Charlotte watched the light fade away before she was content to wander back to the ugly vanity and try to prepare for her next move. She knew that she had to be as presentable as possible but the brute had already made this difficult. Aside from his barbaric treatment of her, he’d stuck her in a place with abysmal lighting and even more insulting than this, she was reduced to using only what she had on her for her makeup. Not all was lost but what she’d brought was simply for touch ups and rarely anything more. Truly, anything that she might pull off given the supplies she had would be a miracle at this point. Whatever horrendous sight she managed to be at dinner may well be a blessing, however, considering that she was going to be expected to act as though she wanted to be there. She knew that while she was expected to be on her best behavior while looking her best, she was going to fail at both. Of course, Master Kent was well aware of this anyway but knowing and being prepared for not getting his way were two separate matters.
Focus, she decided, was what she needed. She knew that tonight had potential to get her into more trouble and while a part of her truly wanted to incite that brute into a rage that would send him into hysterics, she wasn’t necessarily keen to be his target at the end of it. Instead, she would have to find other outlets for her fun. And she intended to have fun tonight, regardless of what happened. It may very well come to pass that this might be the final supper that she ever had and if that was the case, she did not want to squander the opportunity to make that lying, overbearing piece of work choke on every bite of his meal. If something lodged in his throat far enough, she may yet find a way to negotiate a way out of this hell from Vivian. It would only be fair. The new widow might be put out by the idea that she’d been shown up but that was no excuse not to show some gratitude for having done what the wretch should have done ages ago.
First, however, a little revenge was in order. Those simpletons who had brought her here were definitely going to have a bit of a rough night and now that she knew they would be around, that was no reason that she shouldn’t be able to give them what they deserved. It this truly was going to be the night she met her death, she wasn’t content to simply go out blubbering and she was damn sure that she was going to take a few people with her. Not for company, mind. Heavens, no. They may be well headed to the same place but she figured that if they were riding going to the same place anyway, there were no better candidates to widen her passage. And her death wasn’t assured as of yet so perhaps she would live long enough to enjoy this. Maybe the master of the house was out of reach as of yet but those two were well within her striking distance. And it just so happened that while they had emptied out and taken away her clutch that she’d had with her, they’d failed to find some other useful tools that she’d stashed on her person when they did their little inspection. She figured that the vials that were hidden in her purse were long gone but the one tucked into the lining of her bra was exactly where she’d put it before. It was a potent little thing too so there was plenty to go around and if she wanted to go out and take everyone with her, she would find a way to make this little miracle pass around the entire bloody household. That was a little drastic for the moment and while she was tempted to make her own life easy, she knew better than to show her hand at this moment. Better to save the piece de resistance for a more devastating finale. A poison of such perfection as she was carrying deserved nothing less.
Besides, it would be a right shame to miss an opportunity to use her hands for once, she thought, making sure that her dress was fitting properly and looking presentable. It had been such a long time since she had managed such a feat and while she usually reserved such an act for times of grand necessity or outright undignified rage, she did sometimes make exceptions. This case seemed like a good one for such an occasion. After all, those skills were something to be honed and kept at least in working order. And if she was going to set her sights on something larger, like the oaf in the power seat of this house, she might have to get her hands a bit dirtier than usual. It was something that, for once, she was actually looking forward to. But it was always worth it to keep the vial on hand in case of emergencies. She wasn’t that uncivilized that she would leave a job unfinished, after all. Given the idiots that Kent had working for him, she had faith, however, that she wouldn’t need to worry about using the poison at all.
Upon finding her gloves, Charlotte quickly looked around for a separate pair that might yet be easy to replace them with. Something similar that would be difficult to spot difference in. Simple was best. Nothing too pretty or with too many embellishments. Something dark, short and easily replaced. She easily located a tattered pair that fit the description but were somewhat identifiable. Tragic. It was the best she was going to do, however. Time was growing short and the day was almost spent. She tucked the weathered gloves away into her dress and looked about the room for other accessories. Something that might do for a belt if one wasn’t looking very closely and wouldn’t slip off the skin easily. A nice, cord would do the trick. She rummaged through the drawers that were available to her. Obviously the brute that had kidnapped her had not bothered to bring any of her actual clothing. Charlotte paused for a moment at that thought. While she knew that they were quickly becoming out of season, she thought of what might have become of the precious wardrobe that she had brought. The dresses that she had cherished. The beautiful gown that she’d worn when her previous husband had taken leave off the balcony of the ship they were on coming to this wretched part of the world. She sighed, forlornly. They were all so beautiful. She only hoped that perhaps a few had been spared but she found that her heart was hardening as she knew that they were all but gone. Everything that she held dear was likely somewhere in the trash if not thrown on the fire.
Charlotte doubled her efforts to make herself presentably lethal. She knew that this would take more effort than a normal moment but she was going to be damned anyway so she would see blood tonight if it was the last thing she did. A small but sturdy sash was buried amid clothing that had long gone out of fashion. As good as she made this vintage style look, she was utterly sickened at the thought of being seen in it. If these clothes were any older, the Kents might be able to sell them off to Caroline for a pittance for how she would worship them. Relics from her youth. Oh the repulsive nostalgia. This was an indignity that was almost worse than being married to a man with no money. The only saving grace amid this wardrobe of shame, was the fact that tattered clothing was easily modified. A small sewing kit was something she’d easily found and with just a little bit of effort, she found that there were uses for some of this junk after all.
Perhaps no one might suspect an old sash would harm anyone but the small adjustment that she’d quickly managed to make had allowed her to hide the small opening she’d made. It would come in handy if she could find a weight small enough to sit in the bottom of the fabric. Wouldn’t fate be so accommodating! Why the weights at the bottom of the curtain, buried in the hem, were just the right size. Pile at least three or four in there and it would be enough to knock a man senseless. Now, it was simply a matter of timing. Oh and there were other treasures to hide on her. Things that would be difficult to spot unless one knew where to look. A small opening at the bottom hem of her dress. A quick modification to the lining of her bra. All such small measures. All capable of hiding such deadly things if one knew what she was doing. And Charlotte had known what she was doing for a very long time.
“Madamoiselle,” a small voice interrupted her train of thought. Charlotte turned to see a girl, barely older than seventeen, cowering in the doorway.
“Enter,” Charlotte said, as though it were her own house. She looked the girl over as the young woman limped in front of her, favoring her left foot over her right.
“The Master,” the girl said, her lips twisted into a frown. She cleared her throat. “The Master of the house wishes that you be in the dining room within the hour. Dinner will be served at no later than 6 pm this evening.”
“And where is the Master now?” Charlotte asked, her tone a mockery of the title. She sauntered over to the girl.
“I know not. He is within the house,” the girl said, breathlessly. She seemed like she was ready for Charlotte to strike her.
Standing before her and circling the now still servant, Charlotte assessed what kind of girl had entered her room. She’d been beaten, no doubt. The limp was slight so it was likely not too bad for damaged but she had no delusions that it would get her out of hard labor. It may well have been the brute or his charming wife for as well as they behaved to those they considered lesser. Still, Charlotte wasn’t aware that Vivian might have been well enough to lash out at the girl that much. No, it was likely her vile husband who had done such things. The bruises on her arms were visible through her white shirt and Charlotte need not wonder about where they might have come from as well.
“Tell me, girl, how long have you been in service in this house?”
“Less than a year,” she said, softly. Her tone was more like a confession of a terrible secret. “Four months.”
“Clearly not chosen by the lady of the house either,” Charlotte said, looking her up and down. “I’m sure that you know what Master Kent is looking for. Correct me if I’m wrong, girl, but has he not been of a particularly vile temper since his wife’s stubborn recovery from the brink of death? Perhaps a little aggressive?”
“Master Kent informed me that I am not to stay too long,” the girl said, her voice faltering.
“Come now, girl,” Charlotte said, easing into her path and blocking the door. “It’s only a simple question. Has your captor been a bit quick to punish those he becomes annoyed with? Perhaps over silly little things?”
“Yes,” the girl said, her voice all but erased.
“There, now was that so hard?” Charlotte purred, satisfied. “I’ll leave you to cower here in a moment but hear me well before you leave, girl. There are many who never learn their worth in these wretched walls. No doubt, countless girls have come and gone in this house and he’s managed to break almost all of them. I would bet a full dollar on it for every year this cursed house has stood. If that’s the case, remember this if nothing else, it’s not a matter of whether or not he intends to break you. He will try but you can decide if he will fail or not. A girl with the right knowledge can find ways to stand taller than even Master Kent.”
The girl looked at her, terrified but Charlotte didn’t flinch. In her eye, she saw a small twinkle and she knew that girl had heard her. Somewhere in that servant, miserable and pained as she was, the spark was there. Charlotte smiled.
“Run now,” she shrugged. “And if you ever care to find that kind of knowledge, you only ever need ask the right sources. You may yet find them more abundant than you think.”