The entire building was chaotic when Nadine made her way in through the back entrance. Flurries of gossiping neighbors and movement filled the halls that were normally barren at the dead of night. Though she couldn’t make out everything that was being said, she heard “the princess” enough times to decide that she shouldn’t be seen. She curled into a sitting position on the floor of the darkened storage room to think. Soon she heard voices she recognized come closer, and the door opened. Nadine made a hasty move out of the direct line of sight of the door, but watched Jack’s friends enter, each with a sack or two in tow, heading for the back door. Along with them came jeers and a couple “Good riddance” remarks from the crowd in the hall. Once the door closed, Nadine moved toward them. “What’s happening?” she asked. “Where’s Jack?”
Cathy turned and glared at her. “Oh, it’s you.” The last word dripped with venom.
Charles turned answered Nadine’s question. “Jack’s gone. Likely for good.”
“And it’s all because you of you, I’m betting.” Cathy spat. She put down her sack and marched up to Nadine. She clenched a fist and raised it, but when Nadine shrank back she noticed the just visible bump of Nadine’s belly. Her eyes went back up to the necklace that Jack had given to the princess. She pointed at the necklace. “You don’t deserve to wear that. Hand it over.”
Nadine complied, her hands shaking. Whether they shook from fear or her attempt to not cry was anyone’s guess. “I’m sorry, she murmured. “I know I didn’t come back when I said I would.”
Cathy just scoffed and spat on the ground in front of Nadine. She went back to her sack and tossed the necklace in, then hefted the bag over her shoulder and marched out of the room. The other two gave the princess one last look before following behind. The door hadn’t closed behind them before the flood of tears began, and Nadine was left sobbing in the dark.
Cathy tromped down the stairs. Every step was punctuated by the sound of metal on wood, crating a measured rhythm between the two sources.
“I swear you want to be caught, what with all the noise you make,” she said.
Jack grunted as he struck the pillar again. The old wooden post had been his fighting partner for the past week, now that he was standing and walking without the cane. Every time Cathy had come down lately he was either fencing or doing some other physical exercise. “I’d just be trading one cell for another.”
That made Cathy stop. She took a deep breath and put on a smile. Then she rounded the landing and bustled directly through Jack’s path and said, “Well then I have good news. We’re skipping town.”
Jack stopped. “What? Where?”
“Charlese bought a farm out in the country with some of that money from the sale of his whos-a-whatsit. We’re moving there, to the fresh air and away from this mess you’ve made.” She was tossing things haphazardly into crates as she talked, making a show of packing while not getting much actually done. “They’ll be bringing some carts for the boxes and a coach for us tomorrow, so let’s get all packed up and ready as soon as possible.” She circled back around very matter-of-factly and bounded back up the stairs.
And that was that.
With everyone’s help, they were almost done by the time the carts started arriving.