by Fleur Le Marc
Two days after Sudden Onset
-=Takesian Plains, Bajor=-
Two days after Sudden Onset
-=Takesian Plains, Bajor=-
Jariel shivered, and she gave him yet another blanket.
“Here,” she lifted a bottle of water to his lips. “Drink.”
“Camen,” she insisted sternly, “drink. One sip only. Come on.”
He groaned. Fleur gently lifted his head from the pillow to allow him to swallow. He took one small gulp and then closed his eyes.
“You must sleep,” she insisted. “They said rest is the only thing that will help you get better."
Camen continued to tremble, feeling as though he was freezing to death and burning alive at the same time.
“Can’t sleep.” He rasped, trying in vain to find a comfortable position as his head continued to pound. “Talk to me.”
Fleur found herself suddenly at a loss for words. “What shall we talk about?”
“Anything. I just want to hear…sound of your voice.”
Hearing him say that, she felt even more tongue-tied.
“I know,” he said, shifting slightly and drawing closer to her. “Tell me about you.”
“About me? You know all about me.”
Camen laughed weakly. “No.” He shook his head just barely from side to side. Fleur grabbed a cool, damp cloth and gently mopped the sweat from his brow. “I’m only beginning to realize how little I really know about you.”
“There is not much to tell.” She waved her hand. Again, he managed a small laugh.
“I don’t believe that. Not for a minute.”
“Well what specifically do you want me to tell you?”
“Everything.” Camen forced his eyes open to look at her.
“That will take awhile.”
“I don’t think,” he paused, feeling shorter of breath the more he spoke, “I’m going anywhere.”
“Very well. Where to begin…”
“Begin,” he said simply, closing his eyes again to focus on her voice, “At the beginning.”
“The beginning…” Fleur sighed softly, as she began to process years of rapidly rewinding memories. “My earliest memory?”
He nodded, his teeth rattling as the fever continued to shake him.
“I remember…” she closed her own eyes and the room around her melted away. In an instant, she was very far from Bajor.
“I am standing in the kitchen of the family business, trying to see over the counter as my mother is kneading bread dough…”
-=Flashback: Paris, France, Earth: Twenty-six years ago, current timeline=-
“Fleur, go and sit in the corner. I cannot work with you at my heels.” The tiny, angry woman working over the amazing smelling mound of raw bread dough instructed.
Fleur did as she was told. Her stomach rumbled as she breathed in all of the wonderful aromas emanating from the oven across the room.
“When may I eat supper, Maman?”
“You will have no supper tonight, Fleur, I told you. You were a bad girl, taking that cookie without permission.”
“But Maman, Henri took the cookie,”
“Hush! I told you not to lie!”
Fleur’s lower lip protruded. She had not taken the cookie. Yet somehow when it came down to his word against hers, Henri always got the benefit of the doubt.
“May I go play?”
“No. You will sit there and think about what you have done, eh? Think about this. That greedy little girls who steal cookies displease God, and next time will not only go without dinner but will be spanked as well. Understand?”
Fleur’s tears rained down her round, dimpled cheeks. “Oui, Maman.”
“Good. Now sit quietly, I must finish this before dinner hour.”
Brigitte Le Marc moved as quickly as she could. Soon, her older children arrived from school, and she set about quickly putting them to work.
Anne, the oldest at ten, was sent to set tables with china. Henri, who was eight, was told to fold napkins and Catherine, six, was told to straighten the menus and smile at the customers.
Last to arrive for the evening shift was Odil Le Marc. He dragged his feet, clearly unhappy to be here.
“You’re late.” Brigitte complained as he donned an apron and washed his hands.
“I was trying to sell a painting.”
“Ah, and did you?”
“Bad enough you waste what little money we have on paint and brushes but you cannot even sell the monstrosities you create.”
“I will,” Odil growled, “You’ll see. You mind your cooking, woman. Leave art to those of us who know it.”
He marched up to Fleur and looked her over. “What is the meaning of this?” he indicated the four year old as she sat on a much too large, uncomfortable chair in the corner.
“She stole food again.”
“Maybe if you fed her more,” he growled,
“Shut up. You’re undermining me. She’ll never learn.”
“Fleur,” he leaned down, whispering. “Did you steal?”
She shook her head.
“I believe you. Go on, run along and help Catherine with the menus. I will bring you something to eat soon, eh?”
Fleur nodded gratefully, though she knew that there would be trouble later if she moved, so she stayed where she was.
“Don’t you dare.” The woman gestured with a long wooden spoon in her hand. The meaning was clear to Fleur: forget what her father said, or she’d be feeling the effects of that wooden spoon very soon as it stung her skin.
The two adults began to argue, and as she always did when they yelled, Fleur retreated somewhere inside her own head. She thought about her teddy bear, back upstairs in the small apartment, waiting for her on her bed.
She just wished for the day to be over so she could curl up with the ragged stuffed toy, (named for some reason that no one knew, Alphonse) and another day would be over.
“Why did your mother favor your brother so?” Camen asked hoarsely, as Fleur once again insisted he take a sip of water.
“Because,” Fleur said softly, “He was not my brother, and she was not my mother.”
Camen’s bloodshot eyes looked up at her in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
“I didn’t either,” she whispered, “Not for a very, very long time.”
-=Flashback: Twenty-one years ago, current timeline=-
“See what you’ve done? You’ve ruined the whole pot!”
Fleur stood over the pot of boiling soup and looked down into it, where the pepper container had just dumped its entire contents into the liquid as she’d tried to add a dash as she’d been told to do.
*Henri…* She thought, wondering why her brother went to such lengths to cause trouble. She was certain that he was the one who had ‘accidentally’ left the cap unscrewed when he’d refilled it earlier.
“I’m sorry, Maman.”
“Sorry will not feed the dinner crowd! Get out of my kitchen!” The woman yelled, and Fleur hurried from the kitchen in tears.
Hearing the yelling, Odil Le Marc once again tried to intervene, and a shouting match ensued.
“All these years we have put up with her and she’s not even ours!” Brigitte screamed in frustration at the culmination of the argument.
Fleur bounded back in through the doors; suddenly unafraid of any whipping she might get by speaking out so boldly. “What did you say?”
“Fleur,” Odil began gently, “Go back into the dining room.”
“Non. Tell me what you meant when you said I’m not yours.”
“You are not my child!” The woman who Fleur had believed to be her mother yelled. “I should have sent you away when you were a baby. You are nothing like the others!”
“Fleur,” Odil reached out for her but Fleur stepped back, shaking her head in denial. Her eyes filled with tears as she asked Odil silently if this was so.
He stared at her sadly in reply, and she ran out the back door and into the alley.
She took to the creaky metal staircase leading up to the family apartment over the restaurant, not stopping until she reached her bed.
She threw herself down upon it, burying her face in Alphonse’s threadbare fur.
“We shall run away, Alphonse,” she whispered resolutely. “We’ll keep going until no one can find us ever again.”
“Fleur,” Odil hurried into the room, and he gathered the child up into his arms. “You must not do any such thing. You must not listen to her. She is a very unhappy, bitter person. That is in large part my fault. It is in no way yours.”
“Tell me the truth, what did she mean?”
“It is the truth, Fleur, you are not our daughter. I did mean to tell you, when you were older. Not now, and not this way. I am so sorry.”
He kissed her forehead and wiped away her tears. “That woman in the kitchen down there, she is your mother’s older sister, and I am your uncle, by marriage to her. I have tried very hard to raise you as I have my own children, not to make any distinction between you. But Brigitte,” he sighed, “She is not capable of such behavior. It has never been your fault, you do not deserve to be treated this way.”
“What did I do wrong? Why didn’t my mother keep me?” Fleur asked, automatically assuming that her circumstances were her own fault somehow.
“It is a story for when you are older, Fleur. Until then, you must know that she did the very best that she could.”
“What about my,” she stumbled over the words. “My real father?”
Odil’s eyes turned to ice. “That, too, my girl, is a story that must wait until you are older.”
“When will I be old enough?”
“When you are ready to leave this house. Until then, you must be a good girl and continue to do your best, in everything. You are smart, Fleur. You can go anywhere; do anything. Study hard, and pay attention in the kitchen. It will not be easy, but you can build a life if you learn well what she can teach you.”
Fleur nodded, still clinging to her teddy bear as Odil set her back down on the bed.
“Now, wash your face and hands and come help set up for dinner, eh? We haven’t much time.”
“Papa,” Fleur felt strange calling him that now, for the first time in her life. He listened. “Do you…love me still?”
He kissed her forehead. “I always have loved you, Fleur. Words change nothing. You will always be my daughter.”
“He was…” Camen said slowly, fighting to stay awake so he could hear more of her story, “A good man.”
“No,” Fleur shook her head. “He may have been kind to me, but a good man he was not.”
She kissed Camen gently on the forehead, smoothing his damp hair back away from his skin. “Sleep now. I will tell you more later.”
“Oui,” she said softly, moving to her own small cot across the room to try to rest a little while. “I promise.”
Fleur Le Marc