Involves slavery and discussion of corporal punishment
The woman who owned Zachary – thanks to the stupid, fucked-up legal system of this stupid, fucked-up country – spent every Saturday with her family. She left early in the morning, returned around six in the evening, and retreated immediately to her room, speaking to no-one until the next morning.
Zachary loved it. It gave him an entire day where he didn’t have to dance attendance on her whims. He usually helped out with the housekeeping and cooking a bit, spent the early afternoon helping with the groundskeeping, and then spent the evening lounging in the garden, pretending he wasn’t a slave.
Today, she was late. Zach had enjoyed dinner with the rest of the help, although they were all watching the clock, enjoyed a long stroll around the property (since he wasn’t allowed to leave said property without an escort), and gone back to his room (such as it was) to grab a sweatshirt, and she still wasn’t home. Phil, her cook-slash-housekeeper, who for some reason liked the bitch, was pacing. Zach found himself watching the clock. Maybe she’d finally had it out with her family. Maybe she’d died in a crash on the way home. What happened to slaves if their owner died?
The garage door didn’t open until nine. By that point, Zach had camped out in the kitchen with Phil, trying not to stare at the clock. She’d been late before, but never this late. What if she didn’t come back? He hated her. He really did. But he knew her. And Phil, for whatever reason, would be upset. And Phil was a pretty cool guy, for a Californian slave.
When the door between the garage and the house slammed open, Phil bounced to his feet as if he was on strings. Wine bottle, glass, a selection of sweet crackers, tray: his eyes were glazed but he was going through the motions. His hands were trembling. He was scared.
Zach had done his best to ignore the way the staff, such as it was, jumped to every time the lady slammed home like this. But today, he couldn’t ignore it. And he couldn’t ignore the sick feeling like worry somewhere down in his own gut.
“I’ll take it up.” He held out his hands for the tray. “Look, if she’s going to holler at someone, it might as well be me. She’s got a lot of practice, and I’ve got a lot of practice taking it.”
It had, in truth, been almost two weeks since the last time she’d yelled at him, and nearly three since she punished him. He was losing his edge. Letting her take out her anger on him again might help that.
“You’re sure?” Paul was a skinny thing, looking a lot younger than the age he claimed. Zach had a hard time not feeling all protective of him and the other slaves.
“C’mon, give me the tray before she gets impatient.” He held out his hands. “I can take it.”
He could tell Paul didn’t want to give in; just as much as he could tell Paul was going to, and a few minutes later, Zach was knocking on Her Ladyship’s door.
“Lady Kaelin?” Surprising how it rolled off his tongue after all these weeks. “I have your dinner.” Such as it was.
A pause. Another pause. “Bring it in.”
He swung the door open carefully. She wasn’t beyond throwing shoes when she’d had a bad day.
The room was dark. He said, “I’m turning on the light,” remembered at the last minute to add, “Lady Kaelin,” and turned on the light.
She was in her bed, the blanket wrapped around her. Her face was red, her eyes were puffy. From the looks of things, she was still crying.
“Shit.” You weren’t supposed to swear in front of her Ladyship. “Shit, shit.” Zach kicked the tray table into position with his foot and dropped the food on it as quickly as he could without spilling anything. “Shit.”
“You said that already.” There was none of the usual poison in her voice, just something tired and bitter-sounding. “That’s good, thank you. That will be all.”
So easy to leave. So easy to just walk away. Saturday was his day off, and, besides, he was supposed to do what she told him to.
Zach flopped down into a sitting position between the bed and the tray table. He grabbed a cracker off the tray and offered it to her like it was finest caviar. “Want to talk about it?”
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