“Sir.” Alexandra was accustomed to calling Christophe ‘sir’, as of his being a higher position in the servants’ hierarchy than herself… No matter how much she wished that it were otherwise, no matter how hard she wished to be more acquainted with him.
Christophe raised his eyebrows and gestured to the shattered glass lying about her knees and around in a puddle stretching from the base of one of the sinks over to the staff preparation table that Cook was storming around. She cast one look down at the maid as she passed her, stomping, with disregard, through the patch of slithered glass that Alexandra was currently trying to scoop up. Christophe’s eyes shot, blue bouncing balls, between the two women, and his eyebrows rose even further up his smooth forehead. He didn’t need to say anything more.
“It was nothing, Sir. Just one of ma’am’s old dishes… which I dropped…” Alexandra felt the blue eyes scrutinize her, and felt herself starting to lose composure.
To her surprise, the butler let out a warm laugh, and knelt down to her level, picking up shards at the same time as she.
“The lady of the house summons you,” the butler muttered softly into the maid’s ear. His voice was quiet and lightly dusted with his French accent, as a cake would be dusted with sugar, having lived in England far longer than Alexandra.
“She wants to start preparing for this afternoon’s…entertainment.”
Alexandra looked up, a little surprised.
So soon? she mused to herself.
However, the lady would have what she asked. This day wasn’t up to Alexandra; the thoughts of a mere kitchen maid would easily be dismissed, due to the mistress’ temperament. The lady wanted to rule with her imagination, making everything ordered in her own way.
“Of course,” said the maid, as an unnecessary reply. She was still trying to conceal the nervous flutter of her heart that beat with strange quickness when Christophe was around.
She stood with Christophe, brushed the apron down and gestured for one of the scullery maids to take over the clean-up job. After all, Alexandra was most often called a servant of the upper house, whilst they were just kitchen assistants.
As Alexandra exited the kitchen, having left her pinafore on, she glanced meaningfully back, expecting Christophe to make his usual way up to the master’s study, and knowing that it would be her last chance of catching a glimpse of his sculpted face. She was surprised to see him head out the same way on the stone path that lay before her.
“I suppose you have been told to accompany me?” Alexandra remarked in the kindest way possible, but to keep with the formality of her senior.
“I am to prepare the entertainment with you,” the butler replied.
“Oh…” This was to be an awkward afternoon then. Alexandra bit down upon her lip.
Christophe laughed again. His voice was the softest melody that Alexandra had ever heard.
“Ally,” he said jovially, “we’re not in the kitchen anymore. Relax a bit.”
Alexandra obeyed and grinned at him, watching the small dimples and crows-feet that appeared when he smiled back, all the while looking at her… Yet he was keeping a far steadier balance walking across the land than she was.
The estate was built on a rough dirt and grass patch, so chosen because of the shelter provided by the nearby miniature copse of trees. The owner, Mr. Geoffrey Winters, and his wife, Annabelle, had a close-knit group of friends and, although Mr. Winters had a booming stock-business in London, the couple liked to keep away from the heavy traffic of life. That was also, indeed, why anyone travelling to the front of the house would need to make their way along the edge of the tiny evergreen forest.
And a rocky little way it was.
Alexandra stumbled over a firm hidden log of wood, and found herself falling, falling down into the earth…
And then she wasn’t. That moment she was caught. One of Christophe’s hands was clutching hers when she had haphazardly reached for the stars in order to be pulled up. Yet, there was a star himself standing beside her, whose quick thinking and quick reflexes had saved Alexandra from possibly receiving a twisted ankle, or worse. Her frantic heartbeat, a mouse’s pace, began to settle again, and a grin spread upon her face, as she began to breathe at a normal pace, so glad to be back to security.
As her eyes, dulled turquoise stones, gazed up towards Christophe, they both started to laugh. Their deep laughs echoed around the forest, both of them shaking so hard that it took extra effort to keep them holding on.
“Do watch yourself there,” the butler commented once he had got his breath back.
“Well, I think a ‘thank you’ is in order,” replied the maid, having been pulled back to an upright stature.
“Come on.” Christophe continued leading her back to the main house, now bringing down his strides to equal her short ones, so that he could be of anymore assistance if something more happened to befall the maid.
Luckily for Alexandra, fate was no longer tempted, but the maid’s mind was searched by some other-worldly being, and more than her fear of being over-clumsy was found.