Chapter 9

Written by: Anna Zhigareva

Mary kept calm as Jake led her through the well-furbished, neatly kept house, through the thick oaken door, down the wide corridor bursting with famous portraits probably belonging to the house’s previous owner. They climbed the staircase to the second floor, the landing curving around a circular hole in the middle which gave a stunning view of the floor below, with servants scurrying by in crisp ironed uniforms, carrying trays with food and wine for the luncheon that was being set up in the sun room, Jake explained.

The sun room. Anyone who had a sun room was probably a respectable man, right? Mary worked on the thought.

Yet as Jake took her down the corridor, showing her each individual room, the suspicions from earlier raced back, frantically clawing at her mind for the freedom she knew she had run away for only to be lured into a life she had not realised she could have with Jake…but perhaps also one that was impossible…

“Why so many rooms?” Mary stopped Jake in his tracks by pulling on the hand that had attached itself to hers. Sweat had begun to form between their two hot palms and Mary pulled hers out of his iron grip, thankful he didn’t resist.

For a second, he looked almost sheepish, until he regained his fine, composed look.

“The rooms, are for, uh, the women that live here, Mary,” he pronounced the word women very carefully and Mary began to wonder what other label he had had in mind for them. “They live here because I support them. You see…”

Jake drifted off as Mary walked into one of the rooms he had been showing her from the corridor. They had all been empty so far, all different and beautiful, each with its distinctive colour scheme and pattern, a woman’s touch to each little space. This one though, unlike the others, housed a fine little French-looking black-haired girl in her early twenties, Mary guessed. The young woman was playing around with her crochet hook, a barely started piece lying on her knees, the bundle of string down on the ground. The girl looked utterly perplexed as to what to do with the crochet, and turned to the entering Mary as if in the hope of help.

When she realised, however, she had never seen Mary before, the French girl’s eyebrows tightened anxiously and she shook her head at the newcomer, darting terrified glances at her and then Jake, who had entered behind Mary, and then down at the fallen bundle of string, before rapidly trying to resume her struggle with the crochet.

What had terrified the poor creature so badly? Mary wondered. Surely it hadn’t been her.

“My wives, Mary, these girls are all my wives. It’s done in the West, so, you know, I…”

But as Mary swivelled round to stare at Jake, all she could make out was the blur of the walls and his shock of hair as her mind faded into unconsciousness and his voice drifted away.

Comments

This is a tremendous chapter Anna. I wondered how you would deal with all the women and you integrated them into the story really well. Mary is taking control of her life leaving the next writer with plenty to work with in order to set up the denouement. This story was wondering all over the desert and now it has a direction.
Blimey! This is a hard test. Anything can happen in the next 500 words.