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slow dancing in a burning room

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Beatrice is eight years old when she leaves home, on the deck of a sailing ship with polished wooden banisters perfect for sliding down and a massive golden bat on the prow. It’s a long journey north to the city, but the weather has been good, and Beatrice has not gotten seasick (she wonders if she is even capable of becoming sick at all), so she designates her first ever sea voyage a success.

She follows her luggage down the gangplank, white-gloved hands clasped behind her back. Beatrice thanks the porter, then sets off through the milling crowd alone. She sometimes has to push; no one pays attention to an eight-year-old girl traveling alone in ribbons and white lace.

Beatrice finds the taxi herself, and spends the half-hour cab ride folding and unfolding the black-and-white photograph of a cross-looking baby that the driver slipped into her palm. Every once in a while she glances out the window, but after a few minutes of this, she learns there’s little point to it. The city is in monochrome, gray administrative buildings next to gray Regency villas, and a similar pall of fog or smoke hovers just above the skyline. Whatever Beatrice has imagined the city as, it wasn’t this.

The taxi stops in front of a dice-shaped building with an eye engraved above the door, and Beatrice wonders if it’s practical to engrave the insignia of your secret organization onto the outside of your headquarters.

Inside are more gray walls and the scent of something sharp that makes Beatrice’s nose itch. It doesn’t take long to find a receptionist, and then it’s measurements and an eye exam and paperwork in triplicate, tests for right-handedness and lots of dull questions about how old are you, where did you come from, who told you about us. Yes, she speaks English. No, she has no parents to declare. No, she did not travel with a chaperone. No, there’s nothing else they should know.

They leave her alone for minutes at a time, going into their separate offices to make whispered phone calls. It isn’t often that someone volunteers to join the organization.

Beatrice sits alone, remembering how her Mãe told her not to swing her legs or scratch her face. Instead, she unwraps the red-and-white candies the receptionist had given her and rolls the wrinkled plastic between her fingers, waiting for the adults to return.

Finally, the man with heavy shoes appears at the end of the hallway and beckons her closer. She takes his hand, trying to ignore the uncomfortable itching between her fingers. He shows her to a bedroom on the third floor, where her luggage is already stacked neatly by the eye-shaped window.

“When will I get the tattoo?” she asks.

He shakes his head. “We don’t do tattoos anymore.”

The door swings shut.

Then there’s the mandatory waiting period, during which Beatrice sees no one but a nurse, who visits her every day at two o’clock with cold cream for her hands, which now have angry red patches wherever the candies touched her skin. So she has a peppermint allergy. After three days, Beatrice realizes the peppermint scent is gone from the air as well. It has been replaced with the smell of lavender, and Beatrice is oddly touched that they have done this for her.

After she has lost track of the days, she hears the man with heavy shoes approach her door. She puts on her gloves, smooths her skirt, adjusts the bows on her white shoes. He leads her down the hall, down more flights of stairs than there are floors, and lifts a trapdoor engraved with the image of an eye.

They walk through the tunnel, the click of Beatrice’s kitten heels matching the thump of the man’s steps. She asks him a question every twelve steps, and he answers every fourth question in precisely three words. It becomes a pattern, like the tiles on the tunnel’s arched ceiling.

“What’s your name?”

Twelve steps.

“Did my parents ever tell you about me?”

Twenty-four.

“They took this photograph with you. Do you want it back?”

Thirty-six.

“Where are we going?”

“Your first class.”

He stops in front of a circular door. Beatrice stops a moment later, teetering forward for a second as she tries to halt her own momentum. The man with heavy shoes takes out a black notebook and, slowly, punches the code into the keypad on the door. Beatrice stands on her tiptoes and peeks at his commonplace book. She knows the answer to the second question, the one that seems to have him stumped. She counts to twelve before telling him.

“It’s Chiroptera.”

He blinks. “What?”

“The scientific name for a bat,” she says. “It’s Chiroptera. Do you need me to spell it for you?”

The man with heavy shoes scowls, but punches in the correct letters nonetheless. The light above the keypad flashes green, and his scowl deepens. He steps back.

“Why don’t you finish the code, if you know so much?”

Beatrice steps back herself. “Oh, but I couldn’t. I’ve never read Uncle Vanya.”

She has, in both English and Portuguese, as well as the original Russian. The book—a thin green volume, a little worn at the edges and decorated with her mother’s spidery handwriting—currently sits at the bottom of her suitcase.

With a click, the door swings open to reveal a massive room made of green wood. She sees rows of green desks, a few already claimed by a stack of books but more open and empty, waiting for a young volunteer to sit at them. Maps cover the dark green walls, illustrating not only the streets of the city but also underneath the city, a mazy world miles deeper than the eye can see. This is something Beatrice has only ever seen in books.

She steps across the threshold, staring at her polished white shoes.

“You’re early for class,” says a voice.

Beatrice looks up to see a pair of blue eyes. There is a boy attached to the eyes, with a gray flat cap and a tiny scar beneath his right eye, and he smiles, just a little.


Beatrice tugs off her stockings, one after the other. She plunks her left heel onto the chair, and Kit cannot help staring at her bare ankle. She moves her fingers through the bowl of water.

“Are you sure about this?” she asks.

“Of course I’m sure,” Beatrice replies. “Go on, poke me.”

Kit dips the washcloth in the bowl. She smells something sharp and chemical, from a packet of powder she had gotten from Georgina earlier that day. Washcloth in hand, she starts to slowly and meticulously clean Beatrice’s ankle.

“That’s chilly,” Beatrice says. Her voice is still bright, but missing the confidence behind it. Kit focuses on the washcloth in her hand, knowing that if she hesitates too, Beatrice might just call the whole thing off and go back down the hall to her room.

Kit returns the washcloth to the bowl and removes a pencil from her hair. Beatrice watches as she begins to draw.

“You’re not drawing it too big, right?” she says, looking down at her ankle. “I want it to be just like yours and everyone else’s.”

Kit doesn’t look up. “It looks just like mine.”

“Does it look real?”

Kit finishes drawing the last sharp corner of the D, then sits back to examine her work.

“Once it’s inked, no one will be able to tell the difference,” she says.

“Then let’s ink it.”

“Are you ready?”

“Just do it, Kit,” Beatrice almost snaps, and the brightness in her voice dissipates like smoke.

And then the matchbox is in Kit’s hand, and there is a scratching sound and a plume of flame. Beatrice gasps before she can stop herself. Kit’s eyes are trained on the lit match in her hands, burning quietly as the light outside begins to fade.

The needle is in her other hand now, held over the candle’s flame. They wait until the tip is glowing—like a firefly, Beatrice thinks as she watches, with equal parts revulsion and fascination—and then Kit blows the match out, and the moment is over and the only things left are a few wisps of pale smoke and the faint smell of ash.

Kit swirls the black ink with the tip of the needle, then holds it up so the ink doesn’t drip. They count down together from three.

Once it’s all over and her skin has recovered, Beatrice admits that Kit was right. Her tattoo is indistinguishable from everyone else’s.


Lemony returns when Beatrice is seventeen. Bertrand tells her between scenes during a dress rehearsal for La Traviata, and she hopes no one notices how much her voice is wobbling.

“Who told you?” she asks him afterward. He holds the door open for her, then follows her through.

“E told me,” he says, “though he heard it from F, who was told by M, who said K saw J walk L home from the train station last night.”

“That’s quite a list.”

“I also spoke with him this morning.”

Beatrice is quiet for a moment, processing this information as she and Bertrand head down the sidewalk. Bertrand is a good actor, in more ways than one. But he is not a liar, at least not around her.

“He hates it when people call him L,” she says.

“Really?” he says, genuinely interested. “Well, that explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“He didn’t seem to like me very much.” Bertrand paused. “So what do people call him?”

“Malfeasant, miscreant, mutineer,” she says. “Murderer, if you’re to believe the newspapers.”

“I’m serious, B,” he says. “I made a bad first impression. I want to make up for it.”

Beatrice decides to walk in silence for a few steps more, at least until they arrive at the street corner. They stand together, waiting for the light to turn green.

“He’s Mr. Snicket, if you’re an associate,” she says finally. “And just Snicket, if you’re a friend. Occasionally Lemony, but only in select circumstances, where calling him such is necessary to distinguish him from one or both of his siblings.”

“And what do you call him?”

It’s a risky question for Bertrand to ask, and Beatrice knows he wouldn’t be asking it if he didn’t really need to know.

“Snicket, I guess,” she says carefully. “But I haven’t seen him since he left for Stain’d-by-the-Sea. You said he’s staying at Jacques and Kit’s place?”

“That’s the plan for now,” he says. “He doesn’t seem too keen on moving back into his old dorm.”

Beatrice nods resolutely, then abruptly turns and starts to walk away from the streetlight.

“Where are you going?” Bertrand calls out after her.

“I’m going to see Lemony,” she shouts back, and starts to run.


R’s debutante ball is the most extravagant one in the city, and everyone is invited. Beatrice makes her way through the crowd of masks and glitter, Lemony on her arm. They have coordinated their outfits for the night, two violet dragonflies.

“Beatrice!”

A young man appears in front of them, wearing an elephant mask with a long rubber trunk.

Beatrice smiles. “It’s good to see you, Bertrand.”

He tugs off the mask and replaces it with a pair of glasses.

“How could you tell it was me?”

“The mask kind of gives it away.”

“I guess so. I mean, the wings give you two away.” Bertrand nods in Lemony’s direction. “Good to see you, Mr. Snicket.”

“Are you here with T?” Lemony asks him.

“Not with her, exactly,” Bertrand replies. “But yes, she’s here. She can’t stay away from a party, as you probably know.”

“I didn’t know you had a sense of humor, B,” Lemony says without smiling.

Bertrand looks a bit put-off by this statement. Beatrice wants to tell Lemony that this is a point in his favor, that it’s hard for anyone to make Bertrand look anything other than mildly and innocuously pleased.

“I, uh, should probably go,” Bertrand says. “See you at the theater, B.”

She gives him a little wave as he leaves.

Lemony looks at Beatrice curiously. “Mr. Snicket?”

“No idea where he got that from,” she says. “Come on, let’s dance.”

The Duchess’s ballroom has the curious effect of coalescence, where clashing colors blur into each other and yet manage to match as seamlessly as the latest fashions from Paris, where masked musicians and disguised detectives mingle under the pretense of anonymity, where evening becomes night without the floodlights noticing, where one drink becomes two and two drinks become five. Beatrice forgets how many glasses of brandy she downs, and the more she drinks, the more she forgets. She forgets to tell herself that she is loved. She forgets to tell herself not to cry.

Kit is the one who finds Beatrice, huddled in the sculpture garden. She is tucked into the wings of an enormous bird statue, embracing her in marble. Her own wings lie abandoned in the grass beside her.

“B,” Kit calls out in a half-whisper. “Beatrice.”

She doesn’t respond. Kit comes closer, lifting her skirts to avoid the dew on the grass.

“Are you alright?”

“Why do you care?” Beatrice mumbles.

“Because you’re my friend,” Kit says. “You’re my friend and I love you and I don’t want you to be upset.”

“Liar.” Beatrice sniffles. “You hate me. So does Lemony, and R too. Everyone does.”

“That’s not true.”

Kit helps Beatrice out of the statue. She is trembling—they both are—and Kit is reminded of the night Jacques brought Lemony home from the train station, pale and shaking and confused.

“Let’s go,” she says. “I’ll drive you home.”

Beatrice shakes her head vigorously. “No,” she says.

“You can’t stay here,” says Kit. “You need rest.”

“I don’t… I don’t want you to drive.”

Beatrice clumsily mimes steering a car into the bird statue. Kit steps back, almost laughing despite the circumstances.

“Alright, fine,” she says. “I’ll call J, then.”


They spend their first free summer on rooftops, spending the fortunes they’re finally old enough to use. In antique shops and under gray lights, Beatrice and Lemony do not fall in love so much as plunge headfirst into it.

“What would you think,” Lemony asks Beatrice one evening, watching the sunset from the top of an abandoned storage unit, “if I applied for that dramatic critic position at The Daily Punctilio?”

“If you promise you’ll write only good things about me,” she says.

“Only the best.”

Her fingers trail across the sun-soaked concrete. “Give me an example.”

Lemony pauses, a crease forming between his eyebrows. Beatrice knows that expression well. He makes it whenever he’s thinking hard about something.

“Beatrice Baudelaire, not only the star of the newest opera at the Ned H. Rirger Theater but the composer of its music and libretto—”

“But I haven’t written—”

“Let me finish,” he says. “Beatrice Baudelaire, not only the star of the newest opera at the Ned H. Rirger Theater but the composer of its music and libretto, is a wonder to behold.”

Beatrice glances sideways at him, a smile playing at her lips. “Go on.”

Lemony goes on. “She sings her own score as naturally as a bat flies at night, marking her nothing less than a musical genius,” he says. “And, of course, she’s got a face lovelier than Helen of Troy. You simply cannot take your eyes off her.”

“That’s good,” Beatrice said. “I liked the comparison to a bat.”

She opens a box of cigarettes and removes one absentmindedly. Lemony watches her with mild curiosity.

“You have a match?” she asks.

He shakes his head quickly. “I don’t carry them anymore.”

“Oh, that’s alright.” She deftly removes a matchbox from her own pocket. She lights the cigarette carefully—everything involving fire must be done carefully, she knows, although admittedly she rarely follows this advice—and inhales.

She notices that Lemony is watching, and she offers him the cigarette. He waves it away.

“I don’t think adults should smoke.”

“Let’s be honest, we’re only adults in the legal sense.”

“Anyway,” he says, “that’s not healthy for your singing.”

She extinguishes the cigarette on the concrete. “You are such a fucking spoilsport.”

Beatrice inches toward the edge of the roof, swinging her legs. The city below her seems very close, and very small. She can see the theater from here, and the Café Kafka, and the eye-shaped building where she always arrived early. It is so small, the city she has called home for a decade. She is entranced by its size. It is a city of dollhouses she could flatten with her hand.

“Maybe I’ll jump today,” she whispers. “Then it won’t matter how many cigarettes I smoke, right?”

She feels a hand on her shoulder.

“Bea.” Lemony’s voice is quiet, cautious. “Don’t do this. Not again.”

“I can do whatever I like, L.”

She thinks of Tosca, Dido, Juliet, and all the women she has played at the theater, singing their highest notes as they took their own lives for love. There is a distinct lack of women in opera who survive the final act, a fact Beatrice is somewhat painfully aware of every night she takes the stage.

“I’ll do it,” she says. “Now that you don’t love me anymore.”

“I do love you,” Lemony insists.

“Say it, then.”

“I just did.”

“Say it again,” she says through gritted teeth, nails gripping the rough edge of the roof.

“I love you, Beatrice,” he says. “I’ll love you more than anything, no matter what.”

Beatrice closes her eyes and takes in a shaky breath. She lets his words trickle down her back and sink into her skin, and she thinks about how it is so wonderful to be loved.


Beatrice washes her hands twice after the night at the opera. The third time, Lemony sees her through the open door, watches her press bloody fingerprints into a monogrammed towel. Beatrice catches his gaze through the mirror.

“It’s mine,” she says, and finishes drying her hands. There are still streaks of blood between her fingers and under her nails.

She unhooks the red shawl and lets it pool around her feet, leaving her shoulders bare. There is clean white gauze wrapped around her right arm, too high to hug her skin comfortably, and Lemony’s stomach twists when he sees it. He remembers a crumbling clinic, a good reporter, and a homemade bandage.

“Turns out the Countess was good with a knife,” Beatrice says lightly. “I got the job done, anyway. Kit patched me up afterward.”

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Lemony asks.

Beatrice turns to face him, her back to the mirror. She looks him right in the eye.

“I did what had to be done,” she says, to convince him but also to convince herself. “Do you think a little blood on my hands would drive me mad? Am I as fragile as that?”

“I’m only speaking from experience,” he says. “Taking someone’s life—it leaves a spot on you, you know, even if it was for a good reason.”

“Well, out, damnèd spot, then, out!” she says, waving him away with a dramatic gesture. “Go to bed. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Lemony smiles uncertainly. “If you say so,” he says, and then with one last look at the bandage around her arm, he is gone.

Beatrice watches him turn the corner. Then, slowly, she bends down, picks up her red shawl, and re-fixes it around her shoulders. She turns around, avoiding her own eyes in the mirror, and washes her hands again.


Beatrice starts working longer hours at the theater, rehearsing every day and performing every night until the cracks in her voice begin to show and she sounds like she is screaming rather than singing. Lemony finds her bent over the stove one night, breathing in shaky lungfuls of steam.

“I’m fine,” she tells him, still leaning over the pot of boiling water.

“I didn’t say you weren’t,” he replies. “In fact, I didn’t say anything at all.”

“Well, you should have,” she says, and lifts her head. “You should be worried about me. I’ve been alone for hours. You should have come home early.”

“Why should I be worried?” he asks, his voice starting to rise. “You just said you were fine.”

“I am fine!”

She slams the counter with both her palms. Lemony rushes forward to turn off the stove. Her face is flushed from the heat; her hair is wet from the steam and lies plastered to her neck.

“You’re not fine, Beatrice,” he says. “All of—all of this—this is not fine.”

“So you admit it,” she says, pointing an accusing finger. “You knew things were going wrong. And you didn’t come home.”

“I have a job!”

“Yeah, fixing the spelling mistakes in dead people’s names,” she says. “How do you like that job, dramatic critic?”

“Like yours is any better,” he says. “Wasting your life writing an opera you’ll never finish.”

“You don’t care about me,” she says. “You don’t care about me, and you don’t love me, and—”

“You’re right!” he shouts back. “I don’t love you!”

Without warning, she grabs the metal pot with both hands and tips it over, spilling hot water all over the floor. Lemony jumps back in surprise, and she drops the pot back onto the stove with a clang. She is sobbing now, tears streaming down her face and catching in her already-wet hair.

“Fuck you,” she says, dripping with water and hate.

It is not until several years after Beatrice’s death that Lemony remembers that night, and once he does, he finds it’s difficult to lock the memory away again. He prefers to remember Beatrice as she looked onstage—young and beautifully tragic, the dagger suspended in the moment before it enters her chest. It is at odds with the picture that now lives in his memory: Beatrice, with blotchy cheeks and tangled hair, pushing him away with her burned hands.


I don’t know what went wrong.

That’s an ugly lie, Beatrice thinks, looking at the words she has written. She knows precisely what went wrong. Things that are meant to be rarely work out in the long-term. They are not sustainable. They hover outside the open window, bathing the room in silver light for one night, a week, a year, and then move on. Stars cross only for a brief moment. It’s the plot of every great tragedy.

It is Lemony who will be shocked, who will read her letter over and over and still not understand. He will agonize over imagined scenarios, wondering what mistakes he made, what he could have done better. He will never blame Beatrice.

She knows this and it tears her apart, but everything happened so quickly and she has to explain herself, even if it takes two hundred pages to do it. She rewrites the letter from the beginning every time she makes a mistake, knowing Lemony will fixate on decoding every cross-out and coffee spill and cigarette stain. She does not want to cause him any more pain than is necessary.

He really did love her, she knows now, and she loved him too but love is such a complicated thing. It’s so much more tricky than it is in the operas, something neither Beatrice nor Lemony understood until it was too late.

It takes her four days to finish the letter. She ties it gently to the ankle of a bat and opens the window, watching the bat glide away into the moonlight.

She never receives a response.

Then Lemony’s obituary appears in the morning paper, and that night Beatrice cries onstage, real tears that she struggles to sing through. During the curtain call, Bertrand is practically holding her upright.


Beatrice doesn’t realize she is in love with Bertrand until they are on the island.

She’s not quite sure when it happens, or when, precisely, the shift takes place. But one evening she tells Bertrand, with casual ease, that she is in love with him, without expecting a declaration of love in return.

“I love you too,” Bertrand replies. He doesn’t specify if he loves her as an associate or partner or lover or friend, and he doesn’t have to because he loves her as all of those things combined, and Beatrice knows this with as much certainty as she knows that she loves him in the same way.

This entire exchange is wholly foreign to Beatrice, and she hasn’t completely puzzled it out by the time Violet is born. And then there is Violet to take her mind off her own questions, Violet who she has to care for, Violet who might be the one thing that is more fragile than Beatrice’s perception of herself.

She is twenty-three and terrified. The only example of motherhood she has to reference is her own Mãe, and Beatrice vows that she will not raise Violet in the same way. She will not raise Violet to sing love songs and look pretty when she cries. She will not raise Violet to leave her own mother to join V.F.D., although Beatrice buys a new copy of Anna Karenina just in case. She is often surprised to see it on her shelf. The whole thing feels like a dream, and she’s not sure if it’s a good or bad dream. If she wakes up, she’ll know—but Beatrice finds she doesn’t want to wake up.

It is not until Klaus is born that the reality starts to set in. She tries to explain it to Bertrand one afternoon, through a half-open dressing room door and while applying stage makeup.

“I’m becoming the woman I swore I never would become,” she says. “Someone with—with two children, and a husband, and a pretty house with a pretty kitchen.”

Bertrand laughs. “You are so incredibly far from that ideal, and I mean that as the highest compliment. I hope you know that.”

“I mean, I never even thought I’d get married,” she goes on. “Or if I did, I thought it would be something arranged by V.F.D. Something that didn’t really matter.”

“What about Lemony?” he asks.

“Lemony was different,” she says. “Anyway, we wouldn’t have worked out.”

“Who’s to say you wouldn’t have?” he says. “People change. Just look at us. When we washed up on that island, you were unstable and I was a sycophant. The fact that we’ve ended up anything close to functional people is a miracle.”

“I’m not going to ask you what that word means.”

“Unstable?”

Beatrice declines to reply. Bertrand steps inside from the hallway and offers her a cigarette.

“I don’t smoke anymore,” she says. “It’s not healthy for my singing.”

“You’re probably right.”

With a twist of his fingers, the cigarette disappears into his sleeve.

“I can see why you loved him,” he says. “Lemony. He was different.”

That night, when they sing their duet onstage, Beatrice and Bertrand hold each other tighter than they ever have before.


Beatrice gingerly lifts one soaked page of the atlas. Ink runs through her fingers and down the page, blotchy and dark.

“I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s not your fault,” Bertrand says gently. “I yelled at them, too.”

“But it’s different for me,” she insists. “I was getting better at managing—things. And then I did—I had to—”

She looks up. “Bertrand, am I a bad mother?”

“Of course not,” he says. “We all get angry. We all have to let it out sometimes.”

“But not in front of the children.”

“No.” He sighs. “Not in front of the children.”

He closes the book, careful not to tear any of the fragile pages. “We’ll apologize and do better next time,” he says. “That’s all we can do.”

Beatrice feels her age then, all thirty-some years of it—she stopped keeping track of years sometime after Klaus—and maybe this, this is the first time she has really felt ownership of her own children. She is no longer only a baticeer and an opera singer and an ex-volunteer and a dead man’s muse, but she is also a mother. Three decades of fire inside her have not prepared her for the dull ache of having so many descriptors to carry.

“God, I feel sick,” she whispers. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“We’ve done it for twelve years,” Bertrand says. “We’ll do it for twelve more, and twelve more after that, until—”

“Until when? Until our children are taken by V.F.D.? Until they commit murder? Until they’ve repeated enough of our mistakes that they can replace us and no one will know the difference?”

“That won’t happen, Bea.”

“It will.” She is crying now, ruining the pages of the atlas even more. “It will, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”

She slams her palm into the cover of the atlas. The book shudders. She wants to do something bigger, tear all the pages out and use them to paper the walls of the library, but the children will see and they will ask questions. And then what will Beatrice look like to them?


It’s too late to run even before the first torch sails through the window.

Even so, Beatrice and Bertrand go through all the motions, all the procedures and safety measures drilled into them since childhood.

Bolt the doors, both front and back.

Hide all inventions, books, disguises, tea sets, and other essential items.

Make sure all children are out of the house, or within arm’s reach of an open window.

By the time they are finished, the heat downstairs is almost unbearable, and most of the curtains are already on fire. It’ll only be a matter of time before the flames spread to the floor, then the walls, then the ceiling. If they’re lucky, the whole room will go up at once and that’ll be the end of it. Beatrice believes they’ll be lucky. The figures outside their house are skilled arsonists.

“Bea,” Bertrand says, watching the flames lick the walls. “We’re not getting out of this alive.”

“I know.” Beatrice is finding it hard to breathe.

“Come here.”

She stumbles into his outstretched arms and lays her head on his shoulder. She cries, and feels Bertrand crying too, and maybe together their tears will be enough to put out the fire, and their children will come home and everything will be alright.

She doesn’t want to die, she realizes. There is so much left undone, so much she hasn’t said. She wants to visit her childhood home. She wants to read tomorrow morning’s newspaper, regardless of how true the stories in it are. She wants to brush Violet’s hair, and listen to Klaus read poetry, and sing Sunny to sleep. She wants just one more conversation with Lemony.

She remembers being eight years old and standing on the deck of a sailing ship. She remembers laughing over some inane joke with Jacques, touching Kit’s hands as they passed a poison dart between them. Being carried off by eagles and what it felt like to fly. Leaning over the edge of a rooftop to feel that again. Kissing Lemony in a crowded ballroom, screaming at Lemony in an empty café, loving Lemony so much she wanted to hate him. Somehow loving Bertrand just as much. Seeing her children in the front row on opening night. Bouquets and bright lights and Beatrice Baudelaire, smiling for an adoring audience.

She breathes the memories in, and they all smell like smoke.

There is no time to consider what went wrong, what went right, what she regrets and what she doesn’t, or if she did the right things in the end. The flames are too bright, the ash in the air too stinging. For better or for worse, this is the life Beatrice has lived.

There is a room made of green wood, and rows of empty desks, and maps on the wall. She lets the flames swallow her whole.