The walk from the bus stop to the estate was going to be a long one. She just didn’t know what direction to walk in yet. The bus only stopped in town and Ava had no other means of transportation but her two strong legs. Luckily, she didn’t mind walking.
Except for the fact that it had just rained hours before and her old worn sneakers were anything but waterproof. You’d think someone who has worked non-stop since turning eighteen would have enough to buy new ones but nothing could be further from the truth.
She’d worked as a maid ever since she got kicked out of the orphanage for being too old. Her previous employers liked to charge her for the room she occupied in their homes as well as the food she’d consume. At one point someone even charged her for the water she’d use while showering which meant that any money she’d have left over from her salary would have to go straight to her meager bank account.
She looked down at the crumpled piece of paper in her hand with the address of her next employer messily written down on it as if that would magically tell her which way to go. Sighing, she braced herself for having to ask a stranger for directions, which she hated.
She spotted a young man about her age walking her way and decided to ask him. But with every step he took towards her her nerves grew. Ava had never been good at talking to strangers, it made her anxious but she had no choice right now.
“Excuse me,” she started, but he either didn’t hear her soft voice or ignored her so she spoke up, “I’m looking for the Chastain Estate. Could you point me the way?”
The young man briefly looked up as he was about to pass her and said, “Google it,” without stopping at all.
Ava couldn’t do much more than stare at his back. So that didn’t go well.
Discouraged, she really didn’t want to ask anyone else but again, she had no choice. It’s not like there was a sign anywhere pointing toward this particular estate. She looked around at the empty town’s center. The retreating figure of the young man was the only person to be seen until the fragile frame of an elderly woman emerged from one of the nearby homes.
Relieved, Ava grabbed her small bag and made her way towards the woman while silently preparing herself for another rejection.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” she said. To her relief, the woman immediately turned her attention to Ava, giving her the courage to go on, “I’m looking for the Chastain estate, I have the address right here but I don’t know which way to go.”
The elderly woman didn’t even glance at the paper in her hand and pointed towards a road along the main street. “It’s a long way if you’re intending to walk there, dear. But if you follow this road for a few miles you’ll run into the estate eventually, it’s hard to miss.”
Ava couldn’t help but beam at the kind woman. “Thank you so much.”
“Be careful, dear. It’s dangerous to walk along the road so watch out for cars,” the woman replied before continuing her way.
It soon became clear what the woman meant with her warning. The road had no sidewalk so she either had to walk on the road itself or on the mossy side, which was tiresome. Luckily the cars that passed were few and far between so there wasn’t much to worry about during her walk.
She tried her best to ignore the squeaking of her wet socks inside her shoes and she just hoped her new employees would think of them as acceptable. They were plain black shoes and they didn’t even look that bad from the outside. Most of the holes were either invisible because of her cleverly-chosen black socks, or on the bottom of the shoe, which no one saw anyway.
The scenery around the town was beautiful. Thick, lush forest covered everything around the road and at one point she thought she saw a bunny sprint away. After walking for quite some time, she spotted a side road off in the distance. It wasn’t until she got closer that she noticed it was actually a driveway with a beautiful cast-iron gate in front of it.
She’d only walked for an hour and a half, which wasn’t that long in her opinion. This meant she could go into town on her day off. She just hoped the town offered more than the gas station she passed on the way out.
As she reached the gate she finally caught a glimpse of the estate and couldn’t help but take a moment to take in the splendor of it all. The lush green garden held a beautiful English-style mansion at the center. She didn’t dare guess how many rooms it held. It now made sense to her why everyone called it ‘the estate’ as opposed to a simple mansion, this was so much more than that.
After gathering her thoughts she walked to the small device attached to the gate and rang the doorbell. The device crackled for a bit before a male voice rang out, “Chastain estate, how may I help you?”
Ava stepped closer to the device in an attempt to be heard better before replying, “Good evening, this is Ava Romero, the new maid?”
She didn’t know why she ended the sentence as a question, maybe it was some kind of defense mechanism in case something had gone wrong and they weren’t looking for a maid at all.
“Why, yes. Come on in.” the voice rang out before the connection was broken off. A few seconds later, the gate started to move on its own just enough to let her in.
The walk from the gate to the actual entrance of the estate was longer than she’d anticipated but she finally arrived after a few minutes. Greeting her at the door was a tall man with wispy grey hairs at the side of his head and a friendly smile. “Miss Romero,” he greeted. “I’m George, the butler of this estate.”
“Nice to meet you George, you can call me Ava. If you want,” she replied while shaking his hand.
“Very well, Ava. Let me show you to your room, I’m sure it was quite the journey to get to this small town.”
If only he knew, she thought. But she didn’t say it. Instead, she smiled gratefully at him while nodding.
He led her further into the house and she did her best not to gawk at the expensive decor of the lavish layout of the place. There would be plenty of time to stare at everything once she’d started working.
George led both of them past the stairs into a corridor lined with unique-looking paintings. Some were old, some were newer.
Maybe the owner of this estate was a collector of the arts?
They passed the kitchen and a couple of storage rooms before entering a door to another corridor. A sign read ‘Servant’s quarters’ but she wasn’t sure how many servants there would be, George was the only person she’d seen as of yet.
He stopped once he’d reached another door and fished a key out of his pocket before opening it. “This one is for you, young lady,” he said after taking the key out again and handing it to her.
She gratefully took it from his hand, she’d never had a room key before. The orphanage didn’t even have doors so that the caretakers could see what was going on at all times and her previous employers never bothered to give her any keys.
“Thank you,” she replied while following him in.
The room was small but held everything she’d need. A twin bed stood against the wall with a small desk opposite of it. To her left stood an antique-looking closet that would be able to hold more clothes than she even owned. The window offered just enough natural light to illuminate the room without having to turn on the light. Next to the desk was a door and she could only hope that she’d finally have her own bathroom for once.
“This will be your room during your employment, as you may have noticed you’re the only person occupying the servant’s quarters as of right now. The dining area for the servants is down the hall and Lauren and I shall join you for our meals. Lauren is the head housekeeper so you’ll follow her directions. Breakfast is at 7, you will meet Lauren then and she’ll discuss the details of your duties.”
Ava nodded eagerly, George seemed like a nice grandfather figure and she hadn’t heard anything about the owner of the estate yet. This job was looking to be her easiest one yet.
“I’ll leave you to it then. Your uniform is in the closet, it is mandatory you wear it.”
Her stomach turned at the last sentence, uniforms were never a good sign. They were always too short and too uncomfortable to work in. Someone even made her wear a French maid outfit once, too.
“Alright, thank you,” she replied stiffly at the retreating figure of the butler before dropping her bag to the floor. Slowly, she made her way to the closet before opening it to inspect her uniform. To her surprise, it was fine.
The dress reached just above her knees but wasn’t as short as the ones she’d become used to and instead of a low-cut v-line neck it was a turtleneck with short sleeves. She actually liked it.
Satisfied, she dropped down on the bed to admire the room once more. She could definitely get used to this.