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down to the water

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i.

“I am angry, Grace. I am so very angry.”

 

 

ii.

The meat cleaver is the closest thing to her. Grace is behind her, soft lips forming her name, and Mary hears her. Oh, she hears her—Grace might be the only person left in the world who loves her—but her anger is brimming and boiling over. After keeping silent for such a long time, there is nothing in her in that moment other than hate, and rage. Hate, for the fact that he would do such a thing, and rage, for the fact that he sees her as irrational, as the one in the wrong here. With his child growing in her belly, he cast her off like she was mud—and it is blinding, blinding, blinding.

It is not yet morning, though it may as well be, because it feels as if the sun, moon, and every star has its eye fixed on her.

“Mary, please,” he tries, holding his hands up. Mary laughs and spits. The meat cleaver is gripped tight in her hands; no part of her body trembles; no piece of her soul is shying away from the feeling growing in the pit of her—the knowing that she knows what she must do, for herself, and for every maid that came before her. How many women had he done this to? How many more would suffer the same fate?

His eyes dart to Grace. He opens his mouth, but she doesn’t give him the chance to speak.

Mary doesn’t hesitate; she swings the cleaver, and the world goes red.

 

 

iii.

Someone is screaming. Grace is calling her name from somewhere far away, but she can’t quite hear her over that wretched screaming—

Oh.

Mary falls silent. She can feel warm flecks of blood on her face; she knows her clothes and skin are stained with it. And he is clutching at the gaping wounds in his throat, his chest, his arms, gasping until he’s choking on rivers of his own blood. She hadn’t realized she’d kept swinging, even when he’d collapsed.

“Mary,” Grace says, eyes bright with fear, the snow crunching under them, “Mary, we must go. We can’t stay here! Mary—”

Grace pulls her away; it takes a moment for Mary to remember herself and stop stumbling through the snow like a clumsy, drunken child.

They leave him to die under the stars, which, Mary thinks, is better than he deserves.

 

 

iv.

“Do you still have your savings, Grace?” Mary asks as they trudge along in the dark, keeping their voices low as they stay in the shadows. The sun has yet to rise, and both of them are trembling, Grace with anxiety, no doubt, and Mary—Mary feels all mixed up on the inside.

“Of course,” Grace affirms. Mary squeezes her hand. Grace squeezes back.

 

 

v.

They don’t stop until they’re on the western end of the city. “I know a woman here,” Mary says, indicating a large, dark house, “the wife of a barkeep I used to work for. She’ll help us.” When Mary tries to move forward and pull Grace with her, she finds that Grace is standing stock-still in the snow. The clouds are beginning to cover the stars; there will be a storm, soon. “Grace?” she asks softly. “Are you all right?” Stepping closer, she whispers, “Grace, I…I’m—”

“You don’t have to say it,” Grace says, not taking her eyes off the house in front of them. “I—” She sucks in a breath and straightens her spine. “I nearly did the same thing.” To who? And then she knows: him—not the same as Mary’s, she knows, so it has to be her father. Ah, yes—Grace once spoke of a dream she had, where she killed her father in his drunken stupor and saved her brothers and sisters from him. “Mary,” she whispers, finally meeting her gaze, “I’ll go with you. Wherever you want, I’ll go.”

It’s colder than death outside, but it feels like the sun is smiling down on Mary for the first time in years.