Wednesday, 28 March 2012
02:22:50 AM (GMT)
My mother passed away too soon, before I knew what I was to do with myself. She was
a nurse in the palace, the one who was practically a mother to Lady Mary and Lady
Luella, raising them from infancy and acting as their teacher to school them in
language, numbers, and religion. Like many royal daughters before them, the sisters
were shown little affection from their parents, an eternal and irrevocable punishment
for having committed the crime of not being born boys. Their mother had few words for
them, and what words she gave were harsh reprimands and criticisms. Their father
spent any leisure time teaching their brothers to ride and hunt, and seemed to forget
he had daughters, until the message came.
My mother had a fair education for a woman, and a passion for poetry and the
classics. She had named me Sonnet, and taught me many poems to memorize. It was
something we could enjoy together in the few hours we had together before bed in the
servants' quarters, and I recited line after line, always seeking her approval.
After my mother died, I was expected to remain a servant at the palace, doing odd
jobs and aiding the nurses as they required, often being held responsible for the
tasks no one else wanted, such as emptying chamberpots. To brighten my melancholy
existence, I took to eavesdropping, something I had seen the other servants and
nurses do since I was a babe. My mother had warned me never to gossip, for it was a
sin, and any ill words spoken about the royal family may constitute treason. However,
my eavesdropping on many occasions proved that she was the center of the gossip web;
surely, she knew more of the royal family than they knew of themselves.
After my mother passed, I pushed my sorrow deep down within myself, and occupied my
thoughts only with the current goings-on of the royal families. Soon, even the older
women began to come to me for the latest bits of gossip. Being young, none of the
Ladies, not even the Queen, suspected me of eavesdropping; I was only a piece of
well-trained furniture that took their dirty trays away. This worked well to my
advantage, and I made sure to always be quiet, always to be polite, and always to be
Things only began to change after Lady Luella, sixteen at the time, began to ask me
to stay in her room with her to talk and to play tabula or chess. I didn't understand
her intentions then; for all my knowledge of her personal life, I was naive, and
ignorant to her true character. She asked me to tell her of any news I had overheard,
especially anything that might pertain to her. I was happy to oblige; this was my
first friendship with someone close to my own age, and one who was royalty at that.
As long as I did as she asked (for she had a worse temper than the meanest horse in
the livery stable) we got along well, and often she would confess things to me I
wouldn't of otherwise learned as I braided her hair before bed.
I was reluctant to betray my new friend's confidence, and the servants and nurses who
had come to eagerly await my gossip and humorous news were greatly annoyed to find my
lips suddenly sealed.
One day, as I was carrying a tray to Mary's room down the corridor, I passed a door
slightly ajar, and paused to listen to the voices within. It was the Queen, and
someone I assumed to be a messenger. The news I overheard made my heart flutter; a
Dauphin of France was seeking a bride, and the King and Queen were arranging for him
to have his choice of Mary or Luella.
I almost ran to Luella's door. This was just the kind of thing she had been longing
for me to overhear. I remembered the tray, and brought it to Mary's room across the
hall, almost tripping over the rug in my rush. "Careful, careful! You'll spill it!"
Mary scowled, snatching the tray and waving me away.
I paid her annoyance no mind. My heart was bursting with the excitement of this news,
that would surely be enough to prove to Luella that I was indeed a useful friend.
Lady Lu was waiting for me, and I hurried to her side, trying my best not to grin,
for fear the words would spill out of my mouth the instant my lips parted. "Oh,
Sonny, what is it?" she asked, impatiently eager.
I took a moment to compose myself before speaking. "My Lady, I've overheard an
important message to the Queen. Seems Her Majesty, and the King, have arranged for
the Dauphin of France to have his choice of you, or Mary, to be his bride!"
I watched this register in Lu's eyes. She was calculating, analytical, a strategic
thinker. Finally, "France? I do not know the Dauphin of France. I do know, however
that a Dauphin may become King, and that as his bride, I may become Queen." She went
on contemplating, taking my hand in hers and petting it as she thought.
Lately, Luella had been telling me of her growing resentment for Mary. The two has
long been quarrelsome, but Luella's jealousy for Mary's beauty and charm had hardened
into a deep hatred. It wasn't my place to encourage her to make amends with her
sister, although I knew my mother would tell her so. I should've known this would
create a conflict between them, the promise of imminent power, not to mention the
common rivalry of sisters to be married first.
"Sonny," Lady Luella said, touching my hair. "I want you to know that you've been
more of a sister to me than Mary ever has."
"My Lady, I--"
"Hush," she said, putting a finger to my lips. "We're sisters, remember? Call me Lu."
I smiled. She took on a very somber expression, and I knew I was about to hear her
deepest feelings. When she spoke, I trembled at the unrestrained hatred and
bitterness growing in her voice.
"Mary has always been the pretty one, the fair, charming eldest daughter, the one to
receive any attention offered to us. What chance do I have? I'm slenderer, and
cleverer, too, I've got that much. But what right has she to take whatever she
desires, just because she's got a pretty face?"
"None, really. Her face isn't so pretty lately, always with her nose turned up and
her lip curled."
"You're right, Sonny! Thank the Lord I have you to talk to," she laughed. "I'd hate
to be alone in this wretched household."
We conversed for most of the night, pausing only long enough for me to stir the fire
in the hearth, and our slander and insults against Lady Mary grew fowler and nastier
with each word we spoke. It was Lu who finally sent me off to bed, and she frowned
miserably as she reclined against her downy pillows. I bid her goodnight and shut the
down quietly, before hurrying down to my cot in the servants' quarters.
It was less than a week later when I went to fine Lu in her room and she wasn't
there. From her window, I saw her down in the garden. She spied my face in the window
and waved me down to her. By the time I made it outside, she was near the fountain,
resting on a stone seat in the shade of an apple tree.
"Sonny," she smiled at me. "I'd like you to take a walk with me. I've got something
to show you."
She led me through the vast gardens surrounding the mansion and into the forest. We
took a narrow, weeded path, and I helped her over a low fence when we came to it.
Finally, we arrived at a stone well, covered with dead leaves, moss, lichens, and
cobwebs. It didn't look like such a special place to me, but I patiently waited for
her to explain.
"This, Sonny, is what's going to save me. I need to ask you, from sister to sister,
if you will help me." She took my hands and looked down at me with earnest eyes. Her
eyes were really very pretty. I nodded, not knowing, nor caring to what I was
consenting. If she wanted it, I would assist her to the end.
"Let us plan, then," she said. The calculating eyes surveyed the area, and came to
rest on a large, fallen tree. "Sonny, come here," she instructed, leading me behind
it. "Can you hide here?"
I crouched behind the log, my shoulders pressed against the cold moss. She ran around
to the other side. "I can't see you at all!" she exclaimed merrily. "This should work
"Lu, please tell me, what is it we are planning?"
"Patience, Sonny, all in good time. This is how we will ensure I am chosen instead of
Mary. Do you understand?"
I thought I was beginning to, and my mind seemed to leap away from this dark
realization, not quite putting it into a complete thought, always edging around it.
On the walk home, Luella and I joked about leading Mary down the path, and I soon saw
Lu's intentions. She wanted me to wait behind the log for Mary to come into the
woods. She would come from a different route, so that she could create an alibi if
In my mind, I made it into a game. Luella and Sonnet, two sisters, the heroins who
will defeat the evil villain, a hideous and manipulative troll named Marynth. I
shared this idea with Lu, who couldn't stop giggling at my distortion of Mary's name,
which I spoke in a theatrically gruff voice.
The other servants started becoming suspicious of Lady Luella and I, and I was
careful to check the halls for eavesdroppers during our conversations. "You two are
as thick as thieves," one of the old nurses said, scowling at me from her rocking
chair. Paranoia began to grow in me. I was constantly afraid that our dark conspiracy
would be discovered.
The day came for me to set off into the woods alone. I do not know what Luella told
Mary that would make her wander off into the woods all by her lonesome; I do know,
however, that it must've been something especially enticing, for Mary looked eager
and was obviously anticipating something. I saw Luella approaching from the other
direction just as Mary skipped into view. Lu was silent, hiding behind a large
Mary cleared a spot on the forest floor and sat, contently waiting. She began to hum
to herself. I wondered what Mary had done. Had she sent her a fraudulent love note,
from a doting prince, requesting a secret meeting in the woods?
I looked over at Lu, who was edging ever closer. My eyes widened when a ray of
sunlight reflected sharply off the dagger in her hand. Still more sinister than the
blade was the black expression of pure hatred on her face.
She was nearly behind Mary before her weight betrayed her, a twig popped under her
foot. The older girl spun around, her face blank with terror.
To my surprise, she did not scream, nor run. I had heard before, that when a hunter
goes after some game, if the animal thinks it is going to die, it will become
frantic, desperate, savage. However, if the creature knows it is going to die, it
becomes very, very calm.
Lu had told me beforehand that Mary wouldn't feel much pain, that she would be quick
and efficient. But with the first swing of the blade, I knew this wasn't true. She
slashed through Mary's dress, creating a red line across her chest that grew as blood
seeped out. Mary cried out in pain, and, breathing heavily and snorting like an angry
bull, she raked her fingernails across Luella's neck. Luella screamed with rage and
stabbed her, slashed at her throat, pushed her to the ground and dug the blade into
her eye sockets, blinding her. Mary flailed violently, and the swinging blade caught
the fingertips of her right hand and sent them flying. Lu roared at me to help her,
and I sprang from where I had been frozen in my hiding place. I held the struggling,
mutilated victim still as best I could while Lu slashed and stabbed. I couldn't
believe how much blood was in this one girl.
Finally, Mary lay still, and silent. Luella, exhausted and dripping with sweat and
blood, dropped the dagger and lay down on her side, panting. I felt I was dreaming.
My eyes couldn't quite focus on the sight before me. I only saw Mary's eyes, staring
up at the sky with the unseeing stare of a dead fish.
Luella groaned and rolled over, and I hurried to help her to her feet. Lu gripped
Mary's ankles, while I had the more gristly job of lifting her mutilated hands. We
half carried, half dragged her dead weight over to the well, for neither of us was
very strong. We gasped and gritted our teeth as we shoved her body over the stone and
into the darkness within. We waited for the splash, but it didn't come. Instead, we
heard only a dull thud.
I sensed Luella had been waiting for this day for a long time. We sat, resting with
our backs against the well. Luella spoke, staring up intently at something I couldn't
see. "Sonnet, you know we are sisters, don't you?"
"Of course, Lu," I said, not understanding why she was speaking this way now.
"And you know, that I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Do you? Really?"
"Yes," I promised her. "I love you, and I'll do anything for you. I want what you
want, you're my dearest friend."
"That's good, Sonny, because I need one last thing from you."
"Anything," I said. My love for her was now saturated with an intense fear of her
"I must become a queen."
"And I will help you."
"You've already helped me. Truthfully, you've helped me to the full extent of your
ability. But I know, Sonny, that you are a gossip. As much as I love you, I need to
know that you will keep our secret."
I was mortified. "Of course! Of course, Sister, our secret is safe! I would never
tell a soul!"
She stood, and lifted me to my feet. "No, you won't," she said. Gently, she kissed my
lips, simultaneously placing her hands on my shoulders and shoving me with all her
might. A flash of painful terror shot through my chest, and Mary's bloody gashes
flashed through my mind as I stumbled backwards. The void of the well, it's breath of
musky air and muddy scents, tried to swallow me. I clutched at the edges of the
stone, trying to get a grip on the slimy, moss-covered surface, but Luella's fists in
my stomach caused my fingers to slip, and I found myself plunging head-first down the
I held my arms out, trying to slow my fall, and somehow managed to turn my body
upright again, just before the impact, and I felt Mary's mangled body beneath me. The
corpse and the shallow water beneath me cushioned my fall enough so that I wasn't
quite dead, although I could feel my broken body dying. I had landed at an unnatural
angle, with my right arm beneath me, and I couldn't move but I felt that the bone
protruded through the skin. Above me, a tiny white light, a single star in the
infinite blackness, shown down silently. The smell of blood and filth and death was
all around me, it was the air, I couldn't breathe. My body burned hot for a moment,
then grew suddenly cold. I couldn't think, I could only stare, my mind not
comprehending how I had got here, at the bottom of the well with Mary, dead, beneath
Eventually the star above me burned out, or fell from the sky. I do not know which,
only that it was suddenly gone, and the darkness consumed me.