The Blood Rose Assassin – Part 11
With the success of Isolde’s first paid kill came underground publicity. Her first clients spread the word. The money earned went toward Bartholomew, the house, and the farm animals. Luckily, he was none the wiser. The last thing Isolde wanted was for Bartholomew to be afraid of her, or to hate her for what she was doing.
For a while, Isolde didn’t assassinate anyone. She fed from forest animals when Bartholomew slept. This also gave her time to purchase white rose seeds to grow a couple of rose bushes behind the house.
When she was sought out again by another client at the pub, she took the job easily. Once paid, the next day the town crier shouted about the tragic news of Percy Waverly, found dead with several arrows in his chest. One of the arrows had a bloody white rose pierced through it as well.
“Hear ye, hear ye! The Blood Rose Killer strikes again!”
“Killer?” she whispered to herself when she heard the news. It didn’t have the best ring to it, but she did like the new name.
One night when Isolde was putting Bartholomew to bed, he whimpered and held out his hands for her. She smiled softly and held his little hands. “What if the Blood Rose Killer comes into my room?” he asked.
He was scared. His eyes showed it, and Isolde frowned. She kissed his knuckles and shook her head. “That’s not going to happen,” she said. “Never.”
“But what if?”
“You really think I’m going to let anything like that happen to you?” He sniffled and shook his head. “Exactly. No one’s going to come in and kill you. Besides, I’ll have the windows closed and locked. Door too. Extra protection. And… I can teach you how to defend yourself if you want.”
His little eyes lit up at that. “Okay! I feel better. That’d be fun. I want to. When?”
“Why not tomorrow when you come home?” Isolde giggled as he nodded again. “Okay. Now, go to sleep, darling. Goodnight. Sweet dreams.” She let his hands go and he slid them under the covers, smiling toothily. Carefully, she tucked him properly again.
Isolde paused, taken aback. She looked down at the tucked sheets and saw his eyes closed with a smile on his face. She brushed his hair back with her fingers and looked at him. She really took this boy as her own. No questions. He was glad for it because his father was an absolute monster to him. It hadn’t even been that long and here he was, calling her mommy.
A tear slid down her cheek, and she held her abdomen. She hoped her unborn baby, whoever they were, didn’t feel upset that she’d found a child to take care of in this new life.
She left Bartholomew’s side and walked into her room. She looked into her closet to grab her clothes for the next day. There weren’t a lot of options, and the dresses were plain and common, unlike the clothing and jewelry from her previous life. There truly was nothing she had from her old life but memories. She didn’t even want to think about what had happened to the Rydell estate now that it was abandoned.
So, like other nights when she didn’t have a job, she set off again into the woods.
For Bartholomew’s birthday, Isolde went all out. She bought fresh baked goods from the bakery, and baked a cake at home, and got her boy a wooden toy sword. Defense lessons only included arm and leg movements at the moment, where she taught him to block, kick, punch, and even dodge properly. Of course, it was a challenge for Isolde as well, as she had to make a conscious effort to keep her own movements as humane as possible and go easy on him as he improved. So, a sword was long overdue.
“Happy birthday, Bart!” Isolde said, bringing him his breakfast in bed that she dressed with fruit to make a smiley face. “You’re a big boy now.”
He groaned softly and sat up, blinking the sleepiness away. He gasped and looked at the breakfast, but what he did surprised her. He looked up at her with tear-filled eyes. “You remembered my birthday?”
Isolde knit her brow together. “Of course. You told me your birthday a few months ago.”
“No, I mean… you remembered.”
“Should I not have?”
“No—I mean, yes.” He took the bowl from her hands and ate happily. Isolde tilted her head at him, watching him eat with curiosity. After a few bites, he paused and met her eyes. “Well, my papa never remembered. I barely did, um, because he didn’t.”
“Ah.” Isolde smiled sadly and cupped his cheek. “Well, I remembered your birthday. October thirteenth. Easy enough. Now eat. I have a present for you, which I hope you’ll like. And if not… we’ll get you something else. Anything you could possibly want.”
“One thing, out of anything you want. I know you like to read.” Isolde giggled and glanced at the small bookshelf he had. “I think I’ll get you a second present. Any book you want.”
“Really. You need a proper birthday, with someone who cares about you.”
Isolde left to bring Bartholomew his main present. She hid it behind her back as she walked up the stairs and squealed. “Okay, I really hope you like this. Are you ready?” He set his breakfast bowl on his nightstand, then sat on the edge of the bed, nodding, and kicking at the air with his little feet. His excitement grew as he started bouncing on the bed, too. “Okay! Happy birthday!” She revealed the toy sword, and as she hoped, he went absolutely ballistic over it.
“WHOA! It’s a sword!” She handed it to Bartholomew, and he took it by the hilt. “Look at me, I’m a knight!” He got on the floor and started marching up and down his room with the sword held out. He swiped at the air, too excited, and he spun around and fell, but laughed. “This is amazing!”
“And… I have one, too!” She held her own wooden toy sword out and he gasped. He scrambled onto his feet and Isolde took a stance. “Actually, if we do this, we should go outside.”
“Yeah, okay!” He giggled happily once more and hurried out his door in a flash. Isolde smiled warmly and followed him out.
Once outside, Isolde took her stance again, and Bartholomew faced her. “Get ready, let’s battle!” She giggled, and he held out his sword with a defiant expression. Isolde wondered what his imagination was doing right now. “What’re you thinking?”
“I’m a knight. No, a king! And I’m going to kill the evil witch—that’s you.”
Isolde scoffed. “Me? An evil witch? In your dreams!” But she laughed and just thought, wow, he wasn’t that far off. A vampire, a witch. He was close. “A witch who knows how to wield a sword. You dare to come and challenge me?”
“I do dare! I must save the village from your terror! Hyah!”
Isolde laughed at how adorable Bartholomew was, exclaiming so bravely and proudly, all in character. He swung at her, and naturally, Isolde blocked. She went easy on him, and in the end, purposefully swung too soon, which would leave an opening for him. He took it, and aimed the blunt tip of his toy sword not exactly where her heart was, but close enough.
“Oh! I’m wounded!” She fell and coughed. “I can see the light! I’m… dead.” She played dead. Didn’t move. Bartholomew squealed and ran around, but then stopped and sat beside her. She felt him poke her arm. “Mommy? You’re not… you’re not really dead, are you?”
Isolde opened her eyes and cried out, “Boo!” And hugged him. He squealed and laughed, lying down next to her. “I’m not dead! Never!” She tickled him, drawing out all kinds of giggles. That smile on his face was everything to her. The joy was oozing out of him. Isolde never wanted him to live without this happiness. She would give him everything he could want. No strict rules, raising him to be kind and proper, and hopefully he would always smile and live the best life he could possibly have.
They relaxed, lying side by side and staring up at the sky as clouds rolled over the blue sky. Bartholomew babbled on about how some clouds looked like butterflies and turtles. Then he babbled about how cool it was that he “got” her in the sword fight, and how this was the best birthday ever.
“You want a cake?” Isolde asked.
Bartholomew gasped. “Yes! Don’t tell me. You got a cake!”
“I baked it!” He squealed again, and she stood up. “Let’s go!”
They hurried inside and she took the cake out for him. “Wow! A real cake!” he exclaimed.
“Of course, a real cake! Now we’ll cut two slices and you can make a wish and we’ll eat together.”
Eating in front of Bartholomew was by far the worst about this entire thing, but it was of little sacrifice when this boy’s happiness mattered far more. He closed his eyes and Isolde set the cake slice onto a plate for him. “Okay,” he said. “I made my wish.”
“Don’t tell me, or it won’t come true.”
“I won’t!” He giggled and then dug in. He danced in his seat with every bite, humming a tuneless song. Isolde simply adored him. He was pure of heart. The sweetest boy. And she wouldn’t let anything take him away from her.
To be continued.
Featured photo taken by Mathilda Khoo from Unsplash. Altered by Valeria Silva in Adobe Spark.