Dishonor (Book 1 of the In Search of Honor series)

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Chapter 4: Which Way to Yesterday

After dressing, I went straight to Kevin’s room to begin my chores. When I got there, he was sitting on his bed, waiting for me.

“Are you doing okay? I know you’ve gotten beaten before, but it always hurts to see you in pain.” He stood up and came toward me. “Have you decided on Reese?”

I thought about what Rachel said, and I couldn’t think of a reason to distrust Reese. There was nothing wrong with her. “Yes, we can use her. We should bring her in tomorrow.”

“What’s wrong? You sound rushed. I’ve never known you to be rushed.”

I looked out his window at the small horse pasture. It was so peaceful and serene. Nothing like the lives of the Dishonored.

“I’m not rushed. I want to get out of this life. They think I’m almost eighteen.”

His forehead creased with worry. “We’ll get you out of there. We’ll destroy the structure and you won’t be Dishonored anymore.”

“There is no other future now.” My voice almost failed me. I didn’t want to be dishonored. But I saw nothing else. There was no other path for me now.

“We’ll bring Reese in tomorrow. I need to go. Are you sure you will be alright? I can stay if you need me to…”

I gave him a faint smile. “No, go. I’ve been through far worse. Out of curiosity, what are you going to?”

He cleared his throat and looked out the window. “I am going to meet up with a girl that I am eligible to marry, and whose family wants an alliance with my own. I hate these social events, but they are a necessary evil.” He gave me a crooked smile and then shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes at the same time. I laughed.

“Now look at you. Hurting a girl by forcing her to laugh.” I wanted to say more, to say he should stay with me. I didn’t want him to marry some girl out of ‘allegiance’, but he saw me more like a sister. I would have to bite my tongue and watch him fall in love with another girl.

I walked closer and kissed him on the cheek, surprising him. “For luck. Now go to your boring parties and let me get back to my work.” I wanted to say so much more. I wanted to kiss him on the lips.

“Alright, if you’re sure you’re fine I will go.”

“I’m fine, now go!” I laughed and shooed him out, ignoring the pain in my back and the ache in my heart.

After he left I went downstairs. Mistress Lianne found me and yelled, “Useless good for nothing creature. You whine about your backs so now the master says you don’t have to finish the only thing you’re good for? The dishes need doing so get in there and do them! What are you standing around for looking like a fish? They aren’t going to clean themselves!”

I hurried over to piles of dishes; I was only rarely allowed to use the plumbing in this house. Before I started, I reminded myself I must be careful with dishes because every crack or chip equaled a lashing, and that was something Kevin couldn’t prevent.

I rubbed the bar of soap next to the sink onto the cotton dish cloth and carefully picked up the first dish, turning on the faucet. Normally this was a chore for the normal servants, but they must have been doing other jobs today.

As I finished each dish I carefully dried it and stacked it in the cabinet it belonged in. I sometimes forgot how many dishes people could use when they ate well. One set of plates reminded me of a set my family used to use. Each plate had a white unicorn in the center of the plate with its horn touching a spring surrounded by the tangled vines of a forest. It had gold along the outside and the rim had unicorns leaping amongst vines tangling around the rim. They were beautiful works of art. But they weren’t exactly the same as my father’s plates.

Where these plates were serene and spoke of peace, my father’s set had two unicorns battling. Each rearing up at the other with their horns locked like swords and their hooves striking against the other’s chest. I had loved the fierce beauty of the creatures in my father’s plates just as the serenity in this plate was stunning.

Unicorns were such stunning creatures, and I wondered if any existed outside the wall still, or if they were all killed off in the blast that the dome and the Wall protected us from.

“Work faster!”

I jumped at mistress Lianne’s voice and almost dropped the plate I was holding. Thank God I didn’t.

I scrubbed and cleaned each dish carefully and placed them in the cabinet. Maybe I worked slower than a normal servant, but a normal servant didn’t face a whipping for breaking a dish.

“Finally you’re finished you lazy, slacking creature. The walls in the great hall are looking dirty and need scrubbing. If the master Kevin brings a Lady home we want this place spotless so she sees how nice it would be to be the mistress of this house,” Mistress Lianne screeched from behind me.

I grabbed a cloth from the pile of cleaning rags and went to the well for water. A brush was too hard on the walls and would cause the murals to flake. Touch up was done on the murals, but it was best to treat them gently.

I carried the bucket inside the manor house. Reese was already working on one of the walls. “Where have you gotten so far?”

“From the door up to here, so a little less than half. If you start on the other side of the door we can meet in the middle.”

“Sounds good.” Gently I started cleaning the wall moving my arm in circles. The layer of dirt and soot came off and the mural became vibrant once again. The mural was of ancient cities from before the blast with their tall buildings.

“Ready to find out our next assignment?” I asked Reese as we collected our buckets.

“Does your back always hurt this much on a day of work after a whipping?” She winced as she picked up the bucket.

“Eventually you stop noticing it.” We walked to the yard and emptied our buckets before heading to the well.

“Can we take a break? We only have to do half our chores today.”

“I'd prefer to get as much done as possible. I don’t want to anger mistress Lianne anymore than she already is.”

“You go on ahead,” Reese said, plunking herself down on the well steps. “You got to start late, so I get a small break.”

"Okay, I won’t tell mistress Lianne, but if she finds you she won’t be happy.”

Reese waved me off. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

I worried about her, but I had to worry about myself too. I left her there at the well and went back to the kitchen to find mistress Lianne for my next chore. “Why doesn’t the master just get a good cook? I’m a housekeeper, not a cook!” She roughly stuffed some herbs up and into a raw turkey.

“Mistress Lianne?” I said, keeping my tone soft.

“The furniture needs dusting. And where’s that good for nothing new girl? Damn her. What are you waiting for, get to work!”

I scurried off before she could insist on an answer to where Reese was. Reese was going to get chewed out when she came in, and if anyone found her slacking even on a half work day… I would not envy her the punishment she would receive. Her funeral.

I grabbed the feather duster and scurried away to dust the furniture around the house. Just as I was finishing the hallway, Rachel came out of the public bathroom with a bucket, scrub brush and cloth. She gave me a slight smile. “How are you doing, my dear?”

“Fine, thanks. What about you?” No matter how bad off she was, she was always checking on Annie and I. I guess, she was checking on Reese and me now.

She shook her head. “I’ll be fine.”

I went back toward the kitchen and Rachel went out to dump the dirty water. Mistress Lianne looked up as I entered the kitchen, “You’re so slow. Kevin will be bringing that girl and her family to the house any minute now. Sweep the floors in the public rooms. Go! Now!”

I dumped the duster, grabbed the broom and dustpan, and got out of there as quickly as I could. From the light coming through the windows I could tell that mistress Lianne was right: the day was almost done. Maybe an hour or so left of work before we were lined up and taken back to the prison for more watery soup and maybe a piece of old stale bread if we were lucky.

I swept the floor in the great hall until the mistress came running in. “Out! Out, you bloody fool! They’re coming now. No guest of the master should see that this family stoops so low as to use dishonored as house servants. Hurry to the kitchen. The other two are already there.”

I grabbed my cleaning equipment and ran into the kitchen where Rachel and Reese were already waiting.

“What’s happening?” Reese’s eyes were wide with fright.

I smiled. “Nothing to be scared of. When other nobles come to visit we get kicked out of the house. The Lord Konjack is bringing a girl and her family here for supper with hopes of marrying his son to her.”

It was the future I was supposed to have that was stolen from me. My smile slipped away.

“Why are you suddenly so upset?”

I looked at Reese and shook my head. I didn’t feel like talking right now. My heart felt heavy in my chest, and I felt hate for my father rising in my gut. It left a bitter taste in the back of my mouth. Why did he have to try and kill the king and leave his family to such a terrible fate? He had a good life; why did he have to want to improve other people’s lives?

And then I felt self-loathing. How could I hate my father for trying to help people who were in the shoes I was currently in? How could I hate my father when Kevin was trying to do the same thing my father was?

It was all such a big mess. I wished Kevin had never met me after I was dishonored. That he could have lived blissfully without ever seeing me again. He probably wouldn’t have gotten involved in any traitorous plot if it wasn’t for me.

“Snap out of it, dear!” Rachel said, waving her hand in front of my face. “No self-pitying attacks, remember?”

And I did. When I first became dishonored I had tried to kill myself by jumping out a window on the third floor. Rachel talked me down and forced me to swear I would face each day without feeling self-pity or turning my hate against those who didn’t deserve it. She taught me to save it for those who did. I focused my hate on the king instead. The king deserved my hate.

If I focused on that I could live with myself. Luckily mistress Lianne came in after the episode. She looked at the three of us and then shooed us out. “Well what are you still doing here? Leave the dresses by the well. You’ll be washing them tomorrow.”

We hurried out of the kitchen and toward the well being careful to use servant hallways so we wouldn’t be seen. It wasn’t fashionable to have Dishonored as house servants.

We were each able to clean the sweat off our bodies before putting the disgusting sacks back on and leaving the dresses next to the well like we were asked to. I was glad that the blood hadn’t clung to the dress. I wouldn’t have wanted to put the sack on open wounds.

“So what was that whole self-pity thing about back there?”

Why was Reese always asking questions? I didn’t plan on ever answering her.

“We all have a backstory, Reese, and sometimes Liv’s just… overwhelms her.” Thank God for Rachel. He must have put her gentle soul among the Dishonored to give us hope and kindness in our lives.

People said God had turned his back from us, and that was why we were Dishonored, but I chose to think of it as God gave us hardships so that we might turn to him for help. I might not be allowed to go to church because I was Dishonored, but I found that I believed in him more now than when I was Honored.

When I was Honored I took everything for granted, and now I saw the way Honored hid behind masks of kindness. Dishonored had nothing to hide anymore, and so their true personalities were brought out in the harshness of our lives. It was honorable to hide one's true self, but dishonorable to act like one's true self.

Or that was what I had come to realize. They made up the rules and played games with people’s lives like they were God. They pretended to be the most respectable people in the city, and then tortured innocent people and labeled them as Dishonored so they had a reason to have slaves. The whole thing just disgusted me.

“Come on, we need to get moving or we’ll get a whipping for being late,” I told the others, throwing on my sack and tagging onto the end of the lineup. It was time to head back for that dim, dark, and dank place.

I looked toward the house. Through the window I could see Kevin laughing with a beautiful, golden-haired girl. She was smiling so perfectly, her blonde curls framing her heart shaped face. I wanted to run close enough to see if Kevin reciprocated her smile, but instead I followed the other dishonored like an animal being herded to slaughter.

I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to face that guard that had requested that I sleep with him. I was scared shitless just at the thought, but I was more scared of ending up like Annie. If I ever did something wrong I think I would choose exile into the Bad Lands so at least I could die free and on my own terms.

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