The house on the corner was quiet the next morning. Every one slept into the late morning and the house was cold, the fires from the previous night not having been built up. One of the other servant girls had woken up on time, but seeing that Madra was still curled in her bed on the otherside of the room, she ducked her nose under the blanket again and closed her eyes.
Madra hadn’t slept a wink. She went to her room directly after she had taken Gierr’s dinner to him the night before. Not bothering to stop by the kitchen or return later in the evening to retrieve the tray. She shrugged out of her dress and quickly scrubbed her body with a rough cloth and cold water in her bed room. She ignored the damp patch she made on the floor as drops fell off her. She scrubbed her face over and over, hiding it in the towel and taking slow and angry deep breaths. The little servant’s room had two beds, and the two housemaids shared a dresser. She reached into a drawer and pulled out her night dress and got into bed. The covers were cold on her feet as she slid them into bed. When the other maid had come in later she had feigned a sudden illness to excuse her early bed time.
After the lights were blown out, Madra lay in her bed staring at the ceiling listening to the hard drops of rain falling on the roof. She reached up under her pillow and felt for the handle of a kitchen knife. It had travelled with her ever since her first job when one of the footmen (it was a much larger house) had cornered her in her bedroom one night. She gripped the handle and stared into the blackness. She imagined stabbing the blade into Gierr’s neck, or skinning the flesh off of his fingers. Gelding him also had certain appeal. She fumed and plotted in her cold bed, listening to the younger maid’s soft breathing.
There were no bells in the night to mark the time, but when the maid was completely asleep, Madra slid out of bed and clicked the door shut behind her as she left the room to creep downstairs. She held the knife in her fist, and used the servants’ staircase at the back of the house to sneak through the house. As she stepped into the main house and onto the carpeted hall, the first door she passed was Su’Len’s. She froze outside it as she heard sobbing. She was gasping and crying hysterically. Madra stashed the knife, handle up in a vase of flowers that stood on a small table nearby. She didn’t knock before she pushed open the door.
Su’Len looked up from the floor, her breath catching and saw Madra in her night gown. The Maid quickly shut the door behind her and rushed to her side. “What is it?” She whispered. Su’Len’s eyes were wide and she was shivering. Madra put her arms around her and lifted her up onto the bed. She tucked her mistress in and got in beside her, cradling her blond head against her shoulder. Soon her breath slowed as she calmed down. Her naked skin was cold against Madras. Madra stroked her head once but Su’Len winced and put her hand up to the sore spot.
“Did he hit you?” Madra asked.
“No.” Su’Len whispered back. She could hear Jan snoring in the other room and she shuddered again. She wound her fingers through Madras and started to murmur the story. How Gierr had stirred the mixture into coffee to disguise the taste. She had been sceptical at first because other elixirs hadn’t worked on Jan before, but this one was different. Madra stiffened when she mentioned Gierr as she remembered his cold inching fingers between her thighs. She soon forgot it though as Su’Len described how Jan had seemed almost possessed, on auto. She broke down a little again when she explained how she had tried to get away. The two girls had sat up together in the bed, Madra was holding her hands.
“’Len,” she said. “I’ve got a knife. We could kill them both tonight.” Her eyes shone as she imagined it. “You don’t love him, his father is an animal. They both deserve to die.”
“We can’t,” Su’Len said. She blinked back tears. “He’s too powerful Madra, you don’t understand. There was magic in that potion, not just herbs. There was something so wrong about it.”
“But you don’t care about Jan either do you? You can’t now. Can you?” Madra paused looking into her face. “’Len?” She lifted up her face to look at her. “’Len, you can’t let them control you forever. Let me help you, let me kill them for you.”
Su’Len sniffed, stiffening her shoulders. She wiped her nose with her wrist and sniffed again. “No Madra, it’s too dangerous. I’m – I’m alright really.” She swallowed. “Go back to bed.” Her voice had changed, switched back to the mistress that Madra recognised. Su’Len noticed the hurt in her maid’s eyes. She leaned forward and kissed her mouth, smiling as Madra leant in to kiss her back. They were familiar and soft with each other, and Su’Len cupped her lover’s face. “Go on. I’ll be alright, everything will be the same in the morning.”
Out in the hall, Madra retrieved the knife. She ran a finger off the knife edge and made it sing. She didn’t want it to be the same in the morning. Things needed to change in this house. She hadn’t been treated like a spare whore since she left that first job, leaving in the night with the knife in her pocket. She resented every memory Gierr had imprinted into her mind. She knew that it would stay with her.
The door to Gierr’s guest bedroom was at the other end of the hall. She started along the corridor towards it, the door to the servant’s staircase disappearing behind her into the darkness. The room was dark. She could hear Jan’s snores from next door, but Gierr’s was deathly silent. She turned the knob and went in. The door gave easily, not making a sound. Suddenly her heart was racing, she shifted the knife in her hand and even the thin catching of her nails on the metal handle was deafening. Her blood pulsed in her ears, beating hard with her heart. Her tongue felt thick in her mouth as she shifted slowly across the floor. She tested the weight of each step, willing the old house to give her silence.
Gierr was in the bed, lying on his side with his face turned to the wall. Perfect. She could see the pit where his neck met the shoulder. Just a shadow amongst the she shadows. A small patch of moonlight was falling on the bed, so that she could see him breathing and the dying embers of the fire were sending out a gentle red glow.
She took another step and she was at the side of the bed, all she need do is plunge it swiftly into that pit. She breathing was shallow and she steadied herself. She raised the knife over the target and closed her eyes. She took another breath and opened them, ready to sink the knife. As she looked down Gierr whipped his head around. His eyes were wide open and glittered black in the dark and he bared his white teeth.
She opened her mouth to scream. But before she could he had leapt out of the bed covers, he twisted the knife out of her fist and smashed her against the wardrobe. His hand covered her mouth and she tasted bitter sweat from his palm. He shoved his nose into her hair, which was loose and sniffed deeply.
His arm was crushed against her wind pipe. “I smell fear.”
The knife flashed through the square of moonlight as it cut across her throat. Her blood spattered – falling in a thick arch to the floor. She fell sideways, her body kinking in the middle and falling heavily, a dead weight to the ground. Her head hit the wall she fell so that her head was crushed up to the wall looking towards the bed.
Gierr got back into bed. “I’ll deal with it in the morning.” He thought.