Chapter 8 - Perception
Chapter 8 - Perception
The skies were still dark when Noah pulled his protesting body up off of his worn down mattress. It had been two weeks since his trip to the market.
He had enjoyed having a few days of not needing to wake up the Twins, fix their baths, clean their clothes, or deal with their tempers.
It hadn’t taken Lady Cathliene long to notice that Noah had more time on his hands. He was temporarily reassigned to the service staff where he cleaned out fireplaces, and washed windows. It was in those moments that his thoughts would focus on a certain Lady with raven hair and hazel eyes.
She was perhaps the strangest Lady that Noah had ever met.
“Lost in thought?” A voice called out from behind him.
“Hum?” He second-handedly answered back.
“Noah! Wake up.” The voice scolded. “You’ve been washing the same window for the last ten minutes now.”
“What?” He inquired turning around quickly. “Hey Ginger.” He said with a guilty grin on his face when he saw the thirteen-year-old eyeing him pointedly.
“Come on take a break and talk to me.” She insisted. “You’ve been acting strange for a while now. What’s wrong?”
“I just lost my concentration,” Noah explained, turning back to the window, “no need to worry.”
Young Ginger placed her hands on her hips, mimicking her mother perfectly. “I’m not stupid you know.”
“How’s Timothy?” Noah probed hoping to change the subject.
The young girl tossed her hair back and sighed. “Fine then if you want to be rude, I guess I won’t tell you what I heard about Lady Tompson.”
“Wait, what about Annabell?” He snapped his head to look at the thirteen year.
“So it’s true!” She hollered gleefully.
Noah groaned as he leaned on the wall, and stared intently at his feet. “I guess I fell for that one.”
“Yep. Timothy told me about her.” Ginger informed. “He said that she was really pretty.”
“Did Timothy tell you anything else?” He asked openly.
“Yeah.” Ginger’s voice showed her regret for Noah. She was obviously happy that what she heard was true, but seeing the pain on her friends face, had made her wish that it wasn’t. “Noah look, you can’t beat yourself up about this. It is just a case of mistaken identity that’s all. You’ll forget about her eventually. Just give it time alright?”
“Who taught you to speak like that?” He asked slightly astonished by her wisdom.
“My Momma.” Ginger responded proudly.
Noah placed his washrag on the windowsill and looked up at Ginger. “You still didn’t answer my question.” He implored, “How’s Timothy?”
“He gets to visit this weekend.” She replied happily.
“What’s the occasion?” he asked, not having heard anything about an event yet.
A small frown found its way to the girl’s lips. “Lady Montego wants to meet with her bridge group and discuss the upcoming Ball. She actually planed ahead and asked mom to order a cake from Hardee’s.” A mischievous smile found its way to her face, “Mom ordered it from Byrns’ Bakery, so don’t say anything.”
“At least you get to see him.” Noah stated trying to be happy for her.
“Don’t be so glum Noah.” She said sternly, “Besides I think Annie is sending him with a treat for us.”
Noah tried to hide the small smile that found its way to his lips. “That’s not fair and you know. I’m trying to not be happy at the moment.”
“Well you’re failing.” She snapped. “Now you get back to work before someone sees.”
“Me?” He scoffed, “What about you? Lunch is about to start, isn’t there somewhere that you have to be?”
Ginger rolled her eyes at Noah before she turned to leave. “Just try to have a good day.” She pleaded, bounding back towards the kitchens.
Noah looked back at the window that he had been washing only to see Annabell’s face staring back at him. “No promises.” He whispered softly.
~~~ Change Character Focus
“Oh thank goodness you’re here.” Cook said pulling Timothy into a large hug. “Lady Montego’s friends are supposed to show up soon.” She fretted. “I was getting worried that you got run over by a carriage or something.”
“Don’t hug me too tightly Cook.” The boy warned. “You might squish it.”
Cook let go of the young boy, who instantly bent down and started pulling different boxes out of his bag before reveling a white box with a bright yellow ribbon. He peaked inside the box cautiously before giving it to Cook with a satisfied smile.
“Dad said that Lady Montego wanted the Lemon Cake from Hardee’s, but you thought that ours would taste better.” Timothy said secretively. “We made sure it looked the same as theirs. Hopefully no one will know the difference.”
Cook took the box from Timothy, set it on the counter, and lifted the lid. “Your father out did himself Timothy.”
“We won’t be able to take in anymore orders for a while though.” Timothy informed. “One came in the other day that will keep us busy for the next month.”
“Congratulations to your family.” Cook praised. “Now if help me put this on a plate, I’ll get you some lunch before you have to continue with your deliveries.”
Timothy reached back into his bag a short time later and pulled out a smaller box. This one was tied with a brown ribbon. “I made this for the staff here.” He said with a mixture of pride and apprehension. “It’s my first time doing this recipe by myself.”
“Did Timothy Byrns make us a cake?” A voice called from the door.
The boy turned towards the noise. “Hey Rosemary.” He called slightly disappointed. “Where’s your sister?”
Rosemary pretended to be hurt by his statement, “You are no longer my favorite Byrns, Timothy.” She pouted.
“Than who would hold onto this for me?” He asked holding out the small cake with a sly grin.
Rosemary ran off happily with the cake just as a loud squeal sounded from the kitchen door. “You made it! I was worried that a carriage ran you over.” Timothy looked over his shoulder and smiled back at Ginger as she bounced through the door.
“Your mom said the same thing,” Timothy remarked in awe. “Not to worry, I’m fine.”
“That’s enough of pleasantries,” Cook informed as she prepared their less extravagant lunch “You all better hurry up and eat before Lady Cathliene’s company arrives. We can each have a small piece of Timothy’s cake later this afternoon. Hurry up or lunch will get cold.”
They were just finishing with lunch when another voice called urgently from the door.
~~~Change Character Focus
Noah rushed towards the kitchen in a slight panic. The house was teeming with Society women. He personally hated it. The amount of pleasantries that these particular women demanded was obnoxious. They all felt initialed to everything simply because they were titled.
Lady Montego had insisted that her and her friends have accommodations for their card game.
Card game? That was a joke.
The whole event was strategically planned for them to gather and gossip about the upcoming Masked Ball. They never actually played cards.
Fortune was on his side as he rushed into the kitchen. “Alright,” he gasped urgently trying to slow his breathing, “the Ladies have shown up.”
“How many?” He heard Ginger question.
“All of them.” Noah informed in a slight panic.
Normally the gaggle of woman trickled in slowly. Whatever they had to gossip about had to be considered of some importance to them, since they were all early.
“That changes things a bit.” Cook said slightly startled that the guests had already arrived. She took a deep breath and Noah knew that she was trying to calm herself. “I want clean hands from all of you.” She informed strictly. “Everyone, grab a plate, and head to the salon. Do not rush; I want all of these plates presentable. Let’s make our Mistress look good today.”
Noah grabbed a plate of hor d’oeuvres and followed the trio of women out of the door.
Rosemary volunteered to stay and serve the women the cake, as well as refill drinks. She loved listening to gossip. If the women had anything interesting to say, which he honestly doubted they would, Rosemary would happily share it with the rest of the staff later.
Everyone else headed back to the kitchen to find the rest of the staff already eating their lunch.
“Timothy?” Cook wondered a short time later as she cut slices of his cake for everyone. “You mentioned the large order at the bakery. Do you want to tell us about it?”
“It’s an order for a massive strawberry cake.” He informed proudly.
Cook looked at the boy puzzled. “Timothy there can’t be any large celebrations in the Society that would deem such an order until after the Masked Ball and that’s....” Cook stopped short at the grin on Timothy’s face.
“Byrn’s Bakery was hired to make the Princess’s Birthday Cake?” One of the gardeners asked astounded.
Timothy smiled in response to the question and a look of amazement appeared on everybody’s face.
“I thought that the Royal family always had their special occasion cakes made on the premises?” Ginger asked in awe.
“Normally they do,” Timothy agreed. “They even came and demanded our recipe, but apparently they couldn’t seem to get it just right. We got a message a few days ago saying that our Bakery was hired for the event.” He answered excitedly.
“But how did they even know about the bakery?” Cook asked confused. “Your family is truly gifted Timothy, but Byrns’ Bakery isn’t as well known as others in Town Central City.”
“We had a secret customer.” Timothy informed the staff slyly. “A friend of the Princess happened upon our shop two weeks ago.” His words caught Noah’s attention.
“Did you get to meet them?” Martha, who cleaned the linens, asked hopefully.
Noah stiffened at Martha’s question as memories of the time he bumped into Lady Annabell Tompson returned to him. The white box that she had dropped as she exited the Byrns’ Bakery; it had a pale green ribbon wrapped around it. The Byrns’ used left over ribbon from Willaminia to color-code their parcels.
The green ribbon.
Lady Annabell had been carrying a box of strawberry cake.
Tilly, who had recently been promoted at the palace, had been her escort into town that day.
It had happened two weeks ago.
All of the puzzle pieces fit together.
Noah wanted to slap himself for not seeing it earlier. Lady Annabell Tompson was traveling to come to the Princess’s Masked Ball because she was a close friend with Princess Alexandria.
Lady Tompson was not just any member of Society; she was pretty close to the top, while he wasn’t a part of it at all. And he had had the nerve to kiss her hand. He walked out of the Kitchen, mumbled a clipped goodbye, and spent the rest of the day contemplating what a complete idiot he had been.