International Writers Magazine: Revolution - From our archives
Fall of Me
I did care for them. You learn to care for anyone you work with every
sunlit hour God sends. I watched the children grow like weeds in
Spring. I would be lying if I said it didn't touch my icy, red heart
when they smiled or cried on my lap whilst their mother rustled
away in all her finery. I cared for their mother too. She was so
beautiful in her pale, haughty ignorance and she carried herself
with such grace that you had to redefine the term "lady"
when you first met her.
I know she never
thought of me. She knew my name, at least, but she never looked at me.
She asked me nothing about myself and really there was nothing to know.
I belonged to the family and they were my life. Despite caring for them,
I wish they had died alone and hadn't taken me with them. Chuffing towards
a mercilessly unflickering dawn, belonging to each other and not carrying
me along for the poorly met ride. I wish they had not been my life and
I wish they had not been my death.
Now that I look back on it, I could happily blame Elizaveta for all
of this. It was she who put in the good word for me with the family.
She rambled on and gathered up my pulse in to beads of pure optimistic
"Nyuta!" She pattered. "Nyuta, we will be able to work
together! The greatest family you could possibly be in the service of!
What did you go to school for? What did you train for if it wasnt
for this? This is a girls dream".
I listened, my head darting to follow her bounding words. She was right
at the time, of course. I did want to be there and it was what I had
dreamed of. Cushioned by opulence, I would be seen and envied all over
the world. Of course, my father would be so disappointed if I had refused.
When I came, there were just two children. Two frillied girls who played
like any others. They squabbled and I broke them apart and took their
petulant abuse. It stung at first. So tempted was I to backhand them
across their plushly draped rooms and smash their rocking horses and
dolls houses to kindling and when I showed burning on my face, Elizaveta
would hiss at me from her station.
"Theyre children," She whispered once as we carried
piss pots in mirrored hallways. "They neednt show respect
when they have titles. You and I, were here to show respect."
"To two rotten dressed up dolls?" I replied. I said this,
but I was fond of the children. I knew the real reasons for their grizzles
and snaggles. They had been given everything they wanted from birth.
It was a year before another one, another girl came along and time passed
in clothes laid out on beds, tea served to the Mistress in her frothy
pillows, the Master nodding curtly at me on the landing. And then, he
came along. The little boy. The joy rang through the walls, the country
and through my veins and it was then that I knew I was part of them.
I felt their pride at this tiny child and I shared it as I would share
It was clear from the off that the boy was sick and somehow that made
me love him more. I saw in him something kindred. He was part of their
family, but he was powerless too. He was bound by his physical limitations
as I was bound by my station. Though he was treated with kid gloves
and I was handled by callous fingers, we weakly, silently shared a bond
from the first purple bruise that mooned on his tiny body.
Whilst physicians poured past me and the boy grew in tiny pieces, something
was unraveling outside. I could say that the family were wrapped up
in themselves, that the sickness of the boy distracted them from the
external world. I dont think, however that they ever knew much
beyond their silver teasets and cherubic carvings.
In the January of the year after the son was born, I watched from a
window as thousands of people, my people, my wintry people rivered through
the streets and grew ever closer. Pictures of the master were visible
high above heads and voices were elevated in cheery song. When you see
a crowd like that, some dim part of you wishes that you could be part
of it. The powdery cold did not seem to penetrate their unison and for
one moment, I believed I stood among them, elbow crooked in to the next
mans arm, a part of something that I cared that I was there. Not
just a fragment of something that didnt even know my last name.
I would not know how it began. I just saw the blood in the snow. It
shone. It shone in the Winter Sun. If I am honest, I knew that more
blood would come and I knew that the family would suffer one day. I
knew nothing of politics, but I saw the future in the pink footprints
outside the city gates. It was the herald of something bloodier.
There was an unease that never went away after that. The walls dripped
with paranoia and the children were quieter. They had been hidden from
details, but children are more perceptive than the parents who put hands
over young eyes and they knew something. Something was threatening them.
I lacked knowledge in politics, but I knew the basics. Obvious when
you think about it. Obscene sights funneled down the ordinary mans
streets stamping starvation and misery on to the children. Parties happened
where I lived and worked. It doesnt take the leader of a country
to know that something must be given back. Something must crack. Something
Oh yes, the laughter was quieter, but the gay life still danced on.
It was years before the laughter stopped entirely. I busied myself with
eyeing Charles, the tutor of the young children. I looked at him every
time there seemed to be that crackle in the air and he seemed so Englishly
calm that I could not bring myself to panic. He was polite to me, he
noticed me and he spoke to me. I would sing his name when I sat in my
little room. I passed so much time this way. I should have been paying
attention to what the master was involved in, what my country was involved
in, what my beloved people were involved in, but by the time I tore
my face from the English dash, the war had started and was roaring out
I had forgotten what it was like to be really cold, but I remembered
when I heard that boys I had gone to school with had frozen to death
in their boots. I remembered optimistic smiles that would now be grimaces
of hunger. The master was out there too somewhere. I remember him leaving,
pride barely stretched over a cataclysmic fear on his face. I was convinced
he would die out there too. It never happened. Something worse happened.
The master was out of range, doing his misguided duty. He couldnt
have stopped what was happening. My people, those of whom I was born
and nourished turned and refused.
I knew something so bad was coming that I spoke to Charles.
"What are they going to do to us?" I mewed at him, hoping
he would collapse in love with at the distressed female act. I was scared,
but not as scared as I pretended to be. He merely looked at me and smiled,
reassuringly and so, so English.
I went with them, but Charles stayed. I stared at him in awe as we left.
How brave was the man I had spent name-singing for years. I went with
them. What else was there to do? It had been so long. I knew nowhere
else to run to. Leaving the building that had been my home for so long
was as much of a blade to me as it was to them. There were tears. Tears,
The Governors Mansion was comfortable, but not as comfortable.
I sulked inside my head for some time, whilst smiling at the children
and comforting their poor little hands. The boy still looked to me with
his big, drowning eyes and he still commanded most of my love. I wished
that we could run away together, that I could be his new mother and
that whatever lay in store would never affect us. We would live together
with a new name and maybe Charles would join us and play the father.
Passing time in these daydreams and reassuring the mistress as she wring
her suddenly weathered hands, I was surprised when the mood took a black
They took me! I didnt understand it. What did I matter. What could
I say at the time? I couldnt yell that I was nothing to do with
this family, not in front of them, especially not in front of the boy.
They took me with the family in rough grips and hurried barks. They
took me to that house in that place. That horrible, cold, withering
It was the middle of the night, that was the ultimate indignity for
me. They pulled us out of bed and they lied to the children. They gave
them the idea that they should smile for posterity, when really they
would closing their eyes. The lady had given me a pillow, a heavy pillow.
I knew that their only wealth lay amongst feathers and I held it tightly.
I knew that something was about to turn straight over and that to help
me win favour after it had all happened, I could use the pillow. I could
show these militants what I had to bargain with.
I didnt know it would happen to me. When they began to fire, I
held the pillow in front of me. The boy, my boy was next to his mother.
I should have been next to him. There were so many shots. So many shatters.
I moved again and again and they hadnt hit me. I shrieked as one
body after another hit the floor, but my heart leapt when the last one
fell and I still stood.
They looked at me. Men in big stern coats. I looked back at them and
when I saw one coming toward me with a blade, I started to run. I even
started to laugh. I held out my hands to them.
"Look!" I yelled as one and then another advanced upon me.
"Look at my hands. See my hands. Im one of you." I showed
them years of servitude as they came closer. I even met eyes with one
and he seemed to falter.
He hadnt faltered, he had jabbed. At me. I was cold stabbed in
a roomful of death. He came at me again and again with the same weapon.
I didnt want to die. I had no business being there. When I fell,
I saw the boy and his weakness. My weakness was there too. It didnt
hurt. It just felt like weakness.
© Tessa Foley
Jan 20th 2008
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