She looked up as Mlle. Dupuis approached, and then bent back to her paper, scribbles criss-crossed over and over again as she struggled to find the right words.
Tight cursive spiralling into sloppiness.
“Yvonique,” Mlle. Dupuis’s voice was in her ear, a faint whisper followed by the scent of her perfume, violets perhaps, or something else.
Yvnoique looked up, tears starting. Mlle. Dupuis was her favorite teacher, a little too strict maybe, and demanded perfection; the wooden ferule hanging behind her desk was testimony to her commitment to her pupils, not like the younger instructresses, just putting their hair up and letting classes run wild.
No, Mlle. Dupuis kept order and discipline; which was, of course what every good student wanted.
And Yvonique was a very good student, one of the older girls, a role model for the others. Or rather, she tried to be.
Reaching out with a smooth white hand, Mlle. Dupuis smiled at her. It was a kindly smile, her dark eyes filled with understanding; and she tapped the paper, “Yvonique, you’ll stay after class today.”
The other girls looked over at her, snickers soon dissolved under Mlle. Dupuis’s glare. Yvonique flushed crimson and stared at her paper, tight cursive blurring behind tears.
Yvonique looked up as the other girls filed out in a shuffle of papers and giggles, more than one glanced back at her. Whispers rose, and were cut short as Mlle. Dupuis held the door open, ushering them outside.
As the last student left, with a cool look over her shoulder, Mlle. Dupuis closed the door, and locked it. Heels clicking with brisk movement, Mlle. Dupuis walked down the rows of wooden desks, to where Yvonique sat waiting, staring at the paper in dumb misery.
“Now, Yvonique, I sense you’re struggling with something, something is not quite right?”
Yvonique blushed. It went without saying that most girls had crushes on the instructresses; it was a natural thing as they swept by in full dresses with their hair up, soft white of their neck exposed. They were glamourous and sophisticated, and part of a world she could only dream of.
Shifting uncomfortably, Yvonique tugged at the neckline of her dress, a stiff velvet, that Minet had complimented her on, she said it brought out the green of her eyes. The satin edging was tickling her.
She felt impossibly foolish before Mlle. Dupuis’s dark gaze.
“Yvonique, I understand you’re struggling,” her voice softened, Mlle. Dupuis smiled at her. “Something around the school, no?”
It was the school itself, her very education that was the problem. A refined establishment for young ladies like herself, the daughters of the very wealthy and influential, they moved in circles long familiar to her, and filled with wealth and power. The school was a finishing ground of sorts, for building connections and developing refined manners that were the accruements of adult life; all intended to catch a husband, and grace his arm with beauty and sophistication for the rest of her days.
And Yvonique wanted none of it.
Of course, many girls were like herself; finding themselves tumbling into bed together, long after the lights were out; fingers tickling amid muffled giggles and whispers; softness against softness, they lay together. Bursts of laughter and something else, a delicious warmth swept between them. And kisses, why those were freely shared, the taste of fresh berries clung to one’s lips for such a long time.
Yvonique stared down at her desk.
Mlle. Dupuis tapped the paper, “This assignment, it has given you quite some trouble, no?”
Twisting in her seat, Yvonique nodded.
“But it is simply a writing excerise, what you’d like in your future.”
Mlle. Dupuis picked up the paper, and rattled it. “Most girls would write about their dashing husbands and charming children and lovely homes.” She smiled, “Balls, and parties, and gay events – much like the lives they live now.”
“But you, my dear, seem to have a different approach.” Mlle. Dupuis stared at the paper, “A strange honesty, perhaps.”
“You wish to stay here.”
Tears started. Sniffling, Yvonique rose, seeking the privacy of the cloakroom, where she could cry undisturbed among wool jackets. It was, truthfully, a familiar space.
Mlle. Dupuis stood in her path. “You have an affinity for this place, and seek the companionship of those in kind.”
An academic failure – tears streamed down her face, Yvonique blushed, her cheeks burning with humiliation. Here she was in front of her beloved Mlle. Dupuis blubbering like a child; she twisted the satin sash of her dress.
“Come now,” smiling, Mlle. Dupuis reached out and put her hand on hers, “Stop it, or you’ll ruin your dress. If it’s uncomfortable, I can help you fix it.”
Yvonique stood, blushing furiously, tears running unchecked. She closed her eyes against the agony of it all; humiliated before an idol.
“There now, Yvonique, it’s not all bad.”
Smooth arms reached around her, pulling her in, the scent of violets, or perhaps something else hung in the air.
Yvonique sunk into softness, her lips suddenly startled by a kiss, and opening her mouth, the taste of fresh berries rolled across her tongue.
Carly Zee is a reader and writer who spends far too much time with Katherine Mansfield, Anne Rice, and Tanith Lee; and sometimes they all come together in weird and wonderful ways.