Caroline stood solemnly in the lift of the hotel, cradling the envelop in her hand. She had forced herself to dress in her silly modern costume again, half out of fear of being recognized and partially in hopes of catching a glimpse of the woman who so tormented her. She was tempted to give in to the rage that bubbled within her when she thought again of that terrible tramp but she cut herself off before she could begin. Nanny, that wretch, would be proud of the restraint that she held herself in now. She stood, poised but aching inside. She held within her hands a great burden but one her father had trusted her with when she had left him in the care of her siblings. Involuntarily, she raised the letter to her chest and pressed the white edge into the fabric of her coat above her breast. Papa was alive and she knew it. It was true and she felt it within her whole being that he would not die before she returned in triumph. Still, that victory was stunted by these setbacks and he must be so weak of heart. She only prayed that what she had done so far would bolster his spirits. What she had to tell him would give him the strength he needed to see this terrible tragedy to its happy ending.
The letter was simple, no more than a page long. It could not be too taxing to read for where it was headed, the reader was sure to become annoyed quickly at such sentimentality. It was to be blunt and to the point. Just like Papa would do. He would be so very proud to see what she had done but no time to dwell on that now. The letter must be delivered properly, otherwise, the others might get suspicious. She was doing nothing wrong, naturally, but they so seldomly saw reason even when it was staring them in the face. This was why she had been chosen to see Victor. They would never deny that she was the one to be depended on and she should be trusted. Just because they could not see the merit in what she did, it was hardly her fault. It was the price that she paid for having the vision that they lacked. If only she had been left to handle things earlier, this might never have been necessary. Of course, she could not fault Papa for that. He too had his reasons for his actions and while not all of them made sense to her at the time, she believed in what he did. She knew that he was wise and that if he should not tell a soul of his endeavors, well then who was she to pry? That was why he trusted her so. Why he knew that she could be depended upon while the rest of the lot allowed themselves to be taken out of the house and estate by the promise of money or the want of power. She knew that swimming in such poisonous ideals, Victor might yet become lost to them but thankfully, his distrust of their family had kept him safe from the wayward ones and their sinister clutches.
Caroline exited the lift and put on the large framed glasses that hid her from the outside world. The dark tint that they provided made her feel a kind of shadow crawl across her heart and though she did not show it externally, she clutched tighter to the envelop as she began her proud walk to the post office. For a single page, it carried such an incredible burden. In the dim light of her room, faced with the wretched caplet that she could barely bring herself to look at, nevermind touch, the writing of it had felt almost like second nature to her. Why, the rational mind behind it was so obvious to her, it need not tax her at all. Now that she stood amid the hum of every day life here on the street, she felt strangely insecure about her actions. Not wrong, per se. Not ever wrong because if nothing else, she understood the depth of her actions and all of them were aimed at taking back her family from the brink of ruin. Only Victor could provide that for them and she needed to have some resource at her disposal if she was to keep him out of the beguiling thorns that woman had no doubt snared him with.
Oh how Caroline loathed her. She always had. When they were but children and she had been promised a part of the Fevrier family. How she had gloated about it as she’d looked down at his young face. Taunted them all with the promise that she would possess him as though he were a doll and to her, that’s all he was. How she had wished to prevent it. She’d tried once when she was provoked to attack the wretch and nanny had punished her dearly for it. Caroline remembered it well the day they explained that her beloved Victor was to be engaged to her as soon as he was appointed head of the estate after his twenty first birthday. The dagger that sliced those words into her memory still ached now as she thought about it and how vile that woman was to her. To rob them of her only brother. She had designs on him that were most foul and Caroline was sickened to think of such things. She hated this woman and each time nanny had lashed her, she had taken it as a reward for her attempt to protect him from a fate worse than anything. He was a part of the Fevrier family and she would never see him fall into the vulture’s wanton claws. Not then and not now.
She held the envelop in her hand tightly, her gloved fingers impressing upon it and making dents in the otherwise flawless surface. She knew it would look damaged if she continued to do this but she could not convince herself that it might not flutter out of her hand. Irrational though it might be, she felt a panic rise in her heart as she saw it escape in her mind’s eye. Away the wind would snatch the letter from her fragile hand and with it would go all her precious hopes and dreams for herself. For Victor. For everything and especially for Papa. His love and trust rested within the scrawled writing of that letter and with each jagged edge of the pen that carved into the white surface, she had felt almost as if he were guiding her. She knew it was not true. It was not him because he was alive and she would see him again soon. His eyes would beam with pride and she would finally prove to him that she was worthy of it. She could be trusted and she could bring back the hope that he had lost when their wayward Victor had left them. He was so foolish to have gone but she would save him. She would show him what love meant and how it could seem so cruel at the time but it was always for the betterment of what was to become. Like Papa always showed them.
Caroline entered the post office, poised like a queen. It was as though she shed her being upon crossing the threshold and she walked with a kind of cruel determination that led the people around her to part at the sight of her. For that moment, deep within herself, she felt like a goddess striding to what was rightfully hers. Suddenly the costume was no longer silly to her and she felt as though she were wearing her own natural skin for the first time. She barely looked upon the man tending the counter as she demanded to see the manager of the establishment. Her voice sounded strange to her as she spoke. There was a sharper edge to it that she had never heard in herself before. An edge that felt deliciously snide and somewhere within her, the rage bubbled in a way that made her feel even more confident.
“What seems to be the trouble miss?” the manager said, eyeing her up and down.
“I wish to send this letter immediately and I will accept no one else to touch it but the most competent of hands,” she said in a tone not at all her own. “It must be express posted and I will accept no delays.”
“Such a demand would mean that your letter will need to be airmailed and that will cost extra, I’m afraid,” the manager said, meeting her tone with an indifference that made her twitch.
“Money is no object to me,” she said, sourly. Placing well over what she knew the little letter would cost on the counter, she allowed the amount to sit before the manager before snatching it back. “I have no time to deal with incompetence. Are you capable of meeting my needs or not?”
“Oh do forgive me,” he replied politely. “I will see to it myself that your letter is sent immediately.”
Caroline smiled coldly but beneath, she was fearful. The sound that fill her ears was not her racing heart at the amount that she had just laid before the greedy manager nor the chattering of her teeth as she watched the man carefully put the short letter full of lies in with the next shipment to go out. It was a sound more vile than this. It was a sound she remembered from a young girl she hated. The girl who grow to be the same woman who would steal the brother she loved from their family. That gloating, mocking laughter that she heard then was echoing back at her from the past.