City of Desire
"Evangeline," I thought I heard my mother calling as I slept. "Evangeline." The familiar sound of her voice brought me out of my slumber, and the hazy light of morning seeped into my consciousness.
"Mama," I mumbled sleepily, tossing and turning beneath the shelter of my blankets.
Finally, I awoke completely, opening my luminous blue eyes and sitting up blearily. My pastel-colored room, with its ethereal canopy bed and elegant white furniture, swam into vision as I rubbed my eyes clear of their fog. I was at home in the middle of the French countryside, far away from regular civilization, in the luxurious mansion that I shared with my Mama and many servants. I wondered where everyone was, and then remembered my true predicament.
"Mama," I whispered to myself, trying to internalize my sadness. Of course, she was not actually calling me. She couldn't call anyone anymore, especially her only daughter. Mama was dead.
I shed a few tears, sobbing mutedly, before collecting myself and stepping out of bed. It was silly of me to forget that Mama had just perished, and that I was now orphaned. I had never known my father, because I was the product of an illicit affair that Mama's entire family disapproved of. It was that small detail that had gotten Astrid Trueblood, my dear mother, exiled from her home in Idris to here. I had never met any other members of my family.
On my way to my dressing-room, I noted the cheerful fire flickering in my personal fireplace, and knew that one of the servants must have been in my room before I awoke. My dressing-room was attached to my bedroom, and was like a closet mixed with a small boutique where everything was in my size. I ran my fingers through the soft fabrics of my numerous dresses as I walked alongside one of the racks, contemplating what I should wear on the first day of my new life.
Today was the day that I was to meet with representatives from the Clave to determine my fate. As I was only seventeen, I doubted that I would be given my beloved house, and would consequently have to live elsewhere. It was a sad fact.
This sad fact prompted me to choose my fitted, silk dress that was the exact sapphire color of my eyes. It was my way of mourning Mama and expressing my sadness, and on top of that, the particular shade of blue doubled as my favorite color.
I pulled off my lace nightgown in front of one of my many mirrors, replacing it with my dress and a nice pair of heels. Then, I studied my reflection.
I have always been told that I was beautiful, especially by my mother and maidservant Claudine. Whenever we went into town, I drew the envy and gazes of many people, what with my classic facial features and delicate physique. As I looked into my reflection, I immediately found my eyes. My favorite part of my appearance, they were large and resplendent, brought out by the lovely color of my dress. I had the same eyes as my mother. I also had the same hair, which was ink-black, curly, voluminous, and reaching my lower back. A fringe of raven-colored bangs framed my face, accentuating my high cheekbones and angled eyebrows that winged up at the corners. Overall, I looked exactly like my deceased Mama, only younger.
Sitting down at my boudoir, I decided to put on makeup because I was looking especially gaunt and colorless today. I applied red lipstick to my full lips and a bit of rouge to my cheeks, shook out my ringlets to make them appear more tousled, and then looked back into the mirror. "There. That's better," I said to my reflection, giving myself an encouraging smile. Maybe that would make me more confident for today, because I really needed it.
I went downstairs to where one of the servants was fixing my favorite breakfast of a sliced apple and yogurt. I had a slender and willowy figure, but that didn't matter much to me. I liked eating healthy food, so it posed no real challenge to stay in shape. To tell you the truth, I thought that most unhealthy food was gross. Mama had taught me about eating well. I missed her desperately. I tried not to cry, overcome with the poignant emotion of grief.
"Evangeline, are you okay?" asked my maid, Claudine, while she sliced my apple.
I smiled tearfully, touched at her concern. "I am fine, Claudine. Thank you for asking, though."
"You have a big day today," she reminded me, "with the Clave people coming to talk to you."
"I know," I told her, taking my seat at the long and fancy dining room table.
Claudine put my plate of apple slices and my dish of yogurt in front of me, instructing me, "You should eat up."
I nodded at her. "Okay." Then I started eating, ignoring the nervous knot in my stomach.
"Bonjour, mademoiselle. I assume you are Evangeline Trueblood?" asked the Clave representative, Mr. Ravenwing, reaching out to shake my hand.
"Yes, I am," I informed him. "Please, do sit down." We both sat down on couches opposite one another in the opulent parlor of my mansion. "How do you do?"
He smiled, obviously pleased, at my politeness. Mr. Ravenwing was a short man with horn-rimmed glasses and shiny dark hair plastered to his forehead. "Quite well, thank you. Yourself?"
"I am… coping, all things considering," I said honestly, referring to my mother's death.
He nodded solemnly, understanding. "Yes. Well, I have unfortunate news, Miss Trueblood. I am afraid that you will not be able to keep this here manor."
My heart sank, although I had expected as much due to my only being seventeen. "Oh," was all I could muster.
"We at the Clave thought it would it best for you to live with your closest relatives."
"You mean… my mother's family?" That was a relatively exciting prospect. Still, if they disowned my mother, would they hate me?
"Yes. Particularly, your mother's identical twin sister and her family."
My mouth opened in shock. "What?" Mama had never told me about a twin sister, especially an identical one!
Mr. Ravenwing nodded again. "The Lightwoods."
"But… where do they live?" The French countryside was all I had ever known. I would be like a fish out of water, no matter where I went.
"The New York City Institute."
New York City, I thought. Wow. Then something occurred to me. "What will happen to my house?"
"The Clave will keep it protected for when you reach adulthood in two months. Only then can you return, but if you so choose, you can stay in New York with your aunt and cousins and we will continue to see to the upkeep of this house."
I absorbed everything that he was saying, moderately dazed at all the information, and tried to commit it to memory. "Alright," I said, understanding and long since resigned to this fate. "When do I leave?"
"We have a temporary Portal set up right now in the garden. You can leave immediately."
Immediately? "What about all my things? My clothes, my other possessions?"
"Your servants are now packing your clothes and will send them through the Portal later. Claudine, I believe her name was, said it would be best not to start before you woke up. You will not be able to take your furniture, of course."
I started thinking about it. "Just give me a moment, please." Was I ready to start this new chapter of my life? I took a look around at the beautiful parlor, realizing that I would soon have to leave it all behind. Yet, in the week since Mama's death, the mansion had been awfully empty and only served to underscore my grief. It wasn't the same house without Mama. I knew then that I had to move on, and I would only be required to stay with my relatives for a few months. I decided that taking the chance would probably be worth it. "Okay. I'm ready to go," I announced, standing up and walking out of my mansion to the gardens. I often loved walking through the immense place and smelling the flowers in the springtime. As it was autumn, no flowers were out, but that was alright with me. I hoped that they would bloom after I returned.
I saw many of my servants on my way outside. Most of them looked sad to see me go. I would miss them too, of course. They were like family to me. I stopped when I saw Claudine standing closest to the Portal, holding her arms out in an embrace. I stepped into her welcoming arms as she enveloped me into a bear hug. "Hang in there, ma belle," she told me and patted my shoulder.
"Wish me luck," I said to the rest of my servants with a brave smile on my face.
And just like that, I stepped through the Portal into my new life.