Sometimes there are too many alternatives, too many ways to go. Possibilities multiply upon themselves with each potential choice. Sometimes there is no best alternative and it is a choice between the least worst options.
Sometimes it happens that the choice offered is really no choice at all.
Rella knew all this, and still she chose to open the door, knowing that she should choose to turn and walk away. She was still young but she knew nothing good ever came from such bargains as the one she’d made with the young Lord.
But she needed the job… for now.
‘You are to be the new maid.’ The housekeeper didn’t ask a question, so Rella did not answer.
‘He likes them pretty.’ Mrs Grell did not offer Rella a seat, so she stood hands clasped in front of her as the older woman studied her bearing.
Rella tried to appear meek, unworldly.
Mrs Grell nodded once, curtly as though Rella confirmed all her fears about the young women of today. ‘He’ll try it on, you know.’ Mrs Grell watched Rella’s face. ‘He’ll want to have you. You know what I mean, girl?’
Rella nodded. ‘I was brought up on a farm. I know what males are like.’
‘The barnyard is nothing like the posh folk… the aristocracy, young miss.’
‘No, the aristocracy is far worse than any rutting farmyard animal, and the young Lord is one of the worst.’ Mrs Grell sniffed. ‘And whatever happens… when it happens… unless you are lucky, or careful, then it is all your fault. Nothing to do with him.’ Mrs Grell stepped close. ‘You understand that? Oh, you’ll get a few bright coins, but you’ll be sent packing. Their family don’t want none of their bastards around here. You understand?’
Rella nodded. ‘Yes, Mrs Grell.’
‘Show me your hands.’
Rella held out her hands.
‘Good. I can see you aren’t scared of hard work.’ She pulled the door open. ‘Trinka, show the new girl to her room.’
Rella nodded to Mrs Grell and followed the scullery maid up the winding back stairs. On the way they chatted about whatever came into the scullery maid’s mind, mostly warnings about which of the male servants not to be stuck in the narrow winding stairs with.
The room up in the attic was tiny under the sloping roof. Alone in there, Rella could hear scuttling up above the ceiling, not knowing – or caring much – whether it was rats, bats or birds. She would not be here long.
She drew the long sharp knife out from where she’d hid it against her thigh. She needed a place to hide it in the room. The young Lord would expect her to be waiting, naked for him. She needed the knife in easy reach. She looked around the room, just a bed and a table holding a cracked water jug and stained basin.
What if the Lord preferred her to go to him?
Then she would be wearing clothes of some sort, she could hide the knife then.
But in here?
Changing her mind, Rella decide to keep the knife on her for now, just in case any of the male servants got the wrong idea and thought Rella really was a servant girl.