I've borrowed this from my dear friend, Derrick of Melrose Musings, whom I've been neglecting awfully recently... He has such talent, I don't have the discipline to follow writing and poetry prompts so skilfully, so diligently as he does, but this caught my fancy.
I wonder if you can guess why?
From Rallentanda. POW Prompt Number 15
So as not to appear rude, to wake the house, or to be found in dereliction of her duty, Eliza stilled her beating heart, tip-toeing through the darkened hall, holding a fragile silver tea-tray between her trembling fingers. She watched the full peach bloom of the rose wobble in the cut-glass vase, threatening to topple and ruin the carefully prepared breakfast. Remembering the warnings, she stilled it with the tip of her thumb.
They spoke such twaddle downstairs, she thought to herself, prickling with irritation. What gossip, stuff and nonsense. In the kitchen where Eliza spent much of the morn, her girdle bones pinching tender flesh as she toiled away, the older staff took such joy in filling her head with foolish things. She shouldn't let it bother her, but the scandalous words they used concerning the family could make her pale cheeks burn. Especially the new boot-boy, wet behind the ears. He thought she was just a maiden, and had derided her gleefully and without mercy since his arrival at the Hall over a month ago now.
'Little sparrow', he called after her. Words that sent a frisson down her spine, as if someone had run a feather across her white skin, like her brothers used to do when they would tease her, causing goose-flesh. Once again she felt ill at ease. She had to be strong. Her lip trembled, the promise of a trickle of tears springing to the corner of her eye. These she would store up till she found herself alone in her tiny garret bedroom. It was small but it was hers. She had finally found a semblance of privacy, coming from a family of thirteen her home had grown cramped almost overnight.
She dabbed at her face with a white embroidered silk handkerchief trimmed with Brussels lace that she'd glimpsed upon the marble-topped washstand, tucking it swiftly away in a pocket of her starched apron. She'd make sure to take it down to the nice laundry-maid later, who had treated her like a daughter since she'd come here... No-one would ever notice it missing. The mistress had lots of them, all the same. Eliza had but one, cotton, tear-stained, and pulled at the seams.
She recalled the brittle compact she had made with her Mother, 'Never let them see you cry, Petal', she called out to her from the station platform, wreathed in steam, and waving her off into a life of service at the tender age of fourteen; All she had in the world was wrapped up in a care-worn crimson shawl on her lap. She'd see her on Christmas Day, if she was lucky, and the master wasn't planning a ball; the mistress shining in her fine gown of mauve tulle.
Gingerly placing the tea-tray down beside her mistress's bed, she jumped with fright as the logs crackled in the hearth, then fell down with a thud, and the glow of the fire rouged her cheeks with warmth and a trace of hope.