“What is this?” A pile of clothes was hurtled towards Ada’s face.
The clothes were quick to fall on the ground. Ada hastily picked them up and cradled them close to her chest, expecting another punishment as Countess Rose Monroe sat there with a blank face.
“I can’t believe she can’t do one thing right, Mother!” The eldest daughter, Lady Beth, exclaimed fiercely. Her light red eyes widened and black curls splayed wildly across her pale face as she shook her head. The youngest one, Meryl, sniffled.
“Mother! This dress is burnt! What am I supposed to wear at the winter ball?” Meryl cried, “She ruined my debut ball for me.”
Ada clenched her fist, barely controlling herself from spilling out how it was in fact Lady Beth who had burnt the dress. It was definitely not deliberately; she knew that as much as the Lady detested her, she sincerely loved her youngest sibling. That was one of the reasons why she had taken it upon herself to iron her dress for the debut ball, but it didn’t turn out well.
Ada had earnestly tried to reason with her, as she was the one in charge of ironing the dress, but she had refused. And when she burnt it by mistake, she accused Ada of committing the blunder.
The sound of shuffling had Ada shift her eyes off the eldest imp. The Countess stood up from her bed and smoothed her sheer purple nightdress calmly before ordering her daughters to be out of the room.
They grumbled but did as they were told. The Countess sighed as the door closed and then stared at it for a moment before narrowing the distance between herself and the maid girl standing in her bedroom with her head held low, her oily blonde strands hiding her disfigured face.
She raised her hand.
Then let it come down with full force and crash against the girl’s gaunt cheek. Ada’s head moved to the side with the force and she stumbled a little. Red bloomed at the area of impact.
She would have cried. She must have felt the pain. Only if it was for the first time this had happened.
“You are a little disobedient, filthy thing, aren’t you?” Countess Monroe said silently, turning around to pick a cup full of hot tea and taking a sip.
“We provide for you, give you a roof, tolerate you even after knowing what an abomination you are.” This time she narrowed her intense red eyes at the cup and stalked closer.
“You still have the audacity to be this inefficient and useless.”
A shrill scream escaped Ada’s mouth as the hot tea was suddenly thrown at her face, the already burnt skin searing in pain. She backed off instinctively; her head bowed down; and touched her face, but withdrew her fingers with a hiss as the touch only intensified the pain.
“Oh, does it hurt?” She heard the Countess ask her mockingly.
Her head was jerked back as the Countess grabbed some of her hair and yanked them back, making her look at the elderly evil woman, who was glaring back at her in disdain.
“You better not slack next time, you lower being.”
She left her head with a jerk and for next few moments, the loud sound of skin slapping against the skin resonated the room as Countess Monroe thrashed her across the face.
“I apologise, my lady,” Ada finally responded in a faltering voice, her teary red face facing the ground. Mrs Monroe was quick to scoff before telling her to leave.
“Yes, my lady.” Ada obliged, this time her voice just as blank as her face. She took a breath, wiped her face, stood up, making sure to keep her stature straight and turned around rigidly to walk out of the room; her shoulders tense.
She balled fistful of her dress in her hands as she made her way downstairs, her eyes not deterring from the ground. The hallway was illuminated with candles, providing some warmth, but she felt exceptionally cold. She always felt cold.
She finally reached her room at the back of the manor. It was a cramped room with no windows and insufficient space, so there was not much in it. There were two small baskets: one with clean and a second one with unclean clothes. There was not much place for a bed, so she habitually used a thick, scratchy quilt to sleep on. It was unideal, at least not for winters when the temperature dropped steeply, but she had no other choice.
It was practically midnight now, so she latched the door. She took out a random, decent gown from the basket and took off the maid outfit which was not much but a brown full-sleeved dress with black shoes.
She dressed in the gown, before proceeding to take her quilt out to sleep. Tomorrow would be a new day.
Ada placed the basket full of soiled clothes near the stream, a little away from the Monroe Mansion. Five more maids accompanied her as they were assigned to wash the clothes by the Head Maid, Mrs Smith.
The other maids, all young human females, were quick to huddle together. They sat down on the other end of the stream, across from Ada to make sure they were the farthest they could be from the young girl.
She sighed and picked out a cloth to wash; immersing it in the water while making sure that her eyes do not stray far from the cloth and fall on her own reflection.
This was one of the chores she detested the most.
There were no mirrors in her own room. She was always able to avoid looking at the ones that were placed round the mansion.
But as she washed the clothes, she would repeatedly find herself staring at her own face, the remnant of the once untainted one, staring back at her with hollow eyes.
Exactly like now.
Ada sucked in a sharp breath, hastily averting her tear-brimmed eyes away and continued washing the clothes, as quickly as possible; her jaw clenched.
Don’t think about it. She prompted herself.
Don’t think about it.
It’s not worth it.
It’s not worth it.
Ada yelped and fell into the cold water stream as a hand shook her shoulder.
“Oh my God, Ada!” One of the maids who had accompanied her, Sara, clutched her arm and helped her come out of the water as she gasped for air, her blonde strands sticking on her face.
“Are you okay?” She asked, concerned.
Ada was quiet for few seconds, her sensitive ears detecting the sound of the other four maids chuckling quietly among themselves.
Her jaws clenched.
“Yes.” She answered after taking a deep breath.
You are okay.
She hastily turned around and sat down to wash the clothes again; her own soggy clothes making her feel heavier. This was another headache. Her dress was wet. It will not take less than a day to dry. And this was the only one she had.
“I-uh,” Sara started. Ada twisted her head to look at her.”You were not listening, I guess. Mrs Smith had come. We are to gather in the backyard as of right now. It’s urgent.”
“Oh.” She breathed out, her eyes downcast.
Ada stood up, scoffing at herself. Of course, Sara had something to say. That’s why she tried gaining her attention, why would she do so otherwise. How stupid of her to start washing those darned clothes again.
The maids did not try concealing their amusement this time as they laughed loudly, looking at Ada with mocking stares and walked away taking Sara along with them. Ada silently followed after them, but not before taking a look in the pond water.
A shiver raked down her spine and she quickened her step.