New York City, 1913
The sky was colored a dismal and depressing gray, the clouds overhead seeming to reflect the sorrow and bleakness that filled Dean’s heart. He was standing in the cemetery behind St. Mary’s Church, looking down at the gravestone of his Aunt Georgia, who had passed away just a few days ago.
He turned and looked to his cousin, Ethan, and saw in his face the same sad and sorrowful look that surely was upon his own. He gently reached out and took Ethan's hand in his own, clasping it softly.
Dean felt Ethan squeeze his hand, his long pianist fingers sliding between his rough and calloused ones to hold tightly. No words were needed for him to know how Ethan felt; he may have been twenty-and-five, but Dean knew that he missed his mother, for his aunt had been his only family, besides Ethan.
And now here they were staring down at their aunt's grave. Neither knew what had caused her death, but one thing that did burn brightly in Dean’s mind was the letter that his aunt had left him. One that he had read almost immediately after he had learned the news of his aunt’s death.
Dean could see his aunt’s graceful script floating through his mind as he stared at the grave marker before him:
If this letter finds you than I have failed in my attempt to keep you and my son safe from harm. This letter means that I lay dead, buried beneath the ground. And if this letter does find you, then there is someone I want you search for and find. His name is Samuel. He will be in the care of a woman named Madame Bellemère. Find her, find Samuel, and all will be clear and you shall know your part in what is to come.
With all my Love,
And so Dean knew he had to find this Madame Bellemère and this Samuel. Something inside told him that he had to, otherwise something would happen that would that would alter the course of what was to come. And for the worse.
~ ~ ~
He quickly went to his wash-basin and splashed water on his face. He then dressed into his attire for the week, a slim black suit with a white collared shirt underneath. He then went to his hanging mirror and styled his blonde-brown hair so that it laid smooth against his scalp, combed over to the right side. He noticed that his dark emerald green eyes shone back at him from within his worn and pale face. Freckles smattered across his nose and cheeks gave him the appearance of happiness when in reality he was far from it. After that, he saddled into some shoes.
He then grabbed the one thing he had allowed himself to wear during the time of mourning following his aunt’s death, his mother’s locket. It was simple really, just a chain of silver with the oval-shaped locket made of silver. On the locket’s front was a simple red rose. Inside the locket was a picture of his mother and his father. Both of whom had died when he was just three-and-a-year. And now, at just twenty-and-one he was once again orphaned, along with his cousin Ethan. They were the only family they had left to each other.
Dean walked out of his room, which really wasn’t his anymore, for they had no claim to their New York home anymore, for they had been willed a plantation home outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. Dean quietly wondered to himself about that. How was it that they had no claim to what they’d lived in for most of their lives, but had a home in Louisiana that neither of them knew about until the reading of their aunt’s will? Dean shook his head and walked out of his room and downstairs, where the maid, Miranda, and Ethan were waiting for him.
Dean saw that they were not eating in the dining room, for there was nothing there, save for the chairs and table, but that they were eating in the kitchen. When he walked into the kitchen, his body became even more sluggish feeling and his heart hurt even more. If it was not for the fact that he did not cry in public like most gentlemen, he may have burst into tears, but he held them back and sat next to Ethan. Miranda set a spoon, knife, and glass of orange juice before him and then set a small plate of toast and a hard-boiled egg before him. Dean picked up his spoon and tapped the top of the egg to crack the shell and then began to eat. After a few seconds, Ethan spoke, his soft baritone voice echoing loudly in the stillness of the kitchen.
“How did you sleep, Dean?”
Dean turned to look at his cousin. Ethan's once happy dark green eyes seemed dull and depraved of all emotion, his long and wavy dark brown hair looked rather unkempt, and his shoulders slumped downward. And that was when the feeling of sadness and depression intensified even more and Dean got the strangest impression that it was coming from his cousin.
“I slept well, as well as one would expect. And you?”
“Same as you, probably more.”
“It’ll be ok. This shall pass and...”
“There is a gentleman here to see you. He says it’s important.”
Who could be calling at this early of an hour? Dean thought to himself as he got up to see who was awaiting him in the parlor, which was where they always took their guests and company. He felt, rather than saw, Ethan get up and follow him.
When he entered the parlor, he was slightly shocked to see who was awaiting him.
“Mr. Devonshire? What are you doing here this early in the day?”
The older gentleman, who was tall, balding slightly, and yet seemed to always be in a cheerful mood no matter what had happened in anyone’s life, was fidgeting and seemed rather nervous. Dean suddenly had the odd impression to run from the room and hide away in a dark corner. He quickly squashed that notion and kept his eyes on Mr. Devonshire.
“Well, Mr. Sorrenson, I have come to bring you news, though rather dreadful I must say.”
“Well, speak, man.” Ethan said as he stepped up beside Dean. He laid his hand on Dean's shoulder and squeezed.
Dean saw Mr. Devonshire swallow and then he said, his voice faltering slightly, “I-I have news from Mr. Caldwell, he said that since you both have no claim to the house here, you are to leave by the end of the week and be gone. He’s already found a family that’s ready to move in by the end of the week.”
Dean’s mouth fell open. Mr. Caldwell couldn’t do this to them! It just wasn’t fair. How were they suppose to move all of their belongings out of here before the end of the week?
Dean turned to Ethan, hoping he’d say something. But all he saw on his face was resignation. Apparently he was not willing to fight for what was their home. He turned back to Mr. Devonshire. “But, Mr. Devonshire, there is not a single way we can possibly move out within the week. There just isn’t!”
Ethan’s voice spoke out and Dean fell silent.
“We shall be gone by the end of the week Mr. Devonshire, please be sure to tell Mr. Caldwell.”
“Yes, I shall, Mr. Sorrenson. I bid you both a good day. Goodbye.”
And then Dean and Ethan watched as Mr. Devonshire left. Once he was gone, Dean turned to his cousin. “Why did you just let him come in here and take our home away? Especially so soon after Aunt Georgia's passing! Ethan...”
“Dean, we can’t stop them. They own the building. Mother was just renting from them. I’m sure she had wanted us to move to the plantation home in Louisiana. Why else would she will it to us? We’ll be moved there by the end of the week. No questions.”
And Dean watched as Ethan walked away, his shoulders sagging and he suddenly knew, though how he could not explain, that these dark and sad emotions he was feeling were coming from him.
~ ~ ~
“You must be Dean. My dear cousin Gregory has told me so much about you. I’m afraid he’s not here at the moment.”
The girl who’d come to meet Dean was striking in her beauty. Her skin was the creamiest, palest white he’d ever seen and her waist-length hair was a honeyed-chestnut that shown with luster. Her eyes were the clearest, palest green Dean had ever seen on anyone. And she was slender, which her dark red gown only accentuated that fact.
“Well, would you please tell him that I stopped by? I would like to see him before I leave at the end of this week. My cousin and I are traveling to Louisiana to live from now on and I was hoping to see Gregory before I left.”
“I’ll be sure he knows, love.”
“Bela.” The girl nodded her head, a smile playing on her full red lips.
“Anytime, love. Anytime.”
And Dean left, heading towards his house, the most unsettling feeling of having been watched as a hunter watches its prey.