Disclaimer: I do not own D. Gray Man. No financial gain is made from this. This is for entertainment purposes only.
Author's note: although it is clear that in the Black Order women are regarded as equals to men, this story assumes that this is not the case everywhere, and that for the common people Victorian-like social rules are in place, especially for the aristocrats and the wealthy.
"I still think that-"
"Eva, we have spoken countless times about this. Please behave and keep those kinds of comments to yourself. A lady should never have such strong opinions, less to voice them," Bernarda snapped, stopping abruptly her embroidery work to glare at me.
"It's not that. I am just worried for Lucille," I complained, messing for the third time that morning my knitting lines.
Lucille laughed haughtily. "You are not worried, Eva. You are jealous, admit it already."
"Lucille!" Bernarda reprimanded her.
Lucille put away needle and threads. "It is true, mother! She has just been nagging me non-stop because she is jealous that I found a better suitor. More handsome, from a better family, richer... She is jealous because the best she can do is marry a merchant with no last name-"
The four women were equally surprised as Sacra stood up and slapped Lucille. Her high cheek reddened and she glared at the older woman, but the fury in the elder's eyes made her hold her tongue. Bernarda kept silent too, choosing to train her sight on her work instead of the drama unfolding. Then Sacra grabbed me violently by the arm and pulled me out of the windowed women's room.
"You are playing with fire," she hissed at me once in the corridor. "Bernarda is being already too kind allowing us to stay here. I thought you smarter. Whatever has gotten into you, forget it."
"No, there is no buts. Only ifs. If you don't tread carefully, Lucille will get us kicked out. If we get kicked out, we will have to work. Do you want to work as a servant?" I shook my head. "Because that's the other scenario here. So please, behave."
Only then, she let go of my bruised arm. I swallowed the scream at my throat, the anger, the frustration and marched outside, ignoring servants warning me that lunch would soon be served.
The Sun was indeed shining strong over my head when I walked inside the dove-cove. Its thick stone walls provided some solace from the heat. Spring was unkind in the south of France and the corsets that women were forced to wear became a true torture. The pigeons greeted me with their cooing and I provided them with feed and water, and cared for them when they were injured or sick.
I just sat amongst them, uncaring about the dirt in the floor. It was that man's fault. The man with the ridiculous name that wooed my cousin Lucille. Tyki Mikk, or something like that.
He had appeared a month or so ago and swept over Lucille. Lucille, golden Lucille of soft blonde locks and angelical face. Lucille, star of the French socialite. Lucille, one of the most desired women by noblemen and commoners alike. It was maddening how she was blind to the man's manipulation. It was a craziness that everybody ignored.
Once I had calmed my nerves, I strolled out.
"So this is where you hide?" It was the last voice I wanted to hear.
I glared at Tyki Mikk. "What do you want now? What are you even doing here?"
"I came to visit our beloved Lucille and her kind mother. But a little birdie told me you have been trying to convince them to not let me in anymore," he smirked, the cigarette dancing in his sinful lips.
I gulped. "I did." I held my head high but did not find the courage to look him in the eye. He was menacing in a forbidden way. "I do think your intentions are not as pure as you try to make them seem."
He chuckled, took a step towards me as I tried to circle him and leave. Dangerous. "There is nothing pure about my intentions, you are right." I gaped. He blew a puff of smoke in my face. "But you are going to hurt you more than me if you keep on insisting in driving me away. You are just a woman, Eva," God, the way he drawled my name. Indeed, nothing pure in this man. The Devil himself could not do it better. "And your cousin is willing to give herself to me. All I need to do is ask."
I bawled my fists. "You should not speak like that."
He snorted, took a last whiff of his cigarette, threw the butt and smashed under its foot, burying it in the gravel. Then, slowly, calculatedly, dramatically, he approached his face to mine, his cheek almost brushing mine, as he whispered, "Be a good girl, would you?"
Then he left, a demon disguised as the perfect gentleman. I breathed out. Then rested my back against the pigeon tower, feeling my heart in my throat, my skin feverish, as if I had just contracted a bad disease. And I pulled at my hair; why there was a hidden voice in my head that wanted me to get consumed by it?
I gasped as the servant pulled vigorously on the strings of my corset a week after. She was the Head ladies' maid, a sixty something years old that used to be Bernarda's personal maid in her youth. "You need to hold your breath, Lady Eva. Check how Lucille does, her line is perfect."
I sighed. I despised these social events. Lucille had grown up in this environment, but I was a fisherman's daughter. Until less than a year ago, I was still selling fish in the market. Lucille navigated easily around guests, I dreaded the moment someone approached me.
The black dress was thrown over my head and the maid applied some make up following the latest French fashion. She pinched my cheeks hard. "You are pale, it is good, but your cheeks look sullen," she complained.
"I have not been sleeping well," I confessed.
The woman softened. "I will fetch you some chamomile tonight."
"Thank you, Adèle."
She nodded curtly and turned to my cousin. We had not spoken again about Tyki. There was a palpable tension that I had tried to ease down.
"No, not that one," she protested as a maid tried to clasp a pearl necklace around her slender neck. "That one," she pointed a fine piece of jewelry, golden and amethyst. "It's Tyki's gift," she boasted.
I rolled my eyes.
When we arrived at the summer residence of monsieur Pinel, eminent physician, many guests already chatted animatedly. My mother and I stayed behind, letting Bernarda, a widowed previously Baroness spared by the revolution, and her only daughter Lucille, take the lead. My eyes immediately searched for Tyki Mikk and I relaxed when I did not find him. I could see the disappointment in my cousin.
I had the pleasure to speak with monsieur Pinel and his wife. He had greatly helped my mother when we first arrived after my father's death and they kept a good-natured friendship.
"I have heard Pierre will soon come back, I bet you must be looking forward to it," Madame Pinel said.
My mother placed her hand in my arm. "Soon the one-year mourning will be lifted and she will marry."
My smile faltered.
"God, I cannot believe it has already almost been a year since we arrived," Sacra continued. "Almost a year without Luis... my poor Luis."
"Do not dwell again in those feelings, Sacra," monsieur Pinel recommended. "Instead rejoice in your daughter's bright future ahead. I hear Pierre is an honest man that is building his own fortune. A good example of the new revolutionary man."
Mother lightened up. "Yes, we are all very proud of him."
The ring in my hand felt suddenly heavy and I excused myself to go grab some air by the balcony. People drank and laughed there too, but if you looked ahead, you could sometimes watch the night birds hunt. And the music from the orchestra had a phantasmagorical resonance from here.
"Cousin!" Lucille called. She sounded happy. I turned. She was by Tyki's arm. "Here you are. Why are you not enjoying the party?"
My eyes traveled from one to another. Why was she so happy? "I just needed to take some fresh air."
She let go of his arm and leaned on the marble balustrade beside me. "I have good news," she said with glint of malice. "But it is a secret. Promise to keep it?" She grinned. "Tyki is going to ask for my hand in marriage next week," she whispered.
My eyes widened.
"You look a bit pale, cousin," she teased. "Or is it green with jealousy that I see?"
She giggled and left with her beau. I huffed. As if I cared... She was digging her own tomb. That man... it was clear he would not last faithful. Women crowded to him and he knew how to work his charm around them. Poor fools...
I mused over this intense hatred that oppressed my chest when I heard again steps behind me. "Mademoiselle, you seem to not enjoy much this party," monsieur Pinel pointed out with an apologetic smile.
"Oh, no, not at all. Your event is most lovely, doctor," I assured him. "I was just enjoying the soothing view from here. Your residence is exquisite."
"Would you then allow me a dance? My wife got tired of these old bones and is dancing with my son."
I smiled. "It would be a great pleasure."
Philippe Pinel was a fine dancer, leading my steps with the decor expected of a gentleman. "I am preparing a new publication," he told me when I asked about his news. "I will be delving deeper on the psychology and its affections."
"It does sound interesting."
"I am building a classification of disorders. Melancholia, mania, dementia and idiotism. But I am still working on the definitions of the first. Melancholia. A common womanly derangement. So far I have described some symptoms... taciturnity, gloomy suspicions, bitterness, love of solitude... These people usually get fixated in one idea."
I frowned. "And what would be the cure for such feelings?"
"Well, I guess therapeutic conversations and self-reflection would be a first step. Does it interest you?"
I laughed awkwardly, "All your conversations interest me. You are an intelligent man with an interesting profession."
He smiled, wrinkles accentuated around his clear eyes, "You are such a kind young woman. I am sure you will make a fine wife."
My distaste at these words failed my feet and I stepped on his shiny moccasin. I apologized, even if he laughed it off. The song's rhythm changed with the new tune and a deep voice spoke over my shoulder.
"May I steal the young lady for a dance?"
But before I could answer my disagreement - not that it would have mattered - strong hands pried me away from the soft-mannered ones of the doctor and I found myself face to face with Beelzebub in a suit.
"I do not want to dance with you, Tyki," I protested.
He smirked. "And here I was coming to bury the hatchet."
He guided the dance a bit too close for modesty, yet gentleman enough so nobody present could complain of his manners. "The only way we can both find peace is that you leave the same way you appeared in our lives."
He chuckled. "You hurt my feelings, Eva," he mocked, "That is no way to speak to your family."
I crunched my nose. "We are not family."
"We will be," before I could express objection, he added, "Tell me of a nice memory."
I gaped. "What?"
"A nice memory, a happy souvenir of yours. Even someone like you must have one of those, right?"
I huffed. "Why would I do that?"
I frowned but then decided to play along, "Umm... it is hard... there are many... I guess... well, when I was little I liked horses. But only rich people could afford them or to send their daughters to riding clubs, so for my tenth birthday, father took me to a friend of his that worked in a stable and paid him a few reales and he let me ride a marvelous chestnut mare for my birthday. I still remember the way her skin glistened red and the soreness the day after," I laughed softly.
Then I looked up and saw him smiling almost endearingly. "And your worst memory?"
"When dad died..."
I felt his hand on my back run down to settle lower and a shiver traveled up to join it midway. With such a simple gesture he brought upon us an intimacy I wanted to escape.
"And you? What are your happiest and saddest memories?" I asked.
"Are you now interested, little Eva?" he teased.
The nerve! I tried to turn to leave, but he pulled me back. "I will tell you instead what I like and I don't like." I raised a brow. He laughed. "I like my family, and journeys, especially if they are unplanned. I do enjoy card games too. Do you play?" I shook my head. "I will show you one day."
"That would be unbecoming of a lady."
"I thought you had the same interest than me in these high society farces."
I did share his smile genuinely. "The brother of a minister complains about the hardships of wealth and appearances?"
"Sometimes I wish I was just a homeless worker."
"You don't know what you ask for, Tyki Mikk." The music changed again and we lost the proximity that clouded my mind. Yet for some illogical reason I followed him to the balcony, where he lighted a cigarette.
"Right, you were a commoner, a fisherman's daughter," he chuckled, "So you are telling me you prefer this," he made a gesture to our backs where the party continued unaware of our conversation, "than your life before?"
I pondered, following with my eyes the cigarette that dangled precariously from his lips and that burned slowly away with every puff. "No, I don't."
"And why is that, Eva?"
Oh, nobody could say my name like him. Damned idiot, both of us. "I was freer before."
He flashed me a complacent smile before putting out his cigarette over the expensive balustrade and throwing the butt down. "See you around, little princess."
"I hope not."
"Hope is the last to die," he sentenced ominously.