Charlie didn't sort things out for New Year so the family wasn't complete on the day they all put aside for each other. Edward had been around a lot more since their father's arrest with Lillian and his daughter, Isla, who managed to get smiles out of the whole family. Rosalie and Jasper were working harder than ever to try and get some money into the family and Esmerelle was trying to get some as well. At sixteen jobs were hard to come by for Isabella but she was determined to get one - she had to help, had to contribute somehow to her family, it she was going to take she had to give back - and eventually she found one, a well paid one.
Struck with the energy that the large amount of food they got on New Year gave her, she applied and, to her immense surprise, she got it. No one in the family was really happy about the idea of her working even though they all knew they needed it and had themselves been working since they were sixteen. "She was the baby in the family, she was meant to have the easy life" they said but with a lot of Jasper's money going to Mary-Alice, not that anyone in the family blamed him in fact the encouraged him, and Rosalie's job being low paying, plus Esme not really being able to get much work around trying to help Edward keep the church running, money was an big issue, one they weren't going to have a dispute over.
It was January second when she started her job and she was met at the gates of the place.
'You are Miss Isabella Cullen, correct?' a stiff woman with a clip board spoke and Isabella nodded.
'Correct,' Isabella replied.
'Good,' the woman nodded, her voice still stiff and unforgiving as she chucked her a black knee length dress and white apron. 'Welcome to the palace.' (They began walking toward a wooden door that was clearly the servants entrance) 'You are to be seen but not heard as a maid. You do not speak to any of the Royal members of the family unless they ask you a question specifically and you will always address them as "your majesty" or, for the prince and princess, "your highness". If they state otherwise, you do not comply -'
'But isn't that rude?' Isabella interrupted but the look the woman gave her told her she had made a mistake.
'Interrupting me is rude,' she practically snarled. 'I know the rules of the castle and all I am doing is informing you on how King Aro runs the house. You do not leave the staff quarters and wander the halls, you only leave if you have been called or know you have specific chores to attended to - you go straight there, do the job, and straight back.
'Breakfast is served at seven o'clock sharp for the family, you are to be here exactly at six, if you are late there will be serious punishment. While the Royalty are eating, the maids clean their rooms. Since you are still at school you will leave as soon as your assigned rooms are cleaned but you must return straight after, is that clear? No, going home and seeing your family, that can be done later, no doing your homework. I will expect you here at four o'clock on the dot. Dinner is five, the servants get food at six but no food must be taken for the Palace, I don't care how poor your family is. You can leave once all your duties are done - there is no fixed leaving time. You will be paid once a month on the last day. Now go and change into that dress - I have work for you.
They had reached a small lounge like room that was even scarcer in furniture than Isabella's own home but Isabella didn't take time to look at it, disappearing into a side room feeling the woman's hazel hawk like eyes follow her the whole way.
'Tie your hair up,' she snapped when Isabella returned, chucking her a black ribbon which Isabella quickly and obediently tied in her hair.
The lady circled her, frowning.
'You're far too pretty for a maid,' she scowled, pulling on a bit of hair. 'You stand you far too much but I suppose you'll have to do.' (Isabella decided to take what the woman said as a compliment rather though she was aware that the Hawk didn't mean it in such a way.) 'Well, at least you can keep your mouth shut. Come with me.'
She stalked off and Isabella almost had to run to keep up with her. They seemed to walk for hours, up and down stair cases that were so tightly twisted that Isabella found herself becoming dizzy but eventually they reached a door and without waiting the woman threw the doors open and lead Isabella inside. The room was like nothing Isabella had ever seen before. Everything was shining and looked as though it had never been used, there was more furniture than Isabella had seen in a room before. Chairs that actually looked comfortable, a bed that was probably as soft as a long haired rabbit, and a wooden desk that was carved intricately. This had to have been one of the royal bedrooms.
'This is your first test, shall we say?' the woman simpered and Isabella wondered if she was the reason that this job was open: she gave every new employee a test and when they failed to come through she fired them. 'This is Prince Alec's room, he is out until mid-day. You have until then to clean the room - I want it spotless, are we clear?'
'Crystal,' Isabella replied though she was scared - midday was twelve, it was already ten, and though the room was sparkling it was a mess … apparently the Prince wasn't a clean person but then, Isabella reminded herself, he didn't need to be he had people like her to clean up after him. She resisted the urge to purse her lips at that thought, if she was rich enough to have servants to clean for her, she would at least make the job a bit easier from them.
'Good,' with that the hawk of a woman turned and left, shutting the door sharply behind her.
Isabella sighed, half in relief, and looked around the room once more, wondering where on earth she should start. A snarky voice in her head replied, well, in this room might be a good idea. God, she hated that voice sometimes.
It was only an hour later when the door swung open to reveal a boy who must have been a few years older than herself. He was tall, handsome with dark brown hair that swung over his eyes and enchanting sea blue eyes that survey the room, and definitely the prince meaning that he was three years older than herself having turned nineteen on the last day of December.
His extraordinary eyes locked on her, frozen where she was cleaning the fireplace, and he frowned, studying her.
'Leave,' was only said and, after curtsying slightly, Isabella rushed out and right into the woman who had greeted her.
She looked down on Isabella with pursed lips.
'I take it Prince Alec arrived home early,' she replied and Isabella nodded respectively. 'Did you speak to him?'
'No, Miss,' Isabella finally spoke in a confused tone as the woman took her arm and led her, more pulled her forcefully, into a hidden servant passage way. 'That's against the rules. He didn't me a question.'
The woman looked down at her honest confusion and almost smiled: maybe this girl was different than most the young girls who applied for a job in the castle.
'Good,' she nodded tightly. 'Go clean yourself up.'
Isabella rushed down to the servant bathrooms and looked in the mirror, blushing as she realised she had been a complete mess when the prince had seen her though she wasn't completely sure why she cared. In her part of London, being dirty wouldn't have been anything out of the ordinary, everyone was, but here in a sparkling palace, it seemed like a crime. She scrubbed off all the dirt from her hands and face and brushed down the dress, glad that it all just brushed off and eventually she looked presentable again.
It was dark by the time she was allowed to go home and as soon as she got through the door her mother wrapped her in a tight hug.
'Well, how was it?' she asked, pulling her further into the house and shutting the door behind her youngest child.
'Not bad,' Isabella answered honestly. 'The woman in charge is so mean and strict but, I suppose if she has to run all the staff, she has to be so I don't mind too much. I met the Prince, he's not very nice either, but the other maids are. They're really nice and a lot of them are in the same kind of situation we are... How's Daddy?'
Her mother sighed heavily but then her lips quirked up in a smile.
'You know your father, he's not in the slightest bit worried, completely calm as to everything that's going on,' she answered shaking her head in amusement at her love, which in her head Isabella liked to think of as "True Love". 'He has completely faith in Charlie to get him out and us to survive until he does. He's very proud of you for getting a job to help, very mature.'
'Can I see him soon?' Isabella asked and her mother shook her head again.
'No, baby, the person above Charlie, whoever that is, had instructed him to give Carlisle no visitors but me,' Isabella's face fell and her mother couldn't stand it, 'but I'm sure that'll change soon. Are you going to come help me with dinner?'
Isabella nodded taking her mother's hand and getting up. Her mother kissed her hair as they made their way into the kitchen.
'This job is good, Mum,' she said a while later as she chopped vegetables. 'Maybe it's not the happiest place in the world but I get paid well and I get free meals, two during the week and three at the weekend which means you don't have to feed me apart from lunch on school days. That's a good thing right?'
'You're far too selfless, baby,' her mother sighed looking over at her, 'you always have been but do be careful, don't let it put you in danger'.'
'It's to make up for Rosalie,' Isabella teasingly remarked and her mother rolled her eyes, knowing it was rather true - her two daughter were complete opposite's when it came to that type of thing. They heard Rosalie's protest upstairs - the walls in that house were far too thin for anyone's good.