The Bridge That Would Not Burn

by Christina Rauh Fishburne presents
a serialization in 14 parts

Week Seven
in which Charlotte contemplates the insolent humans with which she is forced to abide.

Charlotte drew her own baths, banishing Lavinia from the second level of the house once she had hauled the final bucket of hot water up the stairs. Charlotte, already naked beneath her dressing gown, retrieved the buckets from the other side of the bathroom door—careful to keep the dressing gown closed, even though not a soul was on the floor. As a child, she had found that by the time she was undressed, the filled tub would be cooled. It did not matter by how many degrees. Charlotte grieved any wasted warmth regardless how little she recognized the loss. For all the rebellious flames inside her, she could not abide that anyone see her body on the outside. She rarely wore a corset. She needed no assistance keeping herself inside, and required no help in freeing herself from clothes.

Steam curls floated up from the copper tub, lined with a white cotton sheet whose edges poured over the sides and pooled in lacey puddles at the floor.  Naked she stood in the center of the tub, the warm scented water reaching just below her knees. She eased down into the water and leaned against the slanted back, the cotton sheet steamed warm on her shoulders.  She did not close her eyes.

Mr. Porter would take her places.  Undoubtedly.  She could escape this house, this country even.  See things.  Go places.  Do whatever she liked—he would neither notice nor care.

Dr. Ridgeway would treat her like a queen.  He would love her.  Take care of her.  He would respect her, and likely fear her.  She could do whatever she liked with him as well, for he would not dare displease her.

Charlotte stared at the end of the tub until everything went out of focus. 

And Atchison.

Charlotte closed her eyes and slid further under the water.


            The next morning the house was alive earlier than usual for preparations to attend church in Georgetown. There was far more preparation made regarding attire, meal planning, and seating strategizing than any made concerning one’s spiritual condition. Charlotte liked the idea of church. One day she would have liked to go by herself, surrounded by nothing but her own curiosity and hunger for something true, but until then she attended surrounded by her father’s intentions to inspire curiosity.

            She rose slowly, swinging her feet over the side of her bed and relishing the icy kiss of the floor boards even under the oriental rug. Cold feet were better than any cup of coffee to brighten the senses. Coffee made her think of Atchison. Thinking of Atchison made her smile faintly. Smiling faintly made her think of smiling with her entire face and why she did not do so. Which made her frown.

            She saw the pale blue page, folded once, under her door and slipped out of bed. Pulling her dressing coat over her shoulders she sat back on her bed and opened it.

            Don’t be a fool.

            The words simply stood there. They were suddenly awkward; having completed their task, they waited for gratuity that would not be dispensed.

            She realized she had not taken a breath in a hundred years and gasped. Each time she read it she was a different person. A person insulted, confused, angry, delighted, and back to angry.

            She sent word through Lavinia that she was unwell and would not be attending services today. Then she dressed methodically and waited for everyone to leave so that should could tear around the house in a stifled rage before taking coffee and breakfast in contemplative silence as she planned how to ignore the insolent humans with which she was forced to abide.

Join us Sunday of the Fourteenth, for Week Eight:
in which Charlotte refuses to respond otherwise than agreeably to Lt. Atchison’s impudence, until Lt. Atchison arrives.

You may enjoy more of the Bridge That Would Not Burnhere.

Who’s responsible for this madcap affair: Masthead
Bonafides/ home

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