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Flower of the Aquitaine Ch. 01

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Another Cossack raid! Like wolves they cut us piece by piece, falling on our starving beggar band at will, it seemed. Death would have been a sweet relief, Henri said. Well that was Henri. When you’d come up the way we came up in life, you fought; it was instinct.

But that cold! It was bitter was it that your piss would freeze on the way out if you lowered your drawers; so we pissed ourselves. That’s how bad it was. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Retreat from Moscow! The only reason we did not run was we couldn’t. All except for that stinking pile of merde, Napoleon.

But I get ahead of myself. What was a petite woman doing amidst these ravening wolves? I was there, as I was anywhere my beloved Annette needed me.

She had been my protector in the orphanage in Bordeaux. Older by three years, and as beautiful as a May morning, her smile lit up any room she entered, and even those running the orphanage had fallen under her spell. M. Floret, the superintendent was wrapped round her finger like a ring, though she would tell me after hours what “ring” his fingers were into. When I expressed my shock, she would giggle.

“Oh little Fabienne, men are simple creatures, give them simple pleasures and they will do what you want,” she would laugh, and stoke my hair. “But I will keep you safe, and I promise that when I leave, I will find a place for you too.”

That was my Annette. Free as she was with her favours, she loved fiercely and was loyal to a fault. She had adopted me on my first day in that ghastly place, and had been my protector throughout the years we both spent there.

I barely remembered my parents, even though I had been five or was it six or even seven when it happened? The mob had descended upon our house and had ransacked it. Papa was carried off to prison and I never found out what happened to Mama and my older sister Marianne. Papa was guillotined as an “enemy of the people,” and I was despatched to an orphanage. My memories of those times are hazy. It was so awful that a veil has drawn itself across them.

The food was terrible, and the people worse. Then I met Annette.

“You are little Fabienne aren’t you precious?”

I remember being too shy to speak. I had just wanted a big hole to swallow me up. I could not bear what I was having to bear. It was like watching myself from outside. Then Annette smiled at me.

“Don’t worry precious, your Papa helped my mother, and I won’t let them harm you.”

She pulled me to her chest and cuddled me. That was how I would sleep most nights. Annette had a way about her which ensured people did as she said. There was one occasion when another girl, Gaynor, hit me; she never did it again. Quite how that hand ended up being so badly burned she could never use it again, no one quite knew; but it was the last time anyone tried that, or indeed anything else like that on me.

I gave back as much as I could. Being small for my age, I could sneak into places, like the pantry, unobserved, and bring out delicacies for Annette, and I could keep watch while she entertained M. Floret. As I was quick to pick up my letters, I could help her there too, and I was good at counting and would keep the money she earned safe for her. There was a nice little Jewish man in town to whom I would take the money when we went on outings, and he invested it carefully – in fact so well that when she left, she was able to get herself a little place in one of the poorer quarters of town. She was able to convince M. Floret and the Guardians to let me leave the orphanage to be her servant. She met me at the gates, looking every inch the lady in her coach.

For the next couple of years I helped Annette. She explained to me that she earned so much money by “doing for men what their wives would not do.” I never did quite understand, although it meant a lot of noise. I had learnt how to cook at the orphanage, and one of her gentlemen was a chef who took a liking to me and taught me some fine dishes. Gradually I took on the running of the house for Annette, leaving her free to entertain her gentlemen.

It was a few months after I came of age that “it” happened.

I always took Annette her breakfast in bed. It was a little act of service, and I loved doing such things for her. Whether I was late or she was early on that morning, she was already out of bed, clad in just her culottes. Her breasts, which were perfectly shaped with pink nipples that stuck up at an angle, were bare, and she was brushing her hair. She smiled at me.

“Ma petite! You are always so kind to me, even though I am such a bad woman.”

Putting the breakfast things on the table, I frowned.

“Annette, my darling, you have been the Mama and the sister I lost, without you I would be lost!”

Momentarily she looked sad.

“Is that why you do these things ma cherie?”

I choked.

“No, goodness me no, I love you Annette!”

Smiling again, her eyes alight with mischief, she asked:

“Is that love as in you like me a lot, kocaeli escort bayan or is that love as in what my gentlemen do for and to me?”

I felt myself blushing.

“I, I don’t know Annette. I don’t know what they do.”

“Do you not, precious? Would you like to kiss my breasts?”

If I had been blushing before, I now felt my face and upper body going bright red. She laughed.

“Come kiss me, sweet and twenty, youth’s a stuff will not endure. That’s what my poet told me, so come, cherie and kiss me.”

Suddenly I realised I had always wanted to do this.

She was a head taller than me, so when I stood before her, her breasts were at my head height. Looking up at her, I began to kiss her soft, white flesh. She pulled me to her and I was engulfed in her scent and warmth.

Annette pulled me to the bed, and we fell together.

“Suck my nipples my precious one!”

Oh, I shall be dead before I forget that first time. The feel of her swelling nipple growing large in my wet lips, the urgent need to suck, followed by the desire to give her other nipple the same treatment. She was stroking my hair and calling me her “precious”. I felt in heaven. She guided my hand down under her culottes and I felt her hair, crinkled and yet soft at the same time.

“Will you kiss me there precious?”

“I will kiss you anywhere my darling Annette.”

I helped pull the culottes down, and once they were off, she opened her thighs and guided my face to her chatte. Its lips were red. I could see she had recently been used there, but I did not care. I wanted to kiss her precious pussy cat better. As my lips kissed along it, she moaned.

Her fingers peeled back her outer lips, allowing free access to her inner wetness. As I inserted my tongue between her inner lips to gain access to her, my nose rubbed a hard bud and she whimpered.

“Oh Fabiennne, fuck, fuck, yes, lick where your nose has been!”

I did, and I felt it grow. I flicked it with my tongue and she moaned louder. I sucked on it and she moaned. My own chatte felt damp and I tingled there as I never had before.

“Finger me precious, finger me!”

I was not sure what she meant, so crossed two fingers on my right hand and gently inserted them into her inner wetness. She felt warm and gooey. I loved the feel of her there. I think I always will.

Sucking on her bud, I let my fingers bury themselves as deep as they could, and as she seemed to want to slide up and down on them, I pushed them in and out. Her firm thighs suddenly gripped my head.

“Fuck me, fuck me hard and deep!”

I thrust my fingers in and out faster, going as deep as I could. I sucked on her bud and she began to moan loudly. We were like this for a while, her getting wetter and wetter and her language getting worse.

“Oh fuck, fuck Fabienne, here I come….!”

That last word was said in a guttural scream as she seemed to explode – her cream dripping down my chin; she was shaking and muttering incoherently.

After a while lying there, she pulled me up across her warm body and looked into my eyes.

“Was that really your first time Fabienne?”

“Yes Annette,” I replied truthfully. “I love you,” I added, equally truthfully.

“In which case, my little one, you are a natural.”

Even though her breakfast was cold, she seemed not to mind.

Over the next weeks she showed me how to please her properly. Always a quick student, I learned fast. She told me that I was the perfect antidote to men.

“They take care of their own pleasure my love – you take care of mine”

I was happier than I had ever been. Annette seemed content. There was only one cloud on our horizon. Every so often some men would come round to collect what they called “their share”. I did not understand, but kept out of it. Annette explained that we needed “protection” because there were other men and women in the same “business” and without it we would be vulnerable. I left that to her and got on with investing the money and running the house. Then came Henri. Ah yes, Henri!

Henri was the new commander of the garrison at Bordeaux. A follower of the Emperor’s from his days in Italy, he had done well from that connection. He took a fancy to Annette, which was no surprise, all the men did, but what was a surprise was that he wanted her all to himself. He offered to house us at his expense and to cover her usual earnings, plus a bonus if she “kept herself clean” – whatever that meant.

There was, it turned out, a Madame Henri, but she lived in Paris, so Annette was to all intents and purposes the Colonel’s Lady. One of the big advantages of Henri was we no longer had to pay “protection”, so I was able to put away even more money for Annette. Unlike her, I knew there would come a day when she could not earn what she did now. I had seen enough of men to know what they wanted – and what they did not. Among the latter was me. That did not concern me, because all I wanted was Annette.

Marthe, our seamstress, izmit escort bayan who had a nasty tongue on her, asked me why I suppose Annette was happy to let me be the only women under thirty other than herself in the household? I said it was because we were friends, not wanting to tell her what that actually meant; she laughed:

“So naive you are! It’s because you’re no bloody threat to her. What man would want a little squirt like you? Are you sure you are of age?”

I bristled and told I was indeed, and more.

“Well there you are,” she said, “told you so. I was right, her men are never going to be tempted by you.”

I was puzzled. I knew she was being bitchy – after all her mouth was open and she was speaking – but did not understand in what way? If I’d wanted any of Annette’s men then I could have seen the point of the bitchiness, but I didn’t. I loved Annette and what I gave her made her happy.

There was less for me to do when we moved in with Henri, as he already had a housekeeper. I did try to help at first, but she made it clear that there was only one Mistress of the household and that was her.

With my new spare time, I took to walking the streets near the harbour, and I came to love the ancient Basilica of St Severinus. The Church had been officially suppressed by the Revolution, but Bordeaux was different, and the old Basilica had been left alone. As I wandered around, I became entranced by the atmosphere, and I would explore the catacombs beneath it, finding fragments of pottery, and even old pilgrim badges with seashells on them. Inevitably, one day I was caught.

“My child, do not be fearful. It is just I see you every day almost. I am Abbé Pierre, I was, and am, the priest here. Show me what you have found.”

The Abbé was an elderly man, slight in build, what little hair he had was white and clung to the side of his head like sea-foam. But it was the sparkle in his eyes which drew me. I showed him my treasures.

“Do you know what these are child?”

“No, Father,” I replied, remembering from somewhere that was how one addressed a priest.

“They are badges from pilgrims who trod this path to Compostela where St James, the Apostle is buried.”

I crossed myself; again, some instinct took over.

“You make the sign of the Cross my child. Are you a Catholic?”

“I was baptised Father, but since my Papa and Mama were killed, I have not been to church.”

Tears welled up.

“And who were your Mama and Papa child?”

I told him.

“You are little Fabienne?”

“I am, Father.”

“You survived? Oh we were sure you had been killed too, you could not be found, we looked for you after the Marquis was guillotined. Do you want to make your confession child?”

“I don’t know how, Father.” I replied.

He took me into the confessional and told me to tell my story. I did, to the occasional sob from his side of the grille.

“Ego te absolvo.”

I felt a weight lifted from me.

Thereafter I would go to the Basilica most days, and was confirmed in the Church at a ceremony that was literally underground.. It transpired that the Royalists were still strong in Bordeaux and hoping for a restoration of the Monarchy. As the only surviving daughter of one of the biggest local landowners, they saw me as a natural recruit. Finding, as I did, great solace in the Eucharist, I was not so sure about the politics thing. Annette, my great love, was the paid Mistress of one of the chief Revolutionaries, so I held my council.

I loved learning about Jesus, and the Abbé gave me my own copy of the Bible. My late afternoons exploring the Basilica were crowned when one day I came upon an old wooden crucifix. The Abbé, who was something of an antiquarian, told me it was very old, might even have gone back to the sixth century. He had it cleaned up for me, and I wear it around my neck to this day.

Then came the Russian campaign!

So confident was Henri of victory that he ordered Annette to come with him. He refused to leave her behind, claiming, dramatically, he could not bear to be separated. But in fact, as Marthe said, “he just doesn’t want her reverting to her old ways.”

There was no question but I would go with her. Nothing would separate me from her.

It was all very grand and wonderful at first. There were a few skirmishes, but even Henri managed to deal with them (he was to actual soldiering, it turned out, what I am to a man, useless). Then came Borodino. A “victory” they called it. The corpses were piled up until the landscape resembled a mountain range made of decaying human flesh. Still, we did “win” Borodino, at the cost of 70,000 casualties they said. That took us to Moscow. Now, we thought, the Russians would surrender. As we settled down in the mansion of some Russian aristo, we noticed the night sky illuminated, sparks flying up like orange stars against the night sky; then we smelled it – smoke. The city was on fire!

We survived it, gebze escort though we were all shaken. We waited for a month. There was no surrender. There was nothing except the cold and hunger. That was when it started. Armies march on their stomachs, and no food meant no marching. The Russians had burned farms and crops; there was no food to be had. So began the retreat.

On 19 October we left Moscow. A few days later we encountered a Russian army. It was not, thank God, Borodino, but nor was it a victory. The Russians withdrew.

We could feel their eyes on us as we made our way south. The snow was terrible. You could see men and women begin their death journey. There was a look in the eyes; hopelessness. The despair did more than the Cossacks to kill us. And Napoleon, where was he?

Rumours abounded. The jest was: “What is the difference between Bonaparte and God? God is everywhere, Bonaparte is every where but here!” Graveyard humour? Well we were in a charnel house. We called ourselves the living dead. There were days Henri declared he’d sooner be dead. That was not an option for us. I loved my Annette, and we, who had survived so much, were not going to die here. Clutching my crucifix, I prayed for help. It was needed.

Grande Armée? Zut Alors! We looked like a starving beggar band, and I began to think that I might end up liking the lice because they were the only meat on offer. I did my best to feed Annette and Henri, but even my scavenging skills, which are great, were stretched to the limit. Henri was the very picture of misery and spent most of his time wishing we were dead. If it had been up to him, we would have been. I managed to find warm layers for us, even if it meant stripping the recently dead. Nothing went to waste, and somehow I managed to keep Annette and myself alive. Henri was another matter, he had begun to cough up blood; he was not going to last for too much longer. What then for us, I wondered? As I watched the horizon, an idea began to form in my head.

Listening to Henri coughing the last of his guts up, with the snow falling and our numbers dropping, I resolved we must go. In Moscow I had managed to pick up looted diamonds and gold coins, which I had sewn into the lining of our cloaks. Assuming, as I did, that Annette and myself would survive, I was determined we should have the wherewithal to get back to Bordeaux.

About five in the morning I went into Henri’s tent to wake Annette. She was awake; he was not. As she was already wrapped up, I just added the cloak.

“Ready my love?” I asked tenderly. The one good thing about the cold was that is masked the awful smell.

“Yes, precious one. Don’t you think we should wake Henri?”

“Darling, get your things, I will tell him. Wait for me by the picket line.”

In truth Henri was dead as a doornail. I knew where he kept his share of the loot and stuffed it all into the lining of a cloak. As I said, I scavenge well. I said a prayer over him then left.

The snow had stopped falling. The sky was a brittle blue, the sun an icy disk.

“Where are we going my love?” Annette asked as we went past the non-existent pickets. You seem to have somewhere in mind.”

“Darling, I would not take us into this wilderness without one, trust me!”

In truth she had no choice – neither did I. If we stayed, especially with our protector dead, we would have become prey for our own side and for the Cossacks. I had a game-plan, it was a desperate one, but depending as it did on Annette, I was pretty sure it stood some chance.

I found the hoof prints easily enough. I followed them. Soon enough a horseman spotted us. I had been watching the Cossacks for some days. They always came from this direction. Henri had reckoned they sent scouts to spot the stragglers. That made sense, they would hardly want to encounter a substantial mass of soldiers. And to judge from the rider approaching us, Henri had been right.

This was our danger point. He might just cut us down, but I had planned for that. As he drew closer I waved a white petticoat at him. He told me later that it had been the frills on the petticoat that had stopped him just riding us down. Nice to know that Annette’s good underwear saved us.

He pulled up. He spoke French, which was a relief. He asked what the fuck we were doing here? I said we were seeking to give information about the French army to the Russians in return for our lives. He listened. As Annette unhooded and smiled at him, he seemed to hear. It worked, it worked every time, even there, in the trackless wastes begrimed and filthy as we were, Annette’s magic on men worked.

“Come with me.”

We did. Their base was nearer than Henri had imagined. It was clear to me they were just picking us off one by one.

Once at their base we were taken to a tent. I say tent, but it was more like a canvas palace. Inside were men with uniforms; important men.

“So,” said a tall, well-built man, “you have information Madam?”

“We do,” I said, “this is my Mistress, Annette, and I am Fabienne, at your service!”

Annette threw back her hood as she curtsied. His eyes lit up!

“And,” he said, appraising us, “can you tell me why I should not just hand you over to the men and let them have their fun with you?”

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