The cheer of the season had passed so quickly that it felt like it had scarcely happened at all. Of course, for Charlotte, that may very well have been because she was still trapped within the confines of the Kent household and forced to play silent house guest when she wasn’t forced to play phantom locked in the wing of forgotten things. Today she was perfectly content to remain in her drab little room, watching the snow billow forth like a veil on the land around them, cloaking them all in dreary grey light. Since the last fallout from the war between the Master and the Lady, she had taken to staying out of sight in the forgotten area. Of course, she may have been influenced by the awful mess of holiday trimmings they had hung with reckless abandon in the socially accepted places. The main area of the house, the sitting room, the foyer and the dining room, had all been decked out in finery for the holidays though Charlotte had noticed a certain lack of festive feel to it all. Perhaps it was that, despite being somewhat lovely in appearance, these trinkets were devoid of any true meaning. This was not much of a surprise, however. She had not anticipated that Master Reginald might soften his demeanor in the name of the festive season and she had been most correct. Of course, if she was feeling somewhat reflective, she might admit to herself that she had been somewhat the author of a bit of misery in the household. There was that incident back when she arrived wherein the servant’s passage to her area had been blocked by the corpse of a man that appeared to have fallen to his death. He was of no consequence to the daily household operations so he did not seem to be mourned, particularly by the female staff. Master Kent, on the other hand, was somewhat livid upon this discovery and his rage sent him into a fiery tantrum wherein he saw to it to threaten the staff and grabbed a fistful of decorations meant to bring cheer to the house and tore them from the walls. It was when he threw them into the fire that suddenly Vivian came to life and became the mistress of the house to match his rage. Charlotte, meanwhile watched from the sidelines, grateful for the smaller graces that this outburst had provided. It meant that she would not have to look upon the gaudy display any longer which, she had to admit, she’d found offensive anyway.

It also meant that she would have that much of an easier time to convert the staff, her efforts paying off nearly immediately. Seemed that her first rotten good deed had further reverberations and the rewards were the offering of food that would not make her sick and a small alarm system that would allow her to simply be absent from where she was intended to be when the Master of the house was looking for a victim to take out his rage. And that precious, simpering girl, what a gem she was turning out to be. Nervous in her terror to be sure but a true and crucial resource to finding the means to move and that had proven to be the only reason for her survival in that first week and a half. When Master Reginald had ignited the rage of his wife, fragile though she still was, Vivian was every bit the tempest she always was. She cared not for whom she hurt in the process and Charlotte was more than aware that her nemesis would set the target upon her if she should stay in sight too long. She was, after all, here to replace the witch so it was best not to allow such reminders to stay out in the open when she was in such a dour mood. And with such a mood came the violence. It was true that Vivian was not her vile husband’s equal in stature nor in physical strength, but she had a wicked tongue and she knew when to strike him when he could not retaliate. And there must have been more that she held sway over for though he bellowed and raised his hands more than once, he would not strike her. He wanted to and intended very much to kill her but something kept him in check, like an invisible tether that was strained to the limit. Charlotte had seen this in action during that first dinner that she’d been forced to endure here. Since then, she had intended to find out what it was that kept the brute from destroying this wicked, frail woman.

Ah that loathsome first night that she spent in their awkward and dreary presence. She shuddered thinking of it. Sitting at that long, uncomfortably silent table with the master of the house on one end and his determined but frail wife glaring at them both on the other side. Initially Charlotte was concerned that perhaps there would be little opportunity to take care of business if need be and worse, that she might yet find herself on the wrong end of a meal best left to go cold. Thankfully, her little helper had managed to get her a plate of something that would not weaken her or make her ill. Something that likely enraged Master Kent and no doubt accounted for his vile mood afterwards. Not surprisingly, it had spurred Vivian into mocking him for his lack of control over his temper and he was forced to simmer in silence or confess that he’d poisoned something. What seemed interesting to her as she watched their barely restrained animosity bleeding through what passed for civility between them was that Vivian was being poisoned. As she continued to sip her soup and nibble daintily at her bread, she began to lose her appetite and soon was ill. Charlotte had seen the procedure well enough and by now, she might even be able to figure out what it was that she had floating around her system. It was hardly a dignified end for such a woman but it was already taking its toll. Vivian had the sallow look of a woman who had begun to waste away and the lustre of her eyes and hair were gone leaving a dull skeletal figure in her stead. With most, she would assume they would simply spell it off as if it were an illness of some kind but there was no way that Vivian didn’t know it. And she must have known it because she barely ate anything, even when she mimed it. Charlotte had kept her eyes to her own plate but she could see the way that her nemesis was making it look like she was eating more than she was. She would purposefully drop reservoirs into her lap and let the napkin soak it up. She would cough out anything that was solid into her hand and discreetly slip it under the table. Master Kent, ever the ignorant fool, didn’t seem to notice. He was too busy taking note of all the changes that Vivian had made in the house, complaining bitterly of how her demands had made a mockery of their home.

Given her current circumstances, Charlotte had been less interested in the decor of the house and its seeming upgrades. Of course, she’d only seen the house initially when she had come here on a whim last fall. It was when the weather had only just started to turn and she had come here, almost on instinct. Driven to find something out in these forest roads, she had discovered the house and, to her delight, a bedridden Vivian Kent. When she was confined to her death bed, her nemesis was the picture of impending demise and the house had been cloaked in mourning finery. Charlotte wondered if the house had looked so lovely (if a little out of date but that was to be expected) because of the assumption that the lady of the house would soon be in the ground and there would be a vacancy in her bed. There had certainly been a much more attractive charm to the house then. The furnishings were all matching, the walls were more vibrant and there was an air of color in their surroundings, even if there was a kind of pall left over everything by the black accents on everything and the scent of lilies awaiting the corpse that had not come. Of course, that perception of the past might simply be because she was a prisoner here now and back then, she could have simply gotten into her car and driven away to her mournful sibling.

Damn him, she thought bitterly as she watched the snow swirl in piles on the ground below. Damn him for making her think of those days when she could come and go only from his hidden house during the day. She did so hate to be put on a curfew. Damn him too for his rotten demeanor. She hated the fact that she actually found that she missed it. Though she knew there was nothing to attach a fondness to, she still wished that she might see that wretched face of his anyway. Damn that vile Kent and his robbing her of being able to see if he had actually succumb to that poison. Perhaps if he had truly, she would be able to swallow and finally kill off the hope that perhaps he might be able to make this escape from the hell she was stuck in sooner than she might on her own.

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