4. Lady of the Manor

Myra

I was awoken by a soft knock on the door. Even though I had slept fitfully for the better part of the night, I might have dozed off at dawn. It was the same lady who had attended to me last night. She entered the room after giving me a cursory greeting before busying herself with tidying the room, opening the curtains and making up the bed. 

I scrambled out of the room, my cheeks turning hot as I was not at all used to these services.  Back at home, it was me or Harmony who did the house chore. 

"Uhm...Miss...there is no need-", I began too embarrassed by such a thing but she interrupted me, "I am the housekeeper of this manor m'lady. My name is Beth Jones, I am responsible for cleaning the Master's chamber", her monotonous voice had an edge to it and her eyes did not even attempt to conceal the disapproval. 

I lowered my gaze and mumbled, "Pleased to meet you, Miss. Jones". I let her be as she barely acknowledged me with a nod. I went to the cupboard and picked out a lavender gown. The gown was simple yet beautiful. The neckline was not too low, the fabric was soft and comfortable with elbow-length sleeves. 

"Shall I bring the bath?" Beth's voice startled me. Her face was blank as she looked at me expectantly. I nodded. Before leaving she asked, "Do you wish to take your breakfast in this chamber or downstairs?" I mumbled, "Downstairs". But before I could ask the reason for such a query she had left the room. Why would she ask that when she knew that my family was still residing here? And wouldn't Lord Damian wish that everyone gather for breakfast? Or did Vampires not eat actual food? I sighed and sat on the edge of the bed idly picking on the hem of my nightdress.

As I waited for my bath to be brought, I wondered where my husband was at the moment. My reverie was halted when a young woman or I should say a girl ambled into the chamber with a bathtub that was twice her frail size. I rushed to help her. 

Her face was red with what I presumed, embarrassment. "Thank you, m'lady and I am sorry. I am new here", she mumbled hurriedly, her eyes downcast. "Its alright, the bathtub is too large anyway", I replied with a gentle smile, a little abashed by such treatment as well. She glanced up timidly then scurried to draw a bath. 

~~~~

By the time she was helping me get dressed, she became quite jovial and talkative. I liked it, her name was Alice, she was near to my age. So it was a lot easier to talk to her than the housekeeper. 

"Oh, she is really frightening at times, m'lady", she commented to one of my earlier statements about the housekeeper. I chuckled. Out of curiosity, I asked, "Do you know where Lord Damian is?" Alice's fingers stilled for a moment as she was braiding my hair. She hesitantly replied, "Master has not returned". My eyes furrowed, wasn't Damian supposed to be staying in the library? Too mortified to ask this, I merely nodded, my heart thudding in my chest. 

"And...has my family finished having their breakfast?" I asked. I looked at her reflection in the mirror, she averted her eyes, "They left at dawn". I was too stunned to speak. Left? Why? They did not even bother to say farewell. I swallowed the lump in my throat and gazed at my fingers. My eyes prickled with hot tears. Why did they do this? Dd Damian say something to them last night? Did father not wish to lengthen the stay now that his debt had been cleared. I was sure that Harmony would want to meet me at least once before leaving. 

I clenched my fists and willed myself to stay strong. I wanted answers and one Damian Beaufort could give me that. 

~~~

Alice accompanied me downstairs and led me to the dining hall. My eyes widened at the abundance of dishes that had been placed on the long table. I had never seen so many different dishes in my entire life! I quickly schooled my features and greeted whom I now recognized as Bastian. He gave me a short bow and held out one of the seats. 

I realized that I would be the sole person having breakfast. Feeling lonely and slightly abandoned, I swallowed back the emotions quelling in my chest. 

"Have you all had your breakfast?" I asked him. Bastian was visibly taken aback. I blushed. Maybe it was not appropriate to ask after the servants. Didn't rich ladies do that? Were they so proud? I lowered my gaze and hurriedly said, "Uh...I have a habit of asking this when I am the only one eating". Bastian had composed himself, he cleared his throat and replied, "Yes, m'lady we all have had our breakfast". I nodded and tried to have what my appetite would allow me.

~~~~

It was midday and there was still no sign of Damian. Having absolutely nothing to do, I was gradually getting bored. Alice could stay so long before she had to hurry and finish her chores. I had no idea what else to do or who else to ask to show me the house. Back home my day consisted of finishing work at home, going to the market and by the time I finished everything, it would be time for preparing dinner.

I was pacing in my room and my anger was also increasing has time passed. Damian needed to answer me and he had disappeared. Where was he exactly? Not that it was any of my business but I was more concerned about him lying to me. 

I decided to visit the library. Maybe I did not get a formal education but my sister tried to educate me as much as possible. I loved books for some reason. My friends often scrunched up their nose when they saw me carrying a book in the washer basket. But reading helped me to escape reality sometimes.

Why had it not occurred to me before?

I left the chamber to find someone who could lead me there. As I was about to turn a corner, I heard the sound of giggling. Two girls were speaking to each other. I knew eavesdropping was not appropriate and I wouldn't have done so had I not heard one of them say, "Have you heard? the lady had asked Bastian whether everyone had breakfast? I mean who would ask such a question?" 

The second girl agreed with her and commented, "Yes. And have you seen her dress? I think I dress better than her". The first one hummed then scoffed, "She is not fit to be a lady of this manor, neither is she fit to be the Master's wife". The second girl said contemptuously, "Yes, she isn't. No wonder the Master left yesterday night. He did not even touch that worthless woman. She wasn't able to warm his bed on their wedding night and you expect her to remain here?" 

The other girl giggled, "Who knows you might just become his mistress. After all, he has been favouring you for quite some time". It was followed by more laughter. I couldn't hear it anymore. 

My vision was blurring. I had heard lots of things about my family but these comments hurt. I took a step back before silently going back to the room. I knew this was a marriage of convenience, I knew Damian would never love me. I knew me becoming his bride was just a result of his whim but I never imagined that he would be unfaithful. I was so naïve. 

As if the conversation had finally broken loose all the emotions that had been brewing inside me. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sat on the bed, feeling helpless. Everything came to head, Damian's lie, him leaving me alone, my family leaving me without bidding farewell. I felt lonely and disheartened. Why had my life suddenly become like this? I never wished to become the lady of this manor or Lord Damian's bride. 

I never noticed the presence of another as I sobbed quietly. "My lady", I stilled. I had vowed to not show him my vulnerable side but here I was a crying mess and there he was standing at the doorway, frowning at me. 

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