Crypt

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The candles are lit this time. Sometimes when he locks me down here, because I’ve spoken out of turn or sassed my nurse in his presence, the candles are as dark as the stones, and the shadows creeping out of the graves fill the whole room. I’m afraid to be here then.

But the candles are lit tonight, although if he knew I took such comfort in them, he would have them blown out. He sends me down to the crypts to punish me, to teach me a lesson, he says. His stupid, headstrong little daughter with the crippled body and the mind that’s stronger than his. At least when he’s been drinking.

I wait until the key rattles in the locks, then get up and wander around the tombs. The air smells of dust and candlewax, burnt roses and incense. Someone must have been here mourning earlier, probably for the son my father has already had to bury. My mother, maybe. She lives down here, lost with dead, except when my father forces her up into the world of the living. She has too many children buried beneath the flagstones to be happy anywhere else.

The tombs are taller than I am. Great slabs of stone, some with the carvings of dead men with swords on their breasts lying on them. One of them has a stone dog at his feet. My great grandfather. My aunt told me he had the dog buried with him. I think that’s horrible. Did he think the dog loved him so much that they couldn’t be parted? I’m sure he didn’t love the dog very much, if he wanted it to die when he did.

The candle flames dance, jerking in the cool draft that is always trapped here, and I wander on. I really don’t mind being locked down here. Not when the candles are lit.

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