She wasn't going to bother lying; life at the Turpin house was bleak. Not only was her company limited to a couple of practically inanimate birds who couldn't care less about her as long as she kept them fed, but she was the only female within the perimeter. Not to mention that beadle was always over, and he gave Johanna the creeps. It's not like the judge was any better; but that mole.
Johanna rolled over on her bed and sighed. There wasn't really much to do, either. She'd curled her hair already, which took up a good hour or so, and she had fully tired of embroidery about fifteen years ago. If she had to cross-stitch one more proverb onto any sort of fabric, she was going find that key she had hidden somewhere in her bustier (it was in there, she knew it) and carve a hole in the wall with it.
"What is it?" she muttered to herself, sitting up and sliding off the bed. On her way to the door, she passed her full-length mirror and stopped altogether. When had her hips gotten to be two axe-handles wide? And what had she been thinking when she'd put on that dress? It was practically stretching at the seams!
She tore her eyes away from her reflection and hurried downstairs where the judge was waiting by the table. He gave her the usual once-over with his permanently narrowed eyes before speaking.
"Supper has been ready for the past twenty minutes," he drawled. "You know how I don't like it when you make me wait."
Johanna's face flushed bright red and she glowered up at her guardian as her own baby blues filled with tears.
"Well, maybe if you'd call me down sooner, when I got here later, it'd be on time!" Her hands were tensed up at her sides as she glared. Judge Turpin simply looked perturbed.
"Erm…Johanna, perhaps you'd like to sit down and be reasonable."
"Reasonable!" her eyes widened to the size of the dinner plates the beadle was trying to discreetly set down. "How could I, when you're so infuriating!"
"Young lady!" Judge Turpin raised his voice slightly and hit the table with his palm. "You will sit down. And you will eat your supper. And then you will go straight back up to your room to reflect on this appalling behavior."
"So be it, then!" Johanna forced her chair out and angrily sat, staring with fury into space the entire time. Judge Turpin observed her a moment before easing out his own chair and taking a seat. The beadle took this opportunity to ladle out the soup he'd bought at one of the stalls down the street. Johanna eyed it warily.
"I can't eat this! How do you expect me to eat soup when I'm already such a…a…a whale!" she simply looked helpless this time around, eyes once again tearing up. The judge and the beadle were floored. Neither of them having had much experience with women, despite their countless late nights reading books all about them, they had no idea how to react. The beadle offered her a piece of bread, which made her wail even louder.
"How can you be so insensitive?" she sobbed into her napkin. The beadle took a generous step backward and ate the bread himself, watching her the entire time for signs of combustion.
"Maybe it's that plague all over again," he whispered to the judge.
"Wouldn't she have keeled over by now?"
"I don't know, but God, she'd better hurry up, she's usually so quiet it's driving me barking mad."
"Wait!" Judge Turpin bolted up and made a beeline for his library. He vaguely remembered reading about something similar once. At this point, any knowledge could prove useful.
After rifling through his otherwise raunchy collection of books, he found it. It was a dusty blue tome entitled Women Throughout the Ages. Normally he merely skimmed through the bits about anything younger than thirty, but he had a feeling in doing so he'd missed something vital.
"Women…young girls…color pink…boy bands…ah. The 'cycle'. I'd think I would have at least seen this befo—oh my." For a good ten minutes, Judge Turpin stood, mouth agape, at a loss for words. This was what he had to put up with once a month for the rest of Johanna's life?
"Only until she reaches menopause," the beadle interjected.
"Where did you come from?" the Judge cried, leaping a foot in the air.
"Well, seein' how she wasn't particularly keen on eating anything, I sort a' just cleared the table and well, you looked intrigued, so I read ahead a bit."
"Try to be a bit more conspicuous next time, you blundering fool." Judge Turpin irritably turned the page to read more about symptoms. "Oh dear…that certainly doesn't sound pleasant."
"What? What is it?" the beadle hopped behind the judge, attempting to get a better look."
"Apparently these 'cramps' are supposed to feel…as though some sort of fire was being ignited in your abdomen right after you've been…hit repeatedly there with a battle axe!" This observation was met with an agonized groan of seeming agreement from the kitchen, where Johanna sat doubled over in her chair.
"Ooooh! Lookit this bit." The beadle was able to point a greasy finger at some other signs. "Says here that they tend to get all sorts of emotional."
"That certainly explains a lot," Judge Turpin muttered.
"Well, what're you waiting for? Look up the cure!"
"Don't you think I'm trying?" Judge Turpin scanned the next few pages, and a look of fear crossed his face. "Beadle, there exists no cure…"
"Well, how long could it last? Till tomorrow?"
"Bollocks." He slammed the book shut and replaced it on the shelf. "If I'd known that was going to happen, maybe I'd have reconsidered the whole keeping her thing."
"Well, maybe you could try and help her." The beadle cracked a smile, revealing all of his lovely brown teeth.
"And do what? This is clearly…woman's work."
"We ain't got women."
"Well, er…fine. You go talk to her, and I'll keep looking." Before the beadle could protest, Judge Turpin had shoved him out of the study and back towards the kitchen. The beadle ambled over to a very irritated-looking Johanna.
"What is it?" she muttered.
"I…er…well, I…" the beadle realized this was probably why he remained unwed…he had no clue when it came to females.
"Would you please just leave me alone?" the politeness seemed so forced, it was like a slap to the poor ignorant man.
"Well I thought we could talk…about…er, feelings."
"Feelings?" Johanna turned to face him, expression now one of bewilderment. "Why would I talk to you of all people about feelings?"
"Well, I understand that, uh…this is a very difficult time…and you're going through, erm…well…you see…" he made a few hand motions and looked desperately to see if Johanna would take it from there.
"How vulgar!" She rose from her seat, but the beadle pushed her back down.
"No, no, no! We have to solve this right now, it'll drive us both up the wall if this keeps up all week!"
At this, Johanna once again commenced her wailing, to the dismay of the beadle and the judge, who was now tearing through papers to find some kind of medicine for this atrocity.
"Beadle!" he bellowed. "Go down to the apothecary, or the pub, or wherever, and get me their strongest poison!"
"For her?" he looked shocked, towards the study, and Johanna laid her head on the table and beat it with her fists.
"No! For me!" he pushed back his hair in panic and scrambled back to the dining room. He was really starting to regret getting rid of this Benjamin Barker fellow—he'd really only planned up to keeping Johanna long enough to marry her…but if this was what he had to look forward to!
"Wait till she's with child," the beadle had taken one of the books Judge Turpin had set down and was flipping through it. "Then she gets hunger cravings."
Johanna sobbed harder, and burst out laughing at the same time, which only made her cry more.
"This is endless!" Judge Turpin stood and yanked open the hall door. "Maria!"
The maid scurried down the stairs and looked anxious. "Sir?"
"Take her—take her to the town square. Take her on a good, long shopping expedition. Get her anything she wants—here. Take my wallet. But don't bring her back until the place closes for the night."
"As you wish, sir." Maria curtsied and made her way over to Johanna. The judge sat with his head in his hands until he heard the door close and the carriage depart.
"Women." Judge Turpin wiped sweat off his forehead. "Maybe I should just get her to a nunnery."
"And miss out on all the fun?" the beadle grinned.
"Don't even start with me."