This part of the country is spectacular and picturesque throughout the year. Summers and springs are my favorite here. Winters are harsh though less harsh than Scotland from where I belong. Rains in this part of North Carolina are both sublime and somber. Somber because it reminds me of my village in Skye, it reminds me of my family and friends. Sitting by the window , watching the water droplets dripping from the trees by the ridge and writing my name on the foggy glass panes during the rain is something which gives me immense pleasure when I have nothing much to do. E….M…I...L…..and the Y got stretched with the sudden awry movement of my finger due the abrupt scream which came from their room and left me shaken……..again. Their screams, abuses and fights have become more frequent lately. But it wasn’t the same few years back.
I came with my great aunt when I was a wee lass. When the carriage pulled over by the gate of the mansion, my jaws dropped and I stood dumbfounded in astonishment. I was thawed completely with the exquisiteness and majesty of the place. Holding my great aunts hand I moved ahead sheepishly. They were standing at the main entrance waiting for us. I stood with my heads down (I was told to do so by my great aunt) pulling my apron and touching my bonnet more often in apprehension. The lady of the house Mrs. Alice Campbell was alive then, hale and hearty, tall and elegant with her royal zeal all over her body. Her son Mr. Roger Campbell and his newlywed wife Mrs. Johanna Campbell were also present there along with the Lady Campbell. I raised my eyes while my head still down to look at my mistress Johanna Campbell as I was brought for her service exclusively. She was so beautiful then, fresh and lucid like the dew drops on the leaves of a misty winter morning. She was graceful, bright and much more startling than her mother-in-law.
Ten years have passed since that day. I am 20 now. Mistress Johanna is usually very polite and generous to me. I wonder sometimes how and why would a lady like Johanna would take up a fight with her husband. I was never fortunate to have any interaction with Mr. Roger. Though I believe he is not a good man. He doesn’t deserve my Mistress. I don’t speak up about my perspective to other servants of the mansion. The very first day I arrived, I was told to remain discreet. My views should be rational to them or not manifested at all. My great aunt’s voice still rings in my ears “Emily you are the passive member of this mansion. You are the side character in their story. Never overshadow them. You will serve them with your life. Vow to me Emily!! Vow to me…….!”
Mistress Johanna loves the smooth strokes of brush on her hair in the afternoons post lunch.
“Emily there’s some magic in your touch. I get rejuvenated every time.” said Johanna with a pale smile looking in the empty.
I smile and keep stroking gently. She has changed a lot in these years, mostly after the death of The Lady Campbell. Her grace and shine has turned pale like a sheet. Dark circles have appeared due to sleeplessness probably. I have seen her solemn sobs and her crushed feelings. As if I can feel what she feels, see what she sees, not the same perhaps but not any less either. I try my best to give her some medicinal herbs with her food or tea for her sound sleep or for her good skin or hair. She appreciates me for this. These days she has fallen in love with the lavender which I give her to keep her calm. She tells me stories of her childhood and how she got married to Mr. Roger. She loves talking to me and why not? Who doesn’t like a good listener? I feel pity for her most of the times. I feel she is married to a wrong person. But I never dare to tell her that. The other maids’ gossip about the relationship between my Mistress and Mr. Roger that they fight for not having a baby in ten years of marriage and Mr. Roger blames my Mistress for the death of his mother; though I don’t believe the later one to be true. There are rumors among the servants that Mr. Roger visits brothels these days and perhaps this is one of the reasons of their quarrels.
One morning the day before Christmas, when all of the servants including me were busy decorating the mansion, we heard loud screams. Mistress Johanna was sobbing so loudly that I ran to her knowing that I am not supposed to do that. When I reached in the hall I saw Mr. Roger walking out stomping his feet and the face red like flame. And Mistress is yelling at him from the stairs. I always try not to listen whatever they talk or fight about because that’s beyond my vicinity. But that day I knew what they were fighting for.
I ran to mistress, picked her up from the floor and took her in her room. I was about to leave closing the door behind when she asked me to stay with a bold and pain- stricken voice that I came back and stood by the bed with my head down.
“Sit down on that chair Emily. I need to tell you something.” Mistress said with a shaky voice.
Whatever she told me that night was far from my imagination and far from every possibility. But I did believe her. Not having a baby wasn’t her fault. Mr. Roger was impotent but he was never ready to accept that. Perhaps he was not ready to hurt his male ego. Mistress was so sure because she got pregnant once without wed-lock. She had to abort the baby. The Lady Campbell somehow got to know this from her associates and hence lit the flame between the husband and wife. Though Mistress suggested for an adoption but the Lady and Mr. Roger never agreed. They wanted the child to have their royal blood. Mistress knew this will never happen. I’ve seen in their parties and get-togethers how the Lady Campbell acquainted her son to the rich and royal countesses. She used to allure them to her son. My mistress tried hard to hide her desolation and embarrassment behind the pink hue of her make-up but I could see her deep down, through and through.
Yes…….. for the first time in 10 years I gathered courage to ask my mistress that why didn’t she leave Mr. Roger after so many turmoil in her life. Then she revealed the ugliest part of her story.
The dawn was breaking with the birds chirping and flowers blooming all around but I had no time for these earthly pleasures right now. My horse was galloping faster and I was almost 2 miles away from the mansion in search of a witch who was summoned by the Lady Campbell to give a slow and gruesome death to my mistress by her witchcraft.
Finding her was quite arduous but the actions to be followed next were even more grueling. While I was away dealing with a witch, my Mistress dealt with pursuit of law against her husband seeking for a divorce. She had full faith on me that I will save her life from the black magic of the witch.
5 years have passed. My mistress is now a mother to 200 kids. She runs a kindergarten school in New York. My mistress shines like the knight in golden armor now. Her exuberance and glory is retained back. She sleeps well, has no dark circles anymore and she looks contented and calm. Her glow is so conspicuous that I could feel it from a distance.
I was stoking the hairbrush smoothly through her silky golden blondes and wondering that even if I am the side character in her story, I am the closest one. I am her mirror where both of us can look into each other’s soul through and through.