Chapter 12: Heart-to-heart talk
The next morning our usual group had breakfast together one last time before going back to our homes. Lisa was excited to go back and announce to her family that she had found a suitor and to prepare for his arrival; lord Luca's face was a little green of nervousness for he’d never imagined the pressure of meeting his future in-laws.
Lord Tiberius, on the other hand, had asked for permission to stay longer to lord Roquefort, stating his intentions to marry one of his daughters if she accepted him once he deemed appropriate to propose. I might have approached him to give him a little advice about her likings; he’d still have to make an effort, but a little information would we useful to woo her.
We exchanged address with each other promising to write frequently, even with the sister of lord Julian. Juliette ended up being much more friendly and easygoing than what we had first expected. She didn’t let her position in society draw a line between us and promised to be in touch, especially with Lisa to talk business.
Damian decided it would be safer to travel together with the Whiteclay in caravan. Inwardly, I knew it was an excuse to avoid been alone with me for an entire day in a small carriage. The men were riding their horses while baroness Krishna and I traveled together in their carriage. She told me stories about her home, and answered all my questions to the best of her capabilities.
In Sion they spoke a different language than in the Seven Lands, fortunately to me, I’d learned it during the expensive tutoring lady Martha gave me. Their lands were as vast as ours if not more. The expansion of Sion had stopped several centuries ago; but their respect to the cultures they acquired, mostly by peaceful treaties, made it a picturesque empire that found its strength in diversity.
Baroness Krishna described her former emperor as a just man, caring for his people and their needs. Her family came of a distant land across the sea, her great grandfather arrived with his wife and children running away from war. He was a merchant, and the emperor of that time offered them shelter and provided aid to make a living; fair opportunities and hard work earned him wealth and status, being named Baron Naveer after thirty years of his arrival.
Surprisingly, the baroness didn’t know much of the Seven Lands culture and society rules. She’d been here for a couple years already but most of the time she’d been pregnant; lord Henry had been treating her like a crystal figure forbidding her to do anything.
She'd learned the language, but nothing much. We spent a good part of the trip talking about etiquette, politic, traditions and whatnot.
Before I knew it, we were in the Whiteclay residence. Damian remained on the horse and I napped the rest of the way to Lancaster Manor. I felt some coldness and snuggled closer, the couch feeling warmer and firm underneath me. I felt a little smile twitching my lips before giving in to the oblivion.
I woke up in my bed, with the same clothes I was wearing the day before. My things neatly placed against the wall. The light filtering between my curtains told me it was past seven, I hurried to get up and ready to work. I was tying my rebel curls in a neat bun when a piece of paper on my side-bed table caught my attention.
Meet me for breakfast in the garden. I asked madam Hellen to give you the day off.
“Which Damian will be today?” I wondered, losing my curls and preparing a bath now that I had an hour or so to spare. “I need a break from angry, confusing Damian. Maybe today we’ll talk instead of yell and look warily to each other.”
Asking for a day off in my stead had been considerate, so much I was willing to ignore hir bossy tone by ordering me to have breakfast with him instead of asking. Considering Damian’s been raised to be the lord of this lands it shouldn’t surprise me, that’s just the way he is. Damian is the lord and, for now, I’m just the maid. But his behavior towards me isn’t that of a lord and subject, more like I’m the little sister of a friend, or a cousin.
The line between us has blurred over the last months. We aren’t children, anymore; our bickering doesn’t feel the same. But we aren’t friendly either.
I wore one of the fancy dresses I didn’t get to use back at Roquefort Manor. It was of simple coral colored cotton cloth, light to endure the heat of the last days of summer, and reached a couple inches over my ankles, making it perfect for an outdoor breakfast.
When I arrived to the garden, the table was already set with only two services. Taking advantage of the good weather to sunbath, I walked through the grass and admired the fountains and flowers beautifully displayed in a shocking contrast with the wild forest in the border. I closed my eyes to enjoy the warm sunrays hitting my face, blushing my skin with the heat.
“You’ll burn your nose at this rate” a deep voice took me out of my peace.
“I told you to stop doing that.” I mocked annoyance, lifting only one eyelid to give him a side glance. “I got bored waiting for you, and I’m starving. Let’s go eat.”
Breakfast was fine. The food was delicious, as always, but we were awkward. Having the servants around us prevented a real conversation, and we had so much to say that small talk was forced, filled with long silences.
“The weather is nice, shall we go for a walk?” Damian asked, clearing his voice and tilting his head towards the garden.
I nodded eagerly, standing up with a loud screech of the chair. He chuckled, as he'd been duing lately to my every action, but with sincere amusement for my antics this time. I shrugged it off and walked at an adequate distance beside him.
Once we put a good distance between us and the household, Damian turned to face me and carefully grabbed one of my hands in his. I eyed him warily, trying to decipher his actions, a warm calming green light shining lightly from him.
“I want to apologize for how I treated you after your birthday.” He tightened his grip in my hand a little and looked me straight in the eye, freezing me in place. “I know whatever I say will only be an excuse, I’d have known better than lash at you all this time. But I couldn’t help it. At first, I was worried that you passed out of exhaustion completely drenched, I feared the sorceress did something to you and I’d not protect you. But later on, I was just frustrated that I made you angry and you wouldn’t talk to me more than needed; seeing you with all that noble ladies and lords made me extremely jealous, wanting to be me the one you laughed and talked with.” His voice raised, the green light wavering and turning some strands an ugly yellow before subduing and turning back. “Would you forgive me, Enid? I want to go back… no, I want to have a better relationship with you; I’ll help you with whatever you want so you finish that silly search and stay with us. I’ll even convince my mother to drop the marriage idea.”
With every word that came out of his mouth my blood boiled. At first, I believed his apology, he seemed to regret it sincerely. The truth behind his word was not as pure.
He wanted to control me, to keep me in his domain and satisfy his need for power. This wasn’t about him regretting doing something wrong, or us having a misunderstanding; it was a desperate move to stop me from leaving.
“I forgive you, Damian.” I was livid, but tried to hide my anger with a smile. I shook his hand off mine and continued walking to dissimulate mi trembling hands. “It was a misunderstanding; I won’t hold it against you. Thanks for setting this up to clear things.”
He beamed, his beautiful face shining and his eyes filled with tenderness. I felt a jab in my stomach, his reaction bittersweet knowing he was happy because he thought I was giving up on my dreams to satisfy him.
“I must leave you, Damian, I have an appointment with your mother and you know she doesn’t like to wait” I waved him goodbye when we were close enough to the mansion, not standing his presence anymore. I darted in without waiting for an answer, taking the longest route to calm down.
When I finally reached the tea room lady Martha uses to sew and paint, because she is a well-educated lady of high-society and only does dainty activities other than planning parties, my anger had subdued and knocked lightly on the door, letting the excitement of my plans invade me once more.
When I entered the room, it surprised me to find lady Martha alone. “I’m sorry, I can come back later” I apologized, afraid I’d interrupted her alone time.
“Don't be silly and come in, dear. It’s been ages, I’m eager to hear everything from the Treasure Hunt.” Lady Martha greeted me with a wide smile, motioning for me to seat next to her. “Did you know my Harry and I met in one of those?”
We chatted a lot about the party in the Roquefort residence. She interrupted me a lot to ask about the dresses and hairdos the ladies wore, and the assistants in general. Almost two hours had passed and I’d yet to tell her about my intentions to leave for Sion in a few weeks.
“Lady Martha, there is something I’ve been hiding from you.” I blurted, her face showing surprise and curiosity. She didn’t even correct me on my way to address her. “I found the sorceress. She told me my father is alive and showed me the way to find him. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me but I can’t keep on living without meeting him.” Tears were pooling in my eyes and I averted my gaze to the ceiling in an attempt to stop them. “I sorted everything out, but I wanted to ask for your blessing and… and…”
“Oh, my child, come here.” lady Martha hugged me stroking my hair; the dam breaking and setting my tears free. “You are like the daughter we never had, but as a parent I can’t deny the joy your father will feel when you finally find him. I want you to know that if you don’t find him or it isn’t what you were expecting, we’ll always welcome you back with open arms.”
My heart throbbed at her words, feeling more love coming from her in those few sentences than in all my years of life. I hopped this is what it would feel like when I find my father. I was so lucky to have lady Martha on my side and I realized everything she’d done for me was out of love. All the private education, the practical abilities learned during my time working, the clothing, my liberties around the household. It was all thanks to the love and care from the Lancaster marriage. Even if they couldn’t claim me as theirs to avoid a scandal, they treated me much better than what was expected.
By the time I finally calmed down, the tea service arrived with a dumbfounded lord Harry. Lady Martha helped me explain everything to him, my sobs and hiccups making it impossible to understand a word that left my mouth. He hugged me too, a shorter and lighter hug but filled with care nonetheless.
Together, we enjoyed the evening tea and I asked them to keep my departure a secret from everyone. I wanted to be the one they got the news from. Lord Harry excused me from my duties but I insisted to keep working till the last day, as it’d always been.
Going back to my bedroom I wrote a letter to baroness Krishna. It would take a day or two to receive an answer, but everything was in place. Now I only had to wait.
I worked my last few weeks in Lancaster Manor as if anything had changed. I woke up before sunrise, had coffee and anything I could steal from the kitchens as breakfast, complained and heard complain with my coworkers, was nagged by Ilse and Helen, checked up every night with lady Martha and did my midnight rounds.
Baroness Krishna invited me once a week to have tea in the Whiteclay mansion to talk; l was really happy that she considered me a friend and not just someone she met at a party. We would spend some days playing with her kids for them to get used to me. It was their first time traveling to meet their grandparents, adding a stranger to the trip would be too much stress for their young minds.
Between my work schedule and my constant trips to visit the baroness, the days passed by in the blink of an eye. The warm days of summer came to an end to welcome the cold nights and fresh evenings of autumn. Before l knew it, the day of my departure was around the corner. I’d been delaying to say goodbye to Helen; but, when I finally mustered up the courage to tell her, she patted my hand with motherly love saying she already knew because I can’t hide anything from her.
“Promise to write as soon as you decide whether you are settling in or coming back.’’ She hugged me and all her love and care shone bright, surrounding us. Helen had been like a mom to me all these years, she taught me everything she knew and cared for me to the best of her ability. She let me know from a very young age her position in Lancaster Manor was available to me, but she never pushed me to do it; she let me decide freely and I was grateful for having her.
“Did you talk with everyone?” she asked me with a pointed look.
“Yes, Helen. I talked with Ilse in the morning and announced it to everyone over dinner.” I grumbled at her slight nagging, and leaned to kiss her cheek before standing to leave. “You know I wouldn’t disappear just like that.”
“And the masters?” she asked again, giving me a knowing look.
I bit my lip and fidgeted with my fingers. Lady and Lord Lancaster promised they wouldn’t say anything, letting me say goodbye at the time I considered appropriate. I’d waited till the night before my departure, everything in hopes Damian wouldn’t find out. It felt like I was running away from him. Maybe I was.
Something in him changed and I didn’t like it, or maybe I changed and I couldn’t stay here anymore. Not that long ago I would have screamed in excitement if Damian asked me to stay in Lancaster Manor with him, giving up everything else to find my happiness by his side. Now, I couldn’t wait to leave and start my own adventure.
“Of course, they know, Helen” I lied through my teeth, giving her a forced smile. “Rest tight, I’ll write you as soon as I can.” Without another word I stepped out to the carriage waiting for me. Baroness Krishna offered me to stay with them the night to leave early in the morning to Sion. When the carriage was crossing the gates, I looked back one last time at Lancaster Manor. It’d been my home over the last 21 years and a part of me was staying within those walls.
Enid is finally leaving the nest and launching into adventure.
I hope you enjoy the chapter. I don't know if I'll update more this week, my final exams aproach at the speed of light and I'm freaking out with all my due dates.
I want to try and interact with you a little bit (I love when other authors do so). So, this chapter's question is: Which is your favourite tv series? I love The Good Place and fully recomend it.