Stephen lives in the gorgeous Hudson Valley in New York and when he's not being a Teacher's Aide at a school for children with Autism, he's at home watching horror movies and screaming the songs from Sweeney Todd. His work has also appeared in Riggwelter Press and his high school's literary magazine Reason and Rhyme.
Lady In Waiting
“The Lord has been poisoned!”
The yelling sounds out through the vast halls of the manor. Depictions of cherubs in the wallpaper all appear to look on, along with the guests that were waltzing. They come to a halt as Lord Perring’s page announces the horrible news again. Lady Beatrix Astor holds close to the Nobleman that had called upon her for the evening, (she had not bothered to remember his name, for she was not going to be seeing him any more after tonight).
Women gasp in horror and a woman close to Beatrix faints in the arms of her husband. Beatrix has always thought the courting game was foolish, but to see women faint was a level of idiocy.
When will women learn to not have their lady’s maid lace their corsets so tightly? Beatrix thinks while the clamoring and panic set in with the crowd.
She takes her opportunity to slip away from the man who was once holding her as he steps towards the Lord’s page. She slips through the crowd towards the exit, her skirts dragging the floor, shoes clicking lightly on the marble floors. The pouch of Arsenic under her skirts seemed to burn her thigh with the thought of what she’d accomplished flooding her mind.
The questioning looks from the guardsmen send a shiver down her spine. She’s never done this before, and that makes panic cloud her mind.
“Stop that woman!” One of the guardsmen yells.
It causes Beatrix to reach down and grab a fistful of her skirts and hoops. She begins to run towards the looming doors of the manor.
The guardsmen guarding the door go to grab Beatrix, but she ducks down, slipping under their grasp, and darting out the open door. She straightens herself and runs down the stairs with two fistfuls of dress so she doesn’t trip and splay out on the cobblestone road. The sound of thundering footsteps make a symphony behind Beatrix. When an alleyway is in her sights, she makes the decision to take it.
A quick turn makes her heel catch an uneven part of the road and she stumbles, but thankfully she does not fall. The walls on either side of the alley are brick and cold, the full skirts billow and touch both sides, the dirt and grime from the walls sticking to their fabric. The guardsmen storm down the alleyway and Beatrix is stopped by a dead end. She spins on her heel and grabs the dagger from the sheath on her calf.
“Come and fight, it is a fight that you shan’t win!” Beatrix twirls the dagger between her fingers with a smirk plastering itself on her lips. The two guardsman that made it down the alleyway after her draw their pistols and aim them at her head.
“If you come quietly, we will not kill you,” the one guardsman announced in an authoritative tone.
Beatrix never liked when men used that tone. She always felt like she needed to slice into their flesh and show them that she is not a submissive woman.
Without giving them the satisfaction of a rebuttal, Beatrix draws her arm back and launches her dagger through the air. The steel point sinks itself into its mark inside of the one guard’s neck, he chokes out his last bit of life. He falls to the ground, but before the second one can shoot his pistol, Beatrix has hers drawn. Her hands steady, she aims and lets the bullet take flight. The second guardsman falls and a satisfaction seeps into her heart.
“That wasn’t as difficult as I thought,” Beatrix says out loud before running towards the entrance of the alleyway.
She hopes that it’s clear enough for her to escape and get back to the safe house that’s waiting for her. The sounds of an almost too quiet night surround Beatrix, her heart beating faster than she thought a heart could beat. The lacing of her corset makes it a little hard to breathe as she peeks around the corner of the building. The other guardsmen seem to have disappeared into the air… Maybe they did not realize the way Beatrix went? One cannot say for sure, but Beatrix certainly wasn’t going to take it for granted.
Her tiny heeled feet hurry along the cobblestone, the echoes cutting through the stagnant air, causing a spike in her beating heart. Beatrix wasn’t one for running, but in this new life she had been pushed into, she needed to know how to do it… To survive and excel in her new career path. The clock on Big Ben chimes the hour: ten. The ten chimes make the air tremble. With each strike a spark of adrenaline floats into Beatrix’s blood stream.
The light from the gas lamps lining the street illuminate things well enough for Beatrix to know where to step. With a swift turn she disappears down another alley, this one is not a dead end, but a doorway into the underground world of her sisters. The doorway to her new home is on the right, a black iris is painted on the wood of the door. Beatrix knocks thrice and a panel slides away to reveal a pair of eyes, but instead of two irises staring back at her, there’s one with the other being a milky void. Beatrix holds her palm up, on it is a branding scar in the shape of the iris. The panel slides closed and the tumblers that hold the door lock shut move and unlock.
“Welcome home, sister.” The woman with the missing eye steps aside to allow Beatrix to descend the stairs into the underbelly of the world.
The skirts surrounding her legs billow up as she descends the stairs. Voices float into range as Beatrix walks down the hallway, stones covering both walls and candles illuminate the way. Red velvet curtains hang over doorways and a carpet runner leads the way into the grand room.
“She has not returned. She most surely is dead or—”
“I am neither.” Beatrix replies to the voice of the unknown woman. She drops the handfuls of skirts she was holding, the fabric drops down and covers her feet again. “The deed is done. Lord Perring is dead.”
“You were successful?” The head mistress of the group of women in the room says with shock in her voice. Her bright red dressings showing her authority in the grouping. Her hair is bound up in a grand design, the jewels on her neck shine as she turns.
“I was.” Beatrix bows her head slightly to show the respect the head mistress deserves. Her smile spreads across her face as she raises her head.
The head mistress matches the smile with one of her own. “Then it is with a great pleasure, and honor… to welcome you to The Assassin Sisterhood.”
“Omnia scire. Omnia communia,” the other women standing around the room say in unison. The faces of women scorned by the world looking at Beatrix with welcoming gazes.
Beatrix is finally home.