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It had not been difficult to convince Iris she was a new maid. Usually, Wichapi would just control her mind, making the young woman believe whatever she desired, but somehow, out of respect of knowing she was Brenzel’s daughter, she didn’t want to do that.

The head housekeeper, whom she did control, told Iris. “M’lady, Wichapi will be your new personal servant,” she said. “As you directed, we let the other go without references. I hope that this new girl will give better service.”

“We shall see,” Iris said, looking Wichapi up and down. “That will be all,” she said curtly.

With a curtsy, the head housekeeper left.

Wichapi stood silent in her servant’s uniform as Iris walked around her. The young woman studied her up and down, asking, “Why should you be my servant? You’re the one from the other night, weren’t you? What were you doing skulking about the grounds that late?”

Wichapi didn’t answer.

“I don’t like you,” Iris finished, turning away.

You sound so much like your mother! Wichapi thought.

Coming around to face the young lady, Wichapi said, “M’lady, to all those around you, you appear strong and confident. Yet,” she looked intently into Iris’ eyes, “we both know you are not. I will serve you like the others, yet you will be yourself around me. Is that not better than having to pretend?”

Iris’s petulant look softened a little. She unfolded her arms. “Just because you saw me at a moment of despair, do not take me for a weakling. I assure you that would be a mistake.”

“Yes M’lady, I understand,.” Wichapi said, lowering her eyes.

I hate pretending

“But you’re right, I hate pretending,” Iris said, turning toward the chair near her vanity. “Come, do my hair and help me prepare for dinner. Papa has guests, and he expects me to entertain.”

“Yes, M’lady.”

Iris sat down, then turned back toward Wichapi. “It’s the queerest feeling. It’s like I know you, but that’s…impossible. When are you from, are you from India?”

Thinking fast, Wichapi replied, “I don’t know my home, I was orphaned as a child when young.”

Turning back to look at Wichapi’s reflection in the mirror, she stated confidently, “You must certainly be Indian then, your dark complexion and hair confirm it.” Smiling through the mirror at Wichapi standing behind her back, putting the brush to her hair, Iris said, “When we are alone, you may call me Iris.”

Smiling, Wichapi said, “Thank you, Iris.”

***

After Iris left for dinner, Wichapi compelled some maids to come straighten up and clean her mistress’ room. She watched how they did it, in case she needed to do it if Iris was around.

As the maids worked, Wichapi walked around, picking up and looking at Bren’s daughter’s brushes, combs, and make-up, curious at all the different colors, textures, and smells. She leaned forward, looking at her teeth in the mirror as the maids were busy in the refection. Why cover your face? she wondered, turning hers side to side. Humph, why?

Sending the maids away, Wichapi sat on a chair, looking around Iris’ room. The four-posted bed dominated. The chair and the vanity were to the left of the bed, a large set of drawers to the right. A painting of a younger Iris playing a lute, hung above it.

Noticing gold and sparkles on the top of the set of drawers, Wichapi stood and walked to them. There were various pieces of jewelry inset in an ornate box. The box folded out, revealing a great assortment of rings, earrings, and golden necklaces set with requisite jewels. Why are these white people so in love with rocks? She mused.

She opened the first draw – underwear. Then second, third, and bottom, the fourth. Set inside the bottom drawer was a little wooden box inlaid with a cross. Hmm, Wichapi thought, what is this? Pulling it out of the drawer, she stood and held it, feeling the rough wood. She opened it.

Inside was a silver necklace and a little broach attached to it. Beneath the necklace lay a folded piece of paper. She opened it and read, “This was from your mother. Sister Miriam.”

Tears welled up in Wichapi’s eyes, for suddenly she realized what it must have felt like for Brenzel to lay that token of her love with her baby Iris as she left her on the steps of the abbey. She rubbed the silver broach, with a heart in the center, feeling the pain of her better half, so far way, so confused.

Wichapi swore, you will see your daughter.

***

Days passed with dinners, dances, outings to the countryside. Iris had a full social schedule. She wouldn’t talk about her fiancé’s passing, at least not yet. Oddly, she didn’t cry or seem upset about his death nearly as much as Wichapi thought she should be. Perhaps she did not love him? Or was her pain too great to face?

Iris and Wichapi sat in a gazebo near a pond full of ducks, each making their quacking noises. The trees provided a screen from the main house. Standing by Iris, she watched as the house servant poured tea in the young ladies cup.

That will be all, Iris said, adding, “see that I am not disturbed, I want solitude.”

Yes, M’lady, the young woman said.

Watching her disappear among the trees, Iris looked up saying

“Do you wish for some tea, Wichapi?” Iris offered from the set that another maid had brought in.

“No, but thank you for offering.”

“Why, don’t you like tea?” Iris asked, sounding offended.

“It’s muddy water, it tastes terrible,” Wichapi confessed.

Looking at her oddly, Iris said, “I thought all people from India liked tea.”

“Not all,” Wichapi said, “but I will have a biscuit.”

Iris smiled, handing her one. Gesturing, Iris said, please, sit with me and keep me company. Wichapi took a chair, sitting. The young redhead tilted her head as she looked at Wichapi. “I like having you around,” she said. Leaning forward, she spoke in soft tones, “I will tell you a secret if you promise to not to tell.”

“Of course I won’t tell,” Wichapi said, swallowing the bite of her sweetbread.

“I’m not a Harringtone.” *** check name.

“What do you mean?” Wichapi asked, staring at Iris.

“I was adopted. Or rather bought is more accurate.”

“Like a slave?”

Yes and no

“Well, no and yes. You see, Lord Harringtone’s wife, my ‘mother’,” she said with sneer, “lost her baby when she was only 6 months years old. She was so distraught, she became depressed. I am told it was quite serious and he actually feared for her life. So, they looked for a replacement, hoping that it would help, and they found me.” She leaned back in her chair, swirling the tea around in her cup. “I was rather expensive, or at least burying the secret of my origin was. You see,” she continued, looking up at Wichapi, “a true Harringtone’s daughter can be married off to another wealthy family for advantage, whereas an adopted daughter would bring nothing. So I’m a imposter. I’m no more special than you,” she said with disdain, waving her hand toward Wichapi. “I’m quite the family secret. What do you think of that?” Iris set her cup down and folded her arms, as if challenging Wichapi.

“So, you know you’re adopted?”

“Yes, I pieced it together when I was about 13. I don’t look like them. People whispered about me. I heard some old aunts say one time that mother “bred out.” Some thought I looked like old cousin Herbert, twice removed,” Iris picked up her cup again, and stared into it. “I eventually got up the courage to confront mother about the possibility of being Cousin Herbert’s daughter. Hah!” she said, rolling her eyes, “it was a horrendous fight and she beat me rather soundly. Made me swear never to speak of it again. But I eventually figured out that I must be adopted. Cousin Herbert’s too old and ugly anyway.”

We fought all the time after that and eventually I ran away. I had taken some of father’s money and I was determined to never go back. I don’t know how I did, but after a few days, I found the abbey where I was left as a baby. I stood on the steps for a long time just looking at the cold stone. A old nun found me out in the rain and brought me inside. I was cold and getting sick. She dried me off, fed me. After a while she looked at me strangely, saying she remembered me.

Iris bent down, removing the small box from a bag beside her chair, handing it to Wichapi. ‘That’s they only thing I have left of my real mother, an old nun said she found it in the dirty blanket is was swaddled in.

Removing the small locket, she felt the heart in the middle of the silver broach. Wichapi paused, almost unable to say it, but the words slipped from her lips anyway, “Do you miss your real mother Iris?”

“Oh God, no,” she laughed, waving her arm, “she abandoned me, I hate the old hag.”

Go Crystal Tears by John Dowland

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