The Mice in the Kitchen (Part 5, page 1 of 4)

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Part 5

Chapter 3

‘You're sooo dumb.’

Such was the splendid greeting offered to her by those who, until only a few days back, had been her sisters —in the eyes of their father, at least.

'Dumb Herta. Dumbherta. And what's that on her face? What's that? Ash? Herta, the ash girl. Herta, the cinder girl. Cinder Herta.’

‘Ha ha ha ha! Cinder Herta! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! The young girl, just a few years older than Herta, almost fell off her chair with the burst of laughter.

The apprentice servant went to pick up the toast that had slipped on the table as she was placing the plate.

‘Leave it there,’ she was ordered. And the woman who had spoken, trying not to raise her voice too much, was the one who was looking at her daughters wondering why, despite all her efforts, they were growing up as two noisy and coarse morons.

And so she did. And, then, she ran upstairs to get everything ready for them. It was the first time they had been invited to the palace and Herta wondered if it was just a coincidence that this was happening only three days after her father's death.

I am dumb for having even the slightest doubt, Herta thought, bitterly recalling Regine's recent words. Cecilia was not going to be satisfied with being a well-off widow for the rest of her life. She wasn't like that. Herta had seen enough of her to know. She'd seen her stimulate her father's ambition as much as she could, often reaching extreme limits. But Cecilia had always been clever enough to keep him by her side, despite putting so much pressure on him. Or almost.

While she made the bed of the woman who was now her mistress, the mouse was watching —escorting— her from the door, knowing that Flora was right when she reproached him for taking too many risks. But something he couldn't explain, or even understand how it had begun, made him feel the need to watch over her, even from his tiny and defenseless body.

Or maybe not so defenseless after all... The cook's ankle could attest to the fact that he still had some resources.

He hid himself a little and remained there for what seemed to him a nicely long time, in contrast to the rush and nervousness of all their latest activities. Now that they were alone, he took advantage of this strange period of privacy to get to know her a little better. To see if she informed against them, as he would be telling the other mouse later.

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