Servant friends, Alexandra and Christophe, are busy preparing for their mistress' 'afternoon entertainment': a slightly perverse murder mystery afternoon before tea. But a few of the guests won't be playing by the rules...
She was just a maid, one of a small team who worked her hands against the grain of the dishes in that country mansion on the edge of the city. No detective herself, she was just an orphan, a friend, a watcher. ‘Unremarkable’, people would have remarked, but it was that which made the little French working girl a remarkable wonder in her own world.
It was an average day, but it was about to become a day like no other. Alexandra, the little maid in question, watched, as, in slow motion, her hands’ grip on the dish slipped and the object slid through the air, as though the air was made of a substance akin to water, and crashed down onto the hard stone floor. As well as crockery smashed, it was a dream, a mirage, broken.
“Oh, you beastly thing! Stupid girl!” she cursed under her breath as the Cook stormed in, swamped with a temper as usual.
“Alexandra! What is it that you've done to that dish?”
“I...um…I dropped it…” Alexandra muttered, her worried voice the only thing giving away that she was not from around the same area as the other kitchen staff. Her accent was crackling with a little French tone, matching the petite size of the girl herself.
“Well, clear it up! Clear it up, quick!” In a blatant contrast to Alexandra, the Cook’s voice was harsh and strongly British, though she emitted the eccentricity of mid-London, unlike the other maids who had been born on the estate and lived in the country villa their entire lives. Their voices were simple, dotting their ‘i’s and crossing their ‘t’s, just as the good Coventry girls should. For Alexandra, her accent, and the fact that she was, in a way different from any others, most clearly French, was a difference too big to hide; she sometimes wished that she had the chance of fitting in as the others did.
To make matters worse, the divide was made more prominent by the fact that Alexandra was given, with the gravitas of her position, an darker uniform and, as she occasionally had the chance of serving in the main dining room, her dress was a solid black, in lieu of the blue print that all the other maids were told to wear. Even Cook had rustled up her own smock, navy so that no work-stains would mar her appearance and then, indirectly, the image of the family themselves. There was also the matter that Alexandra, with her tangles of rusty golden hair, refused to wear the Blanchette, the ‘maid’s hat’, on a daily basis. With an elastic clasp around the back of the head, and a twenty-centimetre strip of linen that formed a band around the forehead, Alexandra could not stand how constraining the articles were. They were simple, but still rather like the fancy headdresses that dancers and upper-class ladies would wear. The difference, however, was that the ladies wore the fashion, but maids’ headdresses were to keep hair similar to Alexandra’s from tumbling down, scruffily out of place.
Alexandra was, by no means, pretty, but she had incited some anger amongst the other servants, the cook included…all because her attitude was one of the higher servant that she was.
Looking down on the maid, through her jealous chestnut eyes, the cook threw the dustpan at Alexandra and bustled off, just as in walked the household’s butler, Christophe.
He was French too, and, frankly, gorgeous, though perhaps not in the way that the other scullery maids would have expected. The butler was something different; he gave off the air of a timeless man His short black hair was neatly slicked over with gel to form a parting to the right, and his radiant blue eyes seemed to shine brighter than any summer’s day. He was barely ten years older than Alexandra and she marvelled at that; to find a husband of less than thirty years in her day was a task most difficult, and yet most rewarding, to Alexandra.
Christophe cast those shining eyes around the kitchen area. They inspected every nook and cranny of the Cook’s ‘necessary’ perfection, they inspected the staff and their tidy uniforms and, finally, they came to rest and widened on the view of the timid housemaid on the floor, her hands busy amongst glass shards. It was not a flaw of Alexandra’s manner that dishes always slipped from her hands- which they did not, in any case- but she could not deny that this was not the first time that she had been found amongst the pointed shards of one of her mistress’ dishes. The shards were double-edged and the blame always fell back on Alexandra. That, in itself, was the reason why she had been dreading any of them, Cook, Christophe, and any of the neat Coventry maids, finding her in this position again. She was accustomed to dirtying her knees on the tiled floor, but the shame that fell upon her, albeit for only an hour at most, was a humiliation that she’d rather not bear.
“Alexandra,” Christophe spoke, and, with a small shake of trepidation, the girl slowly lifted back her head to look at him, hoping that he had not seen her staring a minute before.