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Charlotte LeTourneau gazed in her mirror, not at herself, but into her dreams. She saw London, Madrid, Egypt, New York City. She saw her pen float across a page, creating fictional heroines in these faraway places.
“Charlotte, we are leaving!” her mother yelled up the stairs. Charlotte touched her hand to her blonde-brown curls meticulously placed on her head, looked at her white dress, and sighed. She was tired. Tired of the balls and wealthy young men vying for her hand. Tired of her life as the lapdog to her mother.
“Chin up, ma fille! Don’t let her get your spirit!” her father’s voice rang in her mind as she climbed into the awaiting carriage. Oh, how she missed her father! She was convinced his voice was the only thing that was keeping her afloat in this dreadful life of hers.
“Charlotte, will you take a turn around the garden with me?” Pierre asked her. Being the polite young mademoiselle she was, she nodded and took his extended arm, forcing a smile. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her mother nod imperceptibly across the room at her. Her stomach rolled in disgust. Sure, Pierre was a nice young gentleman, and handsome, but she had no interest in him whatsoever. He was the wealthy son of Charles La Rouge, a prominent man in Paris at the time. Her mother was adamant on her becoming his wife. Charlotte, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with it. ‘You know it’s your duty. With Papa gone, who is to pay the debts?’ The voice insider her head rang true. Then she remembered Pierre at her side and returned her attention to him.
“Think about it, Charlotte. A large house in the country, several children running around, and servants tending to your every need. You needn’t life a finger. What do you think, love?”
“Think about what, Pierre?” she asked innocently, knowing what he was going to say. Her heart filled with dread.
“Doing me the honor of being my wife, of course!” His face held such hope that Charlotte had to turn away. She felt his smooth, pampered hands on her shoulders. “Say something, ma cheri.”
Charlotte’s mind went to the other day when she was with Maurice at his father’s shop. She was in the inventory room with him, watching him work, like she often enjoyed doing. He turned to her.
“Marry me.” He said bluntly. “Let’s start a life together, run away or something. I mean, we both are tired of this city. We could go to London, or America. What do you say?”
Charlotte became speechless. Yes, she loved him but she wanted to go these places herself. Her aunt was willing to fund her travels and even go along with her wherever she wanted. If she were to marry Maurice, her family would disown her for sure. The least she could do would be to travel before that happened, get her experiences before she was obligated to settle down.
Her mind came back to Pierre and the question at hand. If she were to marry him, she would be doomed to this life of boredom she at least had a chance at getting out of now. She didn’t know how much more of this life she could take. Her author’s mind began to go through possible scenarios.
The first option was to marry Pierre. Sure all her needs would be met, but she would be stuck in France for the rest of her life. Furthermore, he would never allow her to write. He always said such things were meant for men.
The second option was to marry Maurice. Get out of this dreadful country and start anew. Even if she didn’t have the experience, she could still write. She would be happy with him.
Finally she could travel on her own, gain experience. With that, there was the uncertainty of her never marrying, like Jane Austen, her favorite author and inspiration. She shuddered. She would definitely marry. Maybe Maurice would wait for her…
“Darling, are you feeling well? Will you answer my request?” Pierre’s voice broke through her imaginative mind. He turned her to him and wiped something from her face, and she realized then she was crying. She couldn’t get out of this situation without hurting someone, and the thought killed her. “Charlotte, dear, I hope those are tears of joy.” She brought herself to look in his eyes. They were a clear blue, like the sky on a cloudless day, and they bore his soul. She saw all his hopes and dreams. Some of them she had the power to crush. The thought sent shivers up her spine.
“Honestly, Pierre, I’m not quite sure.” Her eyes filled with more tears. Pierre quickly looked around to see if they were alone. When he was certain they were, he kissed her in such a way that made her dizzy, and confused her thoughts even more. He held her for a time, and she wished she knew what to do.
“I hope that helped your decision,” he said, his hope palpable in the warm night air. His smile was ever so sweet, and her heart broke to see it. As she pulled away, a slight breeze played at her hair, and she heard a whisper of her name. She looked around and saw no one. She heard it again, and this time she recognized the voice. It was the voice of her father. She stepped away from Pierre and closed her eyes. She heard her father’s voice as clearly as if he was standing next to her.
“Follow your heart, ma fille. It will tell you what to do.” There was another slight breeze and all was quite. Charlotte turned, opened her eyes, and faced her future