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Inner Voice

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It begins with an interview- a Sunday interview, no less.

 

She doesn’t look forward to it- she’s exhausted. 

 

An eight-show week is hard enough but having to sacrifice her one day off on the altar otherwise known as ‘Publicity’ will, she knows, leave her running on empty and the thought of having to immediately jump back into the old cycle on Monday morning- without the benefit of her usual recharge day- makes her feel like she’s having weights piled on her shoulders.

 

(She still agrees, of course.)

 

Sundays are usually a day to revel in doing things that would be impossible on show days.

 

 Cathy stays up until a ridiculous hour writing on Saturday nights and then spends Sunday following patches of sunlight around the house in which to curl up with whatever she happens to be reading.

 

 Kitty has taken to glancing at the titles and week by week, they’re never the same, there’s never a pattern: Middlemarch one week, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the next, Plato’s Republic , Sula , The Hunger Games , Trainspotting , Boswell’s History of Johnson , Finding Nemo: The Official Novelisation … Once, Cathy caught her looking and opened her mouth, but whether she meant to scold or welcome, Kitty never found out, escaping into the kitchen before Cathy had a chance to speak. 

 

Catalina gets up early and goes to hear Mass and usually ends up back at the house around lunchtime. Kitty isn’t entirely sure where she goes- sometimes she comes back with a Starbucks cup (Green tea, always), sometimes with shopping bags, but more often, she comes back just as she left, empty handed. 

 

She finds it difficult to imagine what Catalina might do to relax, honestly- she’s a queen in every sense, just as regal and composed and thus terrifying in the 21st century as Kitty imagines she must have been during the 16th.

 

Jane goes on walks to places that sell felt and buttons and ribbons, and then listens to the radio- in the garden when the weather is nice, in the living room when it isn’t- while flowers and birds and fruit bloom beneath her fingertips. 

 

Whatever embroidery project she’s working on, she manages to make it look easy. Sometimes she even sews with her eyes shut, the better to take in whatever she’s listening to- sometimes music, but more often, it’s chapter books read by people with calm, slow voices, poetry that flows so easily it’s almost musical. 

 

Once, back in the very early days, when all was spiky and uncomfortable, when they were all still raw from the fallout of their old lives and picking over the old rivalries, Anne had muttered that Jane listened to spoken books so much because she couldn’t read properly. 

 

It was only the three of them in the room at the time- Kitty wasn’t sure if she was meant to have heard or not. She wasn’t even able to tell whether Anne was serious. 

 

Jane had pretended not to pick up on it, only the slight pinkening of her ears betraying her...that, and the fact that she stopped listening to audiobooks in the communal areas, taking them instead to the privacy of her room. 

 

Anne had apologised, in her own way (a stack of newly-purchased audiobooks left outside Jane’s door early one morning a week later, with a bar of Galaxy and a green post it note stuck to the top of the pile that Kitty read when she stumbled down the hall for water at 5am: ‘Sorry I was a total bitch. Love A x’) but Kitty has never been able to find the courage to bring the issue up with Jane herself. 

 

Even if she was braver, she has no idea how she’d even begin to approach something so sensitive, but still, she wishes she could find the words to say that it’s ok, that she understands how it feels to struggle, that she’d never ever think less of Jane for it, that she still admires Jane’s ability to face all catastrophes calmly and without raising her voice and that, in her (admittedly limited experience), this ability is far rarer and far more precious than any amount of literary talent.

 

They’re words she’ll never be able to say, she knows, but sometimes, she wonders what would happen if she followed the woman into the garden, the kitchen and just sat herself down at Jane’s feet to listen along with her and watch her sew in quiet companionship…. The imagination never goes further than that- she won’t let it. 

 

Imaginings left to run wild can be dangerous, she knows.

 

Anne’s day-off plans are as unpredictable as she is- sometimes she takes herself to the library and sometimes to the skate park, sometimes to a museum and sometimes to a bar, and she seems to relish all equally, at least as far as Kitty’s judgement goes. 

 

Having never actually accompanied Anne on any of her trips, she bases her judgement on the level of enthusiasm in Anne’s voice when she makes her customary exit: a shouted ‘Bye, I’m going to the-’, followed by a slam of the door hard enough to make the whole house tremble (and twice loud enough to awaken a sun-warmed Cathy from one of her book-naps). 

 

If Kitty is in the vicinity, Anne will sometimes look at her intently as she says her goodbyes making eye contact so intensely she forgets to blink. She cannot tell if it’s an invitation or an attempt to telepathically dissuade Kitty from asking to join her, and not being entirely certain (or even a little bit certain) of the former, she decides it’s the latter. 

 

(It’s safer that way.)

 

She doesn’t hold the lack of any actual invitation against Anne though.

 

 She wouldn’t invite herself anywhere either, and it’s not like she’s made any overtures of friendship to her ‘cousin’ in their new life. 

 

(Honestly, she isn’t sure how she’d even begin.)

 

So….. she can’t complain.

 

Anna is the only queen she’s ever shared a Sunday with, the only queen she’s even close to feeling comfortable around. Anna’s the only one she knew before, the only one she has any right to lay claim to.

 

Not only did she know her, but they were friends- actual friends, acknowledged as such not only by Anna herself but by the historians too (even if their reporting of some events is unreliable at best and complete fabrication at worst).

 

Because of this, she makes sure to be extra careful about monitoring how long she imposes on Anna for, how much she forces her company upon her. 

 

She never seeks her out, she always waits for Anna to come to her- and oddly, she finds she never has to wait too long before Anna’s checking in on her again, asking if she wants company, if she wants to walk to the shop, the park, if she wants to join Anna on an errand, on a run. 

 

It’s the last one that means she never sees much of Anna on Sundays- Sunday is Anna’s day to do the sort of long runs that she enjoys, to spend as much time as the gym or pool or climbing wall as she’d like. 

 

She can’t bring herself to let Anna go without the activities that mean so much to her by taking her up on Anna’s suggestion that they spend Sunday doing something different….and as she can’t swim, doesn’t enjoy running and doesn’t even know how you’d go about scaling a climbing wall, she declines all of Anna’s invitations to come with her and have a go herself. 

 

(Anna doesn’t need her holding her back, spoiling her fun.)

 

Once or twice, admittedly, she finds herself thinking back to the Anna of their old life and the unending patience she showed with the maids-in-waiting (Kitty included) who struggled on horseback. She remembers Anna’s calm reassurance that she was doing ‘very well, for a beginner, liebling’ , she remembers Anna’s beaming smile whenever any of them plucked up the courage to take their horse into a canter, her gentle words of praise. ‘That was wonderful, you looked so much more confident!’.

 

It makes her wonder, for a moment, if perhaps Anna isn’t just asking out of pity or duty but because she really would enjoy showing Kitty how to enjoy the swimming- or the running or the climbing- for its own sake. 

 

But only for a moment.

 

Time and time again, she turns Anna down. Time and time again, Anna keeps asking, but Kitty knows she’s bound to stop soon.

 

(For some reason, she dreads it.)

 

This Sunday though, she doesn’t spend at home- alone or otherwise. Rather than her normal routine of sleeping in and enjoying the lack of interruption, she spends it getting up even earlier than usual, then taking a bus and another bus and then a train to the interview meeting point.

 

The interview room has greeny-blue industrial carpet with a cigarette burn by her foot that her eyes keep drifting to  as she talks. Through the crooked blinds, the sun shines enticingly, teasing her as it pulls out the shadows longer and longer, as minute by minute her precious day off ticks away.

 

‘-and how would you describe the show?’

 

She takes a sip of the coffee that she accepted out of politeness- lukewarm and stale tasting.

 

‘It’s a chance for us to tell our side of the story- it’s a revision of the accepted version of events. Anyone who likes history, anyone who is into feminist narratives should see it.’

 

She tries to keep her voice enthusiastic- reporters, she knows, can be so quick to read an inflection as a ‘tone’, a muffled yawn as ‘arrogance’.

 

‘And focusing a little more on you- you were the fifth wife?’

 

‘That’s right.’

 

‘The second wife beheaded-’

 

A nod- professional, adult.

 

‘And by all accounts...the only wife actually at fault for the ending of the marriage?’

 

She’s taken back by the calm, smiling audacity.

 

‘Excuse me?’

 

‘All the other wives- their marriages ended because of rumours, back-biting, boredom, lust….and yet, yours was simple infidelity?’

 

She bites her lip.

 

Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

 

‘I think….that’s the sort of harmful narrative we try to confront in the show.’

 

‘But you would have stayed married, if it wasn’t for the affair?’

 

Breathe.

 

‘I think… Henry would have tired of me, one way or another. He would have been rid of me eventually, even without-’

 

‘But you were found guilty, weren’t you?’

 

‘I…. By the court, yes.’ She swallows hard. Her voice isn’t shaking, that’s a start.

 

‘And beheaded. At such a young age- you’re also the youngest wife.’

 

‘I am.’

 

‘How has that affected how you’re treated, do you think? Is it useful to you?’

 

‘Useful?’

 

‘Do you think that things are made easier for you because of it?’

 

‘How do you mean?’

 

‘Oh-’ The interviewer waves a hand laden with rings. ‘The stage persona you’ve adopted….the ‘babey’ persona, I believe fans are calling it? The faux-innocence? I think what we’re all interested in knowing is- how much of it is an act? How much of it is YOU and how much is just a way to get what you want?’

 

‘I’m- well….’ She’s struggling. 

 

An act? It was a persona, of course it was- they’d all carefully chosen the ‘character’ they wanted to be onstage- but was there more to it than that too? Was she really just trying to manipulate the others by playing up her youth?

‘They’re all partly who we really are but I didn’t-’

 

It’s harder to keep her voice steady now- the second interviewer, silent until now, interrupts to suggest they all take a break and resume in half an hour.

 

As she’s getting up, she fumbles with her coat and nearly drops it.

 

‘It’s alright, you know.’

 

The first interviewer is still watching her, a mug of the horrible tasting coffee halfway to her mouth.

 

‘I- I’m sorry?’

 

‘You don’t need to keep the act up. We’re moving on like you wanted, no need for overkill.’

 

‘What?’

 

‘You could have just SAID you weren’t comfortable answering. No need to turn on the waterworks.’

 

The woman pulls a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from her bag and makes for the exit leading to the carpark: Kitty is left at the table, alone, confused, a little scared.

 

A voice in her head: ‘Manipulative whore- do you think I can’t see what you’re up to-’

 

She’d hoped she’d never have to hear that voice again.