Restoration Pt. 3

Calm filled the air when she saw several people working to maintain landscape. Her father had obviously spent months planning this and making sure that it would be every bit as breathtaking as it deserved to be. However, she wondered when they left the swamp and entered the beautiful land since the rest of the state had been miserable, at best, to make a way through. Edith looked for glimpses of her father’s latest scheme in terms of a profit, but did not find what she was looking for. The carriage slowed as the approached the manor. Servants lined in front of the house, ready to greet their guests.

She expected to see her father coming from above but did not see him yet. The carriage stopped. She waited for the escorts to get out and unload her things before one helped her out of the confined quarters. As soon as she set one foot on the ground, and popped her head out, the servants bowed.

“Welcome Madam!” they chorused, uniformed in their speech. She did not say anything in return, as it would displease her father if he saw her interacting with the servants in a friendly fashion. She merely walked past them, following her escorts inside. Upon entering, she took in the full detail of her father’s work. A man clad in dress cloths approached them. His head held high and posture impeccable, she waited for him to speak.

“Master Huey is out for the moment, tending to other matters. He says that you should bathe and rest before joining him for dinner later this evening. I will send someone to wake you in a few hours and lead you to the dining hall.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “What is your name?”

“My name is Charles, please do not hesitate to call me when needed. Please follow me to your bedroom in the eastern wing.”

The butler, though similar in many characteristics, was nothing like Weston. No warmth could be found in his eyes and the distance between them was unnerving. She did not say anything while following the gentleman but attempted to memorize the floor plan from sight. From what she could tell, the mansion was larger than the last.

Their journey led her through toward the end of a lengthy hall. Hers was the last on the room in the section. Charles pushed open the door for her. The color scheme for this room was green and deep mahogany. Green drapes laced the outer of her bedroom, obviously to block any sun. Creamy white sheets and blankets covered her bed. A bookshelf stretching from the floor to the ceiling caught her immediate attention. Books packed each shelf, with little room for her old titles. A chair rested near the books along a fireplace. Even if the room was simple compared to others, she enjoyed it all the same.

The butler closed the door behind her, but she didn’t mind. Edith did not explore but simply located the wash room and found a tub filled with hot water. She stripped out of her sweat-drenched clothes and cleaned her skin and hair. The servants had left her with options for sleepwear and she took the lightest item to keep her cool.

The bath left her feeling refreshed but only sated the deep weariness in her bones. Edith climbed into bed and fell into a deep sleep.

 

Evening came far too quickly in Edith’s mind. Her body protested to the thought of getting up since it was still sore from her journey. Three servants hurried into her room. One of them carrying a large dress. The others, an array of items she had never seen before.

“I can change myself.”

The servants gasped. One of them rushed out of the room while the other two tried to push her in a chair placed in front of the floor-length mirror. As the argument continued, the door to her room burst open. The master of the house—Charles, she recalled—stormed in. The third servant close behind. Gone was the feigned pleasantries. His face hard, aging him more.

“Everyone out,” he ordered.

The servants left. The heavy door closed behind them. Charles circled her, almost as if she were prey. Edith took a deep breath to steel her nerves.

“I knew there would be challenges when dealing with northerners,” he sneered. “I had heard tales of their lack of refinement, but I didn’t expect rebellion as well.”

“What you call rebellion is simply a preference. I would prefer to dress myself.”

Charles openly laughed at her. “That may be what life is in the north, but you are in the south. We have expectations. You do not just represent yourself. You represent your father, his reputation, and societal standards. While you are in my house, you will be dressed as I see fit. You will allow the servants to do their jobs as I have tasked them. Am I clear?”

Edith narrowed her eyes. Working in her father’s business had taught her which battles to fight. This was not one of them.

“I understand.”

“I know there will be an adjustment period, but your life will be easier under my house rules.”

She smiled at him. “I’m sure we’ll come to an understanding.” Charles seemed satisfied enough and left her room. Soon, the servants returned. For today, she would concede to the treatment. However, she planned to address the encounter with her father in the morning.

“You are ready, Madam.”

“Thank you,” she replied. Charles opened the door to her room and beckoned for her to follow.

They walked in silence. She attempted to the memorize the way, but the halls all started to look the same. Before long, they were a large room with a table stretching from almost one end to the other. Rich ebony chairs lined against the lengthy piece of hand-carved wood. Two sets were at the table, both next to each other. She looked around to catch sight of the man she desperately wanted to see.

“Edith!” a deep voice cried with joy. She turned around to see a tall, thin man looking at her with a smile stretching across his weathered face. Wiry brown hair draped across his eyes.

“Father,” she said. A smile of her own displayed itself across her face.

“Master Huey, dinner will be served shortly.”

“Thank you, Charles, you’re dismissed.”

The elderly butler left them alone in the room. For now, it seemed like her father was in a good mood, which made her relieved. She started to relax in his presence. Edith walked forward and waited for her father to initiate contact.

“My, you’ve grown more beautiful since the last time I saw you.”

“You haven’t changed a bit,” she replied. “How have you been?”

“Busy, as always. There is never a dull moment when you’re working as hard as I am.”

“I know. I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me, father.”

“Please sit,” he said while beckoning toward the empty table. She obliged. He pulled out her chair and she sat there before he pushed her in. She waited for him to be seated before continuing the conversation.

“How are your studies going, Edith?”

“Very well, father. I am ahead in my work so far. I made sure to study diligently ahead of the trip so I would not be behind.”

“Good, good,” her father said. “I hope you will like it here.”

“While it certainly a different environment, I am quite certain I will get accustomed in no time. Did you set up the fields for your latest project, father?”

“Yes. They expect the fields to be bountiful this year.”

“Are you going to harvest fruit again?”

“No, I decided to do something different.”

“What is that?”

“Since when did you care about my affairs?” her father inquired.

She heard the testiness in his voice. Odd. She had always helped with the family business before.

Restoration Pt. 2

Bugs swarmed the air around them. Edith frowned in disapproval of the warm weather and infested area. It seemed, that no matter how far they travelled, the insects followed them and invited their friends to play along. The dress she wore that day only added to her discomfort as it laced through to the top and left no room for adjustments. One week had passed. They had changed temperatures from moderate to scorching. Every breath that she took seemed only to last for a brief moment before fluttering away. The heat intensified and often left her unable to breathe well, if at all.

The horses needed to rest more frequently than before because of the sweltering temperatures. Not that Edith complained. Her own body ached from travel and accompanied with the stickiness of perspiration, it made for unpleasant travel time. According to her newest escort, the mansion in which her father had built was still another half day away. Of course, in the given conditions, this seemed like a colossal amount of time. Snapping of twigs echoed in the background, lingering in the air for far too long.

Of all the madness my father has concocted, this is the worse! Whoever thought that he would choose such a dismal place for us to live!

Even if this was not quite the location of their new home, there hardly seemed to be anything else promising in the state they were in. All she could see, and smell, stretched from one end of their journey to the other. Whatever had possessed her father to consider such living condition must have promised a large garner. For now, she could only judge based off what she saw. Edith peeked out of the curtain of the carriage. Through the swarms of black flies, she saw muddled waters resting still, only disturbed when movement broke the tension.

Branches dipped low, draping over ferns and covered in greenery that she had not seen before. Weeds littered the floor, covering every inch save for the small dirt road in which they rode upon. Even still, water saturated the ground, making the horses work twice as hard to pull them across each mile. Staring in the depths of the muddied water, she saw a ripple disturb the water. A dark figure emerged from the depths, growling deeply. Edith knew what sort of animal it was from the outside.

Though she had never expected to see one in her lifetime, now she could count it as one of the things that she knew about. The thought of crocodiles in the same vicinity as her did nothing to make her feel better about moving to a new state. Quickly, she shut the curtains, frowning with displeasure.

“Is there something wrong, Madam?”

“There are crocodiles lurking in the waters. I suggest we take care when passing near the waters. Likely the horses will be their targets,” she replied.

“Don’t worry, there is a city nearby. We’ll stop there for when it comes to rest.”

“Whoever wants to live out here must be mad,” she whispered under her breath, though she knew that her escorts had caught what she had said. Not that she cared, it was not as if she had been quiet about her opinion of the place thus far. Even though they said nothing, she could tell that they agreed.

Edith settled back in her seat and wished for the city to come soon so she could be away from the crocodiles. The thought of their snapping jaws was enough to make her shudder. They had patience beyond any other creature, often stalking their prey for several days, waiting for them to make one wrong move. The dangers involving such reptiles were ones that she was well aware of, but never did she think that her father would move to a place with them lurking about! No, this was simply madness on his part, a cruel joke at best. Though in her heart, she had the feeling that it was no such thing.

Knowing that this could be where she would spend the rest of her life did nothing to bring her comfort or ease. All she wanted to do was return home to Weston, and with her father. With the thought of her father coming to mind, she wondered if he had changed any. It had been several months since seeing him. Would he still look and sound the same? Would he even pay attention to her once she came? Or was the mansion going to feel empty, just as it had before? The answers to her question remained unknown.

Speculating as to what life would be like was an inefficient waste of time, but it did bring her some happiness to think that there could be a better life for her in the other areas. All she needed to do was believe that he would be available if she should need him. He had been once before, but hopefully, this would not be like before his last departure. Her father had not spoken to her for three days and did not even tell her that he was leaving. Although she was sad, it hurt more knowing that he would not trust her with such important information. Did he think that she would hate him?

While she disliked it, she knew that travelling was a part of his job. She knew that she was going to be alone for the majority of her time. Even though she was of age to marry, her father had kept her around, never accepting any offers from potential suitors. He seemed quite content with just their lifestyle. However, many thought he was foolish for keeping her single for so long. Many were disgusted with her. They thought she should be married and raising children, but it was not up to her. Her father forbade boys from her presence, aside from those approved by him. If he so much as heard that one of the servants had fallen for his daughter, they would no longer work there. Of course, she had never heard of such a thing, but that did little to stop the rumors.

That left a desire to know whom thought she was worthy enough to be a life-long companion. Even if she had no desire in them, she wanted to know. Having admirers did not seem like a bad idea. It always baffled her as to why her father had to be the one who made the choices, but for now, she would abide by them. She really had no choice. If she ran away from home, there would be no place for her to go. Not only that, but she would hate to be separated from her father for the rest of her life. Even if he was hardly around now, he was still there.

She could still come to him with any problems and make sure that she was all right. The thought of knowing that she still had one person who cared in the world brought her small comfort. It was one of those moments where she was trying to pretend that things were not as bad as she thought they were. However, she knew that things could always get worse.

You promised yourself that you wouldn’t think like that anymore.

Of course, how short-lived that promise was. It always seemed to come back and haunt her, the pessimism seemed to feed off her insecurities and doubts. It made a home there every time one sliver came to mind. As much at it hurt, she knew that there was some truth as to the words its slimy tongue spoke. Edith sighed. Today, there would be little escape from them. With the discovery of the true conditions of her new state, they lingered longer than she liked. No matter what, she would try.