Bubbles froth in the water as Sera washes out the dirty rag with hard scrubbing motions. Wringing it out, she passes it to dark-haired Vic, who passes it up to Fawn, perched on the ladder. They really were the window cleaning committee. It was all they did, cleaning every window in the huge palace.
The good thing was there weren't too many windows in the castle. The bad thing, though, was that most of them were positioned high up the walls. Teams of maids needed to support each other, one one the ground to spot any grimy areas, one on the ladder, one supporting, another passing up clean rags, and another washing the dirty ones.
When another dirty rag accidentally plops onto Vic's shiny black hair, Sera stifles a laugh. This wasn't the first time Fawn's accidentally dropped a rag. Vic, exasperated, waggles a finger at an apologetic Fawn, continuing a long lecture on being more careful, which another maid tells that this Sera happens often. She was lucky the group Hilda put her in were all kind people.
The maids didn't seem to know how to treat her at first. Since the King's order was to not treat her like nobility. From the way they acted, Sera could tell which maids served her previously as the Queen, and which ones were new. The new ones were quick to get used to treating her like one of them, like Vera and Fawn. Others were restrained, polite but not exactly welcoming.
While they worked their way around the castle, there was an obvious split opinion about her. Legs could run, but gossip really flew. Some saw it as a chance to bully the former Queen. After all, they thought, she was a powerless commoner now, and the King probably wanted to put her in her place by making her work as a maid. Serves her right for leaving the King. Some footmen passing by gave a mocking bow to Sera. A maid pushing a tray in front of her "accidentally" ran over Sera's foot.
It was all done in blind spots, when the other maids in Sera's group were preoccupied or had their backs turned. Sera could only grit her teeth and take it. This was nothing compared to what she put Lucien through.
Bea was right when she said that servants loved to gossip. There were eyes watching her wherever she went, all throughout the castle as she worked. Fawn even remarked about the unusual traffic in the hallways where they worked.
Sera keeps her head down and bears through it.
The 5 maids together work together, taking turns in switching up the roles, until it's finally lunchtime. Lunch break is taken in shifts with servants that rotate in and out of the kitchens. Servants are given free time for an hour, which they can choose to spend however they like.
In front of the storage room, the maids finish up putting away the ladders and buckets, all clean and ready to be used for the next group.
Portia takes out a key from her apron pocket and locks the storage room door, and the other maids approach Sera. "Miss Sera, would you like to eat lunch with us?"
"Yes, I would love to." Sera responds happily.
Off to a corner of the busy kitchens where cooks chop vegetables, stir soups, and knead dough, lies an eating area for the servants with long wood tables, like a cafeteria. Taking out a note from her pocket, she hands the paper to a passing errand boy, asking him to give it to Lois. Hopefully, with this, Lois would know that she was ok.
The maids take their meals and sit together. The whole time they eat, Fawn squirms in her seat. When everyone nears the end of their meals, she looks to Portia, who sighs, gives her a small smile and nods. Looks like it's okay now. Fawn begins to bombard Sera with questions.
"Is it true you really came from another world?"
"How did you and King Lucien meet?"
"Were you the one that came up with sewing wounds together, like my sister said?"
"Did you really fight in the Great War? I heard you even took a wound for the King--mmmrghp"
"Ok, that's enough." Vera covers Fawn's mouth.
Portia massages the space between her brows.
"I said you could ask a few questions. Not overwhelm Miss Sera with all your nattering."
Fawn's shoulders sag. Sera, trying to cheer Fawn up, says, "I don't mind. I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say....Maybe just one question"
The ever-expressive Fawn's eyes light up, and she grabs Sera's hands over the table.
"Would you!? I'm all ears!"
Fawn begins to ponder hard, deciding which question to ask. It's not everyday she had the chance to ask the Queen (she still considered Sera as Queen. Why wouldn't she? She was so pretty, and kind to boot!) any question she wanted.
Glancing around, Sera notices that other servants seated at other tables seem to ever-so-slightly turn their heads towards them. Seems like Fawn's not the only one who's all ears.
"I've decided on one question!"
Suddenly growing somber, Fawn asks Sera, "Why did you leave?"
I guess that's the question on everyone's mind then, Sera thought. Why did she leave?
It wasn't only Lucien that she left. She'd abandoned a country. The people of Thornmere would want to know why their Queen suddenly disappeared.
".......I was young and stupid. When you're young, you only live in the moment. In that moment then, I was angry, because of the contract that gave me no choice. Homesick, because I was suddenly taken from everything I was familiar with, my family, my friends....." her voice gets smaller and smaller as she speaks.
".........I was stupid, and doubted whether Lucien truly loved me"
The room was completely silent now. Even the cooks were still, listening to her.
Sera pushes her chair back, standing up "Excuse me."
She gives a small curtsey to Fawn, Vera, Portia, the other maids sitting with her.
"Thank you for eating with me, I hope we can eat together again soon."
She leaves the room. Maybe this was why Lucien wanted her to work as a maid. To show her what she'd done. The consequences of her actions.
She probably looked like a fool. Giving up being a Queen, and coming back now as a maid, working with the servants. Sera needed some time alone to herself.
Randomly picking a direction, she walks to clear her head.