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Waking up

Lingering in her bed, Bren thought of her chores in the day ahead. First the animals, then start the dough, then ready herself for the day’s work at the inn. Father always said that animals needed to be tended to first for they could not do so for themselves.

Bren loved the way his big, strong hand held hers as they sometimes walked together in the evenings. Since Mum passed, he had been her best friend and rock in a world gone mad. Around Papa, she always felt safe and her pain eased a bit.

Suddenly, with a start, Bren realized she was not in a familiar place at all. Sitting bolt upright, heart pounding, her mind reeled. “What the…” Brenzel said out loud as reason slowly replaced panic and she remembered where she was. Head now in her hands, Bren sobbed softly, feeling so alone in the dawn.

My Grace is Sufficient

My grace is sufficient” came a soft, reassuring voice. Bren looked up, wet cheeks and puffy eyes wide with surprise. “Who is that?” Brenzel queried the emptiness as she tried to pinpoint the location of the strange voice. “My grace is sufficient,” said the voice distinctly again, but this time Bren realized that its origin was her own head.

Bren shook herself, then pinched herself hard, saying “ouch” and thinking, okay, it wasn’t a dream. Sun filtered into her room, illuminating her surroundings, as Bren slowly slid back into her bed, perplexed. What does, ‘My grace is sufficient mean?’ she thought, And why do I need it, anyway?

Charlie and Mr. Jiggs

A deep sense of purpose and inexplicable well-being caused Bren to feel right at home with Charlie. Getting used to the big city, so near London, she marveled at how different everything was from her simple country life. Mr. Winston showed Bren how to play backgammon, which, oddly enough she turned out to be naturally good at. In the mornings the maids would bring hot water for her to bathe in, something she hardly ever did in the countryside, luxuriously soaking with her feet up until she pruned nicely. Mostly, though, Bren spent a good part of every day with Charlie and his cat, finally asking, “Why do you call your cat Mr. Jiggs?”

Charlie, normally a happy child, suddenly grew solemn, saying, “Because of Mother and Father, Ma’am”.

“How do you mean?” she probed.

“Well, Ma’am,” Charlie continued with some hesitation, “when they passed on, all that I was left with was our kitten, everyone and everything else burned up. I was awfully sad, Mum, and he was all I had left. To make myself feel better, I would imagine him dancing a jig for me sometimes when he would play with grasshoppers and that would make me smile. So Mum, from that time on, he was Mr. Jiggs!”

Bren smiled, “That’s lovely, Charlie. I like Mr. Jiggs, too.”

A Penchant for fire

Treated kindly by Charlie and his grandfather, Bren slowly grew more and more uncomfortable with Charlie’s governess. Penchant, though outwardly friendly, always seemed to be probing Bren for information about her life. Brenzel, assuming it was natural curiosity, answered after a fashion, but never forthrightly. Something deep inside her mistrusted Penchant, and she didn’t know why.

After the dream on her first night at the big, blue mansion, Bren slept soundly. Except tonight. Restless, she lay in bed listening to the sounds of the old house. A creak here, a hinge complaining there, as both masters and servants settled in for the night.

Laying wide awake until after midnight, Bren guessed, she decided to look for a drink of water. In bare feet, gliding over cold, hardwood floors, she made her way downstairs. Passing by a door in the hallway, near Charlie’s room, she noticed an unusual amount of light coming from a door set ajar. Movement! Bren froze, suddenly feeling foolish for being out in just her nightgown. Without thinking further, Bren peered into the room, only to see Charlie’s governess standing near what looked to be a lit candle and several other unlit ones.

Playing with fire

Out of her severe, black dress, Penchant was quite stunning. Her auburn hair, taking a copper tint in the candlelight, hung in ringlets about her shoulders. Skin, soft and devoid of age, graced her perfect form. Bren, standing breathless outside the door, felt strangely attracted to her.

Speaking in soft, earnest tones, in a language Bren could not understand, Penchant seemed intent upon the candles before her. Staring into the flame, as if transfixed by something in them, Charlie’s governess barely moved. Then slowly, deliberately, the mistress of the house moved her hand over the candle’s flame, so slowly in fact, it made Bren cringe involuntarily.

Into the fire

My God, she thought, that must hurt! Yet, again and again Bren witnessed Penchant slowly draw her hand, palm down, over the fire. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, Bren couldn’t take her eyes off the scene before her, thinking she would smell burning flesh at any moment. Then, Bren’s body began to tremble as Penchant’s head threw back with her mouth open. As if touched by some unseen hand, the woman before her moved sensuously, licking her lips as she held her hand directly over the flame. Bren’s secret places writhed, too, as she stood transfixed by it all.

Glistening beads of sweat on her forehead and chest, Penchant stood motionless for some time. The air around her became heavy, taking on a hint of smoke. Then, as if coming to a decision, she ran her hand slowly over the remaining candles, causing each one to flame into life on their own.

Suddenly, whatever gripped Brenzel let go as Charlie’s governess lifted her hand from the flame. Heart pounding, Bren felt the sensuality drain from her, as she stood quivering in silence. Slowly backing away, barely breathing, Bren made her way back to her room.