The Gift of Deceit
Revenge is the battle that cannot be won. It has had many challengers, yet still remains undefeated. It’s the bonded emotions of jealousy and rage which push those into a war that will only hurt themselves. In a perfect world, revenge would be obsolete. But, revenge will never die. It has thrived since the dawn of time. And because of this, we have the tale of Laurel and Iris Clarke.
In a Cotswold-style cottage, nestled in the vast expanse of the Welsh countryside, the sisters made their home. For many years, they lived peacefully, and would have continued to do so, if not for the day when someone knocked on their door. Standing upon the crumbling stoop was Richard Wensworth, an old childhood friend of Laurel’s and Iris’s.
“Laurel, how good it is to see you!” Mr. Wensworth proclaimed, as the door flew open.
“Richard!” Iris exclaimed. She had been very fond of him since they were children. Laurel too, had also been fond of Richard, but she was never as in love with him as Iris was. “What a pleasant surprise! But, you are mistaken. I am not Laurel.”
“Iris is correct, she is not me.” Laurel laughed, appearing in the doorway.
The fact that Richard could not differentiate between the two sisters was not at all shocking. Laurel and Iris had very similar features and were often mistaken as twins. They had the same blonde, glossy hair that traveled in waves down their backs. Their faces were also nearly identical, with piercing blue eyes and a mouth that was always slightly curved upward in a way that suggested they knew something that nobody else did.
“Indeed, I am mistaken. My sincerest apologies. ” Richard said smiling. “I guess I’m just so eager to tell you my news.”
“Well, do come in and share, Mr. Wensworth.” Laurel said, motioning him inside. Richard stepped in graciously, shrugging off his overcoat and removing his hat. The three of them gathered into the kitchen, and Iris started a pot of tea as Richard divulged into the reason he had come.
“I have recently been informed that my Uncle Philip passed away last month, and that he bequeathed his estate to me.” Richard explained. “I am planning on leaving soon, so that I may take charge of my inheritance.”
“Oh, Richard, that’s simply wonderful!” Laurel exclaimed, clasping her hands together.
“How exciting!” Iris chimed in.
“Yes, I am going to be Lord of Pembrooke Manor.” Richard said proudly. “Which brings me to the other reason why I am here. Laurel, I have always been fond of you, as you may have known. So, it is with great honor that I ask you to come with me to Pembrooke Manor.”
“Richard, I most graciously accept!” Laurel responded wholeheartedly. Iris, upon hearing her sister’s response, stumbled backward, grabbing onto the hot tea pot. She screamed at the burning pain that spread throughout her palm. As Laurel leaped from her chair and ran to her sister’s aid, Mr. Winston’s proposition was temporarily forgotten.
“Oh dear, Iris.” Laurel whimpered. “Look at your hand!” As Laurel addressed the deep burn, she turned back to Richard. “Perhaps I am making too rash a decision. It would not be fair to leave my sister.”
“Well then, Iris can also come.” Richard responded desperately.
“No,” Iris whispered, pulling her hand away from Laurel.“I wish to stay here. Laurel, you do not have to look after me. Go with Richard and put your happiness first.”
“Do you really mean that, Iris?” Laurel asked.
“Yes…” Iris answered, biting her lip.
“Then it is settled. I will send a carriage for you, Laurel, in three days time.” Richard exclaimed, rising from his chair. “This has been a most delightful visit, but I must depart so I can return to my estate by dark.”
“I will look forward to coming to Pembrooke Manor.” Laurel said, handing him his coat and hat.
“As will I.” Richard replied, taking his things and opening the front door. “I bid you good day!” With a final wave, Richard Wensworth had left as suddenly as he had arrived.
Three days later, the carriage arrived in front of the cottage as Richard promised it would. As Laurel was busily gathering her few possessions, Iris was in the kitchen, glaring out the window with eyes that could kill. Iris’s right hand was bandaged, as a flaming scar had formed from where she had burned it.
“How dare she!” Iris whispered to herself. “How dare she take the only man I have ever loved. How dare Laurel abandon me. How dare she.” Iris’s fingers fidgeted at her sides as an idea came to her. The carving knife lay to Iris’s left, glinting in the sunlight. Without a word, she slipped it into her sleeve, and walked toward the front door, heading directly for the carriage.
“Sir!” Iris called to the driver. “I believe my sister needs some assistance with her things. I would help her, but you can see I am injured.”
The driver glanced at Iris’s hand, and then proceeded to walk towards the cottage. Iris smiled. When the driver had gone inside, she slipped the knife out of her sleeve and walked to the back wheel of the carriage and inspected the axle. Iris stuck the knife into the axle, and made several quick sawing motions until she had almost sawed the axle in half. Smiling at her handy work, Iris slipped the knife back into her sleeve just as the driver and Laurel appeared in the doorway.
“I’m going to miss you,” Iris said, giving Laurel a long hug.
“I shall miss you too. Are you sure you do not want to come?” Laurel asked.
“Yes,” Iris responded. “I shall be alright. Have a safe journey.”
“Thank you,” Laurel said, climbing into the carriage. “Goodbye!”
“Goodbye.” Iris whispered menacingly, waving at the slowly disappearing carriage.
Iris headed back into the lonesome cottage, and picked up her straw basket. She quickly filled it with food and also placed the butcher knife in it. Iris then fled from her home, following the trail the wheels of the carriage had left behind.
She walked throughout the day, and into the night, continuing to follow the carriage wheels’ trail. By the time the sun began its ascent into the sky, Iris had reached the end of the tracks. She stood alongside the steep slope of a cliff that went down into the ocean. To her left was half of an axle and the carriage wheel. Success was hers.
Iris bent down and snatched the sharpest rock she could find. She used this to cut her clothing to shreds. She then layered dirt on her face and arms. When she finished, Iris tossed the basket over the cliff and waited for another carriage to come along the road. Night was almost upon her when somebody finally came by.
“Help!” Iris cried out meekly. “Oh, please help me!” The carriage came to a halt and the driver came to her side.
“Miss, are you alright? What has happened to you?” the driver asked urgently.
“I was in a carriage with my sister, heading to Pembrooke Manor. I was supposed to go alone, but I asked her to come with me for fear of my sister being all alone in our cottage. By the time we came across this bend in the road, it was dark. The axle broke and the carriage went down the side of the cliff.” Iris stopped to take a breath. “I don’t know how I survived, sir. It was a miracle!”
“What is your name?” the man asked, bending down next to Iris.
“Laurel.” Iris lied.
The driver helped Iris up and placed her in the back of the carriage, which was completely empty. She closed her eyes and slept for the first time in two days, and when she awoke, Iris was at Pembrooke Manor. Richard fled towards her asking what had happened. Iris retold the story that she had told the driver, and Richard believed everything she said. No longer was she, Iris. That name was as dead as her sister. Now, Iris was Laurel.
Two weeks later, Richard and Iris were taking a walk through the garden. Richard stopped, and got down on one knee. “My dear, Laurel,” Richard said. “Would you do me the honor of being my wife?”
“Of course!” Iris exclaimed, thrusting her hand out towards Richard for the ring. This was all Iris had dreamed about since she was a child. As Richard took her hand, he turned it over and saw the burn mark.