chapter XI




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Disclaimer: Characters are not mine.


Something was on its way to happening. Only, we were not aware of it yet. As of a picture in evolution, today’s event was only one of the first strokes of the brush on a piece of canvas. The picture would complete itself in a few months’ time, with disastrous results.


Sitting in the boardroom, we were unconscious of just how deep the roots to this particular problem were. We only knew that we were there to witness a killing, so to speak. Françoise was finally taking down Nicholas de la Motte.


Like a cat that saw no reason to hurry over her game with a trapped mouse, Françoise’s dispassionate voice was perfectly level and under control as she concluded, “Losses amounting to as much as thirty thousand euros a month ever since you stepped into operations, a series of anomalous financial reports and doctored accounting—yes, most unfortunately we can prove it was doctored as you have heard the Auditor’s team report, Monsieur de la Motte—and a list of other unanswerable questions as already put before you. Tell me—“


And here she leaned in for the kill. “—What kind of picture are you trying to paint here, Monsieur?” she asked, her voice dipping in temperature by a couple of degrees.


Sitting beside her, I raised my head and found my gaze to be level with her eyes as she looked steadfastly at de la Motte. In profile, she had never looked more stunning. In a glance, I let my eyes trace the curve of her forehead, the strong line of her dark eyebrow knitted in a frown, the sharp eye as blue as a cloudless summer day under thick, sooty lashes, down to the finely chiseled nose, down those sensuous lips as they uttered the words to condemn a man, to that firm chin and the few inches of creamy skin down her throat before it disappeared into the collar of the black Armani suit she wore for work.


The only way I could caress her.


All it took was a brief fraction of a second before I shifted my eyes in a practiced move to the people assembled in the boardroom. Nobody seemed to have noticed my scrutiny of Françoise, as everybody’s attention was elsewhere. There were the people from the Auditor’s Office, as well as from Accounting, headed by Dagout. Then there was Nicholas de la Motte himself, looking slightly green beneath his tan. To his left were his assistant manager and his branch accountant, all decidedly looking quite ill as they listened to the report made by the Auditor’s Office.


And then, of course, there was the Boss whose cold gaze never wavered from the figure of de la Motte. It was strange how Françoise, gracefully slender and nowhere as tall as de la Motte, could reduce a hulk of a man to something quite below her line of sight, as if she were the one towering over him.


Now that the hour of reckoning had arrived, the room crackled with tension. De la Motte had arrived looking defensive and spoiling for a fight, but Françoise had not given him a chance to explode.


Instead, she had proceeded to systematically cut him up to pieces before he could utter a word by setting the Auditor’s report on him. Françoise’s technique of going for the throat was very well known; too bad de la Motte had only been in the company for five months to appreciate his boss’s tactics.


Correction. His soon-to-be ex-boss.


To her last question, de la Motte attempted a feeble grumble about the losses as beyond his control. It was pretty obvious that he had come unprepared for the Auditor’s damning financial report that, substantiated by the accountants and my file, had sealed any possible means of escape for him.


Françoise shook her head. “I cannot understand how branches with healthy profits are suddenly losing money like this,” she said. “The only relatively new factor in the picture, I’m afraid, is you. On the other hand, can these losses have something to do with a new business related to you?”


Here she flipped through the personal file I had prepared next. “A new company named Valois, is it?” she questioned, her voice firm, “It’s named after your wife’s family, I take it?”


At this, de la Motte finally lost his nerve and he started shouting at Françoise to prove her allegations.


She shrugged. “Rest assured, we can very well do that,” she said softly. “We can ask the Auditor’s Office to start their investigations as soon as possible, if that is what you like, and prepare a formal case of litigation against you in a court of law. They can perform a more thorough search into the new company your wife has set up which, I must remind you, is already enough reason to charge you for breach of contract. You very well know that you and any relative of yours linked by blood to the third degree or by marriage are not allowed to start any business venture that will present as conflict of interest to your present job.”


Sullen silence greeted Françoise’s words at this point. “Or, we can do things my way,” she said crisply. “The first thing I want you to do is to resign. Afterward, you shall pay back the money lost in a specified amount of time. I believe the company lawyers are more knowledgeable in this realm; I shall leave them to prepare the conditions. Failure to do so will, of course, mean resorting to litigation procedures again. If I were you, I’d consider my options very carefully, Monsieur de la Motte. You have very few, such as things are.


“Does anyone have anything else to say?” she asked, looking around at the auditors and lawyers in the room who were already packing up their papers. As they murmured a general negative, Françoise said, “then I believe this meeting is concluded.”


Rosalie and I stayed behind with the Boss as people started filing out of the boardroom. I could imagine de la Motte storming all the way down the building after he had fully recovered from his shock. It was a specialty of Françoise’s to cut up a person without spilling a drop of blood. The hemorrhage would come after a while though.


As for me, I could not look at her without feeling pride and admiration at the way she dealt with things. Through the intense disappointment and heartache that I had felt following what had happened between us recently, a burst of pride had set a temporary glow to things.


Now, in the boardroom that looked as though a hurricane had just passed through it, Françoise was calmly sifting through the massive paperwork to hand over to Rosalie for proper filing.


“Why didn’t you just smack him with a formal litigation charge from the start?” Rosalie asked, interested, as Françoise handed her a hefty volume of papers to be archived.


“He’s too small a fry to be dealt with in court,” said Françoise absently as she went over some notes before handing it to me. “No sense losing more company money on the likes of de la Motte. Of course, things may run that way should he choose to take the case to court, but I doubt it.”


To judge from her tone of voice, it did not seem to trouble her one bit what de la Motte was inclined to do from now on.


But the man had powerful backers in the main office, I thought to myself. That was how he was able to crawl through the cracks just to get in. And almost as if providence had willed it, Françoise’s cell phone began to ring almost before I had finished the thought in my head.


She paused from her work as she looked into the caller ID that had come up on the phone. “René Édouard de Rohan,” she announced to no one in particular, “what could he possibly say to me now that his candidate has been sacked?”


Sitting back down, she answered the call. Taking this as a sign to quit the room, Rosalie and I mumured our excuses and proceeded back to her office upstairs.




The de la Motte disaster was responsible for much of the work hoisted onto me for the past few months. Now that the matter was behind us, things ought to settle down to normal—something that I was not really looking forward to.


For me, the idea of “normal” had forever been destroyed by my insane behavior that night. No matter what pretense we would resort to, I knew that Françoise and I would remember that night for as long as we would live. There would be no escaping these memories so long as we saw each other every day.


Somehow, though, Françoise had managed to carry on with her usual activities without even so much as a glitch. She had continued to treat me like she always had—almost as though nothing had happened between us.


Which only goes to show you how unimportant you are to her, I told myself bitterly. After a moment, I shook my head to clear myself of such thoughts. I had promised myself I wasn’t going to sink to such behavior. Not anymore.


It was time for me to move on, and the sooner I started the better.


Mercifully, something presented itself immediately in the morning newspapers as I flipped through them shortly after coming up from the boardroom. I had found them just as I went for a drink of water in the lounge. Reading the article incredulously for a moment, I made my way back to Françoise’s office with the papers in hand.


“Is she back?” I asked Rosalie who was stationed at the front desk.


“Yes, and she’s asking for you,” she said.


When I went inside her suite, I found her standing by the broad windows, looking out pensively at the other buildings of La Defense below. She turned slightly as she heard me come in.


“You sent for me,” I said simply.


“André,” she said gravely, her blue eyes still thoughtful as she regarded me.  No matter how she would try to hide it, I could tell that she was tired after that showdown with de la Motte.


I waited for her to spill the beans on her conversation with Rohan, but she did not. Her next words caught me by surprise.


“I feel as though I am forever causing you trouble,” she began. “I do realize that it’s only because you’re behind me in everything, as though you’re my shadow, that I can do as I wish. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything by myself.”




“It was no trouble,” I said automatically, thinking that she was pertaining to the de la Motte mess. “I was merely doing my job.”


“I don’t just mean the de la Motte business,” she said quietly.


Beats of silence.


We stared at each other for a moment longer. She seemed to be waiting for me to say something, and I could not for the life of me think of anything to say at the moment. I wasn’t even sure that I knew what she was talking about.


I supposed she wanted to thank me for the investigation that I had done on de la Motte, though it struck me as extremely odd that she would say what she just did and not thank me the usual way, as was her custom.


For her to say that I was her shadow. I supposed there was a bit of truth in it, though it would have been more accurate for her to say that I was the shadow that she walks through.


Reminding myself that I should not delve into such thoughts, I lowered my eyes to the newspaper that I was clutching. “The excitement isn’t over yet, I’m afraid,” I managed to say.


I saw her blink and the mood was shattered. “What are you talking about?” she asked.


“Here,” I said, giving her the papers. “The society pages. Again.”


“What is all this foolishness?” demanded Françoise as she scanned the headlines of the section that I had pointed out to her.


There, screaming in bold letters, ran the eye-catching title:




I watched Françoise as she skimmed through the article that told of how Marie Jeanne Bécu, former movie star and mistress of the late Louis de Brun, was threatening legal action against his heirs after she was allegedly locked out of his will.


I saw contempt gradually flooding her features as she finished reading the article. “Well,” she said after she had folded the newspaper and tossed it aside. “It seems that I get to learn of the company gossip through the papers these days.”


“That’s not all,” I said. “Rumor has it that Antoinette’s been the most vocal in leaving Madame Bécu out of the de Brun will.”


Françoise sighed in exasperation. “And how did she figure in the mess?”


“The rumors are not clear.”


“Unless Louis bequeathed the entire company to Bécu, I doubt very much if it’s anybody’s business that the woman gets what he wants to give her,” said Françoise with her usual bluntness.


She was to voice this opinion again in the next meeting at de Brun, although in more circumspect tones. The meeting, where only a select number of advisers and directors were invited to discuss the personal issue and its impact on the companies, was an uncomfortable one.


It was an unspoken edict in the company that personal squabbles were bad for business and dirty linen ought not be aired in public, no matter how much conflict lay beneath the surface of things. One could therefore surmise the atmosphere in the boardroom that day where almost everyone was wondering why this meeting was being called at all. Things did not bode well for Auguste this early into his leadership.


“If it’s just a question of money, it will be to the best interest of the corporation that such a personal matter be settled immediately,” I heard Françoise say calmly after the case was aired in front of everyone.


Sitting with Rosalie on the peripheral seats in the massive boardroom, I turned to look at Auguste as he perched uncomfortably on his chair at the head of the table.


“Is she asking for more than what the will stipulates?” Was Françoise’s next question.


“No. At least, not yet,” said Auguste.


“Is she asking for shares in the companies?”


“Well, no…”


“Then what seems to be the problem?” demanded an irate director at the other end of the table.


“It’s…it’s quite a sum,” said Auguste lamely.


There was a pause all around as he named the amount written down in the will.


“You can have the lawyers work it out in such a way that it will not pose as a strain to the family purse,” advised Fersen. I saw him turn to look at Françoise for a moment, but she was looking down at the piece of paper before her that listed down the meeting’s agenda. “Have them draw up a settlement, but I agree with Françoise that the sooner the matter is concluded, the better.”


I could see that Fersen’s words were trembling from the mouths of several inside the room. It was quite a good thing that he had been the one to bring it up first; the other, older members of the group would not have hesitated to use harsher tones.


“But she might take it that we’re backing down—“ said Auguste hesitantly.


“It does not mean to say that we’re backing down in front of that woman’s threats, but we do need to consider the fact that Louis really did leave her that amount in his will,” cut in yet another adviser. “It will be hard to dispute in court.”


“Besides, we have to consider the welfare of our investors, not to mention the company name,” cut in a smooth voice down the table. Heads turned to Philippe de Dupont, Auguste’s distant cousin, as he continued, “Who knows what kind of scandal the woman can bring about by publishing a book on us?”


Murmurs erupted along the table. There were more exchanges along the same vein, but I saw Françoise look at de Dupont speculatively for a while longer as he sat complacently down the table. She declined to say another word for the rest of the meeting.


And so the matter had been settled. Or so we thought.


The next day, Françoise had a story to tell. Apparently, Antoinette had called her up sometime during the previous evening to demand why she, Françoise, had said what she did in the meeting.


“She supposed it was because I was ignorant of the goings-on in the family, so she proceeded to enlighten me,” said Françoise ruefully as she sat down behind her desk.


“And?” I prompted.


“She started off by telling me that the reason why she had been against giving the woman any money was because of her de Brun aunts,” reported Françoise as she fixed me a dry look. “You get the picture now, André?”


I did indeed. The de Brun aunts, in the form of three middle-aged spinsters named Adelaide, Victoire and Sophie, were rumored to be perpetually at war with the various mistresses of their recently deceased father. Far from being as harmless as they seemed, the sisters—or Mesdames—were actually a powerful and malignant force to anyone who dared cross their path. Time and again, rumors would arise concerning the sisters’ feud with the latest “strumpet” their father had acquired. They had been especially vehement when it came to the last mistress. It was not strange, really, that they would poison Antoinette against the woman.


“And did you warn Mademoiselle Antoinette about the harpies?” I asked.


“I did. I asked her if it would be more appropriate for the Mesdames to fight their own battle and not drag anyone else in it,” said Françoise.” She had been quite indignant, said that the ‘poor dears’ were quite defenseless against such an ‘amoral and scheming’ woman as Bécu. Said the money was rightfully the sisters’ and no mistress ought to be given any power over it. It took some time before I was able to clarify my point to Antoinette.”


“Which is?”


“The pettiness of the whole thing, of course! Only I did not say so explicitly,” answered Françoise. “Imagine squabbling over such a clear thing. It’s not as if the woman was making wild claims—Louis really did include her in his will. Like it or not, the idea for a book is here to stay now. I’m sure she’s already found an interested publisher.”


“Probably,” I agreed, “and what did Mademoiselle Antoinette say about that?”


Françoise sighed. “She asked me why I was so afraid of calling that woman’s bluff. She says the company could always sue ‘that abominable woman’ if her book is too saucy,” she said softly. “Sometimes I can’t believe how incredibly naïve Antoinette is. Every corporation has got a secret or two that’s better left unsaid, to say nothing of juicy personal details behind each key figure. Louis would have known all about these things and so would his mistress.”


I nodded.


“The problem with Antoinette,” said Françoise in the same soft, pensive voice, “is that she’s too transparent with her feelings. Not that it’s a bad thing, and she certainly means well, but you know how things are run in that family she has married into. Especially the Mesdames. They’ll squeeze every drop of blood from her if they can.”


“Do you suppose they even like her?”


“Who cares?” returned Françoise as she leaned back in her chair. “They certainly don’t care about anyone except themselves, and the sooner Antoinette realizes this, the better off she will be.”


“Unfortunately she still has a long way to go in understanding her new family,” I said.


“I wish it were as simple as that, but I believe that nowadays she does not appreciate being contradicted at all,” said Françoise, frowning. “I suppose she’s intoxicated with her newfound power and authority now that Auguste is head of the company. I just hope it doesn’t get to her head enough for other people to abuse it. And…”


I looked at her, waiting for her to finish her sentence.


“Am I really that intimidating to talk to?” she suddenly asked.


What is with her these days? First that unusual thank you and now this, I thought. Aloud, I said, “I don’t see what’s so wrong with that. You didn’t get rid of de la Motte by being a delicate wallflower.”


She gave a faint smile, although she still looked troubled. “That’s true,” she said. “But to friends…well, what can I do if I’m used to speaking my mind out? The most probable scenario now for the former mistress is a long game of waiting and wrangling with the lawyers. In the meantime, the corporation has to brace itself for her bestseller.”




Only, things did not escalate to have the mistress carry out her threat. In fact, in less than a month, the issue was suddenly dead. A mistake, if you were to ask me. That abrupt silence was actually louder than noise. A most startling turn of events, noted the society headlines, which could mean only one thing…


“Of course there was a settlement,” Françoise said after I asked her, “and to be expected, it cost Auguste more than what Louis had planned to give Bécu in the first place.”


“And Antoinette?”


Françoise frowned at this point. “Because she has figured so prominently in opposing Bécu, she’s being made to talk to the woman,” she said slowly, distastefully, “to show that there are no hard feelings.”


“That’s ridiculous!” I said.


 “I know,” Françoise said with a sigh. “But you know Bécu. It’s just like her to say these kinds of things. It was one of Bécu’s conditions toward accepting the corporation’s terms. Antoinette ought to be lucky, she said, that she did not demand an apology from her. Needless to say, now is the time we put our foot down.”


We were silent for a moment as the absurdity of it all slowly sank in. Of course, Antoinette did not need to fear bowing to the woman’s demands. The lawyers would surely be able to handle that small detail. Still, how must she feel to have her name dragged into the whole miserable episode? It was very clear that being the wife of the chief executive officer of de Brun did not exempt anyone from controversy.




It was said that bad luck came in three’s. The Bécu issue had only been the first round of ill tidings for Antoinette. The second one to come upon her was—and it was no surprise to Françoise—the sudden reversal of her aunts’ support for her (“If such a thing were ever extended to Antoinette in the first place,” was Françoise’s disdainful comment) following the settlement.


At their last tea party, over the small cakes and dainty cups in their well-appointed salon, the Mesdames were heard to criticize Antoinette’s overt role in the Bécu incident that had led to the hefty defrayal. Such statements were pretty much in keeping with the Mesdames’ characters if one got to know them better. Unhappily for Antoinette, she had known too late.


Although Françoise would probably deny this vehemently, I felt as though she had been hurt by Antoinette’s indignant phone call to tell her off. I knew that she had felt slightly better after Antoinette came calling to her, crying, after the Mesdames’ public criticism. Being Françoise, she had not delved into the specifics, but she did mention that second call, the closest that she got as an apology from Antoinette.


And the third stroke.


The third stroke affected Françoise, most unfortunately. By all accounts, she had been vindicated from that unpleasant rumor concerning her alleged affair with Fersen. Gradually and by some unseen hand, the rumor had shifted its focus from Françoise to Antoinette. It left behind some damage.


“Well, dear,” sighed Anne Marie one Sunday afternoon over tea at their parents’ house. As usual, I had been invited to join them. “Yolande Martin is finally being shown to be the fool that she is. People have finally got around to saying how ridiculous the notion is for Fersen to have an affair with you…”


“The rumor is dying down then,” said Françoise, her tone neutral. “You see? All you need to do is ignore it, and it dies a natural death—“


“…Considering that you’re probably a lesbian,” finished Anne Marie as she fixed Françoise with a particularly meaningful expression.


Françoise had burst out laughing upon hearing this and declined to comment. But she had stopped laughing abruptly when we found out next that Fersen and Antoinette were being paired off. Word had quickly spread that the rumor concerning Fersen and Françoise was but a blind when somebody had seen Antoinette and Fersen embracing atop the de Brun building—in the gardens, of all places.


“In all probability, that’s a lie,” said Françoise hotly, “Fersen would never have been so indiscreet.”


Her intended audience was her sisters, naturally, but there must have passed through my features something that made Françoise stop suddenly and look away from my direction. A spasm of pain, perhaps, had crossed my face. After all, was it not due to Fersen that I had snapped that night? Strangely enough, nobody else seemed to have noticed anything unusual pass between us just then.


You can relax, Françoise, I thought sadly. I’ve made a promise of never touching you again, remember?


Still, I couldn’t help myself from digging in just a little. “Is it so hard to believe though?” I murmured.


She turned to glare at me then, but refused to say anything more in Fersen’s defense.




Given these bizarre circumstances coming one after the other, one would have thought there would be an end in sight. As if things could not turn any stranger, Françoise found herself saddled with a new challenge before the week was out.


You would recall that Françoise was in charge of a set of delicate negotiations with the Americans over the possibility of de la Saigne opening branches in the United States. She had been meeting them regularly for several months. The tone of the negotiations, though they had remained hopeful and, in general, pleasant, suddenly took a strange turn as the chief executive officer of the potential US partner firm finally came for a meeting with top de Brun officials.


And all of a sudden, Françoise found herself being challenged to a fencing duel in front of her superiors.


Patrick John Smith was not just any chief executive officer. Young, energetic and charming, he had met Françoise in business school when he had gone to spend a few months in Françoise’s institute for an exchange program. He had known Françoise, had been friendly with her, and had shared her passion for fencing. I had remembered him as among the young men in Françoise’s circle all those years ago—those same young men whom I had envied as I watched her come and go with them while I sat outside her institute, waiting for her.


As he took Françoise’s hand now in his, he said, “I see you haven’t changed much; still as beautiful as the last time I saw you. How many years has it been? Seven? Eight?”


“Eight,” answered Françoise. He spoke in English and she answered him in the same tongue. Françoise spoke the language well, but with a faint, slurring accent that foreigners must surely think charming and quite seductive.


“To judge from the way things are turning out with our talks, I can see that fine head of yours is as sharp as ever,” continued Smith.


Françoise allowed herself a wry smile; whatever reaction she had to his words was carefully veiled behind hooded eyes. She murmured neutrally, “And I can see you’ve still got a way with words to sweep a woman off her feet.”


Smith let out a laugh. “Still as refreshing as always,” he said appreciatively.


As they got down to business, Smith said, “Everything seems to be in order and we’re pretty satisfied with the terms presented, although I must say we’ve been reading about de Brun more and more lately in the papers.”


Here he raised a questioning brow at Françoise. A provocation. The man was bold enough to say this in front of top de la Saigne and de Brun officers because he knew the moment was his.


“You should know better than to listen to gossip, Patrick,” Françoise said, feathering her reproach with a smile. “All that talk has got nothing to do with the way things are run in the companies.”


“Well, with you at the helm of things at de la Saigne, I should think everything’s all right,” Smith said as he linked his hands on the table and regarded Françoise with a calculating eye. He suddenly shifted to French for everyone else to hear: “The outcome of our negotiations will rest on you then. Tell me, Françoise, are you a gambling woman?”


Murmurs arose from the others in the boardroom. With a slight smile playing on his lips, Smith never broke eye contact with Françoise as she continued to regard him coolly from across the table.


“It all depends on what is at stake,” she finally answered.


“And if I were to say that the whole deal is at stake?”

You could hear the collective gasp from the people assembled, mostly on the de Brun side. If Françoise were surprised, she was very good at hiding it. ”And in what form shall your gamble take?” she asked.


“A duel,” the man replied quite easily, “you and me. You never gave me the chance to test your prowess all those years ago. You were said to be top of the line. What do you say? Are you willing to give it a go with me? On behalf of your corporation?”


Françoise stared at him without speaking for a moment, to which he laughingly replied, “Are you trying to decide whether I’m being perfectly serious or not? Rest assured I am.”


“No, I do not doubt that you’re serious,” she said, a corner of her lips tilting just a fraction in the smallest of smiles. When she smiled like that, one could not tell whether she was pleased or not. It certainly did not portend any good for the American though. “If I win, the merger will close. But there are two sides to every coin, is there not? What’s on the other side?”


“I’ll think of something for that eventuality,” Smith said, grinning.


She looked at her superiors then. Of course the board had no choice but to agree, though it was evident that everybody was wondering at the startling proposal the American had made.


“Excellent!” Smith said. “There is to be a black and white ball in a week’s time, courtesy of one my men stationed here in Paris. You don’t mind the duel taking place there?”


It was impossible for Françoise not to mind, but of course there was no choice.


“So be it,” she said.




“That was certainly a most unusual way to settle a deal,” I said as soon as we were alone in the car and heading back to the office. I must confess that I never liked Patrick Smith any more now than before. I did not like the way he would eye Françoise appraisingly, I did not like the way he talked to her, and I certainly did not like the fact that he looked too much like a young, unlined Robert Redford.


Françoise shook her head. “Don’t let his appearance fool you,” she said softly. “He may seem easygoing on the surface, but the man is as sly as they come. There ought to be a reason behind that duel he has proposed.”


“The stories in the newspapers?” I said. I was slightly comforted by Françoise’s words that the man wasn’t fooling her.


Françoise sighed and said nothing on the subject. “By the way, I’m taking Antoinette to Arras this weekend,” she said after a moment. “I’m going to ask Rosalie to cancel all my appointments for those days. I need to practice fencing as well.”


“You’re going to Arras this weekend?” I asked in surprise.


“Antoinette called me last night,” she said, looking out of the window of the car. “She said she wanted a few days to be away from Paris, and I said it was a good idea.”


I was silent for a moment. “Madame Geoffrin’s ball is slated for this Saturday,” I said, suddenly remembering the society matron’s invitation in Françoise’s pile of documents from a few days ago.


“All the more reason why she needs to be away, don’t you think?” said Françoise.


She didn’t need to expound on the reasons when they were quite obvious. By this time, the rumors about Antoinette and Fersen were gathering momentum. In the many parties and balls thrown by fashionable Parisian society, it was said that Antoinette could not abide being separated from Fersen’s company for longer than a few minutes at a time.


Surely an exaggeration; but it was altogether a rumor filled with scandalous implications. Only foreigners such as Fersen and Antoinette, whispered the malicious ones, could possibly be so blatant in their affair of the heart.


And what, I wondered, can Françoise be feeling at this juncture?


To look at her, one would almost think that she wasn’t affected by the rumors. It was clear that she was worried about Antoinette, but one would not have thought that she was thinking about Fersen.


Yet I knew she must be thinking of him. After that afternoon tea with her sisters, she had been careful not to talk about Fersen in my presence, yet I knew he must still be in her heart.


I had promised myself that I would do my best to distance myself from her heart’s affairs from now on. I had to, if I were to preserve my sanity. So, as if by mutual agreement, we did not get to talk about Antoinette’s sudden need for flight from Parisian high society.


 To Be Continued…


pubblicazione sul sito Little Corner del maggio 2007

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