The Art of Accomodation
Our faces were warm in the glow of the fire as it consumed our project of the past two weeks. We would have to plan better next time. My brother danced wildly about the fire, imagining himself as a Fire God and unaware of what his seven- year old imaginary powers were doing. I squeezed my father’s hand as he stood beside me, he knew as I did that it was right to burn everything and start again. We had no choice, if anyone knew of what we had done we would be executed.
The desk began to break down having given up its fight against the flames and the fire shifted its position to take advantage of the weakness. I looked up at my father’s face, glazed orange and yellow in the light of the blaze and was shocked to see that he was smiling happily to himself whilst the desk surrendered to the heat. The wind blew from behind us, dancing invisibly with the fire; making it twist and spiral. Hamish came running back to us and put his arms around my waist. ‘Will Cook bring out tea soon?’
I sighed, maybe when he was older he would hate my father and I when he began to understand why we had so many fires. ‘Cook doesn’t work for us anymore, she had to go home to her mother.’ Lies.
The servants had been dismissed that afternoon before they saw, we didn’t have enough funding to pay them for their silence. This time people would have to be sourced from further afield or replaced with people we could trust. If this sort of thing was to continue we might have to have to do without. The decision to cease business would never be within our control; Lord Barnon had our lives in his grasp and he wasn’t about to let go. Blackmailing my father with information that only I knew to be false thrilled him and every time he visited, his chummy manor with my father sickened me. Part of the deal was that I was to be promised to one of his sons, I would only know which one on my wedding day that was to be in four years; after my 20th birthday. The thought of what lay in my future made me want to throw myself in the fire but my father and my brother’s love stopped me.
Hamish began to shiver by my side, father felt his shaking through me and led us inside. After sending my brother to bed we went to the study. The desk had left a large space next to the book case and only the dents in the rug gave any indication that there had been something there.
‘I will have another one made tomorrow.’
I nodded, trying to look at the empty space and not Sir Trennaw’s clothes draped over the chair in the corner. ‘How long will Lord Barnon wait until he sends another of his associates?’
My father chuckled coldly, ‘it depends how long it takes for him to decide he doesn’t like them.’ He looked at my frown while I gazed at the floor just in front of Sir Trennaw’s empty, polished shoes. ‘It won’t be soon, people like this man do not disappear easily.’
I breathed out evenly, ‘is this how we must live? So uncertain and anxious until we are taken to hell?’
‘We will not be in hell, we must pray for forgiveness every night and the Lord will spare us.’ He sounded so certain that he would be saved but I could see that the occupation that had been chosen for us would make us mad and condemn us with no hope of salvation.
‘Why didn’t you burn the clothes?’
‘I liked them,’ he said shortly and I looked up at him in disgust.
‘You would wear a dead man’s clothes?’
‘He has no use for them.’ He sighed irritably, ‘I am making the best of the situation; we will be insane if we think this much after every person we accommodate!’
‘Will no one recognise them? The material is expensive and a tailor would surely recognise who he made them for, we should…’
‘Enough!’ My father shouted, clenching his fists so that his knuckles became white, ‘no one will be interested in a pile of cloth that may or may not have belonged to a dead man! His body is gone and there is no further suggestion that he was here.’
I left the room with tears in my eyes. I would have to make myself a heart out of stone and lock away my feelings if I was to survive the world that I had been pushed into.