His Saving Grace

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Chapter XIII

I woke up to darkness. I glanced around. We were still in the same room, but Beth was no longer on the bed. She was asleep on a chair, and she didn’t even budge as I made my way towards her.

Never would I have imagined that the servant would sleep on the bed, while the master sat on the chair. Yet there was no satisfaction, no enjoyment, nothing, as I stared at Beth’s sleeping face. She looked tired. Her anger and her pride had always made her look stronger yet also older. Now, she looked like a tired young woman, and she didn’t even budge as I brushed a strand of her golden hair out of her face.

I jumped when a loud knock broke the silence. Someone was knocking at the door, rather loudly.

“Dinner and a bath.” A loud woman continued banging on the door. “Open up!” Was it dinner time? It was dark outside, so it was hard to tell.

I rushed to the door, and I opened it carefully, peeking my head out a little. “We didn’t order anything.” I whispered. It made me uncomfortable to open the door. What if the captain found out?

“Captain’s orders.” She pushed me out of the way, and the door was flung wide open. I glanced nervously at Beth, who finally showed signs of waking up.

Before I could say another word, the woman made her way in, and two young men followed her. They were carrying a small wooden tub, just big enough for one person. They carefully placed it near the empty fire place, and they shuffled out without meeting anyone’s eyes. Three young women made their way in too, each carrying a jug of steaming hot water. I could only watch in awe as the five people shuffled back and forth, and the tub was surrounded by jugs of steaming water.

Finally, the set up was complete with soap. All the younger people left, and it was just Beth and I with the older woman. The door closed behind them, and I stared at the older woman, wondering why she hadn’t left.

“Which one of you is Grace?” She glanced between the two of us.

“That would be my maid.” Beth pointed at me, and the woman turned to stare me down. Her eyes seemed to scour every inch of my face and body.

“Come here.” The woman instructed. I made my way towards her, and she nodded as she continued to look me up and down. “Won’t be too hard.”

She took me by the arm, and she dragged me towards the bath tub. My eyes widened in surprise, and I glanced over at Beth who shared that look.

“Strip.” She instructed. I froze. The protest slipped out without a thought.

“Shouldn’t Beth wash first?” It was only obvious for Beth to wash up first. After all, she was the General’s daughter, and I was just her maid.

“Captain’s orders. Grace gets a bath. I don’t care about your status.” She crossed her arms over her chest, and she looked at me expectantly. “Strip.” I had no clue what to do. This felt like it was going against everything I knew. Was I dreaming, to be in a place without status?

The woman gave me a little bit of privacy as she began foaming the soap and lathering a cloth towel, but I only shuffled in my place. I had no qualms with being nude in front of this stranger, yet it was the scars that held me back. Did she know about my back? The woman peered at me as I stared at her, unable to move. With a sigh, she stormed towards me, and she began to peel the clothes off my body. It made me feel like a child.

“Someone will be here with fresh dressings for your wounds.” She began to peel the bandages off my body, and I couldn’t move. It was crippling to feel her gaze on my back. I didn’t miss the small exhale that came out of her, and it made me ashamed. Was it that ugly?

The woman took me by the arm and led by towards the bath water. Was I being sensitive? It felt like her touch was lighter than before. Perhaps she pitied me. I’d never seen the scars, but I could feel them. They’d bled yesterday, so they weren’t even scars yet. They were just open wounds. I hovered over the empty tub. Again, I turned my gaze to the woman. I was confused.

“You can’t sit in a tub with open wounds, so I’m going to wash you down without soaking your body.” She sounded less impatient. Perhaps it was in my head. Feeling a little uncomfortable, I lowered myself into the empty tub. I sat down, and she immediately made me look down at my feet. Then, it began.

Hot water began trickling onto the back of my head. I stayed there frozen as she began to massage my scalp. The hot water created an itch I’d never felt before. It almost burned. This was the first time I’d ever experienced such a luxury. It was only natural that I would wash second to Beth, and the water would be mild at best. The hot water trickled down my hair, and the woman gently pressed her fingers into my scalp. I almost moaned.

I could hear the door opening and some feet shuffling, but the woman didn’t let me raise my head. I could only assume it was someone with the dressing and bandages. To think there would be a day when a maid like myself would be treated like a mistress. It felt uncomfortable, but they were too good to let me rebut.

The water continued to soak into my hair and trickle onto the floor of the tub. I leaned my head on my knees as I hugged my knees. It was so warm. Also, the water smelt lovely. It wasn’t too much to say that this was perhaps the greatest experience of my life. All the tension left my shoulders, and I practically melted into myself. Finally, a clean smell filled my nose. Anything was better than the smell of sweat and grime coming from my body.

After two full jugs of water, the woman began to lather my head. With a similar massage technique, she rubbed some clean smelling products into my hair, and this was when I began to cry.

I was starting to feel so clean, so normal. But this wasn’t normal. I had wounds stretched over my ruined back, and I was on an island I’d never heard of. Beth could barely look me in the eyes, and I lived in fear. What had I come to, crying over the clean smell? It hurt that I was so incredibly grateful for this luxury, as if the captain hadn’t been the one who caused this entire situation. All I wanted to do was thank him, and that was horrifying in itself. Still, my tears were silent, and I clamped down on my lips as the water was poured on my head once more.

She took one arm at a time, and she lathered them down with water and soap. It felt like every layer of grime and sweat was scrubbed off my body, and my skin felt raw but clean. Then, she made me stand with all my hair in the front as she carefully poured some water down my back. If I had any decency in me, I would have blushed. She didn’t leave a simple place untouched. Fortunately for me, being nude in front of women didn’t bother me in the slightest. I felt like a new person, and I also felt rather cold. The water was no longer steaming hot, and my hair was wet. Thankfully, it created a barrier between my tears and the woman’s piercing gaze.

She led me out the tub and began to wipe me down. I truly felt like a child, but also, I felt grateful. It was a privilege to feel like a child. She was extremely cautious with my back, and it made me wonder if she’d done this before. I felt like a placated child as she patted me down, and she even dressed me. I was relieved that she allowed me to retrieve some decency, at least on my bottom half, as she helped me put on my underwear. Then, she began dressing my wounds. It seemed I was right about her experience because she moved extremely quickly, just like Graham. Perhaps she had medical knowledge like Graham too.

After I was fully dressed in new clothes I hadn’t seen before, she led me to sit on the bed as she dried down my hair for me. I didn’t have to lift a finger. I would treasure this warmth forever. Was this what it felt like to be a mistress, not a servant?

I was broken out of my reverie by Beth. Her voice was sharp, almost angry, and my eyes shot to hers. She seemed to be glaring at me, and it immediately made me tense up. All thoughts of luxury disappeared without a glance as guilt began to seep in.

“When will I get my bath?” She looked annoyed, as she sat with her arms crossed and a furrow across her brows. The woman paused in her motions, her hands still on the cloth on my hair.

“You don’t get one.” Then, she continued to dry down my hair, as though nothing were wrong.

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