Petrova stood in front of the mirror, barely able to recognize the person staring back at her. After a year of wearing black, it was bizzare to see herself clothed in elegant colors, such as the perrywinkle shade of her summery dress. The baby pink sash emphasized her tiny waist, which was small even without the corset. Her long, dark curls were twisted elegantly in a traditional style. Her blue green eyes were wide with excitement, yet full of sadness. Today was the day she was leaving Lily.
The recent terrorist attacks in England had hit the country hard. As a result, most of the money left her her and Lily by her late parents was gone. Petrova, as an act of kindness, split the remains of her pounds with Lily. While she dreamed of attending a university, the funds just weren't there. They had been lucky to keep the house, which Lily now owned, as Petrova had left it in her name as she set off to find work. It hadn't been easy, as many people couldn't afford to employ the people they needed, and could barely pay the ones they had. Somehow, Petrova had found work as a maid at perhaps the richest estate in London - aside from anything owned by the royal family- the Bane Manor.
She knew nothing of the Bane family, but they seemed generous. Upon notice about her employment, she'd received instructions stating that everything she needed would be provided for her and that she may bring whatever she desired in order to make her life there easier. She'd only packed a few things, among them a family portrait taken a number of years ago, some of her mother's jewels, a few of her father's favorite novels, and a small, worn Bible Lily had given her.
She gathered her belongings, packed them neatly in a small trunk and began the descent down the curved staircase. When she entered the foyer, she found Lily talking pleasantly to a woman who looked just a few years older than Petrova herself. The girl was striking, with stunning blue gray eyes and long hair the color of a wheat field pulled up in an elegant twist that much resembled Petrova's.
"Petrova, this is Miss Jane French. From Bane Manor." Lily smiled, gesturing to the girl. "Miss French, this is Miss Petrova Collins."
Jane curtsied. "How do you do, Miss Collins?"
Petrova returned the curtsy. "Well, thank you. And how do you do, Miss French?"
"Please, call me Jane." The other girl smiled.
"I'm well, thank you."
"Miss French has come to transport you to the Manor." Lily stated. "You'd best hurry along, now." Her voice thickened a bit at the end.
"Oh, Lily." Petrova threw her arms around Lily. "Thank you so much for all you've done for me. I shall remember you always. May God be with you always."
Lily returned the embrace. "Dear, sweet, beautiful, Petrova." She began. "May He always be with you as well. I love you as my own daughter. Your mother and father would be so proud of you."
"And of you, too." Petrova smiled, forcing back the tears that burned her eyes.
"Farewell." Lily replied, following the two young girls outside, pausing on the steps as they climed into a beautiful carriage. She saw Petrova peer out the window as the carriage departed and wave until she was out of sight.
"She seemed nice." Jane said, once the carriage began the journey to Bane Manor.
"She was." Petrova sighed, lowering her hand as the Collins house grew smaller in the distance and eventually disappeared. "She was like my second mother, after my parents...." She trailed off, wishing she hadn't brought up the subject of her parents.
"Oh, I'm so sorry." Jane reached out and touched Petrova's hand.
Petrova gave a small, reassurring smile. "It's alright." She said. "So how long have you worked for the Bane family?" She wondered, wishing to change the subject.
"Only a few years." Jane answered, pulling her hand away. "Actually, it's just Master Bane." She added.
"Has he no family?" Petrova wondered aloud.
The other girl shook her head. "He did. His mother died shortly after he was born, due to complications during the birth. His father never got over the loss of his wife, his true love, and left the country, unable to look at or even acknowledge the Master. As a result, the Master and his elder sister, were placed in the care of a governess. His sister, Regina, was wed to a wealthy American entrepenuer the same year I started my service at the Manor."
The brief tale of woe tugged at Petrova's heartstrings. "Oh, how terrible." She replied. "He must be miserable, all alone..." She trailed off, not knowing what to say.
"He prefers it, actually." Jane said. "You probably won't see much of him."
"Have you?" Petrova asked, curious. "Seen him, I mean?"
Jane nodded. "A few times, yes. He's quite pleasant."
Petrova sighed in relief. "He is?"
"Oh yes. Many Masters would just overlook the work done by their servants. Master Bane doesn't. He's quite lovely to speak with. He's unlike any other master I've served."
They chatted a bit more, about many things, dreams, love, the weather, and their lives. As time passed, the city disappeared and they were traveling through the countryside. The land there was rich, and very green due to the high average of rainfall England received annually. Petrova could hear the soft melody of a nearby stream slumbering in the woods and instantly felt calm, relaxed.
"Here we are." Jane's voice broke the peaceful silence.
Petrova craned her pale neck and her eyes immediately widened. She was staring at an elegant house, surrounded by acres upon acres of land and forest. Two wrought iron gates opened upon the carriage's arrival and it continued down a long stretch of gravel underneath a brilliant arched canopy of trees. It was like something out of a fairytale, it's beauty taking Petrova's breath away. She was it awe.
"Welcome to Bane Manor." Jane smiled.