Papa always said I deserved to be a star.
But in my love and beauty vlog, amour was the true star.
“My first guest,” I announced to the camera, “is mon cher ami, Gaston Blackwell-Straud.”
“Gaston, are you ready to be loved?”
“Do tell our audience what you look for in a–oh, that sounds so very coarse–in a lady dog, s’il vous plaît.”
“Gaston, oh, dear, dear Gaston, there’s simply no reason at all to be embarrassed…”
I smiled. “Gaston enjoys a fragrant derrière, ladies–and dog owners–of SimTube. He’s a purebred standard poodle whose pedigree is positively brimming with grand champions. If you know of anyone who might suit mon beau garçon, do leave me a note in the comments–and don’t forget to like and subscribe, mes amies.”
Alas, my second guest wasn’t nearly as well-behaved–and was drenched in cologne, an onslaught against my delicate alabaster nose.
“I’m getting paid for this shit, right?” Silas–Sly–wore his sunglasses indoors, despite my repeated attempts to convince him to remove them.
“Talk of money is so very gauche,” I said. “Amour et argent are completely independent of each other, except on a lady’s birthday.”
He smirked at me. “Tell that to all the gold-diggers in Starlight Shores, sweet cheeks.”
“Tell us, bête mauvaise, what do you like in a woman?”
“…Non. Try again, bête.”
“I gotta say, I’m an ass man,” he said, his smirk widening. “Tits are great and all, but asses–asses are where it’s at.” He seemed to delight in emphasizing these words. “Can’t get chicks pregnant that way either, and it’s so tight, if you know what I mean.”
“Merci beaucoup for the helpful anatomy lesson, my beastly nephew. You apparently share a passion for derrières with Gaston.”
“…Isn’t that your dog?”
That didn’t throw him off for long. Like my sister Galatea, he always had a retort–usually laced with profanity. “Guess we both like us some fine-ass bitches.”
“If anyone knows of a lovely young lady who meets my beastly nephew’s requirements…perhaps reconsider before leaving a note in the comments. …And don’t forget to like and subscribe.”
If I could breathe, I would call my next guest “a breath of fresh air”–or une bouffée d’air frais.
“Are you certain you’d like to have an old man like me on your show?” Thaddeus asked. “I don’t believe I’m particularly photogenic or charismatic…”
“My audience will adore you, truly,” I insisted. Hopefully I had a number of older women as viewers…
“So, mon frère,” I began, settling onto the pale pink sofa, “who is your ideal woman?”
“My late wife, Lyanna,” he said immediately.
A grieving widower’s tragic love would most certainly win points with a sympathetic female audience. “Très bon, and what did you love most about your late wife?”
“Ah, she was the mother of my children…?”
“So,” I said brightly, “it’s fécondité you value most?” I liked the French words that only had slightly altered spelling and pronunciation…it made them easier to recall. And this was already far more than he’d given me for his dating site profiles…
“N-no, my wife was far more than that. She was…the dawn to my dusk. A wise, kindhearted woman, a partner I trusted in both matters of the home and the heart… I’m–I’m sincerely not looking for anyone else, Belle–”
“Sometimes,” I said, “amour finds you, Thaddeus.”
I truly hoped there would be promising leads for mon frère in the comment section of my latest video. Of my three guests, I was by far the most invested in his love life, or lack thereof. He deserved such happiness, truly he did.
Unfortunately, there were only obscene comments directed at me, as well as links promoting other vloggers’ videos and offers to help me make thousands a month working from home part-time, despite the fact that I had absolutely no need to work at all.
But I soon discovered something far more disconcerting…
There was only one man who might give me answers.
“Papa,” I said, “I only started my SimTube channel a week ago. Do you have any idea why I might have three million subscribers in so short a time?”
“The undeniable mass appeal of my porcelain princess’s beauty and charm?”
“I don’t need you to pay anyone, Papa, truly… I wanted to find success based on my knowledge of Love and Beauty.” Beauty tip number one: Have gorgeous parents like mine.
“It’s only the success you deserve, ma belle.”
I decided to ask Maman for help–she was the only one he listened to no matter what.
“Belle, darling,” she said, “you’re getting older, and it’s weighing on him, knowing you’ll soon be off on your own. He can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to his little girl, so he tries to do as much as he can while you’re still here.”
“But I’m going to live with you both for éternité,” I said. I couldn’t imagine otherwise.
“You’re much too beautiful,” she insisted. “You take after me that way. Someday, a man–or woman, I suppose–will steal you away, and Graham will likely try to murder the poor dear.”
So Maman wasn’t going to be of much help this time…
But I did think of a way Papa could help me with my channel. I couldn’t stop thinking of Thaddeus and his ideal woman. Would any living woman be able to live up to his late wife? Of course not, if that wife was his one true love.
But what if he could have her back again? His wife’s grave was beside his son’s–I could recall a Lyanna Lyons beside Maman’s late husband…
Papa knew all sorts of people and kept records of their professions, skills, blackmail material and contact information in his office. (He had many, many assassins on file.)
Thaddeus often said that only a necromancer, not a matchmaker, could restore love to his life. Did Papa know such of such a person? I knew Thaddeus had been jesting in that self-deprecating sort of way, but still…
Papa knew everyone.
I thought it was fitting to go off in search of the necromancer on a dark and stormy night; it was straight out of my sister Ophelia’s vampire novels.
Oui, I had most certainly found a necromancer’s place of residence…
What an odd place, truly.
Necromancers apparently didn’t make a habit of locking their front doors. Of course, few would dare to visit a necromancer’s residence unannounced, but there was only one Belle-Blackwell Straud.
The decor was positively vampiric, though it was a touch dated. Thaddeus would be beside himself at the dust.
There were a great many steps in the tower…
And a number of things that hinted at magic within.
But eventually I emerged in an office of sorts. “Bonjour,” I said. “I’m Belle Blackwell-Straud, the precious daughter of Graham Straud, and I have a request.”
The man–presumably a necromancer, unless he was a normal man particularly fond of black robes–scowled at me. “You’re visiting me outside of my office hours.”
“You’re one of my students, are you not? I’ve repeatedly told all of you that I will only discuss your coursework within those office hours–and at my office, not my home.”
I smiled at him. “But I’m not your student at all. This is a personal matter.”
“Do you think I have time for personal matters on top of my research? If you aren’t my student, I have no obligation to listen to you. Leave.”
What a homme impoli! Truly, he was unimaginably rude, though in rather a different way from my beastly nephew.
I moved closer. “Mon père would gladly compensate you for your assistance.”
“I require time, not monetary compensation. Once again, I must ask you to leave.”
How had he managed to drag so many coffins to the top floor of his tower? Rain pounded against the windows, mirroring my mood. But I wouldn’t give up on Thaddeus…
“I’ll gladly leave,” I said. “Once we discuss a certain corpse. Is there a time limit on how long a person might be dead before you can no longer resurrect them? And is it possible to restore them to the way they appeared in life? Thaddeus’s wife was so very pretty, or so he says, and it would be a terrible shame for her to return in an advanced state of decay…”
“…Every one of your questions is answered at length in my Introduction to Necromancy course. You sound like a student who hasn’t bothered to study for her final exam–but as you aren’t my student at all, I owe you no claim on my time or expertise. My students are also aware not to step within one meter of their professor.”
“D’accord,” I said, turning on my heel, “but you haven’t seen the last of me, Monsieur Graves.” According to Papa’s records, his name was Valerian Graves–I picked him because his name sounded the most like a necromancer’s, but now I wondered if I should’ve picked someone else.
And then I reminded myself that I was Graham Straud’s porcelain princess. I always got what I wanted.