Historical Fiction

Condemned by Fate by VL McBeath

The smell of bacon floating into the bedroom woke Charles. As soon as he remembered where he was, he tried to jump out of bed but fell back onto the mattress as a pain shot through his shoulder. Damn that fool man. Moving more carefully, he swung his legs out of bed and went to the dresser where he threw some water on his face. He needed to move faster than this. The last thing he wanted was for his father to think he was work-shy. It took him less than two minutes to get dressed, but by the time he arrived for breakfast his father had gone. Breathing a sigh of relief, he stopped to tuck his shirt into his trousers.
“What time do you call this?” his mother said. “Another five minutes and you’d have been going without. Sit yourself down quickly.”
“Where is everybody?” Charles said.
“Pa’s gone to Birmingham and everyone else is doing their jobs. In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve got the harvest to get in. Why your father agreed to let you work in Shenstone, I don’t know. We haven’t got enough hands as it is.”
“Well, I’m here now. I’ll go and help Richard when I’ve had something to eat and go for the certificate this afternoon.”
“Are you going to tell me what happened in Shenstone?”
“I told you.” Charles shifted in his seat.
“No you didn’t.” His mother put a plate of bacon in front of him and folded her arms, waiting for an explanation. “Mr Chadwick being a fool is no reason to delay you and it doesn’t explain that gash on the side of your head.”
Charles ran his fingers over the cut on his temple.
“It’s nothing, just a cut.”
“It looks like more than a cut to me and where’s your bag? You came back with nothing last night.”
“I left in a hurry,” he said as he dumped his bacon between two slices of buttered bread and marched to the door. “I’ll see you later.”
Charles walked straight across the kitchen window to make sure his mother saw him, but once he rounded the corner of the house, he sat down and took a bite out of his sandwich. He had planned on helping his brother this morning, but wasn’t doing any digging with his shoulder the way it was. He needed to see Mary, too. If he timed it right, he could go to Shenstone on his way to Lichfield and hope that Mr Chadwick was in the fields. Whether he would be able to see Mary was another matter, but he had to try.