I didn't sleep that night after the meeting. Knowing that I'd left Capuchine and wouldn't even be able to explain my sudden disappearance to her. She'd guess it was the Blanche, but still... I'd never had a secret from her, and didn't want to start now.
I couldn't believe I'd let myself in for all this. I was only seventeen! I wasn't able to do anything special or clever. I was just trying to do what was best for Capuchine and myself. But now I'd met all the Blanche... well, I couldn't really let them down, either.
'Nervous?' Annette asked me the next morning.
I shook my head. Truthfully, I said: 'No. Not for me. But I worry about my sister...'
'Guillaume will protect her,' Annette reassured me. 'You can trust him.' I heard something in her voice that made me meet her eyes, and I realised I believed her. Ever since François died, Guillaume had, well, been a brother to us - Capuchine and me - and although he was sometimes wild and crazy, he was still my cousin.
We left early that morning - said our goodbyes to Nathaniel, Guillaume, Zachary and the others. Gerald and Adele would travel with Annette, Clara, Emmanuel and myself as far as Chartres, where we would part - they for the coast, and we for Versailles.
Nathaniel had found us horses from somewhere - 'wonderman, that's my Nathaniel!' Guillaume had laughed when Nathaniel announced that morning that he had 'secured' six horses for us - of which I was greatly pleased, for I don't think I could have walked all that distance.
To begin with, I felt very protective of Clara, because she looked so young and vulnerable, but I soon found her to be well able to care for herself, and a good companion on the long road. She hardly ever spoke of her past, except to snap (she had a fiery temper), and it took a while for me to coax her into speaking, but it wasn't long before we had struck up a friendship that I was sure would be invaluable.
Annette, roughly ten years older than myself, I found to be sympathétique and amusante, as well as an excellent storyteller. Clara and I listened to her as she told us stories of England - an alien country to both of us Frenchwomen. In return, I told her a little of my own family, at least until tears threatened when I spoke of François. She must have known, because she said nothing more on the subject.
Adele, the closest in age to me, was the one I instantly bonded with, however. Of all six of us, only Adele and I were leaving behind families. Slightly reluctant to be working for Blanche, we held less of the ideals the others so nurtured. I found that she had joined because both her father and brother had been part of La Bande Blanche. She had lost both of them, as I had lost François. I hoped very dearly that our paths would cross again in the future, although the very idea of going to England shocked me.
I found Emmanuel - the last of our company besides Gerald, who I had known for many years - to be very quiet, almost subdued. Of all of my companions, he intrigued me the most. Naturally inquisitive (my largest flaw) I found stealing glances at him as we rode. He spoke a little to Gerald, and even laughed once, but after we parted from them, he barely said a word. From what I gleaned from Gerald, he had recently lost a wife and young son. My heart went out to him - a lone figure up ahead.
It took us most of the day to get to Versailles. Guillaume had provided us with enough money to rent a room somewhere for us all to sleep, and we did just that. There was no point in our trying to do anything tonight. We'd have plenty of time to do some spying tomorrow.
Annette halfheartedly muttered something about it being 'inappropriate' for us to sleep in the same room as Emmanuel, but we were all too tired to care, really. I felt slightly uncomfortable - the last time I had shared a room with the opposite sex had been the night before François...
Two sleepless nights in a row. I really wasn't doing too well.