As the day went on, I found myself feeling more and more at ease in the company of Adrienne and her brother. Though he was teasing his sister constantly, never once did monsieur Rousseau – who kept insisting I'd call him by his front name – act inappropriate or even less amiable than I knew him to be. Even the jokes about his so-called feelings became less uncomfortable, as I came to the conclusion that this was just Adrienne's way of teasing her brother.
After the carriage had dropped us off we'd ventured into the centrum of Paris, to all of those expensive shops where I'd only been before once. Though I knew Adrienne's brother didn't come here very often either (the Rousseau family was from Rouen and his estate was in that area as well), he didn't seem quite as out of place as I felt myself. Even with the expensive looking dress on, I felt as if everyone knew I didn't belong in that social circle. However, I didn't have much time to think about these things, as Adrienne soon pulled me into another one of the fashion shops.
'Good God, have you seen this dress? Oh Christophe, please, can I have it?' Adrienne begged, her eyes two big brown orbs.
'First go and try it on, before you buy another dress that you will never wear,' her brother chuckled and gave her a soft shove towards the back of the shop, where the fitting rooms were.
As we watched the young girl skip towards the dressing rooms, I couldn't conceal the smile that was tugging at the corners of my mouth. She really was a strange, but sweet girl.
'I feel for you..'
The smile disappeared as soon as it had come and I turned to look at him in shock. 'Excuse me?'
'I am deeply sorry, I did not mean it like that. I fear my foolish sister has given you the wrong ideas about my intentions. Please, believe me when I say I asked you to come out of nothing but friendly affection.'
I nodded, trying to control my breathing again and at the same time trying to put on a straight face again. 'It's alright, really.'
'Are you sure? You looked really scared.'
I gazed down at my feet, but, fortunately for me, before I had the chance to even try to explain myself, Adrienne came out of the fitting room. She wore a light, pastel pink summer dress, the skirt a few tints darker than the bodice. The design was quite daring, showing more cleavage than I'd dare and the skirt being just a few inches below the knees.
'It's quite… revealing,' monsieur Rousseau admitted, sounding rather blunt.
'It's the latest fashion!'
'Well, I'm sure father wouldn't care if it's fashion or not.. Oh fine, you can have it.' He said and, looking at her gay face, quickly added; 'But don't tell maman and papa!'
'Not a word!' She squeaked, overly happy, and practically danced back to the fitting rooms. At some point I thought I even heard her sing, but I couldn't be quite sure, as at the same moment her brother began talking again.
'I hope you are a bit hungry, as we will be having lunch after Adrienne's done.'
I nodded and smiled politely, not daring to admit that I was far too uneasy to eat as much as one bite without throwing it out immediately. No, it was definitely not a good idea to mention that. 'Yes, thank you.'
'Okay, I'm ready!' And indeed, not a moment later a giddy Adrienne showed up at my side, a large bag dangling on her arm. She linked her free arm with mine and, as we left the shop, asked in a fake innocent tone of voice; 'So, did I miss any intimate conversations?'
pagebreak ~At lunch, things were almost.. normal. Apart from a few soft remarks, Adrienne acted like a perfect lady. The way she sat in her chair, how she handled her silverware, her entire being betrayed her high up bring and, seeing her like this, one would not think she was only fourteen. In all honestly, this made me feel quite uncomfortable, as I was well aware of the fact that I wasn't nearly as refined as her. No matter what dress I'd wear, I was still nothing more than a tailor's daughter.
'So, how do you enjoy life in the Opera Garnier, mademoiselle?'
'It's wonderful, thank you.' I spoke softly, hoping I wouldn't sound too uncivilized, and straightened my back.
'Adrienne told me you were from the countryside. Where exactly do you come from, if I may ask?'
'A small town, just a few miles to the east of Bourges.'
'And you lived there with your parents..?'
'Yes,' I swallowed a pea. 'My parents and my little sister. My brother lives there as well, but he travels a lot.'
'Ah I see. I enjoy traveling myself as well, but haven't seen half as much as I'd like to. But those places I have seen were beautiful, and I'd very much like to visit them again some day. Perhaps with a wife, or with my children, but the world is something extraordinary and I think it's a shame to let so much of it be left unseen.'
'Oh brother, please, now is not the time to bore my friend with musings about whatever country it is you are dreaming about this time. I am sure there will come a day when there will be someone in dying need of a story about your travels, but please, for the love of God, let us now enjoy our meals.'
And with that, the conversation came to an end. I could not say I minded, as the sudden interest in my being made me not only slightly uneasy, but also at a loss for words. And so I was left to my still almost completely full plate and almost equally as full brain.
pagebreak ~Back in the dormitories, I lowered myself on my bed and touched the back of my hand awkwardly. At our parting monsieur Rousseau had gently grabbed my hand and, after a fair-spoken farewell, pressed his lips softly on top of it. The skin still tingled as I traced it with the tips of my fingers and I frowned in confusion. Never before had a man kissed me goodbye, even if it were only to be placed on my hand. Frankly, I hadn't had much contact with any people in my life before I came to the opera. Back home, I simply didn't have time for things like that. I helped my parents, danced and watched my little sister. Not that I'd been unhappy, but I can't deny that there had been moments I had been rather lonely.
I sighed and quickly changed into my night gown. Today had been exhausting. Not just physically, but mentally as well, perhaps even more so. I had had another taste of a life that would never be mine and was so different in every aspect that it had both excited and depressed me. Another sigh escaped my lips and I shook my head as I started to braid my hair, a custom I had picked up from the girls here.
As I laid down in bed, I could see through the high window that the sun had only just started setting and I figured it could not be later than eight. That was probably the reason the dormitory was empty. Saturday evenings that were not filled with opera performances were not spend indoors by most girls. Some would even visit their families and come back tomorrow. I suppressed a yawn and turned on my other side.
For the second time that day mesmerized by its beauty, I picked up the rose from my nightstand and breathed in its sweet scent. My mother had once told me flowers had their own language, one every living soul understood. They said things that one couldn't express with words and stirred feelings beyond the surface. What this one said, I did not know, but it was sure to be something good.
I carefully placed the flower in the upper drawer of my night table and, after making sure I wouldn't crush one of the delicate petals with closing it, took the book. The title glistered at me in a familiar, golden way and I traced the material of them with my index finger. I had looked forward to reading it again, I realized, even though I had not understood a word of what it said. However, when I opened it a piece of paper fell out and fluttered down into my lap. Curiously, I furrowed my brows and picked it up. It was folded in an oddly manner and on the front was my name in red ink. I opened it with hands shaking with curiosity and started reading. "Mademoiselle.."