A Little (Extra) Laundry Goes A Long Way

Submitted into Contest #31 in response to: Write a short story about someone doing laundry.... view prompt



"Hurry up you lazy swine! These things won't wash themselves!"

I ignore the insults of the head laundress and keep my head down, raking the fabric down my washing board then swishing it around in the water.

'You're lucky to work in the palace.' I remind myself silently, stretching out my fingers for a fraction of a second before returning to my work.

I am lucky to work in the palace, I got out, I am the one that got out.

I lived in a slum before living here, there was barely enough food to go around on a good day with eight hungry mouths to feed.

The Slow Death epidemic wiped out hundreds of thousands of people in my kingdom and for whatever reason, almost all the palace laundresses and seamstresses were taken.

I was in the market offering both of those services when the kings' men came through and gave me a position.

In a day I gathered all my belongings and ran from my home, towards a better life, a better future.

I regret absolutely nothing.

I don't resent my family for the life of penury I endured, I still miss them but I secured this position with no help from them, and I will not allow them to weigh me down.

The work here is hard, and I'm often doing additional jobs, but it's keeping me afloat.

Keeping me from sinking down into the miserable dark waters of poverty.

The fabric I was washing, a shirt I now realize, it thoroughly cleaned so I move from my stool to the clothesline and pin it there.

I'm finished with one load so I go to get new water from the pump.

I heave my enormous wash bucket to The Well, the giant stone pond where all of our dirty water is deposited, and dump out the contents.

I pump water into my bucket then return to my station, only to find Tennyson, a palace guard, waiting for me.

"Good day, Miss Arabelle." He bows.

"To you as well, Tennyson, what brings you this time?" I ask.

I frequently do Tennyson's clothes, he seems to have the dirtiest clothes in the castle with all the time he's down here.

"If you don't mind an extra washing," Tennyson admits sheepishly. "Training young boys is a messier task than is expected."

"I can attest to that," I smile, remembering my brothers.

"I need my shirt mended as well, it tore after a particularly calculated tackle," Tennyson says and I can't help but laugh.

"I can have it all done by tomorrow," I assure.

"Thank you very much. I'm afraid I don't have a copper to spare for the extra washing and mending but would you accept an hour's break after lunch and a stroll through the gardens?" Tennyson asks nervously.

"Why yes I would, that sounds lovely." I accept and my stomach is in complete disarray.

It's no secret that Tennyson is an attractive man and it's also no secret that I'm not much of anybody so I'm stunned by his offer and even more stunned at the fact that he positively beams at my acceptance.

"Excellent, tomorrow then, when I pick up the laundry?" Tennyson suggests.

"Perfect." I agree then with a bow, a smile, a thank you, and spring in his step Tennyson departs, leaving his laundry at my feet.

No one around me comments on the exchange, Lydia even glares at me from her station to my left.

But no matter, I smile to myself as I begin scrubbing out the stains in Tennyson's trousers.

As I scrub, I can't help but wonder.

With every motion, my thoughts wander further from the task at hand.

Whoever would have guessed that little Arabella, the carvers daughter, would have a date with a palace guard!

Even if a guard isn't a terribly esteemed position to people within the palace, I never dreamed I would be near one, much less possibly courting one!

I'll have to find a way to keep my hair done up well and make sure I look composed instead of looking like I usually do which is frazzled and bone-tired from working in a steamy room all day.

I'll also have to fight tooth and nail for an hour break tomorrow but I can wrangle it, I have to.

I'll do it at the end of the day, when she's in a good mood, and I've done good work today so perhaps I won't have to fight as hard.

I smile and make a resolution.

Should my walk with Tennyson go well, my dear friend Alexandra might need help cleaning the guardhouse in the evenings.

And I'm sure Tennyson is going to have even filthier clothes than usual.

March 02, 2020 22:32

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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