I had not told any of the others about my finding concerning the new prima donna, simply for the reason that I hadn't found the right moment to do so. Of course my first choice was to go to the little restaurant where I had told Marie-Claire I'd meet them. However, when I had made my way back to the dormitories, had gotten my cloak and was ready to go, it was already two o'clock in the afternoon and I knew it would be of no use. Therefore, I decided it would be best to tell them at dinner, but that plan, too, failed, due to exciting news from Marie.
We had sat on the far end of the table and had all been leaning in close to not miss a word of what she was saying. Apparently, this wasn't just some gossip or an elaborate description of the dresses she had bought.
'There is something I must tell you, something I couldn't up until now.' She smiled broadly and bit her lip in excitement.
'Alright, so what is it?' Anne asked eagerly.
'Well, a few months ago I met the most agreeable, most fine man. His name is Louis Lemoine and last Sunday, when we were taking a stroll in the park and then.. Oh, my dear friends, he asked me for my hand!'
An array of congratulations sounded and we all hugged her one by one. It was wonderful news and I was honestly surprised that she had been able to keep something like this a secret for so long, without even telling Véronique.
'So, what's his estate? Is it big? Does he own much land?' Adrienne, ever materialistic, wanted to know.
'I.. Ehm well..' The blonde turned red and shifted her gaze towards the plate in front of her. 'He is a baker.'
'A baker, how can you even…-' Adrienne began, but soon she was interrupted by Meg.
'That's amazing, Marie, I really am so glad for you.'
'Yes it's absolutely fantastic!' I agreed earnestly.
'But does this mean you will leave us?' For the second time since I had been at the Opera House, I was astonished to hear a sound come from Véronique.
Her best friend looked down again, looking both guiltily and sad. 'I'm afraid so. I'll have all sort of other things to do after I get married, I guess.. But don't worry, I'll come and visit you any time and we can go shopping together in town and on Sunday you can come and visit me as well!' The last bit, I think she added only to cheer up the brunette, who was now looking rather miserable.
'I'm sure we will!' I said, hoping to lighten up the mood a bit.
'But, if I may so bold by asking, what does your family think of it? Wouldn't they want you to marry some noble man?'
She bit her lip once more and then answered, in an almost inaudible voice 'They don't know yet..'
'They don't know?!' Adrienne said, jumping up from the bench and looking at her friend, rather astonished.
'Oh Adrienne, you know how my family is. They wouldn't hear a word of it. I am sure they would not let me see him again, let alone marry him.'
Anne lay a comforting hand on her shoulder. 'I am sure they'll come around as soon as they know how happy you are with him.'
'I do hope so…'
'They will, without a doubt!' And with that, the topic was closed, the conversation had ended and we were all left slightly uncomfortable. Things were going to change in our friend circle, there was no doubt about that. I just hoped it wouldn't be for the worse.
pagebreak ~Later it was decided, that Marie-Claire would stay until next year's February, so madame Giry wouldn't have to rewrite the choreography of the upcoming Opera. Furthermore, that meant she would be on the party as well when we would go to Adrienne's brother for Christmas, an event that was now only a week away. I still hadn't decided whether I was looking forward to it or not, but I tried not to think about it too much, to avoid getting wrapped up in thoughts and concerns.
I hadn't seen, spoken or heard from monsieur Rousseau – I still refused to think of him as Christophe – ever since Adrienne had read me the paragraph in which he'd inquired after my health. Surely that would mean he wasn't trying to court me and it should calm my nerves, but it did nothing of the sort. I didn't even know why I was so scared of it, but I only knew that I was terribly afraid of the possibility. And that made the idea of a nice Christmas with my friends a lot less appealing.
Christmas.. that was another thing to keep in mind. It was only a week away and I still needed to get my presents. I didn't earn a lot with dancing, but I was sure it would be enough to buy my gifts. It wouldn't be difficult to find something for Adrienne, as I had overheard her complaining about her having "nothing to put in my hair" to one of the other girls that morning. For Marie-Claire, I wanted to get something for when she'd be living with her suitor – pardon me; her husband. That just left Meg, Anne and Véronique. However, I was sure I'd even find something for them if I'd be in town.
And I did. I managed to find everything I needed, so all in all; I was quite content. With three large bags I'd returned to the Opera House and had quickly hidden them in my closet, where my music box lay as well. It was a good thing I didn't have that much clothes, because I'm sure it wouldn't all have fit in the closet of one of the other girls. Especially not the little redhead's, as hers seemed to be stuffed to the brim with dresses, ribbons and coats.
pagebreak ~I woke up slowly from the sunlight that illuminated my face. For a moment though, I kept my eyes firmly shut and tried to drift back to sleep, hoping to find back the dream I had just woken up from. I couldn't remember what it had been about anymore, but I knew it had been something good. At last, when I knew it would be impossible to go back to sleep, I opened my eyes and sighed. The somber appearance of the dormitories met my sight and as usual, the other girls were still fast asleep. It was quite a peaceful sight, to see the girls – the ages varying from twelve to twenty – vast asleep, all in their own world of dreams and fantasies.
It was de day before Christmas and at noon we would leave for monsieur Rousseau's house. Anne had told me it wouldn't be a long trip, just three hours by carriage. And it would be through the countryside, which was a promise of intriguing sights and breathtaking views. I hadn't travelled much in my time, since I was mostly needed around the house for chores and watching my little sister, so I was quite excited by the trip.
I wondered how my family would be spending they're Christmas Eve. Mom had written me that they would just have a nice dinner with the three of them, because my brother was still on the road, and perhaps there would be a few small presents for my sister. Presents at our house were never lavish and it was always more about the idea of giving things to one another than about the actual gift. Nonetheless, I had always enjoyed Christmas at our house and I truly hoped that this one could be even half as joyful.
With a soft grunt, I pushed off the sheets and hoisted myself in one of my prettier dresses. I had already packed some stuff for the weekend at the estate, so there wasn't much to choose from anymore. Not that there had been much in the first place, like I stated before; my closet was quite modest in comparison with those of the others.
After I had brushed my hair and put on some simple shoes, I quickly made my bed and gathered the last few things I would need and checked my packings. I would only take a small valise with me, but I didn't want to forget anything crucial. After all, it would lead to rather uncomfortable situations if I were to forgot my stockings or underwear.
I shook my head and went down to have some breakfast. It was still completely silent in the opera house, I noticed as I made my way through the winding corridors. What a relief!It really was too early to be bothered by high pitch voices screaming and giggling to one another, I thought, as I finally reached the dining hall.
And indeed, as I had hoped, the entire hall was still void of people and I got to eat my breakfast in silence – that is; apart from the single "bon appétit" I got from Pierre. As soon as I was finished I quickly went back to the dormitories, retrieved the presents from my closet, and placed them carefully in my valise. Then I took the last thing from my closet and, after a short moment of hesitation, left the dormitories again. My feet seemed to already know where I wanted to go, because they found their way through the labyrinth of corridors in no time. This time, however, before going in I checked the hall three times and then quickly slipped through the crack, into the box.
I waited a moment until my eyes had adjusted to the dim light and then shuffled my way towards the red chair and gently laid down the package I held, the letter on top of it. I sighed and looked around, although I knew he wouldn't be there. 'Merry Christmas, monsieur.'