It was raining.
Four women sat in a back room of a theater on that fateful day, staring at each other in silence. It was a little awkward to say the least, but, eventually, one of them spoke up.
“Well, I guess I’ll take one for the team,” She said, “I’m Maria de Salinas. I was Catherine of Aragon’s lady in waiting.”
The most noticeable thing about her was her curly, frizzy hair, but also her kind eyes, which were similar to that of a gentle doe gazing at you from the forest. Out of all of them, she was definitely the most laid back and calm one.
“Maria,” The woman to her left said, “Yes, you’re not exactly hard to forget. Especially with that mane.”
Maria grinned at her.
“Good to see you too, Bess.”
The woman had her arms crossed over her chest and sat up straight, holding herself in a defensive posture in a way. Her build was similar to a bear’s, but she had the eyes of a harpy eagle and the hands of a wolf.
“Elizabeth Blount,” She introduced herself, “But I prefer to go by Bessie. I was a lady in waiting to several queens.”
“Oh yeah, I remember you!” The blonde across from her pipes up. She’s not as relaxed as Maria, but is definitely more loosened up than the other two. However, she looked well built and strong. “I don’t think we talked much, though. Anyway, I’m Joan Meutas, but I think my name is sometimes Jane? It’s Joan, though. Jane Seymour was my mistress.”
“Joan, Jane,” Maria shrugged, “They’re easy to mix up.”
Joan laughed a little, already matching well with Maria’s carefree, friendly demeanor.
“Yeah. It’s strange.”
Maria nodded and then looked to the last of the group.
She was young, no more than seventeen at best, and was awfully scrawny. Her brown hair was a mess upon her head, she was very pale, except for the dark red flush on her cheeks, and she was shivering, but her pale blue eyes still remained very beautiful, despite how glassy they looked.
“Oh. I’m Margaret Lee. You can just call me Maggie.” She said and her voice is very hoarse.
Bessie perks a little upon hearing her name, which makes Maria glance at her, but she settles quickly.
“Are you okay?” Joan asks the youngest, slight worry glinting in her eyes.
“Yeah,” Maggie replied swiftly, “Just a little cold, that’s all.”
“It has been raining for awhile.” Maria nodded.
A few moments later, a woman enters, introducing herself as Sasha. She began to explain the show, telling the four of them about how they were going to be the band for the queens.
“Can’t wait to stand in the background!” Maria said and Joan snorted.
Although actually being able to perform would be fun, the group accepted that they were just going to be the ones who played the music. At least they were being paid.
Over the next few days, basic rundowns were gone through, and it wasn’t long before the sheet music for the first song was given. However, something else was happening.
The youngest of the group, Maggie, was definitely getting sicker. She came in looking more and more feverish as each day passed. It was worrying, of course, but Bessie seemed to be the most concerned. A strange maternal feeling kept welling up inside of her each time she saw the girl. Perhaps it was because she had died giving birth to her daughter, who was also named Margaret.
No, Margaret Lee was not her Margaret. She was just missing her baby, which was also weird because she had seven kids, so you would think she would get tired of holding a screaming bundle that looked like a wrinkly tomato.
But something about Margaret…
The name was special, at least to Bessie. It had been suggested to her by Lady Anna of Cleves, who she had been working under while pregnant. The two of them mused about baby Margaret without even knowing if she WOULD be a girl. Although, Anna knew for a fact that she would be, though.
And she had been right.
Unfortunately, she never got to meet baby Margaret, like Bessie, who only held on long enough to name the infant.
What if this was her second chance at being there for her Margaret?
No! No. No, that was just absurd.
However, her motherly instincts continued to flare, especially when she noticed Maggie starting to sway during rehearsals.
Strong arms wrapped around Maggie’s waist when she started to collapse. Her eyes pop open wide and she staggered, trying to push away.
“Easy. I’ve got you.”
Bessie lowered the two of them to the ground. Maggie presses up against the wall, her cheeks burning in embarrassment. Or maybe that was just the flush from her fever.
“Sorry,” Maggie whispered, “I just-”
“No need to apologize, love,” Bessie assured her, “You really shouldn’t be here if you’re sick, though.”
“No, I’m fine. Really.”
“Have you taken any medicine?”
Maggie opened her mouth and then closed it. Bessie frowned.
“Can’t afford it.” Maggie mumbled, bowing her head in shame, “I can barely make rent, so I can’t waste any money on anything else.”
Maggie shook her head. She pushed herself up to her feet, wobbling a little, but uses the wall for support. Bessie stands quickly, hands hovering out a little, ready to catch the girl in case she fell again.
“How about to stay with me tonight?”
Maggie froze. She looked at Bessie with wide eyes.
“Come stay with my at my flat.” Bessie said, “I have medicine.”
“Bessie, I can’t do that.” Maggie stammered.
“I insist.” Bessie pressed, “Please, hun, you need time to recover. You’ll only get worse if you don’t take anything. Let me help you.”
Maggie opened her mouth, then shut it. Her hazy mind toiled over what was just presented to her. The codependent part of her couldn’t help but be filled with a sense of need, thinking that this woman really wanted to be around her. The other part, though, was screaming at her to say no. Intruding on Bessie’s home was rude. However, her need to be cared for by someone was much greater than the fear, so she agreed.
It was settled, then. After rehearsals ended, Bessie drove herself and Maggie to her flat. When they got there, Maggie was barely awake in the passenger seat, leaning her head on the seat belt. She was so dazed and out-of-it that she didn’t even hear the driver’s side door closing or her own opening.
Bessie looked down at the girl with a soft smile. She hated to have to disturb her, especially when she looked so peaceful (or as peaceful as one could get when ill), but they had to get inside before the drizzle outside picked up.
“Maggie, love,” Bessie said softly, lightly pressing on her shoulder to rouse her, “We’re here.”
Maggie’s pale blue eyes fluttered open and she stared at Bessie for a moment before mumbling something incomprehensible and unbuckling her seat belt. Bessie helped her out of the car and up to the flat. The bassist absolutely would have carried the girl, she didn’t look heavy at all and Bessie wasn’t weak by any means, but she felt that that might have been overstepping the boundary. So, instead, she just kept one arm around Maggie’s shoulders for support.
“Are you okay with animals?” Bessie asked while getting her keys out. She noticed Maggie tense up and frowned. “What’s wrong, love? Are you going to be sick?”
“Dogs?” Maggie squeaked out.
Bessie furrowed her eyebrows before realizing what the girl meant.
“Oh, no. I don’t have dogs. Just a cat.”
Maggie relaxed and nodded.
“Not a fan of dogs, I take it?”
The girl nods again.
Bessie hummed, keeping that in mind.
She opens the door and guides Maggie into her apartment, where they are greeted by a meow from the living room.
“That old lady is Reefer,” Bessie said, nodding at the tortoiseshell cat. “She’s friendly.”
A small smile twitched on Maggie’s lips when she held out her hand to the cat, who nuzzles her fingers as a hello.
“She’s pretty,” Maggie murmured.
Bessie smiled a little before pointing out the bathroom and spare bedroom. While doing so, she noticed Maggie struggling to simply follow along with what she was saying. The poor girl needed medicine and she needed it now.
“Alright, hun,” Bessie set a hand on Maggie’s shoulder when she started to sway, “Let’s get some medicine in you and then you can get changed and take a shower. How does that sound?”
Maggie nodded feebly and Bessie eased her into sitting on the couch while she went to get the medicine. She ended up hunching over, holding her pounding head in both hands. Bessie frowned when she saw this while walking back over.
“Here, love,” Bessie said softly, holding out a small medicine cup full of a thick scarlet liquid. She chuckled lightly when she saw the bitter face Maggie made. “It’ll help you, I promise.”
Maggie had no other choice but to down the liquid, which left a disgusting taste in her mouth. She shook her head, deciding that she hated medicine, but loved Bessie’s presence and care, so she would deal with it.
After taking a few other things (Bessie was tempted to give her everything she had for an illness, but didn’t want to accidentally overdose the poor thing), Bessie helped Maggie to her feet and guided her over to the bathroom to clean off and get changed into some clothes she was letting her borrow.
After Bessie went back to the kitchen to start dinner, Maggie slipped behind the curtain and stood under the water for a moment. Finally, she moved again, reaching for a bottle of soap and slathering some against her body and-
She still had her clothes on. Those had to come off. Of course.
She awkwardly loitered for a second, making sure the soap got out of the fabric of her shirt before stepping onto the floor mat. How delirious and stupid was she? Bathing with her clothes on? Who did that?
Taking off her clothes took great effort, as her limbs seemed to be made of lead. She discarded them in the sink, shuffled back into the shower, and almost immediately spits out the water that beats into her face. Blindly, like she has never bathed before, she paws around for a safe spot from the onslaught.
Normally, a hot shower would be relaxing, but when sick and feverish, it was like a torture segment. Instead of cleaning her, it was scraping her skin off entirely. Claws of fire latch onto frayed edges and tore down, tunneling down into her very core.
Maggie wasn’t going to let herself be defeated by a damn bath. She had the overwhelming urge to punch the spigot, but that probably wouldn’t do much for her. It was made of metal, after all.
All of a sudden, her knees gave in and she snapped out of her reverie when she collapsed to the floor. She reached up to try and regain some mobility, but only succeeded in knocking over every single soap bottle onto herself when her hand slipped on the bar.
Maggie: 0. Shower: 1.
Exhaustion seemed to be bred into her bones. It keeps her from sitting upright and she spends multiple long minutes just lying face-down on the floor, face smothered against puddles of water. She rasps and coughs, rolling heavily onto her side and pulling her legs in close. She pressed her burning forehead against her knees and shivered, despite the temperature of the water.
Resting her eyes for a moment wouldn’t hurt anyone…
Water bills were a thing, though. And this wasn’t even her house.
Sighing heavily, Maggie pushed herself onto her knees and grabbed a rag to start wiping herself off. She douses her hair in shampoo and uses her nails to scrub the brown locks free from sweat. She repeats this process at least three times before finally twisting the faucet handle. The torrent of liquid fire sputters to a halt.
Lavender-scented steam billowed outward as the shower curtain was yanked open. Maggie paws around for a towel and swathes it around herself. She takes to drying her hair by shaking her head around wildly like a wet dog. Her entire body disagreed with this method, as it made her feel even more woozy, but she didn’t care.
Once she was finished wrestling with her clothes, Maggie sluggishly dragged herself out of the bathroom, still shivering. Bessie peeks out of the kitchen and then hurried over to her.
“I’m making dinner right now,” She tells her, “Do you want to take a nap while you wait?”
Maggie nodded and Bessie helped her to the extra room, but that’s the last thing she remembered, because she eventually woke up to the sound of music.
Prying open her heavy eyelids, Maggie rolled over and nearly fell right out of the bed, but managed to catch herself before she could smack against the ground. She peeked out of the bedroom and saw Bessie sitting in the living room, strumming at a shiny black and white bass. The hum of the instrument sent vibrations up through Maggie’s body, even at the distance she was standing at. It sounded so beautiful and she couldn’t help but be drawn to it.
Bessie jumped when she noticed the girl slowly approaching her. She halted in her playing and set her bass aside to go check on Maggie.
“You’re still really hot,” Bessie murmured when she felt Maggie’s forehead, “Is everything okay, sweetheart?”
“Your playing was really pretty.” Maggie said, her words slurring together.
“Oh. Thank you.” Bessie said, “Did I wake you?”
“Pretty…” Maggie just mumbled again. She teeters forward and Bessie quickly catches her. The bassist adjusts her hold, noticing whited out scars running up Maggie’s arms when she does so, but ignores those for now.
“Okay, love, let’s get you back in bed. You don’t seem to have the energy to eat right now, huh?”
“Wait-” Maggie’s eyes open quickly. “No. Wanna stay with you.”
Bessie couldn’t say no to those big blue eyes that gazed up at her, so she agreed and, instead, made Maggie sit down on the couch. The girl curled up against her instantly and those motherly instincts came rushing back. Pushing the boundaries a little, she wrapped an arm around Maggie and pulled her close.
The way the girl snuggled up against her nearly sent Bessie into another plane of existence. There was just something about her that Bessie couldn’t explain, but she wanted to hold her and take care of her like a mother would. She was sure this was just from her missing her baby, and Maggie’s affection towards a woman she’s only known for a week is definitely from her fever, but she liked to think there was some kind of spark between them, even if it was an absurd thought.
Bessie knew, deep down, she shouldn’t get close to Maggie like this, but she couldn’t stop herself when she leaned down and gently kissed the top of the girl’s head.
The sigh of contentment made her heart flutter and she decided to ignore the thoughts saying she shouldn’t do this.
She had her little Margaret back in her arms and she wasn’t going to give that up.