Chapter Thirty-Five

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Climbing the stairs back up to the drawing-room felt as though it took forever. For every single step, it felt as though there were five more I had to climb to reach my destination. The twisting staircase that led to the hallway seemed to be getting longer and longer with the hallway slipping away from me no matter how close I got. It was as though my own mind was playing tricks on me, dragging the event out for as long as possible. If reaching the hallway was going to be as much hassle as it was proving, the idea of standing in front of the Ealing's as they decided my fate was terrifying.

What happened to me and my future now rested in the hands of Doctor Ealing, who had been a strong supporter since I first started, and Mrs Ealing, whose recent actions led me to believe she was no longer my biggest fan. It was as though her and Matilda had completely switched places. Matilda had looked out for me since I smashed my way through Doctor Ealing's office whilst Mrs Ealing had been devastated by my destruction. If my previous work didn't count, there was no doubt that Mrs Ealing would have thrown me out before I could have made a pot of tea.

I pushed the fear down inside me, fighting against the sensation that was building up in my chest as we reached the hallway. The longer it took to reach the drawing room, the more I wanted to dash down to the privy to vomit whatever I had in my stomach, which was next to nothing. There was a lot riding on this decision, but I wasn't entirely sure I could face it knowing that if they didn't let me stay I had nowhere to go.

"You'll be fine," Robert said, placing a hand on my shoulder and giving it a light squeeze.

"We'll see," I mumbled, not wanting to open my mouth too much in fear of vomiting all over the hallway.

"Other than breaking some glasses in Father's office yesterday, you've done nothing wrong. Just take a breath and calm yourself down, you're shaking so much your shoulder's moving."

As we stepped out onto the hallway Robert, with his hand still on my shoulder, steered me away from the others and towards the wall opposite the staircase. Whilst Miss Jenkins, Esther and Matilda all headed towards the drawing room, Robert placed his other hand on my shoulder and forced me to look at him. His face looked calm, controlled and he looked far more confident about the current situation then I did. Before he even spoke, the grip he had on my shoulders tightened considerably, I don't know if it was supposed to be reassuring or not, but it didn't feel as though it was working that way.

"Listen to me Rosie, for the past week and a bit you have been one of the best servants we have had in a long time. The twins look up to you and even Matilda has warmed to you and she has had an issue with every single servant we have had over the years. You are going to be fine, and if Mother happens to have an issue then that issue is unfounded, and you have a lot of people who will support you. All you need to do is take a deep breath and believe that everything is going to be okay."

"That's easier said than done," I muttered.

"You'll be fine. Trust me."

With that, Robert released my shoulders and took a step back. Although I knew he was trying to be reassuring, it just didn't feel as though it was working as well he thought it would. No amount of reassures could stop the anxiety that was bubbling away in my stomach and threatening to spill overboard if I so much as thought about it. I knew this day was coming, but I had hoped I would have had a little more time to not only prepare but to prove myself. Having less than two weeks was not ideal, but it was the reality I was having to face.

Knowing I was going to have to face up to the truth sooner rather than late, I did as Robert instructed and took a deep breath. Despite the breath, the sensation of wanting to vomit hadn't passed but I had stopped shaking so much, I no longer looked as though I was shivering. Robert smiled at me and sent a small nod before gesturing down the hallway, I took another large breath before walking towards the drawing room. As I went, I knotted my hands together in front of my stomach as a way to keep all of my nervous energy in one place. It was a good distraction as Robert and I entered the drawing room.

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