Chapter Ten

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That night I ended up staying in my own bed for the first time in a month.

The events of the previous day had meant by the time I had left the art room, I was exhausted and not even the foreman staring over me could have gotten me to move from my bed to the pile of the rags in the art room. James woke me up at around mid-day the next afternoon, he had allowed me to sleep in since the day before had been so chaotic and we all needed a little bit of extra sleep to get over it. He didn't even plan on opening the shop, something I had never heard him do before.

We spent the day lounging in the drawing-room with Christopher deciding he needed to practice his piano whilst James and I tried to find something to plug our ears with. Christopher had always been better at the violin than the piano and in his case, practice didn't always mean perfect as he still struggled to use both hands at the same time. James had always been better at piano and Matthew had mastered the skill of the spoons, not very interesting but rather fun to watch.

Mother had planned on teaching me how to play the piano when we were growing up, but I never learnt more than a few nursery rhymes before she died so my musical talents were somewhat non-existent. Whilst living with James he had made an attempt to teach me the art of piano playing, but that hadn't worked very well and I still struggled to remember which key made what sound and how to read the music from the sheet. Music just wouldn't be my forte.

"I remember when you were younger and the moment Mother started to play, you would be by her side to sing along," James said as Christopher banged out something that sort of matched a Christmas song.

"That was a while ago, I haven't sung at a piano in ages," I said.

"Perps you could do it at the party? It will be better than just the piano at any rate and you don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with," he said.

"I'll think about it."

"Good." He nudged me in the side and pointed at Christopher who tried to turn over a page of sheet music whilst still playing.

"Do we have to go to the dinner this evening?"

"Yes, we agreed. I know you don't want to go back there after everything that had happened, but this could be a step in the right direction to try and mend some bridges between our families."

Despite how optimistic James may have sounded, I knew he wasn't looking forward to the dinner and would rather something came up so he could get out of it. Dinner parties were always an uncomfortable affair for all involved. Whenever I had served at a dinner party held by the Ealing's, it felt rather awkward when everyone was eating, and no one had anything interesting to contribute to the conversation in question.

Not only that, but my mind always went to that first dinner party I served. The one where Doctor Ealing had slapped me across the face all because of something Mr Warrington had said. He may have apologised for it, several times, but that didn't stop me worrying about it happening again. I knew he wouldn't touch me this time as I would be a guest in his house rather than a servant but that didn't make it any easier to stomach.

It would also be my first time in a month returning to the Ealing household. When I left, I told myself I would never return because it held too many memories and too many things I didn't want to relive. Everything that happened with the Warrington's had happened in that house and all of my infractions had been given in the house. It almost felt like returning to the factory, and I had sworn never to do that again after the fire that killed Isabel.

I didn't want to go back to the house, but I didn't have a choice in the matter and I knew that. James had agreed to go as had Christopher and Kitty so Mrs Ealing could do nothing or say nothing with them there. All I had to do was make sure I stayed with them so nothing bad could happen. The only obstacle I had to get over was having Esther and Sarah serve me in person. Esther had been my friend, now she would serve me dinner as if we had never really known each other.

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