Fabien examined the long correspondence on the table. He had been wearing masks and gloves for more than five hours, reviewing all the correspondence going in and out of Versailles on the part of the nobles and their families. Every day the same ritual.
The king had been threatened with death again, and this time the poison was smeared on the ink, so that when the fingers of the hand were wet to pass from one paper to another of the pastern, the lips and tongue were full of a translucent poison that made you delirious for days until there was a final collapse in the body and you died.
Fabien withdrew the mask for a moment, opening the window so that daylight and fresh air would come in again.
His limbs were stiff from sitting so many hours. His body was made for exercise not for sedentary lifestyle.
The king was during the long summer afternoons entertained in his prayers with Madame de Maintenon and the Queen. The whole court had returned to calm now that Madame de Montespan had been defeated.
Athenais was nothing more than a ghost in Versailles. Both by royal edict and by divine.
However, when her eyes met Fabien in the stairs, he looked at her as if he were the noble and she the servant. For him, Montespan was nothing but a vulgar murderer. But that did not matter anymore. She was nothing, she just did not have place anymore in Versailles. And yet she should stay there.
Fabien smiled while a second thinking in this pain of Athenais. Was really the best punishment for her. The king knew her so well...her weak points, her biggest fears.
Louis had built a prison for her in the palace. The last thing Fabien had heard was that Montespan did not even have a bathroom maid.
One of the new maids, a raven-haired girl waited at the door to retrieve the already revised letters.
-Come in-Fabien said in a whisper, sitting down again.
The girl came in and took the letters. Fabien could not see her well, because the sun reflected around her figure when she left, but when the girl was going to cross the door, something made him react:
-Sophie, wait ...
The servant girl turned away, but she was not Sophie.
-My name is Marie, monsieur-she said fastly.
Fabien came up to her and put his hand on her chin.
Of course she was not her little friend Sophie.
Sophie was much more beautiful. She was in fact the most beautiful young lady in Versailles. Not even Louis's new favorite, Madame de Maintenon, was as beautiful as she was.
Fabien had never understood how the king had not noticed Sophie.
In her black hair, her girlish face, her innocent expression, even after having committed the blackest of sins ....she´d have continuaned looking like an angel.
Sophie was simply perfect. The only woman in which Fabien had recognized as seeing angelic features.
Sophie had held back his looks after their long conversations about court gossip just by showing the dimples in her cheeks, when that devil witch had been poisoning middle Court, in such letal way that Fabien sometimes felt that he couldn´t stand next to her without kiss her.
Neither the tender love that Claudine had offered her nor the burning passion that Beatrice had given birth in him had been able to avoid the secret admiration that Sophie had always made Fabien feel.
If she had not left, if they had remained as allies, he would have rushed to kiss her thin pink lips, trapped in her sweet expression any day.
That's the way things were.
Fabien was older than Sophie. An experienced man, who knew the earth, the men walking on it, the women, the most disturbing passions, the hate, the rejections, the night & the day, but above all he knew the tainted innocence, the honor, the hard work, the humility, the courage, the spite and the strength.
And also the attraction. He knew that an innocent face like Sophie's in him would be more lethal than Beatrice's passion or the clean love that Claudine inspired.
-I am sorry. Keep up with your work, please.
The maid finally left. Fabien gave a long sigh because he missed Sophie.
He did not feel guilty for missing her and not Claudine.
"What was the difference between life and death in reality?" he thought in a moment.
Neither Claudine nor Sophie were here now.
He needed one of them, but the two of them were probably gone forever. But it was Sophie whom Fabien wanted to see again, there with him.
The little young woman who helped him to know what was going on between the king's noble pig circles.
Because for Fabien just as for Sophie, any commoner had even more honor than those pretentious nobles.
-Someday the nobles will be over, Monsieur Marshall- Sophie had whispered to him one of those times when Fabien had given her a salmon-colored dress for her to keep her cover at Court.
-Then you would not need more dresses-he had said seriously.
His black eyes fixed on Sophie's brows as she turned around to show the flight of the skirt of her dress.
Moments like those never came back again. At last not for him.
The king's order to marry someone like Sophie with Monsieur Cassel had been reprehensible.
Deliver a young and beautiful rose like her to that monster.
Fabien had hated Louis with all his soul that day when he saw how the life of his young friend collapsed when she joined his body before the God´s altar with that monstrous traitor.
Cassel was already dead, but he deserved it.
Probably just him, Fabien knew about Sophie's name in that demon-possessed book. She had killed her husband with one of the witch's poisons. But did not Cassel deserve that end?
That bastard. Even now Fabien could only hate him for being Sophie's forced lover.
If there was one thing that Fabien hated, it was the corruption of the innocent.
And there was much of that in Versailles.
Sophie had been infected by the poison of Versailles. It would be unfair to make her come back, but he would give anything to find her.
And as in those moments it usually happens, where the coincidence does not exist, only the destination, Fabien was holding a letter addressed to the Princess Palatine, to Liselotte, written by an anonymous author whose handwriting was identical to Sophie's.
"To the attention of your highness": Fabien closed his eyes only while a second. Her desires was turning in real.
Fabien continued reading, and indeed, the letters were from Sophie.
"I am writing to tell you that I am indeed safe, I have decided to remain exiled from Versailles for sentimental reasons, I have followed my lover far, , far away, and I no longer believe i will return to the Court.
I beg your Honor's indulgence, but I thank you for having me at your service and I congratulate you on the birth of your first-born Alexander.
The greatest honor for me has been to serve you, and to have a friend in court, a good man, who although he could not help me at the time of my darkest need at least knew how to listen to my pain.
I have been very unhappy. I have had a cruel and abusive husband with me, so I give you courage to tell you that you have had a lot of luck with His Highness. At least he respects you.
Because without respect there is nothing.
Now I live in poverty, Highness, but that is what I always have been, and what I belong to. Please forgive me. I wish you a happy future.
-Sophie-said Fabien-I will not lose you, I can not lose you.
Fabien set off to find the messenger on the letter.
If the king discovered that Sophie had escaped without his permission he would order her capture. Sophie would need his protection again. It had been foolish to have written to the princess. Fabien knew that Palatine was honest and would not have said anything, since she was the Sophie´s closest friend, but even so there were spies behind every door and it was dangerous.
The friend that Sophie referred to in his letter was him. Fabien knew it. I knew it was him, not his false lover, the spy.
Nor his cousin Chevalier.
Actually Fabien was the only thing she had, as he had her.
They were the only loyal friends. Sophie had called him "Good man".
Was him a good man really? or was Versailles turning him in a monster too? He had tortured to traitors and he had enjoyed, even when he killed Beatrice, the Sophie´s mother. If he´d find Sophie.
With what moral authority would he send her back?
Sophie was too kind. She had called his mother's killer a "good man" in the letter.
No matter how traitorous Beatrice would have been.
She had been her mother.
He had to find her before it was too late.
It only took three days to find the messenger from Lyon.
In one day, Fabien was there.
The village was bigger of what he thought.
Fabien tied his horse to a small chapel and walked down the stone avenue where they had been told him that "Sophie" was living.
-Excuse me, good man, Madame de Clermont lives here? She´s a noble woman.
A baker picked up the loaves of bread from his little oven.
-No, monsieur. Only Sophie lives here. But she is not a noble. I believed that all the nobles were in Versailles.
-Me too-Fabien said, raising his black eyebrows.
With a firm step he approached the little house with the red facade. It was a beautiful little house. His heart was pounding strongly when the door opened suddenly and Sophie suddenly appeared.
She was as lush and beautiful as always next to another girl, who had a cauldron full of trout underneath.
-Today we have had fish, it´s a miracle-said the second girl to her. But Sophie´s eyes were fixed in Fabien.
-Sophie -Fabien's voice was barely a whisper.
-Fabien how did you find me? it´s impossible i....
-Please let us alone-he said the firmest but polite tone that possessed the second girl.
-Please come in-said Sophie taking the Fabien´s hand.
-Your hands are soft despite the hard work, I imagine Sophie-Fabien said entering the house and sitting on the first chair he saw-very cozy your house, but a little closer than your last rooms do not you think?
Sophie shook her head after closing the door.
Her dress was a dark cloth and yet they were more elegant than Claudine had ever had.
Sophie had sewn the toes of her old Versailles dresses and her appearance was still that of someone ravishingly beautiful. Even in the poverty her class was dazzling, even though her nobility was fake.
-I won´t come back, Fabien-she said closing her eyes.
-Sophie you must do it, don´t you understand? Sooner or later the king will notice. If he has not yet noticed your absence is because your cousin Chevalier or the Princess Palatine have not said anything yet.
-You do not get it. There is nothing left of me. I do not care if they find me. I do not care what the king does with me. I do not have anything left. At least I'll have been happy for a while with the people who really appreciate me-Sophie looked away, and the tears in her eyes started to stain her china skin- Did you know that I grew up in this village for a year in my childhood, Fabien?
-No, i didn´t know.
-I did. It was the happiest year of my life, since my mother always had me like a top-said Sophie, smiling for a moment. But it was a smile of tears - that's why I now value the slightest moment of happiness.
-As I do, Sophie-Fabien said.
-Then why are you here? Why are you not living your life? Or your only life is around our wonderful King? -she asked-take care of yourself, Fabien. His rays can burn your soul like they did with the mine.
-Claudine is dead. They poisoned her-said Fabien closing his eyes.
There was a strange silence between them, but Sophie's watery eyes fell on Fabien's contracted face.
Sophie knew that he could not show any more sadness.
-I'm so sorry Sophie-he said.-I'm sorry about what happened to you. I feel what you had to do, how much your husband mistreated you. Hopefully i could have done something but i couldn´t then. But I want you to know that you are not alone , and that I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe from now on-his voice sounded broken. Sophie never had heard the Fabien´s voice like that before.
-You were not to blame, Fabien-Sophie said-neither about Claudine nor about my marriage. You had no choice.
Sophie's soft hands searched for Fabien's hair, and they pushed him back.
-Then you've learned to love finally, Fabien-Sophie said, drying his tears-and that's why you can not ask me to come back. I´m happy here, alone with my own kind.
-But you don´t belong to this, Sophie, please come back with me-he said-we can help each other.
-I believed i´d have another life here, beyond the Court, beyond all my pain and my remorses-she said.
-Please, Sophie come back with me, please-Fabien asked-i can not let you alone, if they find you...i found your letter to the princess, for that i could find this house.
-Do you see? All are investigations, clues, secrets, poisons, pleasures, beauty. I'm not interested anymore, Fabien.
-I´m a free man, Sophie, as you would be if you came back-he said
-Sit down, I'll give you something to drink-she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek. Suddenly both looked each other in silence while long seconds.
-All France depends on that, Sophie. All France must do what Its king requires, until the last peasant is a slave-he said drinking the cold glass of water.
-Until the king get tired of all us you mean?
Sophie looked his serious expression. His dark long hair, his hoarse voice. Everything was so familiar in Fabien.
She smiled, remembering to him their old plots together.
-Do you know? It is comforting to know that someone has missed you-she said looking her own hands now.
-I missed you, Sophie. But i´m your mother´s executioner, Sophie-he said-i´d understand if you wouldn´t....
-I missed you too Fabien-Sophie let scape a deep sigh-you are my only friend. The only one who meet me really. With you i don´t have secrets, killer of my mother.
Fabien hugged Sophie, crying and one more time implored what had his heart tied.
-Please come back with me, please. I´ll take care of you, i promise.
Fabien hugged Sophie, crying and one more time implored what had his heart tied.
Sophie then nodded softly, while Fabien's serious, with his tearful expression nodded as well, and he pushed away the faint strands that fell over her girlish face.
Fabien then took pity once again on that pair of big, dark eyes that looked at him begging for understanding, and by her lavender perfume, fresh and young.
Fabien closed his eyes for just a moment, and let himself be carried away.
His lips kissed Sophie's lips for the first time, and she put her hands on his chest, feeling the intensity of his heartbeat.
Fabien was his father, his lover, his protector at a time when their kiss lasted.
Sophie looked at Fabien's lips after their kiss, trembling at the end and realized that eternity maybe was like the poets said in a kiss.
-I´ll come back with you, my friend-was the only that she said as she looked at the hopeful smile on Fabien´s face. With their holding hands they left that village and with their holding hands they came back to Versailles again.