The grass on the hilltop bids me sweet goodbye as I run to you— what looks like you—, swaying back and forth like in Japanese films. My shirt billows a little behind me while you take my picture; we laugh when the wind steals your straw boater as fare. The beach shines green under my bare feet—our own little Innisfree.
For a small eternity, I stand at the ocean’s edge and think about dead writers. When it’s time to turn back to you I pick up a handful of sand and hold it to my chest; your eyes crinkle in a rare smile. Olivine, you say, and I repeat it in my head until it sticks. ******
Originally published in MoonPark Review (Spring 2018).
After losing someone our minds go into overdrive, analyzing every moment ever spent with them, grieving over the bad times, and cherishing the great memories. It seems hard not to blow things out of proportion. If only you had one more day, one more moment, one more chance to say the things you should have always said—knowing that you could’ve been there more than you were is a feeling that could haunt someone for the rest of their lives.
Nothing feels right after suddenly losing someone—wondering if there was something you could’ve done, going through the motions of a normal day, knowing that someone is gone. Having that unavoidable pit feeling in your stomach… no amount of talking or crying can make this feeling go away.
On October 4, 2015, K.j. Bettner was taken from his friends and family too soon. K.j. was someone who was known for his bigger-than-life smile, making this loss even more tragic. Never in my life did I imagine that I would be sitting here trying to write an article about losing K.j., but two years later, here I am.
I can remember the day of his service like it was yesterday, with friends and family gathered in front of the church in the middle of our hometown. It was a hot and sunny Sunday in October. Our close friends were piled into hard wooden church pews and sat in silence for a long time, thinking of the right thing to say to one another. It was during this service that reality hit: we were not invincible. I remember how hot the sun felt coming in through the glass stained windows on our tear-soaked cheeks, and the looks that the adults were giving us, thinking that we were all too young to be experiencing something like this.
Two years later, my friends and I have all learned a lot about ourselves. I think many people deal with death by wanting to be alone, but every year when October 4th rolls around I can’t help but to want to be back in my hometown, surrounded by the world that K.j. knew and loved.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Every year around the anniversary of his death, we all try to come together and talk about memories spent with our dear friend. This might be the only time of the year we get to see some of our friends, with our crazy college schedules. Sometimes it gets pretty emotional, and sometimes it’s just relieving to be surrounded by people who know exactly what you’re going through. The only silver lining to this story is the bond that has been created in grieving the death of our lost friend.
Make sure that you reach out to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while. Pay attention to people when they speak. Always take the chance to see an old friend when you can. Tie up loose ends and resolve any conflicts. Take the time to reflect on who you are.
When a friend passes, take a piece of how they lived and turn it into your own. Keep a support system that couldn’t be beat, and truly enjoy each day on this earth as if it is your last.
In loving memory of Kevin John Bettner. October 19, 1995 – October 4, 2015
I laid awake that night unable to sleep. My mind kept drifting to the kiss with Zach. How had I even allowed that to happen and why did I let it start in the first place? I looked at the clock that sat in my room and saw it was five in the morning. I sighed and got up, pulled on my bathrobe and walked out of my room. I walked quietly down the stairs and to the back door.
I stepped outside into the early morning, walked down the path that led to a small pond that was set in the garden among all the flowers and trees. In my time here, I had come to love this garden. I once got lost in it and had never felt so alive, but it wasn’t mine to love and live in. I sighed and sat on the bench near the pond and watched as the fish swam around. I rubbed my arms, not realizing it was so cold outside this early in the morning.
I suddenly felt a coat wrap around my shoulders and looked up to see Rogue with a sleepy look on his face. “I was getting ready for the day and I heard the door close. You okay, kid?”
I just shook my head and pulled my knees to my chest. “No, Rouge, I’m not okay. I don’t know how to feel about what’s going on right now.”
He sat down next to me and slid his hands into his pockets.
“You mean with the kiss?” I looked at him, sort of surprised that he knew. “Philip saw while going to clean the study, that, and Zach was mumbling to himself after you ran to your room.”
I looked down and messed with my necklace some.
“Zach’s a good guy, Cassie; your running away is worrying him.”
I shook my head. “He knows why I ran.”
I heard Rouge scoff and get up and start pacing. “Cassie, he doesn’t understand why you don’t show emotion. He thinks you were abused and that’s why.”
I looked at him, confused. How could Zach not know about servants not showing emotions? I figured Zach knew with how I snapped at him and quickly walked away. But I also remember the look of complete shock on his face as well.
I got up. “Do you know if he’s awake yet?”
“He’ll be up in another hour to go out to work this morning, why?”
I nodded my head and started back for the house. He needed to understand and I had to tell him.
I walked back inside and walked upstairs to his room. I stood outside his door, and I could hear him moving around, probably getting ready for work. I bit my lip and went to knock on the door, but I quickly pulled my hand back. What would telling him change? I thought as I stood there. Nothing, it would change nothing. I would still be a servant and he would still be my owner and I would have no free will to do as I please. But just as I was about to walk away, Zach’s door swung open to reveal him standing with his button up wide open. “Cassie? What’s wrong?”
I couldn’t say anything but I noticed the light scar that ran from his stomach to his waist. I figured it came from either missing a hit from the end of his father’s belt or from a knife fight in his youth.
“Cassandra, is there something wrong?”
I looked up at his face to see worry and shook my head. “Uh, no, I just wanted to talk with you about last night.”
He looked down and cleared his throat before looking back up at me with his piercing green eyes. “I’m sorry about that, Cassie. I shouldn’t have kissed you. I hope you wish to stay here.”
I looked at him, a little shocked, “No, that’s not it, Zach.” I sighed and rubbed my forehead. “I should be sorry though; I should not have kissed you without your…”
I quickly kissed him, my hands settling against his cheeks. I could tell he was shocked at first, but he soon started kissing me back and pulling me closer by the waist. He deepened the kiss, asking for permission, and I granted him just that. I wasn’t exactly an expert at kissing so I gave him control and I quickly picked up the tricks he used.
I pulled away, needing air, but he just started lightly kissing my neck up and down. I closed my eyes and lightly tangled my fingers in his hair.
“Zach.” I lightly pushed him away, not wanting anything more to happen.
He looked at me slightly confused. “What’s wrong?”
I smiled lightly and ran my hand over his cheek. “Let’s just leave it at kissing for right now.”
He nodded his head and hugged me close to him. I had never felt this way with someone. I felt safe and loved and cared for here; I didn’t think I ever wanted to leave the Addison house. I stepped away from him. “You should finish getting ready for work.”
He nodded his head and kissed my forehead before returning to his room and closing the door. I smiled lightly when I got back to my room to get ready for the day.
One of the greatest gifts you ever gave me:
A rain-soaked afternoon
Digging through a shoebox of broken crayons
Spinning the stories in my head to their first willing ear.
(But not their last. I swear to you.)
Gentle eyes and complete conviction
as you tell me,
“I bet you’ll be a writer one day.”
A dozen more stories like that
Branded on the parts of my mind
That drag me to my early morning classes
When my comfortable bed warns against it.
There is no thank you card for that.
Prepackaged, Hallmark-branded sentimentality could never hold a candle to it.
My life’s greatest mystery:
How to thank someone
For being a catalyst to some of the best parts of you.
But I think I’ve finally figured out the answer.
Maybe I’ll tell you about it one day,
On the acknowledgments page.
Fiddling with a small lighter in his hand,
Sliding his fingers through his ghastly white hair.
His cigarette rests on a shiny red ring which graces
His harsh, red lips.
He is lost, struggling to find himself –
Brown eyes gazing upon the dark road,
He finds himself lighting his fifth cigarette.
Hand resting on the leather gear shift,
So begins the long drive down the highway.
Accompanied by her best friend Captain Morgan
And his favorite chemical –
Electric pumpkin hair blows in the breeze.
Down the 20 she drives,
In no search for a destination,
Chance encounters happen every day,
Opposites attract, as do similarities.
Clashing and meshing,
Like a puzzle piece.
That girl, that boy,
An opener on a bottle cap,
Cold ones drunk,
Injections into the veins,
Munchies and a craving for shitty Mexican food.
Telling stories of adventures
Thought to have happened,
But now never will.
Eyes redder than the blood
Flowing through their veins.
Bags under their eyes –
A lighter color than their lungs after the first pack.
They tried finding themselves,
But only found each other.
Their bodies unable to carry the weight of love,
Addiction setting in.
Destruction of themselves,
Their love for the substances
Tearing them apart from the inside and out.
Maybe if they had met,
They wouldn’t have turned to the poison for love.
Life at Mr. Addison’s is conventional. Having been here for almost a month now, I am learning the daily goings-on of the house. For the past week, I have looked through the kitchen and noted everything I will get today on my trip to the market. Zach only eats organic foods, and they have to be farmed within a 300-mile radius of our home. The intricacies of his diet do not bother me; I think of it as exciting. I always loved going to the marketplace with Mother Ester, whenever she decided to take children with her. My treks to buy groceries remind me of those times.
Zach had told me, “My servants always have the best,” as his tailor measured my chest a few weeks ago. I leave the house on my way to the marketplace in my new purple knee-high sundress, with a sweetheart neckline. I feel so out of place, almost like I do not own it. The more I ponder, the more I realize I don’t.
Getting to know my fellow servants over these few weeks has been interesting. Philip, the butler, has worked at the Addison residence the longest, a few years before Zach was born. Rouge oversees cleaning the dishes and washing clothes for the residents. John is the mastermind behind the upkeep of the home, and he organizes everything Zach plans. Philip mentioned once that there were only male servants, which is nothing particularly unusual. It seems the late Mr. Logan Addison slept with the female servants when his wife was attending business elsewhere. Mrs. Malinda Addison never minded his infidelity; rather she minded his choice location, in the room to the left of Zach’s.
Philip spoke of Mrs. Addison’s hospitality, how she extended it to anyone who strolled into her castle. His voice trailed off while an unmistakable gleam shined in his brown pupils. He articulated more with his eyes than I have ever heard from any mouth. He would marry her if he could.
John pulls out an old bike to take to the market. I enjoy bikes far more than any stuffy car. With the beautiful weather and three-mile journey, the fresh air will be lovely. List gripped between my fingers, I leave eagerly for the market. Shopping combines relaxation and work. I always see people I grew up with, peculiar only because of the distance.
The smell of fresh bread and strawberry tarts replace the unmistakable stench of the roadside when I arrive at the marketplace. Walking around, looking at the fish and fruits and deciding on their quality, I can’t shake my mind from those strawberry tarts. I think I’ll buy some before I leave. I find myself surrounded by the separated booths of small businesses and bored, single women with riches to spare. Regardless of the disproportion in wealth, I’ve never noticed a difference in taste.
I keep to myself, showing my status as a servant. Mama Ester told me that you should never show any human emotion – wealthy owners know each other, and it’s dangerous if you upset the wrong person.
I’m unenthusiastic about going back to the Addison home after my charming day at the market. The open space is a breathtaking contrast to the jail cell feel of a home.
After setting the bike in the storage unit, I carry the groceries into the door closest to the kitchen. The bags are heavy, but I don’t mind labor; I’m used to it. Usually, when my hair gets into my face or I slam my head into the door frame, I just keep walking.
Walking into the house, I hear laughing from the sitting room. I know quickly it is Zach’s, in harmony with the laughter of a woman. I fear that I will not be working for a bachelor much longer. At 25, he is probably enjoying his evening with a woman he will marry and have too many children with. Then he will bombard the home with more servants like me. I’ll continue to hide in this lonely castle, or perhaps he will sell me before that happens. Don’t feel, don’t react, and don’t get attached to the stories told to me as a young servant. I sigh lightly and put my groceries in cabinets, remembering this mantra.
I’ve never experienced an attachment to anyone, except Mother Ester. You will always be attached to the woman who raised you. I know Zach is trying to make this a home for me, but this is not my home. My life is not a fairy tale. So lost in my thoughts, I hadn’t noticed Zach standing next to me. He startles me when he says, “So, when did you get back?”
Looking over to him and placing a tomato on the counter, I reply, “A few minutes ago, sir. Not too long though.”
He nods his head and takes a seat on the counter, next to my groceries. He looks like a teenager waiting for advice from his mother.
In the unexpected silence, I continue to put away the food, his eyes following me as I travel along the spacious kitchen.
“You seem too comfortable doing this?” he says, breaking the silence with his curiosity.
I’m guessing by the sound of his voice he is confused why someone my age could be so comfortable shopping for a stranger, particularly after receiving nothing in return.
I retort with, “Well, I should. I’ve been doing this since I turned 15.” I don’t bother to look at his face; I already know it is one of absolute shock.
“But you were just a kid then, you couldn’t have possibly enjoyed your work?” Zach says.
I sigh and finish putting away the last of the groceries. One as affluent as Zach could never understand what I went through, just to end up someone’s servant. Taking this into consideration, I turn to Zach and say, “Look, I recognize you don’t understand. With no mom or dad to care for me, I was never a child. My life doesn’t seem perfect, because it’s not.” I place the grocery bags in a crate to be washed and used for the next market run.
“Please excuse me, Mr. Addison. I have much work to do,” I say to him and walk quickly to my room.
I collapse on my bed, realizing I had broken one of the rules.
If I told you once
I loved you–
I don’t think I foresaw
A life held back
Against a cold hard wall.
You suffocated me
With sparkling chains of words
I tried in vain to embrace.
I was grasping at an empty vessel
Of half-meant hopes and dreams,
And ‘almost like a dream’ meant
If I could not catch my breath
From running aimlessly to escape.
A young woman’s escape–
I leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind
As I run out of the monster’s howling lair.
You carried me away
From the truth of a thousand lies
And wounded me with blows.
The skin is thick on the scars
You dug into the mental flesh
Of my blood-stained heart.
The places you struck me
Will heal with the falling snow.
Ring off finger
And flung away.
My finger can bend again–
I was numbed to the bone
From hypothermic waste.
I flung open the bars
Of the prison in which
You held me.
Your heart’s key–
I never meant to unlock
I threw the key away
Somewhere in the garden,
As drifts of white
Danced in the solemn breeze.
You denied me life
And pushed me inch by inch
Into a living grave.
I was a foot deep in mud
Before I hitched myself up
And braced my feet against the wall.
I won’t say it was easy–
The grips at the bottom
Were hard to cling to
And you were there holding me down.
I made it anyway
Your smug face shuddered
And collapsed into itself
Before the smoke cleared.
That smile was a dream
I attempted foolishly to keep.
As the flames of your fire
Scorched the meat
You had me cook for you,
The bonds of female servility
Were already crumbling
At our feet.
As you held me down sweating
Against tear-streaked sheets,
I watched the window open
A crack to let the wind in.
As you pulled away and stood
At the door beckoning me to follow
Down the hall of portraits
Of faces smiling in false confidence,
I leaped at the chance
To fly out the window
And baptize myself in
Melting banks of snow.
You can swing at me again–
Your broken dagger was
Never too sharp anyway.
I won’t be hurt again
By untended wounds.
When spring comes,
I will run barefoot
Through the woods
With the sun beating down
And the wind following
And never back again.
Selina knows her tragic flaw. Aristotle’s the Poetics forces her to introspect. If characters in delicate and complex novels have a tragic flaw, what separates her from the likes of Hamlet with his ambition or Oedipus with his pride? Her flaw was never one of evil or ill-intent. Selina is kind to all who cross her. That’s it.
Meeting her coworkers after work is always the highlight of her long, dragging days. A diverse bunch, always down for a shot of Tequila. Selina takes her kindness to damaging heights, making her naïve. She is well-versed in the world; having a mother like Georgianna, you had to be.
Her coworkers fail to show after work at the usual bar, but she needs a drink. Sitting at the bar with a half empty glass filled with an amber poison, Selina isn’t thinking clearly. After calling an Uber, Selina dreads going to her empty, bohemian flat. The elevator ride is the worst part, second is the way her key decides when it will work. She fumbles with her key in her drunken stupor to unlock her door.
“Success!” she screams, slurring the ingenuous word.
Pouring herself into her 500-square foot apartment, she throws herself onto her silk sheets. Savannah, Georgia has treated her well, with its hometown vibes.
“Drunk, again? Guess the fucking apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” a woman says from across the room, raspy and hoarse.
Darkness conceals the voice, but Selina isn’t dumb. “You can’t smoke in here, I’m sorry,” Selina says with an indifferent sigh, eyes locked on her low-hanging ceiling.
“You’re not my mom,” the silhouette shrieks.
“Obviously. Why are you here? It’s been a while, no calls, texts, not even a letter. How have you been?”
“Tired, always,” the shape says. It steps forward, revealing a middle-aged woman, smoking a Marlboro Red special blend.
“Mom, I love you, but I’m wasted. Can we do this tomorrow? If you need a place to stay, please stay here. I can take the couch,” Selina tells Georgianna.
“Fine, we can talk about this tomorrow. Thanks for the place, babe.”
The two switch places and Selina is relieved she splurged for the more expensive couch. She has been taking care of Georgianna since she bought her flat. Serves her right, staying so close to the drug-riddled lady.
Morning rapes their eyes, jarring Selina awake. She is not shocked to see her mother on the bed, spread eagle, naked. She fixes breakfast for two and gently wakes her mother, thanking God it isn’t a weekday.
After eating their breakfast together quietly, Georgianna breaks the silence. “I need your help, baby girl.”
“With?” Selina replies, head lowered with half-moon eyes.
“I’m in trouble, bad. I need your help. I know I fucked up, but I need your help.”
“Mom, whatever you need, just tell me.”
“I need to get away from here.”
Selina knows what her mother means, a repeated trip across town, more vacation days wasted, just to escape whoever is looking for her. “Okay, where do you need to go?”
“This isn’t like last time. I fucked up bad,” Georgianna has an unfamiliar shame twinkling in her dilated pupils.
“How bad, Mom.”
“I need to be far away, for a long time.”
“I can get you as far away as Pittsburg,” Selina compromises. “I can’t take off more than a week.”
“Done. Thanks, babe. When can we leave?”
“In a few hours. It’s not that far of a drive.”
They get in the car, Georgianna carrying all she has in one hand. After driving 5 hours, Selina sees flashing blue lights in her rearview. Her dark complexion forces goosebumps to rise to the surface. She pulls over to the caution strip, calming herself with each bump. The car eases to a halt, and her mom dives out of the car.
The police officer drags Selina out of the car, slamming her to the ground.
The large, burly man with shiny shoes screams at dispatch, almost incoherently into his radio, “Backup requested, suspect in custody and one running. Location: Blacksburg, corner of 460 and Orchard Street. Fleeing suspect is wanted for suspected felony: murder and attempted murder.”
Selina feels her heart drop, examining her mistakes.
She has a personal, destructive beauty, one not many can fall for. He is the only one to see it. With her red eyes and ebony wings, Aria holds Lucifer’s heart. Her love for the devil is only outweighed by the corruption inside her.
Lucifer ignores it, for a time. He understands she wants the same sensation he felt when he fell from grace. Only until she became his personal Pandora’s box did he take notice. Heartbreak, disease, famine, death. Aria has control of them, and much worse.
“My love, you must stop this,” Lucifer tenderly whispers, grasping her by the biceps with pleading eyes.
Aria growls and shoves him away. “You don’t tell me what to do!” Eyes like rubies in sunlight, her anger stems from his need to control her.
Lucifer knows he can fix her, but only by using the hope lying at the bottom of the box. He grabs her arm with a jerk and takes her to her fallen meadow. Lucifer holds Aria close until their skin seems like it will fuse together.
He speaks the only words that will free Aria. “I free you from my hold and the hold of God.”
Aria is left limp in his embrace, eyes fluttered shut. All that is left of her wings is a handful of feathers at his feet. A blush returns to her cheeks, and her slate-colored nails are replaced with clean, uncolored ones. Aria’s hair turns to a light chestnut as Lucifer holds her in his lap. She is mortal, human. He strokes her cheek as her eyes open, revealing two eyes of sea green. The only words to have broken the devil were her first mortal words of freedom.
She never meant for anything to happen, for anyone to get hurt. Freedom was all she searched for, but she traded one master for another.
Aria’s usual dusty pink feathers are now laced with black coal. Her nails, once a familiar bright red, are stained with a dull, senseless gray. Her heart is beating for the evil that has taken over her body instead of for the compassion and honesty that used to devour her.
“My dear Aria, you should have listened to Gabriel when he warned you of the fall,” Lucifer whispers deviously as Aria changes from the angel of love to something… else.
As Aria sees Lucifer’s smirk, her vibrant green eyes turn to a fiery red, her bright blond hair to tresses of dark curls. Lucifer kneels and holds her head in his rough hands.
“My beautiful girl, you’ve come back for me, haven’t you?” Lucifer says with certainty.
Aria replies with a grin so devious her canines appear. “Of course my love, who would not want such a man at their side?”
Pulling her close to his body, he strokes her changed, pale cheek. He remembers the softness of her skin, even though it had been a millennium. Staring into Aria’s eyes for only a second before making up his mind, Lucifer takes his prize back down to hell with him. His first love has finally returned.
The demons inside her would never rest, forever cursing their love. The second time, no one would be safe from the fires of hell.
There are so many things that a Highlander can say they love about Radford. But to be honest, there are more things to complain about.
Now, I can handle bad food. But there is nothing worse than good food with a bad effect. I swear, every time I eat Dalton Dining, I have to run to the bathroom on the way out. But sometimes, I must brave the aftershock just to get the grilled chicken. The food also doesn’t cost a thousand dollars either, so that’s a plus.
There is a hill called the COBE Kyle Hill that will literally be the death of every college student. There have been multiple occasions in which I basically run out of air in my lungs by the time I make it to the top. Not to mention walking up that hill while it’s cold outside and then walking into that hot building is the absolute worst. The heat flashes I get are unreal.
The protesters on campus are known by every student. So, if you attend Radford University, you know which protesters I am talking about. They act like they are the best people on earth and that they have never sinned. This campus is one of the most diverse campuses in Virginia, and they decide to bash us?
But the internet is by far one of the biggest complaints made by the students. Radford is located in the mountains, but that is no excuse. The school website says that the whole campus has Wi-Fi. But if I have to keep logging in when I change buildings, then it’s useless. Also, I have stopped doing my homework on the Wi-Fi, because it randomly stops working and I lose all of my work.
Since we live in the mountains, I think that we can all say that we hate the random temperature changes. I can handle the occasional temperature spike, but something I can’t handle is cold wind. Radford wind is like someone is stabbing you with ice-soaked knives. By the time I get to class, I am basically crying my eyes out.
But when it all comes down to it, we all love Radford.
Sleep is a luxury to me, as it is frequently interrupted. As expected, Philip wakes me. Following him down the majestic wooden staircase, I see Mr. Addison waiting, tapping his foot on the beige carpet.
“What time did I fall asleep?” I ask Philip, trying to conjure a definite sense of time.
“Around nine,” he replies with certainty.
The large grandfather clock beside Mr. Addison reads 11:54. Judging by the lack of sun from the stained-glass windows overhead, I guess it’s nighttime. I suddenly remember why I could fall asleep. I grew bored, as I am not familiar with having nothing to attend. I take the valuable time to rest, physically and mentally.
The man waiting in his dining room appears no older than I. His dark hair looks to have never grown past his chin. His five o’clock shadow leaves me struggling to guess his age.
“Mr. Addison, this is Miss Richards, your new servant,” Philip introduces me, and Mr. Addison turns slightly, showing me his entire face.
I stare into his rainforest-green eyes and notice a scar sitting over his left eye.
“Ah, yes. Thank you, Philip, you can retire for the night.” Mr. Addison smiles.
Philip bows his head, walks to the back of the house, leaving Mr. Addison and me with only ourselves. As I try to avoid Mr. Addison’s gaze, I notice a flower pattern running along the room, stopping at each doorframe.
“My mother’s idea,” Mr. Addison noted. I blush because he notices my avoidance.
Mr. Addison must remember his mother by the framework; he stares at it reverently. “She adored flowers and convinced my father to have them all over. The only thing more dear to her heart were her children,” he says.
I nod my head slowly and clench my clasped hands.
“Please sit, Miss Richards,” he says while pointing to the chair behind me.
With a light chuckle, he grabs the plates nearest to him and walks toward me. “You are the first servant to have been close to my age since my parents were here,” he tells me as I watch for the subtle signs of permission to speak.
My eyes grow large as I notice him setting a full plate in front of him and me. I can’t help but salivate as I wait to be invited to eat.
“Hopefully you won’t find me a bad employer. I haven’t noticed any gossip from my servants,” he says playfully.
I nod my head in response and play with the hem of my shirt.
“Oh right… um, you may do as you please, Miss Richards. It’s only when there are others around that I will ask you to act appropriately,” he says matter-of-factly, like a schoolboy attempting to be the head-of-the-house.
I feel safer now, having been shown kindness, and I start to eat some of the food. For almost twenty minutes, we eat in silence, I having no desire to talk and he appreciating my company. I catch him sizing me up, playing guessing games with my history. I imagine him asking if I had been abused before and that’s why I do not speak. The less complex answer is I have nothing to say.
“I have one rule, Miss Richards,” he says, wiping his mouth with a cloth napkin. “Call me Zach, never Mr. Addison.”
I nod slightly, taking in the one rule. Zach sighs casually, sitting back to look me over. I see no point in looking back so I finish my meal. I eat until I can’t anymore; this is the largest meal I’ve eaten in the last year! My last home was beautiful until the master’s son took over, treating me like the servant I am. He refused me food but always stood behind his parent’s rule: never beat a female servant.
“Tell me something about you, Miss Richards,” Zach requests. He supports his chin with calmly fisted hands, resting his elbows on the marble table.
Tell me something about you….I haven’t the slightest clue of what to say. Nothing about myself could be as interesting as the man in front of me.
Playing copycat, I reply, “I like being called Cassie.”
He nods respectfully. “Okay, Cassie, what do I need to know about you?” Zach says, trying to dig deeper.
“I’m allergic to lemon juice and bees,” I say as I remember Mother Ester telling me that notifying owners of allergies is always a good idea if you have nothing else to mention.
He says, “Good thing I hate lemon juice and my gardener keeps bees away from the roses after spring.” He chuckles lightly.
“I also like to read.”
He leans forward, straightening his posture. “Maybe one night a week you can sit with me in my study and read before we go to bed,” he says with a smile.
My grin seems to overpower his as I reply, “I would like that, Mr. Zach.”
He pats my hand lightly and says, “Rogue will get these things for us, but I’ve had a long day. I assume you have too.” He stands and sets the dishes neatly atop one another.
He’s right. Leaving North Carolina that early in the morning after having served my previous home’s party, arriving at my new place, and meeting my master has drained me.
“Yes, Zach, you’re right,” I murmur and stand up, pushing my chair in.
“Good night Cassandra.”
I bow, returning the good night, and retire to my bedroom. I decide Mr. Addison is a sweet, gentle man. However, as a veteran servant, I know first impressions can be deceiving.