The Portrait of Isabella Simmons
Chapter 3 - Part I
1933 Moycullen, Co. Galway
Johanna brings her lips to his, silencing his pleasured moans, placing her hands firmly onto his smooth back, reaching for his firm buttocks. He smiles on climaxing, his forehead glistening in the dim hue of the oil lamp hanging from the low roof beam. Feeling his lips on hers once more, he rolls over to lie next to her, their breathing in unison. Their naked bodies, hot from their love making, rest on the warm straw, oblivious to the coolness of the spring outside. Turning on her side, she casts her eyes over his youthful tight body, a tender and eager lover. Maurice is in love with her, she has seen to that, but is he strong enough to convince his father of that fact and bring her into the noble Belfort family?
Resting her hand on his chest, Johanna caresses his right nipple, his breathing slowing. At twenty-five years of age, a life in service no longer satisfies her, nor is it what she intends to do for the rest of her life. She aspires for more. His beating heart reverberates in her ear and she places her hand on his navel, his sexual excitement fading with every moment. Since being plucked from the market place nine years ago, Johanna has answered every order and command from Mrs. Horan, the head of the kitchens of Harrington House. They fought many times, and the old woman has tried on numerous occasions to bring Johanna under her rule, but Johanna would not have it. She carries within a dark secret that no one knows, and following it, her fear of people has subsided, especially of a middle aged fat woman who thinks she is queen of the kitchen. The other girls will continue to fall under her feet not to offend her, fearful of what she might do. Yes, Mrs. Horan retaliates for non compliance, and many times Johanna endures the wrath of Mr. Kavanagh’s brutality. The marks on her back will be a constant reminder of him, but she endures it all in order to see her plan come to fruition.
Over the years, Johanna has had time to think and plan for what she thought is now possible in life. New dreams have formed within her thoughts, and she believes that she has the right as anyone to make them a reality. Despite committing an atrocity at the age of sixteen, in a twisted way, life has offered her an opportunity, and she does not and will not waste it. She has listened many times to the stories of the other hired hands of Harrington Estate and of the life that exists for those who are lucky. If it is about luck, then she will create her own. She has seen pictures of the wealthy young ladies parading their beautiful dresses while walking in Dublin city around Merrion Square with their successful husbands by their sides. There is more life out there than she was ever led to believe while on the hills of Connemara.
Johanna began making her advancements on Maurice two years earlier on reaching his sixteenth birthday. When she conceived her plan, she laid her eyes on the second son of the Belfort family, a quiet boy, unlike his older brother, Edward, who is stronger and more assertive. Being the eldest, she would never succeed in her plan with Edward. He already has an arranged marriage with the daughter of a wealthy landlord thereby succeeding in joining and expanding the land holding of the Belfort family in the region. Maurice is to inherit in his own right, and she will use him to her advantage, elevating her status within the family.
Johanna began teasing him on his sixteenth birthday, until his lustful eyes could take it no more. He desires her and fantasises about her. During the silence of the night, she would enter his room and pleasure him, his naked body eagerly aroused in response, but never fully giving her virtue to him until tonight. For the last two years, he has been under her spell.
The moments following their love making are shattered, and her thoughts are quickly replaced on hearing the stable door burst inwards. The horse in the pen beneath her scrambles to its feet in the moment of fright. Locking her gaze onto the reason for the disturbance, the silhouette of Mr. Kavanagh strikes a powerful pose in the low light with an oil lamp in his left hand and his hiking stick in the other. It could only have been Mrs. Horan who had her spies out watching.
“Mr. Kavanagh!” Maurice’s voice urgently calls out.
“What is this?” Kavanagh’s voice booms upwards to the loft of secret love making. She pulls on her dress.
“Nothing!? Does nothing require you to be without your clothes lying with one of the house hands?” he retorts, climbing the ladder. “Get your clothes on Master Belfort. You have brought enough shame on yourself and your family tonight.”
Facing her, he grabs her hair, dragging her to the side of the loft. “There’s no place for you up here! I blame the devil that rests inside you.”
She grabs the loft ladder to help soften her land as he pushes her onto the ground below.
“He can speak for himself. He’s not a child!” Johanna confronts him, standing to her feet. Within seconds, Mr. Kavanagh stands before her.
“You dare tell me what the son of our employer can or cannot do? You’re a stubborn mare, and let me remind you, that you’re nothing but a piece of dirt on the bottom of Mr. Belfort’s shoe. Perhaps I should have done something long ago to sort you out. Mrs. Horan, with her constant whining, is right about you. You don’t know your place and you never will. Only for you being a good worker, it’s what saved you over the years. Master Belfort, come down here and I’ll show you how people who don’t know their place should be treated.”
Maurice descends and stands before his father’s land steward. Johanna seizes the opportunity and flees the stable, racing towards the manor. She enters through the deserted kitchen, all the workers having retired for the night. She gravitates towards the wash room at the rear. She catches her reflection in the mirror, stopping her momentarily. Wide and wild eyes stare back. Long black hair shrouds her shoulders. The open dress reveals the top of her breasts. The coach man’s open razor calls her attention. He always leaves it at the side of the sink, much to the dislike of Mrs. Horan, who constantly reprimands him for not putting it away. Reaching for it, she picks it up, opening the blade once before folding it into its handle. Returning her attention to her reflection once more, she inhales, calming her tingling nerves pulsating through her body. She analyses her next move quickly. Should she be kicked out, her position will be worse than what she finds herself in now. The only thing that can save her is Maurice’s belief in their love. Is he strong enough to stand by her side?
Placing the razor in the pocket of her dress, she exits the house and strides towards the stable. The voices are audible from within. Kavanagh’s voice is booming reprimands at Maurice. He will be easily led, and she believes Kavanagh will be successful in opening his eyes to the situation, undoing all her hard work. She enters, stepping towards them.
“There you are!” Kavanagh faces her. “By God, I have been patient with you. I’ve put up with you for the past nine years when you disobeyed Mrs. Horan and me many times, but no more! When I first found you, I should’ve known you were trouble, but you only became worse over the years. Tonight your employment will end with the Belfort family, and by the time I’m finished with you, you’ll crawl out of this stable on your hands and knees without a stitch of clothes and everyone will see you for the common wretch of a whore you are. Every man in the village can do as he pleases with you!”
“Maurice, don’t let him speak to me like this! Tell him about our love!”
The punch hits her hard, knocking her to the floor. Blood filters into her mouth, its taste vile. Maurice’s weak protests go unheard as Kavanagh lifts her to her feet once more. With a quick hand movement, she completes the deed. She glares into the land steward’s unsuspecting eyes now reflecting the horror of the act. Shock grips his body. His hold on her loosens, placing his hands to his throat, forcing air into his body. Blood oozes from the fresh wound visible on his throat. His legs buckle, collapsing his body to the ground, reaching desperately for Maurice.
“Johanna! What have you done?” Maurice bends next to Mr. Kavanagh.
“Be the man you need to be! Tell your father what happened here and how you were trying to save me from a beating. Tell him of your love for me and we can have the life we want and be the envy of all in Moycullen.”
“My father would never accept you as my wife,” his eyes reflecting disdain for the act she has just committed before his eyes.
Johanna straightens her body. Placing her eyes on Maurice, he watches the last breaths leaving Kavanagh’s body. She realises she has little left to rescue from the current situation and her plan would fail without the support of Maurice. Without a word, she escapes the stable unknown to her young lover, racing across the fields into the chill of the spring night.
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