House of Harwood-Tangled Beginnings by Olivia Batker Pritzker

Harwood front pageVote at the end of this episode!

Previously… Clarissa’s lunch at the Harwood estate is interrupted by the arrival of a girl named Emily. Readers voted that she is the head butler’s daughter.

Episode 10

Emily glanced briefly at the two visitors, her eyes lingering for a second on Clarissa. Clarissa was startled to see the desperation clearly present in Emily’s bottle-green eyes. Clarissa turned to look at John, expecting a somewhat bored, indifferent expression, and was even more startled. He was working to hide his emotion, but Clarissa could see the same pain she had felt when Richard was sent away. So John was in love with this girl.

“Emily’s father is our head butler,” Victoria said smoothly, “and Emily is apparently still learning where she is and is not welcome.”

Clarissa smiled inwardly. Perhaps she had underestimated him.

Victoria turned to Emily before she could open her mouth to respond.

“As I’ve told you before, Emily, living here is a privilege. Unless you can learn to follow the rules, that privilege will be revoked.”

Clarissa noticed that Victoria was folding and refolding her napkin in her lap as she spoke. Victoria seemed to know what Emily was attempting to say, and Clarissa could tell it was distressing her underneath that poised, unruffled demeanor. Clarissa glanced at John again. He was looking at the table.

“Mrs. Harwood, please -” Emily took a step closer, at the same time looking over her shoulder at the two advancing butlers Victoria has signaled. “I have to tell you something. Please listen to me -“

“That is enough, Emily! If you have something to say to me, we will discuss it at an appropriate time.”

Victoria turned to the butlers, who were looking back and forth between Emily and Victoria, and didn’t seem to know what to do.

“Please remove her from the room.”

“John.” As she was escorted out, Emily’s bright eyes fixed on the young man concentrating hard on the china plate in front of him. It looked as though she was going to beg him for help, but then she stopped, and Clarissa saw a tear slip down her cheek.

“John I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

The door to the dining room clicked shut, and there was a silence.

Victoria seemed to be gathering her thoughts for a moment, then, as calm as ever, addressed her guests.

“I apologize for that unseemly interruption, I assure you it won’t happen again. Emily is…quite dramatic at times. Her father is a great man and an invaluable member of our household, and perhaps for that reason, we allow her more leniency than we should.”

She took a small sip of water from a crystal goblet.

“However those are my problems to sort out, and I won’t bore you any further with them. Let us get on with lunch.”

At that, the door opened again and trays piled high with fruit tarts, chocolate mousse, coffee and tea were brought in and set upon the table. Between the serving and the pouring and the stirring of sugar cubes, Clarissa saw a small glance pass between John and his mother.

After the last drop of coffee was gone, Victoria and John walked their guests out to the entrance hall. Rose and Clarissa thanked their hosts profusely for a wonderful lunch, and Victoria warmly thanked them for coming. Only John’s demeanor reflected that anything unusual had happened – he seemed preoccupied and only after a sharp word from his mother did he snap back into the charming, gracious host he had been before Emily’s appearance.

As they exited the Harwood mansion, Clarissa looked back at the imposing structure. She felt the immense weight of secrets undiscussed, undisclosed, and buried under a smooth veneer of excessive wealth and perfect appearances. She shuddered slightly, though from discomfort or excitement she wasn’t sure.Vote below on what will happen next or if viewing from email, click Take our Poll.

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