((A/N: This story depicts active scenes of domestic abuse! Please make sure you are in a good place to read this! I care about you all!)
“Maybe if you were more like your father you wouldn’t be such a failure!” The words left her mouth like venom, heading straight for the bloodstream of her betrothed partner. Her right hand was balled so tightly into a fist, her perfectly manicured nails left new wounds into her delicate skin. The tremendous eye contact left tension so thick in the air it could be cut like butter.
Afraid to move, to breathe, even in the worst of arguments she knew better than to bring up his father. She absolutely knew, but in the heat of the moment she could not control herself. The words had to leave her system like an unwanted virus. Unable to stop herself, she knew quite well what would happen next.
The hand she had so promptly pointed towards the previously beating heart of her husband began to shake, the weight of her words, of her stance, beginning to feel like gravity was tugging, pulling her into the grave she just dug herself.
With dark eyes he watched, waited for her to succumb to her own nerves. With flaring nostrils, the rage boiled his blood, the skin in his face turning red as tedious seconds turned to minutes. It felt more like hours.
Finally, as smoothly as she could she tried to lower her hand without notice. But that movement itself was enough to signal her defeat. As if attached by pulleys, as her hand lowered his raised, pulling back before slamming straight forward, right into the rose colored cheek of his wife.
Her body was thrown down onto the floor, instinctively placing her arms over her head to protect it from further damage, as she knew one hit would not suffice the demon in his soul. His large body towering over her, limbs pulling back and pushing forward, blow after blow on his regretful wife.
“When, will you, learn, your, lesson, Catherine!” He shouted between labored breaths, the physical exertion of beating his wife bloody troublesome in his older age. Being closer to 50 than to 40 came with its struggles, and for Oliver it was his ticketing heart. However if you were to ask the maids waiting below with bated breaths, prepared to either scrub up the blood on their hands and knees, or to report a body to the local doctor miles away, it was for his heart lacked humanity.
Catherine sobbed quietly, knowing sound would agitate the aggressive man once more. Oliver, with his knuckles thoroughly bruised and his heart racing, walked to his night stand where he picked up a tobacco stuffed pipe, placed it between his lips and lit a fire to the plant. Taking a deep breath in, inhaling the toxins, was enough to settle his nerves. At least to the point where he turned, leaving the room which hosted his broken and bleeding “lover”.
Not one soul in the house moved, nor breathed, until his departure was sounded by the large walnut door of the manor slamming shut behind him. The unfortunate servant who would be called to fetch his coat from the room was an argument among those safe inside. It was the older, more experienced footman who decided to take the role, knowing very well even one small word wrong would cause his own demise.
Maids rushed to work, the protocols established years ago for this unfortunate event. It would be Housemaster Evelyn who would be the first contact for Marchioness Catherine Griffiths of Ormonde, who would assist her in gathering herself prior to allowing the eagerly awaiting housemaids to help with her wounds. It was collectively decided to keep Lady’s Maid Agatha far away during these times, for she is most likely to spread this unfortunate information to other Lady’s maids when out. However, the sheer volume is enough to cause a small stir in the woman’s slumber.
A gentle knock was sweet to the bloodied ears of Catherine, moving out of her fetal position to attempt to sit up. The pain in her abdomen was strong, but the fear of appearing weak was stronger. “Enter!” She called out, that breath alone enough to knock the wind back out of her. Deep breaths, she told herself, this isn’t even the worst this has happened.
Evelyn entered, a wet rag over her arm. She quickly glanced around the room, noticing the disarrayed position of the vase of flowers, the chair and end tables, the blankets on the bed, the shattered glass scattered across the floor from multiple sources. It was quick though, material possession could mend themselves quicker than the crumpled woman before her.
The blood managed to soak through her nightgown, previously a lovely shade of light green, turned to spots of dark red and brown. Her face already began to swell, the imprint of the Lords jewels evident by small dots of blood from where it cut her. Her long light brown hair, so carefully and tenderly placed in curl retainers now loose, tangle and tattered with glass pieces in it.
Evelyn knew better than to say a word. She kneeled down, her body weight crunching under the glass beneath it. She took the wet rag and with gentle, calming hands, placed it against the Lady’s cheek, wiping away the blood. Catherine took in a sharp breath, her eyebrows knitting together in pain on the contact. Though fresh, he hit her harder than normal this time.
With a minute spent tenderly caring for the only Nobel who ever cared for her, Evelyn rose, placing her arm gently under Catherine’s arm. With gentle pressure, she helped the woman. to her feet, and with taking most of her weight, she brought her to the large bed. Though this is where the fight started, with how she was bleeding, Evelyn had fear that he may have broken bones again this time. Luckily from the sound alone she had one of the servants begin making up the “recovery room” for her.
“I am going to let in Elsie and Fannie now, they are ready to help you.” Softly, as not to scare the poor woman, Evelyn looked towards the slightly open door and nodded her head. Catherine didn’t even have a chance to deny the help, as after rejecting help countless times it was better go just grant her access to it.
In came the two housemaids, one carrying cloths and bandages, one carrying a bucket. Right behind them came Henry.
“Lady Griffiths, I shall be out in a breath.” Henry spoke with his head directly to the floor, eyes near burning holes into the wooden slats. On occasion her state of dress after a fight leaves her less modest, and to show her respect Henry never looks, and informs others who may have this position to do the same. He B-lined it to the closet, where the Lords jacket hung up neatly. Throwing it over his arm, with his head still down low, he made a gesture of tipping his brimmed hat towards the gathering of women, closing the door behind himself.
“I can always appreciate Henry.” Catherine spoke with a weaker voice, looking away from the women as they made work of removing the nightgown from her febal frame, taking no concerns over maintaining it. They know far well it would just consist as a memory of this particular fight, as the others do. While doing so they place salve over her cuts and large bruises, making quick work of combing across her body.
“I feel similar. His respect for women is something I hope casts down across the younger male servants. Right ladies?” Evelyn halted the movement of her hands taking glass out of Catherine’s hair to look at the two other women. Fannie, who was kneeling on the bed applying a salve to the newly exposed wound on her Lady’s ribs, looked up with a small smirk.
“Of course Misses! Cant have men trying to court us here, no siree. Isn’t that right, Elsie?” The tone of accusation laid in her voice as she now looks at the older housemaid in front of her. Fannie had been in this house throughout her puberty, though she still was young. She graduated from Sculley maid to housemaid this very year, and took her role as an honor. Anything was better then cooking day in and day out. Elsie, on the other hand, was older and wiser, yet still remain uncourted. It was common for servants to leave once they find a partner within their own social class, typically around their 20′s. She always blamed her heritage on causing her to be undesirable. An immigrant from Scotland, her accent was as uncommon as it was unwanted.
Yet now there was a new young footman who came from the Dukes household to help out here for the upcoming extension of visitors they are expecting. It wasn’t very unexpected news to Evelyn about this romance, she saw the way the two looked at each other. Especially now, as they laid their hands across their Ladys’ body to feel for any broken bones, wounds, injuries, and to clean up spilt blood, does this kind of conversation distract Catherine.
“Perhaps. Preferably it doesn’t fall across all of the footmen.” Elsie said with reddening cheeks, a coy smile across her face.
“Oh, a footman you say? It wouldn’t happen to be that strapping young new young lad from Duke Thompson’s estate, is it?” Catherine spoke with a soft smile on her face, the sudden gossip before her distracting her from the pulsing pain in her body. “I’m frightened I was not granted his name.” Of course she wouldn’t be. Knowing Henry’s name in itself has been the cause of a beating from Oliver. Though the expectations of becoming pregnant were high, the fear he held for her taking another man was even higher. Being married for 2 years with no children creates a feeling of inferiority inside of him, especially when he specifically took a wife who was near half his age to give him an heir.
“Perhaps Elijah might be,” Elsie took herself busy folding up the soiled nightgown. “But at this point, there are no ideas forming. And no, I shall not kiss and tell- if it were to progress there! As of now I am but a social distraction when needed.” Elsie stood up, walking towards the door with her arms full of the soiled washcloths and nightgown. With a feeble attempt at turning the doorknob, she looked back towards the two women watching her expectantly.
“Fine, I’ll say it; can one of you please help me?” Elsie sighed with her own inability to grab the door. Evelyn rose, opening the door only to take half of the arm full.
“We will be right back to move you, your grace.” Evelyn shot one serious look right towards Fannie, who remained kneeled beside Catherine. Elsie shut the door behind them, leaving the two alone.
Catherine set her head back, taking a shakey, painful deep breath. It feels like once again his strike had broken her ribs. She looked at Fannie who was staring at her quite boldly, her bright brown eyes reflecting the fire burning from the candle beside them.
“May I be so bold, but you can’t keep doing this,” Fannie spoke seriously, her voice deeper in its hushed state then before. Catherine readjusted her body lightly, confused by how bold this woman was. Yet when opening her mouth, Fannie very quickly spoke over her. “I know someone who can help you. Someone, who can make you not hurt anymore. You must visit her deep in the forest at night, in a small shed located by the lakes edge. You will only see the smoke of your intentions are real. Do not speak of this, do not speak her name. She can make him go away. She can help you.”
Fannie moved, pushing off the side of the bed and walking around so she could be standing over Catherine. The Lady of Ormonde stood shocked silent, her mouth moving like a fish out of water as she tried to think of something to say. It was always said to her from other high ranking wives to never speak to the servants, for what they say never holds truths. Such as asking if a dress makes you look slimmer in the waist, or if that color really matches your eyes. They always just say what you want to hear. Normally she never believed that, for if you are asking for a personal opinion you should always expect both ends to be said. Never did she find disbelief that her servants were merely appeasing her.
Through her words, through her stance, Fannie was speaking truth. Maintaining eye contact with the young girl almost proved as difficult as speaking with her husband. Yet, in her eyes, she saw it.
Catherine saw salvation.
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