The morning of my first day at the ‘Grand Guignol' was bright; with the sun, shinning through the glass panels, and like a 7-year-old girl at Christmas I got up early to try on numerous dresses and styles, but my only clean dress left was a torn satin royal blue dress. I feared the richness of the blue would give the wrong impression particularly among the people I will be serving, but it was the only one left and my sapphire necklace went well with the colour.
Although it looked warm, there was a cold chill in the winter air that struck me deep on my way to the entrance of the theatre. I walked through the doors; no one was around. I followed the route I took on the first time I visited the theatre, through the doors that entered into the stalls "Hello!" I called but no one could hear me, my voice echoed throughout the stalls. In the distance I could hear the faint sound of whistling, a boy walked on to the stage no older than 17 but his body portrayed that of a 12 year old. He was so skinny, to look at him you would think that he had been locked in the cellar on a diet of stale bread and tipped water. However, his sparkling blue topaz eyes, although his left one was black portrayed an innocence and unmistakable beauty. Within his dazzling eyes, I saw a likeness; something about him reminded me of someone. His posture was straight and tall, his short-cropped auburn hair and vampire suculantneck were unique and exquisite, but hidden by a grey shirt. Carrying a bucket and mop he cleaned the oil stained stage, he still had not noticed me. "Hello, I don't know where I am supposed to be. Where is Monsieur Artoir?" "I don't know" he replied while continuing his work he didn‘t raise his head. "I am new to the theatre, I was told to come today, who are you?" "Marcus Desir, the illegitimate son of Claudia Desir and Monsieur Artoir's stage boy" he bowed while saying this, a sign of respect for those superior to him; his manners he learnt at the back of his Mother's hand. "How did you get that black eye?" only after did I ask this question when I realized I should not have allowed my tongue to take this curious route he looked up from his work and looked at me sternly and emotionless the spoke with a wicked tone "Why do you want to know?" "I don't know" looking at my scuffed shoes in the same shame when questioned by Jacque Artoir, the boy continued with his work.
We pondered in an awkward silence, the sound of the boy's mop and my muffled shoes filled the air with subtle music, then the door opened and Monsieur Artoir walked through, "I see you have met my stage boy Mary. I hope he has not been harassing you." saying this while brandishing a riding whips in his brown leather gloves, "No he hasn't." "Well that's all right then. Follow me" Putting away the riding whip, I quickly glanced at Marcus; a look of relive portrayed in his eyes reacted to the riding whip being removed from sight. "COME ON GIRL!" shouted Monsieur Artoir "Or you will make me late."
He led me up a flight of wooden stairs, which shook as we moved, and then along a platform, "This leads to the dressing rooms. I will introduce you to the other actors, they are proud people so don't insult them." we walked past the dressing rooms, each of them were personal to each actor with their names in brass screwed to the door. We passed Claudia Desir's room, the only sound coming from the room was the sound of drunken laughter, I automatically realized that I would have to get used to such noises from her room, especially as my dressing room was only a few feet away. Right in the corner away from the talent and confined in a small area, so as not to be noticed or heard.
The room was bland, white walls with wooden beams across the ceiling, the bed was simple, but with a red velvet throw over just as I was expecting. "You sleep in the theatre, so pay your landlady her rent and return. How much is your rent?" Monsieur Artoir enquired reaching for his purse, "7 francs Monsieur." he gave me the money. Now child we are doing a series of performances under one title, called ‘The most Assassinated Women in the World', we will cast you as a supporting character we start you off slowly, we rehearse every morning starting at nine o‘clock. The performances consist of women important in history to be theatrically murdered on stage; they appear evil but to the naked eye but are quite harmless. Now go! Pay your landlady and return immediately." I went back to the tavern to pay her "I don't need the room now Madame Roch. I am now an actress at the Grand Guignol." she took the money without a word.
After paying off my debts, I walked out onto the streets and it began to rain, I pulled the hood of my black cloak up over my head and ran into the theatre. Entering the auditorium quietly, the silence was broken by the sound of a pitiful scream. I backed behind one of the pillars; the person who screamed was Marcus Desir on the stage with his Mother standing over him. A trail of blood ran from his open head wound over his eyelid as he pulled himself up, no longer had he rose from the stage he was knocked down again by another blow to the back of the head, "Useless Boy! I wished you had never been born. Damn you and your bastard father." Screeched Claudia Desir, while she strutted of the stage in her usual manner. Once she had gone I rushed onto the stage, the poor boy in tears "Marcus!" he gripped the edge of my dress and tried to hide his tears but it was no use, I saw what happened and I couldn't hide it, but at least I now know how he got the black eye. "Here. You need help. I will fetch some water." I said this while tending to his wound with the corner of my cloak. I walked of the stage towards one of the side doors, and Monsieur Artoir was standing in my way, "Where are you going child?" "Marcus. He is hurt and needs help. I was going to get some water." "No your not." "What?" I replied, "I said your not going to get any water to help such a worthless child." he walked away, and I stood stunned, "But why?" "Because I said so that's why! From now on you do what I say when I say it, or else your out on the streets." He said this close to my face, the smell of wine on his breath; I could do nothing but retire to my dressing room. The feeling of guilt swam in my mind, guilt for leaving Marcus on the stage bleeding. I laid on my bed drifting of into sleep, 20 minutes later I awoke by someone knocking at my door, it was Marcus with a bloody scar along his eyebrow his skin around the scar was yellow from treating the wound with iodine. His voice was stuttered and his eyes were red from the tears "The show starts in 1 hour Mademoiselle. Monsieur Artoir wants to see everyone before it starts." "Thank you. Are you alright now?" He smiled in recognition of the question then turned away, but in his eyes, I could see the depression he was living in.
An assembly of actors and actresses congregated in the auditorium most dressed in nothing but filthy white corsets and suspenders, Monsieur Artoir stood proud on one the pews looking over his mystical puppets of the night, "My children, tonight is the night. This night we will begin our series of performances of the ‘Most Assassinated Women in the World'; this evening Paris and we will witness Celeste the shy beauty at the back die from poisoning of arsenic after embezzling her Father's money. Some of you have been given parts and lines, so the performance will not be all murder, the rest of you will be standing in the crowds. We don't want everyone to ... forego the experience." he was hiding something I could tell in his voice, it had sly tone to it, which no one else noticed, his voice was as cold as the wind blowing through the theatre. Therefore, I went back to dressing room to change into my costume a white dress with a rose pin for my hair, the hemline of my dress was a red, which was fading and turning into a pastel pink.
We had 30 minutes before the show began; I was already changed to stand in the crowd, I decided to explore the rest of the theatre before we let the crowds in. I wandered along the balcony that led to a staircase that carried you to the roof. I walked along the beams of the attic when I heard the distinct sound of sobbing. It was Marcus Desir. I saw him sitting on one of the beams, in one hand was a cigarette and in the other was a bottle of cognac his shirt sleeves were rolled up above the elbows, there was a bloody scar on the inside of his right elbow and surrounding that were black marks of pin point size. "What's wrong? Was it Monsieur Artoir? Did he hurt you?" what else could I do but ask what was wrong. He sniffled a solemn answer "No he didn't hurt me." he offered me the bottle of cognac; I declined. He spoke again, "he didn't hurt me... my Mother sees to that. No... he just makes my life hell, everyday it is always "Marcus do this and Marcus do that" and when I do not I have a meeting with my Mother's hand. He finds...a reason for her to do so." he broke down again taking another swig of the cognac and continued to smoke his cigarette. "I never knew my Father, few people no how it feels to be an outcaste, isolated from society because I don't have a Father." I placed my hand on his shoulder as he cried and I moved a little closer to his side, "I know how it feels. I never knew my Mother or my Father. She died in childbirth and my Father I do not know where or who he is. I was brought up by my Uncle and Nuns." Marcus looked up at me his eyes red, "I'm not the only one then?" I shook my head "I'd better go. The show will start soon." I got up and began to walk down the stairs I only made a few steps when Marcus called out to me, "HEY, a few of us have tomorrow night off. We're going to the Moulin Rouge you can come if you like."
I was at the bottom of the staircase when I heard Monsieur Artoir calling everyone to positions. I took my place on the stage at the back, the curtains opened, the bright light blinding me, then I saw it a view, which changed my life forever the sight of my first audience. They each stared at us in eagerness; within the eyes of the Aristotle I saw their darkness and sardonic smiles, waiting for our blood to spill and our wounds to fester. Above the stage along the beams, Marcus sat looking down at us, gaping with secret pleasure down the corsets we were showing off. It started with us just sitting in a darkened room, drinking wine and smoking filtered cigarettes, subsequently talking about the economy and upper class standard of living. With the enigma that one of us in the room we an embezzler, and it was Celeste.
The performance was a great success, Celeste was fantastic she played her character well almost to well and her death was so realistic. I didn't say anything after the show I just went to bed thinking of what Marcus had said and how he was being treated I dread to think that what I saw in public could well be not as bad as what happens in private. He being a tender age of 17 that is 17 years of abuse similar to the physical and mental abuse I suffered. We had a lot in common and both of us were lonely with no one to talk to, I knew no one at the theatre, the only person with pure English blood and Marcus semi-English from his father's side. I could not bear the thought of him inviting me and then turning him down after our conversation tonight. I decided to join him and his acquaintances to the Moulin Rouge tomorrow night.
© Copyright 2017 Emie Ruth. All rights reserved.
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