*note* It’s been over a year since I last updated my prose/short story series. I’ve decided to get back into it, so here’s the follow-up after all this time. Enjoy!
Lost and Found– Part 12
“What are you thinking about?” Jasmine asked as they made their way to the living room.
“About a lot, I guess,” she shrugged settling onto the lumpy sofa. Jasmine took a seat next to her.
“Care to start with one?”
“Um…,” she started. “Well, I wanted to know when did you start to like me? Like that?”
It was Jasmine’s turn to hesitate.
“Oh, well…I suppose it was when you delivered to the Singhs’ for the first time. When I saw you, I felt like I’d already saw you before, somewhere else…”
“Yes, at the weekend market in August. You bought potatoes from me.”
“Right, of course! That I did. You looked rather surprised at me, and I wasn’t sure why. You were also really quiet, and you had this constant sad expression on your face. I guess that intrigued me, how you had that mysterious air about yourself.”
“I’m really not mysterious,” Lydia shrugged, slightly embarrassed. “If anything, I have a boring life.”
Jasmine slid closer to her on the sofa and looked up at her.
“Lydia, you don’t have a boring life. You have a wonderful one. What I would give to have it be with people I love.”
“But you have the Singhs’…”
“Yes, but they’re just my employers. They treat me well, but I’m not part of their family. My family is far away; I haven’t seen them since I started working almost five years ago. Ben’s probably the closest family I’ve got, and he’s still hours away.”
“You said you love him like a brother?” Lydia asked, a bit too abruptly. She immediately cringed at herself. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bring him up like that…”
“No, it’s fine. But yes, that’s how I feel. We’ve been together since we were children; our families are close friends, so it was natural that we became friends. And I thought that I did like him romantically when we became teenagers…we’ve even dated. But it wasn’t until I turned seventeen that, well, I was more in love with the idea of being in a relationship, you know? I don’t think I can remember a time that I felt in love with Ben, when we dated and did ‘couple activities.’
“…and I was lost. Really, I was. I didn’t know why I was feeling so hollow whenever I was with him, how I never felt sparks fly when we kissed and made love. Did I truly love him? That’s what I kept asking myself throughout our time together.
“…I’m not sure exactly what had happened. When I saw you that day at the Singhs,’ it was as if something changed. It can’t quite explain it, but the closest would be…confusion. I’m usually comfortable around people, even those I don’t know, but with you, I couldn’t.”
“You sure did hide it well, because I didn’t notice anything at all.”
Jasmine laughed softly.
“Must be the etiquette the Singhs’ taught me when I started working for them. I usually default to polite mannerisms whenever I’m with people I don’t know. Especially those who make me nervous…”
“You’re the one to say it,” Lydia retorted, grinning. “I get so nervous when I’m with you.”
Jasmine laughed softly.
“No kidding. I think it’s cute, though.”
Lydia blushed. She turned away, embarrassed but pleased.
After a moment’s silence, she decided to ask.
“Does Ben like you, though? Would he be sad if you told him how you felt?”
“I’m not sure. He really does love me, I know that. But I think he also knows that I can’t completely return the same feelings for him. Actually, I plan to talk to him when I visit him in two weeks’ time, because I don’t think I can keep on being with him if I can’t love him that way…”
Jasmine’s face suddenly changed, growing solemn. But she quickly shook it off, turning to Lydia.
“Moving away from my family, my hometown when I was little…well, I was hoping that life would be simpler. That I would work, earn enough to send back to my family, and eventually return to get married to Ben. Interesting how life takes a turn…and I’m glad it did.”
Lydia looked at her, astounded. Just as Jasmine had poured herself out to her earlier that afternoon, she was doing more. She wasn’t sure what to make of it, but at the same time she felt even the more attracted to her.
Awkwardly, she reached for the small girl’s hand, laying hers on top. Jasmine smiled demurely, cheeks slightly pink.
“I spoke too much, didn’t I?” she asked, sheepishly.
“No, I…I think you spoke well enough,” Lydia responded, unsure of what to say.
“Glad to hear it,” Jasmine laughed, returning to ease.
Hannah entered the common room, carrying a huge platter of assorted biscuits and aperitives. Lydia quickly removed her hand away from Jasmine’s. Even if she knew that Hannah wouldn’t have minded, she still felt self-conscious showing intimacy in front of her cousin.
“Care for a pre-dinner aperitif?” she asked, placing the platter on the coffee table with a flourish. The platter was a jumbled array of different cookies and cakes that she probably had just pulled out of the pantry and dumped onto the plate. As for the aperitifs, she most likely grabbed whatever bottles were in the cupboard, perhaps even one from her aunt’s room.
“Hannah, ever thought about organizing a bit?” Lydia teased, scrutinizing the messy platter with a raised eyebrow.
“No can do, cousin. You know me. Besides, I think it’s a work of art. How life is a mess and this aperitive platter reflects that…” she responded, raising her hands up theatrically. Jasmine laughed, utterly amused by this exchange between the two girls.
“I take it you two get along well?” the servant girl asked.
“Like sisters, practically,” Hannah responded as she poured out three small glasses of gin. “By the way, Lyddie, don’t tell mom that I stole her gin…”
“…again,” Lydia finished her sentence. “You know you’re going to get a pounding when she finds out after returning.”
Hannah shrugged nonchalantly, handing a glass to Jasmine.
“I’m used to it. She loves me, anyway. Plus, I see you need to relax. Jasmine here, too…”
Jasmine accepted the glass, thanking her.
“You’ve had gin before, Jasmine?” Hannah asked curiously.
“Yes, but not much,” the servant girl replied, taking a small sip. “Sometimes when I dine with the Singhs’, we have wine. But that’s about it.”
Lydia took a sip from her glass, feeling the clear liquid coat her throat, then stomach, with a gentle burning sensation. She felt at ease immediately.
“So how long have you worked at the Singhs’?” Hannah asked, popping a biscuit into her mouth before taking a swig of gin.
“Almost ten years. I left my town at eight years old. I go back to see my family every year, though, when the Singhs’ are on their summer holiday.”
“I imagine it can get lonely the rest of the year otherwise? Being so far away from home?”
“Yes, quite,” Jasmine shrugged. “But I stay in touch with them through letters. Write to them every month. I know some family friends the next town over, so I pay them a visit sometime.”
Hannah nodded understandingly.
“Have you lived here your whole life?” Jasmine asked, looking at Hannah before turning to Lydia. Once again, her large eyes made her weak, but she forced herself to look at them.
“Yes, well, not Lyddie,” Hannah responded. “She didn’t live too far, though, just across the river. Came to live with us about seven years ago…”
“…since her parents died, right?” Jasmine finished.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.
“Oh goodness, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything bad,” the servant girl stuttered, her face reddening in embarrassment. “It slipped out, really, my apologies…”
“No, no. It’s okay,” Lydia responded quietly, but reassuringly. “Everyone in town knows, and I get the question often. Don’t worry about it.”
Jasmine nodded, looking less embarrassed although still somewhat upset.
Something buzzed in the kitchen.
“Ah! That’s the timer,” Hannah announced excitedly. “Gratin’s ready…finally. I’m starving.”
“But you demolished half of the biscuit’s tray. And the gin,” Lydia teased. The biscuits were mostly gone, her cousin having eaten the majority of them.
Hannah clucked her tongue disapprovingly.
“Biscuits were just warm-up. Come, let’s get the stuff out to eat. Jasmine, you can get seated at the table; we’ll be right out.”
“Thank you, Hannah. Let me help you set up the table.”
“Nah, you’re our guest, so just take a seat.”
“I insist, Hannah. It’s the least I can do for letting me stay for dinner.”
“Well, all right…”
Lydia took out the potato gratin from the oven while Hannah hastily made a salad. Jasmine took the plates and silverware out from the cabinet just behind the oven, from where Lydia was pulling the gratin out.
“Looking strong there,” Jasmine whispered behind her, as she was holding the heavy casserole dish. Startled, Lydia turned around, seeing the servant girl grinning ear-to-ear. She blushed as she gave her a teasing wink before heading to the table.
Lydia laughed a little, shaking her head. There was much to the servant girl that she didn’t know. And she wanted to know more.
…to be continued…
— The Finicky Cynic
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