Chapter 2: Kevin
I placed the clean chamber pot back in his bathroom and sighed.
“You know I hate to see you doing these disgusting jobs,” Kevin said from behind me.
I jumped. I didn’t know he was there. As I straightened myself up, I finally managed to say, “Just as you hate to see me naked, I’m sure.” I felt my cheeks heat up, and kept my eyes down out of habit.
“I would prefer to see you as you used to be, so full of spirit and life. You were always tearing your skirts and getting into trouble, riding about the city on that crazy pony of yours, or running with Henry’s gang. I shouldn’t have ever introduced you to him.”
“I’m not that girl anymore. Now I clean out garbage and wash floors like a good dishonored who won’t be beaten to death.”
“Elizabeth…” Only Kevin called me by birth name nowadays. “I would do anything to see you glaring at people again, looking them straight in the eye with those beautiful blues of yours. What happened to that fiery little girl?” He gently lifted my chin, but I kept my eyes fixed on the floor.
“Elizabeth, it’s okay to look at me. You know I won’t punish you.” Slowly I allowed myself to look up into those lovely gray eyes of his eyes. I could see the worry and care in his face, and it scared me. He was going to end up like my father. Why were the men in my life always so determined to change the way things are?
“Why are you so afraid? What happened to that fire, the reason we started our plans?” He let go of my face and I turned my head away to stare at the wall.
“I… I saw things. I’ve lived through things I couldn’t have imagined, and unbearable pain.” Some people think they wouldn’t break if they were tortured, but I know the truth. Under pain you will say anything to get the pain to stop. To be free.
“Is this about what happened to Annie?” There was so much hate in his voice I knew he understood.
“They shot her, Kevin. I…I watched the light leave her eyes. First, they beat her till she was unconscious, and then they woke her up, and they beat her again, and again, till her back was a swollen red and bleeding mess. Then, they shot her. All because…” I couldn’t go any further. Tears were already leaking out of my eyes.
Suddenly his arms were around me. “Shh, it’s okay. She’s better off now. She always wanted to die, and now she’s in a place with no pain. A place where she is honored and treated like a queen.”
He was right. Slowly my tears dried up and he held me out at arms distance to inspect me. “Better now?” I nodded.
“You’re right, but I miss her. I had hoped…”
“I know. It’s going to be alright. Just be glad Annie is where she always wanted to be.” He held me close again.
I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to just be held there in his arms always, but my place was elsewhere.
I pulled away. “I have to clean floors before noon.”
“You’re coming back up here. I told the house keeper that my floor was disgusting and I wanted it spotless.”
“I should at least clean it a little bit. I’ll talk to you after I get water and a scrub brush.”
“Okay, but hurry. I do want to talk to you. And what do you think about Annie’s replacement. Can we use her?” He grabbed my arm, determination clenching his jaw. His desire to help me in my mission scared me, but at the same time it was uplifting, seeing him insisting on being on my side.
“When I get back,” I whispered, staring at those gray eyes, and then pulled away and ran out of the room.
Reese stood beside the well with her hands on her hips and a frown on her rounded face.
“Where have you been? We’ve been cleaning the great hall.”
“Kevin needed me.”
Her eyes narrowed, and she glared at me, “You look like you’ve been crying.”
“I… He mentioned Annie.”
“Annie? Is that the name of the previous girl? The one who was shot?”
I focused on lowering the bucket into the well and tried to blink back my tears.
“Oh. Liv! I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just thought, and well, you always seem to be doin' stuff for Kevin. I didn’t realize.”
She didn’t realize that she was insensitive or that she saw too much for her own good? “I’m fine. Please, just leave me alone.”
Or I might draw her into my treasonous activities and thoughts like I had Kevin and Annie. She left with her water, and I took my two buckets up to Kevin’s room, where he was waiting for me.
“So what do you think? Should we bring her on board?”
I didn’t want to see another person die because of me. “Not yet. Give me a little more time to figure out if she is trustworthy. She talks a lot and I am not sure if she could keep her mouth shut.”
“ It’s up to you. You know I trust your judgment.”
I nodded. In a couple of days I would probably wear down and bring her in on our treasonous plot if that’s what he thought was best. Our plot to destroy the castle of the king, not just kill him like my father wanted. We wanted to destroy the seat of his power and kill him in the act.
We needed a second dishonored for the plan to work. But Reese? I didn’t think she could handle it.
I dipped my brush into the bucket and began to scrub the marble floor.
“I hate the fact that most of the time I spend with you is while you work.” He sat down at his desk. “And though I would help you, I have to work on all these reports, and taxes. With Father’s mind wondering the way it is…”
“You would rather be dancing with me in balls and courting me right?” I teased, knowing he hated balls almost as much as he claimed to hate the never ending flow of work that landowning seemed to entail.
He scratched at his head, as if actually thinking about the prospect “I would be afraid of losing my toes. Anything except dancing with you.”
I flicked water at him as I laughed, and he dodged the water.
“I could be a better dancer by now. I would have had another ten years of practice.”
“You mean you would have been better at stepping on people’s feet!” He dodged again as I flung more water at him. I had to keep working or I would have tried to make him take that comment back.
“And look, now you you’re getting dirty water stains on my paperwork!” He held up a piece of paper with a faint discoloration in right in the middle of it.
I shrugged and stuck out my tongue, enjoying hearing his laugh, that rich deep sound that filled up the room.
I finished scrubbing the floor. “Is this clean enough?”
“What if I say no? Will you stay and keep me company while I look at stacks of paperwork. I don’t want to lose your wonderful company.” He turned a hopeful look my way.
“Are you that eager to see me come in with a bleeding back for not finishing my house work?”
“I’ll see you later.”
I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I left the room. I treasured every word he spoke to me and every touch. But it was nothing more than that. I was his childhood playmate, a good friend, and someone he cared for as a sister and nothing more. I planned to make sure he couldn’t be blamed if our plot when wrong. I wanted him to be free to continue to live in honor.
I peaked in the kitchen and saw a figure with gray streaked black hair up in a bun calmly discussing something with one of the cooks. “Mistress Lianne?” I spoke quietly, not wanting to draw her wrath on me, “I finished Sir Konjack’s room. Where do you want me to clean next?”
“Go scrub the dining room floor. I want you to make it shine for Lord Konjack. ”
I nodded and scurried to the private dining room. I didn’t know where the other two women were working, but I was glad we were split up. That way we could work faster.
“Jacqueline? Whatever are you doing acting like a servant?” I turned around and I could see the old Lord Konjack standing there. Kevin said he was losing his mind; that my father’s betrayal had addled his wits.
“My Lord, I’m Elizabeth, Jacqueline’s daughter. I work here, sir.”
“But why ever would you work here. Shouldn’t you have married my son by now? Your father and I planned to arrange it.”
I continued scrubbing. Talking to the old man always made me want to cry. He never seemed to remember we had talked previously. We had almost the same conversation two days ago.
“Sir, I am dishonored. My father was branded a traitor and executed.” I rubbed away a tear that slipped out of the corner of my eye.
“My dear, why ever would they Dishonor such a pretty thing as you? I’ll find something of my wife’s for you to wear. We’ll make you look yourself again. No pesky servants garb for you.”
“My Lord, I cannot. I am Dishonored and work as a slave in your house.”
“Jacqueline, why do you protest so much? You have two lovely girls, and my protection will keep you safe.”
It was all I could do to keep myself from bawling. This poor, tortured man. He seemed to blame himself for my family’s downfall. “It's okay, my Lord. Nothing you could have prevented.”
He started walking toward me, and I was afraid he was going to take me from my work again. He’d done it before a couple times.
Thankfully Kevin appeared before that could happen. “Come, father. You must leave the serving girl alone."
“I know her from somewhere, Kevin. I swear I’ve seen that face before…” I scrubbed the marble floor harder as Kevin steered him into the kitchen.
“You know,” a young voice sounded from behind me, “you’re pretty lucky to be working for my family. Other families whip their dishonored when they work as slow as you do.” It was Felise, Kevin’s twelve year old brother. I didn’t have to look up at his mop of dark hair to know that.
I simply kept scrubbing. Ignoring him was the best way to deal with Felise. “What, girl, did you not hear me? You hear my brother well enough. And I don’t get why my father treats you so nicely either.”
I gripped the brush a little harder, and took a deep breath. “Felise, my father was a friend of your father’s a long time ago. I was at your christening as a Most Honored.”
“Don’t lie. Why would they let you into a church? You’re a slave.”
I sighed. “I wasn’t back then. My father was your godfather. That was before he was executed for treason and my family were Dishonored.” It wasn’t my place to tell him this, but he must be the only person who didn’t know what happened.
“What do you mean about my father being a friend of your family? He would never befriend someone like you!”
“No, Felise, he wouldn’t. Your father simply remembers when I wasn’t dishonored. It's been ten years, Felise. Try to get used to it.”
I kept scrubbing, trying to find every speck of dirt on the floor. “Why hasn’t anyone ever told me this before?”
“Maybe because it’s a painful subject for your family? I know you are curious, but I don’t want you to get in trouble for asking questions."
“But you’ve been serving here since I can remember. I thought…”
“It's what your family wanted, and it's for the best.”
“I didn’t know about that.” Poor Felise. He was a good boy at heart and I often forgot that. I glanced up and saw his confusion. Dear God, I wasn’t supposed to talk about this. But I couldn’t stop now.
“Felise, when one person in a family does something wrong, the entire family pays with dishonor. But don’t worry about me. You have enough to worry about without thinking of me. I’m sorry I ever brought this up.”
“I’m sorry I treated you so poorly. I never thought.”
“It's okay, Felise. Go enjoy yourself.” I watched as he walked out and wondered what I had set in motion. What had I done? Why had I spoken?