Name: Sasha Smith (@sashasmish)Genre: Historical Fantasy
New York, 1911, 17-year-old seamstress Frances Hallowell is sent to a school for witches, disguised as a tuberculosis sanitorium, after accidentally murdering her predatory boss.
The man in the bowler hat smelled distinctly of death.
His hands had been washed clean in the polluted waters of the Hudson, but still, death clung to his coat the way clouds of cheap perfume used to, in the dance halls he had visited when he was a younger man. Sour factory smoke burned his nose, but still, still, he could smell the way the boy’s last moments hung on him.
The boy did not beg.
He hated it when they begged.
The woman’s heels clicked on the cobblestones as she approached him.
“Is it done?” She asked him, narrowed eyes looking at the moon hanging low over the city.
“Did he say anything about the girl?”
“Only her name. Right before he sank.”
“Well then.” She sniffed, pulling an envelope out of her beaded handbag.
The man took it without a word. It was the middle of the night, but his work was just beginning. His brothers were waiting for him.
The woman walked away in the direction from which she came.
42 blocks away, a girl was asleep in her bed, unaware her life had just been inalterably changed.
And somewhere on a street corner in Lower Manhattan, the Sons of St. Druon felt the magic stirring.
Mr. Hues’ visits are easily the worst part of my life these days, and really, he should be proud because the competition is impressive.
The way his ham-hock face leers down at me, and how his gaze lingers on my backside when I rise from my station to get a new bolt of fabric, the way I’m expected to smile and gaze at him with adoration. It’s enough to make me want to vomit.
Mr. Hues has stopped into our dressmaking shop, his dressmaking shop, today for one of his favorite “surprise inspections.” He does this a few times a month, always under the guise of responsibility and involvement with his business ventures, but, really, he relishes the opportunity to bask in our gratitude. To remind us how much we owe him, to demand thanks for the opportunity he has provided us. Never mind that it is the twelve of us here who do all the work and ship the profits off neatly to him at the end of every week.
Mr. Hues loves to tell us not to do things by halves, to dedicate ourselves fully to all that we do. When it comes to contributing to my misery, he follows his own advice.
At least in my ice-cold apartment, when I’m driven to eating a nothing but a crusty heel of bread for dinner, I don’t have to pretend to be happy about it.
At least when I miss William so badly I fear my chest will crack open with the pain of it, I’m not forced to wear a smile on my face.