Back in the office of Monsieur Artoir, no longer the little girl who scuffed her shoes when first entering all those months ago. The room had not changed physically since I first visited the theatre, but a lot has happened in these four walls alone. I rose to my first job in the theatre. I had met my true father in this room and was finally told the truth about my mother. The room where my journey began is now where it will end. Sitting in the large leather chair I watched Monsieur Artoir pacing the office, he appeared more tense than usual not quite as aloof and dominating as he thought he was, shaking whilst pouring a glass of wine. "You have changed Mary. When I first meet you, I didn‘t realize you were able to kill", I didn't speak, I didn't look him in the eye resisting the glare of pleasure he gives people in bad situations. He continued talking, for a while I just allowed his words to go over me until he asked me a question I had to answer, "Why did you do it Mary? Claudia had not done anything to you." "It was justice for Marcus." "Marcus killed himself." "I know. But Claudia constantly hurting him, making him suffer was killing him." "Marcus was killing himself even when Claudia was disciplining him." "I know he was hurting himself, I saw his split wrists and ran my finger over the word carved in his arm." "He was killing himself in another way Mary. The boy was still taking opium, after you left." I started to cry, not because I was upset but because I was angry, "He promised me. He promised me he wouldn't take the drug again." I said talking through my tears, "He was not the little angel you always thought he was. No he was addicted to the drug ever since Jean-Pierre gave his some" "Jean-Pierre. The Great Jean-Pierre? The magician?" "He was a regular performer here at the theatre. He came in here boasting about his wealth, charming the actresses. Well one evening he saw Marcus tending to a wound on his hip, Jean-Pierre gave him some for the pain. It was only after one of the actresses died of an overdose that he had to be removed." "I know I saw his body being disposed off. How did you do it?" "I merely placed some three grams of arsenic in his wine. It killed him instantly" now the feeling inside me was disbelieve I could believe he was able to kill, but I couldn't believe that he would kill, and then another thought arose "What about the other deaths? What about Celeste? And Emilie?" "Well Celeste saw me place the poison in Jean-Pierre's drink, and was trying to buy my silence. At first, it wasn't too bad her charges were reasonably low for me, but then the price began to rise. So knowing she would be my murder victim in the first performance of the most assassinated women in the world, I switched the stage knives." the thought of her death almost made me sick "And Emilie?" "She was stealing money from the theatre. My money." I sat and listened in disbelieve, I couldn't understand what I was hearing. These women had died for petty crimes. "I suppose my fate for Claudia's death will be the same." I whispered subtly "I can't allow for the scandals of this theatre made public." he said pouring himself another glass of wine. I prepared myself for my fate; I knew I was going to die within the week. What scared me was I didn't know how I was going to die; what comforted me was knowing I would be free from my enemies. "And Josephine?" Monsieur Artoir thought over the question before answering, "Her father is dead and you have no real family except of course your uncle. Or there is the Paris orphanage." I wasn't prepared to give up my daughter to an orphanage, but neither did I want my uncle to care for her. But what choice did I have? "Am I to know what my fate will be?" "....I don't even know myself Mary." I got up to leave the room, "I wish it wouldn't have to end this way." he said with a tinge of remorse in his voice. I left the room and walked through the great hall, when I noticed a painting in the corner it must have been placed there recently as I'd never seen it before. It was a swirling pattern of blues, whites and purples, in the centre was a mother mourning the loss of her child. I saw myself in that painting and felt once again the tender tears. I collected Josephine from the landlord of the chat noir, holding her as she cried going up to my room. The way she felt in my arms, made me think; did she know how I felt? Did she know what was wrong? Children have an instinct for emotion. When she fell asleep, I sat at my desk and began to write the letter to my uncle.
I have never been the perfect niece. I know I ran away. But now I need your help. A few months ago, I gave birth to a daughter, her name is Josephine. Her father killed himself and now I cannot care for her. I cannot tell you why but I cannot care for her anymore, but she needs someone to bring her up. All I ask is you don't bring her up the abused I was treated with; otherwise, like me she will run away. Also don't tell her about me, but don't lie to her if she asks. If you decided to come write to me and I will meet you at the train station if you decided to come.
The letter filled me with mixed emotions. Relief, pain and despair. Josephine woke an hour later, her blue eyes alight. You could see her father in her eyes. She had his eyes and his smile. She was more her father's daughter than she was mine; he would have been proud of her if he had spent more time with her and held her for more than half an hour. Carrying Josephine out of the tavern, I walked out into the summer sun, which beamed down and bright yellow disguise over Montmartre. Someone once said that Montmartre was a village of sin; I didn't believe it until now. I spent the day re-tracing my footsteps, but everywhere I went there was a dark presence over me, like the nightmare, which I failed to awake from. Last night I dreamed that Marcus was alive and holding his daughter in his arms. I went back to the theatre, no one was around. So I climbed up to the beams in the roof, where Marcus and I first talked. I looked over the beams down onto the stage; the wood was still stained crimson. I pictured Marcus' body lying dead, blood drained from his wrists and the look in his eyes. The word on his arm still haunts me, I still wonder what he was apologizing for, I suppose I will never know, and I don't think would ever want to know. Then I walked through the streets of Montmartre to the Moulin Rouge. During the daylight you would hardly believe that well Notre Dame struck midnight, this lifeless looking building could charm the sinners from the gutters and the rich from their money. Marcus saved my life that night took me under his wing and looked after me that night. However, another memory that I carry from that night was Celeste dying from arsenic poisoning.
Montmartre and Paris had changed; it was no longer a city where I could fulfill my dreams and answer all my questions. I accept that some of my questions had been answered. At least I can go to my grave knowing who my mother and father were. I had experienced love and bore a child through it. It didn't seem all that long ago that I was stepping of that train an innocent little girl, now back in my room looking in the mirror the girlish looked lingered. But I had changed; I'm now more confident, stronger. The changes were shown in my actions, my clothes and my child.
I sent my letter off that afternoon and within days, my uncle had arrived. I met him at the station in the pouring rain, with Josephine asleep under my cloak. The train pulled up in a puff of smoke, the carriage doors started to open, and the third classes in tattered rags, holding their children by the hand. Some of the lower classes waited around for the middle and upper classes to get out onto the platform, so they could pick their pockets. Through the mist, I saw my Uncle getting off the train, and standing tall and distant from me, in a long black coat, fastened with wooden buttons. I walked towards him, "Hello Uncle." "Mary. Is this the child?" "Yes. Josephine.". "Well let's get out of the rain." we walked into the station caf The smell of smoke, coffee and croissants and baguettes had seeped into the pine tables and the oxygen. While sipping my coffee he started to question me, "Who was the father?" "He's dead. He was the stage boy at the Grand Guignol. He killed himself after living with abuse." "Who abused him?" "Everybody. His mother, the theatre manager and the other actors at the theatre." he paused, laid back in his chair thinking, whereas I just sat ridged and Josephine started to squirm in my arms. "One thing I don't understand Mary...is why can't you look after her?" "Because..." guilt ran through me, how was I going to tell him? "Well it's like this. When Marcus died, I began to blame his mother for his death. You should have seen what she had done to him. All over, his body was old and new wounds merged into one. You couldn't see skin through the bruises. Well I went insane, one evening I went into her dressing room and, the things she said about him made me so angry and hating...I killed her Uncle." tears ran down my cheek and I held Josephine closer to me. "That still doesn't answer my question Mary. You killed her, it doesn't stop you looking after her." he said bringing his shoulders forward over the table "Yes it does. The theatre manager is a murderer, he has killed four people in my time at the theatre even had me raped. He will kill me for Claudia's death." He got up, tipped the waitress and walked out onto the streets to smoke a cigar. I followed him out pacing the streets as Josephine cried. "I don't expect you to like this situation. I don't really like it either." I pleaded, "You should have thought about that before you went off killing people." I said with his back turned to me. "I killed only one person. And even that can't be described as murder. But this isn't about me, it's about my daughter. You're her only hope, for a decent life. But don't think you can bring her up in the same way you brought me up...your not the perfect choice for a carer but what choice do I have? It's you or the orphanage." stillness dominated this space. My Uncle was against the workhouses and the orphanages that's why he saved me from one. I made him feel guilty and now he had no choice. He pulled Josephine out of my arms and held her firmly to his chest, but his grip was caring and delicate. "I will take her, but only because I believe she shouldn't suffer for your actions." "I will fetch her things." I took a long time to gather the clothes and toys. I watched my uncle walk back and forth comforting Josephine, as if he was her father. I came out and walked with him to the train station, we waited for a few minutes when the train arrived through the mist in a puff of smoke and hissing water. The station master calling "All aboard, all aboard for London." we walked towards the first class end of the train. "Let me hold her just one last time." she felt so soft in my arms; her pitiful squirms were so sweet, that I didn't want to let her go. But my uncle took her back off me and boarded the train. Josephine smiled at me as the train pulled away, and through the mist and smoke she waved to me. Tears ran down my cheeks, I would never see her again, my only daughter taken from me. I cried all the way back to the theatre, and I marched straight into Monsieur Artoir's office without knocking. He was contently smoking a cigar while listening to Beethoven, on the gramophone, "I have just given away my only daughter!" I screamed at him, "You are not welcome in this office. Get out!" he shouted at me, "I have just given Josephine to the man who beat me as a child. I gave her away so you could kill me and throw me away. I prey my death is painful. The agony will fill the hole inside of me, now that the two things I cared for have been taken from me." I stormed out of the office up to my dressing room, locked the door and sobbed into my pillow. Days passed almost a week, new actresses came and went and a new stage boy was hired, so soon hardly six months after Marcus' death. Nothing had happened yet, I wondered aimlessly around the theatre occasionally walking down to the cellar, but every night I went up to the roof to watch the sun set, thinking that it would be the last. There was now a plaque of memory dedicated to Claudia in the Grand Guignol, in memory of her talent and struggle. I used to listen to the innocent, young, new actresses to the theatre, talking about how amazing she must have been to act alongside with, I used to think that and now I felt a sickly sweet pity for these girls who never knew her, never knew what she was like. It didn't say how she died, and although they asked, they got no answers. There was no plaque of memory for Marcus just a cheap grave, with an eroded headstone, with moss and fungi living on it. Fresh roses among the dead, with a tarnished fake diamond ring, and rusty razor blade buried in the soil.
One evening Monsieur Artoir called a meeting in the stalls, "Ladies we are going to re-launch The most assassinated women in the world. After great success, we are going to perform a grand production. For those of you who are too young to know what the most assassinated women in the world was, it was a series of performances enacting the death of famously scandalous women, killed in brutal ways. To the naked eye, they look brutal, but on the stage, the performance is quite harmless. The victim of the first performance will be..." he looked around the congregation spying me out in the back, he held a long and tedious pause looking me straight in the eyes "...Mary Hawthorn!" the girls departed slowly giggling and laughing. I stood quite still as Monsieur Artoir got down from the pew he was standing on, "Quite harmless? Is it during the performance, that I will leave the theatre in a wooden box?" he didn't answer me just walked away, back to his office. I walked back to my dressing room and emptied my wardrobe placing each of my dressing perfectly over the bed, it was a beautiful array of velvet blues, scarlet, blacks, greens and auburn browns. I decided to hang the scarlet dress behind the door which I will die in; the others I placed in my case. Next, I began emptying my chest of draws, leaving one corset out and putting the others in the case, my sapphire necklace fell onto the floor. Picking it up, it caught the sunlight, the London blue brilliance glistened on the walls beaming a gorgeous radiance, on to the bland walls. I packed everything else away storing it carefully away in the case and locking it. I wrote a small note leaving all my things to charity; I didn't need the dresses so someone else might as well benefit from them. All of sudden in my daydream there was someone knocking at my door, I opened it a pathetic girl with a pale face and blue eyes, "Mademoiselle..." "Madame. My name is Madame Desir. Madame Marcus Desir." "Oh well I was wondering if you had any makeup I could borrow." "Yes. Here you are." the girl then began asking questions "You said your surname was Desir. That was Claudia's surname?" "Yes I was engaged to her son. He died before we married. But I name myself as Desir." "Oh. I'm sorry. How did he die?" I hesitate and held back the tears "He killed himself. He was in a constant depression and couldn't handle it." she left, and closed the door behind her.
It was now purely hours before the performance, outside in the corridors I heard excited girls, giggling and laughing about the night. I tied the strings up at the back of my dress, and then added the final touches to my makeup, trying to hide the blemishes caused by my tears. I stared into the mirror and made sure my hair was perfect, the dress hanged flawlessly around my ankles. When a boy came into my room, I only saw his reflection in my mirror. He was a tall boy, but well built with well sloping shoulders and a perfectly curled back, "10 minutes". He didn't have the subtly Marcus had, his tone was much more harsh and malicious. I noticed he had a braded pattern around his wrist no doubt from the ropes over the beams. Ten minutes later I heard the call to positions, I stood out among the actors in my emerald green metallic dress. The curtain was pulled, the audience was restless and the rats were scurrying under the floorboards and pews of my last audience.
The performance went well, the amateur girls showed real talent. It was an interesting story involving vampires, werewolves, and deformed creatures. The final scene was a gothic setting, in a grotesque castle lit with candles on a marble looking floor. The floor felt so cold on my bare feet, I stood quite still in the centre of the stage the audience waiting in expectation. The cold breeze drifted across the stage and around the hemline of my emerald dress. My heart was in my throat, I was scared, nervous and wanting, too just run off the stage then, I heard delicate footsteps coming down the steps, I didn't look around but I felt the person's breath crawling down my neck. My heart beating rapidly, when the person standing behind me placed his hands on my shoulders and pulled himself closer to me. His hands ran down my arms then wrapped around my waist.
We whispered sinisterly in my ears "No pain. No pain". It was the harsh pronunciation of his words that I knew he was lying. I didn't turn around, I just faced the audience. I closed my eyes when I felt my hair being pulled back and to the side. I felt my jugular vein swell and the steady pulse getting faster and faster. I screamed when the blade entered the side of my neck, subsequently it was pulled out slowly, hearing the flesh being torn. I plunged down onto the stage floor, blood pouring from my neck and trickled off the stage in a neat river, into the auditorium. The audience left, I was placed in a coffin and like Marcus was buried in a cheap grave. The Grand Guignol continued to bring in the profits, but the sense of atmosphere had changed. Monsieur Artoir left the theatre and died of drink in his house. He was never arrested for the murders at the theatre. Many women had died in this palace of murder. I had joined them; I like the others had become one of the most assassinated women in the world.
© Copyright 2017 Emie Ruth. All rights reserved.
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