We sat and stared at one another, I was staring into the red eyes caused by drink and embarrassment. I could not believe that the man sitting in front of me was my father, my total opposite short tatty hair with a mangled beard, by the colour of his fingernails it was recognizable that he was work class, in opposition to what I was used to. However, any working men who I had met were proud of their work and they always saw a brighter side of life, pleasant to the thought that they could have been worst off, but he was not proud at all, the way he dressed made Marcus appear better off. For a while, he just stared at me, I felt uncomfortable in his presence so I sat nervously and ridged in my seat daring not to look him directly in the eye. Not a word was spoken but the heavy sent of alcohol began to overtake our supply of fresh oxygen. He began to speak "I take it your uncle has told you about how you ended up in his care." "Yes, because you abandoned my mother." I said in irritation, "I didn't abandon her." "If you didn't abandon her why didn't you look after her when she was pregnant? And why didn't you try to find me?" I shouted in fury "I didn't know." he pleaded, "Don't lie to me." "Why should I lie to you?" "To deny all knowledge, and not feel any guilt from abandoning the mother of your child." "I'm not lying to you. I didn't even know you were born." these words broke me; they shattered my heart like and arrow through glass, struggling to find the words I just sat in silence. We both did.
Five minutes passed, time felt slow and still we stared at one another. He could not stand the ghostly silence, which ran throughout the room "I didn't know you were born. I knew your mother and she knew me further more I didn't spend more than one night with her." he gave me no choice but to talk. I had to know this story or else my life as I know it will be false. "How did you know her." he took a deep breath and poured another glass of wine, "This is how it happened."
"About a year before you were born I arrived in London looking for work, there was plenty of work about all the factories going up the pay wasn't so bad we didn't starve, but did drink. Me and the lads after work went down to the Frying Pan in Whitechapel. It was a popular pub dominated by pips and whores who couldn't find themselves a proper job." an anger began to build up inside me but I was able to control it. "I met your mother in this pub, a man walked up to me one night and placed his arm on my shoulders and said "Good evening Sir Can I buy you a drink? Or would you rather buy one of my ladies? Alice Hawthorn maybe? " That was the first time I laid eyes on your mother. She had the most beautiful brown hair and blue eyes I had ever seen, she regal and dominated the surrounding people. Other men used to argue over her. You are a sticking resemblance to her; the same eyes, same hair and I would put money on the idea that you also have her shimmering smile. Anyway, that night we were together and then every night after that for about three months, then one night she wasn't there and I was transferred to the mines in Liverpool. I never saw her again." that was it, his story completed in about three minutes but still had more to answer because I still had questions to be answered, one had been answered I finally found out who my mother and father were but still I had to ask for more details, particularly about him. "So that's it. You never tried to make contact with my mother again not even to ask her why she ran away." "How could I? I didn't know where she was. What happened to her?" "She gave birth and died in a workhouse." I said sharply the only emotion was spite, spite towards her, my uncle and now my father.
The eerie hush came again, I now knew about my mother, and how I came into my uncle's care. But now I needed to know my father his history and present lifestyle. "I don't want to know about my mother anymore. She's dead and there's nothing you or I can do about it. But you're still alive; I want to know about you." "What do you want to know?" "I want to know what you do, and your past, your life before and after I was born." "Well I was born in Liverpool, your grandfather and his side of the family was working class given a poor education and a harsh life, at the age of 12 I left school and went with my father to work in the mines. I am the youngest; you have three aunts and two other uncles; your aunts and grandmother went to work in the textile factories, my eldest sister lost her hand working there, working with one of the power looms. The men in the family worked in the coalmines your grandfather died when one of them collapsed along with 20 other workers. Until I turned 17, I worked with my brothers and bringing our wages home to our mother. Anyway when she died I left home and moved to London." a feeling of somber suddenly started to grow on me; was I feeling sorry for him? I grew up to live a harsh life similar to his; he continued to talk "When I moved to London I began to work in one of the factories, when your mother ran away I returned to Liverpool and the mines." "What about now?" "Now I'm married with two brilliant sons and one beautiful daughter, we have a house in the city paid for my employer." envy grew, my mind asking questions about how he has got on with life so well everything at his feet, a free house, half decent job, wife and kids. He didn't even know about me. But he still hadn't given me the true reason as to why he was here.
"Why have you come? You haven't just come down from Liverpool to Paris to meet me then leave." "Your right. Your uncle tells me that you are living in this theatre, from what he has heard it is a theatre of evil and horrors; no place, for a respectable girl brought up in a middle class society. I want you to come back with me to Liverpool, you're my daughter and I'm not ashamed to admit it. No one needs to know that your mother was a prostitute" "No this is what I want in this theatre, I like it here. There are no theatres in Liverpool." "But you won't be in the theatre... this is not a safe life, one night your walking onto the stage for your second encore, the next night your out on the streets with the door shut behind you.". All I wanted to do at this moment was lash out at him, watch the blood drip from his nose, to watch him suffer, pain would be too much a joy to deny. But I was able to control my raging fists the blood pulsating in my throat wanting to burst. Instead, I just remained calm and spoke softly "No." the pronunciation of ‘no' was something I picked up from my uncle and he knew it, for this he looked at me in shock; it was not the answer he was expecting "What?" "I said I'm not going to Liverpool. Why should I? I don't know you you're a stranger in my life, and why would you want me anyway? I am your disgrace as well as my uncle's." I got up and began to walk towards the door, he followed me as quick as lightning and stopped me turning the handle, "You are not my disgrace, and I would not have left you if I knew about you." "I don't care, your still a stranger to me," he shouted at me with a sharp tongue "You're my daughter!" "Then as your daughter and you my father, you would want the best for me? Then let me stay." "What do you want?" "To stay here, at the Grand Guignol and for you to never come back." he reluctantly let go the handle; I saw a tear in his eye and walked out.
Standing by one of the pillars was my uncle smoking a cigar and scattering the ash about the ground, I tried to avoid him but he saw me quietly slipping away from the office door, "Mary!" he shouted, an echo ran across the hall, I froze in fear and turned to face him as bold as brass. He walked towards me like an army general inspecting his troops, "What happened?" I did not answer purely out of resentment, until shouted at me his face level with mine "What happened?" "I told him to leave, after he offered me the chance to move to Liverpool with him. I don't need him and I don't need you." I gave him one last long and staring look and turned my back on him; I heard his footsteps walking out of the theatre, out into the streets of Paris. Once again I sensed freedom, at last I was my own woman, no longer did I have to continually look behind me to see whose following, I looked to see my father stumbling out of the office. It was the first and last time I was to meet him, Marcus was right, I didn't regret meeting him but I didn't have to do anything he said. Adulthood has begun.
The rest of the day past peacefully, Monsieur Artoir didn't question me about the meeting with my father, and the evening came in slowly and beautifully. At 7 o'clock I watched the sun set over Paris from the roof of the theatre, the Eiffel Tower looked so beautiful; it showed how with determination there would be no end to what we could achieve. The dark blue sky remained me of my appointment with Marcus so at 9 o'clock I went down to the cellar, to spend the evening with him.
I walked slowly down the stairs, so much so that the cold air made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, when all of a sudden the cold air was tinted with warmth and the light from the fire which Marcus had lit turned the ash grey walls a delicate orange. Standing at the bottom step there, he was unlike me, he was not dressed for the evening in fact he was shirtless and clean-shaven, the perfect specimen of manhood dominant and loving. He caught sight of me he quickly picked up his shirt and modestly wrapped it around his chest, "Sorry I didn't hear you come in. I would have made more of an effort for you." I smiled modestly talking as I approached him "My father told me his side of the story, then asked me to go to Liverpool with him." a look of concern and fear appeared on Marcus' face, what was he concerned about? That I would leave him, in the need to reassure him I said, "I'm not going. I'm staying in Paris with you." I spoke in such a soft tone, so soft it was almost a whisper at this moment I was standing directly in front of him, the yellow flame shinning of my brown hair, we stared into each others eyes, the true beauty of his eyes were shown at beauty which gave me a humble thought. I am the only person to see such beauty but more importantly the innocence. "Your staying" "Yes Marcus." at that point he held me close to his chest, his shirt fell away with my dress, and in the breast of my corset I could feel his heart beating, a steady rhythm. Suddenly his grip loosened and he backed away, to look at me and then carefully and passionately he slowly undid the strings holding my corset together then pulling me closer towards his body once more.
Still holding me he laid down on the wooden bed, my head resting on his torso and his hand slowly running through my hair then running down past my shoulders, and subtly down my back resting at my tail. His touch was so soft, and compassionate that I felt secure, safe in his presence. He was not like the other men, the ones who used to pay for my presence this was love, something that the two of us had never dreamed of experiencing. The only thing which I was forbidden from, as those who brought me up forced me to believe that it was immoral and that it should only be done when a couple were joined with bands of gold. The night passed quickly mostly because the whole night as eventful with passion and love, the moving of his body was so delicate unlike the pimps and paying scum. For once, I was lost in a sensuous dream, reminding me of the wedding night scene of Romeo and Juliet, we were two star-crossed lovers brought together through fate and pain.
During the middle of the night, I unexpectedly awoke, while Marcus slept peacefully. I glanced around the room, observing even closer at the room where he lived; he slept next to granite and bathed in cold water with only a fire and blanket to keep him warm. He deserved better. As I slowly pulled myself back under the covers when Marcus woke and he whispered, "What's the matter?" "Nothing, just go back to sleep." we slept in one another's arms until sunrise. Marcus sat on the edge of the bed continually stroking my hair and rubbing my shoulders causing me to wake, "Sorry I didn't mean to wake you. I've brought us some breakfast." I sat up refreshed from the night, as I slowly stretched the blanket concealing my dignity fell; Marcus caught gimps of my naked breasts as I pulled the covers back up. He brought me a cup of coffee and croissant. After finishing his coffee, he picked up the cutthroat razor; I turned my head, watching him shave with that razor against his sensitive skin made my skin crawl. When he finished I turned back to him, and he kissed affectionately on the cheek, the silky feel of his freshly shaved skin caused my body to tingle with sensual delight, this allowed me to gain the confidence for him to sleep somewhere else at night.
"Marcus, why do you live down here?" I asked with him lying on the bed and him pulling me onto his chest "Because there's no where else in the theatre to live, I'm the stage boy remember no one wants me around. All accept you." "Well it doesn't need to be this way. Instead of sleeping down here every night you could...sleep...somewhere else." I held my breath waiting his answer feeling his heart throbbing behind me, he was breathing heavily, and then he answered, "Will we not get found out?" "Not if you come after dark." he paused for a few minutes and draped his arms around my shoulders pulling me closer "Where shall I meet you?" "At the bottom of the aisle...along the dressing rooms at 9 o'clock." I looked up at him with merciful eyes "9 o'clock?" he said "9 o'clock." I answered, and for those few minutes we just laid there in one another's arms when we heard footsteps running on the floor above us, I rushed out of the bed, and quickly put on my dress. Marcus got out the bed and assisted me with strings and ribbons down the front of my dress. We kissed our final kiss until tonight, passionate and delicate, I gave him one last glance knowing that a whole day will have to pass before I will experience one of his kisses again, then I rushed up the stairs leaving him in darkened solitude with only his memories of the previous night to keep him company.
Everyone was rushing but there were no rehearsals until 2 o'clock, but still everyone was running. Monique came rushing towards me in tears, her hair flying in all directions "Mary. Mary you must help." she panted heavily collapsing in tears onto me "What's the matter? Mary! What's the matter?" "Celeste is taken ill again along with Emilie. Both of them are being sick and having hallucinations of devils and angels begging Monsieur Artoir and Claudia for forgiveness get Marcus to fetch a doctor and bring some more hot water." I ran back in the direction I came, bashing into everyone ran in the opposite direction and I didn't stop running until I came to the bottom step of the cellar staircase. Marcus still not fully dressed was wandering about the room drinking yet more coffee "Marcus, Marcus..." I said out of breath "...fetch the doctor Celeste and Emilie are ill." together we ran up the stairs then parted he fetched the doctor and brought some hot water. I was dizzy headed feeling sick and faint shaking, because these the secondary symptoms of arsenic but why would Emilie also be affected unless she was poisoned to, if she was it must have been a large quantity. Why should this happen? What did they do to deserve dying in such a way?
The screams continued as Marcus brought the hot water, what I saw was more distressing than anything else I had seen before. Monsieur Artoir was standing against the wall showing no sign of remorse, Claudia Desir was no where to be found and Marcus was standing in the doorway while the doctor repeatedly trying to keep the girls secure, eventually the doctor stopped, the girls were not moving and no one dared to breath. The doctor stood up straight, turned to face Monsieur Artoir and solemnly shook his head. They had both died but it was recorded as a bilious attack, but I knew what they really died of. In the announcement of their death caused me to run back to my dressing room not even Marcus followed me. I laid on my bed with the painful thought of their deaths and how they died, at the back of my mind a bilious attack was not the true reason for their deaths but something a lot deeper.
The remainder of the day was melancholy a perfect setting for the performance tonight. Again, I was in the background and this time Monique was the victim, she played a rich woman dressed in rich blues and reds who had her eyes gouged out and throat slashed when she refused to satisfy the man who admired her, who wanted her to leave her husband and move to Spain with him. The performance was so horrific the blood from her throat and the bloody crusting around her eye socket made me shiver with fear turning my head when it happened, the screaming continued as I tried to think of other things but they were continually dominated by Monique's pitiful wailing. The audiences were fainting mostly the women, only a few men collapsed most due to the fact that men are stronger in the presence of blood some thrive in it's flowing pleasure while others squirm and shift in their seats. When the performance ended Monique was nowhere to be found, when I questioned where she was no one knew, but the eerie feeling of two deaths and one missing person after a series of performances where women were killed was too chilling to even think about. In that one day, questions began to raise in my head, but the answers I didn't want to know in case I risk my own life or others.
Slowly the night drew in, the audience had left and the theatre was still, the only thing moving was me in my dressing room contemplating whether or not to wear a dress for tonight. When everyone was asleep I crept out of my room to meet Marcus at the end of the hallway, in the shadows I could see him, pacing the floorboards. "Marcus it's all clear." I whispered and together we tiptoed past the other dressing rooms being careful not to make the boards' creek. From outside the doors we heard them sleeping some snoring in their dreams, we tried our best not to laugh but the sniggers broke through until we reached mine.
Marcus had never been inside one of our dressing rooms, he had occasionally glanced through when a message had to be delivered but he never dreamed of walking inside of one. He was surprised by the colour, the only colour in the cellar was the yellow of the fire, but my dressing room was freshly decorated in a dark crimson red, with all my dresses hanging tidily, as he looked at each of my velvet dresses vigilantly massaging each of the pleats and layers as I locked the door. "Put this one on," said Marcus showing me a red short dress with a black corset top, "Why?" I said in a childish tone "No reason." I smiled, and took the dress of him and changed into it, but there was no screen in the room where I could change. I put the dress on just so he could remove it slowly, unraveling the bows and ribbons. This night was different to the previous night, it was warmer compared to the cellar which was icy cold, it was Marcus' body which kept me warm, this time it was both him and the duvet. However, although the setting was different, the accomplishment was not, he was just as intense and passionate as the last night. Was this our destiny, were we meant to be together, embracing in one another's presence, fulfilling one another's needs during the night. Our relationship had begun, but to keep it our own no one else was to know about it, we were breaking the rules for each other. The only difference that stood between us was Marcus knew his fate if we were discovered together, I did not.
© Copyright 2017 Emie Ruth. All rights reserved.
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