In which we learn about Cinderella's father, her mother and the woman the stories call the Evil Stepmother.
Lucas Fortier had grown to love his wife. It had not been a love match; no indeed, their marriage had been arranged despite the urgent pleading of both bride and groom. The first years had not unexpectedly been years of strife and estrangement; where a person might find the master of the house, they could be assured not to find the mistress. There were other matches, the whispers among the servants went, with the deepest of attachments. How could they feel anything but despair at the sight of one another?
Time heals many wounds, however, much as it did with these two wounded hearts. It began with a kind word, a gift given where none had been expected. A softening of hearts as seasons turned and they wandered the paths of their garden together. As grey began to find its way into Lucas’ hair, as Isabelle shed the uncertainty of youth for the confidence of adulthood; estrangement turned into mature love.
In the years that followed, Lucas and Isabelle spent many days working side by side in the merchant venture that had been the reason for their marriage contract. Late in the year they celebrated the thirteenth year of their union, Isabelle gave birth to a daughter and their heir was thus produced.
It was, however, not to be.
Their daughter, Elle, was a mere child when her mother passed away and Lucas found himself alone in a house that did not feel like his, and with a child that he could not bring himself to care for.
“Take care of her,” he told the servants on the day of Isabelle’s burial. “I do not wish to see her.”
The love for a mother does, after all, not assure a love for her child, and for Lucas, the sight of the happy girl child was a sharp reminder of what he could have had, once. As a young man, he had dreamt of daughters and sons at his side, their auburn hair and green eyes the very image of their mother's. This child of his, with her golden locks and wide brown eyes, seemed as foreign to him as the life now ahead.
“She’s your heir,” his sister told him some months past Isabelle’s death. “Should you not remarry and produce another child, you will need to raise her.”
It was meant as a chastisement, but instead it set in motion a series of events that would give him a new outlook on life.
Lucas had not forgotten the love of his youth. Intelligent Sylvie with her long fingers that danced across the keys of her pianoforte, and that had tangled in his hair during their illicit meetings in shadowed corners and darkened glens. Independent Sylvie that had cast away the match her parents had made in the wake of Lucas’ engagement and announced that if she could not have love, then she might as well have wealth and standing.
They had not kept in contact – not beyond the emotional letters that followed their parting – but he knew well that Sylvie’s husband had passed away not recently and left her with a fortune and two heirs. It was not whim that made him write her a letter, but instead a stirring sense of hope. Perhaps it was not yet too late for the match he had fought to make those years before he came into his inheritance.
Her reply, when it arrived by courier that could not have cost a small sum to hire, even for one of Sylvie’s wealth, did not only reawaken hope, but set flame to a heart that had thought it would never again feel passion. When they met once again, crowded into a private dining room in a well-established inn, Lucas found that all he could say was her name while she could not manage even that, straightening his collar instead with trembling fingers and a smile that could rival the sun as he took her hands..
“I cannot ask you to…” he began to say, but she silenced him with one look.
“You can ask me to do anything. You always could, Lucas.”
He remembered then the offer she had made on the eve of his wedding, to eschew all of her inheritance and his, to run away and be happy with what little they had. He had not dared then, his family holding him in a firm grip. Now, however, he found that he cared little for family and societal ties.
“May I ask you to become my wife?”
She met his eyes without hesitation as she replied, “I would have said yes even had it been a solicitation for a mistress.”
He laughed then, his entire being lighter than it had been since before Isabelle’s death.
“Then we shall marry and your daughters will be my heirs as they are yours.”
“Have you not a daughter by your wife?”
“She’s not my daughter in any way but name and shall have the sum the law accords her. I have given her into the care of the servants and there she will stay; she has all she needs to live and plenty of caretakers around her. “
If Sylvie had any thoughts on the matter, she kept them to herself and as she entered the house as its mistress, she followed Lucas’ will. Young Elle remained with the servants and was not treated any different than any gentlewoman’s servant, though her parentage was never kept from her or Sylvie’s daughters.
Lucas found in this second marriage all the passion he had lacked in his first, for all there had been sincere and strong love. It seemed to him as if his youth had been returned to him and that Sylvie had brought life into a place that had been dead.
When Elle, by her mother’s heritage, captured the interest of and subsequently married the Prince, he did not give her anything but the well-wishes society demanded; the daughters he had come to by his second marriage received instead all the love and gifts that others would have accorded their daughter of blood as they entered into marriages negotiated for them by the newly crowned Princess.
Lucas remained married to Sylvie into his old age and lived modestly and happily in the very home he had lived in for all his adult life. When Elle visited him once his health began to ail, she asked him whether he regretted anything in his life.
“No,” he said. “I have had both Isabelle and Sylvie in my life; I have two daughters by marriage that I love and adore, and a daughter by blood that has married well. I can ask for no more.”
And though Elle could not have fully felt at peace with the answer, she nevertheless kissed his forehead and left him to the care of Sylvie and his daughters.
When Lucas shortly thereafter passed away, he was laid to peace in a grave next to Isabelle, his other side left for Sylvie. Their daughters planted trees on their graves and even now you can visit their resting place to see the great oak flanked by apple and plum shade the remnants of their graves.