The Exchange (L'echange)
We all want something in life. It's a fact of our human nature.
To reach for the stars, to fulfill our dreams, to be more than just a mortal creature.
What will you do to get what you want,
To achieve success and accolades?
What will you sacrifice?
What will you do,
And what are you willing to trade?
If you have the gumption to risk everything
In order that your life may change,
Then come spend the night at Le Manoir Macabre....
I invite you to make the Exchange!
--Cordially, Your Host, Anthony St. John
Remy Avrait had seen Anthony St. John only once: when she was a child, five years old, sitting by her father's side as he pored through old and crumbling documents in his flat. That day had come before the Walden School, before the Headmistress, before the endless studying and fetching and carrying. She had been treated like any of the school's other servants--nay, even lower! At least the other servants were paid wages, but she was not. Remy received nothing for all the hard work she did, except an education that felt more like indoctrination. As long as you did what you were told, and fast, then you were safe. If not, then you were beaten or cast out onto the streets.
Anthony St. John was not the man who had put her there, but he was possibly the one man who could get her out. For one thing, he had a vague yet irrefutable connection to the Headmistress herself, and for another, he was wealthy, handsome, and influential. That combination of traits was not only admirable, but absolutely necessary in a potential patron. Remy was hoping that Anthony would convince the Headmistress that she would be a poor candidate for becoming a teacher at Walden, and thus spare her from a life of misery. In Remy's eyes, the only thing worse than being a suffering student at that wretched, so-called "boarding school" was being an instructor there, ordered to inflict daily cruelties upon said students for the slightest infraction.
If Anthony could save her, she would offer him her eternal gratitude!
However, what Remy really wanted was not only salvation from those four cold stone walls behind which she'd been imprisoned for sixteen years, but salvation from the cold, dread silence that swallowed her whole every night. Loneliness was killing her, as well as near-poverty. However, she desired love more than money. Remy knew full well that without true love in one's life, gold was garbage and silver was slime. She would do anything to find her match...
Including going to a dinner party at the reportedly-haunted Le Manoir Macabre. She had received a mysterious invitation in the mail from Anthony St. John, inviting her to an exclusive event at which only three other people were to attend besides the host. I'm so lucky! she thought. He could have invited anyone, but he chose me, whom he's only seen as a five-year-old waif leaning on her late father's knee! I don't know why he sent me this invitation instead of someone else more worthy, but I'm going to this soiree anyway. I'm not going to lose this chance to change my life, because right now, it's my only one!
Anthony St. John....Allan had never heard of the name before. He was rather thoughtful as he walked toward the mansion he had been invited to. What surprised him the most about the letter was the fact that someone outside of his relatives was aware of his existence. He had no friends, no contacts, and lived a life of solitude - just how he liked it. This caused him to automatically be suspicious of the sender, and of the other guests he learned that were coming.
School and growing up was just hell for Allan. As a result, he became semi-estranged from his family, and only went out to buy essentials. At this point in life, Allan couldn't care less about people, though he did admit he wished he could have led a happy life.
Allan once again looked at the message he had received. Risk everything....Allan figured he had nothing to lose at this point in life, so he figured it couldn't be too awful; besides, he was sure he had gone through and dealt with much worse. Maybe he could end up being happy....but if risking everything was in the job description, he figured it could turn into another living nightmare.
Presently, Allan came upon the mansion. He didn't neccessarily find it creepy, but he could tell it was rather old. He then walked up to the masion's entrance, and knocked on the door.
The woman who answered the door - the same woman who would always answer the door - hardly looked as though she should be a servant, though she was dressed as such. A classic black dress was accented with a bleached white apron and a matching headband, denoting her as little more than a house servant...despite the fact that that headband held back voluminous brown curls and her face was soft and young. This didn't look like a woman whose family was of the working class; either Anthony paid her well, or she had received the jackpot of the gene pool.
"Master Lee." she said, her hands folded in front of her as she bowed at the waist. "We've been expecting you. Welcome to Le Manoir Macabre."
With that, she stepped aside and swept her arm inward, still bent in a bow as she did so. Beyond the massive oak double doors lay a foyer built for a king. Its flooring was of Carrara white marble that seemed to spill out from the waterfall that was the main staircase. Above was a lighted chandelier, about three and a half feet in diameter, made of crystal, gold, and electric lights. With walls of dark-stained oak, the foyer seemed much older than it actually was...but perhaps most haunting about it was that it was completely and utterly empty. For a mansion of its size, one would expect it to be a hive of activity, but here, the main crossroads of the house, was ghostly still.
"Dinner will be served just beyond those doors." As she spoke, a man that was clearly a butler emerged from the indicated entrance in the right-hand wall. "Mr. Cauldwell will get you situated. Master Saint-John will meet you once the other guests have arrived."
"Master Lee. We've been expecting you. Welcome to Le Manoir Macabre."
Allan looked at the maid. She was actually quite pretty, and didn't strike him at all like a servant. Allan then looked at the foyer, and his jaw fell open. The staircase being a waterfall, a marble floor, an extremely luxurious chandelier...it was almost too much. He then realized that this wide open space was unusually empty, though there was so much eye candy that Allan didn't neccessarily find it too creepy, though there was a scary aspect to it.
"Mr. Cauldwell will get you situated. Master Saint-John will meet you once the other guests have arrived."
Allan barely heard the maid and snapped his attention back to the butler, Cauldwell.
"Right, I'll be sure to make myself comfortable." Much to his surprise, Allan's voice sounded hoarse and gravelly. He quickly cleared it to fix the problem. When he next spoke to the butler, Allan's voice was still deep, but more normal sounding. I guess not talking for months on end can hurt you, Allan thought to himself, chagrined. He walked toward the butler.
"Well, Mr. Cauldwell, I believe it's time for me to get 'situated'. Tell me, what is your employer like?" Allan asked, genuinely curious.
Remy, seated in a reasonably-fashionable-yet-completely-utilitarian carriage, folded her hands in her lap and pondered her future. She felt exactly like Cendrillon, the persecuted heroine in the fairy tale she had absolutely adored as a child. Scorned and abused by a female authority, ordered to slave away at menial and meaningless tasks, and being offered a chance of rescue--something told Remy it was all too good to be true, but what if this truly was her one chance at "happily ever after"? If she took it and eventually lost, then at least she would have attempted to seize the opportunity, but if she never tried at all...Such was tantamount to losing, too, and Remy didn't want to waste her life in the endless lament of "could have, would have, should have". Thus, she steeled her spine and summoned her courage as the carriage bore her slowly up a steep incline to the very summit of the cliff upon which Le Manoir Macabre rested. The only other way down led straight into the sea, right off the edge of that very same cliff.
If I recall correctly, Le Manoir was not originally owned by the St. John family, Remy thought to herself. I believe that the St. Johns acquired it from a wealthy French couple, Maurice and Ludivine du Monde, who were running out of money very quickly due to the massive debts they incurred. Gambling was Maurice's secret vice; social climbing was Ludivine's. Eventually, after they sold the mansion to the original Master St. John--Anthony's great-grandfather--they made a pact to die together as gracefully as they had lived. On their last night in the house, Maurice shot himself with a brand-new invention: Samuel Colt's magnificent 'revolver', and Ludivine drank red wine laced with an extremely potent sedative. How sad! The mansion, which was formerly known as Le Manoir du Monde, became Le Manoir Macabre in local parlance after that...
Shivering due to the sudden cold from getting out of the carriage, Remy let the coachman help her up the wide marble steps to the front porch of the grand old house. She walked with a heavy limp and slow, faltering steps, and thus was grateful for his kind assistance. Knocking on the door three times using the handle of a large brass lion's head, she smoothed her red tea dress.
((This one was dead on its feet. I'm going to turn it into some sort of fic, though. Adieu!))
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