When Elle was age seven, her father abandoned her and her family. Her mother passed away from consumption when she was nine. The day after her mother’s death, the village priest gathered Elle and her six younger siblings and took them to the small orphanage in Avignon. All of her siblings were adopted within the first fortnight of their arrival, but Elle remained in that horrid place for three long months.
When the Rouchon’s came to the orphanage to adopt a child, Robert strictly told the head nun that he wished to adopt a boy to work on his vineyard, but all she had to offer him was a skinny and undernourished girl—Elle. Robert refused to leave the orphanage without a child, so he begrudgingly took Elle. When he returned to his vineyard, he immediately put her to work.
The first four years at the vineyard were the most dreadful years of her life. The only friend she had was an elderly woman, whose name was Adeline. On their spare time, Adeline would visit Elle in her small room at the top of the tower and teach her how to read, sew and write. Those were the only good moments that Elle truly enjoyed. But, they too did not last long. A week before Elle’s twelfth birthday, Adeline moved to Bordeaux to live with her daughter. After a forlorn goodbye, Elle cried bitterly for several days. Determined not to let herself fall in love with another person, she spent the rest of the year making as little contact with the other servants as she could possibly manage. But, her coincidental encounter with Emile at the city’s food market changed her life forever.
Actually, it was Emile who first approached Elle. Elle did not see him until he spoke to her. When Elle set her eyes on this handsome nobleman for the first time, she was intimidated. She did not even trust that he was genuine. So, she hastily paid for Robert’s food and fled Emile. A few times he called out to her, but she kept running. Every time he met her at the food market, he presented her with a scented rose and each time he was met with a cold response. But, Emile did not care that she was a lowly servant girl. He was drawn to her extraordinary beauty and humble nature and so was determined to have her. His persistence finally paid off when, one day he offered to take her back to the vineyard in his posh coach. Elle reluctantly agreed. But, as she sat inside that coach with the graceful stranger, she instantly felt at ease. The two struck up a lively conversation and by the time they arrived at the manor, she felt like she had known him her entire life. A farewell-until-next time kiss on her cheek made Elle feel warm and fuzzy all over. All barriers came crumbling down and she allowed herself to become vulnerable to love. That familiar apprehensive voice in her head tried its best to hold her back, but she could not force herself to resist Emile’s love.
From that day forth, the two spent much time together as lovers and as friends. With Emile, her stagnant and unhappy life bloomed into one full of adventure, passion and friendship. It was through Emile that she met Emmanuel and the other d’ LeVasque children. Although Elle got along well with Richard, Jeannette and Adele, she considered Emmanuel her closest friend second to Emile. Emmanuel’s solemn, yet gentle and caring nature attracted her to him. And it is still like that to this day. All the precious moments they shared made her harsh life on the Couchon vineyard much more bearable. But that only lasted for the first two years of their relationship. Elle can no longer endure the malicious treatment she receives from Robert and his detestable family.