Chapter 6

By morning, I was packed and ready to leave the house that had given me its kindness and warmth, food and drink, support and joy for the past months. Although it had also brought me great sadness in the number of days that had followed Toni’s death, I was not leaving it because of the grief. It was the fear that kept bugging at me, from all corners of my imagination, at night and during the day, whenever I had a spare moment to think about it, and those I had plenty now that Toni was gone.


Where would I go? I had asked myself over and over again as I packed a little sack of provisions and enough water to get me through several days of walking. Where would I hide? How would I live?


Wouldn’t they catch me and send me away?


Of course they would.


And they wouldn’t do just that. They would probably hit me for running away from my master, they would find Monsieur, lovely, kind Monsieur who had given me a proper life and who I would be treating so harshly by running away… and then with tears and my eyes and disappointment in his I would be herded away with the other wrong-doers, onto a ship or into a cell, and end up slaving away in some dirty corner of the country for the rest of my life.


And still I had to leave. I could not control the shattering dread of what Monsieur possibly thought of me, of what they all thought of me – a monster, a killer – which sent continuous shocks down my spines and through my legs, making them quiver and weaken at the knees, ready to collapse in on themselves.


But I could not leave without seeing Monsieur for the last time. Of course I wouldn’t tell him what I had heard; and I wouldn’t tell him my plan. I had no right to leave this house. I was a servant to a master. I had been given a great life. Why should I run? And yet I would. But first I would say good-bye, in my own quiet way, but good-bye it would be.


Yet as I set my little sack aside, pushing it under the bed to hide it for the time being, I couldn’t help but look around my tiny room and sigh with the pain of knowing what I was about to do. It was a tiny room, an old closet room for winter clothes that had been re-done specially for me when Monsieur Jacques had decided to take me on. The others all stayed down the corridor and to the right, their rooms spacious and sunny, while mine was square and dimly lit, the small leaf trees outside shading the window from receiving sunlight. These trees had already begun to lose their leaves, and soon they would be empty brown barks with twigs sticking out in odd directions, and there would be no more leaves to crowd together and block the sun from entering my chilly little room. But I wouldn’t be there to experience the sun in the morning, I wouldn’t be there to see it rise and climb into the sky from my window, melting the droplets of water that had formed on the glass overnight. I wouldn’t be there to see the leaves grow back onto the branches and once more shade my humble existence from the outside world in the spring. I would be gone by then, long gone.


A short knock resounded against my ear and as I swivelled my head round immediately to see Monsieur Jacques entering my room. I breathed out in reassurance, remembering I had hidden my travel sack safely under the bed. Monsieur wouldn’t look there. He had always trusted me to be honest.


“Boy.” Monsieur’s deep, velvety voice reverberated around the little room, hitting the walls and bouncing back towards us so that it seemed Monsieur Jacques’s voice had filled the whole of the space. “I want to give you something.”


As Monsieur said this, a soft smile crept up his face, and for the first time in days, I watched as Monsieur Jacques’s lips curled into a genuine – though his eyes still held an unresolved sadness – smile towards me, me! He had barely looked at me since the passing of his daughter. Yet despite his smile, I stood pinned to the spot in shock, horror, disbelief, all these emotions crowding my face as only a scary nightmare would the mind of a smaller child. Could Monsieur’s smile conceal the terrifying truth of what he was about to do to me? Did he believe I had truly pushed his daughter into the pond? Could he believe that awful woman at the dining table?


As Monsieur leaned towards me, his grey moustache furrowing slightly above his lip, while at the same time his hand searched for something in his cardigan pocket, I shut my eyes and waited for the inevitable.

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The contrast to his room and that of everyone else's works really well as it puts him in his place in the hierarchy within the household.

You also maintain the suspense which we are all eager to have resolved...will he send the boy away, what is it he has to give the boy?