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CHAPTER 6 INTERLUDE 2 
THEODORE BACKSTORY PART TWO                         Take me home, delicious heart.
 

READ PART ONE FIRST

 

 

      Theodore lay awake all the rest of the day, imagining what sort of horrid scenario could have caused that gruesome discovery. In the end, reason prevailed. Or at least, the reason he'd rather believe.
      He remembered how Patricia had held him close, safe from that crone. She wouldn't allow anything to happen to him. That terrible woman was just cooking, as Patricia had said. She had to be right. (What sort of disgusting method of cooking is that sloppy? Some noble she was.) He knew at that moment that he hated Kellgren, and didn't want to see her again. Yet, here he was, stuck for at least another week.

      Patricia must have predicted his concern, because as the sun's last rays disappeared, she called him out to play. Looking at her calm face, he knew exactly what she would remind him if he expressed his worry, so he didn't bother. She looked into his eyes deeply for an odd moment, but somehow, it calmed him. He was able to forget about the horror.

 

 

 

       Tonight she seemed a little more lively. Perhaps she wanted to put more effort into being distracting, but whatever the case, he appreciated it.


       "How old are you, Patricia?" he asked, as they gently tossed a ball about in the last dregs of the lazy summer heat.
      "That is a very rude question Theodore. One never asks that of a lady."
      "I'm sorry... Um... Is Kellgren your mother?"
      "No..."
      "I see. You know so many things though, to be just a servant."
      "Servant... Hmm..." she looked blank, and rolled the ball under her arm.
      "I'm sorry, I didn't mean... Are you not? I thought... well, you always wear the same dress. Why is that?"
She gave him a half pained, half bemused glance.
      "Why not? I haven't any fancy places to go, no one cares what I wear."
      "But wouldn't you like to wear something fancy anyway? My mother has closets and closets of clothing! Maybe I could ask her if you could have something old."
      She laughed bitterly. "I have old clothes. Hmm.. Theodore, do you want to see something very, very old?"
      "How old is it?"
      "Older than the oldest of your mother's things. Older than this estate."
      "OK..." he felt a bit trepidatious, as so far the only secrets this place held were quite unpleasant. Yet, Patricia actually seemed a bit energized, and even the slightest excitement from her stoic person was infectious.

***

 

 

         Patricia revealed the slightly tattered old dress, a deep silken blue, but faded at the edges into a dusky pink. The embroidery was thick and beaded with sparkling gems, and despite its gauzy edges, it seemed nearly armor-like with its weight.

      "It's so fancy! --and old!" Theodore studied the gown, his hands folded behind his back, "Is this Lady Kellgren's from when she was young?"
He didn't want to even touch the fragile old gown. Its layers and layers of fine lace seemed thin as paper and he knew well from experience not to handle antiques.
      Patricia laughed quietly, "It's even older than you think. More than a hundred years. Almost two hundred now."
      "Oh wow..."


She bent and pulled out a battered wooden box from the corner of the closet, and removed a tarnished but solidly constructed golden crown. It still glittered in spots, tiny etchings and engravings forming a complex pattern all over its surface. It reminded Theodore of old illuminations or fairy stories. The sort of thing a queen would wear.

Patricia placed it on her head with a surprisingly non-chalant movement. She didn't seem bothered to handle these priceless artifacts like old winter clothes.
      "What do you think?" she asked, posing for just a moment before she seemed too embarrassed, and let her arms flop to her sides.
      "So beautiful! Princess Patricia!" Theodore smiled.
Her eyes widened briefly, and she quickly removed the crown, holding it to her chest like an old hat.
      "What's wrong? I'm sorry... " he said.
      "Theodore... these are mine," she said, looking at him questioningly, her dark eyes too intense for him to make contact with. He couldn't understand.
      "Yours...? A family heirloom?"

 

 

 

 
     "...Yes. Something like that."

 

***

 

The rest of the week played out uneventfully, and Theodore gradually acclimated to his fear. At the best of times he could imagine the whole affair a great adventure, and at the worst he found it dreadfully tedious chore after chore. Patricia seemed to actually enjoy playing with him sometimes, and it became his one goal to make her smile. (A difficult task, though he succeeded several times.) He knew he would be sad to leave her, though he ached to see the summer sun again. He counted his lucky stars on the last day, waking at dusk to find he had not been murdered or eaten by terrifying old women. Patricia helped him pack his bags, and they stood around at the entry way waiting for his carriage like awkward rail commuters, chatting occasionally but feeling the end of their conversation could come at any moment.
      A wisping shape in a dark corner caught his attention, and he saw that Patricia was already looking at the spot, with a resolute expression. From the darkness emerged a pale figure that carried an aroma of sickly flowers and ancient cloth.

 

 

 

       "Oh dear, Patricia says you are leaving already," the old woman warbled in a nearly amusing prim tone.
      "Yes ma'am," Theodore looked to Patricia, trying to not appear frightened. She nodded to him approvingly.
      "I didn't get a chance to meet with you! Oh dear Theodore... What will I do? You mustn't leave now... " Kellgren wrung her dry bird-like hands and stared at him with her goggle eyes. He felt a nervous turn of his stomach.
      "Don't worry mum," Patricia said, quickly interjecting into the awkward silence, "he will be back next summer. Right?"
      Theodore smiled at Patricia, "Oh um, yes...! If Patricia wants me to, yes."
Kellgren still looked disappointed, but more resigned, "Very well. I'm sure she will, as she has much to teach you! Very.. very... much."
      "--I hear hooves," Patricia said, touching Theodore's shoulder firmly.

***

 

 

 

       So things went, summer after summer. Patricia had hoped that the boy would lose interest and ask his parents to not send him again, but he always seemed eager to return. Perhaps she should have made things more dreary, but it was actually fun to do something different after all these years of the same dark drudgery. Fun... Who'd have thought that was something that would happen again? At least, not fun in the light-hearted, simple way that followed an innocent child.


      In those days, Patricia didn't leave the estate much, but enjoyed her continued correspondence with Francesca. (Their similar early lives created a sense of camaraderie but her pen pal seemed a bit too devilish to enjoy the company of outside of letters.) --and of devilish matters, that lad Thierry nosed his way around the estate more than once. He easily put off the Lady with his crude manners, and while amusing, was a bit too focused on courting. (No such luck for him, of course. That sort of fun had been off Patricia's agenda for a good century, without being missed.)
       Now though, for at least a few weeks a summer, there was someone near her who didn't share in her dark occupation. Someone who seemed to think of her only pleasantly, no shared knowledge of their wicked activities.
       It was tricky keeping his time with Elizabeth brief, and always supervised. There were some close calls, but thankfully her mistress was as bubble-headed as her hair seemed to suggest. However, Patricia knew that at this rate, something terrible was going to happen. It began to seem inevitable. What could be done? The lady always got what she wanted...

 

 

***

 

 

       Seven years after Kellgren first made her perverse proclamation, Theodore and Patricia enjoyed a lemonade in the darkness of a humid summer night. (Or rather, Theodore enjoyed the lemonade, and Patricia enjoyed someone around her enjoying a much more wholesome beverage than normal.)

 

 

       "Patricia, why must I always avoid the lady? Doesn't she want me here? --Not that I really want to see her but... You always take great pains to keep her from noticing me."
      "Yes... I... am just worried that you may dislike her. She is very eccentric."
Theodore raised his eyebrows.
      "You speak ill of your mistress... I... I'm sorry, I understand, it's just surprising."
      "You think it is not my place? "
      "No! I... I'm sorry. I shouldn't think of you that way. I don't think of you as a servant. It's just that the lady is... nobility. I guess my parents use that phrase as though it's a mark of character. What does it really mean though? Nothing to me! If it really were a sign of goodness, you would be the Queen of Glenland!"

 

 


       ‚ÄúPlease don't say that." Patricia closed her eyes.
       "I never say the right things. I mean it though."
       "..."

 

 

 

      Patricia knew what was happening as soon as it started. She tried to change his mind, but how could she? Could she reveal to him what she did for errands? What messes she cleaned up in that opium den? What messes she created? The crates of oriental intoxicants in the basement that she purchased from that wicked Demetrios?
      He wouldn't believe it. He had a vision of her as some ideal of purity and a poor beleaguered slave to be saved from an evil queen. Young boys were so romantic and foolish. No amount of disdain or coldness would convince him otherwise, and she didn't want to crush his good nature or his heart. What was to be done?


      She had to note, whatever play he made at passion, it didn't seem convincing. She knew well of the ardor of teenage boys, a recent example of that Chartrain cad, but Theodore's attempts at romance seemed charmingly antiquated and chaste. Too much poetry, and perhaps not enough physical maturation? From their discussions he seemed to not have an easy time making friends with other boys his age. Perhaps he confused love with a simple desire for friendship. In any case, it made his attention easier to ignore.
       He began writing her letters during the year-- simple correspondence and the over-confident philosophical ramblings of a teenager. Luckily, he had not yet sent her poetry, though he offered to many times. She would only respond once per year to the first letter she received.
       "If you wish to converse with me, you may do so in the summer, only."

 

 

Tomasz accompanied Elizabeth on trip home from Harlan proper. She was so flighty normally, this was a good chance to put the spurs to her after her irritating ambivalence at the meeting today.


      "I understand your hesitance, but it is imperative that you make a decision," he began, as the rail car bumped along the tracks in the silent pre-dawn. Kellgren stared at him blankly with her glassy eyes. She thought herself talented at playing the helpless old woman, but he was immune to her feigned frailty.
      He continued firmly, "I will make an exception for you for now, but you are either with us, or against us. The rest of the Circle is already formed, and awaits your decision."
      "Yes, Tomasz," she pouted, her brittle hair rustling slightly in the jostle of the train like an overgrown hedge, "I know that we are good friends, and I understand. You must see though, I cannot pledge any allegiances. I must be free! I cannot be weighed with obligations!"
Her voice became more shrill as she spoke, but Tomasz shrugged nonchalantly, and she seemed to calm.
      "I will move on--" she lolled her oversized head petulantly, "--but I have been waiting for something to... ripen. If you will... I just need more time. "
      "There is no time. Whatever it is, harvest it now or leave it behind."


***

 

        "I said you shouldn't come. You were to wait for my letter." Patricia spoke coldly, but Theodore just smiled in response.
      "Some greeting! Well, whatever it is, you can tell me in person. I had to see your beautiful face. I wait all the year to see you again."
 

 

       Patricia stepped away, and shook her head sadly at him.

       "No... Don't wait for this. Wait for what? To spend summer days in a drafty old tomb? You must live your life outside, Theodore. Please... One day you will be too old for these lessons."
       "Too old? I've been waiting all this time to become an adult. I'm sure you have many things left to teach me. Even if you don't, the lessons are not why I come here... " he smiled sweetly.
She turned her head away.
      "Please, I have something to tell you."

       Theodore insisted he carry his own bags upstairs, as though he would stay. Patricia held her head in pain as she waited, her mind racing. This was the chance she'd been waiting for, all she had to do was get him to leave. Just this one last time. If the Leightons wouldn't move, this was the next best thing. The estate would be empty in the morning.

***

      

 

 

       "You're moving? What do you mean?" Theodore's eyes were already watering at the news.
       "To Koromo. The Lady and I."
       "Koromo of all places! Why?"
       "A political situation. So this will be the last time you see us."
       "No! It can't be! Patricia... I wanted to tell you for so long, but I thought I should wait until I was a proper adult. If this is the last time though... I have to! I know my parents will not be happy but I must be true to my heart. I--"
       "Theodore, no. Whatever you are about to say, you must not."
       "Why not? Don't we have good times together? Don't you care for me?"
       "I do care for you. That's why you must leave this place, tonight."
       "But I just arrived! Patricia... I think of nothing else. My family has money, you wouldn't need to serve Kellgren. You could live in peace and comfort."
       "Theodore, you are a boy still. You don't really care for me as adults do. I think you just need friends. Friends your own age."
      "You must not know what I feel, then. I don't need friends! I only need--"
       "Just stop. Why do you do this? So I won't leave? I cannot be your friend forever Theodore. I'm only doing this because Kellgren makes me. I don't feel the same way about you. I am not interested in a child. You are too young, and you will always be too young for me."
It hurt to see the pain on his face as she spoke, but she had to be sure.

 

         "Patricia, you are older than me but you hardly look it. My mother and father have a large difference between their ages and-- "
      "I am much, much older than your mother."
      "I don't believe it! She has not aged as well as you have."
      "I'm sure she hasn't..."
How to end this silly argument?

      "What makes you think you even have to be married? Do you really want that? Now especially? "
      "Well... I just thought... I'm so happy to be around you so..." he rolled his pale eyes around in confusion.
       "You will find another friend. You will find love, if that's actually what you want. I am not a good person. You may think of me fondly but you don't know what I have done. "
       "Whatever misdeed you may have done in the past, does not matter to me. Was it in the name of that old crone? I don't care what she may have forced you to do. You are perfect in my eyes."
       "Enough!"
She caught his eye and convinced him with her supernatural talent.
       "Wait here. I will get your bags and you will leave. Tonight."

 

 

         "L-Lady Kellgren?"
       "Oh Theodore... it is too soon," the old woman emerged from the darkness, speaking with melodramatic flourishes. She was under-dressed, as ever.
       "Ma'am?"
       "I wanted so much to see how you'd turn out. Patricia has done such wonderful work in training you. You've been learning so many important things, all the things a man should know."
       "Yes, I am so thankful..." he wanted to flee desperately, but felt glued to the spot for reasons he couldn't understand.
       "Indeed. However, you see, something has changed and we must leave."
       "I know. I am terribly heartbroken..."
       "So am I, boy. So am I."
 

 

         A weak cry. Patricia was half down the hall as a mist of vapor before the steamer trunks dropped. The luggage crashed their way down the stairs spilling leather bound books and carefree summer clothes like gouts of pastel blood.  

 

         She streamed under the cracks of old doors and through the seams of drafty old window frames. She reformed outside-- the smell of hot blood mixing with the musty scent of over-ripened blackberries. Kellgren was hunched over and still examining her work, her expression thankfully obscured. The fountain bubbled its rose-colored water in the otherwise silent garden.

 

         "...Mother. MOTHER! What have you done?!"
How many times had she seen such a gruesome tableau? But to know the victim? To remember him as an infant? It was too much to bear.
 

 

         "It was too soon." Kellgren responded in an unaffected voice, wrenching her axe from the mutilated corpse with a sick slap, "He was no good to me this way. Besides, he wasn't as attractive as I thought he was going to be. Now we can move to Koromo without incident."
       "Why?! No..." Patricia hurried to him. Would it work? Was it too late? She couldn't think, she had to try. It wasn't fair! Not like this! Not him!
       Kellgren rolled her eyes and sighed, "What kind of lover would he be? That's not what I want. Anyway, he can't know of us. It's too late."
        "No!!"
Patricia licked her wrist with her razored tongue.
       "Too young Patricia! Useless! Utterly useless!"
 

 

 

THE END

 

 

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