Papa hoped a present would distract me, especially one so petit et mignon…
…And it did, for a little while.
But I still didn’t forget about the mystery of Maman’s old husband–and his père, Thaddeus.
Thaddeus’s house wasn’t so very far away from the grave Maman visited, I discovered when snooping through Papa’s office.
And so, on one rainy day when Maman and Papa were very busy in their dungeon, I set off to meet this Thaddeus on my own.
I retraced Maman’s steps to the ferry…
And traveled across the water alone, until I reached the island.
Did people truly live in such small houses? Our servants quarters were more impressive…
But even une princesse could knock on a door in desperate times.
“Come in,” a voice called–and so I did. “Good afternoon, Miss Blackwell-Straud,” the très mystérieux Thaddeus greeted me with a bow.
“How do you know who I am?” I demanded–while curtsying in return, as was proper. (Maman was right–I did need to practice my curtsies for special occasions, because mine was stiff and I almost tripped over my own dainty feet.)
“I continue to serve Lady Blackwell as best I can,” he said. “I’m a Lyons butler, and it’s my line’s eternal duty to serve hers. Naturally, I would know of her lovely daughter.” His arm made an elegant sweeping motion toward the sofa. “Would you care to sit, Miss Blackwell-Straud?”
I sat. Maman never told me I was owed a special butler.
“I could prepare some plasmafruit tea, if you’d like,” he said.
“Non,” I said. “I have no need for tea, only answers.”
He sat beside me and asked me a question in French–completely in French–one I couldn’t understand without sneaking a peek at the dictionary app on my phone. I could still tell his pronunciation was perfect, like he actually lived in Champs Les Sims once instead of just visiting during the summers.
I just shook my head, hoping it was appropriate. “Lysander was your son, wasn’t he? And he was Maman’s old husband, before he died?”
The lines in his face deepened when his smile disappeared: a sign that he had been human once, while Maman and Papa’s faces would be smooth for éternité. “He was,” he said quietly.
“Is this him?” I showed him a picture I’d found in Maman’s seventh-favorite hiding spot. I thought he looked like an alien-cat with his sharp features and strange eyes, not classically handsome and regal like Papa.
“It is indeed.”
“…What was he like?” I wanted as much information as possible, to compare this Lysander to Papa and try to understand how she could ever love two people when everyone only had one true love. How could she still miss him when she got to see Papa every day? And why would she ever marry a human when she always told me not to?
“Lysander?” He smiled slightly. “My son…he was worthy of the Lyons name, and not only because he was an excellent butler. He took his duties seriously, yes, but he put others first, even outside of those duties. Without him, I might never have seen my daughter again…”
He sounded very much like a lowly servant, not a king like Papa.
“…Would you bring him back, if you could?”
“No,” he said firmly. “No, Lysander didn’t live the longest life, but he led a full one, Miss Blackwell-Straud. He loved his wife, his sons, his daughter–he saw his children grow up. If only my Lyanna could’ve seen the same.” He chuckled. “Ah, my lovely granddaughter bears the same name: Lyanna. When did the name become hers in my mind, even ahead of my late wife’s?”
I’d already grown bored with the talk of Lysander–the more I heard of him, the less I feared for Papa–but I was suddenly interested again. “You lost your wife? Was she your one true love?”
“She was,” he said. “I’ll never remarry for as long as these old vampire bones rattle around the earth. Her grave lies beside my son’s.”
Très tragique. “I’ll be returning home now,” I announced, satisfied. “Thank you very much for your time, Mister Thaddeus.”
“It was a pleasure, Miss Blackwell-Straud,” he said as he walked me to the door. “You’re welcome to return whenever you like–I’d be delighted to consider you an honorary granddaughter, now that my grandchildren are grown.”
“Not granddaughter,” I said. I liked his manners very much and how he treated me like the adult I wanted to be. “May I consider you a brother instead, since Maman turned you into a vampire?”
His eyes widened–and then he bowed. “It would be my honor, Miss Blackwell-Straud.”
Time passed, and thoughts of Maman’s old husband were forgotten…
Maman was so beautiful.
And Papa was so handsome.
Even if Papa and I worked on something together alone…
…Maman still watched us from a short distance away, smiling.
But even as I grew older, I didn’t forget Thaddeus, my honorary frère, and his tragic love story.
I still visited him often; his door was never locked to me.
His heart, however…
“Oh, do let me set up a new account for you, won’t you?” I said. Dating sites were terribly old-fashioned, but Thaddeus was an old-fashioned gentleman. His phone was too ancient for modern apps.
He took the seat at the table across from me, even if it would’ve been far more helpful to sit beside me, especially when it came to admiring the bevy of beauties on offer. “It truly isn’t necessary, Miss Blackwell-Straud… You’re kind to humor an old man.”
“You’re quite old,” I agreed, “but not dead. Undead, which is all you need to be on your noble quest for new love.”
“Perhaps you might consider searching for a special someone for yourself instead, miss…? Romance is the domain of youth, or so they say.”
“Bat fangs, no,” I said. “Papa says I’m much too young. He wants me to be his little porcelain princess for eternity.” I smiled reassuringly. “There’s nothing to fear, Thaddeus–I have ever so sophisticated taste.”
Thaddeus had sworn he would never remarry, but I truly saw no reason for him to suffer alone forever, no matter how much he spoke of things like “penance” or “the natural way of things.” Everyone deserved love, and so I would find it for him.
Handsome in a distinguished, older man sort of way–young women who didn’t have a perfect father figure like Papa might find that appealing–with impeccable manners and good grooming habits. He spoke five languages fluently, owned his own home (though I would make no mention of its modest size), ran a prestigious butler academy, and was an expert on vampire lore, though I could only include the latter tidbit on certain websites.
Truly romance material, mon frère.
As an aspiring expert in amour, I thought I highlighted his most marketable points quite nicely.
After I published Thaddeus’s latest profile and returned home, Gaston was waiting patiently for me.
Le plus beau chien du monde…
Gaston stayed close while I read my sister Ophelia’s latest romance in the library.
He saw no need to leave my side, even when I heard Papa and Galatea talking on the other side of the bookshelves.
“Sometimes I really wonder if I should’ve aborted his ass,” Gal said. “God, he was such a cute kid–what the hell happened? I mean, I knew he’d be a shit the second he hit puberty and grew all his dad’s body hair, but I didn’t know he’d be an explosive diarrhea-level shit.”
My sister certainly had a way with words. Poor Galatea, having a beast of a son like Silas–or Sly, as he still insisted on being called, even though he wasn’t the least bit clever.
“I was hoping for an emo goth phase, not whatever the hell spoiled rich douchebag shit this is,” she went on, running her fingers through her turquoise hair. “Who the hell crashes a famous director’s Ferrari into a fucking ice cream truck so he can ‘make it rain Choco-Tacos’ for his Simstagram followers?”
I learned far too much of my beastly nephew’s exploits through his Simstagram account–he thoroughly documented the aforementioned incident, along with evidence of his bribing my young nephew and niece, Romeo and Juliet, to keep silent throughout the entire ordeal.
“Rhys is a better parent than I am, Dad—fucking Rhys, and he’s got weird as shit kids, but I’d take weird over douchey at this point.”
“I heard you were getting along well these days,” Papa said.
“My kid could’ve gotten his killed–and now everyone’s probably like, oh, of course Galatea raised the shit kid, what a big fucking surprise, who the hell let her have kids without a license. But Bas was supposed to cancel me out–thank god we didn’t have another one like he wanted.” She sighed. “But he deserves a good kid, so maybe we should’ve. Or should we try again and hope we get one that doesn’t suck this time?”
“Breathe, my turquoise-winged butterfly. Have you considered leaving the boy in the tender care of a certain grandparent?”
“You better not mean you,” she said. “Sly’d probably find a way to sell Belle off to vampire hunters or sex traffickers or whatever the hell he thinks his fucking Simstagram followers want to see. Me and Bas hoped that his parents would be a good influence–I mean, these people are pure goodness, you know?–but his underage ass chugged every alcoholic drink in the damn place over a single weekend.”
My nephew had documented that as well; a pity he marred the modern architectural beauty of the San Myshuno skyline so thoroughly.
He managed to gain thousands of followers that night after drunkenly falling from his grandparents’ balcony and capturing the moment on camera, despite the number of internet denizens screaming “FAKE.” Many others praised his “sick prank,” entirely ignorant of his true fae nature.
“I prefer to spoil my grandchildren,” Papa said. “I was never one for discipline–outside the bedroom or dungeon, of course. No, I speak of your other parent, my dear girl.”
“God, Mom would…I don’t know what she’d do, actually.”
“And my dear Mama is with her as well,” Papa said. “She has little patience for unruly boys. Between her and Isla, he’ll have little room to cause trouble.”
“That’s…that actually might be a good idea, Dad. Thanks.” Her voice wavered. “I just…I just don’t know where I went wrong. I mean, it had to be me, right? Bas is the good one. Or maybe it’s Starlight Shores and the whole showbiz scene, or maybe we didn’t give him enough attention, or too much, or maybe it was the sushi I ate when I was pregnant, or…”
“You’ll discover, Galatea, that a parent can only do so much,” he said softly.
“Explains how Finn turned out okay.”
Papa ignored her barb, as he always did. “Sometimes, you’ll merely have to wait. Wait, and hope they’ll mature, that they’ll grow to appreciate your love for them and finally return to you. But throughout it all, you’ll have to love them, no matter how painful or difficult it might be.”
“…Message received, Dad.”
Galatea rarely embraced Papa, but she did just then.
I was only the slightest bit jealous, because I knew Papa had room in his unbeating heart for both of us, and because I loved my sister very much too. It had always hurt to hear how she talked to our père.
Silas Strider was born on the very same day as me, yet he was still une bête mauvaise. How had he managed to stray so far from the Path of Love and Beauty?
If only he’d listened to me all those times I tried to properly educate him. Everyone–including him and Thaddeus–would be far better off if only they’d trust my expertise.
Ah, well; I was determined to offer my wisdom and assistance, whether they wanted it or not.
Truly, they would thank me, in the end…