The Death of Three Birds: A Short Story
Eighteen-year-old Kailey Thornbury dashed into the front parlor of her home in London to get the good news of Jasmine's engagement to William Frakes.
As she entered the archway leading into the parlor, her older sister came dashing out, kerchief in hand, filling the insensitive fabric with the iciness of her hot tears. Kailey could do nothing but stare in bewilderment at William.
"Mr. Frakes," she began. "Whatever is the matter with Jasmine?"
"I know not," he replied, starting to leave.
Kailey put a hand on Mr. Frakes to stop his movement. They stared at each other for a second as Kailey read the matter in his face.
"I presumed..." Kailey began, "that is, both my sister and I presumed a very different outcome to your visit."
"I do not know what led her to such a nonsensical presumption...nor you. I simply confided my intentions in her."
"Intentions we supposed meant for her." Kailey began to seethe as William looked away. "My sister gave up her affections freely. What did you think was her demeanor these three months past?"
Mr. Frakes looked down at Kailey. "One of simple friendship. The confidence of one to a confidence of another and no more."
"No, sir," Kailey snapped, her anger forcing her to pull back on William's arm. He turned completely toward her and they stood face to face like two cockerels in a ring. "This is 1812, sir. One does not reach into a lady's sacred place and tear her heart out. The days of scoundrels and rakes are long past. My sister loves you, and you gave ample reason for us to expect the same of you."
"So, that is the heart of the matter. I have not the foggiest what gave neither her nor you that impression. We were only friends. I ask you, did I utter any words of love, or make any articulation stained with the hint of matrimony?"
"Not with words, sir, but in every other intercourse of manner, gesture, and decorum." Kailey could imagine her sister upstairs in her room spilling her heart out in disappointment to the gods and goddesses of love.
"Then she misread them with foolish naïve observation." William started for the archway that led into the hall of the Thornbury residence. Kailey grabbed hold of William's arm and stopped him again. He glared down at her this time, his patience melting like an ice cream treat under an August sun.
"What do you know of matters of the heart?" William continued. "You are but eighteen. Four whole years your sister's junior."
"I know that it is tomfoolery to call the heart of a woman foolish."
"I called her observation foolish, not her heart."
"Would that you could know a woman's experiences, sir, and would that you could wear our hearts but for a day, then you would see the intensity of the wound you have inflicted. What, then, was the purpose of your visit if not to woo my sister's heart?"
"To give her the wonderful news of my intention to seek the affections of the fine lady Miss Gayle Daniels of St. Anne's Street. I thought to receive your sister's congratulations, now I find that she, as well as you, has been held captive by your own delusionary arts. I am mortified, to be sure."
"To be sure, sir, you will be more than mortified before I have done with you. I will be your tutor in the art of a suitor's quest, so that you may avoid inflicting misery on a gentle heart as the arrow of a callous archer inflicts on his target."
"If you think the arrow sticks, then so be it. I must away." With that, William Frakes took his leave out into the streets of London and thought the matter ended. However, it was incorrect of him to make such an assumption: for scheming minds scheme best in the decorum of revenge.
Kailey went upstairs to look in on Jasmine, and as she predicted, she found her sister sprawled across her canopied bed depositing the tears of heartbreak into her pillow. She knew her sister well enough not to disturb her, for when she was distraught, it was solitude she sought most. Kailey went down the hall to her own room to leave her sister to heal, but also to reflect on what she could perpetrate against William Frakes' meanness of heart.
Two weeks passed and Kailey arrived home as happy as a clam at high tide after doing her charity work for the poor. She bubbled in total merriment as she took the stairs to the bedchambers two at a time. When she burst into Jasmine's room, her fondest wish had been realized. Jasmine was reading a book in the window box seat, her feet propped against its far wall.
"Jasmine," Kailey squealed with delight. "You will never guess..."
Jasmine put the book down on her sister's rapid approach, sat up, and grinned happily. "What is it, Kailey?"
Kailey reached the window box and forced her sister to give her room to sit. "You will never guess what I have managed to do."
Kailey giggled at the remembrance of her mischief as Jasmine put a hand on her arm repeating, "What? What? What?"
Suddenly Kailey stopped giggling, got control of herself, and leaned against the wall of the window box seat. "I have affected your revenge on William Frakes."
Jasmine waved her hand. "Oh, that moron. I had forgotten all about him."
Kailey was so surprised by her sister's response that she very nearly choked. "How could you dismiss so easily the manner in which he broke your heart?"
"I own it was all my silly little whim." When Jasmine saw the disappointment in her sister's eyes, she thought to show a little more enthusiasm towards her. "So, what evil did you perpetrate against his person?"
Kailey got excited again. "Well, you know Sarah Brimsworth?"
"The mentally deficient girl the Brimsworths allow to run amuck round London."
Jasmine pointed a finger of recognition at Kailey. "Oh, yes. Well, she is harmless enough."
"Not any more." Kailey put a hand over her mouth and giggled incessantly.
"What do you mean?" Jasmine said, getting suspicious.
"I found her wandering and asked her to join me in the bookshop Mr. Frakes likes to frequent. I wrote a note, and when William came in, I talked her into giving it to him. Right there! In plain sight of everybody!"
Kailey hit her sister lightly on the arm expecting her to laugh at the ramifications of her clever little deed, but that was not to be the case. Instead, Jasmine got a sick look on her face, rose, and walked across the room.
"Tell me you did not do such a thing, Kailey."
Disappointed, Kailey got up. "I did do it...and I did it for you. That rake tore your heart out. Now let him keep his courtship with Miss Gayle Daniels of St. Anne's Street. The moment she finds out, she will break it off with him. Then he will realize that he should never have jilted you."
Jasmine turned around. "And what of poor Sarah Brimsworth? What of her reputation?"
Kailey took several steps toward her older sister and put her arms out questioningly. "What of her reputation? She will never marry, nor be courted. What is a reputation to a mentally deficient? Besides, after this, her father may finally decide to keep her indoors where she belongs. So, you see, sister, I have affected the death of two birds with the use of only one stone."
Jasmine burst into tears. "Oh, Kailey. How could you?" Jasmine ran to her bed and threw herself in it. Bewildered, Kailey followed with her arms out wide.
"Jasmine, that man all but asked you to marry him. He tore your heart from your chest and jumped up and down on it after dragging it through the mud and the slime. Now he will get everything he deserves."
Jasmine angrily spun around on the bed. "It is wrong to ruin his reputation on any account. Even if he did perpetrate what we originally believed, however, I have come to realize that it was all our little imaginings. He was being a friend by coming to ask for my congratulations on his courtship." She burst into harder tears. "Oh, Kailey you have done a wicked thing!"
As Jasmine sobbed with her head in her pillow, Kailey went to her, sat down, and ran her hand over her hair.
"I am sorry, Jasmine. I was only thinking of you. What's done is done. Perhaps Mr. Frakes can move to another part of London and begin again. And it certainly should not matter to Sarah, she is after all only sixteen, and..."
Jasmine sat up and turned to her sister. "You silly fool! You have more than hurt the poor girl. In her state of mind she will never be able to understand why she is being shunned."
"Perhaps in considering her age people will pass it off as a silly girlish prank."
"Oh, how could you be so cruel?" Jasmine screamed, before throwing herself in the pillow again.
The door suddenly opened, and in its frame stood their mother.
"Whatever is the fuss about?" Mrs. Thornbury inquired.
Kailey grinned at her mother wryly. "She is still grieving over Mr. Frakes."
"Oh, that," their mother dismissed. "I thought she got over that last week. Well, I am just here to tell you that I am accompanying your father to interview a new girl for the school. Please, inform the cook as to this evening's menu for me. You know what I have planned, Jasmine. We should return in a few hours."
Kailey nervously rose and went to her mother. "A new student for father's girls' school?" Kailey stood between her mother and Jasmine in hopes that it would make her mother forget about her sister's condition. "Well...that is jolly good, Mother. It has been a long time since father got a new student for his school."
"Yes, and the parents are very well off. It could mean extra financial support for the school. You see, no one wants anything to do with his daughter, however, your father has found a place in his heart for her...for the girl is not normal."
Kailey stopped breathing in hopes that she would quickly pass out. "Not normal? And would the girl's Christian name be...Sarah?"
"Why, yes it is," her mother said with surprise. "However did you know?"
In panic, Kailey grabbed her mother by the arms and shook her lightly. "Oh, Mother, please. Whatever you do, do not utter the name of Brimsworth."
"But I must," Mrs. Thornbury said, pulling herself from her daughter's grasp and giving her the evil eye, "for it is her name. Sarah Brimsworth it is indeed."
"Oh, God!" Kailey swooned as she backed away, bumped into the edge of the bed, and then toppled backwards onto it.
Mrs. Thornbury gave Kailey a good long stare. "I do not know what has gotten into my daughters, but I think an afternoon nap is in order." She turned and left the room.
Shaking her head, Jasmine just looked at her sister. "Oh, sister, it appears that you have affected the death of three birds with your careless stone."
© 2002 Copyright held by the author.