Life of the Deceived
Image of London Thames Embankment, courtesy of Old UK Photos, image of Puerto Rico courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The sun shined brightly, warming my soft fur as I lay on the sand. My eyes closed, I smiled lovingly as I let the sound of the waves take me away in a world of peaceful bliss. There, I was at ease. There, I was free. Free from the harsh living under the roof of the Cumberbatch mansion. Free from that slave driver and her cruel words. Here was where I wanted to be. Here was where I wished to stay forever. The warm breeze soothed me and I could soon feel the water lightly wash over me. At first I wondered if the tranquil reality I was in was only a dream, but it felt so real.
Maybe it was real...
“Paula, wake up you stupid girl!” a voice called out to me as a loud bang ripped me out of my peaceful sleep. Sitting up in my bed, it took me a moment to realize what was happening before I was blinded by the harsh light of the chamber stick being carried by whoever was at the door.
“Did you hear me?” the voice questioned again, this time pulling the blankets off me. “The child needs to be put to bed you lazy thing.”
Without being given a chance to utter a word, I was dragged out of bed and out my bedroom. It was only then that I was able to react and pulled back before I could be dragged along any further. I soon realized it was Margaret that was standing before me with such rage. At first, I questioned why she was treating me so harshly, but I then came to grasp the reason. Staring at me with such callousness, she huffed before turning away from me to head back downstairs.
“I do understand your reason for treating me so wrongly,” I told her bravely, though a slight sense of fear lingered.
Pausing in her tracks, she snickered sarcastically before turning back towards me. “Oh, do you?” she inquired. “You think that you are special, but just remember, my dear, that you are nothing, especially to Lady Cumberbatch.”
“I am fully aware of that, Margaret, for I have been constantly reminded since I was a child-”
“Not enough, in my opinion,” she interrupted harshly. “I saw the way you kept gawking at Lord Cumberbatch this evening as you all were in the drawing room. In fact, I’ve known it for some time.”
Hearing such a thing had me worried. Did she really know of my true feelings for Lord Cumberbatch? If I tried to back away then she would probably get the satisfaction that I was proving her right. So I was given no choice but to stand my ground in high hopes of living in denial and proving her wrong. Here I always thought my love for him was less than subtle since he never once said a word. Or was it so obvious that he just never paid much attention?
“I...I-I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I stammered, already fearing that my nervousness was a dead giveaway.
“You don’t, huh?” Leaning forward so that she was so close that I could smell the cheap liquor on her breath, she continued, “Perhaps I should be the one to enlighten you.”
“Enlighten me on what?”
“It’s been so obvious since you first came to be here,” Margaret pointed out matter-of-factly. “In fact, I’m quite surprised no one has caught on to your scandalous secret.”
“S-secret...what secret?” I asked with such terror. My prayers were soon answered when another voice interrupted Margaret before she was even given a chance to utter another word. As I looked passed her, I saw Lord Cumberbatch coming up the staircase with a confused gaze.
“Margaret, I thought I told you to search for her, not stand here lecturing her,” he said harshly towards the woman. “Go back downstairs and finish your chores at once!”
Without saying another word, Margaret curtsied before rushing back downstairs. Leaving Lord Cumberbatch and I alone, I feared that he too was going to lecture me for not having his daughter in bed by now, but when he turned back towards me, his expression changed so drastically.
As he was about to speak, I cut him off, “Forgive me sir for Gabriela being awake at this hour. I retired to me room for only a couple hours and accidentally fell asleep. Please, do not punish Margaret for her actions, I should have known better.”
For a moment, he was silent until he let out a loud chuckle, which confused me. “My, dear, if you thought I was coming up here to punish you then you are terribly mistaken. I heard Margaret and came to deal with her. She might have been here longer than you, but that does not give her the right to treat you so…that is mine or my wife’s place and seeing that she is not present at the moment, I must be the one to handle the situation.”
“But, I’m nothing but a servant. Not even that, I’m…a slave. They get paid, I don’t. My reward is having a job for another day and not being out of the streets to die.”
“Who told you this?” he questioned with great concern. “Paula, I know that you were brought here with no say, but I beg you not to believe that you are a slave. You too are to be given the equal amount of treatment and respect as the rest of the staff and if I find out anyone saying otherwise will be thrown out without a job.”
“Oh…,” I replied simply, before looking up at him with confidence. “T-thank you, sir, really.”
“No thanks need to be made, Paula.” Saying this, he stepped closer to me, placing a gentle hand on my cheek. “In fact,” he continued softly, almost in a seductive whisper, “I think you are much more than all of those things.” Moving in closer, his lips almost connected with my own before, Andrew, the head butler called out to Lord Cumberbatch about some visitor.
Stepping away, I could sense slight agitation on his face as he grumbled softly. “Blast I almost forgot,” he said to himself before turning back to me. “If you’ll excuse me, my dear I have some important business to attend to. If you will, make sure Gabriela is put to bed.”
“Y-yes, sir,” I responded as he headed downstairs.
I stood still shocked and confused about what had almost occurred between the two of us. I always knew that Lord Cumberbatch treated me differently because there were countless occasions since I had come to live here that he and Lady Cumberbatch would argue over how she treated me, much like earlier it seemed. But never would I have expected his reason for behaving so was because he felt the same as I did.
As pleased as I was to know such a wonderful thing, I too was frightened if Lady Cumberbatch ever found out. It was obvious she had no inkling or else I would have been thrown out long ago. But how soon would it be before she did know the truth? Would her husband admit his feelings for me or would he sit back and deny it? For the time being I decided to shake these thoughts out of my mind and made my way downstairs to get Gabriela.
Every night with Gabriela is the same: get her into her nightdress, make sure her hair is combed and teeth are brushed, have her say her prayers, either a lullaby or bedtime story, and lights out. Tonight, she wanted me to read her a story, but instead of from one of her own books, she wished for me to tell her a story about my life in Puerto Rico. It seemed that as of late, her curiosity about my past only grew from day to day and I wasn’t sure whether to be amused or worried.
Once she was finally asleep, much like every night, I’d tuck her in and give her a kiss and be on my way. Keeping the door slightly ajar, I headed back down stairs so that I could finish the rest of my chores before I too headed off to bed. The very thought of Lord Cumberbatch’s attempt to kiss me earlier still swirled in my mind. In fact, the more that I thought about it, the more nervous I became. I was soon ripped out of my thoughts when I lost footing as went stumbling down the staircase, hurting my ankle in the process.
“What the devil is going on out here?” Lord Cumberbatch questioned with agitation until he met eyes with me. “Paula…,” he began before rushing over to my side, “sweetheart, are you all right?”
“Yes,” I told him as he tried to help me up, “yes, I’m fine. Just lost my footing for a sec--” I cried out softly once I got to my injured ankle. So that I would not fall, he kept hold of me.
“It seems that you’ve bruised it. Detective Basil!” he called out. Not soon after a young mouse, roughly in his late thirties, early forties came walking out. “Would you go find Margaret and tell her I need a cloth with ice?”
“Of course,” he answered before making his way towards the back of the house. Not soon after the mouse was back with a dishcloth of ice in hand. “Should I call for a doctor?”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary, detective. The poor girl only bruised it. Nothing but a few days rest won’t cure.” Lifting me into his arms, he began to make his way upstairs before turning towards his guest once more. “I’ll be back down momentarily. I’m going to put her into bed.”
“But…b-but, sir, I’m perfectly fine,” I tried to detest, but he would have none of it. I kept still, helpless, as he carried me away.
Since I could not do anything for myself, I was forced to into embarrassment as Lord Cumberbatch undressed me from my dress and corset and into my nightdress. What made it more torturous was that he took his time. He seemed almost seductive. Thankfully, he did not go further while he placed me in my bed and under the covers. Taking one of the extra pillows, he propped my foot up before placing the washcloth on my ankle. To make sure it stayed still, he undid the sash from his smoking jacket, wrapping it around the wound like bandage. Making sure it was in place, he took a seat at the edge of my bed, brushing the few loose strands of hair from my face.
“Regardless of what my wife says, I am allowing you the next few days rest. You took a nasty fall and shall not work in your condition, do you understand?”
“Please sir,” I pleaded, “if I do not work then she will become more angered by me than she already has-”
“Do as I say,” he interjected in a mere whisper. Placing a hand on my cheek, with his thumb he began to brush my bottom lip. “I wish for you to rest. Let me handle Amelia.” Leaning forward, without a fight of my own, I allowed his lips to touch my own is a gentle kiss. Though it lasted only several seconds, it seemed like an eternity before he pulled away. No look of regret plagued his face as he smiled down at me lovingly.
“I must be off, but I do promise to check on you at a later hour.” Rising from where he sat, Lord Cumberbatch made his exit from my room before looking back at me. “Now please rest,” he commanded before closing the door behind him, leaving me to bask in what had just occurred.
As I lay in bed, all I could think about was that kiss. This told me that he reciprocated the same feelings just as much as I did. I knew, however, that there were several things that stopped us if we ever wished to be together, my position, his work and reputation, but more importantly, his wife. Like promised, he returned with another washcloth of ice in hand so that he could replace that older one that was now almost melted away. We both knew that for now, we had to keep this love affair a secret from everyone within the household for things could end up badly for the both of us and for his and Gabriela’s sake I did not want that to happen. My only problem was doing the best I could to hide this secret well, especially from his wife and Margaret for it was them that were the main threats.
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