Trigger warning: This chapter includes a rape
It was a very disorganized quadrille they danced in Nimis House. It was fast, it was loud, it was messy. You spun around, you ran, you grabbed whoever you happened to bump into, be it a man or a woman or someone of undefined sex. And most importantly, you laughed.
Like Mabel did, just as she let go of and galloped away Clyde, who was becoming too drunk to be a safe dance partner. Like she did not, when she looked up and saw that the man who had grabbed her waist and arm was someone she had not expected – or hoped – to see there.
“Jimmy Federline”, she said, slightly troubled and disappointed.
“Lady Mabel.” He gave her a superior smile. “Do you mind if I steal this dance?”
He did not wait for an answer, he had already swept her along and she could not break free.
“Were you looking for Alfie?” she asked, eager to make him leave. “He’s in his studio in the attic.”
“I was”, Jimmy said. “But then I practically ran into you, so I didn’t have much choice.”
She looked down and focused on her feet, though she knew the dance well enough to not need to actually do that.
“How lucky for me”, she sneered.
“Oh, well.” He shrugged.
He had made it very clear that he was in charge of this dance, and now he grabbed her hands and she had no choice but to follow him in and out.
Pip appeared at her side, growling low down in his throat and standing stiffly directed at Jimmy. He looked down at the dog with concern in his eyes.
“Pip, off”, Mabel commanded.
He usually took no more than a second to obey her, but now he only grew silent and stayed resiliently in the same position for twice as long. She was almost going to tell him again, before he lifted his tail threateningly and walked in between them on his way somewhere else.
“He’s not usually like that”, she said. But apologise? Why would she?
Jimmy made a face to show that he would not have accepted an apology even if it had come wrapped in silk with all the riches of the world in it.
“Though, I thought you’re just as good a person as any to ask this”, he said nonchalantly. “I know where your money comes from, but how about everyone else’s?”
“Well”, she still avoided eye contact, instead looking at the dancers behind him, “there’s Clyde, of course, who gets everything from his parents. He’s never worked a day in his life. And…” Constance became visible in the corner of the room, where around her a circle of emptiness had formed. “Constance Stevens, she’s actually a Mrs. Married young to an absolute brute, and lives well off his money after he fell down the stairs and snuffed it.”
Jimmy nodded in disinterest. “What about Alfie?”
He brought her to the side, pulled out their arms and put one of his around her waist, and they started moving through the room again.
“Alfie?” Mabel frowned. “Alfie doesn’t have any money.”
“He doesn’t?” His voice had gone up an octave.
“No. That northern accent of his-“ She shook her head, “fake. He’s as southern as they get. His parents own a plantation, but dear Alfie opposes slavery, so when the war came along he refused to fight for it and fled here instead.”
Jimmy was frowning and seemed to be thinking very deeply.
“So now his parents hate him and he hates them”, she continued, “and he only has a small allowance.”
He made her do a pirouette. “How small?”
“Very small.” She looked at him for the first time in a long while and cleared her throat. “And while we’re on the subject, he’ll be very angry if you were here without seeing him.”
“Really?” Jimmy said, sounding as if that had nothing to do with him at all.
“Oh, he’s been waiting for you every night.”
He did not wait for an answer. Finally he stopped them both and looked into her eyes. Suddenly he seemed to actually be there, actually see and hear her, actually care about what was going on. And all this in two round hazel eyes.
“I do hope I haven’t offended you”, he said with a sincere voice. “If I have acted impolitely it is only because I do not have much experience with women like you.”
Mabel smirked and raised a brow. “Who aren’t ladylike?”
Jimmy squeezed her hand and lowered his head towards hers ever so slightly. “Who aren’t like anything I could ever have dreamed of”, he smiled.
She wanted to laugh, she wanted it to be ridiculous, but it was not, and she did not. She just managed to pull the edges of her mouth up just before he let go of her, and watched him walk away with furrowed brows.
It had never been so clear to her that this Jimmy Federline figure was a very strange man indeed, but was that not exactly what made him fit into Nimis House?
Mabel was too hot to dance. She fanned herself with her hand and found some champagne, but the room was too crowded and loud and she had too many thoughts in her head. Where was Pip when you needed him? Nowhere she could see.
She left the dancing ballroom behind and went up the stairs, holding her skirts not to trip over them. From somewhere above her she could hear laughter. Jimmy had found Alfie. And Alfie had found Jimmy. How typical that he would be so naïve. She trusted Pip’s instincts more. But when she thought about Alfie’s love of people she still found herself smiling fondly. He just seemed unable to see the bad in anyone, that wonderful man.
Mabel went into her pink bedroom and up to the golden-framed full body mirror, where she fixed her hair and straightened out her dress. The night was still too young for her to quit just yet, she just needed a few seconds for herself and then she would be able to deal with it all again. The dancing, the music, the people running around through her house, borrowing bedrooms. She sighed.
There was someone behind her in the mirror. She spun around and put a hand over her heart.
“Clyde!” She tried to steady her breathing. “You scared me!”
He was swaying slightly, and smiled crookedly. Mabel’s own faded. Had she not closed the door? But he had.
“I was just freshening up a bit”, she said chirpily.
“Really?” Clyde’s voice was rougher than usually.
Mabel put on a brave smile. “I’ll be right down.”
He did not move, just stood there unsteadily and grinned.
“Did you enjoy dancing with me?” he asked.
There was something in his eyes that she did not like, something that said that he would accept no answer other than yes. So that was the answer she gave him, just as her voice broke.
“I can do more that you would enjoy”, he said, bringing his chin towards his chest.
Mabel rolled her eyes and started walking towards the door.
“No thank you, Clyde.” She felt somewhat relieved now that she knew what he was there for. “I would much rather-“
He did not let her finish the sentence. He stepped out in front of her and blocked her passage to the door, nonchalantly and calmly, but it made her heart beat faster.
“Why not?” Clyde said. “Don’t you think I could get it up?”
She gulped. “I have no doubt that you could. You don’t need to convince me.”
“I could show you.”
The worst part? The fact that he had not even raised his voice or acted violently, and he could still make her stomach turn like that.
“Clyde”, she said sternly. “What are you doing?”
“You do it with everyone else.” He started walking towards her. “Am I the only one you won’t do it with?”
Mabel instinctively took a step back. She had run out of words and the situation had gotten out of her control.
“Clyde”, was all she could say, weaker now.
But maybe it would be enough to pull him back, maybe it would make him realise what he was doing. Then he could apologise and they would laugh about it, and she would think that she had been silly to have been so afraid for a few confused moments when he was just drunk and unaware of his actions.
But he did not, he kept moving towards her.
“Why?” And now his voice was raising too. “What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing’s wrong with you”, she whispered desperately.
“Then why not?” He stopped in front of her, close, looking down at her face. His breath smelled of alcohol. “Why not, Mabel?”
“I just don’t want to.”
Clyde smiled again. “I promise I’m not as bad as you might think”, he said confidently. “I guarantee you won’t change your mind.”
“And I guarantee quite the same!” she shrieked.
Another step back, and he followed.
“You’ll know afterwards”, he said, “how lucky you were to have had me.”
That was the second she knew without a doubt that he would not be deterred. She took a deep breath and screamed.
Clyde grabbed her arm so hard it hurt and pressed himself against her. His face twisted into a sinister grimace, and the reality of it all dawned on her.
“Do you think he’d save you?” he sneered, hate in his voice. “He lets all those others fuck you, why would he care about one more?”
Mabel could hear the music from below, but no one there would hear her. She could not hear them in the attic any more. Was the ceiling thicker here? Did they not hear her either?
“Alfie!” she screamed even louder.
Still holding her there, Clyde lifted his other hand and pressed it over her mouth.
“Why would he save you?” he asked.
She stumbled backwards, but he had her stuck. Tightening his grip around her he pushed her onto the bed so she landed on her back and lost her breath for a second, as he pushed himself onto her and his face against hers.
“Don’t pretend to be so good and pure!” he roared. “Don’t pretend you don’t like it, that you don’t do it all the time!”
She fought it, she kicked at him and tried to hit him, when he started pulling up her skirts and down her pants. But he had her pinned down under him, and he was big and strong and she was just above a meter and a half tall, and stick-thin.
“It isn’t fair”, he mumbled, panting. “Everyone else gets to do it so easily, and here I have to fight for it.”
Mabel could not see it, but she knew he had gotten through all the layers of her clothing, that she was completely revealed now. That his coast was clear, that all he had to do was finish it.
Clyde scoffed under his breath and started opening up his own trousers, which he had to use both his hands for at this state. He bit his lip and grinned as he concentrated on the task.
He looked back at her again, he was out in the open. “Let’s see what the fuss is all about.”
Despite having her mouth free she still could not move, and she could not scream either. As the first tears started streaming down her cheeks at an alarming rate, all she could do was whisper, “Clyde, please.”
He covered her mouth again, running his tongue over his lips.
“Just because you asked so nicely”, he said, “I’m going to make it last extra long.”
Mabel would have screamed, if she could have. Now she just started crying. He forced himself into her and her insides exploded with pain.