“You should never expect a fair fight, ma chère!” Gilles barked as he circled Aimée. His sword made a few daring swishes through the air. She had had the air almost knocked out of her with a well placed sweep of Gilles’ foot. She rolled over to her hands to pushed herself up. She hastily wiped the errant tears from the corners of her eyes. She sniffed as she stood up and glared at him.
“You must utilize every advantage you have. Again,” he said more encouragingly and waved her forward with his hand. He may be the more skilled and experienced, but Aimée was younger and faster. She darted at him and metal clanged as the swords met. The Count laughed. They crossed the garden as he easily parried all of her blows. His sword thrust at her and she lithely bent away, then over the blade with a surprised, “Oh!” She fell to her knees clutching her side. Gilles looked at the blood on his blade and immediately stopped. He dropped his sword and rushed to her.
“Aimée!” he exclaimed. He would never intentionally land a blow on her.
With a quick flick of her arm, she slashed up. Gilles barely had time to recognize the blood was from her ungloved fingers and not a serious wound before the sword came at him. Instinctively, his arm rose to block the strike. What Aimée had meant to be a harmless cut to the cheek became a much more grievous cut across the eye. The girl instantly dropped her sword and begged.
“Forgive me, Monsieur! It was not my intent!” Her words were drowned out, but Gilles’ howl. He grabbed her roughly by the hair. Aimée tried to crawl as he yanked her back towards the house, but her skirts disabled her. She held onto his wrist as he dragged her across the lawn and over the threshold. He tossed her into the scullery and bolted the door. Aimée beat at the door, repeating her apologies. There was no answer.
When Aimée turned around a surprised young maid had paused in her scrubbing of a large pot. Her open mouth snapped shut, her eyes averted and she started vigorously scrubbing. Without a word to the maid, Aimée fell to her knees in the light of the single dingy window and began to pray. Her hands clasped in a white knuckle grip as she prayed for the health and leniency of her host. Blood seeped between her fingers from where she had intentionally sliced herself to leave blood on the Count’s blade. She stared up at the light as tears brimmed from her eyes and fell silently down her cheeks. She prayed for forgiveness from God for her trickery and hoped that she would receive it from the Count. She made many promises and confessed. She repeated herself and begged until the light began to dim. When she finally ran out of words, she rose, grabbed a scrub brush and began on the dishes as it had always been her punishment to do since she had come to the house.