I wake up to see Nellie on the couch in her room and I, somehow on the ground. Despite this, Nellie's carpet ended up being terribly comfortable even more so than my bed (which actually came as no surprise). The dawn of morning was barely peeking above the horizon but of course this was a normal rising time for me, plus we had a lot to do today in terms of my plan. We had, of course, stayed up late into the night, until the stars were bright as the sun writing down the steps of my escape. However, there is something about the night time that makes you feel drunk and untouchable in the midst of darkness so it ended up with us going on a lot of non-sensical tangents. These were our ideas so far:
1. Buy food for Emma
2. Eat Emma's food
3. Shave Emma's hair off
4. Give Emma's hair to market boy as a token of her affection
I giggle softly as I look down at Nellie's loopy handwriting. I fold the little paper into quadrants and stick it in my smock's pocket, knowing that this will be a memory I want to save.
Knowing we needed to start immediately (Nellie told me her mother would be arriving back from London tomorrow afternoon) I stretch and turn my head in my best friend's direction, seeing if she had aroused.
Instead, I nearly double over laughing at her sight. Her princess-length chocolate hair was plastered at odd angles on her face and drool was dripping down her chin at a leisurely pace. For someone who always seems so delicate and stunning, it was certainly a sight to see.
Wanting her to obtain this very anti-Nellie looking image, an idea sprouted in my mind. I grin evilly as I slowly slink over to her and kneel right beside her head, leaning my mouth above her ear. Suddenly, I suck in a big gulp of air and as loudly as I can scream:
"RISE AND SHINE, SUNSHINE!"
She jerks up immediately, which meant her head collided with me chin, sending me tumbling backwards in a heap of hysterics. Nellie, on the other hand, has a half doe-eyed, half annoyed look on her face, which looks terribly off because her mouth is scrunched up whilst her stare is huge.
I continue sniggering and she glances at me with a sarcastic grin.
"Thank you so very kindly, Emma." She grumbles as she unfolds herself from the couch. "I suppose though it is a decent time to get up, right before the sun has risen."
"Oh yes, your highness, I forgot that I am the only one is this room who gets up at this ungodly hour." I roll my eyes. Sometimes I forget that Nellie is the princess and I, the pauper.
"Sorry, that sounded spoiled." She bit her lip as she now walked more humbly behind her screen to change outfits. As she flings her purple satin dress from yesterday over, she looks up at me muddled. "How much did we devise last night, in terms of your escape? It's odd. All I remember is laughing myself silly."
"Yeah, we didn't quite finish our in depth strategy we had in mind, but that's alright. I do believe it is quite simple doing this sort of thing. I mean, all I have to do is maybe grab a small knapsack, some food for a day and look the part, you know?"
Now finished, Nellie emerges wearing a royal blue silk gown that has golden beads going up the seams. She wears a string of pearls around her neck and black heels on her feet. Now I am the one confused.
"I didn't think we needed to be this formal for my packing." I imply, nodding towards her outfit.
Nellie tries to hide her blush but I still see it on her fair skin. "Oh, I was just in the mood to look nice today, that's all. Now, where were we?"
"We were talking about my plan being rather simple. I'll just grab the pennies I've found over the years and buy enough food for a day or so, just so I'll be able to leave right tomorrow morning."
Nellie looks at me indecorously, whipping her head in my direction. "There is no way you're doing that."
"Doing what? The buying or the leaving?"
"The buying!" She exclaims. "I'll get MOTHER to pay for your items. It's the least she can do, anyways."
"Nellie, I have to leave tomorrow morn before she gets back and never would-"
She rolls her eyes at me in a very exaggerated manner. "I'll steal it from her study, you dodo, and if she even notices, I'll just tell her I bought a new dress, which will earn me some good points from her, anyways."
I grin from ear to ear. "You are truly a scheming master mind."
Nellie flicks her hair back and feigns a look of arrogance. "I know, you don't have to repeat." Laughing, she says, "I'll grab the pennies, meet me by the front gates, alright?"
"Alright." I reply happily as I go to descend down the stairs. I look out one of the windows that Margo (a fellow servant) is cleaning and see that the sun is now fully showing her blinding face, not a cloud in the sky. It's almost like the elements were willing me, telling me to go. We haven't had a sunny day like this in...forever.
"Mornin' Emma, where do ya tink you're goin'?" Margo shouts down in her thick Irish accent.
I freeze up for a second, not knowing what to say. Never in a million years would I tell anyone besides Nellie about my escape plan and Margo was a bit of a tattle tale, anyways. Suddenly, a funny idea pops into mind.
I turn towards her, acting confused. "It's a day off, Margo, didn't you hear? A letter was sent from London last night where Lady Beatrice is staying conveying the message that we should relax as she is."
Margo is also gullible and will do anything to get off work. "Really?" She said, bemused. "Well, I certainly need to take advantage of my remainin' time, don't I? Thank ya, Emma!"
"Of course!" I respond. Not only will Auntie return with the problem of a run-a-way servant but also a dirty abode.
I meet Nellie by the front and she hands me a rather larger bag.
"Nellie, I know you don't shop for foods but a couple carrots and a loaf of bread don't break the bank." I tell her, mildly concerned. She wasn't very bright but really?
She sighs now like I'M the idiot. "You're going to need a good amount of savings. You never know when you are going to need extra change."
"I...I can't accept-"
She grips my shoulders and spins me around towards the door. "Don't want to hear it, just go!" She pronounces as she shoves me towards the streets.
I spend only a little while browsing the market street. I first buy some cloth to make into a knapsack later on and then grab a loaf of bread, some red apples and carrots. I don't spend much time in the food areas- the meat disgusts me a little so I just end up walking around the square, looking at the various trinkets on display. As I stroll down the line of stalls and merchants, I end up dead ending into an ally way that looks a bit dodgy but then I see an old lady, sitting forlornly on a step.
She is completely alone other than the blanket she has in front of her with a few items on it. Her frail skin hangs over like loose paper and the outline of her bones is too visible. One eye of hers is a milky white while the other one has the look of tears in it. The remaining hair she has is light and feathery, bright as the moon against a black sky and she tucks it behind her ear with one spindly hand while the other clutches something tightly. One might think she is hideous but I know genuine sadness and poverty when I see it. Walking over to her slowly so I won't scare her, I look at her items she has. There were a collection of feathers, twigs and sea shells that she must've collected herself but in the very corner a glimmer caught my eye. It was a pin. A small, silver pin of a bird, which on its back had a blue gem.
When I am directly in front of her, the woman tilted her head up and gave me a small smile. She gestures her hand over her things and it shakes the whole way. I see what she is holding. It is an open locket that looked like it might have once had engravings but were too rubbed over to see any more. Maybe they were her family.
Feeling an unspoken connection of loss with her, I immediately decide to get the most expensive item, the bird pin. I also just happen to love how a bird shows freedom. She looks scared, like I might try to steal it but I quickly reach my hand into the bag of coins Nellie gave me and pulled out a few handfuls for her. After a couple, though, she raises her hand to tell me to stop and my respect for her grows. Knowing she won't let me leave without paying the exact price, I draw out a fourth (maybe fifth) quantity and toss it on her blanket before running away, fast. I just hope I gave her enough money to last her the rest of her life.
After being sure I am far enough (not that she could really come after me in her condition) I look down at the pin and it stuns me as up close, it has even more minute detail. There are swirls and lines and flowers all engraved on the birds body. The aquamarine stone on it was catching the sunlight and spouting off spectrums of color. I immediately grab my cloth for my knapsack out of my basket and pop it on. I feel like now, I am fully ready to leave.
A few moments later, I arrive back at the house but decide to go through the servant doors (they were actually a little more private). But as I turn to go onto the path to the back, I hear Nellie's voice and another voice that must belong to a man. I crouch behind a tree (which thankfully had a big trunk) and peek to see what they were doing.
It's hard to hear them but I make out a bit of the conversation.
"Nell, I love you so....I just want you and....."
"I know, John.....and I do, I do, I do...."
Suddenly, they are kissing. John encloses Nellie in a deep embrace and tilts her back so he can reach her lips. She giggle ecstatically and whispers his name and in return, he kisses her harder.
I feel completely embarrassed for intruding on their private moment and quickly duck behind the tree again, shocked. How could Nellie not have told me she was THIS involved? I thought all this time it was just a little crush. By the way she was letting him hold her though, that low on her 'back'.... I guess not. Maybe something really big was going on and se couldn't risk someone overhearing it. That must be it, but what could it be?
I just end up going through the front gates, wondering what the big secret is and trop up the stairs to Nellie's room. While I wait for her to return from her 'date', I unpack my goods and place them on the cloth, tying them up. Then after that task takes too short a time, I wait in my curiosity.
After what seems like a century, Nellie comes bounding up the stairs. Normally, I probably wouldn't have noticed her rosy read cheeks or the bright glow she was emitting or even her slightly vermillion lips. But I did.
"Okay," I start as nonchalantly as I can, "haircutting is next on the list, right?" I inquire.
"Oh, right, yes." She replies in a very distracted tone. "Just sit right by the dressing table, I'll grab the scissors."
I do as she instructed, acting like nothing is out of the ordinary. "Remember, crop it short but not so short I can't tie it back. Men are growing their hair longer these days, God knows why."
"I got it." She says, still faraway. Now I'm a bit concerned about her cutting near my ear.
"Nellie-" I begin but she snaps back.
"I got it!"
I stay silent for a minute after that and the only sound in the room is my wispy blonde hair floating to the floor. Then, tentatively, I ask what has her so distant.
"Nellie, what's going on? You seem...overly apprehensive. It's just a haircut." I shrug.
"Okay, okay." She sighs, putting the scissors down for a moment. "It's about Sir John..."
"I knew it!" I scream triumphantly. "I saw him practically sticking his tongue-"
"Eugh!! Stop, wait, you SAW us kissing in the back?"
"Yes, you numpty! YOU were practically-"
"I GET IT. I get it." She laughed nervously. "I'm in love with him. I really truly am." She gushed.
"Okay, firstly, gross. Secondly, why didn't you tell me?"
Her face fell and guilt crossed her expression. "Emma, I'm so sorry, I was going to tell you-"
"When, tomorrow evening when I'm gone?" I reply exasperatedly. I told Nellie EVERYTHING.
She only groans, putting her hand to her forehead. "No, no...there's just something..."
"Spit it out." I say flatly.
"We're eloping, okay? We're getting married away from here."
"WHATTHEBLOODYHELL???!!!" I yell, jumping to my feet and tackling her to the ground.
Nellie and I go into hysterics as we now are hitting each other with her decorative pillows from her bed (which are not very soft at all). I am so happy for her I can't even be mad. She is finally standing up for herself.
Finally, we settle down from pure exhaustion, breathing heavily.
"You're getting married?"
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Go Team Nellie!"
I hear her smile next to me.
"I'm gonna miss you." She says.
"I'm gonna miss you." I reply.
And for the last time, somewhere deep into the night, we fell asleep next to each other just like when we were little girls. For as of tomorrow, everything was going to change forever.