Chapter Six time! Quick thank you to @scribeninja and @Seastarr08 for their pre-reading opinions and awesomeness, and to everyone on here and on FF for the continued support, it only kinda rocks my socks 😉
The dinner was a strange one. It was so very casual for one, and for another, I was clearly still just a maid dining with a Lady and a Gentleman. The looks I received from others in the pub were almost bordering on comical as a result.
“How is the leg these days, Eric?” Pam asked, sipping on her drink, all of us having finished our meals. The small talk that we made was slightly awkward at first, but with Pam there, things didn’t stay awkward for long.
“It has its bad days, like the rest of me, I suppose.”
I didn’t interrupt and he continued, looking to me.
“It’s why they sent me home, from France. I caught some shrapnel to the leg. I thought for sure for a moment that I’d lose it, but I got a good doctor,” he shrugged.
“Oh…” I said, sipping my rum. What else was I to say? Sorry you had to go to war to almost die, only to come back here and lose everything you hold dear… Drink? No, I just kept quiet and let them talk, much like I’d done all evening. I had heard and seen the horror stories of war, having lived in a small halfway house just by one of the larger hospitals in London for a time. Poor men in uniform going in, coming out, with all manner of injuries. Some with missing legs, some with no hands, some with half a face. I can only imagine how horrific it was to go through what they all went through, what some of them were still going through, just to keep us free.
“You’re very quiet, Sookie. I had hoped that we didn’t scare you as much now that you know me a little better at least. I can’t speak for lanky limbs here,” she smiled, nudging me with her shoulder with a smile.
“I’m not scared.” I looked to Eric. “At least not anymore. I just like listening since it’s clear that you two are really great friends. I’ve not had that since I left home… It’s just nice to see, that’s all.”
“Are none of the staff even a little bit friendly? I can’t imagine living in an environment like that,” Pam tutted to herself as she poked at her meal some more.
“No, there is one or two that are just lovely, thank goodness, but they’re few and far between,” I smirked. “But I am thankful for them.”
“Like Trey?” Eric asked, not looking directly at me, and Pam sat up a little straighter.
“Uh, yes, like Trey. He’s a nice guy, and Amelia too, she’s a sweetheart.”
“I’m sure he is,” Eric clipped, and I didn’t much like his tone.
“You don’t like Trey?” Pam asked Eric, and he just shrugged again.
“I like him well enough, I suppose.”
“Yes, its obvious,” she rolled her eyes. “Have you made your decision about London yet? I still think it would be good for you. Get you out of this godforsaken place for a few months, get you back into the swing of things.”
“What if I don’t want in the swing anymore?”
She cocked an eyebrow and grinned, “You, not swing? Wonders will never cease.”
I blushed, and I think for a second Eric did too.
“Pam, as much as I love you, do I have to remind you that not everyone is as … open minded as you when it comes to such things.”
“Yes, yes, also known as bores,” she sighed. “I have tried to get you-” he just raised his brow at her and that shut her up.
“Well, regardless, it’ll be ever so boring without you there to help me make fun of all the old fogies. I really think you ought to think it over. Besides, I heard Niall talking last night and he wants to ‘try out the new girl’ for a season. I assume he means you, Sookie.”
“What … what does he mean … try out?” I said with apparent fear in my eyes because she patted my hand, and handed me another drink.
“Oh don’t worry, Niall isn’t like that at all, not with the staff…” she glared at Eric. “You see, Niall knows his bounds, and he’s never looked at another woman since his wife died. He was so devoted, and besides, he’s seventy almost. I don’t even want to think about old man peni-”
“Pamela!” Eric said, looking around, and it was obvious we were being watched, so I gathered there was eavesdropping as well.
I hid my smile behind my hand. I really couldn’t help but laugh, he looked so offended and she so amused by his offense. It seemed that that was her game; she liked making him, or anyone, just a little uncomfortable.
“I really shouldn’t be drinking. I never do, and it’s having quite the effect on me.”
“Is that so?” Pam asked, flirting again, causing Eric to roll his eyes and sip his coffee. “How much of an effect are we talking about here, New Orleans?”
I smirked catching her drift. “Not enough, and besides, I thought only one of the guests at the Estate liked to dabble with the help, Pam,” I said to her, but pointedly about Eric.
“Oh, wonderful, now you’re both on my back about that.”
“It’s not so much diddling the help that I have an issue with, darling, because let’s face it, some of them are just … yummy,” she smiled and I shook my head. “But it’s that girl, she’s clearly just the devil in an apron after what she did to Sookie, and I know you’re attracted to a girl with a bit of bitch in her, but seriously Eric, the next time-”
“There won’t be a next time, don’t worry about that.”
“I’m not saying cut off your balls to spite your libido, just choose better … next time,” she said, looking at me, and I had to speak up.
“It’s not like that with him and I, so you can stop the anvil sized hints, Miss Pam.”
She pouted when Eric laughed.
“And why not? You’re adorable, and as far as I can tell, not completely mental.”
“Well, thanks? I think,” I replied, finishing off my drink. “No, we’re friends. At least we’re going to attempt something of a friendship. He can get his end away with whom he chooses, but it shan’t be with me.” I didn’t dare look at Eric when I was discussing it. I couldn’t really believe I was discussing it at all. There was just something about Pam, and Eric if I was being truthful that just made me want to share and be outrageous.
She sighed. “Well that is a shame. You’re too cute to be so celibate, darling.”
“Thank you for the compliments, but it’s just not in the cards for me. I’ve explained this to those who need it explained, and I hope that it’s understandable.”
Eric nodded into his coffee, and Pam just pouted again sighing, “I’ll never understand an attractive woman resigning herself to the life of a nun simply because it’s ‘frowned upon’ to do otherwise. The war is changing the world, and I hope against hope it’ll be for the better, of all of us.”
It was easy for her to say. If I took a lover and got pregnant what happened to me then? Or the child? Or my job? No, there were far too many risks involved, and they were ones I just couldn’t afford to take because I was attracted to someone I had no business even being attracted to.
“I really must be getting back… It’s getting late, and I’ll have some organizing to do before lights out.”
“Must we? Selah … Quinn … Must we?” Eric asked, his voice full of faux drama. He made Pam and I smile as we began to slip into our coats.
The drive back was interesting. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in motorcars since I’d arrived in England, and even less so since I’d arrived in Scotland. Miss Pam and I sat in the back, and for a moment it was almost as if I were a Lady again, with a little money and a hell of a lot more pride. Eric drove the car around back, letting me out at the side of the house. I knew I couldn’t enter through the front door, no matter how friendly I was with the two of them now. It just wouldn’t be fitting.
“I’ll be up in moment, Miss Pamela, to see to your night clothes.”
“Thank you, and thank you for this evening. It was a great respite from the usual boring chatter,” she smiled, kissing me on each cheek like I’d seen some of the French ladies do in London from time to time. Eric took my freezing cold hand and helped me from the car.
“Thank you, Mr. Northman,” I smiled, almost unwilling to let go of his warm hand.
“Back to that then are we?”
“Needs must…” I nodded. “Goodnight.”
“Yes, goodnight Sookie,” he nodded before going around again, and getting in to drive Pam to the front of the house. I took my basket of long forgotten shopping and made my way merrily to the back door, where of course I ran smack dab into Dawn. She glared, and I just ignored her as I hastily made my way to my room to change before seeing to Miss Pamela and shutting down for the night. I was just fastening my apron when I heard a knock, and she didn’t wait for an answer before she just waltzed into my bedroom.
“What do you want? Sorry, there aren’t anymore baked goods for you to ruin in here, you’ll just have to search out the kitchen.”
“Still prissy about your stupid little cake then?”
“Mr. Northman didn’t think it was stupid though, did he?” I glared at her through the mirror before I braided my hair and twisted it in a bun to hide under my cap.
“Is that where you were all day, with him?”
“I don’t really see how I spend my days is any of your business.”
“The car, his car, dropped you off.”
“Did it?” I feigned ignorance with a smile.
“Why?” She took a breath. “I just don’t see it. You’re nothing special.”
“Aw, aren’t you sweet. You too,” I turned to face her, ignoring her jibes.
“He loves me.”
I chortled, unable to keep it in.
“Oh, please. You don’t really believe that do you? If you do…you have a way to go before you’re schooled on the ways of the world, Dawn, especially this world.”
“I was the one he depended on, when they passed. I was the one he wanted around. I was the one he took to his bed-”
“Please stop, you’re embarrassing yourself, you know that?”
“I don’t care. He’s mine, and you can just keep your filthy American hands off him.”
I rolled my eyes. Her insults really were a bit crap, weren’t they?
“Dawn, you’re a maid, just like me,” I smiled. “The only difference is that I know my place here, and you seem to forget you aren’t his wife, and you really aren’t even his mistress – if that conversation I overheard meant anything. All I heard was your shamelessness and his shame. At least pretend to have some dignity.”
“You’re an evil bitch, you know that!”
“I am? Really? How so? Because I befriended a man without trying to get him into bed? Without trying to improve my lot in life? Oh shudder at the thought,” I said, dripping in sarcasm. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have to see to Miss Pamela before bed.”
She laughed, bitterly.
“Is that why you don’t want him then? Because she’s more your type than his? I always knew there was something queer about you.”
“You are … wrong. More wrong than I thought possible. She’s a nice woman, something I’m sure you know nothing about, that’s all.”
“I see how she looks at you,” she snarled.
“And I see how he doesn’t look at you, now,” I sighed. “Are we quite done here?”
Just at that Amelia poked her head around the door, thank heaven for small favours.
“What’s going on in here? You can almost hear you both in the great hall!”
“Sorry, I’m just finishing up,” I said, walking past Dawn out into the hallway, and making my way quickly up the stairs.
“Miss Stackhouse?” I stopped in my tracks as I passed one of the bedrooms. It was Mr. Quinn. He and I had had very little interaction outside of bidding each other good day and such.
“Yes, Mr. Quinn, what can I get for you?”
“I was wondering if you’d show me the knack to opening the windows. I need some air, but the darn things just don’t seem to want to open.”
“Of course, there is a particular knack to it, let me show you.”
I walked into his room; this room was rarely used if only for guests, I was told. It was decorated as lavishly as the rest of the house of course, but there was something cold about it, and I didn’t just mean the temperature. I didn’t notice it at the time, but he clicked the lock on his bedroom door when I entered. I stood on my tiptoes to reach the window latch, and yanked and yanked until it gave way.
“There you go, Mr. Quinn. Be sure to close it before you-” I turned around and he was undressing, much to my dismay.
“Mr. Quinn, I ask you to wait until I leave before you-”
“Why would I wait? It’s because of you that I’m undressing. I’d like … to get to know you better, Miss Stackhouse.”
“You … you would?” I gulped, trying my best to figure some way of talking myself out of this one.
“Yes. I see you in here each morning, lighting the fires, going about your business ever so silently, and I kept thinking I’d like to know what you’d be like when you’re not forced to be so silent.”
My stomach felt sick, and a sweat began to break out on the back of my neck.
“I … don’t think it would be appropriate, Mr. Quinn. I … should leave.”
“You should but you won’t … will you?” he said, stalking towards me as I leaned up against the window, hoping against hope that it would break and set me free, never mind that I was several dozen feet up in the air.
“Mr. Quinn, PLEASE,” I said finding my outside voice, not that anyone would hear me.
“Please what?” he smirked.
“Please put your clothes … back on, and please just let me be.”
“I will, when I’m finished with you.”
“Please? I beg you not to do this.”
“No one has to know,” he grinned, and I felt disgusted. Still pressed up against the window, I held my ground, not that it did me much good, but I held my place and grasped my apron in an attempt to keep him from pushing up my dress.
“Wouldn’t you rather do this with someone willing? I’m sure there are more than enough willing women, Mr. Quinn,” I said through tears that I couldn’t stop from falling.
“Oh shush, you’ll enjoy it eventually if you’d just relax, now come here.”
I shook my head.
“I said come here!” he yelled, and I just closed my eyes.
I wanted to stop shaking. I was willing myself to be strong, and yet somehow I just couldn’t manage it. He placed his hand around my throat, as his other hand made its way up my skirt. I wondered if I vomited all over him, if it would dull his desire for this. I doubted it. Just as I felt his hand on my garters, there was a sharp knock on the bedroom door.
I froze, as did he.
“Yes?” he asked loudly to whomever was on the other side of the door. I wanted to scream but I knew if I did I’d only be in deeper trouble.
“Mr. Quinn, it’s Pamela.”
“I believe my Ladies Maid is in there with you. I need her, so if you could send her on out.”
“Pamela. I’m quite busy, come back later.”
My heart was beating out of my chest, and I wanted more than anything to just run to the door, but I was trapped against the window.
“I’m sorry. I can’t do that Mr. Quinn, send her out now.”
He looked at me with pure disdain as he reached for his robe and pushed me to the side. I took my leave and ran to the door, slowing down when I got there to unlock it.
Her eyes were full of concern on the other side, and I wanted to hug her in thanks. However she knew, I didn’t care, I just cared that she had impeccable timing.
“I seem to have split my dress, the one I wanted to wear for dinner tomorrow night, and I need it fixed. Sorry to drag you away from whatever it was Mr. Quinn needed you for,” she said to me, but her eyes said otherwise.
“Honestly Pamela, you women, one hole in a dress and it’s the end of the fucking world,” he cursed with disdain, and she just rolled her eyes.
“It is if it’s couture, Mr. Quinn. Goodnight,” she said, walking on as I followed. When we got to her room I simply couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst into tears.
“Thank you … you have no idea he …”
“I have an idea all right, come here,” she said, hugging me.
“How did you know that he was-”
“He’s a randy old bugger, and Amelia let it slip that she didn’t like him very much. Said he was very hands-y when she ran into him earlier, and she likes everyone. Besides, he propositioned myself and Selah too, and when I heard rattling at his window, I opened mine and they’re practically side by side … I heard everything.”
“Oh. Thank God for that.”
“Indeed. Here…” she said, handing me a tumbler of whiskey. “It’ll calm your nerves.”
I took it gladly, my hands shaking as I did so.
“Fucking men…” Pam sighed. “I hate that they think they have a right just because they have a dick.”
I nodded, and just at that a knock came to her door, and I swore I jumped the height of myself.
“Eric, oh good it’s only you,” she said with a sigh as he entered the room cautiously, surprise lit his face as he saw me.
“Are you alright? You’re the colour of the walls.”
I just shook my head.
“Mr. Quinn has to leave, as soon as possible, Eric,” Pam said instead.
“He…” She looked to me, and I nodded.
“He tried to have his way with a rather unwilling Sookie tonight. Is that the kind of man you want as a guest here?”
His eyes went wide, “What?”
I just felt shame.
“I did nothing to encourage him I just-”
“No, Sookie I doubt you did. Jesus … that bastard. Did he hurt you?”
I shook my head. “No … he was going to have his way … whether I wanted to participate or not. Had Pam not intervened when she did, my night would have been a lot worse, that’s for sure.”
Eric looked like he wanted to kill something, but I couldn’t let that happen. Instead, I told him to stop pacing and have a drink with us, that it would help me more than possibly beheading one of the guests.
“But to just think he has the right to … violate a woman … I …”
“I know, but it’s fine.”
“Sir, no disrespect, but he wasn’t the first to think he had it easy with a housemaid and he probably won’t be the last.”
He looked disgusted. “I may be a lot of things, Sookie, but I have never forced myself on anyone in my life, in any way.”
“Of course not, why would you need to,” I sighed. “I can see it’s not in your character.”
“His however … He’ll be on the first train in the morning, I can assure you of that. I’ll speak to Niall right away.”
“I don’t want to be a cause of any-”
“He was the cause though, Sookie, when he thought he could hurt you like that. No, he has to leave.”
I nodded, and I noticed Eric had a book in his hands, he saw me notice.
“Oh, Pam, I found the book you were after, that’s why I’m here. I wanted to give it to you for some night time reading. I think you’ll like it.”
She nodded and thanked him with a kiss to his cheek, and he took a step closer to the door.
“I better be going,” I said, standing up and leaving my glass by the canter. “Thank you so much, again, Miss Pamela. Really.”
“Don’t worry about that, you just go and get some rest, all right?”
“I’ll see you for dressing in the morning.”
“Eric, be a darling and walk Sookie to the servants quarters,” she quirked a brow at him and he shifted his stance, as if he felt awkward about her request.
“There’s no need, really, I can get there without-”
“Not while he’s still in this house, and not at night, so please just let him escort you? So I can sleep easier?”
I gave in. She really was great at the guilt tripping, that Pamela.
We made our way through the halls wordlessly, as everyone was most likely asleep, and I wanted no more drama that night. By the time we got to the ground floor entrance, we both stopped.
“Do you want me to walk me to your room?” he asked in a whisper.
“No thank you, this was very kind of you. And please tell Pam I got here safe and untouched by prying hands,” I smiled a little, attempting to make light of it as best I could.
“I’m sorry that happened to you,” he said, fixing his serious blue eyes on mine.
“I am too, but it could have been a lot more … horrific. Small favours that Pam heard what she did.”
“Yes, for once her busybody nature paid off,” he smiled, and it made smile too.
“Yes, it did.” I shifted self-consciously, the air between us filled with something awkward and unsure.
“Goodnight then,” I nodded, and he did too, stepping back as I went through to the other side.
“Yes?” I asked turning at the head of the stairs.
“I … was thinking, if you get a break tomorrow … if you’d like to accompany me for a walk. Someone told me I need more air,” he smiled, bashfully, “and I know of your fondness for walking.”
“Only if you can steal away, and only if you want to, of course.” He said with hope in his voice and eyes wide and earnest.
I thought about it carefully. I had a spare hour or so between luncheon and having to prepare for dinner service.
“No, I’d like that. Weather permitting?”
“Of course,” he smiled. “Goodnight.”
It wasn’t a good night. It had been nothing short of horrific, but by the time I got back to my room and snuggled into bed I began to think that perhaps it had had a happy ending, and that’s what I had to focus on.
Every cloud, after all.