Read Part 1.
I left Mme. Moreau’s School for Unwanted and Undervalued Children on the eve of my eighteenth birthday. I was done; they had nothing left to teach me, not that I feel I ever really learned anything in the first place. Obviously, our correspondence could no longer continue, and I lost touch with Brigitte for several years. I can only assume that she too left when she turned eighteen and went on to far grander and greater things than I could ever imagine for myself. I would have liked to have gone looking for her, but it was impossible; we were of two different worlds: she was Gifted, and I was still unwanted and undervalued.
By some sort of miraculous luck, I managed to find myself a position in life. I became a servant in the household of Durand. It was by no means glamorous, but it was something, and it was certainly better than many of my fellow graduates could muster. The Durands were a large family, with many far-reaching connections. It was through them that I reconnected with Brigitte.
After her previous escort died, Pierrot Durand was assigned to be Brigitte’s new escort. I was often in the service of Pierrot Durand, as he had taken a particular liking to me, and so our paths crossed many times.
Our first meeting, she did not recognize me, but of course I cannot blame her for this, considering our relationship had been built through the wood of a door. I of course knew her immediately, but I had the advantage of knowing the unique features of her eyes. In the years since I had last seen her (keeping in mind that I had last seen her when we were both eight), she had grown into a beautiful woman, with a delicate nose, a long neck, and a mouth that curved upwards. I was just as enchanted by her eyes as I had been when I’d first seen them, the green eye seeming to be shining out all the brighter. When I told her that it was I, her door friend, who had been the boy to push her into the lake, she laughed loudly and declared how much she had missed this.
I wish I had made her laugh more often. If I had only known how important it was, I never would have stopped.
We grew close once more, and she confided in me that she wished she had not been saddled with this Gift. She wanted to help people, but felt this was not the way to do so. The people had grown reliant on her kind of help, and more and more often the same people would come to her, asking for more. She cried, she always did, it made her too sad to see this kind of need, but her pearls did not shine so bright as before. And the Shadows had drawn even closer. She felt as though they were inside her head now, giving her headaches and visions, weakening her, feeding off her sadness. The things she saw through her green eye, these Shadows of wrath, were human, but they were not people. It was like their soul had ripped in two, their hearts ripped out willingly, and whatever had been good in them had all but disappeared. She feared that this was what people would become if they grew too reliant on what she had to offer, heartless shadows of what they used to be. These Shadows, she said, had not become of our world yet, but she despaired the day they would.
In the time we had been apart, she had grown fearful. And even with the more time we got to spend together, she was nervous in my presence. I did my best to comfort her, even went as far as saying I would be the one to protect her. But this was nothing more than a fool’s promise, for who was I to protect her from the Shadows, to be a saviour in the dark when darkness was my muse? For you see, I had become keenly interested in all that she saw beyond the realm of our normality. My curiosity began to consume me, and although it was her who was blind, I was the one who was not seeing.
There will be many who say I did not love her, many who believe that what I did was the cause of her destruction. I have already allowed myself the blame, but it was with good intentions I did what I did. I believed that I was saving her, rescuing her from the fate that they had plunged her into. Maybe this doesn’t excuse me, but I feel a reason should be offered none the less, regardless of its weaknesses.
Don’t become one of them, she would say to me, no matter what you hear, you must not become one of them. I never would have even considered the option had Topsy not planted the idea in my mind.
Topsy was Pierrot Durand’s daughter. She was supposed to have been a Gifted. She began her life a flower child, bringing peace and tranquility to our Mother Earth. From a very early age, she was believed to be the High Giftess and had been presented with the Book of Sorcery, a book of secrets worthy of only the most Gifted eyes. But Topsy’s fate was not to be so. She lost her Gift by the age of four and became worse than a normal child; she was a Giftless child, one who Those Above decided was not worthy. Her powers thus snatched away, she was thrown by her family into Mme Moreau’s School for Unwanted and Undervalued Children, a year after I had come to attend the school myself. The Durand family being as significant as they still were, despite the disgrace, M. Durand was allowed to keep the Book of Sorcery, for safekeeping until the next High Giftess could be found.
Topsy was a pitiful girl after she lost her life. For whatever reason, she clung to me; perhaps because I offered her tissues when she cried. When Topsy had first seen Brigitte, a silence had encompassed her. She could not look at Brigitte’s eye; it was a gaze, she said, of fire. Topsy always was one for exaggeration, but she insisted to anyone who would listen that Brigitte was not to be trusted. No one, though, listened to her – she was a Giftless; her word meant less than nothing. I was never one to care for such things, but even I found her words hard to believe, as they seemed more like the ramblings of jealousy than anything sincere.
Topsy followed me everywhere in school. I thought I was clever enough to shake her when I made my visits to Brigitte. It turned out I was not. No one without Mme. Moreau’s explicit permission was allowed to go near Brigitte, especially not someone such as me. Topsy had discovered my visits early on, but had kept her knowledge of them to herself, even from me. She laid in waiting, biding her time until she thought it best to pounce.
That time came only a few months before I was due to leave Mme. Moreau’s School for Unwanted and Undervalued Children. My attachment to my weekly door haunts with Brigitte had grown, and the fear that I may be soon to never be near her again had thrown in me a frenzy. My desperation to go to Brigitte overturned my manners, and poor Topsy, who had been gearing for my attention all week, needed but little of my time, of which I refused to give. She turned rather nasty after this, and threatened her betrayal of her knowledge to M. Leroy or, even worse, Mme. Moreau. I said my desperation was great before; it never had been so frantic as it was in this moment. To have what I had done known to anyone would not only be the death of me but would bring the uttermost disgrace to my dear Brigitte, for she was not allowed to consort with anyone who was not of the elite. To save her, I foolishly allowed Topsy’s threats to sway me from any further visits, barring one last one to say goodbye, which Topsy graciously allowed. In exchange for Topsy’s silence on the matter, I agreed that were I to make my way into the world successfully upon my leaving the school (which she verily believed I would), I was to bring that success unto her however she pleased.
This was a promise I found I could not keep, for what Topsy asked of me was beyond my will of power.
Because I had become servant to her family, and M. Durand had taken that so-mentioned particular liking to me, Topsy could no longer forbid me to see Brigitte, nor threaten a reveal of our togetherness as it was no longer a thing not allowed. So upon our reunion I saw Brigitte every day, as I have already mentioned, and spent as much time with her as I could reasonably do; this meant that my time spent with Topsy dwindled immensely, something which Topsy could hardly bare (I do not say this to brag, I am simply in the mind of stating facts pertinent to the events which occurred; I wish greatly that Topsy had not been attached to me so vehemently, as it was an attachment I could hardly reciprocate). Topsy, no longer quite so graceful as her flower child days, insisted upon my promise. At first I brushed her off. We were no longer in school, Brigitte and I were allowed to be in one another’s presence; Topsy no longer had anything on me. Or so I thought. Again, I was proven to be far less discrete than I had previously believed myself to be. Topsy had discovered our love, and the affair which stemmed forth from it. The relations I had had with Brigitte, again, could never be allowed given our opposite stations in life. It did not matter that we loved each other; this was forbidden, and Topsy knew full well how to bring us down. If she could not have my love, then no one could, especially not Brigitte. I had no choice but to follow through on my promise to Topsy. At first, she asked only that I go to Brigitte, which I thought seemed no such trial, but it was not until I sat with Brigitte that I realised what Topsy’s true endeavour was.
I told all this to Brigitte and she cried harder than I had ever seen before. I was never meant to make her cry; I was only ever supposed to make her laugh, to bring her light so that she could continue making light for others. But here she was, crying before me, and I hadn’t even pushed her in a lake this time. Her pearls, something I had promised myself I would never need nor take, poured in layers into my hands and every last one of them I brought to Topsy, who always said it was never enough and that I must return for more, and so return I did every day to get Topsy what she desired. When I left Brigitte on the first of these tainted visits, I saw a shadow cross her face, and her tears, which had yet to stop even after I had left (something unheard of, to be sure), dropped one small black pearl which she quickly curled up into her own hand. I had to pretend I had not seen this, but every visit thereafter the Brigitte I had loved grew more and more unrecognizable.
Her blue eye all but faded, the green one shining bright, and she said little to me anymore, refusing completely to speak of what she saw just beyond. And this began to drive me mad.
Read Part 3.