The day was young, and by all appearances, normal. Children were running about freely in the marketplace, while various vendors stood arguing over priced goods. Meanwhile, the local nobles strolled through the streets without a care in the world. For them, today seemed to be no different than any before it. The same held true for Isabell as well, for in her mind, today was proving to be just as insufferable as all the rest.
She sighed and looked back to the window she stood outside of. It was one of the town’s finest fabric and dress making shops. This was where her step-mother and sisters came every month in order to buy new and pricey garments. Currently, they were inside for a fitting, while she was made to stand outside and hold the articles from their previous shopping ventures that day. Isabell would not be receiving anything new to wear, since hand-me downs were all she ever seemed worthy of in the eyes of her family. In fact, she had not been given even so much as a new pair of shoes in over six years!
Isabell let out a slight groan as she set down the bags from her arms, much too tired to sustain them any longer. Some of the sacks contained food or rolls of fabric for her step sisters to embroider, so they could be weighty at times. Since a servant was never brought along to aid however, she had no choice but to carry them all on her own. At least whenever her family stepped inside of a store she could let her muscles relax.
This was her life. The existence of a mere servant, forced to live under the rule of her less than ideal step-mother and sisters. Being made to clean, cook, sew, and otherwise tend to the needs of others without rest. After the death of her own mother at her birth, Isabell had always dreamed of her father marrying a kind and beautiful woman. So when he announced his engagement, her heart soared with hope and joy. How disappointed she was though when her father brought home these people instead!
Her step-mother was a Baroness, a woman with some title and prestige. Her face was pretty, giving her the opportunity to remarry after her first husband died in her youth. However, her heart was proud, and never made room for mercy or compassion. Her two daughters, Rachel and Lucille, were just the same as their mother. Always seeking out their own advantages, even at the cost of someone else. More than once they had gone out of their way to break apart the marriage engagements of their fellow female friends. Harsh, critical, selfish, cruel, and jealous, those were the words best used to depict her new family. And that was a generous description!
Still, Isabell knew her situation could always be worse. She had been fourteen at the time of her father’s death, and his entire fortune had to his new wife instead of his only daughter. Like some people suggested at the time, her step-mother could have thrown her out, leaving her to fend on the streets. However, the woman decided to make her a simple servant instead, relishing in the face of her heartbreak and suffering. Yet all things considered, at least Isabell could say she had a roof over her head and food to eat. Her bedroom was the only thing she really missed. It had been given to Rachel after her father’s death, while Lucille took the next biggest room, leaving her to move up in the attic, where most of her father’s things had been placed after his death. Thankfully, living in the attic and working as a servant spared her from the attention of her family most times, which gave her an odd sense of peace and privacy. Days at a time passed by without any interactions between them, much to Isabell’s relief. However, even with the few pennies she had been able to save up over the years, the future looked rather bleak. She had not the money to move away, and no courage to run. In the end, her own fears left her trapped in a life that promised no release. A life that promised no happiness, nor any freedom.
“Isabell!!” her step-mother shrieked.
Isabell jumped and spun around to see her family standing there, new purchases in hand. Their faces wore a sour look that overshadowed even their inherent beauty.
“Hurry up child! Take these loads from us before our nails become ruined!” the woman spat.
Isabell bowed her head and quickly did as ordered. She took all the bags, which were overflowing with fabrics she could only dream of touching, and then followed her family to the next shop of the day. After a few more hours, a coach was called to drive them home, with Isabell having to sit on the back of the cart with all the shopping bags. She gazed up at the sunset as they rode, dreaming of the day she might finally be rid of these wretched people. The day when she might go to town and be able to purchase something for herself, and greet her neighbors without shame.
When the carriage finally reached her father’s estate, the sun had nearly set completely. The grounds around the house were messy and unkept, just as when they had left. This was always their condition, since her step-mother did not see the need to pay for the care of silly plants. Honestly, they were starting to look rather dull compared to other nobles…
Upon arriving at the door, her family entered into the house first. Isabell followed in after them, carrying all of their new purchased materials. There was no doorman to greet them, so the door nearly hit her butt on the way in. Luckily, she was used to this, and managed to dodge it just in time.
“Isabell, quickly! Bring those dresses to my room! I cannot wait to try them on.” Rachel squealed with excitement.
“Then bring mine along next! I wish to see which gown becomes me more,” Lucille chimed in.
“And hurry up! Dinner needs to be made as well,” her step-mother scolded.
Isabell sighed within herself, but obediently did as instructed. She swiftly dropped off Rachel’s things, and Lucille’s, then ran down to help prepare food in the kitchen. Of course, there were two other servants who worked the house alongside her, and she was eager to join them.