Wendy panted and sweat stuck the back of her cotton nightgown to her heaving chest, even in Lord Worthington’s cold “study” under the main house. She could smell the rapidly-increasing rot as the re-vitrification chemicals came out of Lord Worthington, the smell of mustard and unripe apples filling her nose over the rotten-pork smell. Some of chemicals has touched her skin, and there wasn’t any strength in her to brush them off. If anything, she was leaning up against the axe handle like a crutch, her lungs clawing for breath.
“Congratulations, Lady Worthington,” an all-too-familiar woman’s voice said behind her, raw fury and adrenaline causing Wendy to drag up the axe and spin around, green eyes blazing with rage. From the doorway to the study, Rose waited in her immaculate black governess outfit, not a single blonde hair or hemline out of place. She stepped across the blood-and-chemical soaked carpet without pause and with the same careful steps as she taught the “blossoms” under her care to walk and dance. Her porcelain white face flushed with some unknown emotion as she said, “I suspected that the day I met you, you could do this-and he lowered his guard for that one moment.”
Wendy’s voice came out in huge heaves, as she tried not to throw up again. “Why…why didn’t you do this?”
“Because when I was of age, about the age you are now, Lady Worthington, he made sure to put cogs deep into my brain to prevent this. I could not disobey him, nor lie to him, nor think of raising my hand to him even in defense. And, Lady Worthington, I wanted revenge. You saw what he did to that woman from the village that got lost on his lands, what happened to my mother. Merely a notation in his notes, a ‘daughter’ to serve as his assistant. I wanted revenge for decades, ever since the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty. I could consider it, dream of it, lust for it…but never enact it, ever,” Rose continued, stepping close to Wendy. “But, if you consider the literal and the logical, Lady Worthington, he never commanded me to prevent his death. Arrogance on his part, a fault you do not have.”
From a pocket hidden in her skirt, Rose removed a carefully folded small towel and began to clean off the bits of blood and flesh and chemicals from Wendy’s body. “You will need to take a shower and a bath, Lady Worthington, if you would wish me to serve as a maid for you in this,” Rose said with an odd and uncomfortable kindness, as if she hasn’t been truly kind for a very long time.
For a moment, Wendy lowered the axe, then realized what Rose kept calling her, and hissed, “Why are you calling me Lady Worthington?”
“Because you are now, Lady Worthington,” Rose paused for long enough to take some wine from the bottle on the desk and use it to wipe off the more caked-on gore. “Upon Lord Worthington’s death, his will shall note that you are his heir. I…might have aided in this, but the genealogy is clear. Even if the gender is not, this is merely an issue to be resolved by a good solicitor. And, you will need to be ennobled and entitled, Lady Worthington. You will need the resources here to preserve your life.”
To Wendy’s confused expression, Rose sighed, “Lady Worthington, you are like your sisters-you might have two shillings of life left in you. Of course his customers would want to make sure that their mistresses never swelled, never told, and never would outlive their ‘patron.’ They would have twenty to twenty-four years of absolute perfection before their flesh failed in days. But, do not worry-the processes to sustain you are much kinder than what Lord Worthington used. Time and research has allowed for a great deal of improvement, and he was angry that the newer processes would not work for him. There were so many things that made him angry. I would show you the scars, if they did not heal as fast as your flesh could.”
(I admit, I’m addicted to writing small vignettes and story ideas on Sarah A Hoyt’s website, and I’ve decided that I’ll start collecting all of them here, as time goes on. I might even turn these into proper stories and novels one day. This one will be…painful. Interesting, but painful, to turn into novel format.)