Once it was complete, I looked to Mary unsure of what to do.
"What wrong she asked?" she asked.
" I can't take this!" I called back. " Where do I go? How do I get there? What if I get lost?" Mary took a deep sigh before answering.
"Just go out the main kitchen doors and up the stairs through the service entrance to the upper levels. Ask one of the guards to lead you to the sapphire room. Once you arrive the guard will knock on the door and announce you before you enter. Set the tray on the table by the door and come straight back here."
It seems simple enough. Have one of the guards lead me to where I need to go, drop off the tray and come straight back. I could do that much at least.
Taking a deep breath, I picked up the tray and held it for a moment adjusting to the weight of the different items on it. When I felt steady enough, I begin to walk towards the main kitchen entrance.
"Wish me luck," I called with a huff over my shoulder to Mary.
"It's not the end of the world," Mary called back. "You'll do fine."
I wish I had her confidence. Climbing the stairs towards the servants entrance was a little more tricky. It was hard to balance the tray and myself using my poor leg. Sure enough when I reach the top there were two guards dressed in the royal blue uniforms standing at their posts. They looked at me as I passed by but otherwise said nothing.
"Excuse me," I squeaked out. "Could one of you show me where to find the sapphire room?" One of the guards narrowed his eyes at me before speaking in a stern voice.
"What do you need to do with the sapphire room?" he asked.
"I have been asked to deliver this tea tray to the sapphire room." The guard who had spoken sternly looked to his partner and nodded. The other guard gave a long sigh and begin to walk down the hallway.
"Follow me miss," he called out as he walked away.
We walked for several minutes winding through various hallways. I was grateful to have somebody show me the way as I would've never found it on my own. The guard had to stop and wait for me several times as I was not able to walk as quickly as he did. I could tell that it annoyed him but he was kind enough not to comment on it.
The guard stopped in front of a white double door with gold trim and a symbol of the moon. I stopped behind him and to his right waiting for him to knock. The guard looked at me once to see if I had settled and then quickly knocked on the door. Immediately opening the door, he took a step in and called to whoever occupied the room.
"Tea ma'am," he simply said before stepping to the side holding the door for me. I slowly walked in the room not knowing what to expect.
Once inside I was overwhelmed by the deep blue walls. No doubt this was why the room was titled the sapphire room. The walls were offset with silver and white trim and inside the furnishing consisted of creme couches with lots of pillows and dark wood tables and desks. In the middle of the ceiling was a crystal chandelier. Among the couches and cushions sat several older woman. They were dressed in elegant knee length dresses and talking amongst themselves.
Behind me the guard cleared his throat bringing me back to my senses. Embarrassed I looked back to him. He silently tilted his head to a tall long table against the wall. Understanding his meaning I walked the tray to sit it on the table.
The teapot and dishes rattled on the impact.I paused for a moment hoping I didn't disturb anyone. When I heard the ladies continued on without interruption I let out a sigh and began to walk back out the door. Not too shabby! Just before I could reach the door I heard someone call out.
"Oh Mary? Would you be a dear and serve the tea for us?" I slowly turned my head to the woman who spoke. She was beautiful. She wore a silver dress and jacket. The way she sat spoke of elegance and poise. She kept her silver hair in a sleek twisted bun. She didn't even look at me and returned to listen to what another lady had said.
I looked at the guard still standing at the door in shock. He looked back at me confused.
"What's wrong?" he asked in a hushed tone.
"She wants me to serve the tea.." I whispered back.
"Ok...what's the problem? Serve the tea."
"I don't know how to serve tea!" My desperate plea must not have been whisper like as the ladies conversation stopped.
"Mary?" The elegant woman called out. "Is everything ok dear?" I panicked.
"Yes ma'am," I called out. "Right away ma'am." I rushed back over to the long table with the tea tray. I desperately stared at the tea and dishes before me, begging everything to magically serve themselves. When the items refused to move I admitted defeat. I took one last look at the guard who studied me with one eyebrow raised.
Alright. No use putting it off. Just get it over with and you can crawl back down to the laundry facilities where you belong. Without thinking I began to pour the tea into the tea cups. I made several passes pouring only a little into each cup at one time. Afterwards I began adding cream honey and sugar. There was no thought or rhyme to how the ingredients went in. I was probably making a big mess of things. Once the cups were filled I lifted the smaller tray that only held the now filled tea cups and some tea biscuits. I was turning to walk towards the ladies when the guard stopped me.
"Make sure to serve the queen first." he whispered.
"The queen?!?" I gasped. I looked between the guard and the group of ladies shocked. Here I was making tea completely clueless and now I find out I'm serving it to the queen.
"Yes, she's the one wearing the silver dress." I looked at the woman not daring to move. The guard seeing my hesitance tried to reassure me. "Don't worry it's just tea. She won't cut your head off if or anything." That did not make me feel any better.
Taking a deep breath I walked over to the group of ladies, placing the tray on the coffee table in between them. This time the tea didn't clatter when I set the tray down. I looked up at the woman in the silver dress whom I now knew was the queen. She was definitely older with some fine wrinkles on her face but that only added to her elegance. She looked at me with wide eyes obviously realizing that I was indeed not her maid Mary.
As gently as I could I picked up a cup of tea by the saucer and handed it to the queen who timidly accepted it. Holding the cup and saucer near her, she watched as I began to hand out the other cups to the ladies around me. No one spoke a word and I didn't dare to look at anyone as I handed out each cup and saucer. Once the last last lady had her tea, I bolted as quick as I could out of the room. Walking out into the hallway I slammed my back against the wall taking deep breaths to calm myself. What a disaster.
Back in the kitchens I sat with my head on a chopping board mortified at what happened.
"You didn't tell me I was taking tea to the queen!" Mary sat next to me her hand no covers in plastic wrap.
"I didn't think she would make you serve." she said defensively. "The queen is usually really particular about her tea. Don't worry i'm sure you did fine, and even it was a disaster the queen wouldn't punish you for it."
"I'm mortified. I had no idea what I was doing. If that guard hadn't said anything I probably would have insulted her by not serving her first. Mary how do you deal with it?" Mary shrugged her shoulders.
"After a while it just becomes a job," she said simply. I admired her for her bravery. I couldn't deal with this type of pressure everyday. I slowly got up from the stool i was sitting on.
"Well I better get going. Mrs. Harris must be wondering where I am." Mary stood up with me.
"Thanks again Artemis. I really owe you one." I looked at her red hands. Burns healed slower for werewolves. It would be a few days before she could carry things.
"What will you do while your hand heal?" I asked.
"Oh I'm not the only maid around here. They'll get someone else to sub for me and I was only meant to be temporary until they found someone else. I'm sure it will be fine." I nodded at her satisfied that she would be fine.