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Fiction

“Jane,” Robert calls me.

I’m not the real Jane. Not that he knows.

I turn around and smile brightly. I’m tempted to smile without showing my teeth, but I know Jane doesn’t do that. So I grin widely and reach out to Robert. Just like what Jane used to do.

Robert puts his arms around me and plants a kiss on my cheek. Ahh, Jane, do you see this? Your husband is kissing another woman, and yet he thinks that he is kissing you. Are you crying in your grave, Jane? Oh no… Jane was never buried. No one knows she’s dead anyway. Poor Jane.

“Let me braid your hair for you,” Robert tells me tenderly. I don’t like braided hair. Only commoners do such filthy things. But Jane, oh Jane… Isn’t she a lowly commoner too? Jane likes to braid her hair – and Robert likes to help her. So I nod to Robert.

I smile (yet again) and sit down in front of the dressing table. Robert stands behind me and picks up a hairbrush. He brushes my hair gently, making sure not to tangle the strands of my hair.

“Your black hair is still lovely, Jane,” he murmurs, his eyes are like deep pools. My hair isn’t black, but of course Robert has no idea. I dyed my hair, after all.

He braids my hair and starts talking about his current work. He’s investing in some sort of business. Truthfully, I like his investments – they’re always well planned and reap tons of benefits, but Jane does not know that.

Dear, dear Jane. Isn’t she someone who understands nothing about investments? So I turn to Robert and put on a confused look. It’s easy to do so – I’ve seen Jane do it before; all I need to do is scrunch up my eyebrows and pucker my lips a little. Ahh, Jane used to scratch her head also.

Robert just smiles and tells me that with his investment, he’ll be able to get more money. I want smirk and tell him to get richer – I like having a lavish life, after all, but Jane is not like that. Naïve Jane likes simplicity and does not think much of money. No, as a commoner, Jane would’ve definitely thought of using the money to help orphans or something like that.

Oh well, she’s just a commoner, anyway. How would she know the true value of money? Money is the key to everything. More money is more insurance for the future.

But right now, I am not Gertrude Miller. I am simply Jane Smith, the commoner.

I take Robert’s hand and lace my fingers with his. “I don’t care about the money, dear,” I make my voice as sickeningly sweet as I can. “I just want you to be safe…” I look at Robert’s eyes with as much sincerity as I can. Robert grins. “Don’t worry, Jane. I’ll be alright.”

He says some more words here and there, but I’m not really listening. I’m thinking about George. When will he come? I’m sure he has etiquette lessons with Mr. So-and-so, and during lunch break he’ll come to eat with me. Oh dear, I’m so excited.

Lunchtime has come earlier than I thought it would. Robert has gone off to work. There, George is coming. He is a handsome boy, 15 years old, it’s such a pity that he has filthy commoner blood. He’s Jane’s son, after all. Not that he knows that I’m not his real mother.

George looks at me with his large round eyes. His tousled black hair reminding me of his annoying mother. Oh well, soon I won’t have to look at this face anymore.

I want to curse at the boy, but that isn’t something Jane would do. If Jane were here, she would pat the boy’s head and smile at him. So I reach out my right hand and pat George’s head before ruffling his hair a little.

I’ll need to wash my hand later. I touched a filthy commoner’s hair…

George sits down opposite me and pours himself a cup of tea. Ah ha. Jane, you better watch over this son of yours… After all, I made this cup of tea specially for him…

George starts chattering about his lessons, and I absentmindedly glance at the cup of tea. Oh my. When will he drink it? I can’t wait. But patience is essential to any endeavor, so I just smile and nod along at George’s words. Then I hear footsteps and I turn my head. Now here is a person worth waiting for! It’s Laura, me and Robert’s daughter.

She has lovely golden tresses that fall naturally behind her back. A pink ribbon is placed on her hair and her crystal blue eyes are just like Robert’s. She sure is a lovely child. I can’t believe she’s eight years old already.

“Brother!” Laura dashes to the arms of George. Oh dear, Laura, you should know that George is not your brother! I want to pull Laura away from Jane’s son, but what to do? Jane wouldn’t have done that, and right now I am Jane.

Thus, I simply smile, even though inwardly I grit my teeth and reproach George a thousand times. George talks animatedly with my Laura, all the while the cup of tea remains untouched. Then he pauses – I think George must be thirsty from all that talking. Ah ha! He reaches out to drink. The cup touches his lips.

He takes a sip and pauses – what now?

“It tastes good. Mother, did you make it yourself?”

I nod at him, my gaze getting softer than before. A smile is dancing on my lips – a sincere smile this time. Dear, dear George. I hope you enjoy this drink. I made sure to get lots of belladonna for this drink.

“Thank you, Mother,” George continues, his face is beaming. I’m not your mother, dear.

George continues drinking and satisfaction wells up in my stomach. It won’t take long, now. He sets down the cup and continues talking to Laura. He keeps glancing at me, hoping I’m listening to him.

Of course I’m not! I’m counting the seconds until his dreadful demise.

Three.

Two.

One –

George starts coughing. He stands up hastily, knocking his chair in the process. His face is flushed and his pupils dilated. Ah ha! Symptoms of belladonna poisoning. If I were still Gertrude Miller, the first thing I’d do would be call a doctor. But now I am Jane. Jane the idiot would just worry and wail, not knowing what to do. And so, that’s what I’ll do.

George condition is getting worse. He collapses on the floor and keeps coughing. Laura pats George’s back, hoping to help, but to no avail. George vomits and tries to speak – but only ends up making incoherent sounds. Time for me to act.

“George? George!! Oh dear! What should I do?” I play the role of a frightened, panic-stricken mother.

It doesn’t take long for George to start frothing in the mouth. He makes a muffled sound before his head drops down and his strength leaves him.

Adieu, little commoner.

“George!!” I wail, echoed by Laura yelling for her brother. It’s not your brother, dear. Don’t cry for someone like him.

I pinch myself hard and start crying. I bend down beside the boy and put a finger underneath his nose – I need to makes sure he’s dead. Oh right, I shake my hand a little to leave the impression that I am trembling.

“Call Father! Yes, call Father!” Laura yells to the dumbstruck maidservants standing near us.

That’s right, you fools. Call Robert. Let him see his dead son. Ha!

I can’t think of anything better than this.

My inward self is smiling so brightly I think stars will pale in comparison. How nice.

***

It has been one week since George’s death. George was poisoned by a maid from the annex who hated Robert and took it out on George by poisoning him with belladonna. The maid bought the poisonous herb and slipped it into his tea when no one was looking.

…That’s what everyone thinks. Of course, no one knows the true mastermind behind the incident.

After all, how could poor, innocent, Jane poison her own son?

Robert is drowning in grief so he stays at work most of the time. Laura is sad, too. I can’t believe she is crying over the death of a person totally unrelated to her! Well, George is her half-brother, but…

Ah ha! There it is again! These days I seem to see strange shadows. The shadows are everywhere. On the floor. On the walls. And sometimes I see them crawling to the ceiling! It is a strange thing indeed.

Sometimes I feel like there are eyes glaring at me from a distance. But when I turn around, I cannot see a single soul. The wind is getting harsher these days, too. I made sure to lock the doors and windows, but I keep feeling a gush of wind blow past me. It sends shivers down my spine, and I can’t help feel like I’m being watched. It annoys me to some degree, but what can I do? I’ll just have to ignore it.

There! I see it again. On the wall, yes, over there! A shadow that curls like a ball… Now, it’s shifting. Ah ha! A figure of… a person? No, it can’t be!

That shape… JANE?!

No, no, it can’t be… “You died 15 years ago… There’s no way…”

It’s moving! That person – no, that thing is…! A hand is reaching for me, I have to run! Run! Get away!

I suck in a breath of air when I feel a cold hand on my shoulder. I don’t want to turn my head. That thing… is so close to me!

Gertrude…” A sickeningly sweet voice is right beside my ear.

I can feel my hands trembling. No, I’m not afraid. This is merely… rheumatism. Ha, ha, yes, that’s it. And I’m just imagining things.

GertrudeI’m back…”

A steel-like grip forces me to turn around and see it. Yes, it’s just like the shadows I saw before. It’s her, I’m sure of it. I don’t know how I know, but it’s definitely her. I thought I got rid of this pest!

Black hair and green eyes. A lovely face with slender arms that look so delicate.

It’s Jane.

She’s still wearing that white satin dress – the dress she wore the day I killed her! And that chest. Where her heart is supposed to be, there’s nothing but a gaping hole.

Drip. Drip.

Her black blood falls to the floor. Black – that’s right, I poisoned her too, just like how I poisoned her son.

Jane is smiling so widely that her teeth are showing.

Oh where are those lazy servants when I need them?!

Someone, anyone – help me!

Jane lifts her fingers and caresses my cheek, all the while smiling strangely. My heart is in turmoil and I feel like throwing up.

Ah ha! There it is! Another shadow is moving. It’s crawling from the floor, no, slithering to the ceiling and –

“Aah!” I cannot stop myself from screaming.

It’s George! Yes, he’s standing in front of me, his eyes as cold as ice.

“G-george! H-help me!” I try to pull the hem of his sleeve.

“I’m your mother! Yes, your mother!” I nod furiously. That’s right!

I am Jane Smith.

Won’t he come to help me? George is smirking. No, wait –

The shadows grab me by the neck and snap!

Darkness welcomes me into its embrace.

August 19, 2021 12:47

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