Basically in Lit, for our current SAC, we had to write a creative piece, and here's my first draft of it, which will surely get pulverised tomorrow.
The Queen of Hearts
“You can put that queen of hearts there Aunt Beth.”
Elizabeth looked up and smiled at the small, pale figure of her friends eight year old daughter.
“Indeed I can Lydia.” Elizabeth replied.
This was a nightly activity for the two of them, playing patience with Elizabeth’s dear friend Doris watching over them from her lounge in front of the fire. Childhood friends, Doris and Elizabeth, or Beth as she liked to be called, decided to live together after Doris had lost her husband to the war.
Doris was by no means a tall woman, but her fiery temper more than made up for her tiny stature. Beth seemed quite the opposite, though she was not a giant, she appeared a great deal taller than Doris, though her quiet demeanor would suggest otherwise.
Lydia gained great joy from pointing out where the queen of hearts would be placed in a game of patience, it reminded her of her father, who, when he was still with them, would tell her she was the queen of his heart every night before bed. Doris would roll her eyes whenever he said it and would fold her arms across her chest, shaking her head. This gesture would always send Lydia into a fit of giggles every time this happened.
Although he was no longer around, Beth was more than welcome into their London home. They lived in relative peace, rarely did anything disturb them.
“Don’t be smart Lydia.” Doris lazily murmured from over the top of her book.
Lydia giggled and turned back to the game.
“Isn’t it past your bedtime Lydia?” Beth said, glancing at the old grandfather clock in the corner of the room.
Lydia grumbled to herself as she picked herself off of the floor and made her way to her bedroom. Doris rolled her eyes at her daughter and followed her out into the hall.
“Just like her father.” She muttered underneath her breath.
As she watched the two leave, Beth’s chest gave a small tug, she did love children, but she was disappointed at an early age by doctors telling her she wasn’t able to have any. Perhaps this was the cause of her quiet nature. This one seemingly straightforward but emotionally complicated fact of her inability to conceive had put her in her place. When she was younger, everyone thought she would be snapped up quickly, the first to be married with children. She was referred to as the Queen of the hearts of London, and she took pride in that fact. At the age of twenty one, she married a young widower by the name of John. After three years of marriage and no children, Beth and John grew anxious, why no children? How was this possible? John had two children from his previous marriage, so it could not be his doing. They seeked several professional opinions and every last one had said the same thing: “barren”. That was the word they used. Such an awful word she thought, almost insulting to her. It was a word to describe women of a ripe old age, not a woman of twenty-seven. After John had heard of this, he moved away, leaving her with no means of supporting herself, and although Doris had recently just lost her husband, she was more than willing to have her friend move in.
She stared down at the queen of hearts that lay where Lydia had been sitting. Lydia was as much her child as she was Doris’ and she loved her as such. She did not need her own. Beth picked up the card and placed it back on the pile of cards made her way over to the window. It was raining, she noted in her mind as she watched droplets run down the glass and the seemingly endless sheet of water that pounded against the window.
A bolt of lightning struck the earth somewhere in the distance and Beth noticed a silhouette of a man standing on the pavement outside of the house.
“Strange,” she murmured, leaning closer to the window.
Beth jumped and knocked her elbow on the window sill.
“You startled me Doris!” she said breathlessly, rubbing her elbow tenderly with her hand. “What were you looking at that was so interesting?”
“Oh, nothing important.”
“You’re lying, now let me have a look.”
Doris pushed Beth out of her view just as another bolt of lightning lit up the night sky, highlighting the silhouette of the man standing on the pavement once more.
“Who in the world is that?” Doris breathed, “Do we know this man?”
“I don’t know.” Beth leaned in closer to the window again, staring where the man was standing.
“Should we invite him in? He is just standing out there in the rain!”
Beth continued to stare out at the man, intrigued. Something about him worried her too, she had a feeling that something was about to go horribly wrong in their world, she could not put her finger on it, but she knew it had to do with this man.
“We just can’t leave him out there Beth,” Doris said, pulling away from the window and making her away to the front door.
Beth made to say something, something to stop Doris from stepping out into the rain toward the man on the pavement, something to stop the madness that would surely ensue, but something stopped her from saying anything, she didn’t know what, but she knew she would curse that something in years to come.
* * *
“More tea William?” Doris asked as she laid out breakfast.
“No thank you Doris.” William said quietly, watching Beth over his already full cup, as Lydia practiced her scales on the piano in the background.
William had been staying with the three females for a month now, ever since that stormy night when Doris invited him in for a warm cup of tea. He was ever the gentleman, he opened doors to rooms for them, stood up whenever one of them walked into a room, he even had joined in the nightly game of patience with Lydia and Beth. He paid an extraordinary amount of attention to Beth, he complimented her in every way possible, taking her out to lunch whenever Doris and Lydia needed some time alone together.
Beth found William troubling, why did he pay all of this attention to her? At first the attention was quite welcome, the lunches, the games of patience with Lydia, but as of late, William’s piercing green gaze seemed to follow her wherever she went, it seemed as if he was gazing right into her very core. He had also suggested that she come away with him, wooing her with the prospect of him finding a cure for her “little problem”, as he liked to call it. Beth was not stupid however, such things would not fool her. William was no fool either, he knew more than one way of gaining access to a woman’s heart. The previous night, for example, while handing her the queen of hearts, he stared at her and whispered, “For the queen of my heart.” She blushed when he had said this, he reminded her of her younger years. She was not sure whether or not the other two females had heard him, but when she glanced over at Doris in her lounge, she made no indication that she had heard anything, neither had Lydia from the looks of it, who had fallen asleep with her head upon William’s left leg, snoring softly. Lydia had been falling asleep earlier ever since William had arrived, there was something about him that comforted her. He had taught her how to play piano, and she had been learning quickly, quite quickly actually, William said she had quite a talent for it. Since Lydia had been falling asleep earlier, she had not had the chance to hand Beth the queen of hearts, yet William had more than happily had taken over that job.
“Beth.” William whispered, bringing her back into the present.
Beth looked up at William, unwilling to meet his gaze.
“Come away with me.”
A crash sounded behind Beth, Doris had dropped the kettle, spilling boiling hot tea over the kitchen floor. “No.”
Beth stared at William and glanced over at Doris.
“Say yes, Beth, please,” William stared into her eyes, holding her under his spell.
“No! Beth, don’t!”
“What is it Mother?” Lydia enquired, no one had noticed she had stopped playing.
“Beth is coming away with me,” William answered for Doris, his gaze not leaving hers.
“No she isn’t, aren’t you Beth? Please tell me you’re not leaving!” Doris pleaded.
“Why is she leaving? Mother?” Lydia looked between the two women.
William stood up at the table and made for Beth, “Come.”
“No! You’re not going anywhere Beth, you hear me? You can’t leave us!”
“Aunt Beth? Where are you going? Why are you leaving us?”
“Yes you are, come with me, my queen.”
“No! BETH!” Lydia cried, throwing herself between Beth and William, “Don’t go anywhere, please!”
William’s eyes flashed as he grasped Lydia’s hand, making her cry out in pain, “She’s coming with me.”
“Let go of her!” Beth cried, “I—I’ll come with you, please don’t hurt Lydia.”
Lydia gasped as William released his grip on her hand, smiling, his former anger all but disappearing.
* * *
It was dark as Beth crept out of the bedroom she shared with William. It had been five years since she had left Lydia and Doris, five years since she had made the biggest mistake of her life. William was not the gentleman he had made himself out to be when they first met, when she had failed to bear him a child, he grew violent, at first just grasping her hand as he did Lydia’s, but as time went on, his punishments grew more severe leaving Beth bruised in several places. His so-called “cure” was no cure, he had made up a concoction of various liquids he had found around the house, and Beth drank it to humour him. Both of them knew that it would not work, but William held a secret hope that by some miracle of nature, she would be able to conceive. When his hope went unfounded however, this enraged him more, making him more violent. He would always find a way that he thought would make up for it however, by placing a queen of hearts upon the pillow on which she slept, reminding her of the night before they ran away.
Beth had grown wary of William, fearing that he might kill her if she did not give him what he wanted, a child. Beth had written a letter to Doris the day before she left William sleeping in their bed, she explained his violence and irrationality and stated that she was coming home to them.
She was surprised that trains to London ran this late at night, but she did not question her luck, as she wanted to get as far away from Manchester and William as soon as possible.
* * *
Doris was scared, she knew that William would have come for Beth, yet she was still surprised when he turned up
upon her doorstep just as he had five years previously.
“I know what she’s told you Beth, but you must trust me, I am here to make amends with her, now where is she?”
“She hasn’t arrived yet, now please, get out of my sight.” Doris tried to close the door on him, but as a grown man of six feet and five inches, he overpowered her with ease.
“Mother, what is going on?” Lydia, now at of twelve years of age, stepped into the hall, rubbing her eyes. “What is William doing here?”
“I’m staying here, waiting for Beth, I am here to make amends with her.”
“Do not talk to my daughter sir, you have no right, not after what you did to her hand.”
“She’s right William, I can’t move my left hand very well because of what you did.”
William stared at her, piercing her very core, just as he had done to Beth, “Oh, really now?” he whispered, sarcasm dripping through his voice, “I am truly sorry my dear, are still able to play the piano?”
Lydia coughed and gazed down at her feet, turning red, “Yes, sir,” she murmured.
“Now, we wouldn’t want anything to happen to your other hand, would we my child?” William purred, still staring at her.
William smiled at turned to face Doris, who was a picture of pure, white hot anger. “Get out of my home William, you are not welcome here. Leave. Now.”
William walked into the hall, closed the door behind him and grasped Lydia’s left hand, making her gasp in pain and draw back from him.
“Please don’t hurt her William. If it will please you and not bring harm to us, you may stay.” Doris muttered.
* * *
It was the day of Lydia’s thirteenth birthday when Beth awoke in her old home, happy for the first time in five years. A week ago Doris had welcomed her with open arms, as had Lydia, though she sensed something was wrong between the two of them, but when she enquired, Doris just said that her brother had grown ill and was just worried about him.
Beth knew about the guest that was staying with Doris, but she had yet to see him, as he was very mysterious and often left the house before dawn to run errands throughout the day. Throughout the week, every few days or so, she had found three different queens in her bedroom. For instance, on the day she arrived, she found a queen of clubs underneath her bed and returned it to Lydia, thinking she had just misplaced it. On the Wednesday, she had found a queen of diamonds on her writing desk and yet again returned it to Lydia, thinking she had misplaced it again. On the Friday, Beth found a queen of spades on top of her bed, she began to grow suspicious of Lydia and questioned her about the cards. She told her that it was her way of welcoming her back home. Beth laughed and said that a simple welcome would have sufficed and perhaps a piece of music if she liked. Lydia smiled and played her a piece of her own she had written.
“Happy Birthday Lydia,” Beth chirped as she went down for breakfast, “how does it feel to be thirteen?”
Lydia shrugged as she shoveled toast in her mouth as quickly as possible.
“Lydia!” Doris snapped, “Sorry about her Beth, she’s just excited for the party she’s having this afternoon.”
“I understand completely, don’t worry yourself over it.”
A familiar tune filled the kitchen as Lydia played the piece she played for Beth on Wednesday.
“That’s a lovely song, Doris, did she really write it herself?” Beth remarked, standing in the doorway between the living room and kitchen, watching Lydia play.
Doris smiled, “Yes, she’s playing it for our guests this afternoon.”
Beth smiled to herself as she watched Lydia’s fingers fly across the keys.
* * *
The queen of hearts lay there on her pillow, staring at her, into her soul, dread filling her to the core, he was here. He had been here all along. He wanted to take her away again. Picking up the card, she hurried out of her room to Doris.
Why didn’t you tell me he was here? Why have you been hiding this from me?”
The buzz of the guests downstairs floated up the staircase where the two stood, whispering in earnest.
“He threatened Lydia, Beth! I couldn’t let him hurt her again, her left hand is damaged forever Beth, she was devastated enough the first time doctors told her that her hand would never be the same, I don’t want to put her through that again!” Doris flustered, “Besides, he only said he wanted to make amends!” she added weakly.
Beth wrung her hands together, “Did you not read my letter Doris? Look at what he did to my arm!” Beth pulled up the sleeve of her dress, showing Doris a deep purple bruise from only just over a week ago.
The two women started as William made his way up the staircase towards them.
“I believe you have to come with me Beth.”
“Why not Beth? Don’t you love me anymore? Don’t you want to be loved anymore? Is that what you want?” he whispered urgently, “You are my wife Beth and you belong with me.”
“No, William, she will not go with you. She is staying here with us.” Doris spat viciously.
William stared once again at Beth, staring into her soul as Lydia’s song floated up from the living room, where so many games of patience had taken place with Beth and Lydia, never again would she play with Lydia, Beth realised, she had to go with William, to protect Lydia and Doris. Dear Doris, her oldest friend, nay, her only friend she realised. Beth never appreciated them as much as she did now, how they had taken her in, even after Doris had lost her husband and Lydia her father, how understanding Doris had been when she found out that she could not have children, how she had comforted her the night she found out. She did not want to leave them, but she had to if she wanted to protect them, she would miss them, but she had to do it.
“I’m sorry Doris, I have to go.”
“W—what?” Doris turned to stare at her, searching for a reason on Beth’s face.
“I have to Doris.”
“No you don’t!”
“If I want you and Lydia to live peacefully for the rest of your lives, I have to go.”
William smiled as his eyes flashed at Doris, her eyes filling with tears, grasping Beth’s hand in her own.
“It’s time to go my queen.” William whispered, clutching Beth’s other hand in a vice-like grip, pulling her toward him, down the staircase.
“Goodbye Doris, tell Lydia I’ll miss her.” Beth said softly, slipping something into Doris’ hand before being pulled down the staircase.
Doris wiped the tears from her eyes as she looked down at her hand. There lay the queen of hearts.
There it is, all 3074 words of it.
I'll admit, it's not exactly my best work, but hey, it was kinda fun writing it. Sort of.
Image source: http://repairstemcell.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/heart2.jpg