Maiolaine heaved one last time as her stomach emptied over the kitchen sink, she didn’t have the time to tidy up before she heard the door swinging open. She looked over, pained.
It was Mae Talisman, “You’re pregnant again, then?”
Maiolaine glanced around for an escape, “What? Ah, no.”
“There’s no point in hiding it,” Mae stepped into the room.
She was right of course, because soon enough it would be obvious. She had kept her bump hidden for the most part, though she had noticed the physician eyeing her carefully once or twice. Mae Talisman was a woman with a purpose, and lying to her was like suicide. She supposed if anyone were going to guess the truth, it would be Mae. She entertained the idea of denying it again, but Mae’s icy cold stare turned her legs to jelly.
“Yes,” she said hurriedly. “I’m pregnant.”
“You’ve been away too long for it to be Conri’s,” Mae mused.
Maiolaine nodded her head in shame, “It was a few weeks before the trial,” she choked. “I couldn’t sleep, so I spent the night in the kitchen scrubbing the floors. He wandered in, drunk.”
She blinked, remembering the drunken man stumbling into the kitchen and almost tripping over her. He had accused her of lying, and when she refused to admit it, he had begun to cry. Maiolaine had learned a long time ago to detach herself emotionally from people, but she was a servant, and just like she would have comforted Reina, she comforted the man. She offered to make him a warm drink, and to help him to bed. But the man had taken her kindness as an invitation.
“Why didn’t you scream?” Mae demanded at hearing her story. “Why didn’t you fight him off?”
Maiolaine shrugged heavily, the heaving in her stomach subsiding. “After awhile it feels as though it’s not even happening, as if I’m somewhere else.”
“That’s rape, Maiolaine.” Mae narrowed her eyes and leered, “Who was it?”
“It wasn’t rape,” Maiolaine shuddered, “I didn’t pull away or ask him to stop.”
“Because you were afraid, you’ve been brainwashed to believe something like that is perfectly acceptable, and fighting back is unacceptable.”
“It’s easier,” she closed her eyes. “If I tell you who, you must promise to keep it to yourself.” She opened her eyes to see Mae standing with her arms crossed, staring defiantly back at her. “He didn’t even remember in the morning,” she insisted. “It would tear them apart, after Rei has finally found a family.”
She watched as the defiance lessoned in Mae’s eyes, and slowly dissipated.
Mae uncrossed her arms, “This goes against everything I stand for.” She told Maiolaine, “I will promise if you agree to my terms.”
“Terms?” Maiolaine almost winced at the ferocity of Mae’s blunt business attitude.
“You won’t give this baby up,” she said plainly. “I know a well-respected merchant family looking for a nurse. I’ll handle the contract and everything so they won’t be cheating you on anything.”
It was common for servants to raise their children in the household’s of their masters, and they would often send those children to work similarly nearby when they got old enough. Maiolaine supposed it was a fair enough deal, but she wasn’t sure how she would cope emotionally.
“Are they expecting a child?” She asked tentatively, “And what about her majesty?”
“The baby will arrive any day now,” Mae replied. “And I’ve already spoken to Reina, she’s happy for you to move on.”
Maiolaine clenched her jaw. She could not leave Reina, not yet. Although the queen’s condition was slowly worsening, she wasn’t dead yet.
“I want to be with her when – when it’s time.”
Mae seemed to understand what she meant, and nodded. “I can arrange something.”
It was nice to think that she had a place in the world even after Reina, though Maiolaine had never addressed the possibility of losing Reina – and she was touched to learn that her mistress had thought of her happiness near the end.
She noticed Mae was staring at her expectantly, “Oh.” She remembered, “Juan,” she took a deep breath. “Juan Leolin.”