Tea Time

It seemed an annoyance to her, washing those windows. It wasn’t that she was bothered with being tasked to wipe them down. No, it was that no matter how much she had cleaned them, they always seemed to be dirty. Perhaps a small smudge here or there, or even a fleck of dirt that had- somehow, managed to escape the perceptive eye of the woman seeking to end its intrusion.

The glass may have seemed clean and pure, but the more she looked, the more she could pick out each and every hindrance on a clear picture to the beauty of God’s realm. Julianni’s eyes gazed past the focus of the glass for a moment and centered on just that.

It was a clear day, the sun high in the sky and just enough clouds to delicately drape a comforting, cool blanket across the lands. She never ceased to be amazed at these scenes, and never once did she forget to thank God for His hand in creating them. Mountains sculpted in the distance rose and fell, trees stood sprinkled across the vast area, and light strokes of lakes and rivers were a canvas that all should appreciate, she thought.

Her eyes slowly drifted back to the glass, hand carefully wiping more at the small imperfections she found. It was a slow process, and one she knew would never be completely finished. However, she did what she could, finally stopping once she realized it was time to prepare tea. After taking one last, appreciative glance to the outside through the cleaned, yet imperfect glass, she made her way to the kitchens.

Now at the age of nineteen, the child whom was once fearful of her Lord had grown into a young woman that looked forward to serving him. Be it serving tea, cleaning the manor, or simply sitting by while he would recite the Scriptures, she could truly think of no other place she would rather be than fulfilling her purpose to God.

With these thoughts in mind, Julianni retrieved the ornate tea set from within the cabinets and put on some hot water. It was not until she collected the tea leaves that she felt the presence behind her. The moment she turned, her heart sank, and for a moment she was fearful that her expression had as well. Her head lowered quickly, eyes set to the ground, and she took a small breath in. The woman’s bow was stiff, and she was sure that the man before her would notice. However, there was nothing to be done now except to wait.

The steps he took were slow and deliberate, each one drawn out as if to only lengthen the process of his approach. Paired with his heavy stride were the sound of long nails clicking across the marble floor, and a low growl began to emit. Chills ran down the woman’s spine, fear of the slaver hound emitting like a soundless beacon. She knew that they were part of God’s creation too, but she knew how vicious the beasts could be, and had seen it for herself. Never once did she wish to be in a position to be near them like she was now.

“Oh, he doesn’t frighten you, does he? Come now, he won’t hurt you,” the man spoke.

She could hear the smirk on his face, and his own voice was enough to cause her to shrink deeply. You see, there was a difference between a man who spoke confidently like Lord Degario, and a man who spoke with his desire to only control.

The man continued. “That is, unless I tell him to. But, I have no reason to tell him that, do I? You’re not going to make me tell him to do that, are you?”

Julianni knew this man, but up until now, had thankfully not known him well. None other than Lord Degario’s son and heir, Dominius Degario had a reputation. She had heard of his targeting of the female slaves and his acts that would dishonour the family name. It was of course unsurprising that he had never been caught, and with his years of practice, he had known just what he could and couldn’t do that may get him found out. The thought of it all disgusted her, knowing how hard Lord Degario had worked to continue the family’s reputation of honourable and God-serving Holders. Nevertheless, she nodded, knowing full well that any disrespect aimed at him could be deadly.

With the wave of his hand, the slaver hound quieted and moved to sit in the doorway, its ears perked up, awaiting whatever command would be given by its Master. Dominus then stepped closer to Julianni, raising his hand to pick up a strand of her hair.

“You must have heard of me. How proud a moment this is for me. I’ve heard about you, but have been…occupied as of late. You’re the mixed one, correct?”

Her head gave a slow nod, her body shifting ever so slightly to pull away. Though it was a subtle gesture, the man was a predator, noticing such minute movements and reveling in the discomfort he caused.

“That’s what I thought. I’ve not had a mixed one before,” he said under his breath, then removing his hand back to his side. “Tell me, you serve God faithfully, do you not? I’ve heard you’ve taken quite well to your teachings.”

Again she nodded, though raised her chin somewhat; there was no denying that her love- and fear- of God was true.

“Mm, then we both stand to benefit, don’t we.” His body shifted a bit more towards her, and he took a deep breath in almost as if taking in her scent. Her eyes shut and she internally cringed.  

“After tea, you will go to my chambers. There we will see if you do, unquestionably, or not. I sincerely hope you do not disappoint me.”

For so long, she had thought that perhaps God would have spared her from such a fate that she had heard from the other women. That perhaps she had done well to please Him. But with Dominius’ words, there was no denying the trials she was to face.

The Degario heir left the room, but Julianni had hardly even noticed. Her mind was filled with fear and, for the first time in her life, worry of the future. Until now, she had trusted fully in what God had planned. With her future now left in the hands of this predator, however, she found herself questioning just what it was she was supposed to do or how to handle the situation.

But it didn’t matter. The tea wasn’t going to wait for her to think things over, and it was more important than her petty concerns.

 

 

The cloth dragged across the glass by a shaky hand, and a soft squeak escaped from beneath it. It sounded clean, but she knew it wasn’t. There were still smudges. There was still dirt. If she could scrub it hard enough, maybe it would go away.

But it never did.

Julianni’s mind drifted back to the memory of yesterday. She could still hear the sound of the bed chamber door closing, that foreboding echo of finality. Still she felt Dominius’ hardened grip on her body, ceaseless in its power over her. A feeling of nausea rose up and threatened to overpower her just as he had. Her eyes closed, and after some time, she opened them again, continuing to clean.

She didn’t know quite what to do about the situation. If she were to speak to Lord Degario about it, would he even believe her? And if he did, would havoc wreak on the family’s respected name? There were few options to weigh. Eventually, she came to the determination that perhaps it was indeed a trial that God had given her. She would need to endure.

The bruises would be easy to hide, as Dominius knew just where he should and should not leave them; Julianni was not the first, and she certainly wouldn’t be the last. With a deep breath, she said a soft prayer and swore to place her trust in God. After all, her purpose was to serve Him unquestionably. Her thoughts drifted back to her work and she focused more clearly on the pane of glass before her.

She understood it now. No matter how hard she tried to clean it, there was grime left behind. It would never go away, and forever would it be tainted despite the best efforts to wash away the filth. It was both beautiful and sad. The woman swallowed hard, holding back her tears, then stood.

It was time to prepare tea.

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