In this snippet, Natalie has to make a decision to keep her husband’s Estate and return to her life of “aristocracy,” or to continue the path of a Revolutionary, which has been anything but easy.
Louis motioned for Natalie to sit on the smaller couch and then he left. When he returned, it was with the sealed note and the deeds to the Estate that he left in her name. Natalie could easily move into the estate.
She could live in splendor once more and not have to settle for a one room apartment in a run down building. The Estate was her own and the accounts that went with it. Why Michael ever remained so nice to her, after what she put him through, she would never know. It made her feel guilty.
But then she remembered why she left him anyway. Michael was not her choice of husband. She had no choice at all. Louis married her to him to hide an unwanted pregnancy…which was wanted on Natalie’s end. He was kind to her, and she laid with him when she needed to, but she did not love him. Not like she loved Jauque, and definitely not like how she loved Monti. She was right to leave him. It was her choice to do so.
She had a choice.
Natalie opened the deeds and stared at the script writing that scrolled across the page. With a sigh, she rolled them back up and handed them to her brother. “I am turning the Estate down. Let it be turned over to the great nation of France. The citizens need it more than I.”
Louis mouth parted, ready to protest. Natalie caught his gaze, and his mouth shut again, as if he’d been corrected. “Very well.”
“It will be better for the both of us if our patriotism was known.” Natalie tried not to state the obvious to Louis, that it would be in his favor if he handed the Estate and its worth to the Patriots. He seemed to understand.
“You are right, Sister. I am sure our fellow Citizens can make better use of it than we can.” Louis took the deeds back and left with Natalie the letter from Michael. “We have not talked in years.”
“I know. And I’ve missed you so much.” Natalie shifted forward in her chair, reaching out to grab hold of her brother’s hands. She squeezed them tightly, as much as an embrace as she could offer him. Louis was never one to show outward affection. “I wanted to contact you, but it would have put me in danger. I hope you understand, Louis.”
“I do. It has not been easy for me either. I’ve been arrested and questioned once already.” He shuddered, his almost-black eyes distant.
“You were? For what? How did you get acquitted?”
“For being an adviser. They let me go because the Captain failed…he’s dead. Slaughtered. Obviously, I was not a good adviser, they said, if I failed to advise well.” The sting of the insult lingered in Louis’ words.
“I am so sorry, Louis.” Natalie squeezed his hands again.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about. He made a mistake. Went against my advice. They have that option, to not listen. Turns out, his not listening killed him and saved my life at the same time.”
Natalie let go of her brother’s hand as she sat back in her chair. Her fingers pressed into the light pink upholstery, tracing the floral prints. “And the gates? What happened there?”
“During the food riots, a mob came to the house and demanded food. I emptied my whole cellar, let them take what they wanted. They haven’t bothered me much since.” Louis ran a hand back through his hair, distressed. He looked about the room, staring into the shadows. Natalie knew he felt torn. Her brother had always been a staunch Royalist, probably still was. But for the sake of his life, he has put his beliefs aside. Begrudgingly. And here Natalie sat, a Revolutionary. She could turn him in at any minute.
“Don’t be scared, Louis. I am not going to do anything.” Natalie stood, slipping the note into one of her pockets. “I should excuse myself anyway. I don’t want to get you in trouble.”
“Or yourself in trouble.”
Natalie’s lips pressed together at the slight. She nodded her head. “I love you, Louis, but I value my freedom more than anything in the world. If I lose that…I lose everything.”
Louis didn’t say he understood this. She did not expect him to. He had always had his freedom, to a point. Despite the limitations of his station and title, he could do and love and want who and what he pleased. He’d never know what it would be to be a kept woman. To live under someone else’s wishes. To be married off like chattel traded between farmers.
Louis dipped his chin down in a nod. This served as both an “I love you too” and a “You are excused.”
Natalie showed herself out.