Selena rang the bell of the big Manor House and waited patiently. After a moment, the door opened and she was ushered inside by a thin tall man with a severe countenance. He took her to a small sitting room saying in mild tones which belied his appearance – “Do take a seat miss. I will let my lady know of your arrival.” Selena sat down on one of the easy chairs placed near the window overlooking the garden. She noticed that the room though being small and square in shape was tastefully furnished. The curtains, carpet, and upholstery were all in light shades of pink and blue. The roundtable in the middle of the room had a big bowl of pink and white roses.
Just then, the door opened and the same man asked her to follow him. She was led to an impressive drawing room where Lady Augusta sat on an armchair. She was dressed in formal clothes and her small beady eyes surveyed Selena thoroughly. “Thank you, Brett. Come in dear. Sit near me and tell me all about you.”
Selena came and sat near her and said “Well, my lady, my parents died recently in a car accident and our home was mortgaged. Since I could not afford to keep it, I’ve sold it and am staying at the ‘Jolly Inn’ for the present. Since we were a middle-class family, I do not have much bank balance and am just a graduate. I have no relatives whatsoever and so have decided to work for my living. I saw your ad in the local paper that you were looking for a paid, live-in companion, I thought of meeting you. I do not have any references as I have never worked before, but am willing to do whatever I can.”
Lady Augusta listened to Selena solemnly saying at the end “Well my dear, you look like a good enough girl. Since I live alone I just want someone with me as a live-in companion who can keep me entertained in my old age by reading the daily newspaper, magazines, and novels, looking after my personal mail, answering letters and so on and so forth. You can stay in the manor in one of the bedrooms near mine. Your salary won’t be much but you will get special treats and gifts throughout the year on special days. If you want you can take a day off every week to rest, relax or spend time with your friends. Any other day of the week if there is something special lined up for you, you may ask my permission to go out or do whatever you want to do.”
“Thank you, Lady Augusta. Do you want me to shift here today?” “Yes go and get your things from the inn. I’ll ask Brett to drive you there after we have had a cup of tea.” Lady Augusta rang the bell kept on a side table next to her chair and almost immediately Brett arrived. “You wanted me, my lady?” “Yes Brett, please ask Betty to get us some tea and then you can take Miss Anderson to the Jolly Inn to get her things. She will be staying at the Manor as my companion.” “Very good my lady. Welcome, Miss Anderson to the Manor.” He smiled at her brilliantly which softened his severe features and made Selena feel good about herself.
Selena had had a wonderful life with her loving parents. Though they did not have all the luxuries of life, they had the more important things like love, loyalty, and generosity. Her father had been a noted writer whose earnings were not always up to the mark but neither Selena nor her mother ever felt they were in need of the best things money could buy. Her mother supplemented the household budget by stitching clothes for the ladies living nearby. She used to make lovely simple skirts, tops, blouses as well as nighties and maxis.
Selena was quite happy staying with her parents and helping out in the household chores. Suddenly one fine day, her parents had gone to the market, never to come back to their only daughter. Selena had been stricken with grief but was thankful that her father’s lawyer Mr. Simmons had helped in sorting out the legal matters. The small house with all the furniture had been sold and whatever came out of the deal was kept in the bank as Selena’s only major saving. There wasn’t much in her parents’ joint account which was handed over to her since she was the nominee and Selena herself had saved up some cash from odd jobs done for neighbours during her growing up years as well as from her regular pocket money.
Selena settled down at the Manor quite comfortably. She was allotted a medium sized room with an attached bath and a small closed balcony. Selena made this into her own private sitting room where she could sit and relax while doing some mending of clothes when required or read a book. She also loved doing embroidery and currently was making a bedspread with an embroidered scenery. There were 2 easy chairs with blue cushions and a small Coffee Table in the balcony.
Brett got all her 5 bags to her room. There was a big trunk too which had a few of her parents’ knickknacks and other small decoration pieces as well as Selena’s few teddy bears and dolls of her childhood Birthday gifts. She had also brought the framed photographs from her old house as well as her father’s book for keepsakes. Clothes, shoes etc which belonged to her parents, Selena had given away in Charity. Her mother had made 2 chocolate cakes which she had collected from the fridge, along with cookies, biscuits and muffins made lovingly by her mother and stocked in the larder for her darling daughter’s sweet tooth also had pride of place in the trunk.
Selena had kept a few useful utensils from the kitchen as well as the expensive China and the few pieces of Silver. Some jewellery belonging to her mother was kept in a trinket box which Selena decided to wear on special occasions. “You can rest tonight miss. Tomorrow my wife Betty will help you unpack and settle down. Freshen up and come downstairs to the drawing room. Dinner is at 8:30.” “Thank you, Brett, I’ll do that” smiled Selena as he closed the door behind him.
Selena thanked God for providing a roof over her head and vowed to make the best of things. She missed her previous life very badly but believed that life had to go on. She knew she would be happy at the Manor and kept busy so that she won’t have time to grieve over her sudden loss too much.
Dinner was eaten in the dining room waited upon by Brett himself. Lady Augusta was dressed for dinner in her silks and Chiffon and Selena had changed from her formal jacket and skirt to a long printed cotton frock. There was Mushroom Soup, Chicken a-la Kiev, and Caramel Custard. Everything was very tasty and Selena ate with relish. After coffee in the drawing room, served by Betty, Lady Augusta asked her to read the Charles Dickens book lying near her, if Selena was not too tired.
“No my lady, I am not at all tired and it is always a pleasure to read a good book.” After a few chapters, both the ladies decided to retire for the night. “You can spend the morning settling your luggage Selena after you have had breakfast with me in the patio. Come down at 8 o’clock” “Good night my lady,” smiled Selena and left the room. She was quite tired by now. She lay down on her comfortable bed and started thinking of all that had happened in the last few days. After about 10 minutes, she fell into a deep peaceful sleep.
Next morning Selena went to the patio where Betty had already laid the breakfast table. They had cornflakes, eggs and toast, juice and coffee. The whole morning went in unpacking and with Betty’s help, most of her belongings were stored in the two big cupboards. Her books were kept on the bookshelf and her jewellery and silver were kept in a small almirah with a lock and key.
“Thanks, Betty, you have been such a gem I couldn’t have settled half of my belongings by myself. You are so kind.” “It’s a pleasure to have you in the Manor miss and if you need anything you just have to ask me,” smiled Betty as she kept the last of the photo frame on the dressing table.
By now it was time for lunch which was eaten in the drawing room. “Were you able to unpack and settle your things Selena?” asked her ladyship after lunch. “Yes my lady, I’ve done most of it. Betty was a real help.” “Good you will be able to settle down in a few days and I hope you will be happy while you are here.” “I’m quite sure I will thank you.”