I grabbed a glass from one of the cupboards and filled it up with water, wrapping my fingers around it to stop it slipping from my fingers. With the water in hand, I crossed the kitchen and returned to the drawing room where Matilda was waiting. She hadn't moved from the doorway and watched me as I returned and handed over the glass, though she didn't take a sip; she just watched me. Not wanting to seem as though I was intimidated, I returned to my spot on the floor and continued sweeping, trying to ignore the stare.

"Did you like the cake? From last night?" Matilda asked. Slowly lifting her hand up to drink from the glass.

"That was you?" I said, furrowing my eyebrows together. I had thought it had come from Robert, he was the obvious choice considering all he had done for me already. The possibility of it being Matilda never even crossed my mind.

"Yes. I know you probably thought it was Robert, but he wouldn't leave Alexander alone just in case he decided to mimic his father. I managed to slip away and leave it in the kitchen for you, as a way of saying sorry for what happened."

"You weren't the one who soaked me, so you have no reason to apologise," I said, trying to shake off her comment.

"Still, they wouldn't have been here if it weren't for me turning sixteen and Father's incessant need for me to marry the son of one of his close friends. Honestly, I've only just turned sixteen and he appears to be under the impression that now would be the perfect time to start courting. You're lucky you can find your own sweetheart."

"Must be hard, having your entire life mapped out for you like that."

"I suppose. A sense of freedom would be a great thing to have, or at least experience just once. You're lucky in that sense."

"Hm, perhaps."

"I should probably go back to bed, I doubt Mother would be too happy if I woke up looking exhausted after she specifically told me I needed to get later. Good luck with your cleaning and thank you for the water."

"You're welcome. Thank you for the cake, I appreciate it."

With a nod and what could possibly have been a hint of a smile, Matilda turned and left me and my brush alone once again. As I watched her walk away, I couldn't but wonder if she was a playing a game with me, making me feel as though she was no longer out to get me, so I could relax and be caught off guard. There was something about her sudden change in behaviour, the way she went from being someone who couldn't stand me to an almost-friend was odd. It did little to ease the anxiety that was already bubbling up inside, threatening to spill over the surface.

Pushing all thoughts to the back of my mind, I went on with my task. I swept up the remainder of the crumbs on the carpet and readjusted all the chairs, so they sat straight against the tables. With the floor clean, I ran the brush over the tables, catching any loose crumbs that clung onto the tablecloths. Once the tables were clean, I moved the left-over food platters down to the kitchen, leaving them onto the table to deal with later. The crumbs and half-eaten food were dumped into the metal bucket that would be dealt with later. My task was to clean the dishes.

I filled the sink with water and using an old washcloth dumped on the side, I scrubbed down the dishes, leaving them on the drying rack. As I worked, I hummed softly to myself, going over the piano music played at the party and the music Mother used to play. During my time at the factory, I never wanted to remember the fun times with Mother, the good times we had before everything went wrong. It was too difficult to remember the good times whilst experiencing the worst, so I tried not to think about it. Instead, we would savour the good moments we had with each other, no matter how small.

One the dishes I washed, I left them to dry on the drying rack and took a seat at the kitchen table, eyeing up the food in front of me. I hadn't eaten all morning and my stomach was starting to protest its lack of food. After being with the Ealing's for several days, I was already used to eating larger quantities of food than before and my stomach liked to make a scene when it hadn't been fed. Eyeing up the food, I eventually gave in to the temptation and grabbed one of the left-over sandwiches from the tray in front of me, devouring it in almost one bite.

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