08 November 2014 @ 03:20 pm
 
New piece! It's actually a completed piece too!

I'm putting it under a cut because, man, things escalate quickly. Notes/comments/thoughts at the bottom.



Most of Maximus’ children lost their youthfulness well before adulthood; by sixteen, Augusta had the lean, sinewy grace of a dancer while the other children on the compound were merely mocking maturity. Their cheeks were red and round as apples, their mouths too full and ready to scream. The girls that she was brought up with, half-relations or strangers, realized the differences in their bodies – the curves of their young breasts half-hidden behind shift dresses, their thighs flashing white as they crossed their legs beneath the table during meals - but they had little grace. Augusta’s spine was solid; she never twisted her hands nervously or toyed with the ends of her hair. She did not giggle at the orderlies and tutors, the ones proclaimed the most desirable during whispered bedtime conversations. As far as anyone could remember, she had never skinned her knee or fallen clumsily because, in a hurry, she had missed a step going down the stairs.
At eighteen, she possessed a self-awareness that was disarming. Watching her was like watching a complicated waltz – every simple gesture was intended to have a purpose, an effect. She chose her words carefully when she spoke, as though lingering on the flavor of them in her mouth, refusing to share until she was sure of her intent. Because of this her tutors thought her calculated, determined. Smart as a whip and highly ambitious. Outwardly, they commented on her beauty, and their regular reports to her father downplayed her studiousness.
In contrast, Harrow’s reports highlighted only his finest qualities: his fortitude, his rapier wit, his unabashed dignity, and his dedication. The best of all the pupils. He was surely born predisposed to such magnificence; his talents were natural, for he had never applied himself outside of making demands and barking orders. His temper could be pacified, quelled. His tendency to lash out, verbally and physically, was only the markings of a passionate spirit. He could not be contained; he was so thoroughly capable of inspiring respect from his peers that it was obvious he was fit to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Whatever stains marked Harrow’s history, whatever cruelty he forced onto others, went unrecorded. There was a silence surrounding his growth that was suffocating, so thick that it became palpable.
Augusta wrote her father weekly, her handwriting small and militant, but she never spoke of her brother. The day they discovered he had stripped one of the maids and bound her to his wrought iron headboard, Augusta described, in detail, the lavish dinner the staff had prepared in honor of her engagement. Harrow had given her a pocket watch, ornate and silver and decidedly masculine, under the pretense that it would help her remember him. He presented it with a smile, his thin mouth incapable of hiding his amusement, and a hastily scrawled note that read, Time is not fortunate to all. Congratulations on your engagement.
He was sixteen and taller than she was, but she could remember him as a boy. His eyes had not changed much, and he had always been slender, but he had inherited his father’s height. His father’s powerful stance. There was not an ounce of his mother in him. As children, they had studied their bodies together, gazing side-by-side at their reflections in mirrors. She could always find Maximus in him – his oddly weak mouth, the cut of his strong jaw, the way he drew his eyebrows together when irritated – but neither of them could find their father in her. If it weren’t for her eyes, an unusual shade of red-brown, and the simply public knowledge at the time that her mother had been Maximus’ partner, Augusta would have been dismissed and forgotten entirely.
If she was remembered now, it was because of her doing. The engagement, as she saw it, had been an unfortunate side effect.
She had avoided marriage for years. The eldest of his children, female or not, she had been something of a test. Most of the generals and commanders sent their children to boarding school – designated smaller compounds littered with offspring, run by dutiful tutors and a house staff. It was not unusual for siblings to be sent to the same school; in fact, it was encouraged. Maximus, forever desirable and just as equally unattainable, had chosen the same path for his daughter. See? His actions said. I am not unlike my own men. I too understand the burden of responsibility.
If he came to lavish attention upon her, it was unbeknownst to others. She learned quickly not to cling to his leg, to wait patiently for his attention, to speak only after being acknowledged. Still … she could remember the smell of him when she was six years old, how she had buried her head into his shoulder, and he had rocked her on his lap. His breath smelled funny, sweet and earthy, and the smoke from his cigar had caused her eyes to burn, but he let her wrap her small fingers around the ends of his greying hair. He kept it short now, but she had been fascinated by the color of it then, how it glinted silver in the light of the fire.
If she was especially patient, if she did not ask for his attention, he would tell her stories about her mother. Now, she realizes his kindness was only the result of the whiskey he drank, and he had been more prone to nostalgia as a youth. But she grew up clinging to the images her father spun for her – trying desperately to imagine how her mother smelled, the feel of her hair, the sound of her laughter.
She came to understand that she was a phantom of another woman, a ghost, and this troubled him.
Maybe, secretly, Maximus had never proposed the idea of marriage for that reason. He only responded to every third letter she sent, but over time his responses had gradually changed from single sentences to full paragraphs to entire pages. He did not wax poetic or linger with praises. Their correspondence consisted of the bare skeleton of a relationship, but Augusta read closely between the lines. Every comma revealed his hesitancy. Every smudge of ink showed his desperation. He could not endure her because of who she reminded him of. His terse writing was the expression of his anguish. In this way, she learned how to fancy herself special. She built fantasy after fantasy. Yes, there were other children, and there were always other women, but she was her mother’s daughter. Her mother, whom no one would discuss. Her mother, whose past existed now only in the occasional rumor and the gossip that had been diluted through the years. Her mother, whose death had been sudden and violent.
Harrow believed differently.

It was her last night at the compound and because of this she had been expecting him to visit her. When he appeared at her door, draping his body against the frame, she barely looked up.
“He only claimed you because he felt obligated.” Never one for introductions, Harrow went straight for the kill. He was still learning the art of patience.
Smiling, her voice was playful. “He has many obligations.”
“Some more important than others.”
“Is this how you tell me that you’ll miss me?”
Harrow laughed, short and humorless. He stepped into her room, running his palm across the length of the wall, trailing his fingers over the top of her dresser. He had a habit of touching things, silently marking his territory. She shifted on top of her bed, drew her knees up to her chest in a gesture of protection, and waited.
There was one suitcase open by her feet. All of her belongings were packed neatly inside, folded into crisp rectangles and squares. Augusta was the oldest female at the compound. Most were married off by sixteen, dismissed as early as possible. Political bargaining tools. Her situation had not been different, just delayed. Harrow glanced, uninterested, at the meager items of her life before leveling his gaze at her, his footsteps circling closer. When he stopped at the foot of her bed, he wrapped his fingers around the ornate frame. It was the same wrought iron design as his. “Close the door, Augusta.”
She arched an eyebrow. It was not the order itself that worried her – Harrow had a tendency of never asking – but the threat of seclusion. Her predator of a brother sensed fear, so she moved slowly, stretching her arms above her head, splaying her fingers in the air, displaying her ease before climbing from the bed. The cotton of her dress fell against her thighs as she moved, and she ignored the feel of his eyes on her body as she passed him. “Did you have another nightmare, are you looking for a warm bed?” She teased him, still playful, and closed the door to punctuate her question.
Augusta pressed her back to the wood, folding her hands behind her, her fingers close to the cool metal of the knob. This position forced him to turn to acknowledge her. Harrow’s sharp movements suggested his resentment. If he had arrived with a plan, it was not going accordingly. He turned, keeping a hand on the bedframe, and glowered at her.
“Didn’t father buy you a swan? I hear those beasts run hot. You can find your warmth there.”
“And what of you? What did he buy for your bed?”
“A husband, by the looks of it.”
Harrow laughed again, the same humorless sound. It struck her like a knife, and she winced around the eyes. “I pity the poor man. Do you even know what is expected of you? Do you imagine lying with your legs open tomorrow will be enough to satisfy him? Father and I discussed this. We thought a girl of your temperament would need a heavy-handed man. You’ve been left … unbridled for too long. It has gone to your head. You’ll need to do more than breathe.”
“Not all of us have had as much practice with the maids, but I think I can manage. Your concern is quite touching, you know.”
“Ah, but there was that one man, yes? Your old tutor. How old were you? Sixteen?” His voice lowered to a murmur, like they were children still, conspirators together once more.
Gracefully, he moved forward, pushing into her space. When he was close enough to touch her, he caught her chin in his fingers, forcing her face up so that she could meet his eyes. For a moment, he studied her, the sharp cheekbones and the full bottom lip, then he leaned in, turning his face into her hair, smelling the sweat of her skin, the scent of her perfume. He felt her breathing, the rhythm of it, and the heat of her body as he dragged his large hand from her chin, down her neck, across her shoulder, to grip her elbow.
“You can tell me,” He whispered into the shell of her ear, his voice warm, tinged with the scent of whiskey.
Augusta thought of her father, and she pushed the hand of her free arm against his chest, defiant. “There is nothing to tell.”
“Do you think it matters to him? Your soon-to-be husband? If you are a whore? You would only be acknowledging your true colors. Show me a woman who is valued for anything other than that gash between her legs, and I will show you a fraud.” He was growling, like an instigated beast, and his fingers dug painfully into the crook of her elbow.
It was her turn to laugh, only hers was loud and amused, and she turned her face towards his, her dark eyes taunting – accusing. The hand on his chest stopped pushing, and her fingers twisted into the collar of his jacket, pulling him closer so that she could arch into his body. His leanness was deceptive, hiding the muscle and strength she could feel beneath his suit. “Do you want to fuck me, Harrow? So you can claim me first? Do you want to teach me how a proper woman handles a cock?”
It was the laughter that infuriated him – Augusta could tell by the way his eyes widened, by how his mouth tensed with anger. She had laughed at him, and the embarrassment of being scrutinized, of being lain so open and bare before her, made him flush red. He caught a fistful of her hair, his fingers tangling into the thick strands, and pulled her head back taught. Her grimace of pain pleased him, but when she laughed again he struck her across the mouth, an open-palmed slap that resounded sharply in the room. “Stop that! Stop laughing at me! You’re nothing, you cannot laugh at me!”
He sounded like a petulant child, a boy throwing a temper tantrum, and even though her mouth stung Augusta laughed again. It was too funny. When he hit her a second time, still craning her neck back by the hold he had on her hair, she spit in his face. The three seconds it took for him to recover from his shock allowed her enough time to shove him back, to force him away, and she fumbled for the doorknob. His fury sounded like the roar of a wounded lion; he caught her by the hair again, pulling her back, and their bodies tangled together as they fought. She scratched her nails across his cheek, split his lip by shoving the heel of her palm against his mouth, but he twisted her arm behind her so painfully that she felt it might break. By the time he managed to press her against the bedframe, pushing her down by the waist, they were both panting. She was as tight as a bow, the tension in her body tangible when he kicked her feet apart and felt beneath her dress, tearing at the slip of cotton between her legs.
She could feel the wetness of his mouth against her ear as he pushed against her from behind, his fingers digging into the skin at her hip, but it was the sheer coldness of his voice that sent a tremor down her spine. “I will teach you as I taught Ita. You are mine if I will it so. Father had to teach your mother too, I know.”
Augusta heard the snap of his pants opening, felt the hard length of him against the backs of her thighs, a stark contrast to the icy iron digging into her stomach.
She was stifling a cry when a voice from the doorway yelled her brother’s name.


When they were presented to Maximus, the remnants of tears clung to her eyelashes. Harrow’s mouth was swollen and his suit wrinkled. There were red lines across his face. Augusta’s hands did not tremble and her posture was still steel. Only her eyes betrayed her, dark and furious, holding all the threat of a storm.
Maximus was taller than them both. His suit was the charcoal color of ashes, and it brought out the gray of his hair. With the fire lit behind him, his shadow cast a wide berth.
He swallowed loudly from his glass of whiskey before speaking, his voice deeper than his son’s. “I do not like disturbances between my children. This was a celebratory night, and now the mood has been ruined by your pettiness. Is this how I raised you to behave?”
Harrow opened his mouth to speak, but Maximus silenced him with a glance. Beside him, Augusta could feel his pride curdle.
“Come here, girl. Let me look at you.”
She approached slowly, her steps small, but she lifted her eyes and searched her father’s gaze for any measure of emotion. Maximus pressed his fingers beneath her chin, tilting her face up for the second time that night, and inspected the bruise across the corner of her lips. She closed her eyes when he brushed his thumb across her eyelashes, smearing away the evidence of her weakness. “There now, no harm done.” He pushed back her hair and dropped his hand. “What did you learn? Look at me when you answer me.”
Augusta weighed the words on her tongue, tasting their bitterness, and she could not speak.
More sternly, her father took her chin once more, directing her focus. “…What did you learn?”
When she would not speak, he made a noise of disappointment, a grumble from deep within his chest. He dropped his hand, dismissing her with a gesture, and turned to the fire. “Harrow? The lesson.”
Harrow’s smile spread across his split mouth, saccharine sweet. “She will have to do better than that tomorrow night.”



-



So, this went a totally different direction from what I had planned when I began writing this scene. Things I was trying to establish: Harrow’s entitlement and Maximus’ favoritism because Harrow is his first male heir, while Augusta is more deserving due to her qualities (but not because of her gender). Harrow’s need to control and claim – his superiority and authority and also how utterly ridiculous and weak he can be, even as a teenager (since the Harrow we know now is easily provoked and kind of mess? Since he’s always drinking in my pieces. Ha.).

I love ambiguity, but I don’t think I’ve quite mastered it. As far as the rape scene goes, I wanted to imply that a) it happened or b) it almost happened – I think this depends on how crazy (for lack of a better term) we (Muffin, that’s you too) want Harrow to be. He’s so power hungry and he’s constantly trying to proclaim that he’s the best, so I wouldn’t put it past him to rape his half-sister in a moment of anger, as mark of how uncontrollable he can be. Buuuut I don’t know if I want that type of history looming between them? As far as the last line goes, I was trying to be cheeky. What does she have to be better at? Fucking? Or fighting/defending herself?

Yup.

Woo – 5 pages of writing! I feel accomplished.