CELESTINE: 1900's Fairytale Romance Sample
Adrien didn’t know why he had allowed Monsieur Kim to convince him to go to the Palais Rose. Though he considered all cabaret theaters to be distasteful, the Palais Rose was better by far than the harlot houses in the red light district and the Moulin Rouge down the street. The Palais Rose was where men of means went for a baser kind of entertainment. Monsieur Kim insisted that Adrien join him as he had visited once before and was enchanted. Knowing that his business associate, who tended to be quite melancholy, could use some light entertainment, Monsieur Kim wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
“Please join me. It’s all in good fun. The women are excellent dancers. Have a drink with me and stay for the show. I promise to let you leave after that. As a show of my gratitude I shall give you a deep discount on your first shipment. It will feel like you are stealing from me.” Monsieur Kim had a mesmerizing smile that moved Adrien, so against his better judgment, he agreed.
The two men had spent the better part of the day together, first with lunch then a long walk to the Sacre Coeur for exercise and fresh air. Monsieur Kim was impressed with the gorgeous view from atop the hill. Though he hadn’t much religious context to appreciate the chapel, he did love its intricate design. Adrien’s carriage came to meet them and took the men to the Korean Pavillion to see where Monsieur Kim would be displaying his textiles. There was a shipment coming later that week. Adrien attended to some business with other vendors at the other pavilions while Monsieur Kim stayed with his countrymen until it was time for Adrien’s carriage to bring them to the theater.
Once they were seated and the lights had dimmed Adrien began to regret his decision to join Monsieur Kim. The opening act was a tasteless display of flesh which Adrien detested. The women in the follies all looked the same kicking their legs in the air, goofing, and pretending to bump each other over so that they were toppled to the point where their panties were on display. It was garish and laughable but Monsieur Kim was enjoying himself. The next number was a little more tasteful, yet not much. Adrien considered leaving during the intermission, when she descended from the ceiling bathed in light and glittering with its brightness. The main attraction was Celestine, the shining star...And despite his best efforts Adrien found himself breathless.
“Isn’t she delightful?” Monsieur Kim commented as Celestine floated down singing so beautifully, Adrien found himself completely entranced.
She had a power over him like no other, not even his dear wife had made him so lusty. It had to be lust because there was no such thing as love at first sight. Love was cultivated and nurtured and it grew out of passion and commitment. Lust, on the other hand, was born out of sheer desire. Adrien tried not to fixate on Celestine’s long muscular legs or the supple slope of her ample breasts, but despite the rare beauty of her body, more than anything, her exquisite face held him transfixed. She looked like an angel. Her dark eyes sparkled in the light giving her such an otherworldly grace and allure.
Her voice rose up through the rafters and every man in the theater was enchanted. She was their shining star, that was evident, but what of her? Adrien wondered about the woman behind the feathers and satin? Was she a scandalous nymph like her leg kicking cohorts, or was she something more rare? Adrien had to know. He hadn’t ever felt such an all consuming fire in his veins. Even when she stripped her clothes away, she disrobed with the grace of a queen. At that point she could have shot a man and Adrien would have been enamored. The show ended all too soon and Adrien found it hard to rise from his chair.
“The owner, a Monsieur Carl Lutsen will let us meet the women if we want. Perhaps you will come with me to show our gratitude?” Monsieur Kim asked, looking just as lusty and enamored with what he’d seen as Adrien.
Monsieur Kim was very slick. He seemed mild mannered, well traveled, and educated, but knew of the seedier side of life. When Carl Lutsen let a man meet a girl it was often for the evening and for a price, a high one, one Monsieur Kim must have already paid because within moments he had Monsieur Lutsen’s undivided attention.
“Welcome Monsieur Louis,” the man with a broad sweaty face said with his arms wide open ready for a hug or a handshake, Monsieur Louis wasn’t sure which. “Welcome to the Palais Rose. Our friend Monsieur Kim informs me that you might want to meet and perhaps enjoy one of our beautiful ladies tonight? I know Monsieur Kim to be a very discerning guest, we welcome any acquaintance of his to our humble little theater.” Monsieur Lutsen ended up giving Adrien a firm pat on the back.
The man was as slimy as they came.
“Thank you sir,” Adrien addressed Monsieur Lutsen with a careful turn of phrase. “The show was quite impressive, especially your lead dancer.”
“Ah yes, the beautiful Celestine. She is the very best. Only a man of the best reputation and the highest standards is fit to meet the brightest of our stars. Are you interested in negotiating a price?”
Suddenly Adrien’s stomach dropped, a courtesan then, she was just a whore like the rest. He was about to dismiss himself and offer Monsieur Kim his carriage so that he might stay, but something held him steadfast. At that moment, she walked into the room, looking more ravishing than she had on stage. She was wearing a thin dress that left little to the imagination, but hadn’t they already seen most of her? What was the point of modesty when most had already been revealed? What struck Adrien and kept him in his place was her mesmerizing smile. A decent human being was behind that expression and for some inexplicable reason that was enough for him.
He no longer lusted for her body, as surely it had been used nightly. He didn’t need a lover feigning adoration like a pro. If he was to ever love again, it would be a woman of pure heart, one his Genevieve would have hand picked for him. Certainly no common whore would fit the bill.
“I only want to talk with her,” Adrien held his head high.
“And I would like to do much more than talk with one of the other ladies. I trust your judgment,” Monsieur Kim said with an air of business. “If you do not wish to stay, Monsieur Louis, I will understand. I might partake tonight, but I would gladly meet you in the next few days to solidify our trade agreements. I can hire a taxi back to the hotel.” He flashed Adrien the kindest and widest smile, not bothered in the least that he was about to solicit a whore for the evening.
“I will not be staying, Monsieur Kim, only having the briefest conversation with Mademoiselle Celestine and then I shall be retiring to my home.”
“I understand, I’m glad you enjoyed the show.” Again Monsieur Kim’s smile was wide and kindly.
“Thank you.” Adrien nodded.
“I think, Monsieur Kim, you already know how much an evening of indescribable pleasure will cost and may I suggest Maryanne, she’s lovely and available now,” Monsieur Lutsen said as Monsieur Kim sat on one of the lounge chairs in the lobby.
“I shall be delighted to meet her and I’ll have another Kir Royale. Will you join me for a drink while we wait, Monsieur Louis?” Monsieur Kim kept his even composure which made the lewdness of their transactions much more pleasant.
“I might,” Adrien said as Monsieur Lutsen pulled him into an ornate office decorated with overstuffed velvet chairs and garish paintings of scantily clad women making overtures with their bodies.
“We’ll only be a minute,” Monsieur Lutsen called over to Monsieur Kim. “Giselle, get Monsieur Kim whatever he wants from the bar,” he shouted to the woman dressed in men’s attire at the bar where several other men were seated, waiting on their selections for the evening, no doubt.
Monsieur Lutsen then closed the door to his office and sat in one of the chairs offering the other to Monsieur Louis.
“Have a seat and let us discuss dear Celestine.” He pulled out a well worn leather bound book.
“I just want to have a conversation with her,” Adrien reiterated.
“Of course you do, who wouldn’t? For a conversation it will cost you one hundred francs per hour. She is assigned to the Viscount de Brunel who has an exclusive contract with her for anything other than conversation, however, his contract is due to end this week and if you are willing to offer more than he has, I could terminate his contract tonight. Before you ask, he pays the theater ten thousand francs a year for exclusive rights to Celestine. He has an annual contract, but if you were willing to increase the price, I could offer you something similar.” How dare he barter for the woman, it was disgusting.
While Adrien was happy that she hadn’t been tossed around from man to man, he knew of the Viscount and found him to be a pleasant man, if not a little overindulgent and portly, but not offensive by any means. Adrien himself had had a lover in his wife, he couldn’t fault Celestine for having one.
“Has she not been sold many times over?” Adrien hardly could believe himself asking such a question as if he were seriously considering making an offer.
“She has been sold only a few times. She is quite a treasure, before the Viscount there was another man who had her for a time, but he married as the Viscount will soon marry. She will be free for another long term contract and I intend on making a sale of her, because in Celestine’s case, she is better savored. I don’t want her passed around town, she is special and so will only be with men who I deem special enough for her.” His face curled into a haughty expression of pride.
“You mean men who will pay you enough for her, since she is more beautiful than all the other women in the theater and perhaps Paris. Don’t think I don’t understand your game.” Adrien’s face curled into a scowl.
“Well then you’ll know how precious she is; what a treasure she will be for anyone who buys her.” Monsieur Lutsen again seemed sanctimonious.
“Why does she allow you to do this? Does she enjoy whoring?” Adrien regretted saying it as soon as the words left him.
“She’s my daughter frankly, so she will enjoy whatever I tell her to enjoy, but you’ll find her bright spirited and lovely. She’s been educated and is remarkable at all she endeavors to do. She’s not a tired overworked whore who’s spread her legs so many times she can’t close them, that’s guaranteed. So have we a deal?” Finally the lecherous look of greed overtook his features.
“Yes, I’ll pay one hundred francs for an hour of her time. As I’ve said, I’m only interested in conversation.”
One could almost taste Monsieur Lutsent’s anger in the air as the temperature rose.
“She’s only on offer tonight, after tomorrow night’s performance I will approach another man of means for her sale,” Monsieur Lutsen spit out.
“I wish you luck with that.” Adrien rose and tipped his hat, almost sure he no longer wanted to speak with the woman and then he saw her standing next to Monsieur Kim and his heart melted.
The stunning silk dress she wore left little to the imagination. She must not have been wearing undergarments as her soft breasts were perfectly outlined and her hardened nipples poked out obscenely and yet she looked effortlessly sumptuous as if she stood there naked, but was no more licentious than Bottecilli’s Birth of Venus.
Monsieur Lutsen came up behind Adrien and put his hand on his shoulder. “I’ll take a check or cash, Monsieur Louis.”
Without saying a word, Adrien pulled one hundred francs from his pocket and handed the money to Monsieur Lutsen who went back into his office and made a notation in his book and put the money into his own pocket before walking out into the lobby. A pretty woman approached Monsieur Kim as he finished his drink and Monsieur Lutsen pulled Celestine toward Adrien, gently, but with enough force that she had no choice but to follow his lead.
“My dear, let me introduce you to Monsieur Louis, he’d like a word with you. I’ve told all the other men this evening that you are engaged, so I suggest you take Monsieur Louis to one of the parlour rooms and leave the door open so that Madame Listere can check on you from time to time.” He spoke to her with a sick glint in his eyes, knowing what money she made for him with a veiled threat that she should increase the time and money Monsieur Louis would be spending.
“Yes, Monsieur.” She nodded her head and turned to Adrien. “It’s so very nice to meet you Monsieur Louis, if you will follow me this way, I’d love to sit and talk,” she said.
The lilt of her voice was intoxicating.
“Enjoy your evening,” Monsieur Kim broke from his lady to say.
“And you enjoy yours,” Adrien added, doing his best to be cordial under the circumstances.
Celestine brought Adrien into a nicely appointed parlor room with a small bar, two comfortable chairs, and a table.
“May I get you something to drink?” Celestine asked in the angelic way she spoke.
“I’ll have vodka and soda and you?” Adrien tested her to see if she was debased in all manner of living.
“Oh Monsieur I only drink wine on occasion and this isn’t that occasion. I want to enjoy our conversation. I will have your drink ready in just a moment. So,” she effortlessly segued. “Did you enjoy the show? I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before.” Her graceful hands pulled a chilled glass from a small icebox below the bar and generously poured vodka with a splash of soda and a twist of lime.
“It was entertaining as these shows are,” Adrien said as she returned and handed him the glass.
“Yes, they’re meant to be a joyful diversion. I hope, if anything, we were able to take your mind off of your troubles.” She sat across from Adrien and neatly crossed one leg over the other, revealing the bare strip of thigh as the slitted fabric fell away.
“Who’s to say I have them?” Adrien felt angry and argumentative.
“You have sad eyes Monsieur Louis, as if the sadness runs deep within your soul. Has it been long since your wife passed?” How could she know?
“How dare you assume!” Adrien lurched forward wanting to end their conversation when she gently touched his knee.
“You’re wearing a wedding ring, which you’ve been swirling in your fingers. Your lips are tight like you’re holding anger back. If you were cheating on your wife, you’d be pushing the boundaries of conversation, trying to get more for the hour you’ve paid. Instead you are quiet, angry and aloof. Either your wife has died or left you, but since you have a gentle handsome face, I assumed the latter. I’m sorry if I’m being presumptuous, but courtesans are paid to speak words that are never spoken. You’re safe here, you can talk to me.” She rubbed her hand over Adrien’s knee then patted it. “I won’t stand on pretense and I won’t betray your trust. Whatever is spoken in this room stays here.” Her smile was effortlessly beautiful.
“Genevieve,” Adrien took a sip of his drink for fortification. “Died nearly four years ago. There is not a day that passes when I’m not consumed with thoughts of her. I often consider ending my life, but haven’t the will. I don’t know why I paid such an exorbitant price for just an hour’s conversation with you, but I was drawn in, as most men must be, to your charms,” Adrien said by way of confession.
“I haven’t charms, more than just a kind heart, Monsieur Louis, even a courtesan can have one of those. I’m so sorry you’ve lost your wife, she must have been remarkable indeed if after four years you still contemplate joining her in heaven. I’m glad you’re still here.” She flashed him her gorgeous smile. “There must be some reason why you’ve kept yourself alive. Perhaps she wants you to find love again, if not love, then maybe life?”
“I can’t think of anything that might bring me joy. I’ve traveled the world and I’ve seen many places. I must admit you’re the first woman I’ve bought, but I can’t imagine buying a woman would bring me the happiness I seek.” Adrien seemed even more forlorn than when he came in.
“Well, I agree. Men who buy women, apart from you, you were drawn to me and curious, but for most, they want a woman’s attention and love, however it comes. It makes them feel good. Some men just enjoy the physical experiences, for others it’s an emotional fantasy. I can assume neither of those pleasures would bring a man like you much joy. Perhaps, though, a companion, someone to share adventures with might be more to your liking.” She seemed to be musing, but Adrien jumped to conclusions.
“Are you trying for a bigger sale Mademoiselle Celestine? I promise you, I’ll only be paying for the hour and just for tonight.” Again, Adrien was angry.
Celestine sighed, “I don’t think anything I say will sway you. I’m only trying to be helpful, but you don’t know me well enough to understand that. It’s just you seem too young to be so despondent and I’m sorry for that. Someone else will sit in that chair tomorrow and then again someone else the next day. That chair will never be empty Monsieur Louis. I need not beg you to stay. And to be honest, I’d rather no one sit there, the thought of having a night free to do as I pleased would be a luxury I’m never afforded. I love the show and performing, but I’m not allowed to just walk along a river bank or sit in a cafe and savor a nice espresso blending in, being one of the many. I know you have too many days doing such things, but for me, just having one would be a dream come true.” Her wistful smile wiped away quickly. “But you aren’t here to talk about me. Tell me about your dear wife. I want to know all about her.”
They sat and talked for the hour. Adrien did tell Celestine all about Genevieve and it felt good to relive his memories with someone who truly seemed to care. At the end of the hour Adrien didn’t mind if she was an expert listener paid to placate a man’s woes, she had brightened his dim life and for that he was grateful.
“This was unexpected,” Adrien said standing when their conversation was over.
“I’m curious, Monsieur Louis, what did you expect?” She continued to smile with attentive devotion.
“I guess I thought you’d spend the hour tempting me, or arousing me in some way.” As soon as Adrien said it, he knew he had revealed his ignorance in such matters.
“I’m glad we spoke of your lovely wife, she seems like a remarkable person. I feel as if I know her just a little and so our time has brought me joy. I’m sorry you’ve lost her, but you have such wonderful memories. Cherish those.” She took his hand and squeezed it.
“Mademoiselle Celestine?” Adrien turned to her to ask. “Do you have any such memories?” He wasn’t sure why he wanted her answer, but somehow he had to know.
“None so beautiful as yours and as a courtesan, I’ll perhaps never have them, so if I want a memory of something sweet and loving, I’ll think of the two of you.” There was a glimmer in her eye, a hint of something deeper, some inner sadness she banished. “Good night, Monsieur, Madame Listere is here to see you out.” With that Celestine closed the door.
Adrien thought of Celestine for the entire ride home. He still felt the tingles of delight he’d enjoyed, while in her presence, when he walked into his dreary house. Pascale was standing ready for instruction and it filled him with the same old sense of dread, as darkness claimed his senses once more. He knew he smelled of perfume and decadence, but what would his valet care? He’d been a constant in Adrien’s life, he knew him to be a man of honor. Adrien gave Pascale a curt nod and spoke in a clipped tone.
“I’m going to retire, Pascale, you do the same,” he said as he mounted the stairs.
“Yes, Master,” Pascale blew out the lamps and the townhouse went dark.
When Adrien entered his bedroom, he was met with the same cold chill; the empty space absent Genevieve, and all of the pain returned. One thought remained, however, of his evening with Celestine. It haunted him, calling him out.
“If I want a memory of something sweet and loving, I’ll think of the two of you.”
The sad call of a courtesan who would never be allowed to love. Here he was missing the times when he was happier and she would never be allowed them. Something about that felt wrong and so instead of cold hatred and a constricting heart, that often were his bedmates, he thought of the lovely Celestine, and dreamed of giving her memories she could cherish.
They had not heard a word from the mysterious Monsieur Louis, but he hadn’t been home all day. Charlotte and Camille stared out the window as long as they could, fighting sleep, to witness his return and yet, neither was awake to see Adrien come home past two in the morning with a lighter gait. Each dreamed of marrying the mysterious man of wealth, and both tossed and turned that night with thoughts of what he might do with them.
Celestine had been mesmerized by the handsome and beguiling Monsieur Louis. She wished that their time could have been longer, though she knew Carl had made the poor man pay an exorbitant price for just one single hour. The Monsieur would hardly consider a conversation worth his money next time and so she held onto the memory of the sweet conversation they shared, and was trying to keep her mind off Monsieur Louis, when Carl came crashing through her bedroom door.
“You are quite the prize tonight, Celestine,” he slurred, drunk again.
He probably spent part of her earnings to get himself wasted on the good brandy.
“How say you?” Celestine wasn’t in the mood for his antics as she began to unpin her long hair which was no longer blond as it had been in her youth, but a golden brown.
“The Viscount is here for you again and he’s come to spend the whole night.” The satisfied grin on Carl’s face brought her spirits crashing down.
“Why? It’s not his usual routine,” she said softly.
“You’re a whore, you don’t ask why, you just lay down for the man. He’ll be up in a minute. Wash that makeup off of your face. You know how he hates it.”
Suddenly all of the happiness Celestine had recently acquired dulled. She did as she was told and washed her face and took a bath, as the Viscount liked when she was fresh and bathed. She left her hair loose and wore a light night gown with nothing underneath, another of his preferences. Within an hour she was dressed and ready for him. Carl didn’t mind if she made the Viscount wait as it always added to his anticipation of her.
She went to the salon they often shared, and made sure there were fresh glasses and full bottles of liquor ready to offer him. He bounded in moments later.
“Celestine, my dear.” He had been drinking and the smell of alcohol permeated the room.
He was wearing a tuxedo and was well coiffed, perhaps he’d been to the opera?
“To what do I owe this great honor, Viscount?” She took his hand and led him into the room.
It was already past two in the morning, he’d never come to call so late.
“She’s coming sooner than expected. I got a telegram, she’s on tomorrow’s train. I’m not ready.” He tripped behind her into the room. “What if she doesn’t like me?”
His insecurities were in full bloom.
“She’ll love you because you are her betrothed, just be as kind and caring as you are to me and she’ll fall madly in love with you.”
“You have to work with me again, it’s our last night, after this night she can’t know that I’m whoring around.” That stung.
“I hardly think that having one courtesan is considered whoring around, but I understand she’s from conservative society, she won’t comprehend what you and I have been doing. So shall we have you seduce me and see how well you do?” Celestine put a bright smile on her face though her heart wasn’t as in it as it had been in the past.
While she had no great love for the Viscount, the fact that his contract would be abruptly ended made her nervous. Carl would be ravenous for a new patron. He’d sell her to whomever was the highest bidder, no matter their disposition. She decided to put it out of her mind, and just focus on the task at hand.
“Yes, I think that best. I only have twenty-fours hours left. I’ll quit you just before she comes,” he said slurring.
“Of course.” Celestine closed the door behind them. With the Viscount so drunk she wasn’t sure he’d last long. “What would you like me to do?”
“For the night you’ll be my wife and I, your husband and master.” Oh the poor dear who was about to marry him, no one wanted to have a husband and master, and yet it wasn’t rare for a man of the Viscount’s status to think himself master of all in his world.
“How shall I address you?” She was ready to lose herself to the fantasy he wanted her to indulge in as it always served her to pretend she was someone else.
“Call me Husband, of course,” the Viscount bristled.
“Then Husband it is. Shall I make you a drink Husband?” she asked yet he was upon her faster than she thought he could move.
“I’ve had enough to drink.” He breathed in her face, and she could attest to that fact, he’d had plenty, anymore and he’d be sick. “I want you, dear Wife.” His hands harshly squeezed her breasts, yanking and pulling at them to the point that it was painful.
He hadn’t been so callous before.
“Well, dear Husband. Am I not a maid?” She put her hands up to his to slow his assault.
“The most precious of maids,” he slobbered in her ear.
“Then gentle hands and caresses will help me enjoy you so much more.” She rubbed her hand along his arm to tame him.
He eased up on her a little. “Of course, I’m just so eager to enjoy you, my dearest, and share our first night together.” He started his rough fondling again and so Celestine turned out of his embrace. “I don’t know what to do, you’ll have to show me, Husband.”
He followed Celestine and leaned in to kiss her with an open mouth and loose slobbering tongue. Celestine did her best to brave it and realized that until he fell asleep, he’d be a useless brute. His drunkenness and nerves over meeting his betrothed had divorced him from his senses. She brought her hand down between his legs and worked on the little nob forming there. He thrust into her hand and was soon at his trousers yanking and pulling the buttons until he had freed himself.
“Take it into your mouth,” he ordered and Celestine frowned.