Many guests arrived for dinner. I shucked oysters, kept the fire, cooked, and made pies. Mrs. Wilks stayed near, in the way, hawking over her ingredients.
Serving the courses, it was lively with song and laughter. In the spirit, I allowed myself to smile.
“Oney?” Mrs. Wilks’ voice cracked like a lash.
“What has gotten into you?”
I straightened. Set my eyes down. “Oh. Just a dream I had, Ma’am.”
A commotion at the table, drinks lowered, eyebrows raised. That I was capable of such bewitching must have been a scientific marvel to them.
Mrs. Wilks’ eyes flared, her mouth tightened. “Of what did you dream, Oney?”
I glanced at the window, to the fields. The haze of sun and dust, movement in the rows. I wrung my hands in my apron, my heart quaking.
“Of Ravens,” I said.
A round of chuckles. Mrs. Wilks waved me off.
Behind the door, I heaved. I knew what would come later, but my true dream was safe. Of the Queen Mother and son—the future ruler of the kingdom. I blinked and the queen appeared, her face shining with pride. She said I’d done well. She would guide my boy to safety.
It was all I asked.
It wasn’t enough for Mrs. Wilks to own me. To spit in the pots after I served them. To have me burn my arms in the hearth, lose a finger to a knife, to serve every whim of the Wilks men, women, and children. It wasn’t enough that Henry had been worked into the grave and now my boy was growing stronger and closer to the same fate.
She wanted my dreams, too.
But she could not have the Queen Mother. The Queen was mine to keep.