Note: I wrote Bellerose last year as part of a Creative Writing Course. I absolutely love writing and am completely open to constructive criticism, feedback, advice. Even after only a year I see a few issues however, this is my first completed story and I’m still rather proud of it.
“Look around and tell me what you see” instructs the dark haired stranger.
“We’re in my living room” obviously, but what does he expect me to say?
I breathe drawn out sigh. ‘Living Room’ is what normal people have in their homes. Ours is almost the size of a ballroom. I’d know, there’s one down the hall where I learned court dances growing up. I wanted to take ballet.
I first find myself captivated by our windows. They cover a vast majority of the wall including two doors which open out onto gardens, beautifully maintained by people employed by my Father. In one corner, near the windows, is our Grand Piano. Aged music books by composers such as Johannes Ockenghem lay scattered surrounding the instrument.
On the other side of the room stands a mighty, hand crafted, dark mahogany bookcase. The books themselves date back to the 1500’s. Placed next to it a Chaise Lounge, outlined in gold and cushioned in faded floral fabric. The walls are various shades of lifeless green and blue with hints of pink, showered in petal print. The ceiling is elaborate and mimics the later works of painter Nicholas Poussin.
Across from the doorway is, what Father calls, the piece de resistance: an ornate, roaring fireplace, above which displays an extravagant portrait of himself. He stands tall, captured in time.
I turn back to the stranger “What do you want me to say?”
“What do you want, Melanie?”
With those few words, I’m drawn back to the day before.
“Melanie” Father calls from the opposite side of my bedroom door “Don will be here soon, be downstairs and ready to greet him for when he arrives”
“Yes Father” I roll my eyes and wonder why I can’t just call him ‘Dad’. I walk over to the dressing table, eyes searching for my hairbrush. Along the side of the panel is an inscription of my initials, M.B. Melanie Bellerose. I lift the piece, the weight of it heavy in my hand. I brush my hair carefully, starting from the ends and working my way to the top of my long blonde hair.
Wearing a long scarlet dress and lipstick to match, a thought forms before I can stop it ‘Why was I born a Bellerose?’. I shouldn’t complain, after all I am very fortunate. Yet, as I thumb a single, almost black, velvet-textured rose, I look upon my reflection longingly. I imagine myself in jeans and t-shirt, a backpack in one hand and a map in the other, ready to explore the unknown beyond my doorstep.
“Melanie” I hear his icy tone from a distance “Don is here”
As I walk down the staircase, leading to the entrance hall, I hear the two men talking. “I must apologise for my daughter, Don…” I can’t control the scowl that forms.
“Father” I acknowledge “Don, I’m sorry I’m late”
“That’s perfectly alright, Melanie” he smirks. We haven’t known Don Iscariot very long but he always looks smug. Father simply adores him.
Dinner at the Bellerose place is like a banquet. I look upon my empty plate then around the table eyeing the remaining dishes, still full to the brim of Turkey, Cassoulet, Bisque to name a few, plus an array of breads and pastries – a feast fit for a King, Father says. ‘More like an army’.
Throughout the evening, Father drops hints that Don will propose. Don’s probably already asked his permission. Traditionalist? No, he’s just trying to sweet-talk the man. Sadly, it’s working.
I stand before I allow myself to think. The pair look towards me in surprise and irritation. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m not feeling too well. I think I’ll go and get some rest. It was lovely seeing you again, Don”
As I exit the room I hear Father apologise on my behalf once again, but I can’t bring myself to care.
I hurry to my bedroom, grab my coat and the box which lay hidden beneath my bed. Upon opening it I’m greeted with the same sight as always; photographs of my family when Mum was alive, we were happy.
I lift out a small ribbon to access the second layer, which conceals items I don’t want Father to see, and smile at my Batchelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of Cambridge. I worked hard for it, plus Father and I fought for months before he allowed me to apply. Moving that aside I take my phone. It’s old, but it’s mine. My small taste of freedom given to me by Nadine, a friend I’d met whilst at Cambridge.
I put everything back where it belongs and make my escape. Father has a strict time schedule and by now he and our guest will be in the study, enjoying a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue.
Once a safe distance from the house I breathe a sigh of relief, then breathe in the cold crisp air and smile at its bite. For now I’m free. I wander for a while unsure where to go. Nadine is travelling New Zealand, she begged me to go with her. The temptation was near irresistible, but I couldn’t leave Dad alone.
The streets overflow with people, as expected for a Saturday night. I spy a nightclub. The music pounding, you can almost see the vibrations. Momentarily I contemplate going but immediately shudder at the thought.
“Would you like to go in?” the question jolts me out of my musings. My eyes land on the man directly behind me.
“No thank you” I walk away, unsure what to make of him.
“Are you sure?” He continues, keeping pace with me “You look interested”
“It’s not my thing”
“So, what is your thing?”
I slow my pace and look upon him curiously “Why?”
“Why not?” I wonder how much he’s had to drink. “Have you ever been abroad” his question surprises me.
“My family like going to France”
“Where would you like to visit?”
I think fondly of this encounter as I play a piece by Guillaume de Machete on our piano the next day. We roamed the streets of London until the sun came up, that was my cue to leave. Almost like Cinderella only far less glamorous and no Fairy Godmother in sight. ‘At least I still have both my shoes’
Father’s due back from his meeting shortly. He knows I escaped last night. He was asleep in the study when I returned.
“That’s good” I hear, my fingers freeze and the melody falters. I look up to see the stranger in the doorway. “This is a nice place”
“You stand out”
“What do you want” He walks around. I stand and keep my eyes on him.
“This is your house?”
“My Fathers” he nods, as if understanding “What?”
“It isn’t you”
“What does that mean?”
“Look around and tell me what you see”
’What do you want Melanie?’ I look deep into his soul-searching eyes. “I want to live”. A sentence that shouldn’t make any sense at all, yet to me makes all the sense in the world. The stranger just smiles. “What’s your name?”
“Lucas. Lucas Gallagher” He holds out his hand in greeting, I’m about to take it when the front door slams, startling us both.
“Stay here” Lucas raises an eyebrow.
I’ve just closed the door when I intercept Father, red in the face I can almost feel his wrath, it’s force like a tidal wave crashing against me. His features are cloaked in nonchalance, though, much like a mask, his eyes betray him.
“Where were you last night?”
“You said you were unwell”
“I thought fresh air might do some good”
“You should ask permission before leaving the house”
“That’s my final word”
“I’m not finished!”
“If I want to leave the house I shall, without seeking anyones permiss-”
“Don is coming over again this evening. I expect you will apologise for leaving so abruptly last night-”
“Would you please stop treating me like a child!”
“I will when you stop acting like one, now go”
“No” I feel a pressure inside me pounding in my ears, white-hot rage burns through my veins. “Have you ever considered what I want? Have you ever thought that perhaps I want something more? That I want to be something more than a wife on the arm of a wealthy stranger I hardly know? I want to work, travel, I want to experience all that life has to offer but I can’t do that while chained to your idealistic views on how I should live my life”
Slowly he stalks towards me, looks me dead in the eyes and seethes “If you want to leave, you know where to find the door” He prods my shoulder hard and walks away. The front door slams, it’s echo crawls through my skin.
The door beside me opens gently and the ringing in my ears dulls slightly as I focus on the forgotten stranger.
I can’t speak, the lump in my throat refuses to sink no matter how much I swallow. Shaking, the tears inch down my face over the now dry path made by the ones previous, I wipe my face as the residue becomes sticky and unbearable. I feel an arm around my shoulder and sink into him, grateful for the comfort.
“That was intense. Does that happen a lot?”
“No” I try clearing my throat “It’s been a long time coming”
“What are you going to do?”
“He’ll be back soon enough, things will stay exactly the same as the past twenty years”
“Is that what you want?”
“I can’t leave him alone”
“When do you stop putting your own life on hold to make someone else happy?” I think about my dream, the vision of myself and an open road. Freedom. “If you could go anywhere right now, where would you go?”
I think of Nadine and how much I miss her “New Zealand”
My head snaps up to his “What?”
“If you want to experience New Zealand then do it!”
I can’t help but smile “You’re insane”
“And you’re scared”
He’s got me there, as much as I want to do everything I told my Father, I am scared. Though I can’t deny the idea excites me more than anything has in a long time. ‘Should I…?’
I close my eyes and a deep breath in then out, clearing my head before I can change my mind.
“Yes, but I have to say goodbye first…”
“I can take you to the airport”
I nod and race upstairs to pack a bag, though completely clueless on what to take, I can’t help the swell of hope that resides within me. I’ll call Nadine from the airport.
After a few hours of psyching myself up and out I bound down the staircase “When was the last time I did that?” I asked myself. I see Lucas waiting for me.
“Well” my step nearly falters. Both Lucas and I turn towards the door in surprise “Look at what I’ve stumbled across, Miss Melanie Bellerose running away”
I ignore the staggering and the stench of whiskey.
I ignore the questions which swarm my head.
I can’t ignore the gun palmed lazily in his hand.
“I’m not running away, Don”
Don looks at the backpack in my hand and map in the other “Your Father came to see me, says you’re unhappy?” he laughs waving the gun around.
“Where is my Father?”
“He’s fine” he scratches his head with the weapon “I think”
“I will come back and visit, I love him, but I need something more. Please understand” I see Lucas the corner of my eye fiddling with something in his hoodie ‘His phone?’ mine’s in my rucksack so I focus on Don to keep his attention on me.
“What I understand is that you’re trying to shirk your responsibilities”
“TO ME! We’re supposed to be married”
“Against my will!”
“It’s the will of your Father” he spits and raises his hand. My eyes narrow on the barrel of the gun, now pointed at Lucas.
I freeze, I panic, I wonder if Lucas succeeded in getting help.
“You’re mine, Melanie” he snarls.
“I am not” I start quietly. “I am not anyone’s property. If you kill Lucas that won’t change. It won’t change a damn thing. I will not marry you” there’s nothing for a moment, then slowly he lowers the gun.
I shake my head “Never”
Silence follows my admission. I try to keep my breathing even as I watch Don. Then I hear it. A crack like thunder only all too close. I move towards Lucas in fear, a banshee-like wail erupts from my lungs, I’m falling… Lucas catches me and lowers me gently to the ground, realisation dawns.
“You made your choice” I hear Dons voice in the distance, then sirens.
“Hold on” Lucas whispers.
I see him move and shake my head “Don’t leave”
“You need help” he runs, perhaps to see whether they’re too far away.
‘But I need you here’ The room is cold, getting colder by the second ‘or is that me?’
I look around at the lavish things I own and none of it means a damn thing. Not as my blood stains the ice marble floor.
I hear Lucas rush back, trying to remain hopeful with tear-filled eyes “You need to hold on a little longer. You’re going to travel the world, remember?”
I manage a smile “Hm, maybe I delay my plans a little?”
“Whatever you want” He looks down, his hands entwined with mine as we press down on the wound “I’m sorry”
I remove one of my hands and cup his face gently, looking deep into his eyes “I’m not”
My breathing shallows and I gasp for air. Lungs constrict, desperate to cling to anything that would help me survive. My head spins hazily and throbs as my eyes glaze over. I stare at him. Lucas, the dark haired stranger, my friend for a day.
Then silence, for a moment which lasts a lifetime. Deafening.
Everything is still. Time ceases to exist for both of us… only he doesn’t know I’m here.
You on the other hand, you know everything. My life and my death.
I see Lucas moved out of the way by the EMT people holding paddles.
Poor Lucas, he agonises over his decisions. If we’d never met I might still be alive.
Perhaps, but he doesn’t know he gave me something else. The opportunity to be free and make my own choices.
For that I shall always be grateful.
I really hope you enjoyed reading Bellerose! As I say, this is my first completed short story and am completely open to feedback and advice. I worked hard on this and still love the meaning I wanted to share. I am completely open to feedback and advice, I absolutely love writing and so am always looking for ways to improve.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I very much appreciate it!