Chapter 3 - Lick It Up
“Go to Master Dylan’s room and see if his window is properly closed or not.”
“Yes, you. Who else?”
Anna’s expression turned pleading and she pointed at her soaked clothes. “I’m sure I’ll get in trouble if I walk around looking like this, though,” she said.
Samantha was away at the moment attending to Madam Jane’s call. A girl with yellow hair came over, and Anna was worried she was going to be scolded for getting the laundry wet with the rain, but she ended up getting pushed into the metaphorical lion’s den instead.
“And what does that have to do with me?” the blonde shrugged, smirking.
In the end, Anna had to put all her strength into wringing the water out of her hair and skirt before heading up to Dylan’s room on the third floor.
Desperately hoping he wasn’t present, Anna knocked on his door, but God didn’t seem to be on her side because she heard Dylan’s voice telling her to come in shortly afterward.
Anna bowed her head low as she entered. “Since it is raining, I will close the windows,” she said courteously.
Although he had been treating Anna like some parasitic bug disturbing his garden upon every encounter, he was being pretty quiet. He must not have realized Anna had been the one to enter his room because he was concentrating on reading his book. She was determined to close the window and leave before he recognized who she was.
Samantha had told Anna once before that she had to put the flower pot on the windowsill down onto the floor before closing the window. Anna always considered having to do that as annoying as needing to serve every dish in a full course meal.
Up until the pot fell and shattered on the floor, that is.
Even without turning her head, Anne could tell Dylan had stood up from his chair. She could feel it.
Anna desperately began pleading for forgiveness, despair encroaching upon her heart. “I apologize, Young Master,” she said.
Before she knew it, however, he had reached her, tilting his head as he studied her dripping wet attire. She felt just as embarrassed as she would’ve had she been completely naked.
“You’re a complete mess,” Dylan said, and Anna hated that she couldn’t reply to his insult. “I definitely warned you, didn’t I? That I was only going to give you one chance?”
Dylan thought about what happened on the day David and Carol left the mansion by carriage. David had pulled a white envelope out from his inner pocket, handing it to Anna, who then promptly accepted the envelope with visible glee. She placed it in her pocket, and as she did so, David lifted his hand calmly, settling it upon her shoulder.
Dylan continued. “I’ve been hearing from others that you’ve been making messes at work this whole time.”
Undoubtedly, she had been able to get away with her incompetence because David continued to take her side, just like how he covered up Anna’s mistake of spilling water yesterday by overturning his glass of white wine. Although she had shamelessly utilized Dylan’s brother to her advantage, Anna still stared up at Dylan with an innocent look in her eyes, acting as if she were ignorant of her transgressions. What a manipulative woman she was.
“I treasured that plant,” Dylan said.
As if to convey that she was willing to take any kind of punishment he would give her, Anna bowed her head. Dylan picked up pieces of the broken pot, scooped the dirt and the plant into his hands, and handed them to her.
“Hold it,” he commanded. “Since you broke the pot, you’ll be the pot instead.”
Anna held the plant and the mound of dirt close to her chest. Unsatisfied, Dylan frowned, furrowing his brows. He grabbed Anna’s hands. “Lift it higher. Above your head,” he said, as he positioned her.
“H-How long do I need to hold it like this?” Anna asked. He could already hear the whine in her voice.
“Until you announce that you will no longer work in this household.”
There was a frightening brand of sincerity in Dylan’s voice as he spoke, leaving Anna confused.
* * *
Carol was Dylan’s first love.
The moment she entered the Kilner house holding David’s hand, Dylan began to understand the true meaning of the words ‘love at first sight’. He almost didn’t recognize David standing by her side courting her and seeking her affection, so distracted as he was by her presence.
Even though he knew that it was impossible to ask for Carol’s hand, she continued to occupy a larger place in his heart with each passing moment. Eventually, Dylan grew desperate for her love.
She would always act modestly, exuding calmness amidst a warm and friendly countenance. She looked transparent enough that one might fear she could disappear at any moment; it was almost as if, when reached for by hand, that hand would simply phase through her. Dylan believed his immoral thoughts would only taint such a lovely woman, so he could only watch her from afar.
The day after David and Carol’s wedding, Dylan had no confidence in his ability to withstand living with them in the same house. The knowledge that they were now a lawfully married couple hung hauntingly over him. He ran away and didn’t look back.
Three years have passed since.
After reading the entirety of a book he found in the library, Dylan returned to his room. ‘At this point, she should have left the mansion in tears already,’ he mused. Enough time had passed that the rain, which he had predicted would continue for the rest of the day, had come to a stop.
“You…” Dylan trailed off, astonished.
He was mistaken about the weather, but that wasn’t the only thing he got wrong. When he returned to his room, he found Anna still standing right where he left her, holding the remains of the broken pot’s contents above her head. She looked like she had been there the entire time he had been away.
His forehead creased in displeasure. The plant was in a slightly lower spot from where he had positioned it for her, but it was still right above her head. As if to prove that she didn’t cheat in any way, her forehead was dripping with sweat. She had bit down hard enough on her lower lip that it looked white as a sheet, the veins upon them made imperceptible simply by the force of it. Her entire body shook terribly, an obvious sign that she was reaching her limit.
Dylan couldn’t tell if she was being tenacious or stubborn. “Put it down and leave for now,” he eventually said.
No matter the motivation, however, her choice to endure simply looked foolish in Dylan’s eyes, as if she had accomplished no better than outright disrespecting him.
Anna lowered her shivering arms following his command. She grit her teeth and tried to walk forward slowly, but she ended up merely wobbling and slowly collapsing onto a sitting position upon the floor.
‘Carol must have spent an even longer time in pain than you have suffered here,’ Dylan thought, refusing to spare Anna even the slightest glance. Anna strove fervently to stand back up, only managing after a considerable amount of struggling. She eventually left the room.
Quite a while later, Samantha entered Dylan’s room to bring him tea. “Clean up that broken pot for me,” he told her, but she only gasped in surprise.
“I will, of course, but… have you injured yourself in any way?” she asked. “Why is there blood?”
Samantha pointed toward the spot Anna once stood. There, on the floor, was a prominent stain of Anna’s dried blood.
* * *
Dylan sliced a piece of meat and glanced at Anna. She was standing at the ready with a pitcher just in case anyone needed her to pour them a new glass.
She hadn’t been wearing any shoes, he had come to realize. He recalled the bloodstain she left behind on his floor and furrowed his brow. Her feet must certainly be in immense pain, yet her face remained impassive. Perhaps the wound wasn’t as deep as he thought.
Dylan shook his head. He needed to stop sympathizing with Anna. Although he felt a little bad for the fact that she had cut her foot on the shards of broken pottery, his determination to chase her out of the mansion before David and Carol came back couldn’t waver.
Sir Crane and Madam Jane were the first to leave the dining room after finishing their meals. Dylan moved to follow them but stopped to point at Anna and address her. “You,” he said, “bring some herbal tea up to my room.”
“Yes, Young Master,” Anna answered with a smile. Although she was smiling on the outside, however, she felt extremely nervous on the inside, anxious at the thought that Dylan might be cooking up another scheme to punish her.
She put a pot, teacup, and some herbal tea leaves she had ground herself onto a tray.
Casey, a girl around the same age as Anna, walked up to her, smirking in derision. “All you need to do is make sure you don’t mess up. What are you trembling so fearfully for?” she taunted. She was one of the people in the mansion who disliked Anna for having a sponsor backing her up. “You know, you’ve been worry-free all this time thanks to Master David. Now it feels like you’re finally being treated on the same level as we are.”
“So it was you?” Anna asked. She smiled, her eyes curving up as she lifted her tray.
Casey’s eyes twitched in annoyance. ‘Why is she smirking at me like that?’
“You were the terrible person who’d scuttle up to Master Dylan and snitch on me every time I made a mistake.”
As if she felt she had nothing to hide, Casey nodded her head brazenly. “Yep, that was me,” she said. “So what? It’s not like I’m the one who had to fix the mistakes I was telling him about.”
“Would you be happy if I get kicked out of the mansion, too?”
“Yes. You have no idea just how much of a thorn in my side you are, and most of the other people working here think the same. Hey, let me ask you something since you’re probably going to get kicked out soon anyway. What did you do to Master David? Did you sell him your body? Sleep with him?”
Anna’s hands—still holding the tray—shivered faintly.
“I haven’t committed any of the dirty acts you all imagine I have, but direct all your curses and your hatred toward me and no one else,” Anna said, glaring at Casey with her teeth bared. “I can’t stand having Master David insulted like that.”
“Wh-Who said I was? I was just asking,” Casey replied before she quickly left the dining room.
* * *
Dylan sat on a chair and calmly watched Anna steep herbal tea leaves in a pot of hot water. Considering how she still had yet to confess the fact that she was injured, he assumed that not only was she stubborn, but she had a strong sense of pride as well. If that was the case, he just needed to push her far enough that her pride could no longer save her.
Meanwhile, Anna had no idea such thoughts were running through Dylan’s head. Her mind was still a mess from her confrontation with Casey. What Casey had said to her was so ridiculous, so utterly absurd, that Anna had temporarily forgotten she was currently in the presence of an enemy.
‘Since it’s not the truth, I’ll just stop thinking about it,’ Anna resolved to herself.
Anna poured the tea from the pot into a small teacup engraved with a geometric pattern. Dylan held the teacup with his left hand. Anna had been standing on his left side, so when she stepped back, she bumped into his elbow just as he had planned. The tea, which had been lifted to reach Dylan’s mouth, spilled over his lower lip and continued all the way down to his pants.
He immediately stood up from his seat. “Darn!” he exclaimed. Because Anna backed away faster than he predicted she would, he had timed his movement incorrectly.
“Oh no! What should I do? I’m sorry,” Anna said. “Are you alright? Should I bring some cold water?”
She saw that the tea was still steaming and had immediately begun fussing over it. Dylan wiped away most of the tea on his lips with his sleeve, seething in fury.
“Do you even have a brain in that head of yours?” he asked.
“I really apologize. I didn’t think to check where your arm was, Young Master.”
“Every day you say you’re sorry. I’m sick and tired of it.”
Anna lowered her head, heart heavy with blame. “I’m sorry,” she repeated once more. It was all she could say, after all.
Dylan looked down at the top of Anna’s bowed head. He knew what he could do to completely destroy her pride.
“If you’re really that sorry… Lick it up.”