Water boils, clanking against the enamelware kettle as I slice vegetables.
“Tea, wife,” called Mr. Charlemagne, “I won’t have my guests waiting.”
“Of course not,” I say, my voice sickly sweet as I measure out the leaves and tap it into a ceramic pot then pour water over it. I take a glimmer of triumph knowing that I did not prewarm the pot with a few inches of hot water, which made tea brew to its fullest body. I’d pour off the tea into a cold silver pot, too, so it grew cold before it should. Though I might prewarm the cups–Mr. Charlemagne would notice a cold cup. I finish cutting up the vegetables and dump them into the stock pot with the stew meat, then take the tea out on a tray to the men.
He had five friends over to celebrate his victory, having successfully paid my guardian enough in jewels and white tea to release me as Mr. Charlemagne’s latest fashion statement. The wives before me had a way of dying. One tumbled down the stairs after tripping on a corner of a bedsheet she was laundering. Another was careless with her lantern and burned down the barn with her inside. The one before that took too much of a draught the doctor had prescribed her for sleeping purposes. The list went on, to encompass six wives in five years–and that was only during Mr. Charlemagne’s stay in Edinston.
As I poured the tea for his guests, I examined them for the same upturned nose and frown that showed they were high class like Mr. Charlemagne. Two bore his same bored expression. One laughed at everything and nothing, a rosy cheeked-bellow that made his massive rolls of skin tremble. The fourth smiled not at all, rather boasting a scowl as though he despised everything he observed past his long, hooked nose.
Ah, but the fifth–he was a man not like the others. True, with his trimmed beard and carefully preened hair and crisp clothes, he did ooze of high class and dignity. But, there was something else about him, a sense of responsibility and caring that his companions did not share. He had sandy brown hair and hazel eyes, a frame and jaw set that would have been overlooked had he been dressed commonly. Beyond that, there was an extra sparkle to his smile I admit I found enchanting.
A pity. I had been hoping to poison them all.
Best to not get too attached to him, then.
Except, when I found myself back in the kitchen, holding a vial of poison I’d rendered from the stand of hemlock in the swamp from my guardian’s house, I found myself thinking. Perhaps this was not the way to kill Mr. Charlemagne after all. He would become a fabled hero of sorts–the tragic kind. They would speak of how great a man he was, how poorly the fates treated him by taking his beloved wives away, then being murdered by his last. I re-corked the vial and slipped it back into my pocket.
I needed to kill his reputation. I needed to let him live so he could hang himself. All I would need to do is hand him the rope, and surely he would tie the knots himself.
And that is the end of today’s Friday Freewrite. Come on back here next Friday for the continuation.
—I take an hour a day to write “free” to help get myself into the work mode. Each day has/will have a theme, and the length will vary. Please excuse any obvious grammatical or story errors, as I don’t take the time to edit these. They are “raw”.—–