Kit rubbed her eye as she made her way into the kitchen. She glanced around at the others and gave them a sleepy wave. It had been a day or two since Kit had regained her present memories and control of her mind. Katherine’s-her-past life was still there, but it was easier to distinguish between her new life and her old life now. Almost everyone else was in the kitchen already, Cathy sleeping in for once.
“Morning, love,” Jane chirped, reaching over to pull Kit into a quick hug before returning her attention to little Edward.
“How’s your brain?” Anna asked, giving Kit a longer hug.
Kit shrugged and stepped over to the stove. “It’s okay. I still have… moments. I think going out is gonna be a little difficult, but she- I should be fine for the most part.”
“Are you up for talking about your time as queen?” Lina hesitantly piped in. “It’s alright if you aren’t, but we want to be here to help you through any misplaced feelings or after effects of regaining your memories.”
Though she tried to keep a calm face, the other queens noticed Kit’s shoulders tense. “Um…” Kit’s mind flicked back and forth between past life and present life. “How much does history say about he- about me?”
Anne scoffed and stood. As she made her way over to Kit, footsteps could be heard in the hall. Cathy shuffled into the kitchen with a yawn and a wave, dropping into her usual seat to rest before getting food. All focus was on Kit, though.
“No need to be nervous, Kitkat,” Anne told her gently. “I mean, look at me! History painted me as some kinda seductress. Some people tried spinning me as a witch. Whatever history says, it’s hella overrated.”
Kit turned to her, facing the kitchen at large. “But what does history say happened?” Her voice was tight. She didn’t like this. She knew what her memories told her happened, but she needed to know where they stood. She needed to know how much damage had already been done.
It was Cathy who spoke up then. More awake now that the current conversation was registering, she said, “From what I recall, you were accused of sleeping with men before your marriage to Henry, as well as an affair during your time as queen.” She remembered the investigation all too well. The rumors that had spread. At first, Cathy couldn’t believe them. She’d met Queen Katherine a few times; the girl had been a sweetheart. But when the testimonies came out, and the men were beheaded, Cathy’s resolve to believe Katherine had… diminished.
“Oh please,” Anne snorted. “He tried to do the same thing on me, remember? Ooh, she’s having affairs, so we gotta kill’er. What a crock load’a-.”
“It was true.”
That stopped everything in its tracks. All eyes swiveled to Kit in shock and Anna carefully stood from her seat. Anne turned to face her little cousin and tilted her head. “What was true, Kitkat?”
“The reasoning behind my execution. Henry was outraged I hadn’t told him I’d been with two men before him. And I was… and I was with someone while married to him. The reasoning was true.”
Heavy silence filled the kitchen as the information sank in. Anna, of course, already knew this, having been the one Katherine confided in about it. The others, though, were staring at Kit with no small amount of shock.
Almost instantly, Lina’s face hardened and her eyes narrowed over at the young woman. “You… you had an affair?”
Kit’s arms wrapped around her stomach and she turned her gaze upward and away from them. “I don’t see what the big deal is. Henry did it all the time.” It came out much stronger than she expected. Good thing, too. They might take her inner shaking as weakness.
“He was the king,” Jane pointed out, her expression shifting from shock toward disgust. “No one could tell him no!”
“You had an image to uphold as queen,” Lina hissed. “At least your cousin had the common decency not to outright have intercourse.”
Kit’s eyes flicked to her before she turned her head to look at Anne. Anne was still watching her. Her face still looked shocked, so maybe that was a good sign. “Annie?” Kit tried carefully.
“Tell me you’re lying,” Anne told her. A small line appeared between her eyes as she stared at Kit disbelievingly. “Tell me you’re lying.”
Kit remained silent and Anne’s eyes narrowed. No. No fucking way. No fucking way her little cousin would… Not little Kitkat… But she wasn’t Kitkat back then. She wasn’t Anne’s little cousin. They’d never even met. No, that was Katherine.
“I can’t believe this.”
Kit stared up at Anne. Anne would let Kit tell the whole story, wouldn’t she? The ghost of scars on her arms reminded Kit that Anne had promised to listen to her when something was wrong. Anne had always been there for her.
“Annie, it’s not what-.” As Kit reached out to put a hand on Anne’s arm, Anne slid backward, out of range. “Annie…”
“I…” Anne couldn’t deal with this. She couldn’t handle this right now. “Don’t touch me. I can’t even look at you. I need to just…” She took a deep breath and brushed passed Kit. “Just leave me alone.”
Edward whimpered at all of the tension in the air and Jane switched her attention back to him. She cooed to him gently, lifting him from his carseat and heading for the door. One last look of disgust was thrown to Kit before she disappeared.
Cathy and Lina’s glares drilled into Kit’s skull, judging her for what she’d done. Kit bit her lip and turned to face the stove for a moment. None of them knew the truth, the whole truth. The scar at her neck burned, a cruel reminder that this was the second time everyone had brushed aside her feelings for what they perceived as true. No one bothered looking deeper.
A hand on her shoulder made Kit look up. Anna watched her carefully. “Why don’t we take a walk, alright?” she asked softly. “I think everyone could use some air and time to process.”
Kit nodded and trailed her from the kitchen. The glares of the rest of the household followed them all the way until the front door shut. They walked for a while, thinking over everything that had happened.
Anna couldn’t believe the others would jump to conclusions like that so quickly. Kit had been a child, younger than she was right now. What gave them the right to judge her like this? Especially without hearing the full story?
Kit, on the other hand, was lost in numbness. Her cousin hated her. The cousin that took her in, soothed her, cared about her when no one else did, had abandoned her. All it took was some stupid memories. One minute, and everything between them just… shattered.
“Little fool,” a voice that sounded far too much like Thomas taunted her. “You really thought someone in your family cared about you? Your mother left you, your father abandoned you, your grandmother sent you away, and your cousin took advantage of you. They never cared, so why would she?”
That same itch from six years ago pulsed faintly in Kit’s hands, but she repressed it. Anne just needed time to cool down. She’d hear Kit out when the shock wore off or something. Thomas wasn’t right. Even if the rest of her family had abandoned her (in this life and the past), Anne had promised to be there and believe her. Anne would be there.
Anna stopped them at a street vendor and ordered two hot dogs, both for Kit. “Ya gotta eat,” she said. “You missed breakfast, so this is the next best thing.” Kit made no argument and nibbled at her hot dogs as they started off back for the house.
Anne huffed as she paced the living room. Her fists clenched and unclenched and her body shook a little. She wanted to scream and rage, but she couldn’t do that right now. Jane watched her, rocking Edward to sleep now that he’d finished eating.
Lina gave a heavy sigh as she made her way in and sat next to Jane. She rubbed little Eddie’s cheek before looking up at Anne. “So, am I correct in assuming the entire Howard family is full of miscreants?”
Anne’s jaw clenched, but she didn’t say anything. That was troubling. While she was less prone to outbursts after regaining her memories, she still could have a temper. For her to say nothing in retort meant this was getting to her more than expected.
Cathy crept in and settled near her godmother, watching Anne carefully. “It probably is a big shock,” she muttered with no small bit of venom. “Having your view of someone shattered so completely.”
Anne whirled on her furiously. “You knew!” she spat. “You were alive when it happened! You and Anna! And neither of you said a thing!”
“Would you prefer one of us tell you?” Cathy snapped. Jane glanced up at the sound of the front door opening. She and Lina glanced over as two shadows made their way along the wall. “Would you rather have one of your friends tell you or hear it directly from her?”
“You could have mentioned something!” Anne exclaimed, infuriated. “You could have told me not to get my hopes up or that maybe our situations were different, but instead you two just sat on the information!”
“It was her story to tell!” Cathy told her in exasperation. “It’s none of my business to begin with past being the reason the toad needed a new wife!”
“MY COUSIN IS A WHORE!” Anne roared. “You didn’t think it might be pertinent information for me to know she’d tarnished the family name for all of history?!”
Everything stilled for a moment. Edward’s soft cries filtered from where he’d been woken up. Footsteps sounded out in the hall and all eyes switched to the living room entrance. A blur of pink strode passed the door without even stopping. They all heard Kit ascend the stairs before her door quietly shut upstairs. Anna appeared in the doorway a moment later. Her eyes surveyed the room almost coldly.
“Because being known as a seductress, homewrecker, and cheating vixen is so much better.”
It was the only thing she said before disappearing up the stairs. Anne slumped down on an armchair, burying her face in her hands. This was so fucking stupid. How… Why… This was such a mess.
In her room, Kit felt the itch so much stronger than out on the street. She wiped at her eyes angrily. Whore. Vixen. Disgrace. Her jaw clenched as she ripped her t-shirt over her head. Her eyes zeroed in on her dresser. The switchblade she’d gotten from Anna for her birthday glinted brighter in the light from her window. Kit swiped it up and knelt over her discarded shirt.
Just as she positioned the knife over her skin, a thought struck her. A memory.
A hand, larger than her own but gentler than any of the ones that had touched her before, grasped loosely around her injured wrist. Kit looked up into her cousin’s worried eyes. “If you ever feel like doing this again, Kitkat, come to me instead. I promise I’ll always listen to you. You don’t deserve to go through this alone, babe. Let me be here for you.”
Kit was very precise as she cut into her arm. Years of not doing this hadn’t made her rusty, at least. Blood dripped to the shirt, but she didn’t care. As she watched the red leak over her skin, she felt a little bit of the pain in her chest ease. Just like back then, watching the wound start to clot provided a little bit of relief from her internal pain.
It was better when she hurt. Hurting physically meant she wouldn’t have the energy to hurt emotionally. If her arms were hurting her, Anne’s words couldn’t. And when they did…
She pierced the skin again.