The tears fell from Clarissa's eyes as her heart filled with despair. Not only was she disinherited from her family, they were just going to leave her to die. So now, in the eyes of not only the society in which she lived, but her own family...she deserved nothing better than death. An angry bruise had begun on her knee where she'd fallen when the guards shoved her in. Looking around her cell she saw only shadows and dust. Curling up and leaning backward against the wall, she buried her face in her hands and wept.
In the next cell over an older man heard her tears. He'd been in his cell for about two days now and had made a habit if being snarky and sarcastic to the guards and some of the other prisoners, but her...well he couldn't bring himself to be sarcastic with her. Her cries were so piteous that he could only listen and try to make her smile. He didn't know her name. He only knew her voice, and judging from her voice she was very young, perhaps only twelve or thirteen.
Clarissa listened to him speak, rather amused by the way he was so bold as to backtalk the guards. When he'd say something particularly snarky, she'd laugh as silently as she could, fearing that he'd turn his venom on her. In her state of mind, she knew she couldn't handle biting words aimed at her.
Gerard kept waiting to hear her laugh, and was always a little sad when he didn't hear it. He wondered if perhaps he intimidated her. After all, she'd only ever heard him speak to others with a sarcastic edge. How was she to know he didn't plan on speaking to her that way? However, what if she wasn't laughing because she held him in disdain?
Days went by and more of the same happened. Sometimes people were led off to death, and sometimes visitors came. None came and visited the two of them, however. It was always a relief to Clarissa when no guards came to take anyone off...it meant it wasn't time to die yet. Even though she knew no one cared about her, the thought of death still caused her great fear. She wasn't ready to die yet.
One morning Clarissa awoke to to hear a massive dragging of chains. People were being dragged off to execution. Her heart leapt into the throat, but no one came for her. It wasn't her turn yet. Instead of feeling relieved, though, she felt another stab of fear. What if one of the ones dragged off was her beloved comic relief? The great man in the cell next to her, who was always able to cheer her up? She waited until the sounds were gone before she crawled to the door of her cell, in which the only opening was the food slot.
“M-Mister? Sir? A-are you still there?” she said softly.
A voice came to her...his voice...but it wasn't sarcastic...
“Are you talking to me?” the man in the next cell responded.
A giant sigh of relief issued for her, “Oh, thank God...I thought they'd dragged you off too.”
She heard the sounds of shuffling as he scrambled to his door, “Oh...really? You're glad I'm still here?”
“Yes, I am...you...you keep me sane.” she admitted.
“Do I, now? Well, I'm glad of that...I quite hoped you'd feel that way...it was my purpose for keeping on.” he told her. There was no sarcasm in his voice, yet Clarissa could hardly believe it.
“Really? Really and truly? I-ve...I've been afraid to speak or let you hear me laugh...I was afraid you'd make fun of me.” she said in a small voice.
“Not at all, dear...I only make fun of people who deserve it. You don't deserve it.” came his gentle reply.
“I'm glad...I'm sorry I haven't said anything...you must have thought me terribly rude.” she told him.
“No, not rude...I did have thoughts that you might find me repugnant and was simply too polite to tell me so.” he admitted.
“I don't think you're repugnant...I like your sass.” she said.
A chuckle sounded from the other cell and he said, “I'm pleased you do...what is your name, my dear?”
“I'm Gerard...pleased to finally meet you,” he stuck his long thin arm out of his food slot.
She did the same and they grasped hands.
“Forgive my thin enormously veined arm...I haven't eaten much in a few days.” he said.
“Nothing to forgive...I hope you don't mind my short chubby arm.” she told him, a smile in her voice.
“I think it's a rather adorable arm myself.” he told her.
“How old are you?” she asked, deciding if they were about to die, what was the use of being polite?
“I'm fifty eight. And how old are you?”
“I'm twenty seven.” she told him.
“Are you? Well, I'd guessed you were around twelve...you have a rather childlike voice, my dear.” he said, his voice laced with amazement.
“I've always sounded young.” she said.
“And have you no husband to come get you out?” Gerard couldn't help asking. In the society they lived in, husbands were usually the first to come to the rescue of their wives.
Clarissa sighed, tears coming to her eyes, “No...I-I've never been married...nobody would have me...I've just been a spinster...” she faltered.
“I'm so desperately sorry, my dear...it was not my intention to upset you...” Gerard said, mentally kicking himself for assuming things.
“You didn't...it's just that...you see, I've been disinherited. My parents are rich, and I embarrassed them by being thrown in here. They want nothing more to do with me, and when I am dead they will forget about me...that's what their letter said.” Clarissa said sadly.
Gerard listened to her speak, feeling hot anger against her parents. Closing his eyes and taking a breath he stated, “I am heartily sorry for it...if they were my parents I'd have run from them a long time ago. I'm also sorry we didn't meet before this. I'd have whisked you well away from that unloving sort.”
“You're very kind, Gerard. I was blind then, though...I thought my parents loved me. They acted like they did, sometimes. It wasn't until I was thrown in prison that I realized that they love their reputation more than they love me.” Clarissa told him.
“It's hard times like these that cause a person to reveal their true colors. What did you do to be thrown in here, if I may ask?'
“I stole a few food items to give to my cousin. He'd fallen on hard times himself.” she told him.
“And for that you're to be executed?” Gerard could barely believe what he was hearing.
“They mistook me for a prostitute and didn't believe me when I said I wasn't...they accused me of stealing these clothes...my parents said that I deserved what I got for getting myself into this predicament” she said, tears falling down her cheeks.
Gerard squeezed her hand, his arm getting a bit tired from being stuck through his food slot. However, he knew his touch meant something to Clarissa...hers meant something to him as well.
“I wish...that we'd met in other circumstances...I wish I wasn't about to die.” she cried, her hand clinging to his, her arm shaking from her sobs.
“I wish I could be in there to hold you...” Gerard told her, feeling a bit emotional himself. He hadn't wept when they'd thrown him in for pick pocketing. He hadn't wept since his wife died the year before. But this young woman pulled at his heart strings. She didn't deserve to be in here. He wasn't even sure he himself deserved it. Such crimes weren't worthy of death, he thought.
They heard footsteps approach and quickly dropped each other's hands and pulled their arms back through their food slots. The guard swiftly came and unlocked Gerard's door. Clarissa's heart sank, but before she could weep for him, her own door was opened. Instead of taking her out, however, the guard pushed Gerard through her cell door.
“There...now you can hold each other...dammit, you've been making me cry!” the guard, who'd apparently been listening to the whole thing, then sniffled and went back to his post.
Clarissa looked up at Gerard. He was a rather thin man with ragged clothing and a sharp featured look. His eyes were an ice blue and the top of his head was bald. There was a thin fringe of gray and brown hair touching his shoulders messily. There was a scraggly beard on his chin and a mustache under his nose, and there were red patches on his skin where apparently he'd been pulling at this hair.
Clarissa herself was short and rather plump. Her finery had been tarnished with dirt and dust and grime, but had otherwise remained in tact. Her round face was dirty and there were tear streaks on her cheeks. Her eyes were green and her messy hair was brown.
The two stared at each other for a moment before Clarissa rushed into Gerard's arms. He held her tight, moisture issuing from his blue eyes. They sank to the floor in a tight embrace as they wept together.
“Wh-what a k-kind guard.” Clarissa gasped after she'd gotten herself together somewhat.
“If he were kind, he'd have let us go,” Gerard murmured in her ear, low enough for only her to hear.
She tightened her arms around him, “at least we're getting to see each other and touch before...” she trailed off, a stab of fear hitting her heart. She'd seen how people looked after they were hanged...it wasn't a fine sight at all. She shuddered to think of herself dangling there, and her heart broke at the thought of Gerard doing the same. She squeezed him tighter.
Gerard held her firmly, trying to will away her fearful thoughts. He knew she was thinking them, for he'd been thinking the same. He'd like to think he was somewhat fearless, but the thought of dying via execution wasn't desirable to him at all. He didn't want to think about dying right now, and he shooed away thoughts of Clarissa dying as well. Right now he just wanted to be. Just be.
Hours passed and the two still clung to each other for dear life. They could hear murmurs from the people outside, but they paid them no mind. Probably just boring talk anyway. It wasn't until they heard footsteps outside Clarissa's door that they paid attention. Both of them stood up, still holding each other, when the doors opened.
The guard who'd put Gerard in Clarissa's cell stood there, along with the magistrate. The two prisoners looked at them, fear in Clarissa's eyes, steel in Gerard's eyes.
“All right...you two are free to go.” the guard said.
Clarissa's heart skipped a beat, “What?”
“This man heard you tell him,” the magistrate gestured to Gerard, “that you were wrongfully detained...is that true?”
Clarissa nodded, “y-yes...th-they thought I was a prostitute.”
“Then what reason would you have to lie to a fellow prisoner? For that I know your story is true.” the magistrate said.
“Why're you setting me free?” Gerard asked, skepticism in his voice, extra emphasis on the word “me”.
“Because this woman loves you...let it not be said this magistrate has a heart of stone. Executing you would break her heart, and I know my own wife would never speak to me again if I separated two who loved each other as much as you. So you both are free to go. Mark me, though...if you're ever caught stealing again, it WILL be the gallows for you.” the magistrate declared.
Relief flooded through Clarissa and surprise through Gerard as the magistrate ushered them out a small door at the back of the prison. The two, now free, ran through the streets hand in hand, avoiding the sight of those unlucky souls who'd had to die. When they got to an alley, Gerard stopped them for a breather. He bent to look into Clarissa's face, placing his hands on her shoulders.
“You've been disinherited by your family, have you not?” he asked her, seriousness on his thin and dirty face.
Clarissa nodded, “yes.”
“Then you're coming to live with me. I'll marry you if you'd prefer not to live 'in sin', as it were. I'll not have you go homeless, you who's shown me such kindness and love.” he told her, “you don't mind living poor, do you?”
Tears of joy filled Clarissa's eyes and spilled down her cheeks, “I don't mind at all...I'm with you...and I'm alive...and we're alive. Thank you, Gerard!” she cried, throwing her arms around his shoulders.
He held her tight, his own heart filled with love. He could hardly believe it...his salvation had come in the form of this sweet woman. He stood up and took her hand and together they walked through the streets to his house, their hands clasping each other's. It was a curious sight, him in rags and her in dirty but noticeable finery. It could not be denied, however, that the love and happiness on their faces was absolutely and completely genuine.
A short one shot that jumped into my head upon waking up today.
I thought I might just make a story out of it. I hope you all like it .
(also, not sure if the title sucks, or is just too cute )
I thought I might just make a story out of it. I hope you all like it .
(also, not sure if the title sucks, or is just too cute )
It's nice they have a happy ending.
Gah....these eyes are all misty and I can't see the keyboard! Beautiful story, Mandy!
Great story, I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Oohhh... dear! This made me feel so very warm inside. It's incredible! Such an unusual idea, very well put into words... great job, Mandy!