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L'Etranger: Chapter Eleven
L'Etranger: Chapter Eleven

L'Etranger: Chapter Eleven

Mitzi1776Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

Blanchelande gingerly passed me the golden épée (the one he had not been using) and turned on his white square for a brief second, as if he needed to forget who I was in order to fight me. With almost military precision, he turned back, his incantation complete, and drew his silver sword, poised, his two feet on different white squares. I did likewise, but with one foot on a black square and one on its white counterpart.

“En garde!” he exclaimed, flourishing his épée with the same rococo elaborateness as he had gestured with his ornate cane last night. I saw a sharp, witty smile glance across his face, as if he had for a moment remembered something of the bygone world that already crumbled around us as we practised fencing in a chessboard courtyard atop an incongruous French château.

His silver blade struck mine sharply as he stepped forward. I pivoted on my toe, crossing my left foot in front of my right so that now, both feet were on black squares. The sunlight flashed and for a sweet moment, we were both blinded by the light as it ricocheted off our blades. I was back in France, and he was back in that wistful fairy tale of his life with Emilie. We continued to practice our warlike dance and I couldn’t help but feel the weight of everything press upon me. I realised that, despite his undeniable ability at sword-to-sword combat, if the revolt did come, he would not stand a chance. As Reget had told him, all real combat was now done with automatic weapons of war like muskets (which, as I understood, they had used in the American Revolution) and pistols, all of which would kill you at thirty paces. Now, I had certainly witnessed death by gunshot before.

“You’re good!” Blanchelande called to me as we fenced, as if I were a long way off.

“Why the tone of surprise?” I laughed, pivoting again to bring my blade to meet his once more at a glancing angle.

“No idea,” he laughed sarcastically, following me in my pivot, both feet still firmly fixed on white squares. With catlike precision, he suddenly glided his right foot forward so that he could lock his épée against the edge of mine, forcing me to swivel quickly to avoid the metal of my own blade coming into contact with my face. The deft motion placed me so that my back was to his chest. Then, with a swift final movement, he angled his blade a little further, sliding it up mine, so that my back came into firm contact with his broad chest.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, the back of my head coming into contact with the top of his chest, encapsulated between his strong arms.

“Are you alright?” he laughed.

“Yes,” I smiled, finding bliss in being in a man’s arms again.

“Good,” he whispered. “Tell me, Elodie, would you mind if I were to—” his voice broke off.

“To what?” I whispered.

“To tell you that I feel you may be the only person in the world to understand me.”

“Your sister?” I asked. Blanchelande swallowed and elevated his eye line with that familiar dazed look.

“She understood me,” he nodded. “But she was taken away from me.”

“It’s the same with me and Thierry.” I smiled. “He was taken away from me.”

“How, if you don’t mind my asking?” Blanchelande whispered, turning his sword lightly so that we were facing each other.

“He was shot.”

“I am so sorry. I cannot imagine who would murder a child.”

“I am sure you can.” I smiled cynically. “It was—” my words, which could have meant so many changes in both our lives, were cut off by Reget’s head protruding from the trap door into the château.

“Storm’s coming,” he called. “Elodie, I’d get off the roof before you get struck by lightning.”

Both Blanchelande and I turned our heads to look to the heavens. Sure enough, the previously blue sky had turned grey and black with impending storm clouds.

“Let’s go inside.” I nodded to Blanchelande who seemed again to be lost in his fairy tale past.

“Yes,” he nodded. “It was a storm that killed Emilie.”

Reget beckoned me back inside, gathering up my pale pink skirts and pulling them in. I ran from my black squares to the door and Blanchelande followed close behind, his eyes unremoved from the blackening sky. We all disappeared out of sight and into the château.

The rest of the day passed quietly, with only the portraits for company. Reget seemed to be avoiding me, as if he resented the moments I had spent on the roof with Blanchelande, though I supposed he had no right to. What had Reget done or promised that forbade me from enjoying the refined company of Blanchelande? Likewise, Blanchelande disappeared for the hours that followed, and for the first of them, I assumed he too was avoiding me. Then, in the late afternoon I saw him out in the fields in the pouring rain and thunder, ordering the securing of sugar and indigo storage barns, so that his profit would not be spoilt by the storm.

And I was reminded again that just as I had in France, I now lived two lives: the life of an aristocrat and friend of the colony ruler, and the life of a traitor with Reget, each life deceiving the other equally. But that was my way, I suppose. But I half felt that I could not be blamed for my nature, for it was the way for the European world to present an outward face of grandeur powdered white with opulence and pristine morality, and then funnel money into slavery. The white veneer of superiority was something we all had to wear if we were to continue with life as it was, but soon, it would be ripped from us.

Le Roche had been my own grandiose fantasy of colossal French libertinism, ultimately to be dragged out of this world and away from me by a bullet. He had been my age when I had met him, and even then I could sense the ghostly pale blue of his eyes as he stared at me, and feel the deathly cold touch of him when he waltzed with me. He was Valmont, already destined to die in a duel in which he didn’t know he was a part.

None of us knew we were in that duel, least of all me.

But then again, perhaps that assertion was not quite true – perhaps there were others even less knowing. Thierry, now he certainly could be accused of neither knowledge nor experience. And Emilie? Blanchelande had told me she had died in a storm, though I sensed that to be at least half euphemistic.

And so it was that, to pass the stormy day, I sat in my chambers staring half blankly out of a rainy window, half godlike in the heavens, looking upon the Earth below. I laughed to myself at the idea that perhaps I was God, but quickly waved that possibility away as I was certainly not omniscient. If I knew everything, perhaps I would know what should be done next here in Saint Domingue.

Sitting alone with Blanchelande’s candelabra in the misty late afternoon light, I passed the time considering what course of action I should take. And then I realised that I had already chosen. On the two great battlefronts of Saint Domingue, I had chosen life. While not an explicit side as such (in the sense that it was not ruled over by either the black king or the white), it was nevertheless an option in our game of chess contorted into a reality. Life is in the revolution. As always, the way to survive a revolution is to make all the revolutionaries think that you are on their side while secretly acting – or imagining you act – for the other.

And I did that so terribly well. I mean, I am – as ever – a hero of the Revolution, after all. Ha!

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About The Author
Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik
About This Story
27 Dec, 2023
Read Time
6 mins
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