The breeze smelled of lavender-scented oil soap as Lianna placed another pin to hold a bedsheet on the drying line. That same breeze blew tendrils of her dark silver hair in front of her face. She tucked the offending tendril behind her ear before it could blow into her mouth or eyes. Having finished pinning the sheet, she went to grab another bit of the wash to hang up.
"Miss, I really can hang these out by myself. I may be older now, but not so old that I can't hang laundry." Charlona was by the wash bucket picking out her own piece of laundry to hang. She unwadded it from the ball it had become when it was wrung dry. She gave the same protest nearly every time Lianna came out to help her with the laundry, but Lianna could tell from the way Charlona rubbed her hands that doing too much with her hands made them ache. And it wasn't like Lianna could sit and sip tea and read all day with the house and family in their current state. The county paperwork was finished for now, so she'd decided to help where she could.
"I know." Lianna smiled and picked up a towel out of the bucket, shook it out, and began pinning it next to the bed sheet from before. She heard Charlona sigh behind her. Lianna knew Charlona was grateful for the help, but her insistence that Lianna shouldn't be doing it seemed like something that she felt compelled to say to appease her conscience.
It was an odd situation: the young miss of a count's household helping her nanny and only maid do the laundry. However, that was the hard truth of their situation. Count Milliard's estate was in shambles. Though the manor and gardens were once fairly grand, now they showed signs of disrepair. Some of the gardens had been let to go wild in absence of a gardener, and others had been transformed into kitchen gardens to help supplement the food supplies. Only Nanny Charlona, the cook who was also Charlona's husband, two aging guards, the Count, Lianna, and Lianna's younger brother Aaron were left. The rest had been let go or had left of their own accord as things declined. All of the count's resources were spent trying to keep the county from falling down with them. If the county fell, there would be nothing at all for Aaron to inherit and the people who depended on the count's family would suffer.
There were also plenty of other reasons to keep their county from falling into the hands of another noble, but Lianna put those particular thoughts out of her mind for now. She didn't want to take out her frustrations on the innocent laundry or Charlona.
Lianna finished pinning the towel and turned, only to be faced with Charlona and her frowning expression. Charlona grabbed hold of Lianna's hands, turned them palm side up, and made a mournful sound. "Just as I thought, this work is making your hands prune up." She rubbed her thumb over Lianna's palm before Lianna pulled her hands away. "There are calluses as well," Charlona continued. "How are you supposed to marry into a good house if you work enough to get callouses, wrinkled wash hands, muscles, and a tan on your fair skin? The late countess would surely reprimand me for letting this happen."
Lianna swallowed her sigh and frustration at having the same old argument dredged up again. She couldn't let herself say what she wanted, that her mother would have had to do work as well if she were still alive, and that there was a darker reason why she knew the state of her hands and body would never lead to her getting married into a good house. She forced a smile as she felt a chill go down her spine.
Taking hold of Charlona's shoulders, she squeezed them gently. "But there's nothing for it. You know that, Nanny. We just do the best we can. There's not much but the land and the title left to us now. If I find a husband, he'll just have to accept this as well."
The silence was a bit awkward as it always was when Charlona's guilt was met with their pitiful reality, but on this day, the silence gave way to the sound of horse hooves in the distance. Lianna and Charlona turned as one towards the sound.
"Was there a delivery expected today?" Lianna asked. When Charlona shook her head, Lianna's chest tightened. From the look on Charlona's face, Lianna knew her nanny felt the same sense of dread.
Without a word, they both headed to the front corner of the manor. There, they peeked around it to get a view of the front gate. Though she had somewhat expected it, seeing the red and gold clad knight on a war horse ride in was enough to cause her heart to pound. The rider wasn't the usual messenger from Duke Brendwald that came to collect payments a few times a year, but a knight. Brendwald never sent knights–at least not until now.
So, it has finally happened.
Hi there! *Always_Dreaming* here just wanting to thank you for taking a chance on this webnovel series with me. As I write, I'm loving the characters and the story that they are weaving as we follow Lianna's fight against a tragic fate. And I'm so looking forward to the romance sub-plot.
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