It felt like bags of sand were pulling down on his bowed head as he sat at his desk. His eyes refused to stay open, despite the hand that moved rapidly over the paper, ink quill running out before the man’s tired eyes fluttered back open. He wiped dried ink from the nib and began to stare absently at the muddled leaf before him. The sharp nub left many deep scratches, forming deformed and strange words. He furrowed his brows and set it aside to reach for a new sheet.
The process began anew. He copied word for word the heading and first two paragraphs of the letter before his tired, burning eyes began to flutter slowly shut. A frown creased his brow as his face slowly lowered to the paper. He stopped when his nose barely brushed the white paper, then lifted himself up again to continue writing. He forced his eyes open repeatedly, and finally began to make more progress.
As he finished the letter, he paused to look it over briefly. Everything looked in order. He carefully blotted it and hung the pages to dry before he stood on legs filled with frozen, iron nails that numbed them. His movements were unsteady, and he began to undress for bed. He looked behind himself at the small bed he called his own. It was covered in layers on layers of blankets and quilts to ward off the cold of winter, and the two pillows were firm, but soft– filled with springy wool instead of bird down.
One by one, the buttons of his jacket slid through their respective holes, and he threw his arms back to let the covering fall onto the bed. He tugged the string about the neck of his shirt and leaned down over the bed to tuck the tie into his jacket. He turned away and began to unbutton the smaller, more difficult buttons on his blouse. He untucked it from his trousers before he allowed it to slip down his pale, slender arms onto the coat on the bed.
He stretched, revealing very little fat on his slender body. His muscles were cord-like and hidden under his flesh, now covered in tiny points as the cold air molested his body. He scowled at its touch, and hurriedly tugged a night shirt on. He laced the top and tightened the draw strings on each sleeve, in order to better preserve his body heat. The cloth itself felt icy, and he shivered as he hurriedly threw his heeled boots aside, followed by his socks. He stripped his trousers from his athletic legs and scrambled to get his night pants on, with their nice, cozy draw strings.
Finally, his feet found some fluffy slippers under the bed, and he began to put his clothing away, to be worn another day, since they were mostly used to provide warmth this day, and were neither smelly, nor dirty.
The man walked to the nearby kitchen to refill the pitcher of water for his room, then stole some milk to help ease himself into the restful sleep he so needed after a long day and a short previous night.
He scratched his hip as he carried glass cup and pitcher to his room in one arm. He was not fond of his hosts’ laundering methods, but kept quiet. They charged him for nothing, and even paid him to be present. He muttered in irritation as thoughts of his young pupil entered his mind. The girl was a terror, the likes of which he had never seen before. She felt neither remorse, nor empathy. She could not even comprehend that others had feelings.
The teacher often thought of simply ending the girl, taking his payment, and being gone before he was found the murderer. His own sense of honor prevented his wishes from becoming his actions, however. The girl’s parents were paying him to ensure their daughter succeeded at life, and they had been nothing but kind to him. He shook his head and continued his walk back to his room. He walked in the door and placed the pitcher on his nightstand, then sat on the bed to drink the milk.
Something felt wrong in his space. He opened his eyes and looked around. His green eyes lighted on an object partially obscured by his desk. He set his milk on the bedside table, then stood and approached. He peered over the wooden surface, then frowned. “It is past your bed time.” he reminded, his voice far more gentle than he felt he should be. “Go to your room.”
The girl looked up with wild, frenzied eyes. “No!” she shouted. “I don’t want to! I’m playing hide and catch with someone, and your room is his least favorite place to look.”
The girl’s teacher groaned. “Your stuffed bear is outside the door, isn’t it?” he demanded, growing irate.
“Yes. He is looking for me. Good thing for you, he’s half-deaf. Hush.” The girl held a finger to her lips. “Or I’ll have Papa fire you.
Despite her threat, the short man leaned down and wrapped his arms around the girl. He carried her from the room, then dumped her unceremoniously onto the floor. He shut the door and pulled the lock string through, preventing all but the most crafty of children from entering his lair. “Good night.” he urged firmly.
The girl growled. “You arse-bunkle.” She stormed off after she grabbed her stuffed bear.
The man simply shook his head. “Ah, bed. I welcome your sweet embrace.” he murmured as he felt the weight of two days on his shoulders. He sat on the edge after he pulled back the blankets, kicked off his slippers, removed his mask, then drank his milk. It chilled him to the core, and coated his throat. He felt violated by the cold, but it always put him to sleep with ease. The man leaned slowly to one side as he slipped his legs under the blankets, then pulled the thick coverings up over his nose. “Good night.” he murmured to himself as he finally submitted to his nightly urges.