Author’s Note: Sorry the pictures in this are so dark, they take place during night so I shot them at night. I hope you enjoy the litle flash back. Someone mentioned recently in a comment that they enjoyed the screenshots away from the school and I know one corridor isn’t that much different from another, but I though I’d add them in anyway and they show quite a bit of background character information I think 🙂
“I think this must be the naughtiest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” I whispered to Jo as she peeped out of our bedroom door.
“Poor deprived child!” she said in mock pity, “besides, I don’t know that it IS that naughty, I mean, it’s not even term time…”
“Fancy running in to Miss Jane?”
“Lord no! The coast is clear! Lets go!”
We slipped out of our room and tiptoed across the hall to the door leading to the servants corridors. You wouldn’t think there’d be anyone about at midnight but just to be sure we opened the door a crack and peaked through to check before we opened it fully.
“Now, Tomas said to go up these stairs.” Jo said.
“Didn’t he think it odd that you wanted to know how to find her?” I asked as we made our way up.
“If he did he didn’t ask any questions.”
“And you sure she doesn’t share a room with anyone?”
“Odd, I know, but Tomas said she didn’t. Her room isn’t in the servant’s quarters proper though, I know where those are, so maybe they ran out of rooms for her there and had to find another.”
“Yes, Gladys shares with Dorcus already, I know because Gladys told me so.”
“Exactly.” We reached a door on a small landing. “Thats the last floor where the oldest girls sleep.” Jo told me. “And the servant’s accommodation is just above here We need to go across. Come on.”
Once more we peered through the door before opening it fully and despite the fact we knew the bedrooms on this floor were deserted we made our way past the oldest girl’s rooms on tiptoes and with baited breath. We found the small door leading to the other servant’s corridor just where Tomas said we would and once we were safely through that we let out our breaths.
“Phew!” I said. “We follow this corridor, then?”
We made our way down the servant’s corridor and at the end there was a door and a set of stairs.
“There are the stairs, we go up those?” I asked
“Thats what he said.” The stairs led us to a small landing where there was a door. Through the door and we found ourselves in a storage room fulled with boxes and trunks and disused furniture.
“And this is where he’s seen her come from?” I asked Jo.
“I think so.” She said. We waited for our eyes to adjust to the light and soon we spotted another staircase. ”Up here?” Jo suggested.
“I guess.” Jo led the way and we slowly wound our way up.
Two glints of light above met my eyes and I blinked in response. Eyes. Frankie was crouched at the top of the staircase and the light from below was reflecting into her eyes.
We made our way to the top of the stairs and she stood up.
“What are you doing here?” She asked.
“Sorry, did we startle you?”
“I just didn’t know who it was, that’s all.”
I looked around. It didn’t seem like a normal servants room, that’s for sure. There was a make-do quality about it.
“I— I wanted to talk to you.” I said to her. “Ever since that day in my room when you brought us food, do you remember?”
“You want to ask me about the painting.” Frankie said.
“Yes. And the Coopers. And why you don’t know their daughter.”
“Well, sit down.” Frankie gestured us to a bench and she pulled a stool over and sat across from us. “Where do I start?” She asked.
“The beginning.” Jo said.
“The beginning. I don’t remember the beginning. But I remember most of what came after.”
“The beginning of what?” I asked.
“I’m not sure who my parents are.” Frankie said, ignoring my question. I realized that up here we were in her domain, we were her guests and suddenly I felt we were just three girls talking. “My ma died birthing me and nobody knows who my father was. I guess I was born somewhere on or near the Cooper estate because they decided I was their responsibility. They fostered me with one of their tenants, he farmed but she worked up at the house and as soon as I was big enough I began going with her. I soon learned to scrub and clean. I guess I was born into service.”
“Well, that’s a common enough story,” I said. “But why—” I wasn’t quite sure what Frankie’s life story had to do with anything.
“The big house was the Cooper’s house.” Frankie continued. “Yes, the ones you know at Braklesie. I know they’re the same as they’re the only ones and I’ve heard letters from Mr and Mrs Hilton come. That’s your parents, aren’t they?”
“They have three sons, they do. Masters Albert and Hadley and Edmund.”
“But they have a daughter—”
“That’s right. You do know about her then?”
“Not as such… You’ve got the wrong end of something, but how I don’t know.”
“What ever do you mean?”
“I’m Frankie, always been know that below stairs. But my mother named me Francesca. Before she died. That’s my real name.”
“Francesca? Did she name you after Francesca Cooper?”
“There is no Francesca Cooper! And I should know. I may not have all your fancy learning but I know what my own name looks like, and I polished the brass nameplates of the family portraits enough times that I would have noticed if there was a Francesca there too.”
“How old are you?” I asked.
“I’m nine, Francesca was only a little younger than me. You could be a little younger than me. What’s your birthdate?”
“Oh but you must!” Jo cut in. “It would have been on your paperwork. The registry would have checked everything was in order with you when they took you up. How did you come to leave the Coopers anyway?”
“And what about the painting?” I asked.
“They had a painting like your one.” Frankie said. “Nobody ever visited it or looked at it, it was all forgotten in a corridor. I was cleaning it one day and Mr Cooper came along.”
“He was angry and took the painting down. I don’t know what he did with it but I never saw it since.”
“He got angry with you for cleaning a painting?” I rubbed my temples. Not one word of this conversation was making sense.
“Probably not. He’d just had another argument with Mrs Cooper so was liable to fly off the handle at anything, he’s got a bit of a temper to him has Mr Cooper.”
“Didn’t they get along then?” I asked. “Mother always talked about them as if they did.”
“No, it wasn’t like that, there was just something they disagreed on, that’s all. Eddie— I mean Master Edmund used to tell me about it. He didn’t like it when they argued. But what I want to know is how you have my name?” Frankie looked at me. “You knew there was a Francesca but you thought she was a daughter, not a servant. I don’t know how you got that muddled up, but how did you get my name in the first place?”
“My parents told me about Francesca— you— or whoever she is. The Cooper’s daughter called Francesca. They— they’ve met her.”
“Years ago. She was a baby.”
“So this Francesca isn’t me.” Frankie said. “Maybe she was a baby that died then never got talked about again. That happens.”
“Well, she was poorly, but Mrs Cooper wrote about her to Mother. They were living in Braklesie for her health so wouldn’t they have gone back home if she’d died?” Or not written to mother like she was still alive.
“No… they moved there because they couldn’t afford not to.” Frankie said. “Cook told me, they used to have an even grander house but they couldn’t afford to keep it up. Braklesie used to be just their winter residence” I knew we should be scolding Frankie for speaking thus of her former employers but neither of us did. Even Jo, it seemed, was more interested in What Frankie could tell us than protecting the class division.
“When did they move?” Jo asked.
“What’s your surname” She asked.
“Don’t have one.”
“But you must! What’s on your records, it would be your mother’s name if they don’t know your father.”
“I— I don’t have any papers.” At this I frowned and Jo sat forward.
“How did you come to leave the Coopers?” She asked again.
“One day they didn’t want me any more. Sent me off to Miss March’s and she found me a place here.”
“Ohhh! Lady D’Winter goes through Miss March?” Jo whistled.
“What?” I asked.
“Never mind.” Jo said.
“I can’t tell you any more.” Frankie said. “That’s all I know.”
“And now I think everything I knew was wrong.” I said.
We took our leave and made it back to our room in silence. My head was spinning. Far from answering my questions our conversation had created a million new ones, I just needed time to sort out my thoughts and figure out what those new questions were! When I eventually fell asleep my dreams were muddled and full of faces and people and strange paintings.
I wanted to talk to my mother.