The Mistress

by J.Jackson 7 months ago in fiction

A Short Story

The Mistress
Judith slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1614–18.

As I sat at my vanity looking at my pale white skin, I almost wish I was of more than middle class. I examined my lightly beige silk lined dress, and my hair which was hardly out of place, wishing for a simpler life - a life where I was still in love, a life where I didn't dream of financial independence, a life where I was happy and excited every time I dressed with such elegance.

Once my life had started to feel like a chore; I quickly got frustrated with the broken promises my husband had demanded upon our marriage proposal. I asked David carefully "So my dear, when might you be planning to hire help for our farm, surely we cannot do it all ourselves?" After a long hard day of work David was a man of very few words and grunted at the idea. Even though he never responded, I could tell he was listening by the way he stopped on his way up the stairs, grasping the railing and dragging himself upwards towards the bathroom quarters while he unbuckled the belt that held his tools and most precious knife. The knife his father gifted to him for killing his first pig at the tender age of 8. "Hired help, hired help, just a tiny bit of help - is that too much to ask for?" I gently muttered to myself.

I sat in front of the fire with my tea, alone, mind racing and unable to sleep peacefully. I guess I should divulge that David and I have been sleeping in separate rooms for several years now, only because he is so tall, and thick; and when he decides to move around in his sleep there isn't much room for me. We live a modest life, and the bed is of modest size. I mean, I am not the tiniest woman ya' know! As I prepare for bed David walks by my rooms & stops at my door. "Hired help wouldn't be a bad idea ya' know, we could probably get a lot more done around here... we can never have enough produce, I mean that's what brings in the real money." As I stared up at his handsome face, tanned by the harsh sun he spends his days in - I wondered if he still loved me. We rarely ever say the words to each other anymore. Days in the fields, tired dinners, and sleeping separately, never mind talk - we barely touch anymore.

As I wondered though town exploring from market booth to market booth my mind starts to wander, I notice a woman who seems to be younger than she appears, her hands were worn and leathery, her clothing torn and filthy, she wore a scarf upon her head. The woman seemed precise as she picked through the fruit examining each piece for flaws, only to pick out one apple, pay in her small coins & she immediately took a bite; like a hungry woman would.

I wonder if she is as good at cleaning, as she is at picking her apples I found myself thinking, but before I knew it my internal words got away with my external conversation, and her we were chatting it up.

"That looks like a good one!" I said about the now half eaten apple she held tight between her thumb and middle finger, I must have caught her off guard because she jumped about two feet back. "Oh! Yes, yes it was, I mean is!" Her response in itself was jittery and nervous. Then she spoke up again, "Am I in your way Ma'am? Would you like me to move from the stand while you look through these apples?" as she jolted back from the stand. "Well, no my dear, we have plenty of apples on my land! I'm just curious, if you don't mind me asking, what is it you do?" The woman looked shocked and almost looked as if she didn't know what to say without being ashamed of herself, "Petty errands, but I don't remember the last time I had a real job, or - well - or a stable residence as you may be able to see, I'm actually surprised someone is taking time to talk to me. I lived with my last employer, and when they were done with me I had not even a days notice that my residence was to be terminated. No one wants to hire someone who looks like a bagger." she replied as she shamefully looked down at her tiny scuffed up shoes, shoes that looked as though her big toe was ready to protrude through the material if she only took one more step even an inch forward. "Well", I said "come along then, we need some extra help around the house, and there is an extra guest room, if you're interested that is?!" I didn't realize how ahead of myself I was, how rude right? I didn't even get her name. She must think me to be super pushy.

"My name is Mrs. Marie DuPont, and what is yours?" the tiny, shy woman replied "My name is August Rosenburg, my mother named after the season of which I was conceived, and sorry if I seem intrusive, but are you the Mrs to Mr. David DuPont?" I suddenly had two thought, however, one seemed to weigh on me more than the next. How did she know my husband? And what an ordinary name she has! I kept both thoughts to myself. "Ms. Rosenburg? Or should I call you August? Well, I guess we can discuss those details along the way - If you're ready to come along and start today?! It would be easier if I showed you to my home!" Or did she know where that was too already?

I started to walk away, after all, I wasn't begging her to come along, and I had let time get away as it was. She grabbed my wrist firmly, and our eyes made four. It was clear she was desperate. There was already a deep look of appreciation in her eyes. So, off I took her to buy some new clothing because she would get lost in mine, some new shoes - there is no way she could do a good job wearing those around the house, or land for that matter.

Here it was almost late afternoon, and I finally got to show her to the house. I took her around the house, and to her sleeping quarters. I asked her to wash up, and join David and I for dinner. David sat at the head of the table, waiting to be served as usual. The sooner she starts the better I though; the sooner I get to quit feeling like his personal servant. As she sat, I noticed an unusually irritated David, maybe more tired today, after all, it was one of the hottest days of the year. I did notice an awkwardness in the room, August barely lifted her head from her food. Maybe I was overthinking. She probably hasn't had a good hot meal in God knows how long. As we ate we carried on short, but casual conversations. And finally I mustered up the courage to ask "So David hunny, it seems you and Ms. August here know each other? Or am I mistaken dear?" As I looked over at Ms. August. David answered with a little giggle to his voice "Oh, hunny, we met though an old friend long before we were married and your Uncle sent you down here to live. Not a friend, just seen each other here and there." My mind wondered, but I quickly brought it back to the dinner table. Hopefully no one noticed! And before I noticed I was showing August around the kitchen in preparation for her first formal day to follow.

The next morning I was surprised to see David walking from around the house happy as a kitten, and there was August, dancing around the yard as she hung laundry - what did they have to be so happy about? "Good morning David! I see you finally had a good sleep in this heat?", "Yeah, I guess so! Didn't you?" he said shrugging his shoulders. I ignored his sarcasm and walked out to the back deck where Augustin seemed oh-so content with her new job. "So, August, how did you sleep in your new quarters?", "It was okay, I guess, thank you! But it was rather hot, and I was somewhat bothered, and couldn't really sleep!" I felt something strange come over me when I noticed she wouldn't look into my eyes as she had the day we met. I kept walking and yelled over my shoulder to her "if you get a chance can you give David a break and feed the animals?", " yes ma'am" I heard her say as I look back she wore a big smile across her face; if only I could be that happy!

Before I knew it night had fallen and all was quiet, everyone had settled into bed and the moonlight shone bright through the shutters. It was finally time to sleep, but since I wasn't used to slacking so much during the day - I didn't find myself too tired. I laid quietly in my bed listening to the Crickets that chirped ever so musically trying to ignore this summer swelter that made beads of sweat roll off my forehead into my conscious closed eyes. It might have been one hour, maybe even two hours, it sure felt like forever, however long it was. I laid there silent, but I thought I heard August. It sounded like she was crying. I slowly removed my thin sheet, got out of my bed and tried to be as quiet as possible so I didn't disturb David. I was at August's door and I realized that the sound that made me get out of bed wasn't coming from her room, to make sure I peered into the crack in the door. She wasn't there. I listen more carefully than I did before - there it was - but it wasn't the sound of crying, it was August giggling... and it was coming from David's room! Now it all made sense. The happy day, the quietness from both ends, and the lack of effort that August displayed in communicating with me. The way she never looked at me during the conversations.

As I crept down the hallway the giggling stopped so I peeked into David's room, and there stood August putting on her clothes, sweating, as David laid there naked. What am I to do? He cannot send me on my way or leave me with nothing. Where will I go? What will people think? How blind could I have been? It hasn't even been a week! My mind raced distance from me and I stopped to listen some more for a moment I can only hear my blood boiling but then tuned into little whispers over the silence of the house I heard David quietly say "Once I am rid of that fat hag we can share a real-life, a new life." Real-life?? What? Like WE don't have a real-life already? I knew it! I knew he didn't love me anymore! After everything that I have done for him?! A moment later I heard August, she too was quiet, but I could hear her tiny voice say "But David, you can't be serious! I mean this was a fun visit to the past and all, but I don't know if I can keep doing that to a woman who brought me into her home and gave me such an opportunity. Maybe this was a horrible and terrible mistake, David. I think I will tell her that I need to leave tomorrow, if she doesn't want me to go I will have to tell her of our Affair and leave when she can't bear to see the sight of me. Yup, first thing tomorrow - I am sorry!"

Before I knew it I heard David trying to conceal his anger and talk as low as he could - as if he was clenching his jaw. "Now I knew you were nothing but a whore... look, just look how easy you're ready to turn on me for wanting you?! What do you need money? More of them fancy house clothes my wife bought you? I will tell ya' one thing - you will not leave this room and tell her anything. I swear that to you!" August started grabbing up her things to head for the door but I heard David get out of bed and throw her to the floor. I knew this David, but never when he was sober.

I rushed into the room only to see David standing above August. He was holding his beloved knife in his hand, still, butt naked. "STOP! Just stop it" I screeched! "What is going on here?" I tried to sound as concerned as I could, I tried to sound as if I knew nothing at all, as if I hadn't been standing there the whole - well, most of the time. David looked back at me shocked to see me standing there at such an hour. "I caught this peasant trying to go through my things as I slept! Isn't that right August?" David gave her an awful glare, almost an eerily deadly stare. August got up and ran to her quarters crying like a little girl. I said not one more word to David because as I mentioned, I only see him like this on the booze, but this time I wasn't sure he was drinking... but I also didn't want to stay to find out. As I walked I heard David say "Are you just going to let her get away with that? Huh? You going to let her just do whatever she wants in your home?" I responded with no reaction, no emotion, no details that I knew the truth of the matter. In fact, I acted as if I did not hear him and just kept going!

The next day August carried on her chores as she had the day before, and the days before that. I waited until David went into town so I could speak with her about what was going on between the two of them. As I looked outside August walked into the room and started to speak in a very nervous manner. Mrs. DuPont, can you please spare a moment? I mean it's about last night..." before she could finish I sharply cut her off. "Well yes, I was meaning to talk to you. I heard everything that occurred, and I doubt - well, from what I understand you wanted no part of David any further and thought it to have been a mistake? Am I right?"

I felt low, stupid, and so very vulnerable speaking to "my help" about my problems, but I also was at a low, I mean what did I have to lose, plus was she not part of the problem I had. Yes, that's what it is! I was about to face a problem head-on like I was always taught to! I wasn't sure if was I hyping myself up, or calming myself down at this point. How could I not have seen it coming? After all this time of me, just sitting there with a blank stare, stuck in my very own head, August almost looked shocked that I wasn't mad at her. Or maybe confused as to if I was, but wasn't being forward. But, it wasn't her fault. It isn't her that I'm married to. I wish she would have declined the job since she already knew my husband's name. Should I be mad? Did she accept my invitation just to get around David again? Did she premeditate what came with the job? No, she was desperate right? Homeless? She was doing what she had to do, wasn't she? She knows no love like I thought I did for David, but my answer is now clear, we have grown apart, that is - If he ever really loved me at all!

"I know about you two, I see the way he looks at you, but we must not let us have either one of us. When I met David, he was working on this land. He was a contractor, living with his brothers. We got married, and I thought we settled here and would have a family. I thought we would be here forever together. We must not let him have this land - or either one of us! Do you understand? Once he finds out I know of anything he will dismiss us both. I just can't have it." Before I could finish our conversation and see if she was on-board, or ever read if she would tell David we heard him come through the screen door. "Yes! I will make you some tea!" August said to me as she walked away. Probably for the best, as I didn't want David to see us having a conversation. But, wait, was that also her way of agreeing?

After dinner was finished David looked up at me as August removed the last dish. She doesn't eat with us anymore, and it's probably for the best. David stood up, pounding his fist on the table. "I don't understand you?! As easy as you found her can you not find hired help that is not a thief?"

I responded with a smart remark "Well, how do we know any other hired help wouldn't end up in your quarters?" David walked outside - he didn't go far. "Meet me tonight in my quarters - around midnight? okay?" I whispered as I passed August in the kitchen. She kept her head down but nodded discretely. I guess being discrete was one of her strong qualities, maybe what made her so desirable?!

The time was here, it was midnight. But August did not show up in my room so I decided to head to hers. All was quiet except for a rustling noise and a muffled voice, and as I walked into August's room I saw a figure, half-naked, holding down August. It was David trying to have his way with August again. That's when I knew tonight was ONLY his fault. She must have refused him, I was assuming, from what I heard the last time. Quickly David looks up me and tried to reach for his clothing, by then August was up off her bed now. "Who was the thief again, looks like we caught one in the act!?" I said to David. He came towards me, wiping saliva from his mouth with the back of his hand. "Oh, look, if it isn't my wife. So fat that we can't even sleep in the same bed. Or maybe, I didn't want to because you snore like a HOG! I might as well go out with the pigs." This time he wreaked of Whiskey, it's a sure thing he was drinking. And, that is no excuse, it means he is exceptionally more verbal, & dangerous tonight is all.

Quickly something changed in me, I wanted to stop making excuses for him. He was a hard worker, but not a good man. I felt something happening. I felt numb! Numb like never before. This time I didn't want to run and cry from his whiskey induced words, I wanted him to stop talking. "SHUT UP - SHUP UP - JUST SHUT IT DAVID!" I screamed as I quickly grabbed the knife off his belt. I went straight for him. He looked in my eyes, "you will not graze a hair on my head with that knife - you love me too - I'm probably the only one who'd have you huh?!" But I kept going towards him. I heard August screech "Marie, think rationally!" But it was muffled as if a bomb had gone off. Before August could beg, plea, whatever she was doing! Before August could finish her sentence I already had the knife pulled across David's throat. He grabbed his throat, tremors took over his body and he shook a bit, then came a gurgle of blood before falling to his knees. I lunged down and kept plunging the knife into him, over and over, I was angry and full of rage. He looked like one of the animals his dad taught him to kill, but acted like the pig to narrow it down some! I guess I just had enough, maybe it was payback for all of his drunken night. The verbal outbursts, forcing himself on me when I didn't feel like it - but never paying me mind when I did, the lashes. I tried to ignore it and blame it on the Whiskey, guess it all built up. August tried to pull off of him but it was too late the damage has been done.

We buried David in the forest behind the farmland that night. I packed up some of his things the next day to get rid of, I burnt them to be precise. It was standing at that fire that August and decided we would never speak of this again. I wanted to make it look like he went away, and there I found the deed for the farm. It was never David's land, so many times he told me he bought it. So many times I worried about walking away from his mean ways. To think, all this time I convinced myself I was in love when I was really just scared - scared of loving myself! Turns out, I never had anything to worry about. The deed was in my name signed over by my Uncle Chester. The one who sent me here from the other side of the state. It was signed over one month before our wedding, and two weeks before he passed. There was a receipt attached for a contractor. Yes, you guessed it - David. He was to fix the house, have me move in and give me the deed. David had played me the whole time, making me think it was his land and that my Uncle sent me to live there for a better life.

I had nothing more to worry about for this whole time my own insecurities were Davids mistress. He played with them when he wanted to, he kept me low, he kept me in a separate room instead of making our two single beds one in fear I would discover the deed.

It's been a few years now - the land is doing well, August is still here with me. We work the land, I do Davids share and have slimmed down from the hard work. I feel great. and NOW, now I know what love is - LOVE is FREEDOM from the feeling of captivity - LOVE is INTERNAL first before anything!

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