The Countess

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young 18th-century socialite is endangered when her affair threatens her very life.
A fatal showdown on Christmas eve will only leave one survivor.
The Count OR The Countess/

Submitted: March 18, 2017

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Submitted: March 18, 2017

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The Countess


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Chapter One- Darling. 1793 February 14th.

The golden ball room was glowing. Grand chandeliers illuminated the tapestry above, showing the graceful biblical figures watching. Whereas below them, the most grand party of the year was being thrown. The guests wore masks, wild and bold and shiny and plane. Tables here and there held gambling games where lords bet money they knew they did not have, where sons gambled away their family estate and where ladies roared with joy as their man rolled the lucky 6! In the corner music played. Fact paced, the musicians played pianos,violins, flutes and so much more. The dance floor was a sight to see. Extravagant inflated dresses gracefully glided across the dancefloor as young bachelors chased them. Elise spun in her emerald green gown as Edward held her at the waist. Isabella flew into the air with her lover’s hands at her hip. At the far end of the ballroom, two staircases met to make a balcony with a grand door at the top. A man ushered for everyone’s attention. Mutters spread across the room but silence quickly ensued.

“May i introduce our most gracious hosts. The Earl of Suffolk, Lord William Devon and her excellency the countess, Lady Catherine De La Rosa!” A thunder of claps spread like wildfire on a dry day. The guests had been waiting for the notorious Lady Catherine to appear. She was known throughout Europe. Catherine was at the centre of the fashion world, having created many famous designs throughout the world. Her name was well respected too, her mother a rich countess from Spain and her father the late queen’s advisor. Their deaths left Catherine an enormous sum of money, this money made her a very desired wife. She had courtships from dukes across Europe, the princes of Arragon and Sweden. However none caught her eye like the Earl Of Suffolk, Lord William Devon. When he first arrived at her manor in Derby, she was immediately enchanted. They married a month later. She thought he was handsome and intelligent and everything her man should be

The doors opened and the hosts entered the ballroom, perched on the balcony. What a sight to behold. The Earl wore an ice blue petticoat, with the rest of his ensemble a beautiful gold. His chest decorated with his military badges. His eyes a piercing blue and his hair was slicked back and a light shade of brown. His simple mask was white and shiny, made of grinded pearl, covering the entirety of his face,

His wife Catherine was the true belle of the ball; All eyes were on her.

Her black curly hair reached halfway down her back. She wore a tight pearl necklace and wore scarlet lipstick with very little makeup. Her dress, oh her dress. The the entire thing was royal purple. The torso was tight, embroidered with pearls. The low neckline revealed enough cleavage for Catherine to feel free, but not too much in case of angering her husband. The sleeves reached just under her elbow, where the came out into a long frill of fabric. The skirt was the key piece. Expanding 60cm outwards, the shining skirt was enormous, reaching the floor. The skirt was extremely inflated and puffy and was embroidered with fine glittering gems and pearls. Catherine wore a cape made entirely of roses which sweeped the floor. Her mask covered the top half of her face, made entirely out of black raven feathers it stuck boldly outwards, as if the mask was in fact a pair of wings.

The audience applauded this beautiful display.

“Ladies. Gentlemen. Of late, my doors have been closed. My family took the time to mourn the death of my husband’s mother. I thought it appropriate to open my doors, gold doors may I add” a chuckle spread across the room “ to celebrate the day of Saint Valentine the only way I know how darlings, a party!” The peers roared with cheer.

“ I propose a game. Just a little thing honestly. When you all came into my home, my usher gave you a card. You may now open them.”

The guests opened their cards and looked bewildered, looking around the room. Catherine smiled.

“ These my darlings, are your valentine's, married or not. When the clock rings 11, my musicians shall play a song of love. And you will dance. I know you are a tiresome lot who waste to much time on what ifs and whys, throw caution to the wind! Let many courtships begin today. Glasses up! To me!” She laughed, and everybody made the toast and drank. Her husband immediately left her side, walking down the staircase and into the crowd. She clutched her dress and lifted it slightly to make walking down the stairs slightly less hazardous. She entered the crowd and was immediately greeted by her loving audience. Her eyes were constantly scanning for William. Before, they discussed how they would spend the ball together and dance and drink. Why had she expected anything from him? She maintained a jovial smile and danced to Four Seasons by Vivaldi.

Chapter Two- Petty Vengeance. 1793 February 14th.

Catherine watched from the corner of the ballroom. The sound of high pitched giggles and low murmurs occupied her mind. The smell of perfume bleached her nose. She watched as couples slipped away. She remembered the passion in her early days with William. The sex, she thought, was brilliant but it was not the best bit. They had true love. True love. He admired her and she worshiped him. After a year she became pregnant. How his eyes glowed when she told him. And how he his eyes darkened when she lost it. He left her to bleed on the dining room floor. All that remained between the two was toxicity and hatred. Sour memories and bad blood. Suddenly she lost her balance and realised she had had a few too many bottles of champagne. She strutted through her grand marble corridors. Men and women were making love on the odd corner. Her home was a brothel she muttered. At least she had brought something into this world, whether it was one night of passion or more for these sad and lonely people she thought. In a sad reality, she envied them. They were free. She was a bird in a cage. She pushed open her bedroom door and froze in her spot. The blood in her veins ran cold. Her muscles became stone. Her husband was bedding some common tart. He quickly stood up, the powdered girl laid, breasts on show, moaning to herself. Catherine stormed over and gripped the whore by the hair, her hand became a talon and the girl a mouse. William clutched her arm and ragged her off as if she was a doll. The girl lay on the floor crying while William dragged Catherine away. She turned to him and stared him in the eyes. She had no words, she could feel a lump in her throat. He had nothing to say. She nodded and walked out.

Something snapped in her. In that marble corridor, she darkened. She wanted something, someone. She found a man. Tall, very muscular. He had curly brown hair and wore a red mask. She walked up to him, took his hand and led him to a guest room. She threw him onto the bed. He admired her. The raven hair and mask contrasted beautifully with her pale skin and red lips. Through the mask he saw hazel eyes watching him like meat. She unbuckled her cape and let it fall to the floor, her skirt was next, then the torso until she stood before him in nothing other than knee high socks and her mask. He quickly did the same until he laid with his mask. She pounced. Like animals they rolled in the sheets, making as much noise as possible. William banged at the door, screaming.

“Cait no, no, no you cannot do this! Cait please, stop!” He pleaded for he knew a scandal could ruin them both. She cared not, and told the mystery man to do it. And so he did. He thrust and they both shouted and screamed and moaned. The party moved from the ballroom to outside her door.

“That is enough.” she finished and rolled onto the bed. She walked to the window and opened it. The breeze was a relief. Catherine nodded and told him to leave. And so he did, with his clothes clutched in his hands. She put on her nighty, opened the door and stood for all to see. The audience gasped. Her lipstick smudged, love marks up and down her body. The sound of fist meeting face echoed throughout the pristine corridor, shocking the flock of nobles watching, Followed by the clap of flesh meeting marble floor. William stood over his wife who lay on the floor holding her face. The audience dispersed. William screamed and Catherine sobbed. What had she done?

Chapter Three- Dinner For Two? 1793, April 21st.

The pitter patter of heels was all that could be heard alongside the sound of cutlery and plates being placed. The medium sized room consisted of 4 marble walls, a marble floor and a ceiling that was painting with scenes of nature. A long, narrow wooden table was stood in the centre. 2 seats at opposing ends with a red cloth over the top. A rug in one corner, a shade of blue, where the entertainment would usually play. But not today. An eerie silence thick enough to mould filled the lifeless void. Little sunlight escaped through the dark clouds, and even less through the grand window. William was seated at one end, picking at food and grunting at the maids. The last few months since the party had been uneasy to say the least. William spent most of his time out whereas Catherine thought it best to stay inside. For her, the affair was a scandal. For William, his affairs were the normal, expected more to say. The door creaked open, and Catherine slid in. Her simple blue dress reached the floor and the sleeves reached her wrists. There was no pattern, no embroidery. Her raven hair was tightly tied in a bun, with a large circular hat, white in colour.

“William, i… i am going into the town today. I have a friend, we are going to dine at the quaint little place”. The once boisterous countess was a transformed woman. Her experience with William had her scared, scared of him. She had not left her home for months in fear of provocation, but the thought of spending another second would drive her insane. She knew the chances of him giving permission were slim, very slim. He did not look up from his food.

“William?”. She pushed further

“Mmh? What do you want me to say? Do you want my permission? You are not a hostage Catherine. You are as free as any other whore”. He spat the last word out like poison. If only it was, she thought.

“No of course not, I was just notifying you. Erm yes, good day, I shall be back later”.

The carriage ride was smooth, only the occasional bump. Catherine slipped into her tiny purse and pulled out an envelope. She re-read the message scribed in side,

Countess, behind the midnight mask,

Contacting you has been my task.

Meet me in the red feather tavern,

Bring your wings, I shall bring my veil.

The message sent chills down her spine. She dived into her purse once more and dug out the feather mask from the ball. A barrage of unwelcome memories swarmed her, but were quickly disturbed by the driver, coming to a halt. She saw the small tavern, wooden and rustic. She put on the feather mask, adjusted her hat and stepped out onto the mud path. Up three steps and through the doors, she entered the tavern. The room was empty. The wooden floor creaked beneath her sky blue heels. She scanned the room, standing in front of the door. All the chairs were beneath tables, the fire place mysteriously lit. Her eyes met the counter. A man was sat on the only stool, sipping from a cup. Clink. He placed his cup down and rose. He wore the red mask, a white shirt with a leather waistcoat, leather trousers and boots. He smirked, taking one step forward. Catherine sharply exhaled. She had a night of love with this man, but had never once heard his voice. She did not even know his name.

He bowed, making a right angle with his body. He remained for a second, whispering,

“Madame”. He stood straight once again and made eye contact with Catherine. She instantly had goose bumps.

“Is this place yours?” she enquired, wondering whether their presence was entirely legal.

“A friend’s. He knows I am using his venue.” His voice was low and soft. He took another step forward, till there were 2 meters between the two.

“Well, it isn’t my usual diner I suppose, but I guess it is cute. What is the motive behind this secret rendezvous?”

“I had to see you. Ever since our night together i have been infatuated with you. I dreamt about you every night, i crave your touch Madame De La Rosa.” His words filled her with an indescribable feeling. A mix between fear and desire. The both darted forwards. His hands clutched Catherine’s waist, perching her on the nearest table...

Catherine slowly walked down the illy illuminated street, the sound of carriages could be heard in the distance. Her driver had abandoned her, leaving her to walk miles alone. She had no idea what the time was, but the moon was out with the stars and the shop lights had been extinguished. She scorned her husband. She scorned her staff. What had she become? Having sex on tavern tables, fearing her husband. This was not her. She was a socialite at the top of the ladder. In fact! She had invented the ladder. Well, not anymore. She continued on her journey. She turned left and spotted the church. Catherine pushed open the tall doors and hesitantly entered, she had not known God since she was orphaned.

She stood in the dark church, in front of the large stain glass window. Did she pray for forgiveness? For happiness? She screamed,

“ I AM COUNTESS CATHERINE DE LA ROSA”. Catherine collapsed to her hands and knees and sobbed. The priest stood in the shadows, his sly eyes staring the woman up and down. She was nothing, no one, not any more. He stepped out of the shadows in his brown gown and spoke gently,

“Madame, we have rooms available for free, would you be needing one?”. He startled Catherine who quickly stood up and wiped her tears. She had no means of getting home and any tavern would be too dangerous to sleep in. She humbly accepted his offer. He led her through the cold stony church to a small wooden door. He opened the door and pointed to the tiny room. A bed, a meter space with a cupboard. She bit her lip and swallowed her pride.

“Thank you, sir, I shall not forget this kindness”

“Thank God, not me, your grace.” He nodded and hobbled away as she stepped into her accommodation. Catherine put her head on her pillow and ultimately cried herself to sleep.

William spent his night at home with a new found friend, Lady Mara Emilie. Her husband had forbid her from returning home and stopped all access to her 3 sons. Her parents had disinherited her and left her alone and abandoned. When William found her he immediately accepted her as his ward. Mara told him about her baby with a peasant and he cared not. The only thing he cared about was her becoming his. She was stunning, he thought. She was of average height, slim and feminine. Her voice soft, her skin pale, her hair a light shade of blonde. She had a round face and gentle features. But there was nothing gentle about her soul. She was cruel and promiscuous. She knew William’s situation with his wife Catherine and intended to exploit him to the full extent of her power. Over the course of a night she had made a home for herself in the manor of Suffolk as the ward of the count. How far could she go? Her only obstacle, Catherine.

Chapter Four- A meal with the count. 1793, December 20th

The Christmas tree was stood high and tall, decorated with red and white. The walls were dressed with wreaths and holly and mistletoe. Outside, the snow had settled to make a soft blanket across Suffolk. The Suffolk mansion was celebrating differently this year. The dining room was no exception to the decoration, a string of holly stuck to the walls, the fireplace was blazing and dinner was being served. Catherine sat at one end wearing a green dress with her waves on her shoulders and William at the opposite end. However sat next to him on the left side of the table, his special guest, Mara. She had become William’s official mistress and enjoyed a life of luxury since taking residence 6 months ago. Catherine was powerless to remove her or decide her quality of life. As Mara’s quality of life continually went up, Catherine’s gradually decreased. Her allowance had gone down further every month and with it her glamorous lifestyle. Mara sat in a scarlet red dress with a plunging v-line, her soft blonde hair in tight curls, resting on her shoulders. Mara wore all the new jewellry, a diamond necklace that clung to her neck, laced with velvet, her emerald earrings ringing every time she turned her head. WIlliam and Mara giggled and laughed, sharing whispers at one end of the room while Catherine dined in silence.

“Cait, darling, what do you think of the meat today? The chef prepared it just the way I like it. Do you like it?” After finishing her question she smiled a cheshire-like smile and turned to face Catherine who refused to look up or answer. Mara’s smile faded, and she looked to William who continued to eat.

“Will baby, she is ignoring me. Tell her to answer.” Whenever the harpy spoke to William, she spoke in a higher tone than ordinary. This drove Catherine to see red whenever Mara spoke.

“Catherine is eating Mara, leave her be.”

“William! Make her answer me now! I demand the respect i deserve…”. Before she could finish, Catherine interrupted,

“Is it not bad enough that i may not choose where i eat or where i go or who i see, but i must do so with this whore, this harpy, this beggar!”. As she shouted across the table, slamming her fist, William slowly rose with Mara’s hand in his. She had a cruel smile and a cold eye.

“William, are you going to let her talk to me that way! I feel so hurt, so upset…”, Mara whimpered ever so slightly and clutched his arm.

“Come on William are you really so naive? She is using you! Everyone is laughing at you! She is a tart who has dug her claws into you and ruined your reputation! And i will be dammed if i let her drag me down with you.” Catherine spat these hateful words at William, at Mara and hoped to get some sort of emotion from William. For so long his emotions were exclusively Mara’s; Catherine would settle for anything. It had been months since she heard from her mysterious lover and she craved sollace. William was slowly making his way around the table with a calm, stoney face. Mara remained at the opposite end of the table like a queen watching an execution.

Catherine trembled and instantly remembered the time he hit her.

“You have nothing and no one other than her, and the second she leaves you, you shall remain alone. I am not staying here with her! While she spends Christmas in our home! I am leaving”. As she turned to leave William grabbed her wrist and dragged her so she was face to face with him, her emerald fabric ripped. Mara cunningly smirked.

“This is my home. Mara is my mistress and you are my wife. You do as I say when I say. Understand me you stupid bitch?” his voice thundered in the dining room and shook Catherine to the core.

“I… I am my own person. You do not own me”. She spat in his face. Swiftly William grabbed her neck and thrust her face onto the dining table. He held her there, choking her and moved up close to her, bending over her so his mouth met her ear. Mara stepped back, her hand over her mouth. She wanted a divide between the two, not this. William rubbed his body against Catherine as he ragged her hair. She refused to scream or cry. But even she could not hold back the tears.

“I own you”, he whispered in her ear. Her threw her onto the floor from her hair. Mara did not know what to do with herself. She was now trapped, much like Catherine. They were two doves in a cage and William was the creeping cat. Catherine pulled herself up and stood blank faced. Her hair was scattered, some down her face and some knotted behind her from William’s grasp. The sleeves on her dress had town at the shoulder. She was shaking. Catherine turned to walk but as she did William cleared his throat. Catherine turned, curtseyed and left.

Catherine swayed into her room, her view obscured by tears. At first she did not realise the window was open nor did she the red-masked man sat precariously on her bed reading. But when she did, more tears followed. Did she hug him? It was true, they had little in common and rarely spoke, she did not even know his name. But the connection they built made her feel safe and alive again.

“What, what are you doing in here?” She wiped the tears and sat at a desk. The man noticed her state and ran to her, kneeling at her feet and taking her hands.

“My queen, what happened to you? Was this the work of the count?” He caressed her hand and stared into her eyes.

“I cannot stay here sir, my life is hell. I fear if I remain here a moment longer I shall kill myself.”

“Then we must run away! With our combined funds we can set up somewhere else, we can be happy Catherine” Blinded by her hatred and pain, she ultimately agreed. She sent him away, saying she would contact him within a day. He promised to reveal himself when they met again. Catherine knew he was a noble because the invited were only sent to the upper class. She knew he was British, and from the south of England. The list was long.

Her maid smuggled a letter to the tavern they dined at, saying to meet in the church near the tavern at midnight on the 23rd of December. Her heart was full of ecstasy. A new chance of happiness.

Chapter Five- Dominance. 1793, December 23rd.

Mara was sat on a small cushion stool, knitting a scarf in the library. It was a cosy room, mainly oak. The only sounds were her breathing and the pinging of the needles. William sat at a desk reading. Ping. His neck twitched, he readjusted his position. Ping. Ping. He exhaled. Ping, ping, ping.

“Mara! Mara darling, please not so loud.”

“Yes sorry Will, of course.”

She placed her needles and her work carefully down and picked up a book. Scrape. She flicked through the pages. William turned his neck and stared at her, breathing slowly.

“You seem ever so angry, maybe we should go out to town? Leave her to watch the house. We have not been out in so long. I heard…”. William distanced himself, all he could hear was one whining tone, the sound of scraping pages and, above all, her breathing. It sickened him, annoyed him. He stood. Mara continued talking about her friend Grace and their plans. William did not care. Mara was too busy looking into her book to notice William behind her had removed the needle from her scarf and had began moving towards her. He came up close behind her, sniffing her hair and kissing her neck. She let her head fall back onto his chest. The two stood in the library in near silence, feeling each other’s warmth. Mara continued talking. William grabbed her and shoved her hard against the stone wall. She tried to scream but he suddenly had covered her mouth. He thrust the needle into her stomach once, Mara winced and teared up, squealing like a dog being kicked. He pulled out the needle, sighing at the slurp. Blood quickly covered her blue dress. He forced the needle in again and again and again until her stomach was a mesh of bloody flesh. He released his grip and her body crumpled to the floor. He stood above her bloody body and waited until her last breath drew. William sighed in relief,

“The problem with women is they never stop talking”. He dropped the needle and walked away. Covered in the blood of his mistress.

Catherine darted around her room, her ivory dress scraping the floor. Catherine was packing money and jewels and anything of value. This was the start of her new life. She looked at the wooden grandfather clock, 9:30. She would be in the church in 2 and a half hours. Their plan was to meet at midnight, she would sleep in the sanctuary there with her lover and the two would leave by carriage the following morning. She grabbed her bag and took off into the night.

11:56

 

The church consisted of the altar, two rows of benches and then the doors.

Catherine sat on the bench at the front of the church, before the altar, in her frilly ivory dress, her money at her side. She heard the door behind her open and a chill ran down her spine as the night breeze spread through the room. She heard the tapping of boots. Catherine stood and walked to the red mask man.

“Take of your mask, tell me who you are”. This was the moment she had been waiting for. The man dropped his mask to the floor and smiled. Catherine could not recognise him. She then realised he had no bags with him, no jewellery or any money.

“Who, who are you?” she asked tentatively.

“Madam, i am Henry. You love me right? So this will not change how you feel. I am a poet from a village near by. I snuck into your party after i heard how beautiful and kind you were. Putting on this mask allowed me to become someone else, someone worthy of your time! Now we can be together! With your money we can have a happy life.” Henry was radiating happiness, his new future was bright and wealthy. Catherine, however was not. Tears began swelling in her eyes, she tried to wipe them with her silk white gloves.

“You are a peasant… I was going to lose my fortune to a peasant! You were using me. Oh my lord what have I done, WHAT HAVE I DONE!” Her voice echoed throughout the entire church. She had luckily paid the priest to leave the building vacant, knowing being found out would ruin her. She could still recover the situation. She grabbed her purse and darted down the aisle, halting at Henry’s feet.

“Sir we have been mislead. We believed this would work. It will not. I am sorry.” She gave him a farewell kiss and took off into the night, tears rolling down her face. On her walk away from the church, she heard a large thud and prayed Henry was not vandalising the church out of rage.

2:18pm

Catherine paced the carpet of the library, contemplating. She had no hope. Henry was a deceitful peasant who stole her heart and nearly stole her wealth. She could not give her life to him, it would be the end of her. She sat on a small stool and picked up the half finished scarf. She began ripping, knowing it was Mara’s. Throwing the tatters on the floor, she took a deep breath and gagged. The stench was vile, reaching the back of her throat and filling her head. It smelt rancid and thick. She weaved between book shelves, trying to find the source until she froze in her tracks. A bloody needle was on the floor, 20cm in length. Surrounding it: blood. Lots of it. The book shelf was soaked in blood, the carpet saturated. She quickly grabbed her hankie and covered her nose and mouth. She followed the path of blood to the corner of the library and gasped. Mara’s body, beaten and bloody was laid against the wall. She ran out of the door and into the corridor. She was filled with dread. Who had done this? Why?...

“Cait, my love.” William’s voice projected down the corridor. She turned her head slowly to see a blood-bathed William. He smiled, 5 meters away from her.

“Mara is gone now. She just would not stay quiet. But, I know you will”. He smiled once again and began menacingly walking forward. Catherine clutched her dress and sprinted down the marble tunnel.

“A game? How fun.” He shouted, chuckled and proceeded to run after her.

Catherine hid in the dining room, locking the two doors at both sides. The table was set with cutlery and plates, she grabbed a knife and waited. What could she do? She had no escape. William had killed Mara. He killed her, she was dead. Catherine could not understand this. The thoughts ran through her mind like clock work. Bang! He knocked at the left door. Catherine jumped and lent against the opposite wall. She was breathing in and out at a rapid rate.

“Wife, do not be silly. Let me in. remember, i own you. Let me in and we can forget everything. Mara, our disputes, even your secret meetings. Yes, i knew. He is dead now. I caved his skull with the cross of christ. Ha ha oh the irony.” Catherine held her stomach and bent over. He was a monster. He had killed Mara and Henry, who else? Henry, who was speaking to this very day, who she was planning a new life with, was gone.

“William, William please stop. Let me go, I am begging you! I do not care that you killed those people! I will not tell anyone!” Catherine was screaming and sobbing, keeled on the floor of her dining room with a knife in her hand and a killer at the door.

“Catherine. Let me in. Now! I will be kind. If I have to ask again. I will make it hurt.” She knew she was going to die.

Minutes passed and the house was eerily silent. Catherine removed her shoes and snook to the door, peeking through the lock. She did the same on both doors and realised he was not waiting there anymore. Smash. The entire window exploded. Glass flew everywhere, causing Catherine to dive under the table. She stifled her sobs the second she heard William clamber into the room. She heard the sword unsheath from its hilt. William knocked everything off the table and began slashing paintings on the wall. As William made his way down the table, Catherine crawled in the opposite direction under the table. Suddenly the table above her head flew from it’s position and landed on its side. Catherine knelt there like a deer in line of a hunter. She fell on her bum and began shuffling backwards until she was backed against the wall. William sinisterly paced towards her. He knelt down and was crouched on his feet, his cowering wife laid all in white, sat against the wall crying.

“Please, William, please. Don’t hurt me…”

“Shush, Cait it is all going to be just fine.”

Catherine clutched the knife behind her back. She knew she had to wait for the right opportunity. He was stronger than her. They both knew it.

William stroked her cheek and wiped away her tears.

“Do you still love me?” His voice was calm and soothing, it scared her even more. She gulped,

“Yes, William. I… do. I never stopped.”

“Do you understand why Mara and that man had to go?

“Yes, they were in the way of our love. You saved this marriage.” Catherine had figured out William may be physically superior, but she was cunning. He was mentally weak and she knew this would either save her or kill her.

Catherine mustered all her strength and punched the knife towards his neck. Her wrist was caught with the knife only cm’s away from his neck. She forced it forward as William crushed her wrist, forcing her to drop the knife. He pushed her back against the wall. He was still crouched, but this time he had a knife. His sword was wedged in a painting.

“You stupid little whore” William grabbed Catherine’s arm and sliced along her forearm. She screamed ‘stop’ and tried to resist. He smiled as he sliced through her skin.

“My sword will work better” He slowly walked over to his sword. As he did so, Catherine, now covered in her own blood, noticed another knife near the table. She scrambled and successfully grabbed the knife. William noticed and ran to her. He grabbed her by the neck and lifted her off of her feet with his sword to her neck. Catherine shoved the knife into his leg causing him to drop her and fall the floor in agony. Catherine limped away, unlocking the door and making her way through the corridor.

Her vision was blurred. She was losing blood. William was hot on her trail, his ghostly moans filled the house. Catherine knew only one of them would make it to Christmas.

Chapter Six- The Runaway Dutchess. 1793, December 24th.

Catherine took refuge in her bedroom. Having discovered the key to her door was missing, she resorted to blocking the door with her wardrobe. Catherine checked her clock to discover it was the early morning of christmas eve. She had been playing Cat and Mouse with William for hours. Catherine was out of options: Her bedroom was on the third floor, the staff had gone home, the doors were locked and the carriages were gone. The snow storm left their home a bleak slaughterhouse in the blankets of snow. Catherine’s once ivory dress was now sticky and red, covered in her own blood. She felt dizzy. Her spark had gone out. This would be her final frontier for she had lost the will to fight; Catherine was a deer, prancing into a bear trap.

She stumbled over to her desk and dipped her quill in the pot of murky ink and began frantically scribbling her will. She was weak, too weak, and her writing was illegible. But this did not stop her, she was not going to spend her final moments sobbing like a damsel.

She paused and took a moment to remember who she was.

‘I am Lady Catherine De La Rosa. I am strong. I was brave.’

Catherine repeated those words over and over and over again until her thoughts were stopped by the sound of a shattering glass in the distance; it was William.

Catherine dragged herself and stood in the centre of the room, facing the door. She remembered her mother and her father and thought of seeing them once again, all three of them. Maybe, if God was kind, she thought, her unborn baby too. She remembered her friends, her career, her once loving husband. And she remembered Mara.

“I am Lady Catherine De La Rosa. I am strong and i am brave. I always have been and i shall be to my death. And if God allow it, that will not be today.” Catherine clutched the knife and held it in front of her and planned to go out with a fight. The golden door handle slowly turned, clicked, and opened. William shoved the door into the wardrobe. He sighed, and continued to force his way in. Catherine frantically searched for something, anything, that would help her. She darted to her curtains and ripped them down, tearing away fabric. She threw herself into her dresser and began piling perfume bottles onto the fabric and then finally tying the fabric into a pouch full of glass perfume bottles. She got her pearl necklaces and began cutting, dropping the pearls on the floor around the door. She saw his leg was in, and soon his body would follow. Catherine stood tall and strong, her pouch in one hand and the knife in the other. All her life she knew she was destined for greatness and so she was.

The door grated open and William slithered through. He immediately ran forwards! He lost his balance and fell to his knees on the pearls. Catherine took this chance and ran too. She mustered every ounce of hope, strength and faith and channeled it into her swing. The pouch collided with William’s head. The perfumed bottles smashed, he was flung to the side; unconscious. Catherine perched next to him and held the knife to his neck. Could she do it? Was she capable of ending another man’s life? His arm flew into her chest, knocking her off balance. William moaned and held his head and began coming to. Catherine took flight and struggled down the hallway. She was  losing feeling, her blood was dripping down the carpet. William let lose a demonic roar and began his final pursuit. The side of his head had chips of glass soaked with chemicals. An almighty bruise was forming. The wounded predator began hunting down the weak giselle in the marble forest.

Catherine came to a halt atop the spiral staircase. She peered over the top and stared at the floor three floors down. Looking behind her, she saw him.

“William, fight me like a man. No weapons. Just our fists.”

The knife in her hand fell to the floor, as did William’s. They stared each other down, like two beasts cornered. He charged, sprinting forward at an alarming rate. Catherine remained still. 8 meters. 7 meters. 6,5,4,3,2,1. At the last second Catherine leaped out of the way. William tried to turn but was too late to stop his course. His body collided with the barrier but as it did, he clutched Catherine’s dress, pulling her over with him. The 2 fell from the third floor and landed on the bottom. The almighty crack rang through the house.

The Count of Suffolk lay face down on the white floor. A pool of blood around him. On top of him, Catherine. She awoke. At first, she could not move. The pain was indescribable. But after a while she rolled off, landing in the dark, thick blood. Peering up, she thanked God she some how survived the fall.

The clock rung seven am. The sound of patting was the only sound. Catherine’s blood soaked feet, to be precise. Arriving at the door, she used her body to push it open. The cold air pressed against her numb body. Her arm was badly injured, the other sliced open. Her ankle was sprained and her back was bruised. Catherine slowly strutted into the front garden, which was entirely covered in snow. The sun slowly creeped over the horizon, its rays covering the house of horror and the runaway dutchess. Another step. Then another.

Snow crunched beneath her knees. Then her hands and then ultimately her body. She rolled onto her back. Staring into the clear sky, she smiled. She had survived. She had won.

“I am Lady...Ca...Ca…”

Her last breath was drawn. Her eyes turned to marble. Her skin was suddenly porcelain. Her raven hair was a frozen river. Those scarlet lips so rudely interrupted, left parted. The phrase forever left unfinished. But that did not matter. The world would always remember Catherine De La Rosa.

She had won.


 


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