Pearls Before Swine.

Part I.

"Ye may not give that which is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before the swine, that they may not trample them among their feet, and having turned - may rend you."

She had always been nervous at night.

A lifetime lived in fear of the darkness - that every whisper, every sigh, every russel of the bedclothes, was seen, heard - being eternally observed, being granted no privacy, was something you never could get used to, even after a lifetime of it.

And Johanna Barker had had a lifetime of it.

From infancy to womanhood, her every movement had been observed by the dreaded Judge Turpin. Not in the Beadle's sly, lascivious gestures. The Judge was far too subtle for that. His methods were quieter. He preferred to allow his eyes to linger on her slender, snowy arms for a moment too long as she returned a book to a shelf, or to gently allow his fingers to whisper across a tassel of her yellow curls as she obediently fetched him another goblet of wine.

He would silently leave expensive gifts on her bed - the latest fashionable gowns, silken slippers, leather-bound books, jewels from the Orient.

Especially pearls.

The Judge adored pearls. He had once explained to her how a pearl was made - how a tiny grain of sand would become encased within an osyter, and gradually, over time, the grain of sand would become one of the pearls Johanna was used to seeing decorating her swan-like neck, or strung from her earlobes.

"It is strange, is it not, my dove," he once mused quietly, his unfathomable eyes thoughtfully trailing over her neck, where he had bestowed his latest gift of pearls. "How something so delicate, so exquisite, so naturally beautiful, so perfect in it's pure simplicity - is found within the depths of something quite base and foul? Indeed, it is almost like yourself, Johanna. Such perfection, coming from the depths of depravity. Think on that." And he had swept from the room quietly, leaving Johanna to reflect on the mystery of her parentage, and to feel encaged by the beautiful stones circling her neck.

Only in the dark did Johanna feel safe enough to tear the pearls off, and lock them away in her boudoir. But even then, she felt uenasy - in the dark, it is not as easy to pretend. In the light of day, it was easy to pretend the Judge had a purely innocent reason to gaze for so long, or to poision her porcelain skin with the touch of his wizened fingertips - in the darkness, there is no excuse for his gaze to linger, for his hearing to remain.

In the dark, there is nowhere to hide.