The Rebellious Slave Ch. 12byHisPet21©
Author's Note: The "Tale of Arlington" comes in multiple parts. They will not be posted back-to-back, but sprinkled in among other chapters as appropriate. Furthermore, they will not be posted in sequential order, except in certain circumstances. As you read, please keep in mind that people change over the years, and that the Arlington depicted in one part of the story may appear different from the Arlington described in another. But the reason for his transformation should be known by the story's end. Remember, there is always a reason for a man to become a monster. It is up to you to decide if Arlington's reasons are good enough.
"I thought we'd already had this conversation," Arlington drawled, as he cut into the marvelously seasoned steak before him. Bremmel had hired an excellent cook, and Arlington reminded himself to thank the butler for his recommendation. But right now, he needed to deal with Maria, and he hoped their conversation wouldn't last too long. After all, Arlington was under the impression that Maria had agreed to his demands long ago. Hopefully, she only needed a reminder of her promise, and then they could get back to their pleasant evening. "You need to quit," he told her. "And I'm not asking you. I am telling you."
But Maria wouldn't have it. Lord Arlington could see the resistance in her eyes. She intended to break her promise, and for some strange reason, she expected Arlington to accept that fact. Well then, she would be in for quite a surprise, wouldn't she? Arlington had no patience for liars, and Maria would come to realize that soon enough. Arlington would not be manipulated, and if Maria had to find that out the hard way, then so be it. Their relationship had, after all, turned sour months ago. What was one more upset, or one more fight?
"With all due respect, you cannot tell me what to do!" Maria cried vehemently, her voice challenging. But when she did not get a rise out of Lord Arlington, Maria turned to more sinister tactics. "After all," she hissed, "his lordship doesn't rule the entire world. At least, not yet." She intentionally used his title, and she uttered it with more than a hint of sarcasm. Maria knew it bothered Arlington immensely, and she wanted to get under the man's skin, so as to watch him squirm. She wanted to watch the hurt enter into Arlington's eyes, and then turn stagnant.
Arlington had told Maria on several occasions not to address him by his formal title, at least not when it was just the two of them. For he was still a young lord, and the designation made him uncomfortable. Of course, he'd had many other appellations over the years. But "my lord" and "Lord Arlington" were still bizarre forms of address, foreign to his ears. Being placed so highly upon a pedestal was intimidating, and made Arlington feel distant from the rest of humanity. He wanted to feel closer to the earth, when it was just himself and Maria. And, more than anything else, he wanted to feel closer to Maria. But how could he, when she used that title to separate them, as if they belonged to two different worlds? Hadn't he been kind to Maria? Hadn't he, in spite of his new position, been more than accommodating?
But in spite of all this, Maria continued to use Lord Arlington's title against him. In fact, the sinister dig seemed to crop up in every argument the pair had, for it was the only trick that consistently drew a reaction, and this time was no exception. As always, upon hearing the hurtful words and the manner of their delivery, Arlington could feel a pang coiling up through him and stabbing at his soft center, which was normally well protected. Still, you had to know Lord Arlington to realize that the subtle insult had made an impression. For there was no change in his facial expression nor his posture. And Lord Arlington remained silent, so that his tone would not give him away. But his eyes most definitely darkened, and Maria smiled cruelly, satisfied that her words had hit their intended target. Unlike most of Arlington's previous lovers, Maria didn't mind poking the lion. Perhaps that was why she had lasted so much longer than the others.
"I don't think I am being unreasonable," Arlington told Maria, and there was a tremor of anger in his voice, which had somehow slipped past his usually calm facade. Maria ought to have become wary then, for Lord Arlington very rarely showed any hint of wrath, and when he did, the situation was always serious. After many years under Master Greyson, the young lord had become an inherently calm person. Any hint of vexation was just a symptom of a much more potent rage boiling beneath Arlington's breast. "You can't just run off and do whatever you damn well please, Maria. And I am dead serious. Not when you're in a committed relationship. And I was under the impression that we had one of those." And Arlington stared Maria down, his eyebrows raised and questioning. But when she didn't respond, Arlington turned away and stared into the half eaten food before him, now cold and unsavory. Ruined.
"How mature," Maria spat, her tone livid. "So, you're ignoring me now, are you? Escaping into those mashed potatoes? Well, listen here, my lord. I won't let you bully me out of this decision. It is my decision to make, and you should know that. We've been dating nearly a year." Maria's voice had leveled out now, turning somber and cold, so that it juxtaposed starkly with the blaze behind her violet eyes. Quickly, Maria stood to her feet with an aura of confidence, pushed away from the dining room table, and glared down at Lord Arlington, her lips tight. And though she tried to keep still, Maria's body rippled like an angry cat's, the muscles beneath her navy blue evening gown flexing furiously. "You knew, when we first started dating, that this was the path I wanted to take. It isn't fair.You can't play dumb now, just because you've become attached to me."
And with that, Lord Arlington cracked. He was done with Maria, and her selfish attitude. Shouldn't Arlington, as Maria's boyfriend, have a say in how she lived her life? Shouldn't he be allowed a legitimate interest in her activities? Why wouldn't the woman give him any decision making power? Arlington was no fool, and if given the chance, he would surely guide their relationship with both responsibility and vigor. He would ensure that, at the end of each day, the couple came home satisfied and happy. But, perhaps, Maria didn't see it that way...
And ever so slowly, a thought crept into Arlington's mind, and it occurred to him that he was wasting his time with Maria. Perhaps Maria was right, and Arlington was just now becoming attached to her. Perhaps he had become too attached, and it was time to sever the bond between them. If Maria didn't want Arlington's guidance, then Arlington would abide by her wishes and withdraw his direction altogether.
"Attached? To you?" Arlington hissed, a cynical smile lighting up his face. "Maria, I don't think you get it. I can have any woman I want. Any woman at all. And while I am attached to you now, do not fool yourself into thinking that such an arrangement is necessarily permanent. I'm done tolerating irrationality in my life, and I can sever the tie between us in an instant, if I have to. And I would never look back." He kept his features still and serious as he spoke. He needed Maria to realize that this was a deal breaker. That after this evening, whatever she chose, there was no going back.
The words had their intended effect, for there were suddenly tears in Maria's eyes. Arlington had always loved that about her; Maria could shift through emotions so readily, like a chameleon. Blinking furiously, she tried to hold the tears back, but a few tiny droplets freed themselves of her dark lashes and trailed down her cheeks. Maria looked absolutely miserable, but Arlington reminded himself that she deserved it. "But, David," she began, trying to appeal to his softer side, using his first name to ensure a more personal connection. "Please, don't make me choose. God, don't make me choose. It isn't fair, and you know it isn't. I've seen the changes you've made, over the past year. And you've finally broken past your father's monstrous---"
But Arlington interrupted Maria, holding up his hand for silence. He would not allow her to talk to him like that, in such a patronizing tone, especially when she knew nothing of his past nor the reason for his recent transformation. Maria knew nothing about him. She knew nothing at all. Arlington had made sure of that. "You will not finish that sentence," he told her sinisterly, his voice a mere whisper. But one could not find a whisper more forceful nor pronounced. "You will not insult my father in my presence, Maria. I swear that if you do, we are over. Do I make myself clear?"
And, knowing she had crossed a line, Maria fell silent.
"I asked you a question," Arlington hissed, and he hit the dining room table with his fist, so that Maria jumped a little where she stood. Rage etched into his features, Arlington rose to his full height, the embodiment of distilled power. "Do I make myself clear, Maria?"
And this time, he did not mind when she used his title. "Yes, my lord," Maria whispered, and sat back down in her seat.
For a moment, the couple stared at each other in silence, with Maria sitting down and Arlington on his feet. The only sound to be had was the ventilator shaft, as it blew cool air into the room. And, finally, Arlington sighed into the palm of his hand, exasperated. "I don't understand why you won't view this situation from my perspective," Lord Arlington told her, his voice finally evening out. "But if I had to guess, I'd say it is because my opinions don't matter to you. And what is important to me doesn't seem to be important to you."
Then, sitting back down in his seat, Arlington cleared his throat, intending to present Maria with an ultimatum. For better or for worse, he wanted the direction of their relationship to be decided upon, and he wanted to know if, in the morning, there would be any relationship at all. Arlington hated to be in limbo like this, and he would not spend another day existing in the realm of uncertainty.
"I don't want a corpse for a girlfriend," Arlington told Maria and, for a moment, there was gentleness in his eyes, which deepened into an intense sadness. The look juxtaposed starkly with Arlington's normally coarse features, and Maria noticed. The contrast worried her.
"Resign from the Academy of Naval Engineers," Arlington insisted, his voice cold and deathly serious. "Or get out of my house." And with that, Maria opened her mouth as if to speak, but Arlington silenced her with a look that chilled to the bone. His features revealed that he would tolerate no argument, and that the ultimatum was not up for discussion. He would not budge, and Maria knew it. "If you decide to leave," Arlington continued, "then I will not be wanting you back. Not for any reason. Not ever. If you leave tonight, you will no longer be welcome in my home." And Arlington meant it. Maria could hear it in his voice, even if she didn't understand the reason for his tone.
There was a horrible silence then, which extended between the pair like an ever widening canyon, separating them. And then, even before Maria spoke, Arlington knew the decision she would make. He was good at reading minds, and Maria's face was as open to him as the pages of a book. She was going to leave him. And Arlington thought he was okay with that. He was even a little bit relieved. Maria wasn't good for him, and he wasn't good for Maria. That had become apparent over the past few months, and even more so over the course of the past hour. If they had to part ways, better now than later.
"Fine," Maria told Arlington, trembling where she sat. And though her voice was determined and serious, her eyes were soft and filled with hope. For a few painful moments, Maria waited for Arlington to protest against her response. Ever patient, Maria waited for him to change his mind and beg for forgiveness. Better yet, Maria prayed that Arlington would suddenly cross the room and hold her close. She wanted to hear his sultry voice, promising to support her, no matter what path she chose to take. Maria wanted to be loved no matter what, even if she decided to risk her life as a Naval Engineer.
But Arlington remained where he was, impassive. As the seconds ticked by, separating the couple ever further, Arlington watched the inevitable realizations slowly cross over Maria's face and settle into her features, hardening them. Finally, she understood. And Maria got up from the table, her face revealing hurt, then anger, and lastly, fury. But most prominent of all, Arlington could see the defeat in her eyes. And Maria hated to lose.
Her features tight, Maria began to pack up her purse, her actions frantic and disorganized. She tried to contain her wrath, to assume the same cool Arlington embraced, but was unsuccessful. Maria's hands gave her away, trembling as she shoved her phone and her handkerchief into the pocket of her purse. She was quick in her movements, trying to escape Arlington and his manor as quickly as she was able, so that he wouldn't notice the humiliation burning through her cheeks. But as Maria zipped her handbag shut, the pull tab got caught, trapping her for another agonizing moment at the dining room table. And that was when Maria lost it, as she struggled to get her damned handbag closed. In a sudden burst of anger, she pushed her dinner and the dishes underneath onto the floor, watching as the porcelain shattered. And with that, she was storming off toward the front door, her face red and very unladylike.
But before she left, Maria turned toward Lord Arlington one last time. Of course, Arlington had known that she would. He had expected it, even. Maria had always wanted the last word. It didn't matter what they were fighting about or why; Maria always had to be the last one to give an opinion. And if the last word really meant so much to Maria, the woman could have it. Arlington couldn't care less how their relationship ended, as long as it did end.
"You're a coward, you know," Maria told Arlington, her voice filled with anger and betrayal. "You politicians are all alike. You're all control freaks, every last one of you!" And she raised her voice, so that it was almost a scream. "You can't handle free women, none of you can! You can't handle a woman who can tell you "no," and leave whenever she likes, and then call the police if you won't let her. I know that now, and I should have realized it a lot sooner!"
There were angry tears now, ruining Maria's expensive make-up, darkening the skin under her eyes. The smears made Maria look unbearably ugly, and Arlington winced. "Remember when you took me to that horrible woman's dinner party?" Maria continued, squaring off. "Wasn't Charlotte her name? And every politician there, ever last one, had a slave, instead of a partner. That's not a coincidence, David! It's a culture, and it's sick! And after that night, I knew that you would become just like your father. A coward at heart, and a crook by profession." Because if their relationship was truly over, why not insult Arlington Senior before leaving? Maria had always wanted to dig into the horrible old man, but David had never let her, always stopping her mid-sentence and sometimes even mid-thought. It gave Maria the creeps, to realize that she had dated a mind reader for so long.
And with that, Maria picked up her skirts and ran for the doorway, slamming it shut behind her as she raced off into the night. She'd left a tube of lipstick behind, but Arlington knew she wouldn't be coming back for it. He had told her to leave, and she would faithfully obey. Good riddance.
For a moment, Lord Arlington sat in silence, toying with his dinner. It was too cold to eat, and Arlington despised food that had to be reheated. As a wealthy man and the recently elected Fourth Lord of Isleydor, he could afford the luxury of being picky and wasteful. So, he continued to poke at his dinner, thinking back on Maria's words and contemplating the nature of his nonexistent love life. Though, to be honest, Arlington hadn't really enjoyed being in a relationship. At least not with Maria, nor the five or so women he'd dated before her. After all, he had only dated free women, against his father's advice, in some strange attempt at normalcy. Which, Arlington thought, had been doomed to failure from the start. Normalcy? In this day and age? The idea was laughable.
And Arlington wondered, as he sat alone, if now was such a bad time to buy a slave, after all. He'd been putting it off for a while, and he'd had good reasons for doing so, but perhaps the exercise would be cathartic, healing even. If he could overcome this one last obstacle, maybe he could bury Arilyn's memory in the darker regions of his mind, putting her to rest once and for all. Besides, Arlington's father had been harassing him to buy a slave for the last several months, and not without good reason. There were the political advantages to consider. And there was also a very real, very well regarded culture of slavery in Isleydor. Therefore, Arlington's lack of a slave was suspicious and, in some venues, even frowned upon. He'd even been teased about it at important meetings of the legislature, and once at a diplomat's birthday party.
Arlington had to admit that, growing up, he had been surrounded by his father's harem for a reason. At a very young age, he had learned that all high ranking politicians owned a slave or two. In fact, during the the past fifty years, owning a slave had become a part of Isleydor's political tradition. And if Arlington wanted to join the ranks of the greats, he would need a girl curled up by his feet. This was especially imperative since, in less than three weeks, Arlington would undergo the last of his Re-Evaluations. If it went well, Arlington's position as Isleydor's Fourth Lord would become a permanent arrangement. And, if not, a nationwide re-election would be instituted. Perhaps, even, to Arlington's detriment. After all, he wasn't the only person pinning for the position of Fourth Lord. Certainly, Arlington thought, owning a slave couldn't hurt his Re-Evaluation. But not owning one could appear overly prudish, or even judgmental. And with Maria gone, there was no longer any reason for Arlington to resist the time honored ritual of purchasing a pleasure slave.
"Bremmel," Arlington called, and the little man entered the dining room with a bow, dutiful as ever. "Have tonight's driver bring the car around. I want to go to Candato's Slave Market, at the center of Capital City." And Arlington stood from his seat to go get dressed for the evening. But when he turned to go upstairs, the butler had not yet left, leaving his master's orders unfulfilled. "Trouble hearing, Bremmel?" Arlington asked, his voice still on edge from the recent argument. But Bremmel shook his head.
"My lord," the butler ventured, clearly nervous. "Are you really sure you want a slave girl? Maybe you should wait and cool down a little first. You know, just to make sure this isn't the result of a poorly handled temper tantrum. What if you decide you want Maria back?" But the look in Arlington's eyes was ice cold, and Bremmel shut up immediately, swallowing hard.
"Go and get the driver," Arlington hissed, his voice clipped. And with that, he headed upstairs, to change out of his dining clothes and into something more appropriate for the West Shopping District. Candato's Slave Market wouldn't be closing for a while yet, so Lord Arlington had time. Perhaps he would stop by his favorite bakery on the way home, and buy his new slave something sweet. Hopefully, this next venture would start out on a better footing than the last one had.