Gertrude: Part Three (3/4)

Gertrude: Part Three (3/4)

A Story by Mel
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Continuation of the origin story. Secrets and betrayal. *Trigger warning!* some sexual violence (Although not explicit in detail.)

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The best of parents are attentive to their children. It’s the hope that with good parenting, the child will grow to become someone who could continue the cycle with their own children. Clara and her beloved, Edward had discussed this very topic early in their marriage. Whether sons or daughters, they would show their offspring the best the world could offer. Sure enough, when they became parents, they were forced to grow into their roles. But grow they did.

Certainly, there were stretches of time when Edward was gone for business. But he always came back with beautiful gifts unique to their receiver. He’d kiss his wife and daughters and give them his full attention.

Clara, having been raised in a strict, quiet household herself, craved a life of affection for her own daughters. She’d read them to sleep every night until they learned to do it themselves. She held their hands every outing until they learned to prefer each other’s. She smothered them in kisses and laughter. Having been the parent most present during Gertie and Jo’s upbringing, she always tried to reason with them when they got fussy. She’d crouch on her heels and listen to their fumbly, watery problems. She’d make them say sorry to each other when they’d tussle. Hug each other.

So on the night Clara overheard hushed voices on the balcony below her’s late in the evening a year before her eldest daughter’s wedding, she knew she’d have to reason with her offspring once more in the controlled, loving method she’d used so effectively on them in the past.

Her bedroom balcony stood one story parallel to Gertie’s. She stayed out there motionless and  invisible in the night, listening.

“Think of the life we could have,” a voice whispered. A man’s. “Our kids out there in the gardens of your grandmother’s estate.”

“It just can’t be that way,” interjected another voice. Gertie’s, Clara thought.

“It could if you’d just listen to what I have to say,” the man whispered, through what Clara pictured were clenched teeth.

She sucked in air through her own and abandoned the balcony when she heard sounds below that were less than innocent. She wouldn’t dare march down there in the dead of night and reveal the indecency now. She crawled into bed and waited until the darkness gave way to the pale blues of dawn.

At first light, she tapped on her daughter’s bed chambers and entered before getting permission. Gertie was fast asleep in her cushions, tangled up in silk sheets. One hand turned upwards on her pillow next to her jaw, which hung loosely from her head, a string of drool spilling from her opened lip and pooling on the pillow. She shook her daughter awake, not ungently.

“Yes. Yes,” Gertie mumbled, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and sitting up in her bed to look at her mother. “Did I oversleep? Sorry, Mama.”

“No, you didn’t,” Clara began quietly. She cleared her throat. “Gertie, are you meeting with a man in the evenings? Bernard? Does he come to your balcony at night?”

She expected her daughter to lie.

“What are talking about?” Gertie said, swinging her legs over the bed to sit next to her mother. “Of course not! Why are you asking this?”

“I know you’re not going to tell me what’s going on,” Clara continued. “But I know what I heard. And last night was the last time-”

“-mama-”

“You ought to be grateful!” Clara snapped, suddenly clutching her collar. It frightened her to feel the electricity of anger quicken her pulse. Gertie jerked her head back in surprise. “Other mothers in my positions would not be so merciful! You must think I’m quite the stupid one. But you’re mistaking my kindness for lack of intelligence, Gert.”

“Honestly, no, Mama, I’m not. I’m just-”

“You have any more late-night visitors, Gert, and I’ll pull the whole wedding. I’ll tell your father. I’ll pull the marriage, the allowances, the estate. Everything. You’ll have nothing. All I’ve ever done is to prepare you for this moment. I’ve worked hard to make you someone of greatness. I won’t have you disrespecting your father and I like this again. Do you understand?”

Her knuckles were white at her collar. She set her hand down on her lap, and held it with the other to control it’s quivering. Her daughter was motionless next to her.

“Do you understand, Gertrude?” She asked more quietly, focusing on her hands.

Of course Gertrude understood. As soon as her mother left the room, she dressed quickly and swung open her sister’s bed chamber door next to her own. Jo was already awake, sitting at her prep table, staring at her own reflection in the mirror. When Gertie entered, she stood up in haste.

“I’m sorry, Gertie,” She said, pulling her sister’s wrist to her bed where they could sit together. “I didn’t know Mama would hear.”

“She thought it was me! You heard her, then? Just now?” Gertie whispered sharply, her eyes fluttering up at the bedroom door as if Clara could be listening.

“Yes,” Jo admitted, holding her sister’s hand in her lap. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“No it won’t,” Gertrude agreed. She placed a hand over her heart, feeling it beat against her palm. The sisters looked at each other, thinking similar thoughts. For a second, Jo appeared to be someone else. Someone who knew she had the power to twist Gertie’s promised future. But just as Gertie detected this secret person residing in her sister’s eyes, Jo blinked and that person shifted back out of sight. Perhaps still watching Gertie from the inner corner of Jo’s eye. Jo kissed Gertie’s hand.

“I promise it won’t,” she said.


The month passed without further incident, although Clara now watched her eldest daughter without blinking all moments they were together. Wedding preparations were tapering down, as they settled on the cuisine and decor of the event. Gertie found herself taking walks alone sometimes after lunch, as her sister seemed to be busy with preparations of her own. For what, she did not know, nor did she care to. She’d see her sometimes after returning from her lonely walks, Jo wandering through the manor hallways fiddling with a little stone-carved toad in her palm, a mind lost in thought. Perhaps a gift from Stewart. She  had hoped the night on the balcony would be the last visitation from Stewart to Jo, but in her heart of hearts she knew otherwise.

She chose to fill her mind of Bernard. What being his wife would be like. She imagined a life of humming quietly to herself with a little smile on her lips, wandering around the gardens of her grandmother’s home as toddlers fumbled and tumbled ahead of her. Bernard kissing her on the cheek every morning. She thought of the love and affection her own parents shared with each other, and decided she would model her own married life after them. She was lucky, she decided.

One night after a dinner of goose and pumpkin seeds, her sister and her walked each other up to their bed chambers, rubbing their full tummies and feeling light off wine. Jo carried a bottle up with them, opened it and passed it to her sister.

“A little more before rest?” she said with a daring twinkle in her eye.

Gertie laughed, snatching the bottle from Jo and throwing her head back to take a swig. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand when a little wine dribbled down her chin. She took another gulp before handing it back to her sister. Jo held up her hands.

“None for me, I’ve had plenty,” she said with a little chuckle. Gertie took a step towards her room, and immediately reach out her hand to brace against the wall to balance herself.

“Wow!” she giggled. “I had no idea I’ve had this much!”

Jo guided her to bed, where she sat on the edge and watched her sister as she pulled blankets around her chin in bliss. It felt like the last moments of something, she thought.

“Jo?” Gertie said, catching her sister’s eye. The other person lurked behind them again. But she barely noticed this time. She suddenly found it very difficult to concentrate on her sister’s face. A tunnel of nausea opened itself up within her, filling her head with fuzz and her throat with acid.

“I don’t feel well,” she muttered, turning on her side and feeling her forehead. “I don’t think that goose liked that I ate it.”

“Must be out for revenge,” Jo agreed, but her voice sounded distant. She patted the bed and left the room. She must have been called out.

Gertie heard whispers on the other side of her door. Maybe her parents on their way up to their own chambers for bed. She almost called out for them to fetch a pot as she rode out the wave of sickness. Her door creaked open again. She tried to raise a hand up to usher the opener to over to her bedside, but found her arm too heavy to lift. She called out, but her voice only whispered out into the darkness. “Hey,” she croaked.

Whoever had opened the door, she could not turn and see. But the weight of a body crawled into her bed under the covers.

“Jo!” she tried laughing, but found herself too weak.

Someone pushed her down flat on the bed, and she saw now above her double faces of a moonlit Stewart looming above her like floating, dramatic masks. She’d seen him around parties, stealing glances at her sister. A pale face punctured by too-big of pupils surrounded by walls of ice. It floated now twice above. She couldn’t decide what emotion she should be feeling, but felt her heart fight to quicken the sludge in her veins nonetheless. Her body was betraying her, resisting her commands to move.

Splotches of black bloomed before her, and she felt through the thin layer of numbness his cold hands beneath the blankets. His body trapping her own.

There was movement and sound, but with neither could Gertrude attach them to her circumstances. Stewart didn’t offer her any explanation, instead he closed his eyes, ignoring her.

As soon as he was finished he threw the blankets up and disappeared the way he came.

The petals of the black flowers grew in front of her eyes. Before they enveloped her vision completely, she saw her sister once more, peering down at her as the other person. She placed one hand on her belly and the other on her forehead. Like Stewart, she closed her eyes, but this time, she was muttering something low and rhythmic. The black flower took Gert’s eyes completely, and mercifully, it sent her to sleep.

She was awoken the next morning by a low ache that pulsed in places Mama had told her were too unladylike to point out at as a child. Her head pounded, letting out a high-pitched buzz in her ear. She hardly remembered the events of last night, and chose instead, to not investigate the memory too much. She had, after all, drank quite a bit of Papa’s good wine at dinner. A swig or two with Jo before bed. Anything beyond that were just the dreams of the drunk.

Rising from bed, she now realized the ache reached everywhere in her body, nestled in every joint and low-lying parts of her body. She laid back down with a groan, feeling the heat rising off from her forehead.

“Damn goose,” she made herself say loudly to drown out the little worried whispers trapped in her pounding skull.

She laid like this for the rest of the day. When her mother discovered her some hours later, she kissed her on the forehead the way that mothers do. She dispatched a maid to sit at her daughter’s side for the day as she carried out wifely duties. Jo made no appearance at her bedside. Gertie was both relieved and frightened.

The next day, she felt the ache dim and decided she would leave the trappings of her chambers and wander the house. Stepping out of her gown, she saw now a rusty streak on her crisp-white sheet. She ran a hand over it. Scratched it with a nail. Threw a blanket over it and asked the laundry maid to change out her bed as soon as she left the room.

She met her sister in the hallway, who instantly rushed to her.

“Mama said you weren’t feeling well!” Jo said, looking Gertie over in concern. A stubborn whisper told her this was an act. She hushed it down. “I didn’t want to disturb you. But you’re looking nearly fine now.”

Gertie searched her sister’s eyes for that unnamed someone, but did not find them. Jo’s black eyes peered back, curious.

“Yes, I’m feeling much better,” she agreed.



© 2017 Mel



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Added on November 8, 2017
Last Updated on November 8, 2017
Tags: fantasy, story, sisters

Author

Mel
Mel

Mammoth Hot Springs, WY



About
Wa$$up Wa$$up! call me Mel. If I read too much, then I start getting a big head and thinking that that must mean I can write too. Plz put me in my place and slash apart everything I write. Construct.. more..

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