Tad Tyson tugged at the bottom of his broadcloth jacket and straightened his black tie. His shoes, shined and buffed, hid the scuffs of a rag-tag errand boy.
He never expected they would keep him on. Why should they? He was not refined enough for Father’s role of butler. He knew no gray grew at his sixteen-year-old temples.
But, there was another reason.
They had been friends, too. Father and the Master Lampkin knew each other’s patterns. Already it was plain that the Master’s own health was deteriorating because Father wasn’t there to tend to his whims. It was often said Father knew better than Madame what the Master needed. It would have been a preposterous thing to say, except that Madame had said it herself over tea with friends.
Tad heard many things through the window while sitting in the lilac bushes. He had for years.
Yet, he knew there was reason that might keep him there.
She would never allow him to leave.
Not Madam. Mistress.
She despised him, but he didn’t know why. It didn’t matter what he did, she found some way to criticize him. He brought her oranges from the market, and she cast them in the fire. If he shined her shoes, they came out too bright. Buffed them, they were too dull. She was the one who sent him running here and there.
Yet, he doubted she would ever release him from that duty for something greater. He suspected she enjoyed taunting him far too much to do that.
His only option seemed to be to release himself.
He checked himself in the hallway mirror before knocking on the parlor door. Yes, he looked good. Enough. And not nervous. He rapped three times.
“Enter.” Her lemony voice made his mouth pucker just to hear it.
He pushed open the mahogany door. There she sat. And that was it.
He fell in love again.
She wore chiffon to match the color of her voice, and white lace fluttered around her creamy, dimpled chin. Her lashes flicked over icy eyes that saw through every flaw. Slender fingers fanned and flipped a sheaf of letters with stealthy ease. She sighed and flung them onto her writing table, sending a few scattering to the floor. One landed just short of Tad’s foot. He bent to pick it up.
Tad stepped around the strewn envelopes and stood next to the chair in front of the desk.
“So, you’re leaving.”
“I mean, you must think…”
“Now you know what I’m thinking?”
“Of course not, Mistress.”
“I thought not.” She smiled a little at her own joke. “You are leaving.”
“What if I told you that I forbid it?”
He stifled a smile at his forethought. “You would forbid it?”
“He indentured you, you know. Your father. To pay his debts.”
He had no words. Not that many came to him whenever he spoke with Whitley Lampkin. Debts? Indentured? Father confided everything in him. He never spoke of this. Why let Tad hear it from her? Was it even true?
“You don’t believe me?”
“I didn’t say that.” He hadn’t said anything.
“You don’t need to. I can see by the look on your face that you don’t.”
“It’s just that my father…”
“Told you everything.” She smirked. “I hardly think so.”
She was enjoying his discomfort. It fascinated and frustrated Tad all at once.
“It doesn’t matter if you believe me or not. I have the paperwork to prove it. In any case, we need a butler.”
“But, I’m only…”
“Sixteen. I am well aware.”
“…is too busy with my father’s failing health. She never had any business sense anyway.”
“Respects all my decisions.”
As much as Tad respected Master Lampkin’s? He would stay if Master wanted it. If only she would simply ask.
“Would you reconsider?”
Any frigid response Tad might have given toward her coolness melted away at her request.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2017 Penny J. Johnson. All rights reserved.