“I’ve just found out, Catherine, I have business in Paris that needs taking care of. I’ll have to leave by the end of the week,” René announced as he strode into the breakfast room of his – their – home, a letter in his hand.
They had been married a little more than a month and Catherine still found herself surprised by little things, like realizing this was her estate as well as his, or the sound of her name. Yes, Catherine Vendae Laval would take getting used to. “How long will you be gone?”
“No more than a few weeks,” he murmured as he stooped to kiss Catherine’s forehead. “That necklace looks beautiful on you.”
Catherine graced him with a smile as she reached up to finger the necklace René gave her on their wedding day. It was patterned as flowers chained together, with little pearls and other small jewels for decoration. René loved seeing her wear it, and Catherine loved the look of it, so she wore it often.
The two ate in companionable silence, Catherine lost in thought as she often was, and René letting her be. Catherine pondered the last few weeks and smiled down at the table. She was surprised to find herself happy; she had assumed contentment was all she would get out of marriage. René was always kind to her and put her wants and needs before his own. Catherine knew she was developing a true affection for him. And yet…
That cold look in his eyes would still appear sometimes, if he didn’t get what he wanted. And, for someone who seemed so caring and generous, the household staff was unnerved by him. Those hired recently seemed to just be settling in, but even those who had worked for the Laval family for years weren’t quite at ease around René. On top of that, there were no pictures of René’s previous wives, and everyone she had asked refused to talk about them. Catherine only heard their names in whispers: Colette, Sophie, Adèle, Marie. Perhaps it was a small thing, but as much as Catherine wanted to ignore it, some part of her couldn’t let it go.
Catherine stood up from the table abruptly, no longer hungry. René had finished his breakfast while she had been brooding and left the room without her noticing. Catherine paced, feeling restless, before walking to the reading room. René’s grandparents decided to convert one of the sun parlors into a small library, and it quickly became one of Catherine’s favorite rooms. It was beautiful and plenty of natural light filtered in through the massive windows, but it was also very drafty, especially as the weather turned toward winter.
As Catherine entered the room her eyes were drawn to the shelf where she had slipped the little journal gifted to her months ago. She had read it cover to cover several times, but wasn’t really sure what prompted the old man to give it to her in the first place. Catherine wasn’t even sure why she brought it with her to her new life, or why she felt the need to hide it in the reading room. René probably wouldn’t even notice the little book, but Catherine preferred to evade any potential questions. How could she explain the book to anyone else if she didn’t understand it herself?
Catherine edged toward the book – maybe one more read-through would help – and collected it, along with a few candles, before sitting down. As lovely as the room normally was, the overcast late fall weather prevented any sunshine from finding her. Catherine opened the worn journal and, skipping the first part, flipped straight to the section that intrigued her the most.
The party was better than I ever dreamed it could be! The man that I made a deal with went so far beyond just pretending to be my father! He gave me a gown much better than anything I could have gotten, and when we were at the party he was very charming and kindly. He absolutely enchanted Daniel’s parents, and they agreed to let us get married! I don’t know what the man is going to want for his favor, but whatever it is would be worth it!
Catherine shook her head at that sentiment. The first time she read the journal she wanted to believe that the woman was right. Unfortunately, not everything works out that well. Catherine traced her fingers over the seam of the book, where the pages immediately following the one she had read were torn out. She accepted that there was no way to know what those pages said, but not knowing still vexed her. The next entry was dated several months later.
I found the man again. I don’t know if he can help, but everything is going so poorly right now. I paid my debt to him with the papers he requested from Daniel’s father’s study. I don’t know what was in them, but I don’t think it was anything too bad and his help would be invaluable. Daniel’s family business is dying and we can’t afford to live anymore. I don’t know if the man – Robert apparently – can do anything, but he says he can. I have no reason to doubt his word, even if he still scares me. But I can’t tell Daniel. I already lied to him about the first deal I made; he can’t find out about this one either. I have to take care of our family, and it doesn’t matter how. If Robert can help, it will be worth it… I hope.
Hope, Catherine thought, was never a good thing to depend on.
Continue to Part Three
Author’s Note: In this section of the story, Catherine, as the young wife of Bluebeard, has settled into married life. In the original story she doesn’t think anything is wrong in her household, but I have made Catherine a bit more perceptive. I believe it fits in with how I have created her character. Also, René has been called to Paris on business, which parallels the original fairy tale, where Bluebeard leaves his young wife in control of the estate when he leaves for a trip. This section of the diary dealt with the young woman and Daniel after the party that Daniel’s parents threw him, as well as giving a short explanation of what the sinister man (Robert) wanted in exchange. It also introduces another deal that the young woman feels she has to make with him. The section was based on the ball from the original Cinderella tale and the marriage that follows. It also borrows elements from the story of Rumpelstiltskin when he comes to claim his debt.
In this section I tried to establish a bit more of the setting of Catherine’s story. I don’t want to pin it down completely by giving it a year, but I tried to establish that it is in France in the mid to late 19th century, which is much later than the tales were originally set (Perrault wrote in the mid 1600s and the Brothers Grimm were a little over a century later, in the early 1800s). It is meant to be rather vague with the timeline. I also gave the Rumpelstiltskin character a name, Robert, after Robert Carlyle who plays Rumpelstiltskin in the TV show Once Upon A Time. I really enjoy Carlyle’s performance, and I imagine my character to be very similar to him, but slightly more menacing.
“Bluebeard” by Charles Perrault. Website: Dan Ashliman’s Folktexts
“Cinderella” by Charles Perrault. Website: Dan Ashliman’s Folktexts
“Rumpelstiltskin” by the Brothers Grimm. Website: Dan Ashliman’s Folktexts
Once Upon A Time. Wikipedia.
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