Beatrix had never been religious, not even in that “I’m spiritual” way that some people liked to say. “I’m spiritual” came across as a cheat to her. Like claiming to be a great cook because you made a grilled cheese sandwich once in a while. Doing yoga or sitting beside a waterfall or believing in some cosmic force that liked to look down upon the world and smile like a distant aunt you saw briefly on certain holidays had never struck her as anything other than patting oneself on the back, satisfied you’d done enough to avoid being labeled an amoral, untrustworthy atheist.
Beatrix didn’t play that game. She was an atheist, and she’d seen no reason to be anything else.
Josh, on the other hand, was deeply religious. Somehow, they made it work.
“Honey, have you seen my robe?” he asked as he prepared for his Wednesday night services. He’d only recently been promoted to Cupbearer. The new responsibilities put him on edge.
“In the closet.” She put her bookmark in the romance paperback she was reading on bed. “In the back.”
“I don’t see it,” he said. “Oh god, if I show up without it, they’ll probably demand some bloodletting as penance. I can’t do that. We gave blood at that Red Cross thing already.”
“It’s in the back.”
“Well, I’m not seeing it. Shit. I’m going to be lightheaded on the drive home. Oh, wait. Found it.”
“Oh, shit. Where’s my dagger? And where’s the cup? Oh, god, did I already lose the cup? Steve lost the cup. Had to spear out one of his eyes.”
Beatrix pointed to the dresser, where the cup and dagger sat. “Relax. Although you’d look sexy with an eye patch.”
He was too stressed to laugh. “Very funny.” He folded his robe over his arm, tucked the dagger into his belt and the cup between his elbow and body. “Don’t wait up. I have a feeling Master Zane is going to launch into one of his long sermons. Says the apocalypse is just around the corner.”
“Hasn’t he said that before?”
Josh shrugged. “He’s bound to be right one of these times.”
He kissed her and was out the door. It was five minutes later that she noticed he’d left the box behind.
She didn’t know a lot about his faith, but she’d picked up a few things. The box was important, but forgetting it wasn’t a punishable offense. Not this time of year. Most of the time, the box was quiet. Sometimes, the thing within would move around a little.
Beatrix had never looked in the box. It was against the rules. Once, a curious maid, despite being told not to, had opened it. Or so they assumed because they found her empty, bloodied clothes in a pile after hearing her strangled screams from the other room.
It was against the commandments to hide the box or put a lock on it. They sometimes fought about that. They didn’t have kids yet, but it was bound to be a problem then.
The box rattled around. Sighing, she put a thick dictionary atop it that she kept around for just such occasions before going downstairs to read in peace.