It took Marguerite a long time to return to her normal state.True that she never fully recovered from the blow of Channer’s death, at least on the surface there was a resemblance of calm.Even in the depths of her misery she tried to comfort the others, especially the children, to whom she was now fanatically devoted.This only sharpened the love and sympathy felt by the other servants and indeed even Reginald was beginning to feel worse for Marguerite than for Pricilla, who now yelled more than ever and seemed to feel no sorrow that her husband had died.
Marguerite became unusually quiet now, and the children sensed the reason more than knew.Thomas, being the eldest child and therefore knowing more about the relationship between men and women, could feel something hollow within his nanny now as she set about to bringing him his clothes for the day.Today was his father’s funeral, and while his nanny had been quiet ever since the death of his father, today’s silence was heightened to a deafening emptiness.It seemed that even the long, elegant black dress she wore made no sound as she walked like a zombie about his room.“Do you miss my father?” the boy asked hesitantly.
“Every moment of every day.Arms out, dear,” she instructed as she put his best white shirt on him.
Very carefully, he asked, “Did you love my father a great deal?”
“Of course.We all did.”Suddenly she looked down at his large eyes, the size and shape of his mother’s but the colour belonged to Channer.“Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know, really.You seem different from everyone else about it.Even Mother.I just wondered if you loved Father more than Mother did.”
“Darling, I cannot answer you these questions today.Perhaps a long time from now, when you’re much, much older.But today, I’m afraid, there’s nothing I can say.”Of course, this statement made plain what was felt, and so Thomas resigned quietly to being dressed by his nanny.He had been thinking for a while that he was getting too old for the kind of nanny that would dress him, but now that his father had died he felt that she needed some kind of reminder of him to keep close, and so struggled not.
She sat through the sermons and eulogies calmly enough; now and then a strangled cry would escape her.But Patricia and Nella and Jay all would pet her hands or her shoulders, and she would silence herself.Still their suspicions were not certified, since none of them could bring themselves to question her about it now.But without question there was a light in her eyes that was gone now, and today it was buried along with her employer.Mrs. Pricilla Kenyon had offered to let Marguerite stand with the rest of the family and relatives, but she had declined.Today was not her day to infiltrate the ranks.
She followed outside, lagging behind the others in a large procession of people who had all come to pay their last respects to a man they had worked with, laughed with, lived with, and loved.Marguerite was touched by the length of the procession and the quantity of people that had shown up.Townsfolk from surrounding cities had arrived, and there were several men and women of notable status and rank standing about with them.She was impressed and warmed by this spectacle.Her heart cried out that if only he could see how many people loved him perhaps he’d not have done what he had.But she knew that universal love had nothing to do with this.It was her cross to bear alone, and she intended to carry it with all the grace she had left within her.
The damp blue eyes that lay in her face watched as slowly the crowd turned the corner after their walk down the long, damp street.They entered the cemetery, and Marguerite’s long, slender frame was the last to pass under the wrought iron arches.The cobblestone pathways between the damp hills of grass upon which there sat gravestones for men, women, and children of generations of yore ran long.Her heels clicked against them, and sounded very empty, much like she felt.A lone magpie flew off of a nearby tree branch and off into the fog noiselessly, the heavy drops falling off of the branch as the bird’s weight was lifted.It seemed a painted landscape, this damp, grey, swirling cemetery; colours were pastel and there was a pervading sense that if she misstep she’d be gone for good.Very slowly she walked, looking at her black-clad feet and legs, and feelings miserably that perhaps she ought to have found some black gloves to wear – her hands were pale white as paper, and she felt that they did not blend properly with the morbid occasion.This made her wonder about her face, and she hung her head so that her dark hair and hat was further exposed.She wished violently that she had a veil to wear, one that went down past her feet millions of miles behind her so that no one need ever see her face again.But she had nothing.Ahead of her the sound of horses’ hooves clopped loudly and echoed around the trees and stones, pressing in on her ears painfully.Every now and again one would let out a snort which Marguerite’s sensitive ears would discern and take to heart as some noise of misery which echoed her own.
Standing about in a circle which formed around a large, square hole dug deeply in the ground, Marguerite placed herself delicately in the back.She could see very little, and this kept her ground.Her feet lowered slightly into the muddy grass around her, and now that she was stationary the droplets of condensed fog dripped into her skin and chilled her to her bone.The low, monotonous voice of the pastor began speaking his prayers, and there was a bitter contempt filling every inch of her.Channer did not believe in God, and so who was this man to say that God would shelter and protect his soul through its long journey?A servant of a God in which this dead man did not believe.It filled her with impotent fury, and slowly she stepped forward, ever so much closer.No one noticed the silent figure stalking towards the front, and everyone parted as though they were water.Still the words went on, about his greatness and glory, what a fine worker he’d been, such a devoted husband and father.To this both Pricilla and Marguerite rolled their eyes, though no one detected them.The children bowed their heads and Thomas’ eyes slid to the black rail of feminine beauty that was his nanny, to see how she looked at this somber moment.Her face was carved from marble except for the starkness of her blue eyes, blinding against the whiteness of her skin, and her spine was erect; she bore herself as though she had the wealth of millions and the status of a goddess and the breeding of a thoroughbred horse behind her.
Wasn’t it funny how guns got so hot as the bodies they injured got so cold?
Now she was directly in front, and no one had observed this silent, dark figure looming through the crowd to take a position in the fore.Seeing before her the terrible finality of it all, the coffin poised over the hole in the ground, hearing the muffled weeping of several women and sniffles of more than a few men, and still the never-ceasing drone of the pastor’s voice, and feeling that damp chill envelope her all began to build up.There were burning tears in her eyes, but she could not cry, it would benefit nothing!Yet halfway through the pastor’s prayers, Marguerite began to bawl.It was so loud and scalding that even the cleric, who had had a lifetime’s experience in dealing with grief-crazed women at funerals, paused for a moment in surprise at the volume and misery of it.She screamed as though insane and Jay and Patricia both did their best to soothe her.But she once again fought them away and stood staring at the gaping hole which she felt more befitted her body than her lover’s.For a moment she stepped towards it, before Jay held her back and she bit him hard on the hand.By this point Marguerite was primarily the center of attention, though many eyes still were focused on the pastor and his words.When the coffin was lowered below the land of the living Marguerite’s screams became subdued sobs and then there came the sound which never left her ears after that time.Upon hearing the sounds of the dirt clods hitting his coffin, with a moan of, “no” that no one heard, she knew he was never coming back.Channer Kenyon was dead and gone for good.
A vow of silence had been taken by Marguerite Kassirer, though it wasn’t planned nor expected.It simply happened that she found she had nothing more to say.Her smiles were gone and she could find nothing to bring her heart peace.Thoughts of suicide flashed once in a great while, but why bother?Nothing could bring her together with Channer again.The only problem with atheism as far as she could see was that one had to be strong enough to stand on one’s own without thinking someone would surely save them; one had to be a strong woman and Marguerite felt she had no strength.Although she couldn’t battle with common sense – if there was a God and He had seen fit to take Channer now when she and the country needed him most, then He certainly didn’t need her support.
She still went about her duties taking care of the children, and she for three months more lived and ate and co-existed with the Kenyon’s.However, things were different.She lived now in the guestroom, across the hall the hall from her room, just as tormenting as it ever was due to titillating memories of old and bitter ones of recent times.Her bedroom was full of too many memories, none of which seemed pleasant now, and she frequently had nightmares that his ghost haunted her room and that if she slept there it would attack and kill her.Why his spirit should be so hell-bent upon vengeance from her she did not know, but the thoughts consumed her none the less.
She no longer went out anywhere.She found she could not face other people.Not from a sense of deep shame, since she did not know what people thought of her now after her master’s funeral.The town was convinced that the Kenyon’s nanny was mad, though no one suspected why.Her reclusive attitude did not help in their suspicions, as it only brought further convictions to their minds that she had lost hers.But looking into the faces of others, warm, living, and breathing, reminded her indignantly that the man she loved was no longer like them and she was angry.Whenever she wasn’t busy with the children she locked herself away in her new quarters and either wept or slept.She barely ate and quickly her clothes grew too large.Patricia, moved to pity no one had ever seen in her, darned all of Marguerite’s clothes for her so that she looked less ill and haggard.Though little good it did, as her cheekbones stood hollowly out and her fingers looked as though each moment the bones would tear through the flesh.Nella did her best to cook mostly Marguerite’s favourites in order to perhaps tempt her, but the trays were politely declined each time she, Patricia, or Jay brought them to her.She wasn’t hungry, thank you, she just wanted to be left alone.With little other option, they did.Even Mrs. Kenyon did nothing.This stemmed mostly from some dislike of her children’s nanny.Partially it came from the fact that she did not know what to do for her.She still did her job just as well as ever, but she was disintegrating as a human being before her eyes.Pricilla would have reprimanded her and demanded that she behave according to more decorous notes, but she felt that she would perhaps be too harsh, knowing what she did now; and besides, Marguerite, though silent always, made her feel guilty.Marguerite had made Pricilla’s husband truly happy and now that he was dead it was apparent that the way that Marguerite mourned should have been the way Pricilla mourned but was not.Due to some guilt of her own, Marguerite spoke less to Pricilla than to anyone, and for all intents and purposes the two never spoke again.
If there were any hope of Marguerite’s recovery, it would not be acquired though her current situation.It was bad enough to daily be interacting, to the best of her ability of course, with the people she had for so long come to identify with Channer, but to be forced to wander around the house that was his, passing all the rooms that were his, the belongings that were his, the memories that were theirs…it was too painful.Passing the Kenyon bedroom each night to reach her own was devastating, knowing that behind that door, as indeed behind the one she was about to enter and another on the third floor, lay a room in which some of the most glorious moments of her life had been executed.Marguerite began to exhibit a nervous tic, and all who noted it hung their heads.It only occurred when she passed certain rooms in the house, but there was a constant sense of weak rage and sadness in her which made her stay with the Kenyon’s nothing short of hell.
She did not understand why she was made to go about her business as though all were normal.Life was far from normal.Channer was gone and how could the house be so determined to behave as though nothing had changed?Pricilla still commanded over several prominent organizations in the town, the children had their schooling and clubs, the other servants went about their work as though the master of the house did not lay dead.And Marguerite Kassirer still watched his children in his absence, still did the work she was supposed to do, for only completing her work would set her free.Once the children were grown enough to function without her assistance, only then could she be removed.Her heart sinking, she was aware that this would be a long and arduous process.Ruthie was still very young and Marguerite was still painfully aware that she had no other place to go.Nanny positions were becoming few and far between, and she wasn’t sure that she could face entering another home, facing another number of years doing this which she no longer took pleasure in.If only she could have her old life back!Once upon a time she had been nothing short of the Queen of the Mutiny, the Iconic Woman of Liberation, and had been elevated to a position that no girl, never mind a girl of her age and rank, had ever been offered before.Since his death, she had been forced to re-adjust herself, but it was no good.She was feeling like a whale in a small pond.Without Channer she was just like she used to be, only more frustrated than ever.Always smarter than most of the people she’d worked for, always more mature for her age than anyone she knew, Channer had been her dream.This man, older, wiser, adult, established, and brilliant, had offered her the world and she was more than overjoyed to take as many vast bites as she was capable.Marguerite had never coughed or choked, and she took what he gave in stride.But then he had left, and left her confused, afraid, and trapped in a time warp she could not combat.With these people she was still nothing more than the hired help, the young girl no more bright than she should be, of no more importance than she seemed, and occupying a position in the house not because she was involved with the master, not because she was aiding him in his insurgent activities, but because she’d been hired by he and his wife to watch his children.She was there to work just like Jay, Patricia, and Nella, and she had no other purpose.It drove her mad to the point that she frequently bit her pillow at night, enraged so to the point that she had no other choice of action open to her.She was half of a parlous pair, and this was as good as nothing.
The broad staircase of red, plush carpet…the thick purple curtains…the shining glass walls of the sitting room and the blue, patterned wallpaper of the dining room…the paintings created only by artists from Radara as Setag had decreed…the downstairs alone caused anguish, and Marguerite never thought about the upper levels unless she was in them.But the first floor, especially that foyer in which she’d realized…only sixteen she was when she realized…that Channer Kenyon was the man that she loved.To enter all of the rooms she was required to penetrate, she was forced to pass through this one; this one of passionate scarlet hue, of warmth and the final barrier against the cold of the outside world.This room which had so drastically altered her existence.Marguerite wanted nothing more than to burn it to the ground.It was a bootless desire.Luckily for her, she knew it.
Living in this manner became too much, however, and she moved out of the Kenyon house with its many memories.She took up abode with Margot, and made the trek every day to that same large house that had so overawed her at the beginning of her stay.She dealt with the children and did all that was required of her as she always had before, still not eating anything.Once the children were tucked in, Marguerite would walk silently back to Margot’s and sleep there amidst the perfume, smoke, laughter, and cries of sexual ecstasy that accompany whorehouses.Marguerite lost sleep, and the appearance of death hung on her as freely as her clothing.Margot would have asked her to take up living someplace else, as she was scaring away clients by silently floating in and out of rooms, whether they were “occupied” or not; not saying anything, not eating, not seeing anything but the walls ahead of her.But where could Margot send her?It was Margot’s duty as her friend to see that Marguerite remained safe.And if her clientele lessened because of that, she was resigned to staying strong and letting things go their own way.
Needless to say, Pricilla was utterly disgusted and appalled at the idea.But she didn’t have control over Marguerite.She knew that even if she had forbidden Marguerite from moving out of the house (and into another house of such ill repute!), that nanny would have done it anyway.There was something the matter with the girl.But, thankfully, as far as she was concerned, that wasn’t her problem anymore.
Though Margot’s discomfort is not to say that she did not do whatever she was capable of to help her bereaved friend.Each night she brought her reports of the counter-action against Setag and the battles that the Taggy army was fighting and losing.“Those Taggies, I swear, you’ve never met a more talkative bunch.Give him some liquid persuasion, a bit of a dose of something serene, and a fresh-faced girl that he thinks would give her eyeteeth to pleasure a brave soldier of Setag’s army, and a man will tell you anything.”Margot did her best to jest and get Marguerite to smile again, but it didn’t happen.She simply listened with a stone face.
“Indeed, that’s always been a weakness in armies.What information have you?”
Margot bit her lip.“Well, they’re not exactly weeping that Mr. Kenyon is gone.He was one of those Progressives that managed to remain powerful and elusive, and that’s never pleased a fool, to find a smarter man than he whose opinion is different.Anyway, naturally his underground order has shriveled up and died – there’s nothing you can do, so don’t set your jaw like that.It was Mr. Kenyon’s business and all the conspirators he gathered are off somewhere doing other things with themselves.The only reason I don’t know who or what is because none of my girls could get it out of the men.The men said they didn’t know, but I’m not so sure.”Margot could see that, despite her admonition, Marguerite was still determined that Channer’s plans should continue on regardless of his death.“Don’t you get yourself all worked up just yet.If you think that there aren’t a bucket load of other men waiting to take Mr. Kenyon’s place in the revolution front, then you’re a damn sight more ignorant than he ever knew or would have dreamed.You must have known that his wasn’t the only one!Well, we’ve got some pretty prominent people taking the fore.Sure their stuff isn’t as well-organized or informative as Mr. Kenyon’s was, and I’m not just saying that to make you smile,” she said, aware that Marguerite wasn’t going to smile.“I mean it; I used to read those pamphlets of his and I’ve read these new ones and, snakes, I don’t walk away half as incensed and enraged as I used to.I say, it’s a sloppy job but we have to take what we can get.When you’re alone in a dark room and all you have is a single match, you’d best light it, because even a little light is better than none at all.”
Now Marguerite began to sob uncontrollably.“Oh, I can’t bear it!I can’t, I can’t, it’s too much!Setag is going to destroy us all, and where is Channer to protect us now?He’s dead!He’s dead he’s dead and we’re all alone and there’s no hope for any of us.None.Oh, why did he leave me here?I miss him so.”Suddenly her apathy turned to rage.“And the idea!” she exclaimed, sitting upright in a tempest, “the very idea of having a weak man like Mr. Kneelrow in charge is almost…why, it’s sacrilege!He wouldn’t know how to advise an underground revolt if he’d been trained since the first day of his life.Even if they’d started as soon as his ears were out of his mother he still would be incapable of running it.I tell you it’s senseless.I’ve seen the man’s office; it was completely different from Channer’s.You’d think that someone as neat and tidy as Mr. Kneelrow would be able to run an efficient movement, but no!Just thinking about him running the network makes me want to scream!”
“Well, there ain’t no use in screaming so let’s not get into that.Come on, don’t go on with this.You’ve always been so dignified, I’d hate to see you fall apart now.Look at all the things you’ve gone through before now, and you’ve never crumpled under anything.You aren’t going to crumple now, either.You haven’t got it in you.I’ve seen loads of women who have got it in ‘em, though, and got it bad.The slightest little thing and they’re up in smoke. How do you think I got so many of my older girls?They’re the ones that just can’t cope.But you can cope because you’re clever enough.The world hasn’t seen the last of you, and you keep that in mind.”
“Your mind works,” he had told her.“You have a gift,” he had told her.“…strong woman,” he called her.Oh must the memories be endless?How was it that so few instances could fill a lifetime?And how badly they hurt, it was torture to hear and see everything so clearly in her mind.Why could they not leave her?Why could she not forget when she no longer needed them?The past was of no use to her but to torment and that was her experience from dawn to dusk.
Weeping wretchedly again, she moaned, “I’m not as strong as you think.I can’t bear it, that isn’t strength!I cannot go alone.He gave me life, he made me good, and now he’s gone.There is nothing strong in me anymore, nothing right.I feel hollow, there’s nothing left of me.He took it all with him.”
“Nonsense!You’re talking like a fool, Marguerite Kassirer, and the role doesn’t suit you.You’re still alive, and if there’s one thing Mr. Kenyon would want of you it’s for you to keep going.Fight Setag on your own!Do something!Just…just don’t say you’re empty.Emptiness is one thing that cannot be remedied.”Marguerite looked up and there was compassion and what looked like fear on her friend’s face.Margot knew Marguerite said nothing unless she meant it, and for her to say that she felt empty was frightening.“Besides, if you’re this miserable, you won’t be able to join my troop of girls!”
That joke had grown old, especially lately.Margot and Marguerite talked for hours in the common room where everyone spent their time, though it was too loud and too full of promiscuous people to be paying attention to two women in a corner.And if Marguerite was crying, it aroused no attention, for there were prettier women with more revealing clothes just steps away.It was probably an employee that had behaved badly.The regulars knew she wasn’t – they knew she was that Kassirer woman and that she lived there now, but they wouldn’t have gone near her even if she had been one of the working girls.All the men were scared of Marguerite, while all the parlor girls knew she was harmless and heartbroken.And then there was that one new man.
He did not clarify from whence he’d come.Margot had grilled him thoroughly but he only smiled very lazily at her and told her it was such a dull sort of story he wouldn’t dream of boring her with it.There was something unnervingly charming in the slow ease of his smile, and Margot left him alone, annoyed.He came nearly nightly for over a month, and that first month he sat in the middle of the room, legs crossed with one long arm slung over the back of the couch he occupied, watching and studying everything meticulously.Perhaps he was not the most attractive man that any of them had ever seen; his nose was too long and large, the facial hair was straggly, and his hair was long and unruly, not to mention that he was too skinny.Not that he was completely hideous; there were things about him the girls liked: the man was exceedingly tall with amazing blue eyes and raven hair accompanied by enormous hands.He had a most hypnotizing mouth, intoxicating to watch and every girl started off by trying for just one kiss.But they didn’t get one.All he wanted, he said, was to have some peace and become part of the scenery.They left this to some strange sexual quirk – to be ignored and taken as a matter of course in a whorehouse must have brought him pleasure.The truth of the matter was that he was no man to make rash actions, and he wasn’t going to walk in and pick a girl he didn’t know; and, as a new man in town, he didn’t know anyone.It was going to be a long process of watching each girl carefully to see which one’s personality best suited his desires in a woman.
And as Margot consoled her friend that night, trying desperately and she knew vainly to insert some vigour and life back into her, this man stood up and made his way to the corner, casting a large, looming shadow over them.Margot looked up.“Can I help you, mister?Don’t tell me you’re planning on changing the seating arrangements?You own that spot there same as if you’d bought it.Not that you’ve bought anything else.”
“Strangely enough, my fine Madam, that’s precisely what I’ve come for tonight.”He bent over and peered into Marguerite Kassirer’s pale, grief ridden face.“How much for this delight?I’ve been watching her for a month now, and I must say there’s nothing and no one I want more.”
“Excuse me?” Margot asked in shock.No matter how many times Marguerite had come here to talk to her, no one had ever approached her to request a payment for her.They seemed to know that she, with unending beauty and dignity, could not have been one of their breed.Now this man who knew nothing of the past and who only saw her now as beaten and weak wished to possess her for an evening.She looked to Marguerite to see her reaction, but there was none. Only stony immobility.
“I said that I would be more than honoured to pay to procure a night with this stunning creation.I have a great deal of money, and I’ll pay triple her price.”
Margot’s head was spinning as he revealed a sheaf of bills, the one on top being worth alone four hundred.If there were more along this line or higher, she could buy herself a new building with the kind of money he was offering.But when she saw her friend’s eyes rise slowly to the new man, she held her tongue.No money in the world was going to buy Marguerite’s pride.
“I apologize, sir, but I am not for sale.”
“And what a lovely voice!Come, now, all virtue is a matter of price.I assure you that I can change your mind.”His voice never faltered from soft seduction, a voice that felt like lying on heated velvet blankets after standing naked in the snow – it was born to woo, to undress, and to pleasure.But the voice of God Himself could not have dislodged her.
“Sir, I am no piece of meat for you to purchase and slather in personal sauce.”Margot was taken aback at the snap and crassness of her words.“You may put your money away now, if you’re so determined to buy me, for there’s nothing doing.If that is your only vice you may as well go home.”
“So it’s a spirited one you are!And here I was mistaken enough to have taken you for docile and meek.Shame on me for going only based upon your looks.”He laughed at the stern look on her face.“I shall come back.I cannot stay away.Your pale perversion is strangely alluring, and I’m not one to miss opportunities to entertain myself these days.”Again he laughed, and Marguerite’s flesh crawled with rage.
Margot, too, was getting angry, for he’d ignored all of her best girls and wouldn’t even see to them in light of being refused.That had never happened before in her pimping career, and she took it as a personal reflection on herself, her house, and her girls.“Mister, we don’t even know your name, and we’re tired of allowing entrance to a man whose name we dunno.”
That infectious grin came back and his blue eyes danced.“Michael Shyer.Pleased to know you.”And he left.
© Copyright 2016 Lina Leigh. All rights reserved.
Book / Action and Adventure
Short Story / Other
Short Story / War and Military
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