outside of Paris.” She curtsied.
Chamonix motioned to the chairs on the right of the ballroom and taking Lafayette by the hand, he led her toward them. The pair sat and as Chamonix’s flair and grace and washed over Lafayette he continued to speak. “How is that you know Maria? I have known her for years, but never has she mentioned you. We met through a mutual friend, I found myself in Italy, with money yet strangely nowhere hospitable to stay. I spent two days in a rather unpleasant Hotel before receiving a letter that informed me of her location. That same day I found myself knocking on the front door and I have been here for a period near on every year since.”
“I am the cousin of Louis Philippe and my tale is long, shall we not drink, then perhaps dance some. Maybe I can tell you another time?”
“Tell me now, we can drink while you talk and then we can dance, I am interested in learning about you.”
With reluctance she began and his deep eyes sat fixated on her all the while.
“This is how I remember it; my family fled the French Revolution, however, due to the betrayal of myself by my beloved cousin Louis Philippe I was left in France, our home while the remainder of the family fled on a British war vessel.  I am still lost as to how Louis convinced my family to leave me behind, but I very clearly remember being labelled a revolutionist and, by the hand of my cousin, I was tied and gagged and locked in the closet of one of the houses rooms. Days passed, though of the amount I am not sure, before the house was raided by revolutionists, a man, a baker in fact, found me tied in the closet and as I was only a young girl he could not bring himself to commit my murder. He unbound the ties on my hands and feet and before untying my mouth talked me through his plan which was to save my life. Apparently he knew the house rather well, and promised my safety until I was on the streets outside. An hour or more passed before we moved from the room down through the long and shattered corridors of the house, then, as promised, he delivered me to the outside world.”
She stopped briefly and sipped her wine.
“And so, my time on the streets began, I wondered and hid amongst the homeless and watched as months passed me by. I found a semi stable, if not dangerous, food source in the docks. I was passing the day as usual, eating what I could gather and slipping into the allies and at time sewers if the need arose. On this particular day, however, I witnessed the British Royal Navy vessel, the HMS Vanguard. It was still early when the crew departed and the dock was far from busy. I decided at that moment, no matter where the vessel would take me, that that would be my fresh start.  With stealth I crept on board the ship and for one day and one night I hid myself amongst the properties    of the hull. Little did I know, the ship was bound for Sicily, I knew even less of the travellers that I had seen board through a small crack in the hull. Days passed and we were victim to many storms, then weeks passed and the storms seemed to lessen with consistency. I fought the rats for the little food I had at times I was forced to puncture the crates of food and live off small amounts of grain. My situation was dire and dreadful. One morning, after several days with no storms a small and beautiful girl ventured below deck, she was sobbing and I felt as though I were compelled to comfort her as I stood I caught a glimpse of myself and remembering my current state, I sunk back down against the hull wall. The girl sat for a long while, sobbing she began to sing softly to herself.

“J’ai trouvë l’eau si belle que je m’y suis baignë

Sous les feuilles d’un chene, je me suis fait sëcher.

Sous les feuilles d’un chene, je me suis fait sëcher.

Sur la plus haute branche, un rossignol chantait.

 

Sur la plus haute branche, un rossignol chantait.

Chante, rossignol, chante, toi, qui as le coeut gai.

Chante, rossignol, chante, toi, qui as le coeut gai.

Tu as le coeur a rire, moi, je l’ai-t-a pleurer.

Tu as le coeur a rire, moi, je l’ai-t-a pleurer.

J’ai perdu ma maitresse sans l’avoir merit.”

“She sang the children’s song of the man who lost the woman he loved because he neglected to give her a bouquet of flowers, A la Claire Fontaine.” Lafayette hummed the tune then gently she sang its English translation as Chamonix sat mesmerised by her story. “

I found the water so beautiful that I got bathed
Under the leaves of an oak tree, I dried.

Under the leaves of an oak tree, I dried.
On the topmost branch a nightingale was singing.

On the topmost branch a nightingale was singing.
Sing, nightingale, sing, you who have the coeut gay.

Sing, nightingale, sing, you who have the coeut gay.
You have the heart to laugh, I, I-t cry.

You have the heart to laugh, I, I-t cry.
I lost my mistress without deserving”

She sipped her wine once more before continuing with her story.
“The small girl’s song moved me and I began to sob loudly. She stopped, startled by the sound and even though I tried to suppress it, I found I could not. Carefully she approached where I was hidden behind the boxes, she did not speak and she was not afraid. She found me in a ball, sopping gently and tenderly she stroked my head until I stopped. For a long while we sat, the discourse was my story and I learnt about her, the last thing she told me before she returned to the deck was her name Maria Amalia. Every day for the next seven she crept below deck and bought me food wrapped in a handkerchief, sometimes it was only the morsels she could take from her plate, other times it was Asparagus and sweet corn cakes or bangers and mash. She made a point to inform me that that was all that was eaten for dinner on board, by the crew and by her family, whom I soon discovered to be royalty. Along with food she brought news of the journey and on the first just like every other, told me how far we were from Sicily and of her family’s plans to then move to Italy. Over the time we spent together, we struck up an unbreakable bond, the type of bond that only someone whom owes their life to the other can have. Once the vessel docked in Sicily we were separated. Her family moved there to Italy in one month and by that time I had not been able to find Maria. For one decade I lived in Sicily, I worked and I began again, I saved enough money to move to Italy, by this time I was I was twenty three and arrived in Italy with the knowledge of a peasant. It was six months before I heard of the existence of Maria, then another three before I heard of the existence and location of Naples. My Italian is not great, as there haven’t been many people to talk too although I can understand the basics. I arrived on Maria’s doorstep, hoping she would recognise me and would not send me away. After many hours of discourse, she remembered whom I am and that was six months ago.”

“Chamonix finished his wine and took up Lafayette’s hand, without speaking, he smiled and lead her on to the dance floor. The two danced the bourree and the belle danse, both of France as they fell naturally into step with each other.  Upon finishing they retired to the chairs from which they departed and once again they continued to drink and tell stories over the Italian style banquet. The night dwindled away and as the final guests left the ballroom Maria came upon the two deep in conversation and blissfully unaware of the aging night becoming a youthful morning. After that night, father extended the time of his trip and did not depart for France for another six months. In that time they travelled to Castel Morrone, stayed a week in Caiazzo and upon returning to Maria in Naples, they had plans of marriage upon the commencing of, planned to move to France. Lafayette, from they lived for another four years and on the eve of father’s 26th birthday, mother gave to birth to me, their only child.”

“We passed many years in happiness, 15 in fact, in the six month of my 15th year a terrible tragedy befell us. Mother and Father had agreed that I would be schooled by tutors and with that being so, we were able to travel a lot. We were staying in mother’s home city of Versaille, when on a night like every other; we had finished a meal of Coq au Vin, my favourite dish, when there was an unexpected knock at the door. A servant of the house took her leave from clearing the table and approached the door down the hall. Upon opening it the shot of a gun filled the sound of the room. Before father could even think to hasten Mother and I away, the large dining room now housed four men all of which were dressed in black coats, large black feathered hats, black boots and gloves. Their coats covered their all other parts of them, save the white collars of what must have been their undershirts. Father rose to his feet and but just at that moment he was struck by the handle of a man’s pistol. After father fell blood spilled from his head and Mother rushed to his aid, no sooner had she fallen beside father, I was bundled up and promptly taken from the household.”

Antoinette stopped her story and bent down removing her shoe. From it she took a folded note of yellowed paper which had been folded many times before continuing. “I remember nothing after being driven blindfolded through the streets of Versaille. I awoke sometime later to find myself, alone, in a bed in of sorts; beside me was a table with a candle burning and many discarded attempts at a letter. I unscrewed one and quickly read it, it was written in French, though I had not heard any French since I was taken from my home. I folded the letter and slipped it underneath my foot into my shoe. I heard men and a woman talking as they approached me, there was a long silence and heavy discussion in a foreign tongue before I felt a hand around my mouth, and something hot draw across my throat. From that moment I know nothing.” She opened the letter and read it to Wilhelm.
“Dear Sir,

If you want to see your daughter alive again, you will pay us the ransom and we will deliver her
Come to the ally across from 4 Avenue de Paris, at exactly the seventh hour of the night of the day after you receive this letter leave 200 Franc in the Alley and upon retrieval we will leave your daughter as a replacement for the money. You will be there at 2 am on the 14th day of the current month (July) July.”

“I know not if my parents tried to rescue me or if they did not come. But it is only from this note that I know what was supposed to happen. I suppose, they did not come, otherwise I might not be dead.”
The two walked out of the winding track which opened up to a clearing larger than one before. Wilhelm collapsed his umbrella and the bugs scurried back into the forest or flew into the night sky. This clearing was walled with steep cliffs, the sides of which were bare. In front of Wilhelm and Antoinette was a large lake, protecting it from all but slivers of moonlight was a dense canopy, at the edges of the lake children were lined besides the rocks, scooping their hands into the water, fangs protruded from their mouths, long and white they also most connected with the pair coming from the bottom of their jaws.  From the water they pulled fish and with each one, they would place its head between their teeth and tear it off, barely seeming to chew they would swallow the head and suck the innards before discarding the remaining the flesh. Wilhelm led Antoinette to the lake and they sat between two children, whom stared at them as they got to their knees. Their faces were covered in fish guts, their eyes a deep purple, as their hands plunged into the water, the fingers extended and their finger nails grew at least two inches, each one filed to a point. Antoinette grimaced and turned to Wilhelm as he drew a fish from the water tearing its head from its body he ravenously devoured it then stretched his tongue inside its carcass and sucked its guts from within, then discarded the fleshly shell. Hungrily Antoinette watched blood smear on his face. She watched the fish swim in the pool. Licked her lips. And plunged her head into the cold black water, her K9 teeth extend and she grabbed a fish in her mouth. She came up and grabbed it by the tail as she tore a chunk for the top. Overcome by hunger she devoured it, barely even stopping to chew she swallowed the flesh and pressed the fish to her face as she cleaned out the insides. She touched her K9s they had grown only a fraction. She started as she realised she had ripped the fish apart with her own teeth.  After a temporary hesitation she plunged her head back under, her teeth grabbed at the slimly scales, they were rough against her lips, she drew her head to the surface, this time she followed what she had seen Wilhelm do, she turned the fish and bit through it head. Its fluid flowed over her lips and no sooner was the fish eaten, she licked the fluid from her hands. Still she felt no physical change and so drove her hand into the depths. Her fingers extended and nails became knife like. She felt her fingers glide through the flesh and fish slide up to her wrist.

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