All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2018 by Mfonemana Uduak
Art by Mfonemana Uduak
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted, downloaded, distributed, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, including photocopying and recording, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented without permission from the author.
The contents of this work including, but not limited to, the accuracy of events, people, and places depicted; opinions expressed are fiction. If there is any resemblance to any of the listed above, it is pure coincidence.
Soft wind over evening sun
Rest on fingers typing away on a brick laptop
Sitting straight on a low fence
Over-looking farmland waiting for a hoe
“Mama, come let’s start” a tired voice calls
A head raises
Eyes still at Adiagha Akpan
Wrapper tied around her waist,
Hoe in hand
Small and tender fingers gripped onto the slim length of a quill as it attempted to make steady and clear words from shaky letters on a piece of parchment. The fingers and the coach quarrelled long; both stubborn to fulfil their tasks. Light streamed unto the parchment, on the small suitcase, on small laps, from the slightly cracked window blind, letting in a small contrast to the rather dark coach.
"What so serious about, darling?" a deep voice asked from the other side of the coach.
The dark figure who had just spoken flinched; as he could feel and almost definitely see, the made-out grey of the little eyes in the dark; as it threw him a glare. The dark figure knew his little lady remained angry; as he had numerously in one day, annoyed her and the sun was yet to set on his sins.
"Darling, I thought I had explained myself and apologized too. Why do you continue to punish me with your silence?" the man in the dark asked, but yet again met with silence. Though this time spared the anguish of her glare, he could feel words screamed at him in a familiar little and soft voice, where there was none a sound, save the coach that rocked on.
He had always felt that way about her or better yet, she had always been that way. The air around her never quite seemed playful even as she played. One would always worry not to offend her. The coach stopped, signalling his time to face death; as they had arrived at their destination.
He hurried out of the coach to open her side of the coach door, but the coachman had beaten him to it.
He, like everyone in his household, showed more loyalty to her than they ever did him.
The coach doors opened and little silver rested shoes came first as they graced the stone-paved grounds. Hair, white enough to make snow hide in shame, demanded attention, as it flowed down a small back adorned by a cream lace-on-satin dress. Dark brows framed angry grey eyes on a silky almost pale face.
"Lucy, you must swallow your anger. Every noble lady your age must attend some sort of education by royal decree. This is every growing lady's fate," the man scolded.
"No papa, there is no fate. There is only me and what I allow happen to me," Lucy answered, straightening her dress.
"The world does not work that way, my darling," her father sighed.
"Let's talk no more of this, papa. I am already here," Lucy said, looking around the courtyard. The path was stoned to the doorway. A fountain stood at the centre of the walkway. Well-trimmed grass and shrubs adorned the courtyard.
"Promise me you will stay in school and make the most of it," her father said. Lucy finally turned after taking in the courtyard and looked up at him with blank eyes.
"I promise to make the most of it," she said, relieving the ginger-haired man to smile at last. He kissed her forehead before returning to the coach to return home. Only then did he realize she only promised to make the most of it, making his worried face return.
Lucy did not take note of the maids that took in her luggage; she only looked straight ahead as she walked towards the door of the building laid out like a small castle. A tall woman waited for her at the entrance with her head high, hair tied into a tight bun and hand clapped in front of her.
"Welcome to Courtkruff ladies academy, Lady Torgenn. I am Mrs Muburg. I'm your chief maid. If you would follow me, my lady," the older woman said and started to walk away.
"It's Lady Wickshire. Have that corrected immediately" Lucy instructed, making the older woman pause for a bit allowing Lucy to walk past her into the building. The older woman hurried after her.
"I’m sorry, my lady. I was told to expect Lady Torgenn. If you would please wait for me to verify with my superior," the woman made a small bow and dashed away. Lucy did not wait, instead took the time to look around. She soon found herself in a grand hall and it seemed like it was being prepared for a ball.
Mrs Muburg soon found her and rushed over.
"Please, there has been a misunderstanding. We do not have a Lady Wickshire in our accounts; if you would please come with me to meet the headmistress," Mrs Muburg said.
"Have that sorted soon," Lucy said as she continued strolling, her eyes frozen in a deep gaze as it took in the room. Mrs Muburg's person flustered as she immediately turned and rushed back to her superior.
"Madame, the lady insists it be sorted fast," Mrs Muburg said. The older woman stared at Mrs Muburg in anger, before turning towards the headmistress' office. She knocked twice before allowed in by the voice inside. Behind the large desk sat a lanky lady and before her, a man well known to all of them.
"Forgive me, my lady, we have a bit of an issue," the older woman said.
"What?" the headmistress asked.
"We were expecting a Lady Torgenn today, instead a Lady Wickshire turned up," the woman explained.
"Who? There is no such person in our books."
"Exactly, my lady."
"It is the same person," the man sitting before the headmistress said.
"What do you mean, Wensworth?" the headmistress asked him.
"The person known as Lady Torgenn is really in formality, Lady Wickshire. That's her formal title" Wensworth explained.
"Answering a different title from her father?" the headmistress scoffed.
"That's the level of her importance" Wensworth answered.
"Quickly, get her to her chambers. Have her well taken care of," the headmistress ordered. The older woman immediately turned and passed down the information as she rushed out of the office. It did not take long for Mrs Muburg to be seen hurrying through the halls looking for Lucy but to no avail. She started to wonder if the lady had returned home after the long delay. Her thoughts immediately went to the headmistress, who she knew would not hesitate to fire her in a second. She soon recognized the white hair that fell down a slender small back when she rushed into the drawing-room. She took a second to calm herself before approaching the lady.
"Sorted?" the soft voice asked without sparing her a glance.
"Forgive me, my lady, I'm completely at fault," Mrs Muburg apologized. Lucy remained silent, as she started to walk away.
"Hurry up," she said softly to the older woman. Soon she was led into luxurious chambers, where before her, waited two girls Lucy was sure were in their early mids of life.
"They are Shilla and Taylor. They are your maids. Whatever you need I'm confident we can make it happen," Mrs Muburg said as the two girls curtsied.
"Are you, now?" Lucy commented; her tone fairly amused.
"What is happening tonight?" Lucy asked.
"There is a welcome ball," Shilla, the much slimmer girl answered.
"Shall we start looking for what to wear?" Taylor asked. Lucy did not answer as she found her way to a chair and sat.
"The pale yellow dress with the soft lacing," She said, before looking out the window to discover a backyard garden.
She ignored the maids for a while before getting up and heading to where she found warm water waiting behind a screen. She quietly stripped and got in. After a while of cleaning, she got out and dressed before she took her dinner. It was a while before she was dressed and ready for the ball. The maids were awkwardly quiet as they had no idea what to do. They were all experienced in their work. The least of years any of them had worked, was five years. Yet, this was the first time they had ever met a young lady that made them this uncomfortable. Her choice of clothes was plain, and she wore no jewellery even though they had seen quite a lot while unpacking her belongings. They led her out of the room, through different halls and into the ballroom. They were unfashionably late, cutting into the headmistress' speech.
A man stood by the corner completely bored out of his mind; his suit was expensively sharp, while he leaned on the wall lazily. His ears perked up as silence momentarily seized the room.
He looked up to find the source of the silence; a lady had arrived late. Her maids followed behind her, before finding a corner aside as their lady hug the attention. Some seconds later, the headmistress continued her speech. He took in the lady's plain clothes.
He noticed she wore no jewellery as his eyes made their way to her face. Though he was sure he had never set eyes on her before, he knew exactly who she was. Overlooking the glaring white hair; a symbol of her identity, he saw the look in her eyes. She had power and she knew it.
She was exactly the client he needed, Wensworth thought as he glanced at all the ladies in the ballroom. She was the most mysterious of them all. His face paused into a frown as he saw a chubby man approach her.
Lucy stood like a statue as the eyes of the room feasted on her.
“Hello, I’m Jo Jodanham,” a chubby man introduced. Lucy maintained a blank expression as she replied.