Sera breathes in the distinct, sweet baby smell of her son that clings like a koala around her neck. She didn't have much experience with children, but she enjoyed any chance she got to play with kids. It was weird to think that this child was her own. She'd carried him for 9 months and pushed him out of her womb.
That was it, when it came to how much time she'd spent with this small child. Right after birthing him he'd been taken away for the customary viewing by the nobles. After that, it was the nursemaid's job to take care of her baby. She'd woken up after the whole ordeal with nothing.
The Queen's role was to support the King and govern the country, while dealing with the ladies of the court. Child-rearing was not a part of that job description.
In this small cottage that Bea called her home, Sera was glad that her son was being raised by her trusted servant. Bea would never hide her affections behind formality or propriety like the other servants did. She knew how to raise children too, with the experience that came from raising her younger siblings. He was in good hands.
Truly, things were so different after her return. What happened to the interchanging maids and nursemaids?
Bea helped her change the way her arms were awkwardly positioned to comfortably carry her child. He had a comforting weight, all warm and sleepy, head settled in the crook of her neck. He kept rubbing his head in her neck, almost cat-like. His lashes soon fall shut, and he falls asleep. Asleep in his mother's arms for the first time in his life.
"Thank you, Bea."
"Anything for you, M'lady" Seated on a wooden rocking chair next to the bed, Bea smiles at the scene before her. Such a wonderful sight to see her Queen and her child together.
There's no awkward silence, only a relaxed atmosphere of two good friends picking up where they'd left off.
"How are your siblings? Your father?"
"The little ones are all big enough to work now. We've paid off all our debts, and Father's gotten so much better. He can paint again, thanks to you, m'lady."
"That's wonderful! You must be so proud. I'm so happy for you!" Sera was glad that Bea and her family were doing so well.
They smile at each other, and talk about Bea's family. How Bea's brother, the one who was wounded in battle, got married recently. The youngest sister's dream to become a painter like her father. Her father, becoming even more famous than he'd been before with a new art style. They talked of trivial things, like how Bea can even do some cooking now. She'd only been able to make a soggy sandwich before.
During a lapse in the conversation, Sera hesitates, not sure whether to ask the question that's been weighing on her mind.
"What's happened to your old job Bea? Were you all right after I left?"
"......Well....since there was no longer a Queen to serve....there was no need for a Queen's maidservant. After you left, King Lucien made me the head nursemaid for the prince....and we've lived here ever since."
The halting way Bea spoke told Sera that there was a lot more to this story than what she said. She wouldn't push though. Bea would tell her when she was ready.
"Have you been staying here all this time?"
"No m'lady. Only the prince lives here. I go back to my home in town at night, after the prince falls asleep."
Sera couldn't imagine a 5-year old boy staying here alone at night. During the day, it was a beautiful little cottage, but at night, all alone by himself....she knew she didn't have any right to say anything...but she couldn't help it. She frowned a little.
Bea hurriedly continues on.
"And there's guards that do nightly patrol, and a maid on duty every night...I come early the next morning, before he wakes up, so I'm sure he's all right."
BANG! BANG! BANG!
There's a rough pounding sound coming from the door downstairs. The two women both startle.
"I'll go see what's the matter, m'lady." Just like old times, Bea gives a small curtsy to her lady, and quickly leaves the room. Low voices can be heard talking. Bea's voice becomes clearer as her tone gets higher and higher, until Sera hears heavy feet like drumbeats, coming up the stairs. They pause outside the bedroom door. Bea opens the door just a crack and pokes her head into the bedroom, looking upset.
"They're asking for you, m'lady. 2 knights. They wouldn't tell me why, but they're insistent"
She'd only just met her son, but she had to leave him again. Sera kisses his cheek and lays him down carefully on the bed. She slowly unwraps the chubby arms from around her neck, and can't resist kissing him one more time on the other cheek.
She follows Bea out of the room to see what was happening.
It's highly improper for any man to be in a bedroom with a woman. In their haste to find Sera, these men might have entered the bedroom where Sera was. She was lucky Bea was there to stop them. She could hear Bea reminding the men that as honorable knights, they waited outside the door for Sera to come out. They look nervous, sweat gathered on their brows. But what could make disciplined men like the knights lose their cool so bad?
Sera was sure her little outburst in the kitchen didn't warrant these knights to come find her.
They give a start when she appears before them, back straight and expression calm. She'd done nothing wrong. There should be nothing to be afraid of.
The two men pound a fist on their chest in a customary greeting.
"Miss Sera, the King is looking for you. Please, come with us as quickly as possible."
Sera nods, and they look relieved. Were they expecting trouble from her?
"Bea, you stay here and look after my son. I'll come back later to check on him."