Chapter Sixteen

834 57 88

The next morning, the house was completely silent.

As I dressed and crept out of the room, leaving Esther fast asleep in the bed, I noticed how the whole house was silent. Not one floorboard creaked, not one door squeaked, it was as though it had fallen asleep along with all its inhabitants. Everyone apart from me, that is. Having ended up going to bed not long after eating the cake, I was the first to rise and was likely to be the only one awake for several hours. Miss Jenkins had told me that it was unlikely anyone, including staff, would be up before midday after the party so that meant I had the house to myself for several hours.

After applying a large amount of burn past to my arm, and stuffing the jar in my pocket, I headed from the kitchen up to the drawing room to assess the damage. Thin beams of sunlight poured through the window, basking the room in a warm glow. Tables and chairs that had been pulled out the night before were left strewn about the room. Plates containing unfinished food were left balancing on tables, resting on the top of the piano and even some on the floor, tucked underneath chairs. Food that hadn't been touched were still laid out across the large side table, small sandwiches resting on platters, as well as an assortment of other small foods.

My eyes scanned over the room, coming up with a plan of how to deal with the mess before anyone else had woken up. After not having the opportunity to contribute anything the night before, I decided it was my duty to clean up the mess left behind. My way of letting the Ealing's know that I wanted the job and I was determined to do anything to make sure that happened. Despite throwing myself head-first into the cleaning, I couldn't shake the comment Samuel had made the night before, how easily he had made me see the reality of lying to the family. I needed to find a way to tell them the truth.

With my mind trying to process how I was going to reveal the truth, I set about cleaning the room. From the floor I grabbed plates and forgotten sandwiches, stacking the plates and collecting the food together. Once the floor was clear of any debris, I tucked the chairs back under the tables to keep them out of the way. Grabbing the stack of plates, I headed back down to the kitchen and placed them in the sink before going into the side room and taking a brush and pan back up the stairs to sweep the carpet.

Returning to the living room, I began to clean the floor, sweeping up the crumbs that had been kicked to the side during the previous evening's events. As I swept, I listened to the distance cries of the birds, the movement of the trees beyond the walls of the house. There was something about being surrounded by nature that I loved. It was quieter. In the factory, we would always hear noises from beyond the gates, the sounds of the drunkards causing fights, the horse's hooves on the cobblestones, the sounds of machines.

"I thought I heard someone moving around," someone said. Lifting the brush in the air, I turned towards the sound of the voice a little shocked to see Matilda standing the doorway. She was still in her nightdress, a robe wrapped tightly around her.

"It's just me, everyone else is still in bed," I said, placing the brush on the floor and standing up, my knees ached in protest.

"Miss Jenkins and Esther don't usually rise until at least eleven the morning after a party, everyone else is usually up at midday. I think this is the first time anyone has ever broken that pattern."

"Yes, well, I went to bed rather early and since I couldn't help last night, this is the least I can do. What are you doing awake?"

"Oh, I wanted to get some water and to see who was moving around. I thought someone had broken in."

"Just me. Wait here and I'll get you a glass of water."

Leaving Matilda standing in the doorway, I left the room and headed down to the kitchen. Esther and Miss Jenkins were still asleep, and the kitchen was empty. I had hoped I would have been able to get through the morning without anyone waking up. I needed to be on my own to figure out what I was going to do, how I was going to tell them the truth. Matilda being around didn't help the situation. She was already judging every little move I made, criticising me if I did the slightest thing wrong. Her watchful eye was enough to distract me from what I needed to be thinking about.

The Factory Girl // Book 1 in the Rosie Grey seriesWhere stories live. Discover now