Act II: Scene I
Chantelle peered over the balcony edge, resting her arms against the railing. It was cool against her skin and her metal hand was cool to the touch as well. Tomorrow evening Eliza and Marceline would be coming to take her to their home for the next weeks.
Most of her was excited. The rest, however, was off. Chilled. As though she would be stepping into something entirely unknown. Still it was that or spending the entire month alone again.
She climbed into bed, dozing off immediately.
She woke the next morning at around ten. Her sleep had been fair and she recalled nothing of her dreams. The air was warm, yet her back still felt cold, as though lightly dusted with icy kisses.
She pulled out her suitcases, filling one with her art supplies, spare parts for her body, and books. The other was filled with her favorite sundresses, a pair of overall shorts, which her mother hated, a few tops to go with it, her nightgown, several pairs of shoes, a bit of jewelry, slips, and a single formal dress.
She moved back to her dresser to grab her scanner, watching the screen with some anxiety. Would Marceline really be able to look past her mechanical parts? Or would it eventually be too hard to ignore?
She stuffed the scanner into her suitcase, shoving down her anxiety as well. She would deal with that when she got there.
She took the suitcases downstairs, depositing them by the door, then went to sit in the library until the Harris’ arrived. Hopefully, she would hear them.
She attempted to read but could not focus, so instead turned her gaze to peer out the window. Why was she so anxious? Sure she had never had a friend before, but could that really be all it was? Her mind drifted back on occasion to the image of Marceline from her dream, the pointed teeth, and the words ‘a friend’.
She sighed. Hopefully, her nerves would settle down.
She jumped three feet in the air at the knock on the door, which did not give her much hope. She hurried to answer it before the maid could. “Lady Harris, please come in.”
Eliza smiled at her, coming in and immediately grabbing one of her suitcases. Marceline followed beside her, stopping to kiss her on the cheeks in greeting before grabbing the other suitcase.
“Oh. I can have a servant carry them.”
Eliza shook her head, already outside. “No need, dear. We can manage.”
Once her suitcases were strapped onto the carriage, Chantelle climbed inside with Marceline holding her steady. Today Marceline was dressed in a dark brown suit much like the one yesterday with a cream vest. Her mother was dressed in a simple cream gown, which didn’t quite reach her ankles.
Chantelle peered out the window as the carriage began its journey. She has never really been that far from home before, so this would be a first.
“Has Marceline told you about our family?” Eliza asked, looking out the window herself.
“Yes. She told me a bit about her father. And Liem.” She leaned against the side of the carriage. Marceline sat beside her, looking between her and her mother.
“Liem?” Eliza didn’t sound surprised.
“She knows he’s father’s lover,” Marceline replied, shrugging a bit. “I felt I could trust her.”
“That will save us the trouble of hiding it.”
No one said much at all during the trip. Chantelle gazed from the carriage window, watching the sweeping countryside with wonder. She had only ever been as far as the nearest town. The grass and trees seemed even brighter than anything she had seen at home. They passed a few small towns, but otherwise everything was open countryside.
“How far is it to the nearest town from your house?” Chantelle asked, curious to see if they were as excluded from others as her family home.
“Just down the hill,” Eliza replied, “About twenty minutes walk or so. We’ll pass through it on the way.”
Chantelle nodded, keeping an eager eye out for that town. Part of her was incredibly curious to see the town which Marceline had surely spent a great deal of her childhood in while the other part of her wanted to get straight to the manor.
Just as Eliza had promised they passed through town a quarter of an hour later. It was small, with thirty or forty homes and a small shopping district. Everything was clean and tidy.
The carriage proceeded up the hill, which was rather steep a few times and Chantelle found herself tightly gripping her seat. This earned her a teasing grin from Marceline.
When they pulled to a stop Marceline hopped down from the carriage immediately, helping her mother down and then offering Chantelle her hand. She took it, a bit wobbly from the ride, and climbed out. She had been expecting a manor, but it was a bit smaller than expected. It was definitely smaller than her own home, which was far too large for the three of them.
“I’ll show you to your room.” Marceline had already retrieved her bags and was heading to the house with both.
Chantelle hurried to catch up. “I can carry one.”
“Nonsense you’re the guest. Guests don’t carry their own luggage.” She pushed open the front door, holding it for Chantelle.
The foyer was a bit small and contained only a small table and an umbrella stand by the front door. Five other doors left the foyer, two on the right, two on the left, and one at the back. Marceline pushed open the closest one on the right, which led to a stairwell. “The one on the left is a closet. The other goes to the kitchen. The right leads to the green room and the back leads to the rest of the house, dining room, library, et cetera.” She started up the stairs, having no trouble with her load. “Everyone has rooms upstairs. The library has a second floor and there is father’s office, a music room, and the servants quarters on the opposite side of the house from ours. They usually use the rear stairs.”
The stairs opened onto a small landing, which connected to an open room at the center of the house with several chairs around a table. At least a dozen doors were along the walls leading to various rooms.
“It’s a bit cozier than your own home, but it should do.” Marceline sat down the suitcases before the door nearest the stairs. “This is your room. It has an attached bath. I’m next door. Mother is beside me. The library is the back left, music room by it, next is Father’s office, then Liem’s room. And every room on the left belongs to a servant or two.”
Marceline pushed open the door to Chantelle’s room. It was larger inside than she would have expected. A large bed rested in the back left corner, it’s headboard against the room’s only window. A dresser was at its foot for her clothes and a desk sat in the corner near the door. The right corner of the room led to a fair sized powder room just large enough for a sink, toilet, and shower. “This is amazing!” It was far smaller than her room at home, but that made it all the nicer. It felt cozy and inviting rather than empty. All of the furniture was made of wood as were the floors, but a plush cream rug covered most of it. A simple chandelier hung from the ceiling.
“I’m glad you approve.” Marceline had already put her suitcases on her bed and was now sitting on the edge of it. “Mother has left a few of her old dresses in the wardrobe in case you’d like to wear them. Now, why don’t I introduce you to Arthur and Liem?”
It was obvious where Marceline got her bright red hair. Arthur’s hair was as red as his daughters, but much shorter, cut neatly, but still long enough to look a bit shaggy. He was tall and lean and far less stern than Chantelle had expected. He greeted her warmly when she entered, kissing both cheeks just like Marceline. “I hope you find your rooms suitable.” He motioned for her to take one of the seats opposite his large desk. The study was about the size of her room and every walk was lined with shelves, many of which had paper covered tables pushed against them.
“They’re lovely. They feel quite homey already.”
Arthur nodded, satisfied. “If you need anything do let us know. We’re having roast lamb for dinner. Is that alright with you?”
“I’ve never had it, but I’m sure it’s delicious.” Her mother had never allowed any meats beyond beef, pork, or chicken.
“Wonderful.” He then glanced at his watch. “Where is Liem? I told him to join me here.” He moved to stand, but the door clicked open just then.
Liem pushed his way in, moving to lean against the shelf behind Arthur’s desk. He was taller than Arthur even, with dark curls that came to his ears, and firm blue eyes. He looked Chantelle over with a mildly suspicious glance, before smiling. “Isn’t she lovely?”
Chantelle felt her face flush at the compliment. “Thank you.” In all honesty, she had expected Arthur to look more like Liem. However, she suspected Liem was not as dour as he seemed.
“Now, remember, just address us all my our first names, dear. No titles necessary between friends.” Arthur stood, pushing in his chair. “Why don’t we go down to dinner?”
In the end, Chantelle loved the lamb. It was rich, but not overly fatty. By the time she was in bed she still felt stuffed, but pleasantly so. No one had expected her to take tiny, dainty bites, or scolded her when she got a second helping. She glanced at the scanner on her nightstand, but decided against it. Nothing would have gone wrong since she checked the day before or if it had it could wait until morning.
Sleep claimed her almost as soon as she’d closed her eyes. For a while she dreamt of nothing, but slowly they began to creep in.
Once again she was in her room, but this time it was the room in Marceline’s home. She was curled up in bed just as before. A chill ran down her spine, leaving the same icy kisses that Marceline’s gaze had left several days before.
She didn’t move, but rather gazed at the wall. Something cool pressed into her upper back briefly, then again, slowly creeping towards her neck. It took her several minutes to realize that the cold touch was that of lips on her skin. She shivered but did not flinch away.
Finally, the lips reached her neck, pressing a gentle kiss just above her collarbone. Red bangs fell briefly into view. A sharp prick followed that kiss, but rather than causing pain it filled her with warmth.
The lips stayed pressed to her lips before pulling away.
“Don’t worry darling, I would never hurt you.” The words whispered gently in her mind, before she slipped again into darkness.