Damage Control

WARNING: Inappropriate whiskey drinking and interruptus.

Charlotte suffers the consequences of not being invulnerable and goes monster hunting.

For past episodes of Victorian Mistress see the Weekly Serial page.

London – 1840

Mrs Stapleton would’ve been horrified if she walked into the bedroom. I was sitting on a chair with my chest against the back of it and a bottle of whiskey dangling from my hand, for medicinal purposes. Whether I should’ve been having whiskey with head injury was debateable, but I existed in the debateable gap.

Bran was sitting behind me on the bed examining my head with gentle fingertips. It hurt, so did the rest of me, landing on cobbles from a great height often had that effect.

He leaned in close, trying to pretend he couldn’t hear the inner workings of my body all the time. ‘There’s nothing and you’re not concussed. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.’

I shrugged so my back and ribs complained loudly.

He lifted my shirt and rested a warm hand against my side. ‘You might want another swig of that.’

I took a large gulp from the bottle it burnt all the way down. It did nothing to numb the pain when he pushed a rib back into place. I put my hand over my mouth to smother any sound.

‘Sorry,’ he murmured and kissed the spot on my side. I didn’t see the point, it did nothing to help.

‘You’re not invulnerable,’ he said.

‘Don’t be telling people that or they’ll get funny ideas about me not being invulnerable.’ I downed whiskey. ‘I don’t know how you drink so much of this, it’s disgusting.’

He kissed my neck. ‘That’s the good stuff.’

‘There’s a subjective statement if ever there was one.’ I tilted my head to kiss him but my neck was too sore so I went back to staring at the wall opposite. It had acquired a misshapen painting of a square house with windows in each corner, a line of grass and a tree made up of the brightest colours from the paint box. In the corner of the page in thick black letters was ‘MAREE’, as spellings went it was impressive for a four year old.

When I got up rather than lift a leg over the chair I pushed it forward out of my way then lay down on the bed with the bottle sitting on my stomach. Bran propped himself up beside me, pierced his thumb with his canine and offered it to me.

‘Do you realise how phallic that is?’ I asked.

He looked at his thumb.

I smiled, took his hand and put his thumb in my mouth, perhaps I could’ve tried for seductive but after the day I’d had that was asking a bit much. If he hadn’t thought about phallic symbolism before he was then.

A burn spread through my chest and my rib crunched. I pushed his hand away and had another swig of whiskey to wash the metallic taste away. Bran took the bottle, gulped from it then wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. I curled my hand around the back of his neck and kissed him.

He broke away. ‘You’re not going to leave, are you?’

I frowned at him.

He rubbed the lip of the bottle with his thumb. ‘I know you didn’t want children and –‘

‘I’m not leaving you, Bran,’ I murmured. ‘I’ll adapt. I always do.’

‘I just… I worry that…’ He sighed and looked away. ‘It’s ridiculous.’

I took the whiskey, set it on the bedside cabinet and looked at him. I ran my thumb over his bottom lip and leaned in. Then I flipped him onto his back and straddled him.

‘I’m not leaving you, Brandon.’ I leant forward and slid my hands down to unbutton his waistcoat. ‘You’re stuck with me.’

‘What if they hear?’ he whispered.

I grinned and kissed him softly. ‘We’ll have to be quiet.’

Whoever decided it was a good idea for men to wear two waistcoats and a shirt had never tried to undo all the buttons seductively. Rather than wait Bran ripped them through them all in one go. I got hit in the face with a button and his pocket watch smashed against… whatever it was it hit.

‘Sor –‘

I shut him up with a kiss.

The door opened before I could make it past his mouth and Mary walked in with her teddy bear under one arm. I sat up and Bran grabbed a pillow to cover his chest. We were going to have to start locking the door.

‘There’s monster under my bed, Mummy,’ she said, and grabbed my hand. ‘Come on, Mummy.’

Duncan was dead, not under her bed, but arguing wouldn’t make her go away. I looked to Bran for rescue but he was too busy trying to pull his shredded clothes shut behind the pillow. Served him right for wasting clothes.

When we got to their bedroom. Meredith was hiding under the sheets.

Mary pulled her teddy bear tighter to her. ‘Under there, Mummy.’

I supposed if I ever wanted to escape the only thing to do was to have a look. I lifted her up and put her on the bed then got down on the floor and looked underneath. It was too dark to see anything, not that there was anything to see.

‘Hit it, Mummy,’ Mary said.

She, Meredith and their teddy bears were peeping over the edge of the bed with the covers still over their heads. The glass eyes of the bears were accusing me in malicious silence of failure.

I sighed and shuffled under the bed. It was too clean, dust wouldn’t dare settle in any crevice lest Mrs Stapleton found it, but the darkness still smelt stale. The wood creaked over my head and dipped uncomfortably close when the girls moved.

I smacked my hands down on the floor. They shrieked at the thump.

‘Got it,’ I said and wiggled out again. ‘No more monsters.’

Mary bounced on the bed and Meredith scowled at her from under the sheets.

‘Told you, Mummy’d get the monster,’ she crowed.

I got up and dusted off my trousers. ‘Maybe you should get back into bed now.’

Rather than sit down she fell backward and bobbed against the mattress.

‘Right, well, there’ll be no more monsters tonight,’ I said and turned to leave.

‘You have to tuck me in, Mummy,’ Mary snapped. ‘Bran always tucks us in.’

I put the sheets over her and she snuggled down. Meredith was peeking out from under the sheets as if she wasn’t sure that ‘Mummy’ wasn’t the monster, clever girl. I tugged the sheets a bit to show willing then turned again to leave.

‘You have to give us a kiss and say “goodnight, sleep tight”. It’s the rules.’

I sighed. It seemed sighing was becoming a habit.

I kissed Mary’s forehead. ‘Goodnight, sleep tight.’

Meredith stuck her teddy bear out at me. I stared at it.

‘You’ve got to kiss Patches, silly,’ Mary said.

Patches had a distinct lack of patches but it did have a damp ear where Meredith chewed it when she was upset, I wasn’t sure that was healthy.

I stared at the damp bear. If I could kill a vampire and get Bran into bed I could kiss a soggy bear. I took a breath and kissed the bear’s head. ‘Goodnight, sleep tight.’

Mary scowled at me. ‘You need practice. I’ll make you a list.’ Then she grinned. ‘Good night.’ And she squeezed her eyes shut.

If I thought about it too hard I’d be there all night so I headed back to bed. Bran was asleep, even vampires got tired chasing children around all day.

I changed into my nightdress, got into bed behind him and put my arm around him. He huddled closer in his sleep then went back to being as still as a corpse.

How people manage to have so many children I had no idea, you couldn’t get five minutes peace.

Two would’ve done.

For more short fiction see my Short Stories or Weekly Serial page.


Published by Jesse

I'm a writer and academic specialising in fantasy fiction and creative writing theory. I'm allergic to pretentiously talking about fiction and aim to be unashamedly ‘commercial’. Surely all fiction is commercial anyway, or what’s the point in publishing it?

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