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Untitled: Lina's Behemoth

Novel By: Lina Leigh
Action and adventure

Marguerite Kassirer is about as far from excitement as one could get. While young and charming, not to mention a very talented artist, she is only fifteen and has been working as a nanny since she was eight. It is 1895 in her hometown of Radara in Shendleigh, and Onofre Setag as ruled the country with an iron fist for five long years. This is the year that she begins work at a new house, the Kenyon house. This is the year that her life will change.
By the time she is twenty, she will have fallen in love with a man she cannot have, become engaged to, and then widowed from, a man she didn't love, become a revolutionary, been tortured, risked her life, printed seditious material, unwittingly set the stage for her doom, and raised three children. Yet when the only man she ever loved leaves her alone to face the terrors of a fascist regime, her courage fails her and she flees the country with the help of her best friend, a prostitute by the name of Margot Abandonato.
Alone and with repressed memories in an unfamiliar land, she is taken in and then nursed back to health by a farming family in the country of Berksham. Though mildly content with her new life as a farm girl, her contentment is interrupted by a visit from her lost lover's brother, who brings with him all the memories she'd hidden away. Now it is impossible to be satisfied with a day full of crops and livestock when she had once been partnered with romance and risk. The woman of the house, alarmed and disapproving of the way that Marguerite so frequently speaks her mind these days, decides that, since she can't get rid of the girl any other way, Marguerite will have to be married off...
Many miserable months are spent as Mrs. Marguerite Conrad adjusts to married life with a man she actively despises and who treats her as though she were an unfeeling lump. Though she is now the richest woman in Berksham, she is in fact repulsed by this position more than appeased. But when Mr. Conrad's bastard son arrives on the doorstep, it seems hope has sprung up once again. He is without inhibition and more spirited than anyone she has met in years. Dennis Palgi will become her closest ally. When a mutual friend comes bearing the news that Marguerite's home, Shendleigh, is at war, she is without a doubt in her mind perfectly prepared to become a nurse for her countrymen. With Dennis' help, she manages to escape an intolerable existence once again; only now she is returning to her original fears.
Dennis Palgi joins up with the army while Marguerite takes up nurse training in a neighbouring country. However, they won't let her at the front lines right away, and she is infinitely impatient. But when their country, Oblivder, is invaded by a third party, everything turns upside down. A doctor she is familiar with involves her in a plan to work as guerrilla fighters; through this group she will develop a reputation throughout the land, not unlike the one she's been garnering back in Shendleigh for years without ever knowing... Too impatient to wait anymore, she sneaks across the border into her home country and enlists in the army disguised as a man. They are now so desperate for men they accept without question that she is who she says. From one extreme to the other, Marguerite Kassirer always does what she feels she must. View table of contents...

Submitted:Nov 12, 2007    Reads: 64    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


"I have come," he said somberly, "to a crisis in my faith."

"How's that?" asked Marguerite.

"I know no longer what it is I believe in.�My religion no longer touches me as it once did, I see in it now only cruelty and hypocrisy.�It denies me pleasure which I can only obtain from you.�My children…my wife…my career, nothing brightens me as it once did.�What can I do?�I no longer see the need to turn to God, who can say without a blink that the pleasures of a woman are to be looked upon as a shame.�Shame should never feel so good, though he claims it temptation, but then why should punishment be redemption, which is a pleasure, and so therefore a temptation to sin!"�With a growl his forehead pressed against the heel of his hands and he stared at the floor.�"I don't know what I want.�I just wish I could have my faith back."

Tenderly, she took his large hands and kissed the palms, first the right, then the left.�"I don't want you to get it back."

"I beg your pardon!" he cried, sitting up.

"Think carefully.�I watch this house as though my very life depended upon it.�Everyone in this house means something special to me.�I've watched mealtimes intensely, for nothing fascinates me more than to watch a family eat together, as it was something I violently lacked growing up.�I wonder if you ever see the glow that possesses your son's face when he does the prayers.�The way that he can recite scripture off of the top of his head and bring bright-eyed insight into the word of God and the people around then.�When you're a child, there is no question in your mind of sin and virtue and Heaven and Hell, no question of the fallibility or even existence of God, and none of pleasure or vice.�You just know that God loves you so long as you behave.�It never occurs to you that it is a conditional love that he offers you.�I watch you most carefully of all when you say your prayers, mostly out of my great love of your physical presence, but I find you a fascinating subject.�This loss of faith is nothing new, it's been evident for years!�Your eyes do not close in rapture and you forget many of your lines and your hands are loosely entwined and there is little passion in your voice.�This is the way you feel now, it's an integral part of your being.�If you try to force yourself to believe and rejoice in the Lord's name, you will be living a falsity.�And what if your faith returns?�Despite the startling absence of your God in your mind, how do you feel now?"

It was a strange question he had not expected, and looking into her eyes he replied simply and truly, "I feel…fine.�Oddly alive.�I had attributed that to you."

"If your faith were to return now you would never feel this freedom again.�You would spend the rest of your life trying to repent what you've been up to recently and never feeling that you'd been properly forgiven or apologized deeply enough.�If your faith came back you could never celebrate it as I believe you think you would.�You would morn its return every day for the rest of your life.�Perhaps not manifestly, but you would feel it just the same.�And however uneasy you feel now without it, you could never adjust to having it back."�Standing, she leaned over and kissed the top of his curly head.�"Now you run along and get back to your work.�Big important man like you can't stay away for too long."�He smiled fondly after her retreating back, and perked up when she turned at the door.�"And do try to relax a bit more.�If you continue on worrying yourself this way you're going to end up having to go in hospital and then what good will you be to me?"�He laughed and shook his head at her beaming face as she turned the corner.

"What are you up to?" she asked as she entered, remarking in her mind again at how intoxicating it was to be able to enter his study whenever she pleased without knocking or permission.�"I've been hearing you move furniture for half an hour."

"Oh, nothing.�Just doing some late spring cleaning."

She laughed, the sound of silver bells, the sound that he loved so much, watching her toss her head back and her eyes sparkle.�"It's October, darling!�You aren't just late…you're early for next year, at this point!"

Giving her a watered-down smirk, he turned back to his work.�"I was starting to feel a little bogged down with it like this."�His tone was flat and expressionless, and her face softened as she entered, reaching out to him.�Before she'd made contact, he turned with an armful of her art supplies.�"Are these things yours, hon?"

"Oh, yes.�I'm sorry."

"Well, I'm just going to move them over here for now."�With that he tossed them carelessly onto a chair beside him.

"I was going to move them in a second, anyway."�Her voice was rather hurt, for he hadn't seen fit any time before to mishandle her things.�She was going to step around him so that she could take her books which were near his desk, and he turned around to hand them to her at the same time with a grunt.�Her jaw was down at the forceful way that he pushed her things into her arms, not even bothering to look in her face, making a common barnyard noise at her.�At best he seemed annoyed with her, and at worst…well, at worst it was very bad.

Channer bent over and picked up something that had fallen from her pile as he'd transferred it to her.�It was a painting she had done not long ago.�It had expressed her feelings for him, she'd said.�It was like nothing he'd ever seen, all flashes of colour without form or context.�Their eyes met over it and neither face showed any emotion.�After folding the painting, he wordlessly held his hand out as though he expected her to shake it.�She put her hand in his, and just as they used to, he slipped it to her, pressing his palm against hers, his fingertips dragging across her skin senselessly long.�After he'd turned around again and continued cleaning, Marguerite slipped the image back between numerous pages, wondering if he was really mad at her after all, and concentrating on how his fingers had felt against her flesh.

After abandoning her things on a chair, she watched him go through papers that were long outdated and set aside things he had to save for later.�He picked up a letter still sealed in an envelope.�"To Mr. K-e-n-y-i-n."

"Not really!"

"Yup.�So into the trash with it."

Just then she felt guilty, as she watched him pick up another pile.�"I'll help you, if you'd like."�Then she wondered what possessed her.�He told her that it was alright while she gazed fondly around his study, the room she loved so much, and she clamped her mouth shut immediately.

"Actually, could you put this folder in that box beside you, please?�The one on the floor?"

Doing so, she laughed, "I would help you, but I don't know where anything goes or what is or is not important."�It wasn't only that, though; she wasn't sure that her heart could take it, packing it all away.�If someone were to give her every last scrap of paper from his room, it was guaranteed that she would arrange it all just as it always was.�"I'm so glad I won't see this room before you've cluttered it up again - I can't stand it not being messy.�I can't picture it any other way than that."

With a giggle, he responded, back to her, "You don't have to help me.�I'm going to get bored and quit in about five minutes, anyway."�Once in a while he handed her things and she placed them where he suggested.�Upon turning to face his desk, he threw his arms wide in a gesture that encompassed the whole thing.�"How do I tackle this?"

"Full speed," she said in all seriousness, "head on."�He made a brief motion which made him look, in her eyes, like a grizzly bear.

It was another ten minutes before he stood with a sigh.�"Well, that's more than enough of that for one day."�When he looked at her, he seemed most startled to find her standing there.�"You're free to go, Marguerite, I don't require any further assistance."

Being addressed so formally made her flinch a little, and it left her incapable of uttering a sound.�He was mumbling to himself, shifting piles hither and yon, and Marguerite realized that he was quite right in what he'd said; there was just no place for her right here and right now.�Quietly, she picked up her things and removed herself.�One foot was outside the door, she was on the verge of leaving, when she turned around.�She was going to ask him what the matter was.�But he seemed so absorbed in going through his papers, throwing things away, moving and sorting, that she didn't want to interrupt him.�Not just now.�Maybe tomorrow, or the next day, when they would both have more time…

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to come with us?�You know we'd all love to have you there," she smiled as she tied the wide ribbon beneath her chin.�It was a damp day, and now and then the sky sprinkled showers on the people.�Marguerite loved this hat best - a gift from Margot, it was broad and black and had a very small top that fit cozily around her head.�The ribbon that kept it on was a pale lilac and, while it was a high-class product, she loved it because it was sedate and didn't draw attention to itself or to her.�This afternoon Marguerite and the Kenyons were going to the fair, but Channer had softly declined the invitations extended to him by his wife and children.�Alone in her old room, he watched her with a resigned interest; she fascinated him and he loved her, but he was feeling particularly tired.

"Darling…please…I am not in a fair-going mood today.�I'm just too worn out and I don't feel that I have the enthusiasm requited of a man at a fair.�Besides, how foolish I'd look!�A man my age at a children's fair!"

"But you'd be with your children, there's nothing foolish about that."

"Sentimental nonsense, my pet."�He smiled at her.�"Admittedly, that idea hadn't dawned on me.�I was merely thinking that, because I'm so old now, I wouldn't have a place there."

Marguerite laughed.�"What in heaven's name are you talking about?�You're not old!�There are dozens of men in this town that can barely remember your age and would give anything to have it back!�Channer, you still have a brilliant career and you have an even greater one before you.�As what?�Oh, anything you'd want!�You've still got your law work, which is going along very well - "

"Before the Traditionalists snatch it from me!�My love, haven't you heard them talking?�I've been on their list for years, I've just been too high-profile to take on before now!"

"And you're still too high-profile!�You're one of the few lawyers left that won't cheat your clients out of their eyeteeth!�I've heard others talking of you.�Not Taggies, I mean the people."�She answered to his quizzical look, "Men at Margot's place, women at the stores, the common people.�The people who admire you and respect you and who feel indebted to you for various services you've performed for them.�You underestimate the powerful feelings of those who love you, Channer.�You think that they're just going to stand by and let people overthrow you.�That's not so.�They're going to fight for you no matter who they're up against."�She was honestly speaking for the people of Radara, even Shendleigh - but she was speaking for herself amongst their number.

He kissed her slowly, lazily.�"You are a sentimental fool, and I've never met a girl before that can romanticize things like you can.�I'm surprised Setag personally hasn't recruited you to write up articles praising his glorious revolution."�She stuck her tongue out at him as she preened her hair.�"Anyway, there isn't much use.�You've seen how influential the good people of Shendleigh are against their fearless leader.�I haven't got an icicle's chance in Satan's mouth of remaining in my position."�His tone seemed jesting but she knew that he gave this situation precedence above all others.

Taking his hands, she moved with him so that they stood, chest against chest, smiling into each others eyes.�"We could run away.�There are other counties were things like this don't happen."�She was thinking of Gary, dead, hanged.�She was thinking of Nakita, disappeared, probably dead or wishing he were.�She was thinking of a father and child mowed down in a crowd.�She was thinking of all the things she'd read in the paper, all the things that she'd printed in Channer's pamphlets, she was thinking of the cold and the misery and the misfortune and they eyes of the people, eyes like whipped hounds, and what could be done?�"Things like this don't happen," she repeated, "and they'd love people like us.�We're active and involved, and we could make an impact in places that aren't reinforced with steel and iron.�We could be happy somewhere, together, you and I, we wouldn't have to worry about…these things."

He laughed.�"You stole that right out of Burford's Door, you clever little thief."

Marguerite shrugged.�"I couldn't think of anything else to say that would deflate your hopelessness."�Kissing his nose, she smiled.�"It's always an option, anyway.�One must never feel hampered by anything - constant freedom is the stuff of life, and to part with it is to part with purpose."

"Where'd you knick that one from?"

"Nowhere, to my knowledge - purely invented drivel."

Channer laughed as he embraced her, his lips in her neck.�"I love you, dear."

"So you're sure you don't want to come with us?" she asked once more as she removed herself from his embrace.

"Yes…yes, quite.�I'm just not feeling up to it."�He rested his body in one of the larger chairs they'd placed there for storage.

"Alright.�We'll have a chat when I get home.�I've heard some rumours I'd like you to illuminate for me."�Quickly she pecked his lips and her expression radiated his soul; he could read it clearly and still his feelings did not change no matter how many times he saw it.�His response remained the same.

When she caught sight of his eyes, however, that strange shade of blue, she held back, nervous.�Giving a good-natured chuckle, he stood and hugged her warmly.�"It'll be alright.�I'll be here waiting for you when you get back."

"You'll be here?" she asked, giggling some, wondering why he'd stay in this old room now dusty.

"Well, I should be," he replied, misunderstanding.�"If I am, things will go on as normal. If not…well, we'll deal with that when we come to it."

"Yes," she consented, and walked out the door.

Coming back in, Marguerite removed her hat and shook the droplets of rain out of her hair.�Laughing at the way Thomas wrestled with Sylvia to get her new dolly away from her, she touched his back lightly.�"Go run to your playroom, there ought to be a few good things in there to entertain you.�Sylvia, Ruthie, you two as well.�And play nicely!" she called after their shrieking backs.�Turning to Mrs. Kenyon, she said, "As soon as I've changed into some dry clothes I'll get to them and make sure they're not tearing each others' limbs off."

"Alright.�And while you're at it, could you please locate my husband, tell him that we've returned from our outing, and that he shouldn't be such a stick in the mud.�Remind him that we've got the Addison's coming tomorrow and that he can't stay home while we all go to the ballet, he must come too and join us!"

"Yes, Ma'am."�Ascending the stairs, she felt the hems of her skirt clinging uncomfortably to her ankles and she wiggled her hat in her hand so that it sprinkled dewdrops onto the carpet.�Reaching her door, she looked down the corridor and saw that the Kenyon's bedroom door was closed. �Probably that Channer was lying down again.�Again that curiosity, wondering why he was lying down so much recently.�She knew he wasn't telling her the truth; she knew him too well to swallow the excuse that he was getting old.�She'd bedded with him too much to take that as an excuse, for how could a man with so much energy for one thing have so little for all else?�Old men had no such stamina for anything.�Perhaps tonight she would sit down with him and beg him to confide in her.�Surely if there was anyone he could speak with about anything, it was she!

Smiling at how deep her feelings were for him, she opened her bedroom door.�It took her several seconds to register what she was seeing.�Once or twice her eyes swept over the vision that lay before her, and promptly she let out a scream of terror and agony that rang throughout the entire house.�Backing away, she screamed louder and clutched a hand to her chest, finally backing into the doorjamb and fainting.

When she opened her eyes there was Jay trying to revive her through his own tears, the children clinging to his legs and bawling.�Sitting up straight in a flash, she found that there was no one else there but she could hear the footsteps pounding up the stairs.�Once again her eyes flew to the visage on the floor and tears flooded them.�"No," she moaned, moving Jay's arm aside.�He leaned back on the balls of his feet, watching Marguerite sadly.�He had never been confirmed in suspicions, but he had always had them, and he pitied her now more than ever before.�"Oh, no, God please!"�Crawling on her hands and knees, she scrambled across the floor to Channer.

Touching his shoulder, she begged for him to wake up.�But the blood that had long ago soaked into her white carpet was soaking into her skirts and running between her fingers as she stroked his hair.�"Please get up, Channer, please.�I need you, please wake up.�Dinner will be served soon, and you've got the Addison's coming tomorrow.�Please wake up, please!"

Mrs. Kenyon shrieked loudly with a hand to her mouth, and Nella gasped while she and Patricia clutched each other.�Meanwhile, forgotten in the tumult, Thomas and Sylvia and Ruthie sat on the floor and wailed.

None cried so hard, however, as Marguerite.�Even the wife of the deceased did not weep so bitterly, which, of course, was immediately noted by all but the widow.�Mrs. Kenyon did not rush to the body as Marguerite had, did not bargain for the life of the dead man, did nothing except stare at his motionless body and pant in shock.�It did not occur to any of them that the blow was so deep and so sudden that she could think of no way to respond, did not occur to them that she was cut to the quick.�Part of it lay in their initial feelings for their mistress.�She always carried herself with a ladylike dignity that none of them could reproach.�The only servant to which she showed respect was Marguerite; the rest of them she treated like dogs, or worse.�She was known to hit them and berate them in public, chastise them for small offenses and be very high-strung.�No sympathy could lay with this woman, as far as the others were concerned.�Even her children felt this way, for they never spent time with heir mother apart from outings and social gatherings.�None of them realized, or cared to take the time to realize, that Mrs. Kenyon had to be this way or nothing could get accomplished within the home.�She felt that if she did not drive the maid, the cook, and the doorman as hard as she could, then none of them would do as they were employed.�The only reason that she did not behave that way toward her children's nanny was because she had a sense that Marguerite, having been denied a family all of her life, felt as though she owed the Kenyon's for letting her live with them.�It was this believed appreciation that kept Mrs. Kenyon treating Marguerite like a woman of lower station and not total inferiority.�Even her husband she felt she had to treat this way, or he would never try to achieve more than mediocrity in his business.�But she knew that he could be great, he just needed to try.�And to try, he needed to be pushed.�And she was the one that was going to push him.�But now he was dead.

It was Marguerite that everyone truly pitied, most especially now.�While everyone had thought there was more to her relationship with Mr. Kenyon than employer and employee, no one knew for certain and everyone loved her too much to broach the subject.�She was kind to them all, every last one, looking at them as her brothers and sisters.�When Patricia was slapped for neglecting to do something, when Jay was hollered down because he hadn't made a good enough presentation to their arriving guests, when Nella was nearly fired for having once burned an insignificant side dish, it was Marguerite who had soothed the wounded and saved Nella's job and ceased the fight between all.�The children loved her because she was the one who played with them and when she scolded them she didn't scream and she was fun to be with and talk to.�Whenever there was something bothering them they went to their nanny, not their mother.�And it was undisputed that before his early demise, Mr. Kenyon had loved her more than anyone else.

And now while Nella had been sent out to get help and Mrs. Kenyon had been lain down by Patricia in her bedroom, Jay tried to lift up Marguerite's body, heavy due to resistance.�Or lack thereof.�She had lain the upper half of her body across his broad shoulders, put her fingers in his hair on the sides of his head, and was kissing the top of his head and as much of what remained of his face as she could.�It did little good, however; he could no longer feel her kisses.�When Jay touched her hips to try to heave her to her feet, she turned to him with flashing eyes and he backed away, and she did not realize that it was the spattering of his blood on her lips and nose that made him recoil, not her expression or tone.�"Don't you dare touch me there," she whispered in pure venom.�"That's where he touched me.�Don't you ever touch me there."�Clearly he could see that she'd lost her mind.�It was evident in the way that she stroked his hair lovingly, called him Allen, gazed at the hole in the back of his head with pure adoration, and told him she loved him as though he were still alive.�Once Patricia had set things right with the mistress of the house, she came to the mistress of the deceased.�Together she and Jay picked her up as she kicked and flailed against them while yelling curses to their names.�They brought her, still biting and fighting, to the guest bedroom and laid her down and tried to soothe her, not understanding that the discomfort stirred now came from recollections of past intimacies in this room with the dead man she'd been kissing moments before.

Patricia, being the maid of the house, was laden with the keys to every room and so locked Marguerite screaming and crying as far from the dead body as it was possible to be.�For a long time she beat on the door and swore that she would get both of them fired for this cruelty under these circumstances.�But no one came and finally, from overexcitement and overexertion, Marguerite finally passed out solidly.

When Marguerite opened her eyes there was a tray of food on the table beside her that looked more lovingly prepared than ever by Nella, who had taken the liberty of wiping the blood off of Marguerite's face.�Her door was opened.�Propping herself up on her elbows, she took a bite of the sandwich Nella had prepared and set her senses on super frequency.�The house seemed very grey and cool.�Though whether that stemmed from the foggy drippy outsides combined with the white and navy blue inside of the room, or the general atmosphere she couldn't tell.�The house smelled of stale air and there was a physical presence hanging heavy in the air, as though the rain clouds were within her room, and she was running her fingers along it.

When her ears picked up the sound of men murmuring downstairs, it was an instant of glory when she heard Channer's mingling with them.�It must have been a dream!�He was alive and well and how tenderly he would dispel her foolish fears!�Springing out of bed nimbly, she didn't even touch the floor as she ran to the landing.�And, upon reaching it, she saw at the bottom of them a thick, broad figure with his back to her.�It was he, standing here in the flesh which she so loved to squeeze and taste!�Skimming the stairs as her toes did not touch the carpet, she giggled as she grabbed his heavy arms and spun him to face her, grinning as she never had before.

Yet the face that stared down at her with clear-cut confusion, fear, and disorientation was not that of the man that she loved with such violence.�There were many similarities, and that was indeed his jaw line and nose, but it was not him.�She could feel now that the bulk she had attributed to his physical self was nothing more than a heavy coat.�Never in anyone's life had they witnessed disappointment like what they saw overtake Marguerite at that moment.�Lost children and demented elderly could not have brought such intense tears to anyone's eyes as she did just then.�"Who….who are you?�You look…" she mumbled as she brought two long fingers to stroke his jaw.�He did look very much like Channer, they bore a rather striking resemblance, but this was none the less not her lover, nor could she ever satisfy herself with pretending he were.�She retracted her fingers hurriedly as the tall man pulled his flesh away.

"I'm Reginald Kenyon.�Channer's brother."�There stirred in Reginald's mind various allusions his brother had made in his letters to "lust for women of stations low" and "burning love for those who usually incite contempt" and "passion so deep for ones so forbidden that it almost no longer matters what would become of the lover".�The look that engulfed this woman's eyes as she had turned him to face her, and the different one that now dogged them in misery painted a picture too vivid for his grieving mind to take in.�She was a beautiful woman, even in her time of deepest depression he could he see that, and he understood his brother's allurement.�And his heart went out to her, for a moment, knowing that she was pained more than his sister-in-law perhaps was.

At the news of this magnificent stranger's identity, there was an intense moan issued forth from Marguerite as her fingers dug through his coat and she lolled her head down to face the floor.�She let out one weak sob of anguish before she went unexpectedly rigid.�Raising her eyes, she said desperately, "But where is he?�You've come to visit him, but where is he?"

Reginald's eyes lifted to his sister-in-law's, but he could find no solace in them.�Only stony contempt.�Taking her upper arms in hands just as large as his brother's, he said to her, "My brother is dead.�He shot himself in the face this afternoon.�You found him, dear, please don't do this."

At his touch all the similarities in physical and facial structure sprang out, and her mind became lodged in the belief that this was indeed Channer and he was not dead only teasing.�Pressing her body tightly against Reginald's, she said through tears of joy, "It's you, Allen, I know it's you!�Oh, I'm so happy you're not dead!�They all told me you were dead, but I knew you weren't!"

With fear fluttering in her heart, Patricia, who saw and heard this entire messy scene, and seemed to be the only one noticing the dried pools of blood on Marguerite's knees, lightly intervened and pulled Marguerite away by the shoulders.�"Ever since she saw him she's become slightly unhinged.�I believe she needs another lay down.�Come along, Miss Kassirer."

"Just a moment, Miss Vassillissa," said Mrs. Kenyon in an even tone.�Walking with measured strides of forced calm to the two women, she handed Marguerite an envelope.�"They found this in my husband's breast pocket.�There was as well one for me."�Marguerite took the envelope with fond eyes and trembling fingers.�After she had thanked her employer, Mrs. Kenyon gave her a graceful nod.�"You're dismissed."�Patricia continued to steer her up the stairs and away from embarrassment.

Reginald looked at Pricilla.�"You wear such a bitter expression, sister-in-law.�I sense something more afoot than your husband's passing?"

"How can you doubt it?�I come home today to find my husband shot in the face, taking his own life, in our nanny's room!�Scandalous alone, for what reason could he have had to kill himself?�What indeed?"�This last question was asked to herself as she poured a large amount of brandy from the decanter while he shed his heavy coat.

"You suspect foul play?" he asked as he took out a cigar from his jacket pocket.

"Oh no, no.�Not a business rival staging a suicide or anything like that.�I fear that both you and my husband read far too many books.�No, no.�He really did kill himself.�But I know why.�I'm sure that Marguerite knew well before I did."�Looking into Reginald's eyes, she said, "I read the letter addressed to her that they discovered on his body.�Seems that they've been carrying on for quite some time."�Looking vacantly ahead of her, she said more to herself than to him, "I don't know how I feel about it.�I remember meeting her when she was only so young.�I thought she was young in all ways.�It never dawned on me to add up that she was young and attractive to the fact that my husband and I rarely interfaced on any level.�And now that I have it's too late.�He loved her.�Not just in the bodily sense, but he truly fell in love with her.�Yet it ate away at him like nothing in his life."

"What will become of her?" asked Reginald.�As a casual, third-party observer, he was not particularly swayed one way or the other, though he had to admit to himself that there was an inclination to come down on the side that his brother would have taken. Clearly now, under the circumstances, he could see that it would have favoured the nanny in all possible ways.�There felt an odd duty in him, having read so much about her unconsciously in his brother's letters, to let no harm come to her.

"Her?�Heavens I hadn't thought!"�Sighing, Mrs. Kenyon took a long drink.�"Well, I suppose she'll have to stay.�I mean, gracious, who else would have her?�I wouldn't dream of setting her loose on any other families - what if she seduces the husbands of all of my friends and associates?�No, we can't have that!"

"Do you think she would?�If she loved my brother, than what need would she have to seduce other men?"

"I don't know how filth like that works, it's beyond me!�Besides, it would look most unbecoming to us if we were to start throwing away the hired help as soon as the master of the house had passed away - it would look as though we were only keeping her on in the first place to satisfy him.�The irony would be that in a way we were, I just wasn't informed.�I find it almost comical that, had I known, I'd have given them a much freer reign than they've had all this time.�While I did have a great regard for your brother, I must say I was never madly in love with him.�Never the way Marguerite was, never."

"Even at the beginning?" asked Reginald in shock.�"But you seemed so happy!"

"Oh, happy to be a bride, yes of course!�What woman isn't?�That's the pinnacle of life, followed by a few children to settle the deal, and then you're finished!�I think that perhaps Marguerite had the proper idea - you can use them for what you need but still remain young, vibrant, and attractive to all without having to settle for the whole thing."

"Something tells me that wasn't her intent," he said.

"Mmmm," mused she.�"Perhaps not.�As it is, it's too late.�I suppose she'll just have to stay with us until the time comes when we'll no longer need her.�Besides that, you saw the state that she was in this evening!�Clearly the woman's lost her senses."

"She seemed grief-stricken, at most, but not mad."

"You don't know her as I know her.�That girl never carried herself with anything but the strongest dignity and poise and delicacy.�And now look at what she's been reduced to!�I hate to think how her mind will break when she reads that letter and realizes that it was her fault."

Channer Kenyon was pacing Marguerite's bedroom floor half an hour after she, his wife, his children, and his servants had left for the fair.�He did not want to go, and had insisted that he'd be left alone because he wanted to have a lie down.�But that was not the case that day; what he really wanted was to come to a head.

He had talked circles round himself in his mind.�Being alone in the house, he had done so aloud, and had not bothered against cursing or blaspheme, neither of which mattered to him anymore.�"I am an old man, now, a tired man.�What is there for me?�My job has brought me money but little pleasure for so very long that it hurts me just to think of it.�My wife means less to me than even that, shameful thing though it is to feel.�A man is supposed to love his wife, honour her, cherish her, hold her memory close in his bosom beside only his God!�I have not God, and I have no love for my wife.�A real man should love a woman!�Ahh, but I do!�I do love a woman, though saints preserve us, she is of such common breeding and low status…yet she carries herself as a duchess would, or even a queen!�I love her!�But she's so young and beautiful, surely a man as old as myself would only hinder her happiness!"�He paced wildly, bumping into her tables and chairs and knocking things carelessly to the floor.�His riotously blue eyes would not remain still in their sockets, and there was sweat running down his neck as he felt the hard, metal object bang him repeatedly against the thigh.

"And what of my children?"�He stopped pacing for a moment as each of their darling little faces came into view before him as though they stood there, giggling as all merry children do, their arms open to embrace their father.�"My little Thomas growing into such a man, my little Sylvia is becoming one of those wild women you hear so much about now that do things on their own terms despite being inferior to men.�And my little Ruthie, who is so small and lovely…surely she'll grow up to be a great lady, marry a rich man, and live as elegantly as she ought to.�If the government doesn't get in their way.�I love those children, surely I can live for them!�They need a father and who better than I to do it?"�Resuming his pacing, he shook his head wearily as bored lions are seen to do.�"But what kind of a father would I be?�I do not love their mother, I love their nanny!�And surely when my children found out (and they are bound to find out, children are so perceptive and we take for granted all that they can see) they could never love and respect me again!�They would look upon me as degenerate filth for what I had lusted so strongly after and finally fallen for!�There is no hope left for me in my children."

Lying down on Marguerite's bed, where he had often sat and lain and loved, he brought forth his familiar gesture of putting his enormous fingers into his hair.�"It's hopeless.�Absolutely hopeless.�And it's no one's fault but mine, I brought it purely upon myself."�Suddenly he sat up.�"No!�I did nothing of fault!�It was she!�She seduced me, and what man would not have succumbed to such a vixen, such a beauty, as I did?�No other man would have done differently, and yet it was I who has been tortured so long and not a man more deserving of agony!�Such a degree of agony had to fall upon my shoulders when I'd lived such a virtuous life beforehand.�Why should such a calamity have struck me?"

And then he paused and forced himself to see things the way they really were.�"Because I wanted it to.�All my life I craved action and adventure and excitement.�I never had it.�My childhood was dull and my adult life was proving no better!�I'd had three children, but my job, which I honestly never liked much anyway, took me away from them.�I had a relatively good-looking wife, but the job took me away from her as well.�And then I noticed that my children were growing up without me, and that my wife was losing her attractiveness, and I found that her company, when I was forced to endure it, bored me!�And when I saw Marguerite for the first time Heaven help me I was attracted to her in ways I had never been to my wife, even when I was young and passionate blood engulfed me.�She was the only frank woman I ever knew, and I loved her for it.�She was the only one who would ever listen, who ever cared.�And when it became plain that she loved me, just as much as I clearly loved her, then what was I to do?�Sleeping dogs cannot lie when they're having such vivid dreams.�I kissed her the first time, not the other way around.�And who was the one who had begged for the other to make love to them?�I had begged her.�Never was a romantic thing done between us that I did not initiate - none of the important things anyway, for by that point it no longer mattered.�And I enjoyed the torture it was putting me through.�The late night sneaking to her room when I knew for sure that my wife was asleep and would not be disturbed by my removing myself from our bed brought such excitement to my breast it was almost better than the things I was going for.�But not quite.�I enjoyed lying to Pricilla, it felt like a game!�I enjoyed feeling guilty and dirty and I took pleasure in that it was sinful and wrong to be so in love with Marguerite, mentally, emotionally, and physically.�I especially loved taking up the task of teaching her everything I'd ever dreamed of.�She was everything I could have asked for in every way.�She still is.�Yet…I can't stand this anymore!

"There must come a time," he insisted to himself, "when she will fall out of love with me.�It's bound to happen.�Someone like her cannot love a man like me for long.�It's a miracle it's lasted all the time it has.�When I've lost her, I will have nothing.�I've bet it all on her and lost!"�He stood and walked to her desk upon which there was ready and waiting, almost as a sign, paper and ink upon which to pour his thoughts.�"But do I regret this?" he asked as he wrote furiously, addressing the first one to his neglected and injured wife.�"No.�I regret nothing.�I loved her, nay, I do love her, and so there is no shame for me in what I've done.�Isn't that what she told me so long ago?�Indeed it is.�And she was right, it's just taken me all this time to realize it.�I don't regret it, and I'd have done the same thing again if given the chance, but God save me I still feel guilt.�But I'll rid myself of it."�And now he took another sheet and wrote the name that drove his mind to a frenzy and made his fingers tingle with expectancy.�He had hoped to talk this out with her, face to face as good people do, but there was no hope of that now.�He could feel that seeing her again wasn't meant to be his fate.�He'd seen more of her than anyone else, and now he was to punish himself for it by never letting himself see her again.

He said no words as he wrote to her, confessing a love he could no longer control or contain, a love that killed him bodily as it brought him life on the inside.�He kissed his letter that he wrote to her in the spots he felt her fingers would be when she held it in her hands, between her fingers which he loved so much.�He began crying as he furiously wrote, wavering between blaming her and blaming no one and blaming himself.�He was disoriented now, and he kept forgetting what he wanted to tell her, bringing up old conversations between them or fun times they shared.�He would remind her of the way that he liked his food, then recalling too late that soon enough it wouldn't matter. Perhaps there was a part of him that believed that she would be propelled by misery to take her own life and they would join one another in the flames of hell where they were doomed to be cast for their mutual affection.

This idea made him pause.�How could he let himself do this, thinking it would destroy her?�He loved her too much to wish her ruin!�But things couldn't be any different.�He saw no option but the one he was willing to take.

Placing both letters in his inner jacket pocket, he removed the pistol from his outer jacket pocket and stared at it for a while.�It amazed him to think that this little piece of metal could possibly make things so much better.�But it would.�He ran it over his hands and the cold metal bumped here and there.�The sense of awe was drawn out unnaturally long, and there was a very strange thing going on with time.�Things were moving slower for him, and as he pointed the gun at his face he began to wonder if perhaps he was doing the right thing after all.�The silence of the house was pressing as though wrapped tightly in a pillow all around him.�He felt as though his movements were being dragged on for eternity, like he was moving through tons of water in an enormous vat.�No longer were coherent thoughts swimming in his mind, biting each other's tails like angry birds.�He stared down the cold barrel of the gun, as though daring it to try to take his life.�He could feel things much more intensely; the metal was like ice to him, the carpet soft and squishy around his handsome shoes, sinking him into the floor.�He was aware of how virginal Marguerite's room seemed to the outsider, when he knew that there wasn't a shred of virginity in her anymore; he'd made sure of it and she'd proved it well.�The hole where he knew the bullet would come whizzing from seemed like a dank void that frightened him.�Perhaps, he thought to himself, this wasn't the right idea.�Writing those two letters, one to his wife of law and one to his wife of sprit, had drained most of the violence he felt inside of him, had flushed out the need to take such drastic action.

When this thought came to him he peered sadly into the blackness of his pistol.�The dog ran by Marguerite's door as he did, barking at top volume.�Jumping in surprise, having forgotten that the dog was still in the house, his finger slipped and pulled the trigger and Channer Kenyon had shot himself in the face.


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