Chapter 17 - Cinderella
Isabel woke up late in the afternoon. What woke her was extreme hunger, suffocating starvation. She recalled that all she had consumed last night was just a glass of wine. To be precise, she had not eaten anything since yesterday morning save for a glass—no, a few sips—of wine. Thus, it was not surprising that she was famished.
Isabel arose with a falter. She had fallen asleep while still in her ball gown, so she began by changing out of it and into a housecoat. Her body was still sticky and sweaty, but the unbearable hunger prevented her from sparing any time to wash up first… Afterward, she put on her slippers and headed for the kitchen. On her way there, she ran into the butler. He was an older man who had been managing the baron’s household for two generations, from the previous baron to the current one.
“My lady, what brings you here?” he asked.
“I’m hungry,” Isabel muttered weakly.
“Oh, is that so? Please return to your room. I shall arrange for a maid to bring you something to eat.”
His attitude was formal and businesslike. Like his master, he was not at all pleased with Isabel’s existence. To the household, she was like a protruding nail or an exposed tack that constantly stabbed at them. The butler disliked her because she was a woman whose mere existence put his master in a foul mood. Considering that she was related by blood to his master, however, he was forced to treat her formally. Before the butler left, Isabel stopped him.
He maintained his composure perfectly, but Isabel was remarkably sensitive and realized that he was a little annoyed with her now. She momentarily lost her nerve but gathered her courage and gave her request.
“Please prepare some bathwater.”
While the butler hardly showed his true feelings, Isabel knew that he did not like her because of her status as an illegitimate child for who the baron had no love. He was the man in charge of the mansion’s upkeep and, even though Isabel was technically still the baron’s daughter, he regarded her as just a parasite leeching off the barony.
“Yes. I shall do so.”
The only reason why the butler accepted her request was that he wanted to avoid seeing her wandering around the house. Knowing this, Isabel went back to her room. She sat on a chaise and waited. After a while, a maid appeared at her chambers and brought stew, bread, some vegetables, and jam on a tray.
Isabel took her time eating the meal and sipping her water. The stew smelled a little, perhaps because it was leftover from a previous dinner, and the bread was a little hard as if it had been twice-baked in the oven. The vegetables she had been given also lacked freshness and were slightly withered.
Nobody in this mansion treated Isabel how she was supposed to be treated. As the baron’s cold shoulder persisted, even the servants and maids started treating Isabel as if she was insignificant.
To be honest, almost everyone in the baron’s household disliked Isabel. The only one who did treat her with decency was the mansion’s head maid, who had lost her daughter when she was younger. Her daughter was said to have been around Isabel’s age, which was perhaps why the head maid was so kind to her.
Once she was done eating, she started to fall asleep again. As she was about to slip into a deep slumber, she heard two knocks on the door.
“Ah, please come in,” Isabel called.
“Hello, my lady.”
The head maid had arrived and brought with her several maids and a wooden tub which they had filled with warm water. The house did have a dedicated bathroom for the noblewomen, but it was not her place to use it. Instead, she always bathed using a wooden bathtub that was brought to her room.
“Shall I wait on you?”
“I know you’re busy. Go continue your work.”
Isabel normally bathed alone anyway, and today she had more reason to. Her body was full of marks that Agares had left behind.
“Yes. Then, please call us when you are done, my lady.”
After filling the tub, the maids excused themselves and took their leave. Isabel took off her dressing gown and slowly lowered herself into the bathtub.
When the hot water made contact with her body, all the tension in her nervous and tired body immediately left. She felt a slight stinging in her lower parts and crossed her legs at the unfamiliar pain. Her bluish-purple hair spread out on the surface of the water while her exhausted and sweaty body became languid.
Isabel leaned her head against the edge of the tub, blinking her heavy eyelids as drowsiness overcame her. She wiped herself lightly with a rough cloth before the water could cool. Her cheeks flamed upon seeing the red marks Agares had left on her body. He was a passionate man, one who knew how to charm her with his words in the bedroom. Heat rushed up to her face and her heartbeat wildly as she vividly recalled his face and voice. She poured water over her head several times and washed her hair thoroughly, but she could not cleanse away the figure engraved in her mind.
※ IP licensed to WordExcerpt. The rights of this work belong to the copyright holders. No portion of this work may be reproduced, transmitted, copied, duplicated, or modified in any form without written permission from the copyright holders.