Celine woke up.
She blinked as the ceiling slowly came into focus. Her body was still as her mind raced.
She wasn't in Bellacourt Manor -- that she knew right away. After weeks of inhabiting a small room in the servant's quarters, the faded paint on the walls and the faint basement smell that the whole floor had were indelibly printed on her memory.
The walls her were bare wood, and there was a fire going in the hearth. She had no idea where she was.
There was a cup of water on the little table next to the bed, and suddenly she was desperately thirsty. She moved a hand to pick it up, but she fumbled it in her weak fingers and the mug fell and shattered on the floor.
"Ah, you're finally awake," a man that Celine eventually placed as Dr. Goldberg entered the room from what she assumed was the kitchen. Despite being in the same house for months, Celine had never spoken to Dr. Goldberg and no fucking clue what was happening.
"How did I get here?" Her voice was so raspy she barely recognized it as her own.
"I brought you here. How are you feeling, Chair?" He sat down on a low stool next to her and took her pulse.
Back to Chair again, apparently.
"Pretty awful, what happened?"
"You 'fell' down the stairs. You were barely breathing when I got there -- unresponsive and barely hanging on to life."
"And the baby?" Selene asked, knowing the answer.
"There was a miscarriage, Chair. I'm sorry."
Selene was quiet again as she absorbed this. Dr. Goldberg seemed to sense that she needed some space. "Let me get you some tea," he said.
When he returned, she felt composed enough to talk. He carefully handed her a steaming teacup.
God, she felt so weak. Her hands shook as she brought the teacup to her lips.
"The Commodore--," Celine said.
"Has already moved on," Dr. Goldberg interrupted, "An actress this time, very pretty."
Celine was silent as she thought this over. Dr. Goldberg could be lying, of course, but Celine didn't think so. She'd met too many of these rich and powerful men to have any faith in their constancy. There was a chance she could get the Commodore back under her thrall again, but she would have to start from the very beginning. Celine felt exhausted at the thought.
"These Bellacourts are awful lovers," Dr. Goldberg said, emotion entering his voice for the first time in the conversation. He seemed sad. And angry.
"As soon as that comatose bastard woke up, I was thrown out on my ass," he muttered. Celine assumed he must be talking about Albert.
Celine tried to remember what she knew about Dr. Goldberg. Apparently, the answer was 'almost nothing.' She knew that he'd been brought in to treat Albert, she knew that she'd had to change his sheets in the guest room a couple of times, she knew that he'd gotten choked during that big blowout, and, well, that was about it. So why did he want to help her?
Fuck, she just couldn't stand it. This was the best chance she'd ever had to claw her way up to the good life and it had just been stolen from her by a meaningless servant who got excited about working in a wretched factory. And now what did she have? Nothing. Not even her strength.
"And what do you want with me?" she said, still feeling the exhaustion of her failed plan.
"I need your help."
Dr. Goldberg looked at her. "Revenge," he said simply. "Don't you want it too?"
Yes. God, yes.
"And do you have a plan for this revenge?" she asked smoothly, trying not to betray just how attractive she already found the idea.
"Well, no," Doctor Goldberg said, seeming a little flustered. "I was hoping that you could help out in that area, as I believe you are the one more experienced in the art scheming out of the two of us."
Celine had to agree that he was right about that. She was better at scheming and subterfuge -- but she had also always known when to cut her losses. The few times when a con had gone very sour she had gotten out of there fast without wasting time trying to salvage a situation that was probably shot. Sunk costs, and all that.
But this case, these Bellacourts and their ilk, they'd gotten to her. They'd taken more from her than she'd ever lost before -- and she hated them for it.
They had to pay.
"So, Chair, what do you say?" said Doctor Goldberg. "Are you you in?"
Celine finished off the last of her tea with another long sip. At the very bottom were some undissolved grains of sugar -- they tasted sweet. It would have seemed like something of a sign, if she believed in such things.
She gracefully reached for his hand, then shook it.
"Yes," she said with a slowly curling smile, "And my name is Celine." This time when she said it, no one pushed her down the stairs.
This time, she'll be the one doing the pushing.