First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Previous: Girl Talk
She couldn’t put off the other thing forever, so eventually, once she and the house had finished putting her clothes away and she’d changed into something that seemed comfortable and cute – and made her look like a starlet pretending to be Rosie the Riveter – Mélanie went back down to the kitchen table.
She found a pen – an old ballpoint click pen – and a pad of paper waiting for her. “Thank you,” she told the house, and began writing.
She had been with the slavers for three markets, so she had seen both their holding area and their market pens. She knew what their feeding schedule was and when they got in new food shipments. She knew when, approximately, they put everyone on lockdown for the night.
She knew their basic exercise routines and how they transported their slaves. She knew had a pretty good idea of what they did with the cheap guards that they hired and where they kept their money and trade goods before either using them or trading them off for more merchandise, and she could remember not just the woman who had sold her to the slavers but three other traders who did similar deals on a regular basis.
After a while, she found the paper being whisked away from her and a steaming mug of tea put in front of her. She looked at the papers – now on the other side of the table – and then at the tea. “But I have orders,” she complained.
The tea bounced lightly in its saucer.
“I don’t think that you get to order me to drink tea. If you do – well, I don’t know. I’ve never Belonged to a house before.”
A small piece of biscotti settled next to the tea. Mélanie picked up the biscotti, dipped it in the tea, and took the implicit hint (or possibly order) and took a break.
A moment later, Jasper came down the back stairs into the kitchen, rubbing his head. “The house uh – oh, wow. Mélanie, you wrote me a book.”
Her heart did a weird thing, somewhere between confusion and worry, and Melanie shot an uncertain smile at her owner. “You said ‘draw a plan of everything I can remember about the slavers.’ It turns out that I remember quite a bit. I was there for a while, after all.”
He flipped through the pages. “So why did the house – oh. You weren’t done, were you?”
A decorative candlestick “fell” off the shelf and beaned him in the head. He put the candlestick back where it belonged and looked, Mélanie thought, a bit abashed. “I didn’t mean you had to – well, I suppose I said that, didn’t I? Thank you, Mélanie, this is more than sufficient. Now, once you’ve had some tea, what would you like to do with the rest of the day?”
What was she supposed to say to that?
“I am going to go out to the market. Do you want to come with me, or would you like to stay here?”
“I-” She struggled with that. Was there a right answer? Was there a trap? “I think… I think I’d like to stay here and start on that store-room, please.”
He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “Thank you. You don’t need to do any more notes on the slavers. I’ll read this over and bring any questions I have to you tonight or tomorrow, all right?”
“All… right.” She shifted a bit. “It’s okay if I stay here?”
“I wouldn’t offer it as an option if it wasn’t.” He patted her shoulder gently. “Yes, it’s fine. And you don’t need to do any work. You’ve done enough work already for two days.”
“But I like… I like staying busy. And besides, half of that was shopping.”
“Well… all right. As long as you don’t hurt the house, yourself, or the chickens, you can entertain yourself as you want this afternoon. Even if it is working.” He mock shuddered. “I’ll be back by dark with all luck. If I’m not, the house has darkness protocols, and you will be safer in here than anywhere else in the world, I can assure that.”
“But what about you? I mean, if you’re out there?”
“If I’m out there after dark, I may have to do a little work, but I’ll be fine. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m tough.” He gave her a light hug from behind. “I’ll see you tonight.”