Her back hurt.
It was a constant ache, aggravated by the cot she slept on and the loads she bore. Four people could generate a surprising amount of laundry, especially when three of them were socialites who regularly attended parties. Carrying those loads back and forth for fourteen years had bent her back, slowly but steadily, until she could no longer walk upright.
It had all begun so well. Her father, recognizing his own shortcomings, had gone in search of a mother for his child. The widow had seemed to be perfect, having two children of her own that were both well-behaved and sweet. Believing that all was well, he married her that fall, bringing the spider and her children into his home with not a hint of trouble.
He died on the anniversary of his wife’s death.
The three-year-old little girl, bereft of both her parents in a year, was vulnerable to all the machinations of the spider from day one. What she was told to do, she did. Within a year, no-one outside of the household remembered that the little girl was the step-daughter and not a servant.
The spider and her daughters carefully hoarded the money, spending judiciously at the exact moments needed to impress the right people at the right places at the right times. Eventually, the inherited fortune began to run low. One by one, the old servants were fired, or left, until all the household chores rested on Hazel’s shoulders.
She was exhausted, and near the breaking point.
Though she did not know it, so was the Spider.