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Kevin G Hare

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The Baker's Secret

It all changed the day she walked into his shop.

She was such a vision of beauty from the first day he saw her, Foster often wondered what she saw in him. He, a simple baker with his own shop in Morglenn while Prisillas was a Duchess, niece to King Albor the Fourth and prominent figure of the royal family.

Granted, he was a tall and handsome man as he was told so by several of his female customers looking for signs of courtship. He kept his brown hair short and neat and the years of pounding dough gave him a lean physique. But the life of a baker with very early mornings and very long days offered little time for the comforts of a relationship. Foster loved his work. He loved the smell of fresh baked bread, the sweet aroma of delicate pastries and the smiles on the faces of his many patrons.

But the moment Prisillas entered, his world and his life took on a different meaning. She said she was in town that day looking for gowns and jewellery but noticed the crowd and had to come see for herself what the commotion was. His little bakery was filled with people, smiling and gathering, tasting a new recipe for a cream filled danish Foster had created. The Duchess entered and everything came to a sudden silence. All eyes, especially Foster’s, fell upon her but she paid no mind to any but his. He dwelled upon her soft features, auburn hair and green eyes, the way her gown wrapped her body while she walked and gave a fine impression of her exquisite form. The crowd parted and bowed to allow her passage to him.

“You have quite the busy shop here, I was motivated to see for myself what the excitement was all about,” she said.

“It’s a new recipe, m’Lady, would you care to try?” Foster offered.

Something in her eyes, he was lost in them when she bowed her head slightly and looked at him, offering the slightest smile, “Please.”

She watched him while he cut a small piece of his new pastry and offered it to her. Instead of taking it, she leaned forward and opened her mouth, allowing him the honour. As delicately as he tried, he still fumbled and dabbed a bit of whipped cream on her top lip.

“I apologize, m’Lady… so clumsy of me…” he reached for a cloth but she was undaunted as she ran her tongue along her lip before he could get to it. His body froze as he watched.

The wedding was a grand thing. Prisillas oversaw all the arrangements while Foster was tending to his duties and the whole of Morglenn arrived for the ceremony. They became the talk of the town when they were seen together, which was not terribly often with the bakery to run but Foster finally agreed to take an apprentice to assume a greater part of the responsibilities. But he could not let it go entirely. Even after he moved in to the palace with his new wife, Foster would rise even earlier to make the longer trek to open his bakery and prepare the breads for his customers. No matter what efforts Presillas employed, the bakery was still his life and his love. Every day she would pass in her carriage and glance into the shop to see him and every day he would look for her and offer her a loving smile and a wave. She would smile and settle back in her seat before moving on.

Until one day.

The bakery was overflowing with patrons readying for the upcoming festivities before the winter solstice. There were mothers and daughters all vying for Foster’s attention to get their orders in for breads and desserts and he completely lost track of the passage of time. When all had settled, his apprentice reminded him he missed his wife.

He slapped his hand to his forehead, “I did, didn’t I?”

“Aye, she stretched her neck out searching for you and looked none too pleased about not finding you.”

“Well, I shall have to make it up to her then!” he smiled.

He entered their chambers with one hand behind his back. Presillas was in a simple white shift while she worked away on stitching a tapestry. The fire was behind her and Foster could clearly make out the details of her naked body underneath. His passion began to stir in him.

“You did not wave to me today,” she said without looking at him.

“I am sorry, Prisillas, the shop was overwhelming today with the festivities coming.” He brought his hand around to reveal a cloth draped over a plate. “I brought you something to make up for it.” He wasn’t sure if his smile would be of added value or not as she would not look at him. She glanced quickly at his hand but the gift seemed ill suited before the sight she offered in return.

She jabbed the needle into the cloth and finally turned to him, “It’s the one thing I do for you every day and you don’t appreciate me for it! All you do is work in that bakery and you cannot take one minute to pay me any mind at all!”

“Prisillas, please! I do not know where this is coming from! I love you, I appreciate everything you are.” He stepped to her to embrace her, hoping to restore her confidence.

“But you love your shop more,” she pouted.

“Dear wife, my shop is my livelihood. It is all I’ve done and all I know. I am a baker. You are my life and my true love. I hope you can accept that.”

She brought her green eyes up to his, that look was there again, that playful look he enjoyed so much, “I want to be your whole world, Foster, not just your life.” She brushed her shift off her shoulders and let it drop to the floor.

Within a month, Presillas sent a messenger to Foster for him to leave his bakery early and come home for some important news. He was confident his apprentice would manage since the days of the festivities had passed and business had slowed to a manageable level. He saddled his horse quickly while his mind explored the possibilities of her message. Was someone ill? Was there an attack coming? Was she with child? He urged his horse to the palace and found Prisillas waiting for him at the front gates. She stood with a loving smile and took his hand while a guard took his horse and she led him into the courtyard just beyond the blacksmith and the tanner.

They approached a building. A new one by Foster’s eye. Presillas was very excited to reveal it and pulled him inside. Foster could not find the words to express his emotion. It was set up as a bakery. Her important news was a gift of a completely new bakery set on the palace grounds and not in the convenience of the town.

“A bakery?” he coughed out.

“For you, husband. A token of my devotion, so we can be closer.”

“It is a grand gift, my wife, but so far from my customers.”

“You shall deliver their bread. Yours is the best in all of Morglenn, they will still buy it.”

“But what of my helpers? It is a long road from town, many of them have no horses.”

“If they wish to work, they will find a way. Husband, such petty details that should not concern you so. This is best for us, you do not have to travel so far to work and I do not have to travel so far to see you.” She pushed the door closed and pressed him against the wall with her body. “It is not as though you need to busy yourself so much anyway. You’re a duke now and have ample resources to maintain a carefree livelihood.”

She captured his gaze again then lowered herself before him to exercise a second gift to him. His mind reeled with the complications of how he would manage his customers, his helpers and how many of them he would lose in the transition. As her lips engulfed him though, the thoughts and concerns faded for a time, to be pursued later.

When later came, he was burdened with regret he could not express to his wife. Her gift was truly extravagant but how could he now explain to her it was an ill-fated business decision? Within a fortnight, more than half his workers had left for work closer to their homes. He could compensate by working extra hours if the demand remained but even that dwindled and his apprentice managed to purchase his old bakery and set up his own shop. His goods were not as fine as Foster’s but he was closer for the people to buy from.

Still, he kept a few loyal patrons. One such was a young woman whose Lord wished for fresh bread daily and had the coin to send her by carriage to fetch it. Foster knew she was attractive and kind, always arriving early and minded not to wait patiently until the order was pulled from the oven and wrapped. Foster would cover the round loaves of peppercorn, tuck them in her basket and asked her to send his appreciation to her lord for his continued patronage. When the girl turned, she almost stepped directly into Prisillas. The young woman offered a bow and stepped around the duchess.

The look in his wife’s eye was far from playful. “Who is she?”

A girl of the Davische house. She comes daily for her lord’s peppercorn loaves.”

“Every day? She comes to see you every day?”

“She comes for her order every day.”

Prisillas dropped her eyes and placed a hand on the counter, “What do you think of her? I saw the way you looked at her.”

“It is the look of appreciation for Lord Davische’s support, then she leaves. There is nothing more.”

She paused to stare at him, perhaps for any signs of betrayal but she seemed to find none. “Very well. I came to tell you Uncle will be hosting a ball tonight. I have clothes set out for you when you finish up here. Do not take too long, I shall not be embarrassed in front of Uncle’s guests.”

“As you wish,” he dropped his eyes from her cold stare but she moved closer.

“Now husband, there is no need for sorrow. You will come to accept this arrangement. I like being closer to you, to have you within reach,” her hand slid down to grip his manhood, “it allows me to keep an eye on you when pretty girls are about.” She placed a small kiss on his chin, offered him her playful eyes and a smile before she turned and strolled out. The look incurred a different feeling in him when she presented it, like it wasn’t real any longer. Like it was a mask.

The merry music did nothing for Foster’s mood. Nor did the generous feast spread out on the long tables behind the guests or the grand decorations in the gold and white ballroom with the shiny marble floor. He watched his wife mingle about the room, prancing from man to man to charm them with her hospitality, her eyes and her flirting deliberation. His blood boiled as he nursed his wine with greater concern. She looked for him often but she was stern, ensuring he hadn’t moved or misbehaved. He averted his eyes every time, to look elsewhere and show her other things were more interesting.

Two more goblets of wine in short order and he saw the woman in her true form. He had to lean on the table to stand and keep his swaggering form from tipping over. His brows curved low and his eyes narrowed fiercely when he could focus on her. Those poor wretches around her, those who had to endure her in their ignorance of the performance she entertained them with. The false face she employed to acquire what she wanted. He had seen it in its full effect but only now chose to believe it. She was luring them, tantalizing them with promise of more. But they were fooled for she had nothing of substance to give. She only wanted to take, to possess. She had only a pretty face with which to entice them and for some perhaps that was enough, perhaps their needs were only a temporary fixation – as was her beauty.

The wine was refreshing. A liberating indulgence from the torment of his revelation. The people were alike to Prisillas, these nobles of better stock and quality. The more the baker stared, the more masks he saw floating around the room while he had none to wear.

He scooped a bottle of wine of wine and snuck out of the ballroom and its parade of actors and fools. There was no appeal for him to sit in a place where he was so outside the social order. He smiled at his rebellion. Prisillas would be pissed when she would look for him again and he would not be there.

The stability of the walls aided Foster as he wandered back to their chambers. He threw open the door, fell inside and kicked the door shut from the floor. He rolled over and forced himself back to his feet and strolled to the window. He loosened his collar and shirt to allow the cool breeze to caress his chest then he looked down at the rest of the attire Prisillas had chosen for him. He pulled at them. Yanked at buttons and buckles, ripped at cloth until everything lay in heaps of fabric on the floor and he stood before the window naked to the air. He reached down to the growing flesh at his waist, coming to life in the free air and thought how quaint it would be for his wife to barge in on him. Would her lips be so willing to accept him then? Would she bend to his will should he decide to take her?

He heard the door open. His disrobed body, silhouetted in the moonlight, turned to face her but not without noticing the rigid part ready for attention. She gazed at the clothes sprawled about his feet.

“What are you doing? I can’t find you among our guests but instead I find you here, stroking yourself out the window? You’re being rude and I will not tolerate being embarrassed in this manner!”

He belched and drank some more.

“You’re drunk!”

“Indeed, dear wife, I am drunk. A condition that will wear off by morning, unlike your heinous personality.” His heart raced but he was exhilarated by his new sense of daring.

She sucked in a gulp of air as her jaw dropped, “How dare you! Who are you to insult me in my own house?”

“I thought I was your husband but I see now you have no real use for one. You only want another puppet to control.” He drained the last of his wine and tossed the bottle to the carpet.

“You disrespectful baker!” she hissed, “This is about that girl isn’t it? That’s why your cock is all hard, you desire her over me!”

“Nay, Prisillas. I married you. I spoke the vows – love, honour, cherish lest death intervenes. I have never broken my vows. Yet in all your beauty I see the ugly on you now.”

“LIAR! You want her! Deceive me not with your talk of vows when your lust is so plain before you!”

“NO!” He crossed the room to her, his rage piqued, his mind whirled in a haze. Primitive thoughts took over where words failed him. His instinct needed to show her his devotion, his position as a man not be controlled or dominated. He needed to show her in the most primitive fashion, the definitive act of possession. Fueled by wine and anger, he would make her understand. As she used it as a tool against him, so would he use the same tools against her.

He turned her where she stood and pushed her against the wall. She resisted but it did not deter him as he fumbled with the laces on her gown. She tried to twist and push off the wall but his determination held her firm. He was driven by desire now, he needed to do this, to prove she no longer owned him. In one swift effort he freed her upper body and groped at her bare flesh as he drove his lips into her neck. She wailed in defiance and pushed again while he was distracted trying to push her gown to the floor. He staggered to catch his balance and she swung back with her elbow catching him on the cheek. He collapsed to the floor.

“What are you doing?” she gasped at him.

Foster regained something of his wit. “I… I wanted… you needed…” He stood and stepped toward her again but Prisillas swung hard again with an open palm across his face. The smack sobered him completely and they stared at each other.

His mind spun again, confused at his own actions. He pulled his breeches back on, snatched a shirt from the floor and stepped passed her out the door. Anger boiled in him alongside shame. The wine poisoned his thoughts but his wife had poisoned his character. That man in the room was not him, not someone he would ever thought of being. He stumbled outside and soon found himself back at the bakery she had built for him. His rage surfaced again at both himself and at her for changing him so. He directed his anger this time at the shop, toppling the shelves of bread pans, racks of knives and spoons and a half sack of flour sailed across the room. When his energy was finally spent, he crumpled on the floor and wept.

Perhaps an hour passed, perhaps more for he could not recall how long he sat in thought. He was aware the evening was late and he thought of how wrong it was of him to treat Prisillas in such a forceful manner. She was wrong without a doubt for treating him as a plaything she needed to control over treating him like a husband. He didn’t do well with the constant supervision and the short noose she had him on but still he felt he had to go back to talk to her, to reconcile and maybe find a resolution through open talk instead of open violence. He had vows to uphold, no matter the cost.

It was dark and the air was brisk. It helped clear his mind as he breathed it in on the way back to the palace. His fury and frustration had abated greatly but he held on to the remorse as he hoped Prisillas was in a forgiving mood. When he reached the door to the bedroom, he opened it slowly, thinking she may have went to bed after their fight. Fortunately, the door was well crafted and silent as he swung it wide enough to peer his head in. His efforts, however, were met with something he did not foresee.

His wife was not in bed. Instead, she stood naked in front of the wardrobe with her arms stretched above her head while a younger man paid tribute to her body. His hands and his mouth explored her with an eagerness to discover everything. Prisillas watched him with a smug pleasure of playing with a new toy.

Foster stepped back from the doorway. His face felt numb, hands tingled and his chest ached all the way to his spine. There was a mirror on the opposite wall and he stared at the man in it, stared through eyes conveying the emptiness of a corpse. Images swirled about his head, memories flashed and burned his soul. Her action seemed so easy, so carefree. How long has this been going on? His skull rang like a clock tower and the vows of marriage echoed inside.

One vow echoed louder than the rest.

Silently, he crept back inside and stayed to the shadows. They were too caught up in their moment to notice him and that was his advantage. She cooed in her ecstasy, head tilted back and eyes closed as he approached. When she did open them, he gave her only a moment to realize he stood before her then cracked her skull with a metal statue of a pair of doves the king had made for them as a wedding gift. As she started to fall limp to the floor, he cracked the man as well before he had time to discover anything was wrong. He looked at the bodies then to the statue, now shimmering with a crimson tarnish.

Foster waited until much later into the night to haul the corpses out of the palace. He took them both to the bakery and tossed them on the floor by the oven. Even in death she remained a vision of beauty. Her features remained flawless and peaceful on the bakery floor, save for the matted hair where the blood gathered. He almost broke into a fit of laughter but caught himself. Her mask became permanent, unable to be tarnished by the ugliness of the person beneath. He destroyed her, destroyed the demon he married by embracing the demon she made him into. Only time would interfere with her mask now, and decay.

Or perhaps fire.

He stole away into the night while the bakery grew in orange brilliance behind him. He heard the crackling of the fire, the sizzling of burning flesh and foretold King Albor would be told the charred skeletons found inside were Prisillus and her husband, burned to death in a careless display of passion. The concern was no longer his to carry. He would leave Morglenn forever and move to a distant land.

And take his secret with him, lest death intervene.