Literary Fiction

Lady Distressed

By Mary Anne Mohanraj
Apr 1, 2019 · 2,906 words · 11 minutes


From the author: Why in the world had she agreed to accompany Matthew to this insane asylum, where these refugees from the real world pranced and danced and pretended they had been born centuries earlier?


Jane stood lost amidst lords and ladies, jugglers and madmen,
merchants who plucked at her blouse and dirty children in rags, wondering
what had possessed her. Why in the world had she agreed to accompany
Matthew to this insane asylum, where these refugees from the real world
pranced and danced and pretended they had been born centuries earlier?
He had begged her to come to the Faire with him, to indulge in an
afternoon of harmless hedonism away from her computer, and she had
inexplicably agreed. Normally she was impervious to such persuasion,
but yesterday she had fallen victim to his persistent pleas.

Maybe it was those soft lips or soft words that had moved her.
It certainly hadn’t been love. They had only known each other for a few
short weeks, and she had been very careful not to care too much for him;
though she did enjoy his fingers on her skin, his sweet words whispered in
her ear. His hands had traced paths from her eyebrows to her earlobes,
down to collarbones and ticklish elbows, to the tender hollow between hip
and thigh, and his mouth followed and she was lost. But she had kept firm
hold of her heart all that time, remembering her last infatuation, and how
miserably it had ended.

Oh, there had been a moment, in Matthew’s bed, when he had gazed
into her eyes and called her ‘blithe spirit’, and kissed her hand — a
moment when she had felt like a lady after all, with her knight by her
side…but she was certainly not blithe right now. Blithe indeed! She’d
show Matthew blithe if she got her hands on him — but that would be
difficult. He’d disappeared into the crowd, the fatuous fathead,
following a flash of red skirt and murmuring some excuse about assuaging
his thirst with a mug of mead. He’d disappeared before she could catch at
that white-sleeved arm, and Jane knew exactly what he was assuaging,
somewhere in a haystack no doubt with red skirts above his head. She’d
waited and waited, but it had been over an hour and he hadn’t returned.
She’d like to strangle him.

What made it worse, worst, was that she knew he hadn’t meant to
hurt her. There was no guile in him — he was like an innocent. An
addlepated idiotic innocent, a credulous fool who believed every skirt
that winked his way. Sincerity in his every breath — if only he
possessed constancy as well! Jane’s throat constricted, as she admitted
silently to herself that perhaps she’d been a little fond of him after
all…she’d had hopes. But no, she’d done it again, picked a man who’d
only stomp on her heart once he had it. Well, she was done with them.
Done with the whole lot of them, and the next one who had the egregious
bad taste to accost her was going to find himself in very hot water,
indeed!

The constriction in her throat had grown, and tears trembled in
her eyes, on the verge of falling. Jane struggled for control, determined
not to fall apart here, in the midst of a celebrating crowd. She had
almost mastered herself, when a gentle hand plucked at her sleeve, and a
kind voice said, “Milady? Is there aught that ails thee? May I perhaps
ameliorate thy distress?” The kindness undid her, all at once, and the
tears broke free. At the same moment, fury rose in her — it was the
voice’s fault, all its fault that she had started to cry! Worst of
all, it was a male voice, undoubtedly some Faire worker out to seduce the
innocent little mundane girl, to get some easy sex, indulge in ‘harmless
hedonism’ as little red skirt was undoubtedly doing with Matthew in a
fucking haystack — Jane’s control broke completely, and she swung out
blindly, her eyes drenched in tears and her fist connecting solidly with
someone’s face as she shouted, “Bastard!”

A splash of water suddenly drenched her skirt, and a stunned
silence fell around her. Janet blinked wildly, wondering what she’d done,
as a titter ran through the surrounding crowd. An old woman selling
pickles from a barrel laughed out loud. “Eh, Patrick, there’s a bit o’
skirt that ain’t quite so quick to believe your blandishments! Maybe
you’d best find a more credulous catch!” A nearby dancer chimed in, “If
he’d only moved a bit quicker he’d have missed her fist — that’ll teach
him to be less lethargic. Guess all those stories of how adept Patrick
is with ladies were apocryphal after all. This’ll make a fine tale for
fireside!”

Ripples of laughter spread through the crowd, louder now, their
momentary concern assuaged by the quick wit of the two Faire workers.
Jane was grateful to them for defusing the scene, and she gazed
apologetically at the young man who sat before her, half in and half out
of a water trough, with a furious blush creeping up his dark face. He was
dressed in a simple white shirt, open to the waist, identical to the one
Matthew had worn (and indeed, as most other men at Faire wore as well).
Green velvet leggings sheathed muscled legs, and a broad hat with a long
green feather sat jauntily on his head. The hat and his boots, which
dangled over the side of the trough, were the only parts of him that
remained dry. Jane reached out a hand to help him out, speechless
with embarrassment as she realized what she’d done. Patrick hesitated a
moment, looking as if he’d like to spit on her hand, then with visible
effort calmed his face and reached out to take it.

She pulled him out, and as she did he said, in a loud, carrying
voice…”Pardon, my lady. Had I known ye were so irascible of
temperament, I would have been a bit more cautious in my approach. I see
I must seek my pleasure elsewhere this day — may the Faire bring thee
better joy than I have brought thee.” The crowd tittered again, no doubt
thinking the entire scene had been staged for their amusement, as so many
were. Patrick had said his pretty speech with apparent joviality and a
broad smile, but as he bent into an elaborate bow, Jane saw that his face
had gone rigid again. At that moment a juggler came by, with five knives
flashing. The pickle woman began hawking her wares again, and the other
spun into a dance around the shining knives. The crowd’s fickle attention
was caught again, and swirled around the pair and away. Within seconds
they were surrounded by an entirely new selection of Faire goers and Faire
workers, and it was almost as if the incident had never occurred.

Almost, and if Jane hadn’t acted quickly, Patrick would no doubt
have slipped away into the crowd and disappeared, much as Matthew had,
though with rather different motivations. As he turned though, she caught
at his arm, and held firmly as he attempted to pull away. Finally he
sighed, and turned back to her. “Milady, may I give you some advice? If
you wish to scream at me again, I cannot stop you, and as the customer is
generally right, I will even play along. But if you desire to cause
another scene, pray call me ‘knave’ or ‘varlet’ or ‘rogue’, not ‘bastard’.
This is a *family* faire, after all.” His voice was bitter, and Janet
felt her throat tighten again, this time constricting with guilt rather
than tears. It had been totally unfair of her to take out her anger
with Matthew on this stranger, and she hoped he’d give her a chance to
apologize. “Oh, please…” she said. “I’m so sorry…let me explain…”
Jane wanted to continue, but paused instead, waiting for his response.

Patrick gazed at her doubtfully a long moment. “Do you
promise to quell any incipient urges to bash my poor noggin?” Jane
nodded eagerly, and he held out an arm, “If you would accompany me then,
milady?” and Jane took it, awkwardly. He adjusted her hand on her arm,
and then led her down a crowded lane and into a pewter shop. The shop
was crowded with dragons and fairies, swords and stones and impossible
ships that would sink beneath their own weight were they ever placed in
water. “I’ll be in back, Kathryn,” he said to the buxom blonde they
passed, as he led Jane through a curtain and into another world.

It was a modern workroom, filled with steel tools and modern
gizmos. Current magazines lay open on a low table, and a wide papasan
chair sat propped against a wall. Every flat surface was crowded with
pewter figurines, and Patrick laughed suddenly at the stunned expression
on Jane’s face. “Welcome to Patrick’s Pewter — Prolific Patrick’s Pewter
as the locals fondly term it. I’m a bit of a workaholic — I tend to turn
out a lot of material.” Jane picked up a mermaid no bigger than her
forefinger, impressed by the detail she found. “It’s lovely,” she
said quietly.

“I’m glad you like it,” Patrick replied. “It’s a new piece,
and I’m fond of it. Jane gazed at it a long moment, then put it down
hastily, embarrassed. She stared at the dirt floor as she mumbled, “I’m
sorry…you don’t even know my name. I’m Jane, and I’m so very sorry
about earlier.” She raised her eyes, to his face, and Jane saw
now that Patrick’s cheekbone was badly bruised, which reminded her of her
own hand. It had been throbbing for quite some time, but she hadn’t
noticed it in all the commotion. She raised it to look at it…and
Patrick exclaimed. “You’re bleeding!”

Her knuckles were indeed cut open, and Patrick hastily reached for
a strip of cloth to bind them up with. The piece he grabbed was a green
silk, and Jane tried to stop him, “Oh, that’s much too lovely to stain…”
but he continued to wrap determinedly. “Silk’s a dime a dozen at the
Faire…and it matches your eyes, lady.” He was being kind again, and
Jane’s eyes suddenly filled again. “Why…why…” she stuttered, “why are
you being so nice to me?”

Patrick looked up at her, brown eyes vaguely puzzled. “You know,
I don’t know. ‘Chivalry’ would be the easy answer — but I’m afraid
you’ve strained the bounds of my chivalry, at least. You just looked so
unhappy…I suppose I’ve always wanted to rescue a lady in distress.”
He smiled gently at her. “Want to talk about it?” He had finished with
her hand and tied off the strip of silk. Now he led her to the broad
papasan chair and sat her down beside him.

It took a few tries, but eventually Jane managed to tell him her
story. She managed to choke back most of the tears, but a few slipped
out. When she finished, she was angry again, but more at herself than at
Matthew. She absolutely despised crying, especially in public. Patrick
was silent, and when she finally turned to look at him, she was startled
to see the anger in his eyes. She had somehow thought that once she
explained, he’d understand…but maybe she had expected too much. She had
treated him egregiously, after all — she couldn’t blame him for being
somewhat irascible after a totally undeserved fist in the face. Shame
flooded through her, and she started to rise, but Patrick put out a hand
and caught hers.

He looked puzzled again for a moment, then understanding dawned.
“You don’t think I’m mad at you, do you?” Jane nodded, her face flushed.
“Ah no, sweet Janet. My anger is entirely for that dilatory rogue who
treated you so poorly. To leave you standing there, for over an hour and
goddess knows how much longer…well, I can’t blame you for being a bit
acerbic in your manner. I imagine you weren’t feeling very kindly
inclined towards men — and no doubt you took me for the amorous sort.”

Jane nodded, totally embarrassed now. She couldn’t look at
Patrick, who was being so very kind to her…then he took her chin gently
in his hand, and tipped it up to look into her eyes. “…ah, don’t feel
too guilty, sweeting. You are very lovely, and I must admit that my
motives were perhaps not entirely chivalrous in offering to come to your
aid. I hope you won’t hold it too much against me — is it my fault that
I am not impervious to your charms — even when you’ve been weeping?” He
was smiling now, teasing her, and Jane smiled tremulously back. Patrick
hesitated a moment, then leaned in slowly, giving her ample time to pull
away. She did not, and he gently pressed a kiss on her lips.

He had perhaps meant it as simple reassurance, but it quickly
turned to something else. Within moments they were kissing hotly, wetly,
tongues entwined. Patrick’s right hand still enclosed Jane’s chin, but
his left now pulled her close. Her arms had somehow entangled themselves
in his long brown hair, and her left leg slid up his thigh to wrap around
his buttocks, pressing his hips against hers. Patrick’s right hand
slipped down to attempt her breasts, but they were securely guarded by the
constricting stays of her bodice. It took both hands to undo the lacing,
but his fingers were quite adept. There was indeed no sign of the
lethargy of which the dancer had accused him, and it seemed but one breath
to the next before Jane’s bodice had fallen to the floor and her blouse
followed soon after.

She had dressed as Matthew instructed, and so her breasts were
bare beneath the blouse. Jane had been nervous about the costume, but was
glad of it now, as Patrick’s mouth quickly dipped to taste each breast.
At first his tongue flicked out, like a hummingbird tasting honey,
tormenting her nipples — then he began to suck on one, while his fingers
teased the other. Jane gasped, and Patrick quickly lifted a hand to her
mouth, covering it. “Shhh…there are clients just through the curtain.”
Then he returned his mouth to her breast and Jane bit her lip as she
muffled her moans.

Her hips rose and fell beneath his as they stretched out across
the papasan, thrusting urgently. Jane’s hands were braced on his
shoulders now, fingers digging into Patrick’s back, urging him closer
and closer. He moaned in frustration, and he raised his head, “Lady, I’d
like to be more patient, but honestly, you’re driving me mad. I don’t
want to wait any longer…”

“So don’t,” Jane said, smiling.

Patrick paused a moment, searching her face. Whatever he was
looking for, he must have found it, because he quickly reached down to
unfasten his breeches. He pushed up her long skirts, and grinned when he
found nothing beneath them but Jane. He was soon sliding into her, their
hips fitting together perfectly. Jane’s breasts pressed against his open
shirt, soft against the rough cloth and triangle of smooth dark skin.
Back and forth, in and out, they moved together in a surprisingly perfect
harmony, their moans muffled in each other’s skin and the gentle creaking
of the papasan drowned in the cheerful banter of the crowds in the street.
Jane lost all track of time, but it seemed a sweet eternity before Patrick
came inside her, his shuddering triggering her own, a seemingly endless
ecstasy.

Jane sighed, exhausted, yet replete. They lay there an endless
time, and then he began to grow heavy. She made a small noise and he
shifted, instinctively knowing what she wanted. At one point in the
shifting they almost tumbled out of the unsteady chair, but Patrick
adroitly recovered, and soon he was cradling her. Jane smiled contentedly
as she rested her head on Patrick’s shoulder and traced small patterns on
his damp chest. ‘Blithe’, she thought, was not such a bad word to
describe her current mood. If only Matthew could see her now, he would
surely regret following that red-skirted wench. Though perhaps it was
just as well. “Well, I see the tales they tell of you aren’t so
apocryphal after all. You have a lovely body, my lord. It is well suited
to such amorous dalliance.” Jane blushed as she said the words, and
Patrick smiled gently.

“And if I told you how much I liked your body, sweet Janet, would
I sound as fatuous a fool as that Matthew of yours?”

“He’s not ‘my Matthew’ — not anymore.” Jane smiled. “And no,
you wouldn’t sound foolish. A bit redundant, perhaps. You’ve already
made it very clear that you liked my body.” The words fell a little
flatter than she’d intended. The thought had crept unbidden into her mind
that perhaps her body was all he’d liked; he barely knew her, after all.
Maybe she was just a quick tumble to him. She could hardly blame him, if
so; she’d certainly jumped him quickly enough. Still, the thought hurt,
more than it should.

“Sad again, lady?” Somehow he had known, though he could hardly
have seen her face from his present position. His arms tightened briefly
around her. “I see that relieving your distress will not be a simple
task. ‘Tis lucky for you that I’m a hard worker.”

“Not tired yet?” Jane meant the words to be light, but her
distress leaked through. She couldn’t bring herself to ask what she
wanted to, but Patrick seemed to know.

“No promises, milady — I can but try.” His hands gently caressed
her bare arm, sending shivers through her.

Jane wanted to let it go at that, but something in her needed
more reassurance. She lifted up on one elbow to ask him, “Can it work?
A lord and a mundane?”

Patrick smiled up at her. “I’m only a lord a few weekends of the
year, and I suspect there is very little mundane about you, lady. I must
admit that I’m looking forward to finding what there is — and hopefully
taking a little longer over it this time.” His hand crept behind her
neck, and pulled her down for a kiss…long and slow this time, rather
than fevered. Jane was pleased to find that kissing him was just as
delightful as it had been before, if somewhat different. She pulled away,
meaning to ask something else, but his smiling eyes drove away all
thought, and with a little sigh she surrendered to kisses.

*****

M.A. Mohanraj

January 13, 1996