Aurora sat on her cot in her dormitory. Her chin rested on her knees that were hugged up to her chest, while her eyes were half closed. Her hair was tied up in a bun with a brown piece of scrap cloth that matched her worst dress she only wore for cleaning. There was no one else in the dorm, and she herself was supposed to be cleaning. But there were a few perks to keeping to yourself most days. The other ladies maids didn’t notice her slip back to her room for a few minutes of quiet rest.
A knock on the door made the servant girl jump up from her mental slumber, and she groaned as she got up from her cot and answered the door. It was all three of her fellow ladies maids; Agatha, Marie, and Charlotte. Aurora fully expected them reprimand her for sneaking away during their work, but their faces were full of excitement.
“How could you not tell us?” said Marie.
“Yeah,” said Agatha. “I thought you would at least tell us, since we’ve lived with you for so long.” Aurora stared at them and said nothing.
“Congratulations!” Charlotte broke the silence. “Your father truly found you a good match. He must have been saving up for you for a long time!”
“My father? What are you talking about?” asked Aurora. They rarely said anything to her, now they were all talking to her at once?
“Your engagement to Wolsey, of course!” said Marie.
“Who?” said Aurora.
“Oh, the poor dear must still be in shock,” said Agatha. “I would be too. Someone like you engaged to a man like Wolsey? You must be reeling!” Aurora knew better than to ask them questions.
“Oh yes, I am!” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t know luck would be with someone like me! Thank you for your…felicitations.”
“We decided to let you have the rest of the day off,” said Charlotte. “So you can tell everyone properly and celebrate. Think of it as an early wedding present!” Aurora’s heart stopped.
“Christopher! I have to tell him before anyone else does!” she thought.
“Thank you very much, ladies. I was actually heading out now to go into the village. You know, to make plans and all.”
“Are you sure you want to go out in that?” asked Agatha. Aurora looked down at her filthy dress.
“I was going to change first, of course!” said Aurora. She quickly slipped into her nice green dress and let down her hair. It fell gracefully down to her waist, and was even more wavy from being tied back in a bun. Once she was socially presentable, she bid her ladies adieu and speed walked through the castle corridors. She wasn’t too sure how many people knew about this engagement, but she assumed most of the castle did. Hopefully news travelled to the village a little slower.
Aurora turned a corner and almost ran head-on into another manservant.
“Sorry,” she said. She did a quick curtsey and continued walking at her quick pace.
“Is that how you acknowledge your future husband?” said the manservant. Aurora stopped and turned around. The man had short brown hair and a well kept beard that just barely covered his neck. He looked to be a few years older than her. “I know this must come as a surprise,” he said. He bowed low toward her. “Charles Wolsey, at your service.” He looked up with a smile.
“H-Have we met?” stuttered Aurora.
“Not formally,” he said. “I’m assuming that you heard the news already? I apologize for that. I was so excited to get approval from your father that I couldn’t keep the secret to myself. I saw you for the first time at the summer festival a couple of weeks ago, and I have been entranced by you ever since. I have great wealth from my lord back at my home estate, where we will live after the wedding. Once your contract is up next month, that is.”
The servant girl was so confused, she didn’t know where to start with the thoughts running through her head. “Is he serious? Why would a wealthy manservant want me for a wife? His words don’t sound genuine at all. What could he want from me? Maybe my father had a large dowry saved up after all. Maybe he had a dowry only to say yes to the first man that wanted to whisk me away to another estate, so I could never have a relationship with him. He’s never cared about me. He’s never even written me a letter. But who would want to whisk me away in the first place? Especially someone who claims to have only seen me once and never spoken to me? When could I have seen him?” She searched through all her memories of the summer festival while looking at his face, until the realization made her chest tighten up. He was the man that was staring at her after she and Christopher fell out of the crowd!
“I can see you need some time to process everything,” Wolsey said eventually. “But come next month, you will turn 18, your contract as a ladies maid will be up, and you will be mine.” He stroked her cheek as he said this, then turned around and continued walking down the corridor. Aurora’s skin crawled where he touched her cheek, and the sensation spread through her whole body. She couldn’t possibly imagine spending the rest of her life with that man. She turned and continued on her way to the carpenter’s shop, keeping her head down and holding back tears.
She walked up to the carpenter’s shop and stood a fair distance away. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to look up at the window to Christopher’s work room. The carver emerged from the shop less than a minute later. His face looked glum.
“Oh no, he knows!” she thought. He slowly walked up to her and sighed.
“Shall we talk?” he said. Aurora nodded and followed him inside.
The poor girl burst into tears as soon as Christopher closed the door to his work room.
“This is awful!” she said. “I don’t know how this could have happened! I’ve never even met the man until today! And how could he be dealing with my father, when my father has never even spoken to me? I hoped he would at least let me meet my suitors first. And you clearly found out. Who told you?”
“Eric,” said Christopher. “He’s noticed how much time you and I spend together, so he advised me to stay away from you. You probably shouldn’t even be in here.”
“How could you say that? I only found out about this half an hour ago! Do you really think I would do something like this to you?” Christopher sighed and relaxed his shoulders.
“Deep down, no. But when Eric told me, I’ll admit that I did believe it at first. But then I got to thinking, and it didn’t make sense. And now that I’m seeing you like this, I feel so stupid, and angry. It makes me sick to think that someone wants to take you away from me.” Aurora smiled and wiped away her tears.
“You’re right, it doesn’t make any sense. He’s the man that was staring at me at the summer festival. Of all the men in this estate, whey does it have to be him? He makes my skin crawl! I think he wants to marry me for a different reason, but I don’t know what.” Christopher smiled and pushed a piece of hair from her face.
“If only you saw yourself the way I do. I see someone who is kindhearted, compassionate, and the most beautiful woman in all of England. Have you thought he might actually see you that way too?” Aurora rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t help but smile.
“I can’t do this, I can’t marry him,” she said. “If I am somehow married to this man and taken to another estate, I don’t know what I’ll do. I only want you!” Christopher stared at the ground with his eyes narrowed and said nothing.
“And you will have me, whether it’s here, or somewhere else!” he took her hands. “Aurora Godfrey, will you marry me? Will you try your hardest for us to be together?” Aurora looked at him confused.
“Are you asking my permission to marry you?”
“Yes, you’ve met me before.” He kissed her hand. “And we might not get permission from anyone else. We might have to disappear altogether if we want to be wed. Is this what you want?”
“Yes, of course!” They both smiled, and shared an embrace and a tender kiss. They stood there for a moment with their foreheads touching, arms wrapped around each other. “It’s time that I talk to my father,” she said.
“If you’re ready, I’ll go with you.”
“This is something I should do alone, but I would be grateful if you walked with me as far as the edge of the village.”
“Of course I will.”
They headed out the carpenter’s shop and walked to the other end of the village. They stopped at the same place as last time, on the edge of an alley between two townhouses. The couple looked out toward the green forest, and Barnama’s deteriorating hut. Aurora stared at the hut, but her feet wouldn’t go forward.
“I’ll stay here as long as you need,” said Christopher. Aurora turned to say something when she saw Barnama come out of his hut. He was wearing black trousers with a white tunic and a black vest. He picked up some logs and began chopping them into firewood.
“Will you wait for me to come back?” she asked.
“I’ll wait here as long as you need me to,” he said. Just ask him about Wolsey, and read him carefully. You’re very good at that.” He kissed her on the cheek.
“Thank you, and I’ll do my best, for us.” She took a deep breath and walked through the clearing between the village and her father’s hut.