*A petal had fallen. *
It’s funny how quick time seems to pass one second and stop the next. Margaret wondered what kinds of secrets this place held. People came and vanish so quickly, she wondered if time slowed down making it seem like forever. Maybe it was forever or maybe no time ever passed, she would never know. Maybe she will be lost, like currently, in the maze of a Manor.
She wondered where Toby was. That young boy had made a special place in her heart. But he too seemed to have vanished into this air.
They had had a normal day or night whatever was going on. She had lost the track of time and took out her frustration in words hoping that someone heard and understood. Of course that understanding couldn’t be expected from a boy that didn’t look a day older than nine.
But nevertheless, he told her about the rose. To be honest, Margaret was really agitated by the mention of that loathsome rose. Somehow it had gotten her stuck in the deary place and now has her tormented till who knows when. If anyone in the universe heard her, she wished to be back with her family away from this dreaded. Manor and it’s equally dreaded rose and Lord.
The only person she would miss was Toby. Toby, he offered to take her to see the Rose situated in some room in the West wing. She hesitated at first, then said yes. She was rather cross with the Lord and this place was making her rebellious side show.
With the candle in hand and a robe tightened around her waist, she had followed Toby.
Through the maze of a Manor, he led her to a room and opened it only to quickly step back like he had been hit. Brushing it off, he had motioned her inside and she forgot that incident. She had stepped in a few steps before almost immediately coming to a halt. The sight in front of her was, for the lack of better word, was a sight to behold.
Firstly, there was a moon. The light from the full illuminated the room as it came through a open balcony. Margaret had contemplated pinching herself for a second. She could just bask in the moonlight forever and seemed surreal that there was any inside the horrid Manor
Secondly, she had seen the reason her father would be so forward in plucking a flower from the garden of one who gave him shelter. The rose was enchantingly beautiful. Beautiful didn’t even start to sum up how it looked under the shinning moon light and whatever candle light falling on to it. The texture seemed so velvety that Meg had wonder if the flower would even be felt by her finger. It was simply something one could imagine wars over like Helen of Troy. Margaret definitely could imagine why it was the perfect gift. It was simply the most enchanting, captivating, lush red rose in the history.
The rose even had one balcony open so that it could breathe in the chilly air of the night. Sitting in a clear flower stand filled with water it was inside a glass case with a few holes around.
Snapping out of the unnatural haze, Magaret had nudged Toby who was enthralled by beauty of the rose too and filled her in staying behind her.
She made her way towards the balcony but Toby didn’t move and instead moved into the darkness.
Margaret basked in the glory of the night. It was one of the most beautiful nights or maybe it was the fact that it was the most free she had felt all the time she had been in the Manor. A sudden cold chill had gone down her spine. Magaret had felt paranoia set through her as she looked around for anything that set off her sixth sense.
“Beauty, huh, enchanting, enthralling” a snorting rude voice echoed,
“Every rose has its thorns. How will they be over, come my dear?”
“Who is it?” She had said out frightened knowing there was no other but Toby around her.
No reply came and she had almost believed she hallucinating.
“Toby let’s head back” was what she she remembered saying before she found out that all calls for Toby to come were in vain. She was alone in the dark and very very lost the moment she had stepped out of the room to search for him.
*”Miss Roland! Miss Roland! “* A voice called out to Magaret but her focus was blurry. She couldn’t see anything as she blinked. Her head was still asleep and she wondered where she was.
“Miss Roland?” The voice called out again. This time her brain was working and she could feel a feminine hand touch her like a feather.
“Yes?” She said trying to figure out who this girl was.
“Thank the stars above. We thought, We thought – ” The girl stopped and changed her words though the minor change didn’t escape Margaret’s notice.
“Let’s get you to Master,” She continued while helping Meg to stand up to her feet. It didn’t take Magaret long to register the fact that she was getting used to sleeping in the corridors of the Manor rather than on her bed.
“Wait. Toby! I was searching for Toby when I got lost. Where is Toby?”
“Toby you say? The young lad must be around here somewhere Miss. Do not stress on it. We will send him to you when we find him. ” The young maid tried to calm Meg down but she couldn’t help feeling something was wrong. Gut feelings are never wrong.
Nevertheless, she followed behind blindly when the maid took her hand and guided her through the labyrinth she has come to acknowledge as Wellington Manor. Might as well be a castle.
“How many rooms are there here?” she wondered out loud.
“About A couple of hundred miss. ” The young maid said without much thought as they passed another room.
“What need of so many when the man needs not even ten? He is a Lord not a King.” She muttered angrily. It was mostly her navigation skills speaking.
“If only you knew M’Lady,” The maid said so faintly that Meg couldn’t understand.
For no reason, her thoughts went back to the voice in the Rose room. She didn’t know what to make of it and for a second she passed it as a hallucination.
“Here we are. Lord Wellington will see you now, ” she said and opened the door for her to step inside.
The cold feeling came back. The thought of being left alone with him wasn’t pleasant the first day and nor a few days later. If anything, the fact that a petal had fallen was enough to have her skin crawling and fear blowing off the roof tops.
“Miss Roland, ” He said in acknowledgement.
“Lord Wellington,” She mirrored.
“Have a seat,” He offered but it bordered the commanding tone.
“I can not see,” Margaret said realizing this was the most humane conversation they have ever had. Lord Wellington growled in frustration.
“About Seven steps forward and one step to the right. ” He said a second later and Margaret followed.
As she sat on the plush seat only one thing was going on in her mind, what was he to say?
“Why did you want to see me?” She asked filling the awkward silence with the fist thought on her mind.
“Straight to the question,” Lord Wellington said slightly amused it seemed from his laughter filled raspy tone. This was new to Meg. She couldn’t fathom the person in her presence to be Lord Drake Adam Wellington, very captor. Not a single bit.
“A petal has fallen,” He said, all signs of amusement gone from his tone.
“I know. Anything else?” Margaret said trying to control her bitterness.
“Two days,” he said in a similar tone.
“Two days what?” How this man thought she could understand his cryptic talk was beyond her. Her mind again went to Toby and wondered if he was alright.
“Each petal now will fall about two days from the other. Sixty to seventy days, give or take for the last petal. Are you ready for the wedding bells my dear? ”
“No you arrogant fool. I am not. What makes you think I will agree to marry such a sinister monster?”
Margaret sighed. Of course that was only in her head, she couldn’t say it out loud.
“What makes you think I will marry you willingly Lord Wellington? I have said it once, I will say it again. I only want to marry for love and not for a Rose. I only stay here for I do not know better. Like today, I will end up getting lost anyway if I try to find the exit. On top of it you love to threaten. ”
“You got lost today?” Lord Wellington said ignoring the rest. He seemed to avoiding fighting too it seemed to Belle. Reality of marrying a complete stranger must have set in his head too. He seemed only tired.
“Oh yes. I was out with Toby to see the Rose. Sometime around that Toby disappeared to stars, nowhere and in his search I got lost too.”
“Disappeared you said? Without telling you?” Margaret wondered if the Lord knew what happened with Toby. He seemed stressed
“Um yes? I don’t know. He was there while I was in the balcony and then-” Margaret was cut short.
“Balcony!? You let light in?” Lord Wellington yelled and Margaret shrieked back into the seat.
“It was already open!” Margaret said not wanting to be the center of his attention while he was angry.
“Already open? Stars above. Get out! Becka! Henry!”
That’s all she remembered before she lost conscious yet again.
Margaret sat in her room uneventfully. It had been a couple of days, maybe about four, there was no sign of Toby.
Upon inquiring, the only answer was silence. Lord Wellington refused to meet her and most of her time was spent in the room reading books the Becka would bring to her when she ran out of the ones already there.
It was anything but happy time to say the least. Every second seemed like forever and the young boy she was so taken with had her worried. It was morning time when it happened. The windows in her room were sealed shut but she had a gut feeling that the beautiful sun must be out because not a single soul could be heard or seen. Usually, Becka would come in and serve her breakfast in bed or something like cleaning.
Margaret stood up. An unknown rebellion started in the pit of her stomach. Her thoughts jumbled and all she could think was nothing. Then the world went darker, If that was even possible for her in the dark Manor, and something dangerously unknown took over.
“Miss Roland, wake up Miss Roland,” Someone nudged Meg. Yawning, she sat up straight and saw the outline of Becka in the dimming fire light.
“Oh Becka. How many time do I have to tell you to call me Margaret?”
Meg said stretching her arms out. She felt strangely tired and tried to think of what she had done to feel as such.
“You are going to be the Lady of the house of Wellington Miss Roland. I can’t dare to call you by your given first name.” Becka said handing Belle a shawl to wear over the night gown. The smooth soft fur made her giggle a little which she immediately bit back.
“Any news on Toby Becka?” Margaret asked eagerly. Becka took some more wood and struck the fire more. The winters were getting harsher and Becka knew in the time she has spent serving Meg that she was intolerant to the cold.
“None dear,” Becka said in a motherly tone and it struck home.
“Hey Becka?” She said after a moment of silence, “Do you think.. Do you think Lord Wellington would meet me? I.. I really want to see my family. I swear I will be back.. I.. I miss them so much Becka.” Margaret sobbed as she played around with the food and the fork. Not a single morsel made its way to get mouth.
“Don’t cry. Shh… I really don’t think you can meet them Miss Roland. But, I think you can see them. ” Becka whispered hugging her. It was almost like a secret.
“What? How!” Margaret exclaimed. She simply couldn’t wait to see her family. She wondered what her brother must have taken the news. He would be so furious that he let her go alone and she didn’t come back.
Her sisters would be so red in anger that she would be swearing like a sailor making any gentleman’s head bow down shyly.
And Her mother! She would be thinking of what a scandal it would be. An unmarried girl in a stranger’s house. Stars forbid she may have a heart attack.
“I will tell you. But first, be a nice young Lady and eat. I will go ask Lord Wellington if he would allow you to look through. But eat first. ”
“I will. Now just go to him the first thing?” Margaret pleaded. With a nod, Becka turned around and left leaving Belle to eat. For once, she felt hopeful.
Meg ate in silence. The fire crackled and the light embers took her into another memory as she ate the piece of the pie.
Back when her father was still very successful with the business, they had a contest. Each year on the occasion of Thanking Stars, pies were made. Being kids, Meg, her siblings and cousins would all get a pie made for themselves and see who finished it first. It was always one of the boys. But it was fun either way. That’s another thing that as a victory the boys would try to stuff another pie and then get stomach aches and scolding. It was all so worth it.
Margaret wondered if this Manor ever heard the sound of laughter. She remembered Toby. He never really laughed out like small kids doing some mischief. He had his moment but they were rather strained. This placed sucker in all the happiness into its dark voids.
“Miss Roland, are you done?” The old maid said knocking at the open door of the room.
“Yes Becka, I am. Did you ask him?” Margaret said setting aside the plate and standing up.
“I couldn’t find him. He never goes out of the Manor but he has these secret Hallways that even I am unaware of. I am probably one of the oldest working maid here.” Becka said and Margaret fell back against the wooden back of the bed. The carving on it dug her back but she ignored it as the hope started to diminish.
“So that mean I can’t.. I..” Margaret held back a sob that made its way to her again.
“No, no dear. Don’t start again. I can still take you. Just stand up Miss Roland. I am sure he wouldn’t mind. You know, dear, you should give him a chance. He is not that bad.” Margaret felt like Becka was lying by the last line. The Lord seemed more like the bad guy than anything. She ignored it. Becka did just tell her she could take her to see her family. Oh stars above did she want that badly! She had never been away this long.
“Take me Becka. I couldn’t wait another moment.” Margaret begged and the old lady did just that by leading her out in the dark lobby again.