I groaned as I sat up in bed with a massive headache. Ever since my old neighbour moved out and the new tennants came in, their new born baby has been crying all night. Unfortunately, this place doesn't do much too protect privacy, since you can hear everything that goes on in the entire building.
This place isn't much, but I'm grateful to be here after what happened last year. The building is old and run down, and every square inch of it is painted in the same beige colour, making it seem lifeless. The floor creaks whenever someone walks around and the wind slices through the building almost as if it wasn't here. The place is covered in dust and the walls are littered with holes from various incidents that I am glad I don't know much about. But, regardless of it's appearance the building is crowded because of the low prices that the owner charges in rent.
The owner, Gaston, gives me the creeps and had offered me a spot in the building multiple times, saying it would be 'worth my while'. I had always managed to find somewhere else to stay, but after my last place was burnt down I found myself with no other options. "Watch it!" I was interrupted from my thoughts when the old man in the bed beside me tried to slide around me in the narrow passageway between people.
"Sorry" I mumbled back and swung my legs back on the bed so he could get around. The man shoved past with a grunt and stormed out towards the common room. I felt the bed strain against my weight as I leaned against the headboard. Although it was an old beat up mattress, it still beat sleeping on the ground outside somewhere.
But I can't think like that.... things will get better. I had just been offered a job as a ladies maid with one of the more prominent families in the area and today was my first day. It had been while since I had found a job and I have to make sure that I make a good first impression.
I pulled out my small bag of things and debated between my only three outfits. I sighed as I ran my fingers over the well worn fabric. 'Well I guess this will have to do' I thought as I grabbed the grey dress with a stained apron. I brought my bag with me to the only corner of the room that wasn't occupied and started to change. I always try to be as fast as possible since the room is shared with at least a dozen other people. I quickly fixed my long brown hair into a bun and checked my reflection in the window before strolling out of the room.
Luckily, the job was close by so I could walk the distance in about an hour depending on weather conditions. I raced down the stairs and headed out the front door, closing the delicate old door behind me carefully. I jumped down the front step and started down the road towards the family's estate.
After what seemed like a fair distance I came across the iron gates at the front of the property and was stopped by an older looking man, who I assumed was the guard of the place. "Who are you? State your business here" he demanded.
"My name is Ella.... I'm here for my job as a ladies maid to miss Mary" I said shyly as the guard eyed me with curiosity.
"Ah yes.... I do recall master Edmond mentioning something of the sort. Right this way" the man said as he opened the gate to allow me through. "The rules are quite simple miss" he began to explain as he started briskly walking towards the house. "Don't steal, don't be late, and always obey master Edmond" he said as we reached the front door.
I was surprised when a young lady answered it, "hello" she smiled at the guard. "Is this my new maid?" She asked as she pointed her finger at me.
"I believe it is ma'am" the guard answered. "I trust you won't be needing anything else?" He asked.
"No, thank you but we will manage" she answered and the guard tipped his hat and left. "Welcome to the estate" she greeted me warmly. "You must tell me your name, after all we are to be spending a lot of time together you know" she laughed.
"My name is Ella" I answered as she lead me into the house.
"Well Ella I shall take you on the grand tour" she stated as she started explaining the different rooms and their functions. I tried to remember as much information as I could, but the building is the largest that I have ever seen. I mean, the size of her bedroom alone could fit a small army of people. I was caught up in the grandeur when I heard her ask, "oh! I haven't introduced myself have I?" I shook my head no to show her I was listening. "My name is Mary and I am fifteen years old" she said proudly. "Come, I must explain your duties" she said as she started leading me to the kitchen.
"We are a little short handed around here as of late so you will also be helping with meals" I nodded as I examined the kitchen. There were a couple of ladies running around, busily preparing for afternoon tea. I noticed they worked well together and it appeared as though they knew each other well.
Before I knew it, the day was done and it was time for me to make the journey back. "Thank you ma'am for the tour and helping me learn my place" I bowed slightly.
"Oh no need to be so formal, you can just call me Mary" she giggled as she nodded back at me. "Do you have to travel far?" She added.
"Tis nothing I can't handle, I should be able to manage" I said with a slight smile.
"Very well, but if you ever need to find another place I am sure father can make some arrangement" she said as she walked me to the front door.
"That is most kind of you to offer, but I should be alright, thank you" I said. She nodded in response.
"I shall see you tomorrow morning then" she said happily.
"Of course" I bowed slightly and was about to head on my way when I heard a strong male voice.
"Mary who is that you're speaking to?"
"It's just my new maid cousin" Mary said as she turned to glance up the stairs.
"Why did you not introduce us?" The male asked as I heard loud footsetps approaching.
"Sorry cousin.... this is Ella" Mary said. I kept my eyes down cast as a sign of respect. After a moment of silence I saw a pair of fine black shoes about a foot away from me.
"You may look up" he said with a hint of humor in his voice. I slowly raised my head, looking over his tall structure before meeting his eyes. He was very handsome, with a strong jaw and piercing green eyes. His black hair was neatly gelled back and he was wearing what looked like a very expensive suit. "It's nice to meet you, my name is Charles" he said with a glistening smile.
I looked at him in confusion, "forgive me, but I thought the master's name was Edmond?"
He chuckled and I blushed slightly, "ah yes, Edmond is my older brother. He took me and my cousin in after her mother passed. I'm afraid he is rather elusive" Charles explained with a sad expression.
"My condolences" I said solemnly.
"Thank you, but it was a long time ago. How did you find your first day?"
"There was a lot to see and your cousin was most gracious to show me the ropes" I watched him chuckle before I added, "It will be my pleasure to see to her needs".
"An excellent response" he nodded. I cursed my body as I began to shiver from the colder weather. It is mid-winter and today so happened to be one of the coldest days so far. "Do you have far to go? I can drop you if you need transport?" He asked.
"Tis nothing I can't handle, but that is a most gracious offer".
"Where are you staying, if I may inquire?"
"I am staying at one of the buildings Gaston owns" I admitted shyly.
I watched as Charles' face instantly fell, "Yes, I believe I know the man you speak of. His reputation is..... poor" he slid a hand tiredly across his face. "Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that several miles from here?"
"Yes.... but I don't mind the walk it is quite refreshing" I said.
"You walked here?" Charles said in disbelief.
"Yes sir" I said as I looked back down towards his feet.
"I am afraid I must insist that I escort you home. It's already getting dark and it's a cold one today" he said firmly.
"As you wish" I said quietly as he turned and started walking towards one of the side buildings on the property. I heard the roar of an engine and moments later I saw Charles pull up beside me in a sleek looking black car. He got out of the car and walked around, opening the passenger door for me. "Thank you" I said, but as I began to get into the car my foot slipped and I went tumbling backwards.
I was about to fall when I felt a large hand on my back and Charles looking at me with concern . "Are you quite alright?" He asked as I got back on my feet.
"Yes..... thank you.... again" I said as I stepped into the car. I let out a breath of relief as Charles nodded and ran back around to the drivers side. It wasn't long before he had the car up and running, driving onto the main road. I gave Charles the address and leaned back into the comfortable seat of the car.
"Are you sure this is the right place?" He asked as we pulled up to the all too familiar beige building. I nodded at him and started to exit the car, but noticed that Charles was already opening the door for me. "Are you sure you'll be okay?" He asked as he looked between the house and I.
"Yes, I am only staying here until I can find somewhere else. It really isn't so bad".
Charles sighed loudly as he leaned against the car, "Is it okay if I speak with Edmond about you staying at the estate?" He suddenly asked.
"Why would you do that?" I asked.
"My cousin gets attached easily and I am sure that she would be upset if anything were to happen to you" he said as I eyed him curiously. "Also because of the distance and the man who owns this property" he added quickly.
"Thank you, that would be lovely, but it is not necessary" I assured him.
"It's no trouble really" Charles said calmly. "I will speak with Edmond tonight and I will be here in the morning to escort you to work" he added.
I was caught off guard by his statement and managed to trip on the step leading to the front door. I internally groaned as my palms landed on the splintered wooden deck. "Ouch" I muttered.
"Are you alright?" Charles asked in a panic as he extended a hand to help me up. I was about to grab his hand when I saw blood dripping slowly down my arms. I quickly retracted my hand and clenched my fists to hide the damage. I saw Charles frown when I didn't take his hand.
"I'm sorry... it seems I am quite clumbsy tonight" I said quietly as I reached for my bag that had fallen on the deck. I carefully stood up, wobbling slightly.
"That's alright. Shall I escort you upstairs? I wouldn't want you falling agai. If that is alright with you of course".
I was about to answer when the door opened and Gaston yelled "where have you been? Someone has been trying to take your bed for-" he quickly stopped when he saw Charles standing beside me. "Good evening sir, what brings you by?"
"I was just dropping off my new employee. It was her first day working at my estate today" Charles said smoothly.
"Very well" Gaston seemed like he wanted to say more but stopped there.
"May I have a moment alone with miss Ella?" Charles asked Gaston. Gaston eyed him with suspicion before nodding and closing the door.
"Thank you for escorting me here" I said politely. I watched as Charles glanced down. I saw what looked like anger in his expression before he spoke.
"Ella I am afraid I must insist you stay at the estate".
"Why?" I asked in utter confusion.
"Your wounds need to be tended to and I would rather not entrust the safety of my employee to a man like Gaston" Charles said bitterly.
"But what about the master?" I asked, not bothering to deny any of his statements.
"I will speak with him tonight as planned, but I don't think he will have any problem with it".
"I wouldn't want to impose" I started but was interrupted.
"Nonsense, we take care of our own. Now come, we must get you out of this cold" Charles said with a smile as we walked back to the car. After I got in, I thought I noticed a person standing off in the distance watching us. But when I looked back after briefly glancing at Charles the figure seems to have dissapeared. How odd...
The journey back to the estate seemed quick and Charles lead me to a small building on the side of the property. "You will have to stay here foe tonight, but I will see about getting you into the main house tomorrow" he said as he opened the door.
I gasped as I looked over the space. It was small, but cozy. A little wooden cabin with everything I could possibly need. I'm sure I was crying when I heard Charles concerned voice, "is it not to your liking?"
"No.... no.... it's simply wonderful. Thank you so much" I lunged at him and wrapped my arms around him in a hug. It didn't last long however, when I remembered my place and quickly backed away, bowing my head. "My apologies.... that behaviour was unacceptable. I understand if I am no longer to be an emoloyee here-" I was cut off mid-apology as I felt Charles' arms wrap around me.
"No need to apologize. Now come, I should tend to your wounds" Charles said as he started walking off to the corner of the cabin. I did, however, manage to see what looked like a blush on his face when he came back over. "Come, sit" he gestured to the table. I walked over slowly, drying the tears from my eyes on my apron. I sat beside Charles and patiently held up my hands.
I heard a small gasp from Charles when I held my palms out flat. Now that we were in the light you could see the blood coming from the splinters. "This may hurt" he said as he started to gently pull the wood from my palms. I watched in admiration as Charles cleaned the wounds and bandaged them efficiently.
"Where did you learn to do this?" I asked.
Charles laughed loudly as he was putting the supplies away. "I suppose you are unaware that I'm the local physician" he smiled.
I'm sure I looked petrified as I folded my hands on my lap and fidgeted nervously. "I had no clue" I admitted.
"That's quite alright. But I should get back to the house and speak with Edmond. If you need anything don't hesitate to come to the house and ask for me" Charles said with a slight bow as he grabbed my hand and kissed the back of it, over the bandages.
I felt my face warm with a blush, "thank you again for everything sir".
"Please, call me Charles" he said as he slowly released my hand. "I bid you goodnight" he smiled and I nodded before he began walking to the main house. I closed the door and locked it.
But as I turned I could have sworn I saw a figure outside the window. I'm probably just paranoid.... I thought as I started to get ready for the night. I flopped down on the bed and groaned in delight at how comfortable it was. I fear I may never get up....
I snuggled into the blankets as I thought about Charles and how nice it would be to be able to stay here, even just for a little while. I do hope that Edmond agrees to let me stay.