Owin #8 — Gwen has something to sell

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Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo
Photo ©Depositphotos.com / Oleksandr Minyaylo

“Yes, Sir,” Gwen said as she curtsied before the Steward. “I was sent to fetch a pitcher of water for Lord Timmy.”

“Timmy is but a boy, he is not yet a lord.”

Gwen nodded her head quickly, keeping her eyes focused on the floor. “Please forgive my error.” She could almost feel the snarl on the older man’s face. Her heart beat so quickly she could hear it in her ears.

“Laundresses are not permitted inside the house. It is improper and whoever sent you to fetch the water should know better.”

“I am sorry, Sir. I merely wanted to be of assistance.” She looked up as the man grabbed her arm and pulled her closer to him. The look of contempt kept her from crying out in pain and fear. Though she let loose a started squawk when his left hand started running over her body.

“Don’t,” he warned as she struggled momentarily.

Holding up her chin, she looked away as his hands roamed over her breasts and even between her legs. He turned her around and felt her back and waist. She hoped he would stop there.

She stumbled slightly when he spun her to face him again.  With his face directly in front of hers, she barely resisted turning away from his foul breath. “Get back to the tubs and do not think to set foot inside this home again or you will regret it.”

Gwen curtsied again the moment he released her arm and quickly turned and headed toward the kitchens. She prayed she would be able to walk normally and that the silver spoon she had slipped into the bottom of her shoe would not make noised on the wooden floor.

As she passed through the kitchens and out the backdoor, she took a deep breath. Her arms still shook and the beats of her heart still rang in her ears. However, the old Steward had not followed her out of the house.

On the way to the wash tubs, she passed the Lord’s young son and the people who were watching him. “Please forgive me, but I was not allowed to fetch the water.”

One of the men watching Timmy smiled. “I rather figured you’d get in trouble. I’m surprised to see your face wasn’t reddened for your insolence. But, since you asked me, I figured I’d let you suffer.”

Gwen held her tongue. Anything that might leave her lips would be taken out of her hide. In fact, she considered herself quite lucky to have escaped with so little complaint. And I have a silver spoon to show for it, she thought with an inner smile. The opportunity to steal a spoon had simply presented itself. When she had been called to the back of the house to collect the bed linens, she noticed all the silverware on the table through the dining room window. On one of the trips carrying linens, she heard Timmy complain about thirst and made her offer. You think you played me, but I played you. Smiling, she bowed her head and then continued to the back of the gardens. She would endure another day with her hands in the water, but tonight, I’ll get Owin to sell the spoon and then I’ll have some real money.

By the time Gwen finished work and walked to Owin’s flat, her right foot throbbed. The bowl of the spoon was fortunately flat enough that the edges were not cutting into her heal, but the shaft had dug into the area just under her little toe and she had been constantly trying to shift the spoon with her toes most of the afternoon.

“Gwen?” Owin questioned as he opened the door. Sticking his head out, he looked down the hallway. “Is everything okay?”

She hobbled into Owin, pushing him out of her way as she slipped into his single room flat. “I got something to sell.”

“What’d you do to your foot?”

She spun around and dropped onto his bed, letting her right foot fly out in front of her. “It was brilliant. Take off my shoe.”

“I don’t have any money to buy anything from you. I mean, look around.”

She glanced around at his meager room; it had not changed for as long as she had known him. “I don’t want you to buy it, stupid. I want you to sell it for me.” Reaching down, she untied the laces and slipped off the shoe. The spoon clattered to the floor in the process.

“What’s this?” he demanded, picking up the spoon. “Gwen, what have you done?”

She looked up at him. The tone of is voice straightening her back. “Never pass up an opportunity,” she repeated, mimicking his voice as best she could.

“Never pass up a good opportunity. Stealing from where you work is not a good opportunity.”

“You never said good.”

“It’s what I meant.” He shook his head as he stared at the crest formed into the top of the spoon. “What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking perhaps I could make some money and you’d be proud of me.” She stood up and grabbed the spoon from his hand. “I can’t wash other people’s linen’s until I die. I can’t.”

“And getting caught stealing from Lord Darro is going to help you live longer? If you don’t lose a hand, you’d get black-listed from any reputable house in the city.”

She smiled at him. “Then I could live like you, on my own.”

“Gwen,” he sat her back down on his bed. “When they find that spoon missing, the first people they will suspect is those working there.”

She gripped the spoon tighter. “I was already checked and the steward didn’t find anything. And he was quite thorough in his groping.”

“They’ll just think you hid it…elsewhere.”

“He checked, believe me.” She felt a slight bit of pride at having endured his searching.

She watched as Owin clenched his fists and closed his eyes. “Then someone needs to shove a dagger into his chest.” He opened his eyes and sat down next to her. “Gwen, I am trying to keep you safe. They might not have caught you, but…how’d you get into the house.”

She grinned. She knew she had intrigued him. His eyes betrayed his curiosity. “When I was gathering linens, I saw the silverware unguarded on the table—I think they are planning a party.” She shrugged. “Well, the Lord’s little brat was thirsty, so I let his keepers think they’d get one over on me and offered to go fetch some water from the house. I got caught heading back to the kitchen for the water.”

“Your mother would die if she found out you did that. But before she did, she’d kill me.”

Gwen nodded her head. “I can’t live her life. Her hands a worn to the bone and bleed all the time. She cries herself to sleep every night. I want to be like you. I want to have a life and be free.”

He raised his arms and looked about the room. “You think I live like a king?”

“It’s only because you spend all your money taking care of me and my mother. You’d have plenty if you kept what you made.”

She let him take her hand in his. “Gwen, I don’t want to see you get caught. My life really isn’t that great, even if I wasn’t helping your mother. I’ve got real troubles and I’m having a hard time seeing a way out.”

“I know you had to borrow a lot of money to keep us from being evicted.” She could see him hesitate. “Owin, tell me what’s wrong. What is it?”

“Gwen, you really don’t want to know. It’s not safe if you do. I don’t want them to try and hurt you to find out.”

She laughed. “Like me not knowing is going to stop anything if they thought I did know.” She looked at him and wondered if he really understood her life. “I don’t dare walk alone after dark and neither does mother. Even in broad daylight, I’m always looking over my shoulder, wondering who’s behind me and why. You’re at least a guy; you don’t have to worry about it. But for me, any day I could find myself on the ground at someone’s mercy. If I fight back, I’d likely get my throat cut for my troubles. Perhaps even get it cut if I don’t. What more risk do I have knowing what scares you or in stealing a bit of silver?”

She watched as he leaned over and put his head in his hands. “It started because I got drunk one night and trusted the wrong guy.” He bit his lower lip, but did not look up. “I was stupid and too damn drunk. I mentioned knowing were something was and Mark, ‘The cruel’, ended up finding out. He wants it and if I don’t steal it, eventually he’ll get tired of waiting and kill me. And if I do get it for him, he’ll kill me after.”

Gwen could see the pain in his body. She put her arm around his shoulders. “Owin, what is it that’s so important?”

He waited so long she did not think he would tell her. “It’s the holy scepter of Sir Renold The Black. Mark thinks it will bring him power.”

Her eyebrows rose. “You know where that scepter is?”

“I know who has it. I’ve seen it in his house.”

“Who? The Duke?”

Owin shook his head. “Not even I was drunk enough to mention that information and I won’t tell you that now.”

Gwen nodded her head as she rested it on his shoulder. “What are you going to do?”

“I wish I knew. I can’t leave town, too many people know I watch after you and your mom. Plus, I need to watch after you and your mom. I’d never get her to leave. Then there is your grandmother; she can’t travel. But if I don’t find a way out, they will kill me.”

“I’m sorry for stealing the spoon. I just can’t live this life. And I don’t want to be some man’s property—fortunately, mother’s too poor to sell me off—and I don’t want to go from bed to bed.” She looked into his eyes when he turned to face her. “Stealing is the only thing I can think of to get out of here.”

“You know I was not a thief before your father died.”

She could see darkness in his eyes, but it did not frighten her. “But you are very good at it.”

Continue to next episode.