Outside The Manor:
Outside the manor, Kyra was strolling along the grounds of the courtyard. For the past few hours she'd been trying to compose herself from the revelation in the ballroom. She wandered aimlessly over the grounds trying to sort out her feelings. Now some of the guests were beginning to move out of doors and the quiet privacy she had enjoyed was disturbed. Everyone was chatting about the events they would attend today. Kyra listened on with little interest.
Twenty feet away, the attendants were busy setting up field games for the men. Gardeners moved around them preparing the grounds for foot traffic. The ground was quite dry with little rain having fallen over the last two weeks, which caused an arid dust to rise each time someone walked over the driveway to get to the lawn. She imagined everyone would be covered with dirt by the afternoon. It was an amusing thought, considering so many of the women had donned their finest gowns for the day.
Watching a few servants placing chairs in neat rows before a small stage in the front yard, she wondered if a group of actors had been hired to perform a stage play. Perhaps joining in on some of these events would help lighten her mood. A doubtful look covered her face, but she knew it was worth a try.
She was sitting quietly beneath a small oak tree on the lawn. Looking down at herself, she knew that her own dress was not suitable for today. It was another of her old muslin dresses. Already it was growing warmer and she hadn't washed yet. As it neared noontime she didn't doubt she would begin to perspire. The need to change her clothes forced her to move at last. With a heavy sigh she pushed up from the ground and began to walk towards the manor.
As she climbed the front steps, she wondered what she could change into. The dress she had worn yesterday would be comfortable enough, but it wasn't appropriate to wear the same outfit two days in a row, especially with such influential company surrounding her. Aside from that, she had missed breakfast again. Her stomach rumbled as she climbed the steps. A slight headache began to play on as she caught the curious stares of several of the guests she'd met yesterday. She knew she was not looking her finest and their murmured whispers caused her to blush. Once again she sighed and left the first floor in search of her room.
With slow footsteps, she turned to the hall that led to her room. As she rounded the corner and looked up, she saw a short balding man exiting the door to her room. Immediately suspicious, she wanted to yell at him for daring to enter her bedchamber. She knew he was not a chamber maid.
Seeing her approach, the man walked past her with a sly smile on his face. He seemed unaffected by her look of disapproval. Without a word, he continued on to the end of the hall.
How rude! Her mouth hung open as she stared after him in shock. Imagine, snooping in a woman's room and not even having the dignity to look the least bit guilty. Snarling now, she opened the door huffily and slammed it hard behind her.
Her head instantly flew back against the door and she closed her eyes praying for patience. She remained there for a moment before her head slowly lifted and her eyes opened. Looking around the room as if she was dreaming she truly felt close to tears. Stepping away from the door, she remained near the entrance. There were no words that could describe what she was feeling now. All she knew was this could possibly be the best moment of her entire life.
Someone had taken the liberty of redecorating her bedchamber. But, when had anyone found the time? She had only been gone a few hours. It was absolutely amazing and she couldn't seem to get enough of the sight of it.
Pale yellow curtains now hung in the window. They seemed to strengthen the beams of sunlight, casting the room in a brighter glow. The bed linens had been changed as well. They matched the curtains, along with a frilly new skirt that had been placed under the mattress. Fluffy pillows and a thick white satin bedspread draped over the edge. She couldn't imagine having any trouble sleeping under that tonight. Along the walls, new tapestries had been hung that depicted the colors of sunset. She marveled at the brilliance of it all. But what took her breath away most was what stood in the middle of the room.
Excitement rose within her as she examined the newest gown standing on the pedestal where the blue one had been waiting yesterday. It was made of the palest yellow material, surrounded by layers of white lace. The bodice was cut modestly, but the gathers of the waist would be sure to reveal many of her feminine traits. The light fabric looked cool and inviting. She knew it would be perfect for today's weather. It was even more beautiful than the blue dress!
Grinning from ear to ear, she unhooked it from the stand and took it with her over to the mirror. She spun around several times, holding it in front of her body to see how it would look. Satisfied with what she saw, she placed the dress gently on her bed as she disrobed. Returning to the vanity, she paused as her hands reached for the water pitcher. A small white basket had been placed where her pitcher had been.
Her hands gently reached for the basket in awe. She pulled back the delicate material that covered it to reveal another new set of undergarments and gloves that matched the dress. Beneath them was a small bar of soap that smelled heavenly. It reminded her of a perfume Isabel used to wear. Biting her lower lip in uncertainty, she finally shook her head and shrugged. Unable to resist, she discarded her clothes and washed herself with the fragrant soap.
Who in the world would continue bestowing her with such wonderful gifts? Surely she had done nothing to warrant such attention from anyone. The only person whom she could fathom responsible for it was Jacob. He was the only one who had known of her dilemma. He was the only reasonable choice left. As soon as she saw him, she would thank him for being so generous.
She wondered if he would be disappointed to learn that she was going to return the tapestries. They brought such life to the room, but she couldn't keep them. They appeared even more expensive than the ones she had damaged during her nightmare.
Shrugging off the depressing thought though, she dried herself and slipped into the delicate underclothes. It was curious to think that a man might have picked them out for her. The idea of it made her blush. Turning to the gown on the bed, she smiled in anticipation. She picked it up and tried to step into it without letting the skirt touch the floor. It was the first time she found herself caring about such a thing. She frowned each time she tried balancing on one leg to step into it. The hem seemed determined to trail along the floor, causing her to pause and frown deeper for her carelessness.
Rolling her eyes, she knew if this kept up she was going to require a maidservant. This was an impossible task to manage alone. Hesitating, she suddenly smiled and placed her old dress on top of the new bed linens. She stepped up onto the bed carefully, placing her feet on the old dress. She step into the gown successfully this time and a satisfied smile spread across her face. She found it easier to fasten the hooks on her back this time and nodded happily at her reflection in the mirror when she was finished.
The warm spring air that was pervading the room made her feel like a young girl again somehow. Because of that, she decided to fashion her hair long rather than putting it up. She pulled only the top back and managed to form a braid behind her head. Still unable to master the task, she examined it carefully each time she finished it. She had to redo it twice. Happy at last, she pulled a few strands free and twisted them around her dampened fingers to provide curls. Even the sun seemed to approve of her look. It suddenly burst from behind a small cloud, filtering the room with its warm glow.
Feeling confident, she eyed herself in the mirror. The dress looked even more exquisite now that she was wearing it. She noticed that the pale yellow fabric behind the white lace brought out many of the red highlights in her hair. It was neither insulting, nor flattering. It just caught her eye more than usual.
Inquisitive for a thoughtful moment, she wondered if perhaps she was of Irish or Scottish decent. Didn't most of those countries possess red hair? Her eyes closed again as she thought of the woman who sang in her dream. That woman had blonde hair. It was not highlighted by red in any way. Yet, she felt certain the woman must have been her mother.
The memory of red hair crossed her mind's eye then. It belonged to the man who haunted her nightmare. Just as she felt positive the woman was her mother, she began to wonder if that man could possibly be her father. Her hand flew to her mouth as she tried to imagine it.
She could not seem to stop the memory of the awful words he'd spoken so hatefully. They repeated like a barking dog in her head. "Watch closely, my dear," he had chuckled to her. "I shall show you a side of life that with shut your mouth permanently."
His face played in her mind again and again. She could see him holding the knife.
Breaking away from the mirror, she forced his memory from her mind. Determined to let the subject drop, she lifted the gloves from the basket and slid her hands into them. As she adjusted the glove on her left hand, she couldn't help eyeing the faded scars that still marred the skin of her wrist. The scars were almost unnoticeable after all these years. But, she could see them. Had a tightly bound rope cause them?
Lifting back the cuff of her sleeve, she gazed at the faintly discolored marked on her forearm. Was that caused by hot metal?
Not wanting to believe that the horrible nightmare could possibly be real, she lowered the sleeve quickly and pulled the glove up over her wrist. She refused to admit the dream could be any part of her past. There was no way she could be related to a monster like that man!
Cocking her chin with an air of defiance, she decided to go find the others. She would leave the memory of that man exactly where it belonged. She would leave him in the past.
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