Chapter 1 - So You’ve Returned
“How’s the cleaning?”
“It’s nearly done.”
“What about the blanket I told you to take care of?”
“I sent a child to pick it up, so they’ll bring it soon.”
The richest household in the village, the Kilner family, was buzzing with activity. They were undergoing a major cleaning project the likes of which had not been seen by them in quite a while.
The hardest working amongst them was Madam Jane, the lady of the house. She had been working diligently since early morning, forgoing any breaks to ensure that everything was ready for the guests that were set to arrive later that day. She strode tirelessly through every corner of the house, pointing out all the little flaws she deemed in need of correction, yet the true labor lied in the efforts of the Kilner family’s hired workers, who broke their backs in attendance of every demand.
“I’m not sure if the food is being prepared properly. Have I already told the chef that they should never put mushrooms in the soup?” Madam Jane asked Samantha.
Samantha was a woman who served as the head of all the employees. She had been a facet of the Kilner household ever since she was twelve years old, staying with them even until she grew into middle age and her hair began to show hints of grey.
She tried to coax Jane into relaxing, shrewdly crafting a reassuring response. “Yes, you did. Everything is progressing smoothly thanks to you, madam,” she said. “So, why don’t you leave the work to your underlings for now and relax with a cup of tea?”
“This is all for my child who’s finally returning after three long years away from us, Samantha.” Madam Jane tried to stifle the overwhelming joy surging through her heart, willing herself into suppressing her rising blush. She spoke with her hand atop her pounding chest. “Excitement of this magnitude won’t go away with just a cup of tea and a nice, calming seat!”
She rushed toward the underground level where the house’s kitchen was located.
Exasperated, Samantha began to mumble to herself. “Why don’t you realize that sitting down and not doing anything would help us out far more?” she bemoaned, before hurriedly chasing down the stairs after Jane.
Anna entered a room at the end of the third-floor hallway holding a winter blanket larger than herself in her arms. She placed the blanket upon the room’s bare bed.
Inside of the room, cleaning it, were two women older than her. After setting the blanket down, one of the women, who had been sweeping the floor, approached Anna wordlessly and helped her spread the blanket over the bed. Anna nodded to her in gratitude, silently thanking her for the help.
The woman stopped to look toward the window. “He’s here,” she hastily whispered.
Anna’s gaze naturally followed the exclamation and she glanced outside the window as well. There she spotted a horse carriage riding toward the house, treading upon the grassy weeds as it did so.
The woman who was helping Anna couldn’t help but give in to her curiosity so she approached the window fully. Anna opted to watch as well, so she settled beside her, catching the carriage just as it slowed to a stop at the front entrance of the building.
The coachman got off and opened the door of the carriage, revealing the dashing figure of a young man as he alighted from his seat. Anna could recognize at a glance that he was the second oldest young master of the Kilner family: Dylan Kilner. Dylan looked manlier and much sturdier than he did on the day he first left three years ago.
The whole family waited beside the entrance, eager to greet Dylan. Sir Crane and his wife, Madame Jane, stood beside the eldest son of the house, David, and David’s wife, Carol. Dylan individually embraced them each, one after another, with the only exception being Carol, his sister-in-law, to which he provided a kiss on the back of the hand instead. It was an ordinary greeting, but it was accomplished with a sophisticated and noble air.
The last woman who was cleaning, a blonde, spoke up, chastising the two girls by the window. “If you want to lose your jobs and end up homeless on the streets, keep lazing around like that,” she said. She had been left to mop the floor alone while the other two watched the family reunion, mesmerized as they were by the Kilners’ elegance.
“Especially you,” the blonde continued. She rested her hand on her waist and glared, pointing a finger right at the pale woman standing next to Anna. “How could you laze around like that when you don’t have a sponsor willing to bear the brunt of the consequence for you should you make a mistake?”