Soon after, as Christophe was returning alone, having successfully escorted the man and his cigarette to the guesthouse, there were, indeed, a number of guests now gathered at the gate. Alexandra had refused to allow anybody entrance into the estate without the presence of another servant, namely Christophe, whose job for the day, it had become clear, was to accompany her throughout the ‘entertainment’. Alexandra, stubborn, knew that she would be expected to do the better option, but she did not like the idea of having to conform, even though it was twenty past the hour and an argument was brewing between those being denied an entrance.
A young woman stepped forward closer to the gate. She was instantly recognisable to Alexandra, even from only one glance, distinguishable from the other guests by her undeniable beauty, noticeable even to a fellow member of the fair sex. Her dark reddish hair, which reminded Alexandra of hazelnut cornels, cascaded out ornate butterfly clips arranged upon her head, and fell glossily down her slim figure; her jade-coloured eyes enhanced the look, even as they were being narrowed at a lady twice her age. This other woman, reeking of incense and a loud personality, had scraped back red hair, bright and very probably dyed.
Upon the top of her jutting left cheek, inches below the thick lines of kohl that framed her self-defining eyes, the lady had a black circular mark, the shape and size of a large mole, but something far more decorative than that. It was what was known as a ‘beauty spot’, drawn onto one’s face with kohl pencil or a more permanent ink to, supposedly, enhance the desirability of the wearer. It did no such thing for this lady; her age intervened with her once-glamorous looks.
Alexandra knew that beauty spots were still all the range, especially for those sorts of people. The ones born in, or taking their inspiration from, the just-gone Regency were the most likely to be seen with such markings, as were ladies of both the street and stage…however different the two things may have seemed at a first glance.
Alexandra herself was not a fanatic user of make-up; even if she did earn more than her monthly two-and-six, little for a servant, but enough because her lodgings were being provided for by the Winters, she would not have made her way to the shops, as some of the scullery maids did, to buy such trivial things. It was not that the maid cared less for her appearance, but the thought of dressing herself up for nothing was not one that made much sense.
Christophe had remarked, during the snatches of conversation they were able to have whilst preparing the guest area, that what he adored about Alexandra was her brave ability to stand away from the collective minds of the other members of staff by not decorating herself up ‘like a Christmas tree’. He had remarked that he liked her lack of make-up, a thought that made Alexandra beam and blush at the same time.
She would remark to such things, next time, by reminding him that, in any case, the reason there was no rouge upon her cheeks was because she was so susceptible to flushing a deep pink whenever the butler looked in her direction. Her natural makeup might adorn her permanently one day.
At the gate, as Christophe approached what some people might have called a mess, but what Alexandra preferred to label as her work, just with additional trouble, the two women were still shooting remarks of ice at each other and at the poor Alexandra, who would do nothing but shake her head once more. She watched the arguing patrons with dismay, every second noticing something further details about their personalities and the objects that were scattered about their persons.
Clutching at the skirts of the elder woman (who gave off the airs of someone just living past her forty years) were two small boys, identical in all but height, most likely due to age, and eye-colour. The smallest boy’s eyes were baby blue, and added to his angelic look, as did the pale blonde curls adorning his head. Alternatively, the older boy’s eyes were dark hazel, to match his mother’s. If not for the golden waves parting boy’s brow, Alexandra might have assumed, if she had seen the two of them in some exterior situation with nobody around to part them, that the child would share his mother’s darkened personality.
“But I clearly have the letter here!” she burst out. “It simply cannot be me in the wrong! Have you checked-?”
“Yes, I have checked. My invitation, which I have right here too, says (and I’ll say in simple terms in case you might misunderstand): ‘12.15, Winters’ Estate, Coventry. Yours, Mrs. Annabelle Winters.’ Look here yourself, if you daren’t believe me.”
The older lady bristled.
“Perhaps they mistyped your character's name? Ah, here comes a reliable-looking servant, unlike this one.”
She first indicated the approaching Christophe, a smirk of disapproval decorating her painted face, and next she cast her unwelcome look over Alexandra, to whom she could be no more than malevolent. The maid glowered back. Although the discussion had only just begun, she had formed a strong dislike for the woman ever since she had arrived at the gate. This woman had been determined to enter, but on seeing the other guests, proceeded to question them on the characters that they were to play, instead of concentrating on her own matters, as they were. That was when the fight had ensued.
“I even brought my own ‘ill’ sons,” the woman now remarked pompously.
“I didn’t need to!” snapped the girl. “I have a friend…and he was invited to play the son, with the same genuine invitation. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to have turned up yet…”
“Madams,” said Christophe whilst Alexandra unlocked the gold-coated iron gate. “There is always a simple answer to everything.” He raised his voice and added to the whole company, “if each of you would like to make your way forward, please follow me, so that we can sort things and begin the game to which you have been summoned.” He nodded to Alexandra. “Alexandra, notify the mistress that all her guests have arrived.”
“What about my friend?” the argumentative young woman demanded.
“If you are referring to Mr. Newton, madam, he is already waiting and in position to start this afternoon’s activity.”
“Hmm, he’s early… It being unusual, it makes me assume that Josh- Mr. Newton may be our murderer.”
Alexandra heard Christophe give his soft chuckle, as they started to head in their separate directions.
“I would be so sure, madam; nothing is certain.”