Alright...so this is definitely the longest, toughest story I've ever written. In Word, this is just over nine pages! It does start a little slow, since the beginning is necessary to build towards the stomachaches that happen, but I hope you all enjoy regardless!
Hawthorne Manor, 1815
Clarisse Washburn was a picture of elegance. Her chestnut hair was pinned up perfectly, her dress made in the most current of fashions and her warm, brown eyes glimmered softly in the glow oft he evening candlelight. She offered a stiff smile to her host, Arthur Hawthorne, who sipped politely at his wine.
“You refuse me yet again, Arthur.My patience is wearing thin.”
Arthur was a manipulative old man,and had little time for Clarisse and her demands. The girl was pretty, yes, but he would not be pushed into backing down by some willful woman who could not control her tongue!
“Who are you trying to fool, girl?I’m at the advantage here. Respected patron, rich gentleman. And who are you?Some wild thing with fanciful ideas pounded into her skull. Nobody will believey ou.”
She clenched her teeth, struggling to keep her temper in check.
“You stole my father’s patent, and plan to claim it as your own. You will give it back to me. Now.”
He let out a dry guffaw, and patted his mouth daintily with his napkin.
“Or I’ll kill you.”
This was too much for Arthur Hawthorne. He laughed until his sides ached and tears got caught in his impeccably groomed beard.
“As if…hah, oh, as if you could do such a thing? Oh, that’s rich! You’re but a slip of a woman. I could overpower you, yell for help, kill you in self-defense…that’d rid me of your pestering dinner conversations. I would be insulted by this threat if it had weight to it. Consider yourself blessed by my good humor. Under other circumstances, I’d have you escorted off my grounds.”
Clarisse smiled coldly.
“Indeed. Tell me, Mr. Hawthorne…did your roast lamb not taste bitter at all? Or did you attribute that to the new chef? You didn’t wonder that I refrained from commenting on my own supper? You don’t hold me in high enough regard to dream of me being polite.”
Mr. Hawthorne paled a little. Sweat beaded on his brow, and it had nothing to do with the temperature of the room,which had started to spin.
“What is it, my gracious host?Feeling a little dizzy? Perhaps slightly nauseous?’
“Oh, but I did.”
Arthur opened his mouth to shout for help when a large hand silenced him, muffling his cry. Edward Washburn nodded once at Clarisse, who shot him a genuine smile and blushed when he winked back. Tall, dark-haired, and stormy-eyed, they were a beautiful couple. Even when they were children, they had done everything together. Killing was just another activity.Their dedication would’ve been romantic under different circumstances, but this was murder. There is no romance in manslaughter. Clarisse looked Arthur straight in the eye.
“Mr. Washburn, my husband, has been waiting in the kitchen this whole time, waiting for this part of our conversation. We bought out your chef. The man never really liked you, anyways.Edward will keep you at bay. I told him you’d try to scream. He’ll keep you silent while you…listen to my generous offer. Lucky for you, I have the antidote on my person.” She lifted up a small drawstring bag, letting it dangle from her fingers. “I can save you if you tell me where the patents are.”
Hawthorne’s face was turning red,his breathing labored. He knew his time was up. Edward removed his hand, and Arthur spoke.
“You’re a clever little witch…but not clever enough. I’m already a dead man, and I owe you no favors. Find the patents on your own time, you—“
He fell forwards, Edward catching him before he hit the table and made any noise.
“So be it. Edward? Arrange him.”
Washburn dragged Hawthorne into the study next to the dining room, sat him in his plush leather chair, and set his wine glass next to him on the elegant wine table. He then haphazardly dropped a book on his lap. Clarisse nodded.
“Perfect. The old bastard looks like he died in that chair. They’ll think it was a heart attack.”
Edward nodded, pleased with their handiwork. He kissed Clarisse chastely on the lips.
“Shall we go create an alibi, my little murderess?”
“Yes, we shall.”
They hurried out, unseen by the groundskeepers, just as they’d come in.
Once in the carriage, Clarisse sighed and leaned against her lover. “This won’t be easy.”
Edward laughed. “Of course it’ll be easy. Your housekeeper and maids were in on it, they’ll attest that you were getting ready for the dinner party at the Macgregor homestead tonight.”
“That’s not the difficult part.We’re going to have to act hungry upon our arrival, and eat enough to look innocent. I’m lucky enough to have a corset, and I planned for this by bringing along a girdle for you, but eating so much will surely make entertainment tonight difficult.”
“I see. We shouldn’tve dined with Hawthorne…but he would’ve been suspicious. I ate while hiding in the kitchen…my growling stomach would’ve given us away. When your little belly is aching and full to bursting, just remember that I’ll soothe everything away when we’re in the clear. We’ll suffer through this together, my sweet.”
She squeezed his hand, then let one rest on her already full belly. She prayed her corset would hold. “Yes. We shall.”
The couple arrived at the party right on time, and were ushered into the dining room with many a warm welcome. Clarisse’s eyes met with Edward’s from across the room. Nobody suspected a thing. They sat down to an opulent dinner, unaware that they were being watched.
Lillian was Lucy Macgregor’s favorite maid. She was observant, which certainly helped with the cleaning. She had been told by her dearest friend at the Washburn house, that the young newlyweds, Edward and Clarisse, were plotting a murder.They had bought out the other house servants to create a solid alibi, using tonight’s dinner party as another clever cover story. Whether they had actually killed yet was unbeknownst to Lucy…she had no way of knowing Arthur Hawthorne’s nephew had just discovered his body in the study. No, her mind was bent on finding flaws in the plan and bringing the killers to justice. Such an act of heroism would surely free her from a dull life of scrubbing floors and mending tights. She watched Clarisse’s face for any hint of guilt. Nothing yet. She would just have to wait.
Clarisse inwardly groaned as she took another helping of the intensely rich food spread out in front of her. It was as if the heavy weight of her conscience had transferred straight to her belly. She felt her stomach straining against the tightness of her corset, begging to be rubbed and freed from its claustrophobic prison. Worse, the linen and whalebone undergarment made it impossible for any warmth to soothe the dull, throbbing ache pulsating heavily in her belly. She continued to eat and exchange pleasantries, even though her stomach was screaming to break loose and she wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball and rub it better. She gently touched Edward’s hand under the table, squeezing it to let him know that his services would be much needed later. He gave her a sympathetic squeeze back as a tiny gurgle escaped his burdened belly. He was hurting too. They continued to eat and drink heartily, even though both their stomachs felt swollen enough to burst.
The both of them dared not look down at their strained bellies when the sixth and final course ended. Clarisse felt like she was going to be sick. Faint gurgles squealed through her system, muffled by the smooth fabric of her dress and the straining tightness of her corset. She snuck a look at Edward’s stomach. The girdle she had him wear was barely containing his over-stuffed stomach. She prayed it would hold for a few more hours. Dinner parties rarely ever ended after dinner, she knew. This observation was all too true, it seemed. No sooner had she let the idea ramble around her brain then Lucy Macgregor had stood up and clapped her hands together eagerly.
“Now for a little bit of a dance, shall we?”
Mr.and Mrs. Washburn cheered with the rest of the guests, all the while dreading the prospect of getting up and jostling their stomachs. Trying their hardest not to moan, they stood and headed to the ballroom.
Lillian kept a close eye on the couple as they swept into the grand ballroom adjacent to the dining room. Leaning over, she whispered to her fellow housemaid,Andrea, while clearing the table to prepare it for dessert.
“Andrea,do the Washburns seem…odd to you tonight?”
“Hm?Oh, well…” she paused, thinking as she gathered the dirty plates. “The Mrs.looked rather ill getting up from the table. And Mr. Washburn seemed to be a bit uncomfortable himself. Had one hand pressing on his gullet as he was standing, if you don’t mind my noticing. My mum always said that was a sure sign of a stomachache. Wouldn’t surprise me if he was feeling ill too…rich food does an empty belly no good.”
“And does a full belly worse. They’re very well-to-do, their stomachs would welcome the food were they truly hungry. Yett hey ate with such gusto, certainly more than the other guests. Overcompensating, I suppose. “ Lillian thought.
“Thank you, Andrea. I thought they seemed a bit sickly tonight. They may want to stay the evening. Make up the spare room just in case.”
Andrea bustled off, leaving Lillian to look into the ballroom through the large oak doors, flung wide open. The Washburns jumped and twirled with the others,though their faces seemed much paler in comparison. Sweat beaded on Mrs.Washburn’s forehead, and she grimaced ever-so-slightly with each movement.
“You can’t eat away guilt, Mrs. Washburn.”
Clarisse’s stomach felt like it was about to explode. It was bubbling and burning like an active volcano. She tried her hardest not to moan a little when dancing, but some of the more taxing moves made her stomach twinge sharply and she couldn’t help but whimper a bit as it punished her for abusing it so. Edward wasn’t faring much better. The girdle was barely keeping his stomach contained. The normally trim Mr. Washburn had a subtle bulge hidden by only his jacket. During a move that pulled them closer,he pressed his aching belly against his wife’s warm body, seeking relief. She whimpered again when his stomach made her corset press further against her cramping abdomen. She whispered in his ear, voice trembling slightly.
“My belly hurts so badly, m’love. So, so badly.”
“Mine too, darling. I’ve never felt such a concentrated pain. We’ll make it through. Together.”
She groaned softly as he lifted her in time to the music. He could barely hear it, but her stomach was churning angrily. No doubt it would be working much more intensely when it had room to expand outwards. He pitied her tightly-packed organs, jammed full with nowhere to go. The girdle was forcing his poor belly inwards as well, but it did a much gentler job. His stomach was allowed to expand at least a little. Hers was crammed into that ruthless little undergarment, with no hope of reprieve. At least not until he let it loose when they undressed tonight. He was about to tell her as such when Lucy Macgregor clapped her hands, garnering the attention of the room. The music stopped and the dancers stood still.
“Dessert has been served. You’re all in for quite a rich treat…tonight, sweets will be served in not one, but three courses. Come with me, and let us enjoy these opulent delights!”
All the guests chattered happily, including the Washburns, who felt pressure to act like they weren’t bursting at the seams. They managed to confine their complaints to their heads, but when their eyes met, they knew the both of them were thinking in the same vein. They shuffled back to the dining room with the other guests, trying their best to seem as excited. Had they been comfortably full, the beautiful desserts would’ve pleased them extensively. As it were, they did nothing more but fill them with dread.
The two dug in with as much gusto as they could muster. Clarisse felt like crying. Oh, her poor, poor belly! She felt it shift and cramp as she forced more inside it, the strings of her corset creaking, the whalebone pressing uncomfortably into her skin. She wanted nothing more than to rip of the clothing that constrained her stomach and cradle her tight, aching belly in the comfort of her nightdress.
Edward wasn’t faring much better.His eyes were starting to glaze over as he pushed through the third course. The intense ache in his belly alternated between a dull, pulsating throb, and a stabbing, tearing feeling. He imagined it was because his stomach was being forced into the girdle as well as having to hold more food than it ever had before. He didn’t understand how he, or Clarisse for that matter, hadn’t vomited yet. This was both a blessing and a curse. While he didn’t want to be accused of the murder he helped commit, he wouldn’t mind emptying his stomach. Oh God, did it pain him! But at last, his ordeal was over. With the last bite forcing itself into his hopelessly full belly, he leaned back, grateful there was no more food to come. His wife continued to sit straight and act ladylike.Her brown eyes turned and caught his. They were almost brimming with pain, as she gently placed her hand on her stomach. Even with the corset, he could see that her stomach had a very, very slight outward curve. Her lower lip trembled,and he knew her discomfort must’ve been immense. Clarisse was known for her fortitude…it was very unlike her to show any sign of weakness.
They entered conversation, eager to try and push the belly pain out of their minds with idle chatter.
The messenger boy at the door had fear in his eyes as he relayed the scene playing out at the Hawthorne Manor. Lillian maintained a surprised façade. She had known it would happen.
“Oh, Lillian! Master Hawthorne’s been poisoned! Poisoned! Whoever did it left the vial in the kitchen by mistake, the police say…otherwise they would’ve sworn it was a heart attack. Areal murder, here! It frightens me so! They say the carriage tracks lead here....the constable is on his way.”
Lillian placed a gentle hand on the trembling boy’s shoulder. He couldn’tve been older than eleven. Such a terrible thing for a child to know!
“Hush, now,” she murmured reassuringly, “they’ll catch the culprit. You come in the kitchen and I’ll give you some warm milk to calm you down. Is that alright?”
“Y-yes, I suppose…” he snuffled.
“Be a good boy and don’t cry. Sit here and be patient; Andrea will get you your drink.”
She ran from the kitchen, holding her skirts, and burst into the dining room.
A flustered-looking housemaid ran into the dining room and blurted out a breathless announcement.
“Arthur Hawthorne has been murdered! Poisoned! They found a vial in his kitchen! There were carriage tracks leading here from the scene of the crime. The murderer may very well be among us. The constable is on his way.”
A chorus of gasps echoed throughout the room. One of the ladies fainted, falling out of her chair as frightened murmurs filled the air. Clarisse and Edward feigned surprise, but their eyes held real terror. Propping Hawthorne in a chair, it seemed, was not enough. Clarisse struggled to keep her thoughts in check. Her heart seemed caught in her throat, and she knew it wasn’t her overstuffed belly that shoved it there. The drawstring bag with the antidote, she remembered, was under her chair. If she was asked to show its contents, they would surely notice that the vial in the bag matched the one in the kitchen.Carefully, very carefully, she slid her foot under the chair, and dragged the bag out with the toe of her shoe. Equally cautious, she kicked it diagonally under the table, hoping that her aim would be true, and the little pouch would land under the chair of a certain Mr. Andrews, who was known to have harbored a grudge against Hawthorne for years. It was just her luck that he was sitting within range. But could she do it? For her sake and Edward’s, she certainly hoped so! After she trusted her toss to fate, there was nothing to do but sit and wait for the police to arrive. Time seemed to slow, but at the same time,could not be slow enough. It was all she could do to keep from panicking when Constable Thomas Dean strode into the room.
Lillian bit her lip in frustration as Constable Dean slowly passed silent judgment over the guests. She had tried informing him of the facts she was privy to, but he had waved her away, muttering something about her need to remember her place in society. She wanted nothing more than to kick him in the shins, but that would hardly help her to convince him that the Washburns were the perpetrators.
He finally spoke in a stern, booming voice. “It seems that we’ve suffered a loss tonight. It seems that this was not much of a loss to someone who may very well be sitting before me tonight.”
Lillian stole a glance at Clarisse and Edward. Damned if they weren’t keeping their cool. She fought the urge to swear under her breath. She could hardly convict them if they didn’t act the part! There had to be more clues for her to use,there had to be! She couldn’t work her days away, and she couldn’t let these two get away with murder. Was there any sense of justice in the world?
“I will question all of you tonight, unless we find evidence enough to convict before getting to everyone. Mr.Andrews…it seems you have the biggest motive against Hawthorne, please rise and follow me to the drawing room.”
Mr.Andrews reluctantly stood and went to follow the Constable, when the lady sitting next to him cried out.
“Beneath his chair, look!”
Lillian peered closer. There was a small leather bag. A delicate-looking glass vial waspeeking halfway out of the drawstring top. Constable Dean took a few steps towards the item, picked it up, and observed it for a few moments. Mr. Andrews started to stutter, red faced.
“I’ve n-never seen that b-before in my life!”
The Constable frowned, looking darkly at the flustered man.
“A likely story, I’m sure. Mr. Andrews, if you will come with me, please, you’ll be spending the night behind bars as we gather more evidence. If you have a lawyer, I’d get someone to fetch him for you.”
The dining room was awash with frantic mutterings as Andrews was strong-armed out of the house. Lillian couldn’t believe it. Had they been innocent after all? Did her confidante lie? Troubled, she watched the men load Andrews into the carriage, then went back to the kitchen. Something seemed off, and she'd figure it out. She'd get to the bottom of this.
It was all Clarisse could do to keep from crying with relief. They were safe. She turned to her husband and gave the tiniest smile. He returned the look, then got up as best he could and walked over to Mrs. Macgregor. Edward knew that both he and his wife wouldn’t be able to stand the bumpy ride back home. It was a long way, and an hour of jostling wouldn’t sit well at all with their overworked bellies.
“The excitement of tonight has exhausted my wife. I don’t think she’d do well on the journey home. Might we stay here? I’m dreadfully sorry to impose…”
Lucy shook her head. “You don’t impose at all! Look at the poor dear, she’s pale as a ghost! You simply must spend the night. I usually have the spare room already made up. Go up straight away, she looks fit to faint!”
Edward headed back to Clarisse and helped her to stand. “We’re sleeping here tonight, darling. The ride back would’ve been too much.”
Clarisse nodded, and walked quickly with him, eager to free her aching belly from its cruel prison. Every step she took jostled her stomach all too much, forcing it to cramp around the impossible amount of food inside it. Out of earshot now, Clarisse groaned, one hand pressed against her corset even though it did nothing to ease the ache. She could feel her belly pulsing, squirting, and churning, trying its hardest to cope. They made it to the room and shut the door. Edward shrugged out of his shirt, and Clarisse undid the very stretched-out girdle. His belly expanded outwith a large, gurgly slosh, and he moaned as it shifted and churned angrily. Clarisse had never seen a stomach so round and taut. She forgot her own stomach for a little while as she gently laid a hand on his impossibly tight, bubbling belly. It was warmer than she thought it would be, and it seemed to moan in response to her touch. She rubbed it gently for a little, when all of a sudden a cramp larger than she thought possible tore through her body. She impulsively went to bend over, but the corset forbid her from doing so.
“Edward, oh, my Edward…please…help me. Oh, God, my belly feels like it might kill me, oh!”
Ignoring his own stomach pain, Edward unlaced his wife’s gown and let it fall to the floor. He then lifted her slip so that he could get to the corset over her short, gauzy under-dress.
“You may want to lie down as I’m doing this, dearest. The weight of my belly almost caused me to stumble, and you ate more than I tonight. Here…” He guided her to the bed and had her lie on her side while he unlaced the corset. She almost cried when it released her belly. It swelled comically, gurgling and squealing as it sloshed to its full size. She looked pregnant as she curled around her poor, aching stomach. She moaned softly and rubbed it, fingers running over the long, red, indented marks the corset had left on her burdened belly. Edward labouredly slid into bed with her, pressing his stomach against hers so that they warmed each other. The two of them found immense comfort in that,then proceeded to rub every inch of the other’s stomach that wasn’t touching theirs. Edward loved how her belly was so smooth and taut, that it was singing to him as he rubbed it. He could feel it squirming and churning under his hand, but he didn’t mind. Her belly was almost a semi-circle, and hard as marble.None of its usual softness was there. Somehow, the feel of her smooth, taut skin was enchanting, intoxicating.
Clarisse was in a similar position. Usually her husband’s stomach was nicely muscled and toned, but now it ballooned outwards, completely smooth. The soft swishing sound of her palm pressing as deeply as it could into his belly as it spasmed, coupled with his soft groans and labored breathing, was almost erotic. She was about to give his stomach an experimental kiss when her belly contracted sharply, sending waves of feverish pain through her body. It let out a long, agitated gurgle that felt like it was shaking her system to pieces. She half moaned, half sobbed as the process continued, pressing her quaking abdomen as hard into her Edward’s belly as she dared.
“OhhhhhhhhhHHHHH!Oh, my poor b-belly! It hurts, it hurts, it…ohhhhhh! Please, p-please…just take away this burning ache, this fire tearing my insides apart!” She moaned again, pulling him as close as she could. Edward tried his hardest to stay stoic himself, even though his own belly felt like it was going to solidify, then crack into onet housand burning pieces. Moving gingerly, he pulled her into a very tight hug, their stomachs gurgling wildly in protest as their contents were disturbed once again. Sweat beaded on both their foreheads as the pain increased sharply. Edward winced and let out a shuddering gasp, lessening the pressure on both of their stomachs.
“Let’s…let’s settle for a rub then, my darling.”
Clarisse just nodded, the intensity of the ache robbing her of speech. Her stomach rose and fell rapidly with her labored breathing, quivering ever so slightly with each movement. She reached out with both hands to cradle and caress her husband’s belly as it let out a sickly groan. The two of them rubbed each other’s stomachs with comforting pressure and warmth, massaging them tenderly and lovingly. Edward sighed, struggling to remain strong and hide his pain, butit still tinged his voice.
“I almost wonder…if the murder was worth all this.”
The door burst open.
Thank God she’d convinced Constable Dean to do another round of the house before he notified the papers of the unfolding drama. She had managed to get a carriage to the station. Positive he’d gotten the right criminal, he’d listened to her story with much amusement…until the observations Lillian presented made it hard to deny that perhaps Mr. Andrews was framed. Indeed, he wasn’t the only guest in the room that harbored ill-will towards Mr. Hawthorne. Rumor had it that Hawthorne had stolen a patent from his competitor, a Mr. Nathaniel Clearwater-Gent. His eldest daughter was none other than Clarisse Washburn. The patent in question would’ve made the Clearwater-Gent fortune, so there was plenty of motive behind murder on the part of Mrs. Washburn. The fact that she and her husband were showing stomach discomfort during both dining and dancing implied that the extensive courses of tonight’s meal were not the only ones sitting in their bellies. There were also several nervous glances exchanged between the Washburns over dinner, which might point to them as perpetrators of the crime.
Constable Dean hemmed and hawed for a little, the turned a strange shade of purplish-red.He hated being wrong, but the serving girl had made a few splendid observations. Mr. Andrews did seem to have no recognition of the vial, and some of the guests had expressed that they hadn’t seen the bag under his chair until it was pointed out to them. What’s more, the Clearwater-Gent patent was found hidden in Hawthorne’s study. No one could say that Clarisse, heir to her father’s considerable wealth, wouldn’t kill to have that patent restored to her family. Once approved, it could triple their fortune.
“The Washburns are staying at the Macgregor estate, you say? We could pop over and pay a surprise visit. If they are guilty, then we can release Mr. Andrews. If not, then we apologize for disturbing their sleep, and you might be out of a job.”
Lillian bit her lip. She couldn’t afford to be sacked. But she also couldn’t live knowing an innocent man was sitting in prison.
“Fine, then. I’d be willing to bet my job on this man’s innocence. If I’m wrong, I’ll seek work elsewhere, but I refuse let this matter sit on my conscience.”
They piled back into the carriage, and set off for the Macgregor estate. Lucy Macgregor was about to turn in for the night, and was not pleased that yet another investigation was taking place. One look at Dean’s stormy face, though,had her opening the door and giving them leave to examine as they needed. They treaded softly through the dining room, and up the stairs. Outside the guestroom door came a great moan…a woman’s moan, at that. Both Dean and Lillian couldn’t help but blush---all of a sudden, listening closer seemed like quite a daunting prospect. Perhaps the Washburns were getting...intimate. The two of them winced a bit, and pressed their ears to the door. They could hear soft chatter, some more groaning, Mrs. Washburn whimpering, complaining of a stomachache. Lillian felt her heart race a bit…her theory was growing sounder by the second. But they couldn’t be sure, at least, not until Mr. Washburn opened his mouth.
“I almost wonder…if the murder was worth all this.”
They had to act fast. Constable Dean threw the door open, and Lillian rushed in, close on his heels. They both looked down quickly, as both Mr. and Mrs.Washburn were indecently dressed. Flabbergasted and stumbling over his words, Constable Dean informed them that they were under arrest, and would be promptly tried. Mrs. Washburn began to weep quietly, while her husband sat stone-still in bed, dazed.
Lillianturned to look at the Constable, one eyebrow raised as if to say, “See? I told you as such.”
Clarisse and Edward were informed that upon further inspection of Hawthorne Manor, the patent was discovered, wedged behind a bookshelf in the study. This theft would be taken into account by the jury, so they might escape with a lighter sentence than would normally be issued for this kind of crime.
Lillian sighed with a mixture of satisfaction and pity as the Washburns dressed and were taken away.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold, yes…but it’s not worth the bellyache that follows when you have to swallow the consequences.”