I didn’t take part in NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month to you uninitiated,) so this is something I started writing a while ago. I got hooked on the French Revolution Era because of drama (we put on “A Tale of Two Cities”) and I wanted to explore it a bit more. The main character in the story belonging to this excerpt is a fourteen year old who lives with her father and twin brother in the poorer section of Paris. I really haven’t worked on the story since this spring, but I’m still a fan of it. Working title-“In France: Fortress of Destruction.”
Papa was not home when we arrived. Alexis and I thundered into the bakery and looked around. A note sat on the kneading block next to the Mericourt delivery. I picked it up. “Gone to the wine shop. Papa.” I looked over at Alexis.
He was gazing around the bakery worriedly. “Olympe, something is wrong. Papa went to the wine shop and he didn’t take the delivery. He should have remembered that.”
I nodded. Papa wasn’t one to forget business. Something drastic must have happened. “We should deliver this to the wine shop.” I picked up the basket sturdily and walked out the door. Alexis followed, a frown punching lines in his forehead. We walked in eerie silence across the district, but when we were still five streets away from the Mericourt wine shop, we heard an uproar. Curiosity overcame us; we sprinted through the grimy, moving maze of ragged children and skittering rubbish.
The wine shop was choked with people. Alexis bellowed into the crowd. “Delivery! Delivery! Move, please!” A few recognized us and let us through. The Mericourt wine shop is a long, low building, with the counter at the back and numerous tables along the walls. Monsieur Mericourt stood back next to the counter, talking earnestly but quietly with a few men. Alexis and I struggled to get to the back of the shop, dodging angry fists and heated words.
“Here, Alexis. Olympe, over here!” Camille Mericourt waved us to her. Camille was Monsieur Mericourt’s daughter, and only living relative. Madame Mericourt had died in childbirth and so Camille had grown wise and old beyond her years. We fought through the crowd and collapsed against the counter. Camille took the basket from me and began to put away the contents. “Your father is here.” She nodded to where Papa stood stolidly in the corner, observing all.
“We know. He rushed out of the bakery and didn’t remember to take the delivery for us.” Alexis sighed.
“Come, Alexis. You enjoy coming to see me.” Camille teased. She was sixteen, two years older than us, but Alexis and I were her closest friends.
Alexis shrugged and looked away. Camille winked at me and placed a hard, black roll on the counter. She poured a small amount of red wine in a saucer, tore the roll into three pieces and put them into the wine. Alexis turned back and joined us in watching the wine soak slowly into the bread. Once all the wine had been sopped up, Camille handed us each a piece and we ate in companionable silence. Alexis finished his piece first and licked his fingers. “What is going on? Why is everyone here? And so early in the day?
Camille sighed. “The Barnave family. Have you heard?”
I nodded. “We went to their house this morning to deliver some bread.”
“Really?” Camille’s eyes rounded in interest. Usually, if there was anything new to be known, Camille knew it. Not today, though. “What did they say? No-one has seen Madame or young Barnave today.”
Alexis leaned over the counter impressively. “Well, the place was deserted, or so we thought.” I rolled my eyes. I loved my twin dearly, but he is often too dramatic. “Olympe went to put the bread down, and we turned to leave when I saw pairs of eyes staring at us from behind the curtain!” Alexis also tends to stretch the truth. “Madame and Nicolas came out and told us that Monsieur was coming home last night from the wine shop when he met a few of the duke’s servants and began to call them names and insult their master. The men took him away.”
Camille nodded. “Go on.”
Alexis shrugged. “We left and started home. Then we saw two men in livery dragging Monsieur through the district, dead. We ran to the bakery, and then came here.”
Camille nodded again. “Yes, we had heard that he was dead, but we didn’t know how. A few men saw him before you did this morning and brought the news here. Of course it spread quickly.” She gazed around the shop, and then looked back at Alexis and me. “You should tell my father what you told me.” Camille slipped out from behind the counter and motioned Monsieur Mericourt over.
This time I told our story and Alexis corroborated it. Monsieur Mericourt stared down at us and nodded when we finished. “Thank you, Olympe, Alexis.”