Calloused Caretaker

Hello!

This week we will continue to ride the angst train until I figure out a way to resolve Niklaus and Ariella’s problems. For now, enjoy the suffering of one of my favorite couples.

Today’s post comes courtesy of Our Write Side’s Master Class Monday prompt series. For this one, I picked the “Calloused caretaker” prompt. Nothing better for a broken heart than to have a tough parent rub salt into the wound.

Here we go!

~~~

It’s only been a week since Soren brought me home (is it really home? I’m not sure anymore). I’ve yet to adjust to regular human hours again, and I don’t think I can. The few hours I do spend awake that overlap with the others at home have been filled with a combination of pitying glances (from my father) and annoyed looks (from my stepmother).

They think I don’t notice, but it’s kind of hard not to, when it’s all I see before they retreat for the evening or before I turn in for the day. My father, to my relief, has allowed me to adjust on my own. He’s giving me all the time I need to come to terms with what’s happened. The same can’t be said about my stepmother. Always the pragmatist, she constantly brings up how I should be pulling my weight around the house.

Tonight is no different.

“Honestly, Ariella, all this moping is getting old.” I’m doing my best not to lash out at her – after all, she is my dad’s wife and commands some of my respect. Not to mention that I know her annoyance with me comes from a place of caring – she’s not heartless. And, to an extent, I do understand where she’s coming from. This is getting me nowhere but I can’t bring myself to do anything about it. “You should be glad to be rid of the leeches.”

Funny, I once would have called them leeches, too. They were monsters in a faraway castle back then. “I know. I’m sorry.”

It’s the first time I’ve responded to her reprimands, and this seems to catch her off-guard. Even so, it’s not enough to get her to stop. “Then start acting like it.”

She dumps my crossbow (I hadn’t even noticed that Nadya thought to include it in my things) and some hunting gear on the table in front of me.

“What’s this?”

“I need you to go out and gather some things for me, herbs mostly.”

“I’m not supposed to be interacting with the rest of the village…” According to Soren, Niklaus (I try not to grit my teeth at the thought of his name – I fail) thinks it best so as to reduce the chances of the council finding out – it annoys me that I agree. Not to mention that they’re almost all closing up shop by now anyway.

“I don’t need you to go to the shops.” She rummages for a sheet of parchment in her apron and hands it to me. “You can find the herbs in the forest. And maybe catch us something to eat other than this dry meat from the market.” She wrinkles her nose at our supply closet.

It’s not like I can refuse – being confined to the house hasn’t exactly been helping – so I nod and retreat to my room to change. Unlike Niklaus’ clothes, my hunting outfit doesn’t need any adjusting to fit me properly. Once it’s on, I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to try hunting. I feel comfortable for the first time since getting back to the village.

“Try to be a little easier on her.” My father’s voice floats through the door. I stop what I’m doing and inch closer to hear better. “She’s clearly distraught over what happened.”

“She can’t just mope forever.  It’ll get her nowhere, and it’ll be impossible for her to move on. Really. She’s a grown woman and should be acting like it – not like a lovesick little girl.” I flinch at the ice in my stepmother’s voice. Makes me wonder if she’s ever had her heart broken. “Ariella can’t confine herself to this house forever – I don’t care what that stupid vampire says. Eventually, she’ll have to pick herself up and go to another village and start a new life. You think she’s equipped to do that now? You think she’ll ever be able to at this rate?”

Rather than let my father respond, I step out of my room. Of course, I know that’s what I’ll have to do, but it doesn’t hurt any less hearing her say it like it should be the easiest thing in the world. The tension in the room is palpable, and I avoid both their gazes, keeping my head down and gathering my things. Neither of them say anything, even though I can feel my father’s need to apologize and my stepmother’s urge to drive her point home.I sling the crossbow over my shoulder and put on my cloak.

“I’ll be back by dawn.”

Holding the sheet of paper tight in one hand, I shove the back door with more force than I need to, slamming it open before disappearing into the night.

~~~

So I’m finally starting to get an idea of what may or may not bring her back in contact with the vamps. We’ll see. Feel free to leave comments/feedback/suggestions on where you want the story to go! I’m always all ears 🙂

As always, think happy thoughts!

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2 thoughts on “Calloused Caretaker

  1. This is a good story this far. I can relate to the theme of change, which is done quite well. The one issue I have is what Ariella’s stepmother says: that Ariella’s mopes around a lot. I would like her to be a little assertive. Not everyone likes their step-parents. I would like to see more of the tension between them.

    Liked by 1 person

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