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Murder: The Best Way To Keep A Secret
It was a glorious spring morning. The grass was especially green, the flowers, exceptionally bright. Birds chirped and sang whiles rabbits and squirrels frolicked about. A young lady of sixteen sat amidst the beauty, upon a small wooden stool, with a pad of paper, paints, and pens. She was drawing this miracle of Earth, etching it into her memory for life.
“Miss Lydia?” A timid voice called.
“Yes?” The lady turned, blue eyes glittering, voice giddy.
“You mother sent me to fetch you. A group of esteemed guests are arriving for supper.” We now see the pale face of a young servant, around twelve years of age.
“Of course. Please give me a moment while I collect my things.” Lydia stood up and smoothed her skirts down. She brushed her golden brown hair form her healthily flushed face, and grabbed her paints, pad of paper, and pens.
“Shall I take the stool?” The small servant inquired.
“Yes, please. Thank you, Antonio.” Lydia smiled gratefully.
“The carriage is waiting right outside, Miss.”
Lydia walked with the air of a dancer. She had grace that was so rarely seen. Lydia carried her head high on her slender neck. The face was one of an angel, high cheekbones, large blue eyes surrounded by a fringe of dark lashes, lips curved into a dainty smile. She was slender, but no frightfully so and her hands were like a concert pianist’s. Lydia slid into the carriage and Antonio slid in next to her.
He was a sad looking boy, worn down by life. His face was pale and sickly, his eyes grave.
“Has Mother been beating you Antonio?” Lydia asked, concerned.
“Oh, no. Of course not.”
“Now, now, I can see the bruises on your arm. Tell me the truth.” Lydia persisted.
“Well, Madame told me to not say anything.”
“Yes, yes, I know already, without you telling me. I am going to France for the summer. You must come with me and get some fresh air, some time away from beatings.” Lydia smiled kindly at the boy. She had a soft spot in her heart for him.
“Madame says you are to take Christina.”
“Her? I will not take that scheming liar. She has stolen my jewelry more than once.” Lydia said, ferociously.
“Maybe you will sway Madame.” But Antonio thought not. Madame was a cruel woman and even though she did not show it to her daughter, her daughter knew very well.
The carriage pulled up in front of a dark, dreary mansion. A lady dressed in black was waiting for it. At first look, she seemed like a mother anxiously awaiting her child, but a second glance tells a different story. Madame had an angry look in her glittering black eyes. Those eyes showed that she despised her beautiful and talented daughter. She was a tall, thin woman, with pretty features marred by time. Her once smooth skin had acquired wrinkles here and there. Her hands, once slender and soft, had hardened, just like her heart.
“Daughter! Lydia dear! Welcome home, my sweet.” Madame plastered on a fake smile and hugged her daughter stiffly.
“Mother. I heard that guests will be coming?”
“Yes, yes! The great art examiner, Philip Bulgner will be coming, not to see your painting, dear, but just to get to know the family. His wife, the great dancer, Carmella will also be attending. They are very anxious to meet the daughter I speak so highly about. Now, get changed into your nicest dress and have Christina help with the corset.”
“Mother, I will be taking Antonio to Paris with me.” Lydia said.
“Antonio! Oh, no, no. You must take Christina.”
“Mother. I will not take Christina. I am taking Antonio. Father left him to me.”
“Darling, what will others think of you? Taking a boy as a chaperone to Paris?”
“They will think nothing of it. Everyone knows that I am responsible. I am sixteen now Mother. I can make my own decisions.”
“Lydia, my precious, I demand you take Christina.”
“Mother. You cannot manage the house without Christina. She helps with everything and Antonio only gets underfoot. I will take him to Paris and show him some discipline.”
“Darling, are you positive this is what you want?” Madame’s voice was strained.
“Fine.” Madame sighed. “Go get dressed.”
Lydia walked up the stairs and to her room. Her best dress was a blue one, with lace and silk. It had silk petticoats and the corset needed to be extremely tight.
“Miss, let me help you with the corset.” A girl of sixteen years, with plain features, walked in.
“Yes, thank you Christina.”
“I heard that you will not be taking me to Paris.” Christina pulled on the corset strings and Lydia gulped in a gasp.
“Yes, Antonio needs some time to learn what it is like to look after a lady. I am very sorry Christina.”
“It’s okay Miss. I do not like the way Madame treats Antonio sometimes. She came be quite cruel to him.” Christina finished with the corset.
Lydia pulled the petticoats on, then the dress. She examined herself in the mirror while thinking about this new, compassionate side of Christina. Her waist was tiny above the layers of lace, her face pale from lack of air. She breathed in gently, accustomed to the tight corset.
“Lydia, darling, the guests are about to arrive!” Madame called from downstairs.
“Coming Mother.” Lydia replied, faking a smile.
She descended the stairs to where her mother was waiting.
“Darling, don’t you look like a dream! But your hair! We must have it pinned up! Christina!” Madame called.
“Yes, Madame?” Christina came down the stairs.
“Plait and pin up Lydia’s hair please.”
Christina expertisely plaited Lydia’s abundant hair and coiled them around her head, holding the coils in place with pins that she always had with her.
“Is this sufficient, Madame?” Christina gestured to Lydia’s hair.
“Very nice Christina. You may go and prepare supper.” Madame waved her away.
The door chime rang.
“That must be Mr. Bulgner and his wife! Let us get the door together.” Madame said, excitedly.
Lydia stood by the door as Madame opened it.
“Ah, Madame! How nice it is to see you!” Philip Bulgner smile genially at her. “Let me present my dear wife, Carmella.” A beautiful, elegant lady stepped through the door. Her golden hair was pinned up in the latest fashion and her green eyes smiled out to the world.
“Oh what a pleasure it is to meet such a charming lady, Madame! The pictures are wonderful!” Carmella’s voice was smooth, almost like a song.
“Welcome, welcome. Let me present my daughter Lydia. She will not be staying long after supper, since she has her ride to Paris tomorrow.”
Lydia curtsied to Philip and Carmella. “Lady Bulgner, Lord Bulgner.” She said, demurely.
“Oh, no need for formalities dear! Call me Philip and my wife Carmella!” Philip hugged Lydia. “It’s an honor meeting you. And you are as radiant as everyone says you are! You must be so proud of your mother’s achievements!”
“Achieve –” Lydia was cut of by Madame “accidentally” stepping on her foot.
“Let us go and eat shall we? We will discuss matters of business after Lydia has gone to bed. Business is not something a young lady needs to hear about.” Madame led the party into the dining room, where everything was set extravagantly.
There were many courses and Lydia ate until she could eat no more. She didn’t question where her mother received so much money to purchase the food. All Lydia thought about was that this was the first good supper she had in months.
“Lydia, sweet, it’s late. You should go and rest you head so that you will have energy for tomorrow’s trip!” Madame smiled fakely at her daughter.
“Of course Mother. It was nice meeting you Philip, Carmella.” Lydia curtsied to both of them.
Lydia slipped away, but stayed near, listening in on Madame’s conversation.
“Your daughter is quite charming, Madame. It’s a pity she isn’t a great artist like you.” Philip sighed sadly.
“Yes, well, I am very sorry that my gift was not passed down.” Madame also sighed sorrowfully.
“I will look forward to seeing your beautiful artwork soon! You are so very talented!” Philip exclaimed once more.
Lydia was fuming. Her mother was taking credit of her art! She was stealing it and selling it for money! How dare she! Lydia decided to confront her as soon as the Bulgners left. Moments later, Philip and Carmella stood up.
“It was a pleasure meeting you Madame.” Carmella smiled.
“And it was a pleasure seeing you once again.” Philip shook Madame’s hand.
She showed them out and shut the door.
“Mother! How dare you!” Lydia stormed into the main hall.
“Lydia! Oh, darling you gave me quite a fright!”
“Don’t ‘darling’ me Mother. How dare you use my paintings and take them as your own!” Lydia yelled.
“You will not tell anyone of this Lydia.”
“I will, Mother. I will tell everyone how you treat Antonio, how you treat me, how you killed Father.”
“Lydia, darling.” Madame pulled out a knife. “You really don’t want to tell anyone.”
“You will not harm your own daughter Mother. You cannot!” Lydia screamed as the knife came down on her.
“I am sorry Lydia. But you must never tell anyone and this is the only way.” Madame landed the fatal, final blow.
She carried Lydia’s still body out and cleaned up the mess. Madame was calm, knowing that all her secrets were safe.
“Mother…” A haunting voice called. “Mother…”
Madame turned around to see her dead Lydia, covered in blood, holding the knife.
“Lydia! How? What?” Madame stumbled back.
“Mother… Mother…” Lydia walked forward, like a machine. She held the knife up and the blade glistened in the light. “Mother… Mother… You have wronged me…”
The next morning, Christina came down to find two dead bodies. One of Lydia and one of Madame. Antonio was devastated by Lydia’s loss. She must have seen this untimely end coming, for the will was written up. All the clothing and jewelry was left to Christina. The house, all money, paintings, and property were left to Antonio.
To this day, villagers are still trying to figure out what happened to these highly prominent, kind beings.
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