Chapter 6 - The Favor
Chapter 6 - The Favor
As Noah walked towards the stables his mind wondered back to Willaminia and what she had asked him.
“Madam Pumberly,” He’d asked cautiously, “I have come for my packages, do you have them ready?”
“You can relax Noah.” She answered from behind the counter. “All members of Society are currently enjoying Market Day, and my staff knows who you are. You can be yourself now.”
“Thanks Willie.” Noah exhaled with relief, using the nickname that Willaminia only allowed certain people to call her. “You would not believe how hard it was for me to weave through the stalls, on my way over here.”
The woman looked at him alarmed. “Are the fabrics too binding?” She asked concerned.
Noah openly rolled his eyes, “Your fabrics are fine, Willie.” He said calming her. “It was the merchants that were the problem. They just kept stopping me, trying to get me to buy things. Apparently they I thought that I was someone that could afford what ever it was they were selling.”
Willaminia grinned happily, “The burdens of being a part of Society.” She joked. “People use clothing to understand the ranks of others.” She informed.
“And you made me into a Lord.” Noah huffed. “I wish this charade was over.”
A small silence hung between them as Willaminia mulled over what he had said. “Was there not one moment about being Lord Jenkins that you liked?” She asked slyly.
Noah eyed the woman across the counter suspiciously, “What are you trying to ask me, Willie?” He questioned.
She seemed to contemplate saying something, but then apparently decided to just ignore Noah’s question completely. “I have gotten all of Montego’s supplies wrapped.” She informed. “Everything we spoke of earlier matches their extreme and annoyingly obnoxious specifications, right down to the colored paper that each box is wrapped in.”
Noah sighed realizing that she wouldn’t further explain the earlier statement. “You out did yourself.” He praised, “As always.”
It was Willie’s turn to roll her eyes at him. “I wouldn’t do this for any other noble family.” She said sternly. “I would put my foot down and demand to be treated like the professional I am,” she paused solemnly, “but” she began cautiously, “I know what happens when that family is disappointed.”
Noah smirked and tried to brush off her statement. “You don’t have to worry about us, Williminia.” He said, referencing the Montego servants, “Everyone is going to be alright.”
“I’m not talking about the other staff members, Noah.” She shot back. “I know what you did. You shouldn’t be the one to ---”
Noah’s face hardened causing Willaminia to stop her rant mid sentence, “Let it go.” He said in a tone that he rarely used.
Willie’s eyes saddened, and a thick silence hung like a curtain between them.
“Are you sure that Lord Montego’s staff will have everything ready in time?” She eventually asked dropping the subject.
“They should be fine.” Noah told her, his serious tone starting to diminish. “What about you? Will you be able to finish everything?”
Willaminia smiled at his concern, but answered nonchalantly. “Every apparel merchant I know has called in help for the Masked Ball. I hired four new seamstresses, and an extra tailor for the event. Kimmie is helping with the overflow of customers. It will be busy, but we’ll manage just fine.”
Noah smiled at her preparedness, “I am glad to hear it.”
She handed him the Montego’s wrapped boxes before informing him. “I placed Ronald’s old outfit in the material box tied with the red ribbon. Please do me a favor,” she implored almost desperately, “do not change back into that atrocity until you have left the city.”
“But I didn’t pay for this.” Noah started motioning to the dark grey suit she had lent him.
Willaminia raised a hand to cut him off. “Just bring it back the next time you come to market.” She said warmly, and before Noah could say anything the woman once again changed the subject, “Who will be bringing the twins back from the hunting cabin the night before the Masquerade?”
Noah paused for a moment contemplating what motive Willie had for asking such a question. That woman was always medaling in people’s lives, and she always had an ulterior motive. He narrowed his eyes debating, but decided it was all right to answer her. “That would be Travis.” He informed using Horse’s actual name. “Lord Montego sacked his personal driver about a week ago for some idiotic reason.” The disregard that man had for his own servants angered Noah greatly. Lady Cathliene didn’t treat her servants with respect, but at least she didn’t dispose of them like her leftovers at morning breakfast.
“Does that mean that Travis will driving both nights?” Willaminia asked interrupting Noah’s mental rant.
“Yes.” He answered. “The poor man’s going to need a break once it is all over with.” Noah paused and cautiously eyed the woman in front of him. “Why do you ask?”
“I am still close with ‘Lady’ Cathliene’s staff.” She reminded, him. “Am I not allowed to worry about you all from time to time?”
Noah ignored her question and instead inquired, “You’re about to ask me for a favor, aren’t you?”
Willaminia fiddled with one of the packages on the counter but eventually she spoke.
“A few days ago,” she began, pausing to sweep a stray red curl from in front of her face, “I received a letter from the Royal Stewart. Their Majesties have honored my shop by requesting that Madam Pumberly’s be in charge of creating all of the masks for the up coming Ball.”
“That is great news, Willie.” He congratulated wondering where the woman was heading with her tale.
“It is a great honor,” she continued, “and I am rather excited about the opportunity.”
“But...” Noah prompted trying to get her to make her point.
She sighed dejectedly, “I have the means to bring the masks to the Palace, but I will need help with distributing them to the guests.”
“Willaminia,” Noah asked perplexed, “how could I be helpful? Lady Cathliene will never allow me to leave her son’s the day of the Royal Ball.”
“What if you were to drive them there?” She offered.
Noah shook his head. “That wouldn’t do any good either.” He confessed. “Lady Cathliene and her two son’s are usually the last to arrive and the last to leave. I’d be too late to be of any assistance.”
She paused for a moment before remembering, “Doesn’t Lord Montego have a reputation for arriving exceedingly early.”
“The man does everything early.” Noah said bitterly, “Do you know how hard it is to schedule household cleanings with that man as the Master?”
Willaminia ignored his question. “I’m sure that Lord Montego would refuse to wait for his new wife and sons once he’s ready.” She insisted. “With only one driver, poor Travis will have to make the trek to and from the palace throughout the night.”
“No other servant is trained to drive the carriages.” Noah informed sadly.
“You could do it.” Willaminia reminded. “If you brought Lord Montego you would arrive early enough to assist me?”
Noah thought about what Willie said. It seemed like a plausible idea except, “Who would get the Twin’s ready?” He asked.
“I’m sure that there are several servants in that house that owe you a favor.” The woman said with certainty.
Noah contemplated Willie’s request. He really wanted to help her out, but at the same time he would be forcing someone else to deal with his Twin Masters.
“I know that it’s rather selfish of me to ask you to do this,” Willaminia confided, “but I can’t think anyone else I could trust while I’m at the Palace
He thought about what she said before offering a compromise, “What about Richard?” He suggested. “With Tilly at the Palace I’m sure that he’d jump at the chance to help out.”
Willaminia’s face paled suddenly “I’m just worried about Travis.” She said eventually.
Noah sighed and ran his hands thought his hair. He was about to say something regarding the woman’s suspicious and not so subtle actions, when the ring of the bell at the front door caught his attention.
His eyes darted towards the sound, and he saw her. He stood gawking as the raven haired Lady Tompson entered the room gracefully. Before he could comprehend what was happening the figure of Lady Tompson quickly transformed, morphing into another Lady belonging to Society. Noah rubbed his eyes desperately trying to bring the image back.
What was wrong with him?
“I must be on my way now Madam Pumberly.” He said as he collected the boxes, “Congratulations on the order, perhaps I’ll see you at the event.”
Willaminia nodded towards him appropriately, a smile on her lips. She understood what he was telling her. They walked towards the shop door together so that she could open it for him.
“You have a good heart.” She whispered in his ear as he passed by.
Noah couldn’t fathom what he had just gotten himself into.
His mind was still contemplating what happened in the Pumberly shop. Sky forbid what would happen if Willie didn’t try to stick her nose into everyone’s business at least once a month.
Noah should have been watching where he was going.
Granted that was difficult given the limited view the plethora of packages offered. At the very least he should have been paying more attention. If he had Noah wouldn’t have collided into someone coming out of Byrns’ Bakery.
Brightly covered packages went flying. Noah fell onto his side and with a thud and the other person landed on top of him.
“I am so sorry I did not mean-/”
“Forgive me, I was not looking where-/”
He and the voice apologized at the same time. Not just a voice, a woman’s voice.
Noah looked up and his whole body stilled as pair hazel eyes met his. The two of them quickly scrambled away from each other, and sat in the middle of the road silently. He noticed that some of her long black hair had come loose of its pins during the fall, and that she was breathing rapidly. The pink of her cheeks deepened slightly most likely from the excitement of the whole ordeal, but she turned away as if embarrassed.
Noah used that moment to peek at the boxes that were now scattered about them. Thankfully nothing appeared to be damaged. The Sky forbid what would have happened to him if there were a single dent.
As he lifted himself up off of the pavement her voice caught his attention.
“Oh dear.” She said sounding dismayed.
Noah turned and noticed that the woman who’s eyes had been following his thoughts all day, was sitting on the ground cautiously eying a white box that lay in front of his feet.
“Did it survive?” He asked lightly, holding out a hand to assist her to her feet, fearful that she would disappear again.
Lady Tompson sighed grabbing his palm with one of her own small hands, and the box with the other. “It doesn’t matter.” She told him once she stood on her own. She clutched the box with both hands, but she didn’t open it to check the contents.
“I’m sure that it will taste the same whether I check on it or not.” She said answering his unasked question.
Noah found himself smiling, amazed at what she had just said. He had yet to meet a member of Society that didn’t fret over the possible destruction of their possessions. “Lady Tompson, right?” Noah asked, backing away from her for modesty’s sake. He clarified her name out of courtesy instead of necessity.
He had not forgotten it.
“Yes, that’s right.” She praised smiling slightly and she dusted herself off with one hand. “And if I remember correctly, you are Lord Jenkins.”
The use of the word Lord attached to his last name caused Noah to cringe on the inside. He had forgotten that there was a line between them; a social line that felt like a wall slowly growing higher and higher until he could not see over it.
She was a Lady, a proper Lady. He was a servant, just as Bert said. It didn’t matter how much her eyes haunted him or how many minutes his thoughts had already spent on her, they couldn’t be anything more than passing acquaintances.
“That is correct.” He found himself saying before he bent down to pick up the scattered boxes.
“Where are you headed with all of this, Lord Jenkins?” Noah heard her ask in awe.
“I’m just going to the stables Lady Tompson.” He said trying to stop the smile that was making its way to his face. “I must bring these to my cousins’ house.”
“Would you like a hand?” She offered politely bending down to help him.
Noah nearly fell over from the shock of her actions as well as her words, “Excuse me?” He finally managed to ask.
“Well,” she explained, “as it happens, I am also heading to the stables.”
“Are you?” He croaked marveling at the coincidence.
“It seems rather unfair of me to hold this one small box while you struggle with all of these.” She reasoned.
Before Noah could protest, Lady Tompson picked up the two boxes that Noah had yet to reach. She had placed her own green-ribboned parcel neatly atop the stack and stood up easily. It took all of his concentration not to gawk at her. It was rare for a noblewoman to carry anything but a fan, and here she was holding two of his material boxes without so much as a complaint. She looked at him expectantly, but he didn’t know how to react.
Somehow sensing his apprehension Lady Tompson huffed defeated, “If you feel uncomfortable about a woman helping you, you could always refuse my assistance.” Her words left a sour taste in his mouth that he instantly wanted to rectify.
“Lady Tompson,” Noah explained, as his stood with his own stack of boxes, “if there is one thing that I know how to do; it is to accept help when I need it. It does not matter where that help may come from.”
Noah had purely spoken the truth, but her reaction to his words wasn’t what he expected. She offered him a smile that caused his heart to stop. He had never seen a more satisfied person in his life.
“However,” He added, fearing what he would do if she kept smiling like that, “I would like to keep my pride Lady Tompson. Could you help me with that?
She frowned at his words, and Noah felt relieved and tormented at the same time.
“How might I be of assistance?” She asked perplexed.
“Since we are headed in the same direction,” He informed, “Allow me the honor of properly escorting you.”
His word choice caused her frown to deepen slightly, as she contemplated what he had said.
“At least,” He offered, when he could no longer stand the sight of her frown, “At least allow me the pleasure of polite conversation as I walk along side you.”
The smile that had stopped his heart earlier had returned to her face. “That sounds fair.” She said happily. “Lead the way, Noah.”
For some reason Noah’s heart leaped right out of his chest. He was positive that he had misheard her.
He had to have misheard her.
What reason would Lady Tompson have to use his first name? How had she remembered it? He was use to other low classed people calling him Noah, but Lords and Ladies usually just called him Servant.
True he was posing as a Lord but what would happen if a passerby had heard her? “Lady Tompson it is highly inappropriate for you to...”
“Call me Annabell.” She blurted.
Noah stared at her confused, unable to hide his disbelief. What Lady willingly let servants, or even Lords call her by her first name? From the look on her face she hadn’t expected the words to come from her mouth either.
“My Lady Tompson,” he confided, “it would be rather improper for me to do so.”
“Well.” She said, courage starting to lace her words. “I called you by your first name, Noah, and I will continue to do so. If anyone passes by and you continue to call me Lady Tompson, they might think that you are nothing but a lowly servant. You wouldn’t want that would you?”
Noah didn’t mind if people thought he was a servant. He was just a servant. He could tell her that he didn’t care what people thought of him. It was true, and yet he wanted...
Some basic desire in him contemplated conceding to her request.
If passersby heard them calling each other by their first names, something else would be thought entirely.
“Lady...” Noah implored cautiously. Her glare caused him to take a small step back, and his heart beat faster at the intensity of her gaze. In less than a day this woman held a power over him that he found himself defenseless to. How? “Well.” He blurted out forcefully, “It seems that you are a rather cunning woman that knows exactly what she wants.” He wasn’t sure where his ferocity had come from. The words had leapt sharply from his tongue of their own accord.
Why had he said them?
“And it seems that you are refusing to adhere to my request.” She shot back matching his tone.
Why was their banter exciting him?
None of it made sense.
He let the silence hang in the air for a few more moments as he tried to collect his sanity. “Very well,” he said, sighing audibly, “Might I have the pleasure of your conversation?” He asked still not saying it.
She glared at him pointedly.
Before he could talk himself out of it, Noah hurriedly stammered. “Please Annabell.”