Annette: Suspicion

I gazed at my reflection, my face nearly colorless, contrasting against the dark ringlets of hair cascading down. My sharp blue eyes appeared strangely worn and faraway. Carefully I combed my hair into place, brushing the thoughts of anxiety from my mind.

Straightening my skirt, I walked from my room in Victor Montez's house. I found my way downstairs to his small library, in which I had spent much of the past days, by his permission, sifting through his collection of maps and sorts. I pushed open the heavy dark wood door, surprised to find the Englishman, Richard Gaines, inside.

He was a quiet man, with long, narrow face, dark eyes set into the paleness of his chalky skin, with an appearance as if he was incredibly bored with whatever was said. It seemed he always wore a pout, formed eternally in a dark grimace. If he smiled, it never painted his eyes. The most common emotion that flickered in it's dark depth other than blank boredom, was irritation. I did not know how he was acquainted with such a person as Victor Montez, all that I was aware was that he was affiliated with his revolutionary group. I did not like the air about him, his stiff presence making me extraordinarily uncomfortable.

There was something odd about his stance, crouched over like a hungry crow pecking at a dead carcass. Messy pieces of parchment filled his bony fists, frantically dropping them down on the table as he stood to face me, his eyes flaring with a mix of something of annoyance and anger.

Though his voice remained smooth and cool, the emotion of his eyes not tainting his voice. As he spoke, his eyes fell to their stony boredom once more, so rapidly that I questioned if I had seen that glint in his eye, "Madam Annette," he bowed slightly at the waist. There was something in his gesture that seemed tinged with mockery, which made me tense, clenching my jaw. "What would you be doing here?"

"To do reading, Mr. Gaines." I replied with a young girl's unknowing innocence, though I could not help keeping a sharp edge from my voice. I was told he was on my side, yet he would not simply earn my trust that easily. "Victor Montez has told me he has a great collection of plays and works of Shakespeare."

"Ah," he raised his eyebrows, though his expression remained for the most part blank. "I have too heard such things. I hope you will enjoy his marvelous collection."

I cocked my head, smiling ever so slightly. "There is what I was looking for...," I walked forward toward him at the table where the papers Mr. Gaines had earlier held in a ruffled pile.

His hand slipped over them protectively, "Those are not plays, Madame Annette."

"Oh?" I said with a hint of playfulness. Mr. Gaines was up to some act of mischief, and I knew it now. He was one not to be trusted.

Richard Gaines gently pulled several pieces from the top, brushing past me. "I shall leave you to your reading, Madam."

I watched him go, the door shutting behind him. Narrowing my eyes, I returned my gaze to the papers, shuffling through them. All to do with business of Victor Montez's revolutionary group and others about France. Few of consequence, information I already knew. My eyes turned to the flames of the fireplace, a great maw eating away at the logs. I caught the sight of burnt pieces fluttering like butterflies above the flames, blackened parchment lingering at it's base.

Cautiously, I knelt before the fireplace. Mr. Gaines had been burning…something. What? What did he burn and what did he take?

I hurriedly trotted to the window, nearly tripping over my pesky skirts. Tossing open the curtains, I watched from my perch as Mr. Gaines slipped from the front door, weaving his way through the crowd and into the obscurity of an alleyway.

Furrowing my brow, I left the library in a great rush, working my way down the corridor. The door to Emmanuel’s chambers was open, yet empty. Briefly, I glanced inside, my eyes catching on a pistol laying idly at the side of his wash basin. No, I cannot…I shook my head, though I felt a certain longing for the dangerous weapon.

In a split second, I snatched the gun, veiling it in the crinkles of my skirt as I walked briskly into the front hall and out the door. I glanced anxiously about, following in the direction which Mr. Gaines had headed.

As I reached the murk of the alley, I slipped off my delicate, pinching slippers, setting them beneath a nearby empty crate. The cobblestone was cold beneath my feet, and the grime made me shiver, but I continued on, my footfall near silent as my finger was held upon the trigger.

Laundry pinned on lines whispered in the breeze, rippling above my head. A stray cat scattered away from my feet, making jump ever so slightly. I crept onwards, working my way through the maze of back alleys in an attempt to catch Mr. Gaines.

“Ann-,” came a murmur from just behind me, a hand clawing about my arm. My heart raced. I whipped around violently, pointing the gun at my pursuer’s head, my hands trembling.

“Annette! What are you doing!” the man hissed. “It’s me. For God’s sakes, put down the gun!”

“G-Guillame?” I slowly lowered the pistol, nearly dropping it. I knew it was him now, his features showing in the bleak light. Shock coursed through me, “What in God’s name are you doing here?”

“Come, we shall speak in a place other than in the filth of this alley.” he took me by my arm, I allowed him to guide me out of the twists and turns of the alleys.

Once again we entered the full sunlight, so that I saw Guillame fully, his traveling clothes worn from journeying. Guillame spoke first, looking me over intensely, “Annette, you look unwell…and where are your shoes?”

“Oh,” I remembered them, sitting beneath the crate. “They are back there…”

He pulled at my arm, forcing me to stare back at into his eyes. I couldn’t help coloring. His expression hardened, as if my blush had confirmed something. In a soft undertone, he murmured, “Why did you not tell me of your bad health?”

My cheeks burned harder, half with anger and half with embarrassment. “I am fine,” I said harshly. My voice softened, my eyes flickering away from his, “I am fine now.”

“You do not look fine, Annette.” he murmured, his voice a mix of something of gentleness…and hurt? “You cannot keep things from me, Annette, I…”

I pulled my arm from him abruptly, “I am not a child! I-”

“Then stop acting as one!” growled Guillame, silencing me. I turned slightly away from him, stiff as I crossed my arms. He sighed, showing the exhaustion and stress in his face, his voice tired and worn, “Please, Annette. You would not be useful to the cause if you are dead or dying! Please, I am asking you to return to your father in England and…”

“No,” I said stonily. “That is something I am not to do. What am I to sit at home, sewing like nothing is happening, anxious to do something, worrying myself to death because all who I love is here….,” My voice trailed off, my heart stopping. I didn’t mean to say that.

“Annette,” murmured Guillame. I tensed as he stepped forward, gently placing his hand on my cheek. My heart beating seemed so loud, I hoped he could not hear. “This is not the time for romances.”

I blinked hard a few times, surprised at his words. “I-I…,” I could not further trust my voice. The rate of my heart quickened as he leaned in closer to me, brushing his lips lightly over mine. Flustered, I was confused as Guillame pulled away, all at the same time wishing he would kiss me once more. Had he not contradicted what he said a moment before? All in the meanwhile, I felt something cemented in me, my befuddled emotions of Guillame and my mixed love for him calmed or confirmed in a way.

“Where are you all staying?” it seemed Guillame continued to speak as nothing had just happened.

“In the house of Victor Montez,” I replied after a moment, feeling slightly dazed. “What were you doing in the alley?”

Guillame glanced about, and said in a slight undertone, “I spotted Monsieur Fejanor, a spy for the nobles, and attempted to follow him. But I found you instead. I may ask you the same question.”

“I was following Mr. Gaines.” I answered as we started towards Victor Montez’s home. “He was acting strangely.”

“Yes?” he furrowed his brow. “You know he is loyal to our cause. I doubt he was doing anything to warrant suspicion?”

I explained briefly his unusual behavior in the library, the burning parchment, and the pieces he took before he disappeared into the alley. Guillame was silent, his face clouded with concern and thoughtfulness. By the time I had finished, we had arrived at our destination and the shadows of late evening were setting in.

“We shall speak to Victor about it,” Guillame finally said. “Yet, before we enter, I wish to try to convince you once more to leave to England. You may not only just sit about in your Father’s home, you could assist in our…tasks there.”

I swallowed, looking to my hands. “I am recovering, Guillame-please trust me, I shall be fine. The last days have been slightly less active, and I believe I am needed here.”

He was quiet for a moment. “I do not like it,” he said frostily. “But it appears I can do no further to change your hard headed position.”

I looked up at him, slightly smiling. Guillame couldn’t help let a little smile play on his lips, but his eyes were still shadowy. With a knock at the door, a maid-servant allowed us inside, guiding us to the parlor where Victor, Emmanuel, and Clara sat, yet there was no sign of Marie. They were all surprised to see Guillame at my side.

“Guillame!” cried Victor, standing from his seat. “What brings you here!”

“Oh, I needed to send a few things your way, and thought I’d bring them myself,” He replied. Emmanuel’s eyes flickered with skepticism, but he did not say anything. Guillame gazed about, “Where is Marie?”

“Up in her room, last I saw her,” Clara spoke up, standing. “I shall fetch her.”

Clara flitted from the room, as immediately I explained Mr. Gaines strange actions. When I was complete, Victor Montez shook his head, “It is nothing, Madam Annette. I have known him almost all my life and trust him with my own life! A few days ago, I asked him to burn some things for me. I don’t see anything worth suspicion in his actions.”

I said nothing, somewhat annoyed at how simply he brushed away my thoughts, as he began to speak with Guillame. Emmanuel came to my side, muttering in my ear, “Is that my pistol I see in your hand?”

I reddened slightly, something of amusement dashed across his face. In one swift motion, he lifted the gun out of my hand and put it at his belt where it belonged.

“Marie is not in her room,” Clara returned, interrupting all conversation.

“She most likely went with Rachelle,” Victor immediately said.

Guillame sighed, “I was hoping to see her. I brought her a letter from Cappuchine.”

“Stay the night then!” exclaimed Victor warmly. “Surely you need some rest.”

The End

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