The rain trickled down the pane of glass, and Nicolette occupied her time with tracing the paths with her eyes. Daily in Tampa it seemed, the mid afternoon was interrupted by a fierce shower of rain, after which the sun would return to its rightful place in the sky, and all would be well. For Nicolette, it offered an unwelcome opportunity to reflect on things past and things yet to happen.
She had fled to the Caribbean with her husband, who she remembered as Marcellin, but whom everyone around her called Marinus. It was after all the plan. People would be looking for them he said, and it wouldn’t do to resemble the description as much as could be helped. So she became Marie Marchand, sister of Marinus. They separated upon their arrival in Martinique, with her being placed in the care of a brutish rouge named Remault, who was supposed to play the part of little brother. They were headed for New Orleans. What they were to do once they arrived she wasn’t too sure other than it involved some Irishman or some such.
They were supposed to go to New Orleans, but the ship they had booked passage on wouldn’t complete the journey when the captain learned during the voyage that the delta area was under heavy threat from raiders. So they diverted up the coast of Florida, where Remault decided they would stay with the ship until it reached Arcadia, where they could then book passage back to New Orleans. It was a simple enough plan with little enough chance for complication. It was also a plan which it turns out was doomed to failure.
Despite Marinus’s insistence on the point of Remault’s loyalty and trustworthiness, experience was to Marie offering a much different perspective. He was shifty and nervous, and when at times Marie would chance upon him in conversation with another person, he would always pause and wait for her to pass. She couldn’t help but feel that he had been making plans of his own, and it frightened her to consider what her role in those plans would be.
When they arrived in Arcadia, Remault seemed earnest enough in securing them a place to stay while he worked out the details of finding passage back to the Caribbean and onward to New Orleans. As time passed however she began to wonder if he was being entirely truthful. Then one day about a month after they had arrived, he left in the morning from the inn where they were staying and did not return.
She waited, for two weeks in fact, and without a word on his whereabouts, she made the preparations herself for passage to Grenville, where she knew her husband would be busy establishing himself. They had no great love for one another, but Marie would be lying if she said she wasn’t looking forward to seeing him again after her ordeal.
When she finally arrived in Grenville she heard from his associates at the offices he kept there that he would be staying in Tampa for a week or so on business. She quickly wrote up a letter in their usual cipher and sent it ahead while she looked for a captain who would take her on for the journey.
Now here she was, a virtual prisoner. She couldn’t help it if time to time, her thoughts wandered and settled on an image from her distant past. She saw herself as a child again running through her home after raiding her mothers wardrobe, being chased through the halls and passages by anxious servants worried that the young Nicolette would ruin yet another scarf or hat of their Mistress’s. She would pretend that she was a bride in one of the elaborate state weddings she had attended with her parents. Walking down the isle of the Church, hand in hand with some dashing Marquis or if she was lucky, Duke. She pictured the fairy tale life they would have in their Chateau among the rolling pastures of France. It was an image she would carry with her throughout her life until reality rudely intruded. The recollection of this childhood innocence being painful to her now, her eyes began to blur with tears. She wiped them away furtively as they fell. The last thing she wanted was for the servants to catch her weeping again. Nothing stung her more than the pity of her own domestics.
She knew from the start that her own marriage was nothing but an arrangement of convenience, and no one entered into it with any illusions. In the beginning there wasn’t perhaps tenderness, but they each attempted in their own way to care for one another, and to be civil and cordial. Now it was cold and businesslike. Marinus wasn’t mean or foul tempered, and he mostly left her to her own devices, but it still couldn’t take the place of love in her life. As the years passed in quiet solitude, she became aware of its absence as her chances of ever finding it grew more distant. Now Marinus was out at some ball these past nights in the company of some fair lady no doubt. The tears flowed uncontrollably. She couldn’t help it as she sobbed lightly. When the time came around where she would have been able to become lost in the wonder and moment of some grand occasion, able to pretend that she had the life she had always wanted, fate through some cruel mechanism kept her at bay. It was everything she could do not to scream.
When she was told they would be leaving France, possibly forever, she was positively crushed. In Tampa, thousands of miles from everything and everyone she knew, and trapped in a home with a man she did not love, and who did not love her. At least in France she had her friends and her cards to keep her mind. She never felt more alone and distant, she wasn’t ignorant of what they were running from, but she did not wonder sometimes if in death there wasn’t to be found a release for her soul from its prison.