As the old man screamed at her, the young woman stared at the tunic left in her hand.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Her life was supposed to be different. She should have become a priestess and worked in the royal court like her cousins, not sold to the highest bidder when her father’s investments had disappeared.
She braced herself. Two years of hell with this old man, and soon it was to be over. She was almost glad, but she had felt the little flutters in her belly and the desire to live flickered into a flame.
The screaming continued. The servants were being assembled and it was obvious which one had no outer tunic. The old man’s rage turned to him.
“You, you! Of course she would try and seduce you! I shall kill the whore with my own hands…”
While the old tyrant often called her worse, it still hurt. In truth, she was still a child, no more than 17.
The only friend she had known in this house was the young servant, recently in charge of the house. The only joy she found was talking with him. With one man she knew fear and pain, with the other comfort and delicious hope.
The flutters began again. She instinctively put her hands over her belly and the young man saw.
“Do no such thing!” said the young servant. “It was my fault, I forgot who she was. She pushed me away; she threatened to scream. So I fled, forgetting my tunic. Nothing happened, I swear.”
Silence. The girl willed herself not to look up, feeling the passionate voice wrap around her in a final embrace.
The old man gave an anguished glance to the young servant, the only person he almost loved. “I give you charge of everything in this house and it is still not enough! I keep only this one thing!”
The look in the wrinkled and wine-reddened eyes turned from self-pity to anger.
“I shall take you to prison! You thief!”
The girl breathed again. They all knew the old man could never kill his young protegé. Only her life was nothing to him, but now it was hers again. Now she had a plan. She would take over the bookkeeping and put money away until she saved enough to bribe the jail guards. She still had family in the royal court. She would save him!
The young woman twisted the tunic and dropped it behind some pillows. It was now forgotten, but she would not forget.