Passion, p.15
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       Passion, p.15

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 15

  Ha. It was all Luce could manage.

  Im off to set the table, sadly, Henrietta said, cradling a stack of china under her fleshy pink arm. Why not have a handful of flour ready to toss, just in case those girls come back this way? She winked at Luce and pushed the door open with her broad behind, then disappeared into the hallway.

  Someone else appeared in her place: a boy, also in a servants outfit, his face hidden behind a giant box of groceries. He set them down on the table across the kitchen from Luce.

  She started at the sight of his face. At least, having just seen Arriane, she was a little more prepared.

  Roland!

  He twitched when he looked up, then collected himself. As he walked toward her, it was her clothes Roland couldnt stop staring at. He pointed at her apron. Why are you dressed like that?

  Luce tugged at the tie on her apron, pulling it off. Im not who you think I am.

  He stopped in front of her and stared, turning his head first slightly to the left, then to the right. Well, youre the spitting image of another girl I know. Since when do the Biscoes go slumming in the scullery?

  The Biscoes?

  Roland raised an eyebrow at her, amused. Oh, I get it. Youre playing at being someone else. What are you calling yourself?

  Myrtle, Luce said miserably.

  And you are not the Lucinda Biscoe to whom I served that quince tart on the terrace two days ago?

  No. Luce didnt know what to say, how to convince him. She turned to Bill for help, but he had disappeared even from her view. Of course. Roland, fallen angel that he was, would have been able to see Bill.

  What would Miss Biscoes father say if he saw his daughter down here, up to her elbows in grease? Roland smiled. Its a fine prank to pull on him.

  Roland, it is not a--

  What are you hiding from up there, anyhow? Roland jerked his head toward the garden.

  A tinny rumbling in the pantry at Luces feet revealed where Bill had gone. He seemed to be sending her some kind of signal, only she had no idea what it was. Bill probably wanted her to keep her mouth shut, but what was he going to do, come out and stop her? A sheen of sweat was visible on Rolands brow. Are we alone, Lucinda?

  Absolutely.

  He cocked his head at her and waited. I dont feel that we are.

  The only other presence in the room was Bill. How could Roland sense him when Arriane had not?

  Look, Im really not the girl you think I am, Luce said again. I am a Lucinda, but I--Im here from the future--its hard to explain, actually. She took a deep breath. I was born in Thunderbolt, Georgia . . . in 1992.

  "Oh. " Roland swallowed. Well, well. He closed his eyes and started speaking very slowly: And the stars in the sky fell to the earth, like figs blown off a tree in a gale . . .

  The words were cryptic, but Roland recited them soulfully, almost like he was quoting a favorite line from an old blues song. The kind of song shed heard him sing at a karaoke party back at Sword & Cross. In that moment, he seemed like the Roland she knew back home, as if hed slipped out of this Victorian character for a little while.

  Only, there was something else about his words. Luce recognized them from somewhere. What is that? What does that mean? she asked.

  The cupboard rattled again. More loudly this time.

  Nothing. Rolands eyes opened and he was back to his Victorian self. His hands were tough and callused and his biceps were larger than she was used to seeing them. His clothes were soaked with sweat against his dark skin. He looked tired. A heavy sadness fell over Luce.

  Youre a servant here? she asked. The others--Arriane--they get to run around and . . . But you have to work, dont you? Just because youre--

  Black? Roland said, holding her gaze until she looked away, uncomfortable. Dont worry about me, Lucinda. Ive suffered worse than mortal folly. Besides, Ill have my day.

  It gets better, she said, feeling that any reassurance she gave him would be trite and insubstantial, wondering if what she said was really true. People can be awful.

  Well. We cant worry about them too much, can we? Roland smiled. What brought you back here, anyway, Lucinda? Does Daniel know? Does Cam?

  Cams here, too? Luce shouldnt have been surprised, but she was.

  If my timings right, hes probably just rolled into town.

  Luce couldnt worry about that now. Daniel doesnt know, not yet, she admitted. But I need to find him, and Lucinda, too. I have to know--

  Look, Roland said, backing away from Luce, his hands raised, almost as if she were radioactive. You didnt see me here today. We didnt have this talk. But you cant just go up to Daniel--

  I know, she said. Hell freak out.

  Freak out? Roland tried out the strange-sounding phrase, almost making Luce laugh. If you mean he might fall in love with this you--he pointed at her--then yes. Its really quite dangerous. Youre a tourist here.

  Fine, then Im a tourist. But I can at least talk to them.

  No, you cant. You dont inhabit this life.

  I dont want to inhabit anything. I just want to know why--

  Your being here is dangerous--to you, to them, to everything. Do you understand?

  Luce didnt understand. How could she be dangerous? I dont want to stay here, I just want to know why this keeps happening between me and Daniel--I mean, between this Lucinda and Daniel.

  Thats precisely what I mean. Roland dragged his hand down his face, gave her a hard look. Hear me: You can observe them from a distance. You can--I dont know--look through the windows. So long as you know nothing here is yours to take.

  But why cant I just talk to them?

  He went to the door and closed and bolted it. When he turned back, his face was serious. Listen, it is possible that you might do something that changes your past, something that ripples down through time and rewrites it so that you--future Lucinda--will be changed.

  So Ill be careful--

  There is no careful. You are a bull in the china shop of love. Youll have no way of knowing what youve broken or how precious it may be. Any change you enact is not going to be obvious. There will be no great sign reading IF YOU VEER RIGHT, YOU SHALL BE A PRINCESSS, VERSUS IF YOU VEER LEFT, YOULL REMAIN A SCULLERY MAID FOREVER. "

  Come on, Roland, dont you think I have slightly loftier goals than ending up a princess? Luce said sharply.

  I could venture a guess that there is a curse you want to put an end to?

  Luce blinked at him, feeling stupid.

  Right, then, best of luck! Roland laughed brightly. But even if you succeed, you wont know it, my dear. The very moment you change your past? That event will be as it has always been. And everything that comes after it will be as it has always been. Time tidies up after itself. And youre part of it, so you will not know the difference.

  Id have to know, she said, hoping that saying it aloud would make it true. Surely Id have some sense--

  Roland shook his head. No. But most certainly, before you could do any good, you would distort the future by making the Daniel of this era fall in love with you instead of that pretentious twit Lucinda Biscoe.

  I need to meet her. I need to see why they love each other--

  Roland shook his head again. It would be even worse to get involved with your past self, Lucinda. Daniel at least knows the dangers and can mind himself so as not to drastically alter time. But Lucinda Biscoe? She doesnt know anything.

  None of us ever do, Luce said around a sudden lump in her throat.

  This Lucinda, she doesnt have a lot of time left. Let her spend it with Daniel. Let her be happy. If you overstep into her world and anything changes for her, it could change for you, too. And that could be most unfortunate.

  Roland sounded like a nicer, less sarcastic version of Bill. Luce didnt want to hear any more about all the things she couldnt do, shouldnt do. If she could just talk to her past self--

  What if Lucinda could have more time? she asked. What if--

  Its impossible
. If anything, youll just hasten her end. Youre not going to change anything by having a chat with Lucinda. Youre just going to make a mess of your past lives along with your current one.

  My current life is not a mess. And I can fix things. I have to.

  I suppose that remains to be seen. Lucinda Biscoes life is over, but your ending has yet to be written. Roland dusted off his hands on his trouser legs. Maybe there is some change you can work into your life, into the grand story of you and Daniel. But you will not do that here.

  As Luce felt her lips stiffen into a pout, Rolands face softened.

  Look, he said. At least Im glad youre here.

  You are?

  No one else is going to tell you this, but were all rooting for you. I dont know what brought you here or how the journey was even possible. But I have to think its a good sign. He studied her until she felt ridiculous. Youre coming into yourself, arent you?

  I dont know, Luce said. I think so. Im just trying to understand.

  Good.

  Voices in the hallway made Roland suddenly pull away from Luce, toward the door. Ill see you tonight, he said, unbolting the door and quietly slipping out.

  As soon as Roland was gone, the cupboard door swung open, banging the back of her leg. Bill popped out, gasping for air loudly as if hed been holding his breath the whole time.

  I could wring your neck right now! he said, his chest heaving.

  I dont know why youre all out of breath. Its not like you even breathe.

  Its for effect! All the trouble I go through to camouflage you here and you go and out yourself to the first guy who walks through the door.

  Luce rolled her eyes. Rolands not going to make a big deal out of seeing me here. Hes cool.

  Oh, hes so cool, Bill said. Hes so smart. If hes so great, why didnt he tell you what I know about not keeping ones distance from ones past? About getting--he paused dramatically, widening his stone eyes--"inside?"

  Now she leaned down toward him. What are you talking about?

  He crossed his arms over his chest and wagged his stone tongue. Im not telling.

  Bill! Luce pleaded.

  Not yet, anyway. First lets see how you do tonight.

  Near dusk, Luce caught her first break in Helston. Right before supper, Miss McGovern announced to the entire kitchen that the front-of-house staff needed a few extra helping hands for the party. Luce and Henrietta, the two youngest scullery maids and the two most desperate to see the party up close, were the first to thrust up their hands to volunteer.

  Fine, fine. Miss McGovern jotted down the names of both girls, her eyes lingering on Henriettas oily mop of hair. On the condition that you bathe. Both of you. You stink of onions.

  Yes, miss, both girls chimed, though as soon as their boss had left the room, Henrietta turned to Luce. Take a bath before this party? And risk getting me fingers all pruny? The miss is mad!

  Luce laughed but was secretly ecstatic as she filled the round tin tub behind the cellar. She could only carry enough boiling water to get the bath lukewarm, but still she luxuriated in the suds--and the idea that this night, finally, she would get to see Lucinda. Would she get to see Daniel, too? She donned a clean servants dress of Henriettas for the party. At eight oclock that evening, the first guests began arriving through the wicket gate at the north entrance of the estate.

  Watching from the window in the front hallway as the caravans of lamplit carriages pulled into the circular drive, Luce shivered. The foyer was warm with activity. Around her the other servants buzzed, but Luce stood still. She could feel it: a trembling in her chest that told her Daniel was nearby. The house looked beautiful. Luce had been given one very brief tour by Miss McGovern the morning she started, but now, under the glow of so many chandeliers, she almost didnt recognize the place. It was as if shed stepped into a Merchant-Ivory film. Tall pots of violet lilies lined the entryway, and the velvet-upholstered furniture had been pushed back against the floral wallpapered walls to make room for the guests.

 

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