Chapter 7 - Leading with a Lie
Chapter 7 - Leading with a Lie
A smile found its way onto Alexandria’s face. “That sounds fair.” She said happily, excited that she hadn’t reduced the man’s pride. “Lead the way, Noah.” She blurted.
Alexandria froze. She had said his first name. She hadn’t even given him the courtesy of adding his title.
How could she have been so careless?
His name had been floating around in her thoughts ever since Kimmie had introduced them. Why had she blurted it out now?
What reason would Lady Tompson have to use his first name?
Lord Jenkins stared at her with a shocked expression and she understood why. Lords and Ladies didn’t speak on a first name bases unless they were intimate, or at the very least childhood friends. Alexandria and Lord Jenkins were neither, and yet-
Alexandria couldn’t help but wonder-
“Lady Tompson” She heard him caution sternly “it is highly inappropriate for you to...”
“Call me Annabell.” She blurted. Where did that come from?
And again, Why?
Thankfully she said Annabell and not Alexandria. The Sky forbid what would have happened if she had told him to call her by her actual name.
A look of disbelief crossed Lord Jenkins’ face. It was clear that he had expected the words to come from her mouth as much as she had.
“My Lady Tompson,” he confided, “it would be rather improper for me to do so.”
“Well.” She said, courage somehow finding its way into her voice. “I called you by your first name, Noah, and I will continue to do so.”
She would? Her boldness excited her.
“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?”
As soon as the words left her mouth, Alexandria felt mortified. She had called his status into question. Surely he would be upset with her. She watched him cautiously but her blow to his pride didn’t seem to faze Lord Jenkins. For a moment it was almost like he considered agreeing.
Perhaps he was thinking of their modesty. If a passerby heard them calling each other by their first names, the on lookers would not think that the two were merely acquaintances.
“Lady...” Lord Jenkins implored cautiously.
Alexandria eyed him pointedly. He took a small away from her, his eyes wide with concern.
Was her gaze so fearful?
“Well.” He blurted out forcefully, “It seems that you are a rather cunning woman that knows exactly what she wants.”
“And it seems that you are refusing to adhere to my request.” She shot back matching his tone.
Why did this type of banter excite her?
None of it made sense.
The silence lasted a few moments and Alexandria tried to calm her pulse.
“Very well,” she heard him say after releasing a loud sigh, “Might I have the pleasure of your conversation?” He asked still not saying it.
On instinct, she shot him the same pointed glare from earlier.
Perhaps she had pushed Lord Jenkins too far. He was a member of Society after all. Even if he wasn’t Alminian born she should show him some respect.
“Please Annabell.” He stammered quickly, catching her off guard.
Alexandria looked up in surprise. He had said her name. Well not actually her name, but she could be Annabell. If it meant that she could spend a few more minutes with Lord Jenkins, then she could lead the conversation with a lie.
“Thank you Noah.” She said sincerely, marveling at the newfound inner strength she had. As Crowned Princess, she never had people questioning her motives. It was highly unlikely that someone would openly deny her, but Lord Jenkins compliance felt entirely different. She didn’t feel like he was simply following orders because of her Social rank.
No, her sway over him had been much more primal.
“Shall we?” He asked indicating that they hadn’t yet moved towards the stables.
“Yes.” Alexandria agreed. She took a few steps towards the stables but a thought came to her. “Do you mind if I ask you something?” She asked, her back facing him.
“You are asking me if I mind?” She heard him retort sternly.
She was worried that he was mad at her, but when she turned to extract her question Alexandria noticed that a sideways grin had appeared on his face.
“I suppose you plan on teasing me now.” Alexandria concluded. Her cheeks reddened at this realization, and her heart started to race.
“That seems like it would be a fair reaction.” Lord Jenkins responded proudly, “However,” he added, closing the distance between them, “I will yield. What did you wish to ask me?”
Alexandria looked away for a second as she tried to remember her question, “Which Kingdom do you hail from?”
Before he could even answer her she continued, “Earlier I was informed that you were not from Alminia. Since you asked me where I was from, I believe that it was only fair for me to ask you the same.” She was rambling, stalling, but why? Truthfully she didn’t know why it mattered, what Kingdom Lord Jenkins was from. It wasn’t like he’d come back to see her once the Masked Ball was over. Why had she asked him that?
“Terrafeuw.” His words interrupted.
She looked up at him surprised. Terrafeuw? It was one of the furthest kingdoms from Alminia, no wonder his skin spoke of the sun and travel. The trek was dangerous on land because one had to cross the Shanri Desert. It was the Kingdom where King Freddrick and his son, Prince Phillip, ruled. The dangerous journey was the reason why neither of them had met yet.
“Terrafeuw,” she repeated, noticing disappointment in her voice.
“Might I ask you something?” Lords Jenkins inquired.
Alexandria nodded, happy for the change in subject.
“What were you doing in there?” He asked motioning to the bakery that she had walked out of, before they collided.
“You’re avoiding my name Noah.” She interjected while trying to change the subject.
“And you,” he retorted with that same grin from earlier, “are avoiding my question.”
He had started teasing her, and knowing that caused Alexandria to smile.
“Am I not allowed into that specific bakery?” She shot back matching his tone.
Lord Jenkins’ face reddened slightly, “I did not mean to offend you, Annabell.”
Alexandria’s heart fluttered at his use of her ‘name’. She could tell that he was being sincere in his statement. “You have not offended me, Noah.” She insisted calmly. “Should we continue towards the stables?”
He looked at her strangely but then realized that they were still standing in the middle of the road, right outside of the bakery. He gazed at the shop door with a strange expression upon his face, but Alexandria didn’t feel it right to ask him about it.
A short time later he looked back at her with a kind smile. “Please lead the way.”
They walked the short distance in relative quiet. Alexandria knew that she had promised him conversation along the way, but she was unsure about what to say. It felt as if her tongue had become fixed inside her mouth and plausible conversation was impossible.
“Is something on your mind?” She heard him ask softly.
His question unlodged her thoughts.
“How long have you been in Alminia?” She asked wondering what his reason for seeing his cousins was. Lord Jenkins couldn’t have visited solely to help with the Masked Ball. It had just been announced, he couldn’t have known about it.
He stopped walking next to her. Alexandria looked back and saw him contemplating, calculating. “I came here about two months ago.” He eventually answered flatly.
Two months? That was considerably longer than she expected, but it made since. Terrafeuw’s distance from Alminia meant that should anyone visit, his or her stay would last longer than just one or two fortnights.
“May I ask what brought you to this Kingdom, Noah?” She inquired.
“My Aunt was married recently to Lord Louis Montego.” He said flatly. “I came to represent the Terrafein relatives.”
Alexandria couldn’t help but notice the disdain in his voice as he spoke about his Alminian family. It made her more curious about him, but whatever issues he had with them were personal. She had no right to ask.
They had just walked into the stables when Lord Jenkins asked. “Are you also visiting relatives, Lady Tompson?”
Alexandria wanted to insist that he continue to call her Annabell, but it was more likely that some gossiper would hear them while in the stables. Lord Jenkins was right returning to proper social conduct. “I am visiting a family friend, Lord Jenkins.” She answered accepting that they were finished using each other’s first names.
“Travis,” She heard Lord Jenkins call as they neared where the carriages were stored. She assumed that he was calling for his driver, and for some reason she was jealous that she didn’t know her own driver’s name. She had never before found a reason to know.
The man called Travis came forward. He looked startled at his master’s appearance. Perhaps he was just surprised by Alexandria’s presence, but he had the respect to not question it. “I’ll get the carriage ready, my Lord.” He said with a small bow before leaving them.
“Would you like to ready the carriage as well, my Lady?” She heard a voice ask from behind her. She turned around and noticed her driver had appeared.
Alexandria deeply wished that she didn’t have to leave. However, her mother hadn’t allowed her the whole day. It was after lunch, and that meant that she had to head back.
“Yes thank you.” She nodded. “Once you finish, please inform Tilly that I am ready to depart. She is running an errand for me at the near by bakery.” Alexandria lied so that the young girl would not get in trouble.
“Of course my Lady.” The man eyed Lord Jenkins cautiously, before deciding that it was safe to leave the Princess alone with him. Then with a bow towards Alexandria, he left heading in the same direction as the other driver.
Alexandria turned and noticed that Lord Jenkins had paled slightly at her words. “Is this Tilly, your escort Lady Tompson?” He asked seeming confused.
“That is correct.” She affirmed wondering at the man’s altered state.
Lord Jenkins nodded at her response and headed towards his carriage. It was small, able to fit one person comfortably, maybe two. He placed his packages inside before turning around with a smirk that caused Alexandria’s heart to once again flutter.
She looked at him expectantly wondering what the smirk could mean.
“Would you mind giving me those back, Annabell?” He asked whispering her name so that only she might have heard it. He held out his hands and nodded towards the packages that she was still holding.
Alexandria blushed at her forgetfulness, but couldn’t hide the smile that came to her face because he had used her name. She placed the boxes that she had been holding into his outstretched hands, making sure to keep her own parcel with her.
“Thank you.” He said.
The packages would make Lord Jenkins’s ride back to his relative’s estate rather cramped. Alexandria noticed him looking at the remaining room with apprehension. He seemed to be debating what his next move would be.
“It seems that I will be enjoying more of this lovely weather.” He concluded eventually, almost seeming relieved.
“Surely your relatives had a larger carriage?” Alexandria blurted. “They could have lent you theirs. It is Market Day after all,” she rationalized, “surely they would have wanted to come and lend a helping hand.”
“Well,” He remarked cautiously as if trying to find the right words. “It is no secret that my distant cousins and I do not see eye to eye. They have gone hunting recently and I fear my presence has been the cause of their departure. My Aunt and her new husband are still celebrating their vows. With the recent news of the upcoming festivities, it became my duty to lend them a hand. They are, after all, still family.”
He seemed hesitant about telling her. Alexandria thought that she heard him cringe at the word family. It didn’t seem right to question him about it immediately, but perhaps she could ask him later when they weren’t complete strangers.
But... would she see him later?
Before either of them could say anything else, the two drivers returned. Neither of the drivers spoke while they attended to their duties. Alexandria and Lord Jenkins also refrained from speaking until the two men had completed their tasks.
Once the carriages were ready, Lord Jenkins caught Alexandria off guard when he bowed to her. “It was a pleasure to meet you Lady Tompson.” He said with more respect that she believed a Lord could give, “Perhaps our paths will cross again.”
He stood straight and held out his hand. She grasped his palm to shake hands, but he quickly turned her hand over and placed a soft kiss on the back. “Safe journey Annabell.” She heard him whisper. For the umpteenth time that day, Alexandria’s heart fluttered.
Lord Jenkins nodded towards his driver before climbing up the side of the carriage to sit comfortably besides him. Then, as quickly as he had come into her life, Lord Noah Jenkins was gone.
Alexandria didn’t know how long she stood there.
She was shocked at his audacity. He had kissed her hand. True he had been perfectly formal in his actions. After all, no man would ever perform that specific gesture to a woman who was above his rank. No man, besides her father, had kissed her before. Lord Jenkins wouldn’t have done it if he had known who she really was. Or would he? Her hand still burned from his touch, and Alexandria couldn’t help but marvel at the sensation.
The Princess felt her cheeks redden as she thought of the young Lord that she’d spent only a few minutes with. She still didn’t know very much about him, but she’d never be opposed to learning more.
“My Lady, are you ready to go?” Alexandria heard from behind her. She turned to see that Tilly had arrived.
“Yes, I believe that it is time to depart.” She stated turning towards the pair that eyed her cautiously.
Before she climbed into the carriage a thought came to her. “What is your name?” She asked turning towards her driver.
~~~Change Character Focus, A short time later
“You do know that you didn’t have to call me, ‘My Lord’ right?” Noah called out as he changed, out of the suit that Willaminia had lent him, behind the carriage. He hated that he lied to Lady Tompson, but he didn’t expect his friend to lie as well.
He heard Travis snicker from the driver’s seat. “Well call me crazy, but I didn’t want to be the one to blow your cover.” He paused. “What did you tell her about yourself anyway?” The stableman asked.
“How about I tell you what Lord Jenkins told her?” Noah asked.
“If it makes you feel less guilty,” Travis interpreted, “go ahead.”
Noah groaned as he struggled with the outfit. “Well,” He said forcefully, “He is a Lord here to celebrate his Aunt’s wedding. Thankfully I have no relationship to anyone from that family. He’s been visiting Alminia for two months, and” he started, pausing for a moment, deliberating if he should tell Travis or not, “-and, he kissed her hand and call her by her first name.”
Travis didn’t respond for a while. He had seen Noah kiss the Lady’s hand but he hadn’t heard what Noah said after the idiotic action.
Travis exhaled loudly, as if trying to get the day’s events behind them. “Come on then hurry it up. No more dallying back there. We have to head back now.”
“Hold on you impatient old man.” Noah called with a grunt, teasing the man that was only six years his senior. “This thing is not exactly easy to get on...just give me a...aah ha! Success!” He yelled triumphantly, glad that Travis had chosen not to question his actions towards Lady Tompson.
“Now that you’re beautiful, let’s go.” The man complained impatiently.
“As soon as you’re ready.” Noah laughed as he hopped up next to friend, a memory from earlier entering his head. “Oh, that reminds me.”
Travis offered him a look of disbelief. “What does climbing aboard the carriage remind you of?” He joked.
Noah rolled his eyes at Travis’s humor; “If Lord Montego wishes to leave early for the Masked Ball, would you mind if I brought him? Willaminia called in a favor, and I promised to help out if possible.”
Travis tried to look Noah in the eye seriously, but a chuckle escaped his lips. “Any help I could get that day would be appreciated, you know that.” He confided returning to his carefree self.
“Thanks.” Noah said actually meaning it. “Also, you should take Lord Montego home, if he decides to leave early.” Noah offered, “You’d get more time with your wife. Plus as a bonus, you won’t have to deal with the half drunken twins.”
“Are you trying to take my job?” Travis asked jokingly.
“We could always switch.” Noah prompted.
Travis paled at Noah’s jest. “You can keep it.” He allowed. “I barely know how to act around those two when they are sober, and separated from me by the walls of the carriage.” He agreed that Noah would be better suited for driving Johnathon and Ronald back from the Masked Ball, and then turned his attention back towards the road.
“Now, if you’re done being nice,” Travis said a short time later, “would you care to explain what was going on with you and the Lady?”
Noah placed a palm on his forehead, and softly cursed his friend for being so stubborn.
“Alright, I guess you do deserve to know. I met her as I was...” and so Noah spent the rest of the journey explaining the circumstances that lead him to Annabell.
“Terrafeuw?” Travis asked when Noah had finished, “Why in Sky’s name would you say that you were from Terrafeuw? What if she asked you to describe it to her? What do you know of the place?”
“My mother came from Terrafeuw, and it was technically where I was born.” Noah answered simply.
“Really?” Travis blurted, “Nanna never mentioned where she was from.”
“She use to tell me about it.” He confided. “She left with hopes to find solace here after the war burned down her village. She never said much about her life there, but she loved to describe the landscape. Also,” Noah admitted, “I couldn’t think of any other Kingdom off the top of my head.”
“I guess that makes since.” Travis said.
“Is something else on your mind?” Noah inquired.
He noticed Travis shake his head as if to knock his question loose. “It’s just. You said that Lady Tompson knows Tilly, right?”
“Don’t you think that something might happen in the weeks before the Masked Ball?”
“It doesn’t matter Travis.” Noah replied softly, hating the truth in his voice. “Lord Jenkins won’t be attending.” ’And no Lady would look twice at a servant distributing masks.′ His thoughts mocked.