The bitter cold of the predawn morning had chilled her as soon as she stepped into the snow drifts that lined the icy roads. The wind was bitter and she felt its sharpness cutting through her layers as though they were nothing. She felt once again like the world around her was trying desperately to keep her from her destination. She would not fail this time, though. She knew that she could wait no longer and she must see those stones. She must know.
There were few people out on the streets right now and most of the people about were indoors and only just waking. It may have been a week day but time seemed to be a foreign concept to her during these trying times. It felt as though the whole of the summer had been bundled in that small time that she’d spent basking in that wretched house that her brother was trapped in now. Then she had been cast out and the cold of the autumn had been cruel and swift to appear in the early morning wind. Finally the fog of winter had descended upon them and she felt as though it had happened in the time it took her heart to break. Still, it was as though days had never truly passed at all. She did not recall a single day spent since leaving the house and she could not account for her hours at all. She had no idea what time it was and the last time that she could recall seeing a working clock, it was during those warmer, sleepless nights spent in that tomb of a house in the woods. The people here had no concern for the vertigo that it caused her. Their lighted windows, dusted with snow and frost, showed the first signs of waking after restful sleeps and gatherings of recently awoken family members for mornings that they would not recall after noon. All the glowing of routines carelessly obeyed as they were every morning, just like it had once been in her own home. Caroline resented them all as she watched the warmth of the windows glow in the early morning gloom. How trivial all their lives seemed to her now when she trod through the cold of their ugly little town. How she hated to admit that she envied them. She even saw the start of the Christmas decorations coming out, the festive wreaths adorning the doors of houses and the cheerful atmosphere that seemed to fill those frosted windows. She hated them all. She hated that right now her brother was laid in his bed with that vixen who had brought him to this lowly state and because of this, there would be nothing but emptiness and shadow in their estate house.
She wondered if Papa felt that same chill that she did now. The feeling like the wind could carry that wicked storm right through her breast as thought the skin and bones weren’t even there. But she was there and she felt every stinging fibre of her body as she moved her way through the shifting snow as it swirled around her. Did her father, in all his vindictive tempers and panicked generosity, ever feel these pains? This hollow cold that seemed to find its way into her core? She wished she knew. Caroline would give anything to hear his voice again. To know that her father had indeed felt these things. That he knew the kind of aching torment she was going through at this moment for the love of her family. She hoped that should he perish, he should feel this exactly and know that this empty pain was all his own doing. She knew that she should feel some degree of sorrow for the loss of love for her father but at this moment, she only felt a swelling cold numbing her to all feelings of empathy or forgiveness for anyone except her most beloved Victor.
In the blowing cold of the morning where dawn had yet to ignite the clouds with its presence, she tried desperately to bring to mind his face. His beautiful, sorrowful eyes, so dark and full of so many thoughts. He was so young. So much younger than herself and he was so full of life and yet so full of torment. Oh how she had tried to spare him these things. If only he had stayed, he would not know such pain. And now he was in that house. He had to be. He was with that temptress and she was leading him to an early grave. No! He was so very young and he had so much yet to do. He was sick now but he could recover. That was the beauty of it all. He could get better yet and he had the strength to do it. He would bridge the gap of their past and their future and so much of what was to come rested on his back. He would simply have to broaden those shoulders of his because it was to be this way from the time he was born. It was the price to be paid in their family. The price of this last name that only she and Victor would be able to claim to anymore once those dreadful sisters were gone from the house. There would be no room for them once the children were settled.
So long she had been walking through these dreadful little neighborhoods, looking into their peaceful little dioramas of life in normal houses, that the frost that had kept these images safe from her piercing gaze had begun to settle on her lashes. The tips were white and the edges of her cloak and shawl had begun to develop the same silver touches. She knew that this meant that she needed to keep walking. She forced herself to avert her eyes from their pathetic happiness and focus on moving forward. She knew where the entrance to the park was where she must go. A park. That was all it would look like under this blanket of abhorrent snow and frost. A lovely park with trees and benches for people to sit and gaze at the breaking of day. That was all she wanted to see. She would not stop until her fears were calmed and she knew for certain that the day would arrive. That the sun would come up and dispel all this gloom and torment from her racing mind. She would be free of it soon. She would be able to see the light of day and direct her energies again. She would get to the house in time to create a new start. A new dawning day would be the fitting time to find where she had lost him. What she could do to bring him back.
Caroline felt her body protest as she pushed harder to reach the gates that were still blocks away from her. The houses seemed to run together as the cold seemed to be trying to take the breath from her body. She pushed on still, pulling her cloak tighter as she marched through these icy streets. She imagined the children that she would see with her own eyes soon. The young ones with their dark, lovely eyes that would look to discover new things on the estate daily. Oh how lovely it would be. Their laughter would echo through those bleak rooms and chase the sombre mood from the very wall paper. She concentrated hard on the sound that she longed to hear. She knew for certain that this could be as soon as next year. The sound of children, their voices twinkling with joy like the sound of the old glass chandeliers from their own childhood, would be the only music she would ever listen to again. She promised this to herself as she approached the road that led to the gate. It was so very tall and it seemed to reach towards her as she marched, her legs pounding furiously as she forced herself onward. Yes, she must hear that noise. The sound was too precious and imagination did not do it justice. Soon. Next Christmas, it would be the beginning of many that would be filled with excited voices and kindness and beautiful lights and laughter. She knew that this sacrifice would be worthy of it. She would be herself again soon and she would be able to leave behind this anger. She would be able to forget the sale of her virtue. She would be able to go back to the lady that she had once taught herself to be.
The gate was now in view, its black spires coated with the same abysmal frost that was everywhere. It seemed to call to her, its image burning in her mind. She imagined that it was something to finally offer mercy to her. Yes, she thought desperately. Bring me closer to the truth and let me see this for the lie that it was. Oh how cruel a lie it was but she would live it again just for the relief of knowing that it was untrue. There was still time and she had not lost him yet. She must see this park and see that this was just another of Charlotte’s horrible jokes on her. Just meant to torment her. The logical part of her mind cast aside that Charlotte could not know she was there. It shoved away the image of the tears that had been falling from her beautiful sister’s eyes and how she would not have cried them for anyone else. Oh how she did not want to see these things in her mind and it made her push harder.
Caroline’s breath choked in her throat as she focused on the gate as it came into view and within her reach. She clutched to the frozen metal bars like they were the only lifeline she had left. Feeling the burn of the cold in her fingers, she pushed forcefully on the gate and felt it give, the frigid hinges shrieking with an agony that she felt in her heart at the wait for dawn. Day would come yet, she promised herself as she trudged up the snowy hill. She would see the truth, finally. She would be able to see that Victor was still alive and that her beloved brother would still come home. Her tired legs shook with each labored step as she forced herself towards the crest of the hill. Behind the horizon that taunted her were the heavy clouds, their bottoms becoming lighter and colored with the first hues of the sunrise. Panting like she was drowning in hope, Caroline could feel the desperation threading through her body as it was the only thing that was keeping her from falling now. She needed to see the sunlight come up over the horizon. She needed to see those wretched stones and know that Charlotte was wrong. It was wrong dammit and she would prove it for sure! She reached the top of the hill as the light of day cast a fiery glow on the undersides of the darkened, ghastly clouds. Bathed in the first red light of dawn, she saw for certain the pegs in the ground that were marked for the bodies buried before the snow. Pegs meant to be stones to come when the ground would thaw. Pegs that bore the name of Victor Fevrier and to her utter horror a smaller one that said Baby Fevrier.
Falling to her knees in agony, the image before her was washed away as the tears in her eyes erased every detail she had seen but could not cleanse it from her mind. The sound of her anguished cries were the sound of her shattered heart. Dawn had come even so.