PRINCELESS by Cam Jace Storykiller
Copyright©by Cameron Jace 2019
Restaurant Lasserre D'Arc, Paris
Under shimmering candlelights, a rounded woman with an angelic voice accompanied by a violinist and cello player serenaded Venus and Pierre as they ate dinner. Never before had she celebrated her birthday with people who didn’t kill for a living.
Pierre not only gave her a fabulous birthday, but one that was ripped out of a storybook.
Then came the food menu…
Pierre ordered the Soupe à l'oignon, a delicate appetizer and a prelude to a night to remember. Over conversation, they munched over some Niçoise salad. An 1812 Beaumont de’ Lure bottle of wine followed. A better substitute for the color red than the blood she spilled all week.
It didn’t escape her to note the wine bottle dated back to the same year the Brothers Grimm wrote their fairytale. Sometimes she wondered if Pierre did anything else but think about her.
A Coq au vin was the dinner’s finale, a chicken braised with wine, mushrooms, bacon with onions and garlic, drenched in more bloody wine.
Pierre ate slowly then tipped the trio and thanked them in French, watching Venus gorge on the food.
“You sure are hungry,” he teased her.
Venus nodded with a mouthful. Delicate dresses and fancy cuisines, yes. Worrying about people watching her cannibalize on food, who gave a fuck?
“I’m happy you came,” Pierre continued. “You made my day.”
She stopped eating, dropped the knife and fork, and gazed into his gorgeous blue eyes.
“Did I say something wrong?” Pierre said.
“Do you ever?” Venus said. “Why are you so… nice?”
She didn’t mean to be mean. The outsider girl in her spoke, unable to fully accept happiness.
“Because of you.” He proposed a toast. “To Venus!”
“To Pierre.” She raised her glass, wiggling her nose, leaning close over the table,
“To Venus and Mars.”
“You know the saying? Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars.”
She’d never heard of it. A saying that summarized this beautiful moment. Was that why her mother had called her Venus? Or was the organization calling her Venus, a representation of their high hopes with her?
“You’ve never heard of it?”
“Of course I have,” she said. “How about a toast to…”
“Twenty-one-years and counting?”
Her hand shook slightly. How long did assassins live? “That’d be nice,” she said. “but how about a toast to me being officially hired as an A—“ she stopped herself from uttering the words. When was she going to tell him?
“Ah-what?” Pierre inquired.
“I completed my training in Africa in my last trip,” she said. “I’m officially a Goodwill Ambassador.”
She didn’t understand why.
He wouldn’t take his eyes off of her.
He lowered his glass.
Venus was about to ask if she’d said something wrong — a question she’d never asked anyone before — when Pierre stood up and rounded the table and kissed her.
“I’m so proud of you,” he touched her temples then kissed her again on the forehead. “I should call my mother and tell her…”
“What? No?” Venus snapped. “I mean you know my organization doesn’t like publicity.”
“Ah,” Pierre moped his forehead. “Sorry, mon cheri. I forgot, bebe.”
This time she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. “Did you just say babe?” A smile, ten miles wide on her lips.
“You’re my bebe, babe,” he teased her, nose to nose. “Wait, I brought you something for your birthday.”
Venus watched him unwrap this present and pull out a book. A book. Collected Fairytales by the Brothers Grimm.
Not quite a diamond ring, but even better. The book she had spent her childhood reading behind her mother’s back—not the fucked up version she read to her about the Princeless.
“It’s an original,” he showed her the inside pages. “I mean a copy of the original of course, but it was published in 1857.”
“The Brothers Grimm first edition was published 1812, Pierre,” she teased. “But thank you so much.”
“Yes, but this has the one fairy tale that hadn’t been printed in the original. Lack of printing space as ink and paper were expensive then.”
“L’os en Chantant.”
“The Singing Bone?” She’d read it once and found it depressing.
“My favorite.” He held his hand to his heart.
“I thought Snow White was your favorite,” she said. “Or did you just say that to get into my pants?”
Pierre’s cheeks went red. She playfully waved the book across the table. “Bad, bad bebe.”
Twenty minutes later, they were making love like the world ended tomorrow.
“So why The Singing Bone?” Venus lay on her back in the dim light of the hotel room.
“You remember what’s it about?”
“Not in detail.”
“Long story short, like you Americans say, it’s about this flute made of a dead girl’s bones…”
“No. This bone could sing.”
“Guess what the bone sang?”
“I don’t want to know.”
“It exposed the identity of the girl’s killer.”
“Baby, that’s depressing.”
“It’s justice,” Pierre’s shoulder tensed.
Venus didn’t want to hear about justice. Was killing bad people, justice? Three missions in she began to sense some shadiness about the organization and her work. Why hadn’t she insisted on answers to so many questions about The Princeless. She guessed she needed to belong and prove herself, but now that she met Pierre, her thinking had changed. Even though she’d been accepted today, doubts shrouded her soul.
“To me, justice is the second most important thing in the world.”
“And the first?”
This was when Venus pulled away. She felt like an imposter. That she didn’t deserve this. When the heck was she going to tell him what she did?
“I didn’t mean to…” Pierre began.
“Look there are free pages in the back,” she flipped through her birthday present.
“Exactly,” Pierre said. “I thought you might want to write your diary on the pages of a centuries old book. Try it. I’ve been doing it lately. A memory in a photo is good, but nothing compares to writing how you feel in pen and paper.”