Sleep eludes me, and I open the window to the cool air. Refreshing, but before long I cover my mouth to suppress the next fit of coughing. The small stain against the white handkerchief, as red as the flowers that I wear each month, is just visible in the pale moonlight. I am well known for my camellias, and the white ones bring me attention, adoration, though not respect.

I’m reluctant to disturb Armand, who sleeps on in my concubinal bed, as he turns over, rustling the soft white linen bedclothes lavished on me by the Baron. I listen to his gentle breathing, so different from the grunting snores of my benefactor, but I can’t help counting the minutes of the borrowed time we have together before the key turns in the lock tomorrow. He says he will love me for ever, but as I look up to the carpet of stars I wonder how long my ever will be.

Last night, his head in my lap, he asked me to leave with him. I do not stay for the lavish gowns that Mme Duvernoy procured for me, and already my body grows weary of parties and dancing, even my box at the Opera. But what future would there be for him, harnessed to a coutesan? I may have ridden around town dressed in cashmere and velvet, but the virtuous women who ride the carriages that are splashed by mine in the streets will nonetheless always look down on me.

I turn away from the window, walk over to admire the pink flowers he brought. These simple blooms look incongruous in the Sevres vase on my rosewood and buhl cabinet, where I see engraved the coronet and intials that recall my shame. I remove them, and run my finger along a petal, as shapely as his muscular torso but as delicate as my tiny frame. The glossy leaves shine in the dim light, a glimmer of hope. Pink camellias symbolise longing. They show me that this desire is different, but will it be enough? I know it will not.

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2 years ago

How nice to hear Marguerite’s side of the story, Susan! This story is such a nice “back story” to Christer’s tale of an aged, but finally happy, Armand. We feel such compassion for Marguerite, knowing her fate. Lovely work. Oh, and Happy Boxing Day!

Katy Bizi
Katy Bizi(@katy-bizi)
2 years ago

It’s not often that this side of the story is told, so when it does it has to be especially well-written. And I’m so happy to say that the author has managed to do that! Congratulations on this piece of art!

Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
2 years ago

I can think of nothing better than what Katy has said. Your words flow beautifully. Well written Susan.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
2 years ago

I’ll be honest, this is a completely new story to me and I didn’t make the connection with Christer’s story. I’ve just looked it up on the trusty Wikipedia. What a sad tale, especially as there is the question about what consumption actually referred to at the time. I must try and find time to read the original Alexander Dumas version of the story now. Your story is beautifully written, a very… Read more »

Reply to  Carrie OLeary
2 years ago

What a rich vein of writing we’ve tapped into! Alexander Dumas’s “Camille” was the basis of Verdi’s opera “La traviata” and both together inspired Christer’s story of the older Armand (Alfredo) and Susan’s story of the younger Marguerite (Violetta). Their names changed slightly from novel to opera, but it’s the same story. And now we have our own stories which flesh out the characters even more! Oh yes, and by the way,… Read more »

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
2 years ago

I love the picture in my mind of the pink camellias that symbolize longing. I close my eyes and imagine how beautiful it is, as I am not sure if I have already seen it in person. I feel it and I am happy that you manage it well, Susan. Nice work.

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