The beginning of a story, from two perspectives. Thought and behavior are not in sync.
|Wilma had been waiting in the empty entryway for over thirty minutes. She had counted the black and white tiles, there were 422, all of them were cracked and missing corners. She could not imagine a family wanting to raise their daughter here, but then again she could not have pictured herself working here either.
The housekeeper straightened her apron and fastened some loose hairs under her bow. She looked her best. She wanted a warm welcome for the new girl. Her parents had showed up a week earlier than expected. While Wilma had been scouring around for months before that, the place had not been quite ready.
The high, empty walls gave Wilma the chills. She felt as if she was being watched from above, from places on the tall ceiling the chandelier wasn’t able to illuminate. Gusts of wind swooshed inside through gaps next to the window frame. Deep red curtains used to hide the gaps, but Wilma had packed those dusty drapes away.
From the corner of her eye she noticed Emile. The butler, frowning, static, his back as straight as an arrow, stood in the cloakroom. Instinctively Wilma straightened her back as well, but she relaxed again immediately after catching herself at it. The girl deserved a home, not an institution.
A letter from Daisy, the girl in question, had arrived at the house that week. Curious to know about her new master’s daughter, Wilma had read said letter when taking out the trash from his study. The girl sounded cheerful and energetic. A little bit of positive energy might just be what this place was lacking.
. . . . .
Emile had been standing guard near the spacious entryway for over thirty minutes. He had counted the patterned tiles. There were 422, still, excluding the thousands of tiny stones forming a colorful mosaic in the center of the room. The mosaic had amazed him ever since he first set foot in the mansion, when he was just a little boy.
The butler adjusted his tie and collar, driven by not his want but his always present compulsion to look his best. It was silly, really, why would the girl care? Her parents had arrived from some abode west of Oxford, the state of their new residence had appalled them. They were just not fit for a life in London.
New owners, Emile had seen them come and go. He had worked for them all, but it had only been the man who built the house who he had truly served. Mr. and Mrs. Middleton and their daughter Daisy, who was supposed to arrive today, would be gone before Christmas.
Emile noticed the housekeeper sneaking looks at him. She had taken reign even though welcoming guests was a butler’s job. The nervous fumbling with her apron and the pretentious smile on her face annoyed Emile, so much he had taken a step back from where he was supposed to be to surround himself with the quiet present in the cloakroom.
A letter from Daisy had arrived at the house that week. Emile had seen Wilma reading it, when she was supposedly tidying up the master’s study. That day Emile had burned the trash, before Wilma would go through it all. The stingy smell of smoke still lingered around the mansion. At least it kept the mosquitoes away.
. . . . .
Someone rang the bell outside. Wilma let out a squeal from excitement and sprinted to the door. Emile remained in the cloakroom. He fastened his white cloves, ready to take the girl’s luggage and coat. He didn’t know it yet, but he was about to serve a master for the second time in his life.