Gertrude: Part Four (4/4)

Gertrude: Part Four (4/4)

A Story by Mel

The continuation and final part of the origin story. Gertrude sets out on a new path. A baby is born.


She convinced herself of this for several weeks after. She was feeling better. She sent adoring letters to Bernard. She buried her head in thoughts of him to avoid any other that might creep in. She stayed uncommonly close to Clara, helping her mother with household chores and party planning and entertaining guests. Clara was pleased at her daughter’s closeness, for usually Gertie and Jo were inseparable and could not be bothered much by her. For a time, she skipped lunch and the afternoon walks to be with her mother. The old childhood comfort of her kept the beat of Gertie’s heart calm.

Eventually, Clara and Jo resumed their daily strolls after lunch. But life was not completely back to normal. It seemed to Gertie that the air between them had shifted. They were quieter with each other. Jo looked more at her feet as she walked and less at Gertie. Neither could say the thing that had wedged itself between the sisters, although images of darkness and confusion clouded Gertie’s mind whenever she was in the presence of her sister.

Weeks flew by more, and Gertie walked the manor like a mourner. What she was mourning she could not name. In six months, she would be wed to a tall, kind gentleman and whisked away to the Wallhauser Estate. But she could hardly keep herself focused on the idea. Her thoughts kept slipping into something blacker.

One day as she passed in front of the great mirrors outside the ballroom, she glanced up at herself and stopped in her tracks. She turned to face herself. What was this new plumpness around her hips and in her cheeks? She looked down at her feet. Why was it so difficult to fit them into her slippers this morning?

She sucked in air and walked briskly away.

But new pains and ills plagued her still as the days wore on, and the plumpness did not fall off after several skipped lunches. She spent more and more time in her chambers, staring at herself in her mirror, poking her cheeks, rubbing her lower back.

She ignored the whispers still.

After several days locked inside her chambers, with the excuse of a stubborn headache to keep away worried parents, there came a soft tap on her door.

She watched it as it opened and her sister crept in, closing it quietly behind her. She pulled up a chair from the prep table and sat next to her Gertie who laid curled up in her bed. In Jo’s hand, the stone-carved toad.

“Stewart gave you that?” Gertie said weakly.

Jo didn’t answer.

“We both know what’s happening here,” She said instead. Her voice was of steel. Gertie inhaled and held the breath in her lungs.

“You can’t avoid it,” Jo continued. “Not forever, you can’t.”

“Avoid what?” Gertie shot back, but she knew the answer. The breath escaped at last in one long sigh.

“I don’t understand what’s going on,” Gertie admitted finally, sitting up in her bed and reaching out to hold her sister’s hand. Jo’s fingers were cold and slick against her own.

“What happened, Jo?” She whispered fearfully.

Jo pursed her lips and untangled her fingers from her sister’s. She crossed her arms. Gertie froze.


“Once Mama and Papa find out, they’ll strip you from everything. Your house, your wedding, your fortune: gone.”


“They’ll strip you from the family,” Jo continued, getting up and pacing across the room. She flew open a wardrobe’s door, pulling from it a valise. “They’ll pretend like you were never born. It’ll be like you were never bo-”

“JO!” Cried Gertie, making her jump and turn to her sister. “What did you do?”

Her eyes were glazed like glass. If she were to drop them on the floor maybe they would shatter, thought Jo.

“WHAT’D YOU DO?” Gertie let out a mangled shriek. Jo dropped the valise instantly, and strode to her sister, pulling her down on the bed with her.

“It’s not me!” she explained in a hush. “It’s you! You’re with child!”

Gertie shook her head. Her face had a strangled looked to it, purple and beating like a heart. Tears soaked up in her eyes.

“No-” She gasped.

“You are! That night he-,” Jo stopped and shook her head. “Well. It’s true. And now you have to go before Mama and Papa find out. You’ll shame us all if you don’t!”

“But you’re my- you’re my sis- you’re my Jo-”

“And this!” Jo thrust the stone-carved toad out gleefully under her sister’s nose to see. Gertie reached out to touch it, but Jo snatched it back before she could. “We- well, he made this for me.”

She stroked it like a live animal.

“If you try to kill it in you, it won’t work,” Jo said calmly, reading Gertie’s thoughts. “You’re baby will grow healthy. It’ll keep growing without interference until it’s prime. And then it will stop.”

“Stop?” Gertie sputtered.

“I mean it won’t grow old. It can’t!” The corners of Jo’s mouth perked up at the thought. “You can’t kill it and it can’t die ever. Not without this little one.” She lifted up the toad to her eyes in admiration. “And even then, only one person can end the life of that thing growing in you now.”

“Who?” said Gertie, clutching her stomach.

“I don’t know,” admitted Jo. “She said it had to be someone who is opposite in every way than your baby.”

“What does that mean?” Gertie cried out. “Who said that?”

But instead of answering, Jo got up again and began piling up clothes from the wardrobe into the valise.

“It doesn’t matter now,” she said quietly. “It’s too late. And you’ve got to go.”

In a matter of hours, Gertrude’s whole world had melted down into hard, merciless steel. She took her sister’s advice, and parted from her childhood home without a goodbye. The only thing with her was a valise of fine clothing and jewelry she figured she could trade for goods. Right before she stole away, she crept in her father’s room and came away from it with his most beloved possession, his ring of emerald. Let it be something she could keep of this life, she thought through blurry eyes and shaking hands.

She wandered the streets away from the fine-standing manors. The path curved up and over, and evolved into a street of busy-bodied working folk. Buildings evolved from soft, residential architecture into the right-angled institutions of a bustling port town. The mist broke, revealing a sky and Earth of violet. Docked on the edge of the cloud, ships, floating above a big, blue world.

She stored herself away in some abandoned, brown building overlooking the docks. She curled up in the corner of an empty room, stiff with the staleness of still air. Her belly grew wide and round in front of her. Every now and again, she’d hit the bump with a curled fist, although she knew in her heart of hearts it was useless. Over the next six months, the weight of the valise lessened. She was running out of goods to trade.

She thought constantly about where she was supposed to be at this point. If she had not drunk so much that night. She would be nestled in her bed. She would be basking in Bernard’s attention. She would be walking up an aisle to meet him and promise him a lifetime. What she wouldn’t give for one last smile from Papa. A kiss from Mama. A laugh from Jo.

One day, as she was toying with her father’s ring, immersed in a life she no longer led, she suddenly felt a low pressure at the base of her body.

Oh no, she thought.

The pressure grew, and she found herself stretched out on the floor, sunlight flooding from the only window in the room. She let out a gasped. Something moved within her, pushing.

Slowly, the thing nudged itself down. Hours. The pain rolled over her in awesome waves. She could hardly breathe.

And finally, a slippery tiny girl pushed herself out of Gertie, and laid there, displayed between her legs in a pool of pink. As soon as Gertie had the strength to reach down and touch her, the baby let out a wail of despair. Gertie felt the hole of it tug at her own heart. She wiped off the baby and wrapped it in a discarded coat. She looked down at it, pressed against her chest, screaming for relief. She wanted to scream too.

So she did. She put the baby down on the cold floor and inched away from it. Screaming for something that would never come.

After the last of the bread ran out and she realized she had nothing more to trade from the valise, Gertie stood up, bundled up the baby against her begrudgingly, and made her way down to the docks, ring in hand.

She found herself a salesperson who showed her the oldest, smallest of the ships for her to look at.

“You know, ships aren’t so cheap, lady,” he said hesitantly, looking Gertie and her baby up and down in their grey, smudged wear.

“Don’t worry about that,” She said without looking at him. “I’ll take it.”

She reached out holding her father’s ring. The salesperson took it, rolling it around in his hand in amazement.

“Where’d you get this, miss?” he asked in amazement, fitting it around his own finger. Gertie winced.

“Old family heirloom,” she said. She walked past him and mounted the ship.

He called after her, and followed her onto the ship. It rocked under new weight.

“The deal’s not over yet,” he said.

“Oh?” she turned to him in surprise.

“Well you know how these the ships stay up,” he said.

“Remind me.”

“Well the only way they stay afloat without falling and crashing to the Earth is some hefty charming,” he said slowly. “Sacrificial charm, to be specific.”

She continued to stare at him.

“If you want it under your own control, you gotta sacrifice something miss,” he explained. “It can’t be a shoe or anything like that. It’s gotta be something big. Something worthy. Also maybe something that can’t get lost or broken easily.”

Gertie smiled.

“Oh I think I’m remembering now, yes.”

© 2017 Mel

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



Mammoth Hot Springs, WY

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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A Story by Mel