“Nessa, has Jane come home as yet?” Mrs. Langstaff asked me as soon as I entered the drawing-room.
Mr. Langstaff glanced up from his newspaper. “Where is she?”
“She went to a concert with her friend, Hilary.”
“They went to a concert?”
“Yes. They went to see the Hillbillies and Hitchhikers.”
“What?” he exclaimed.
“Actually, it’s the hopscotching hillbillies and hurtling hitchhikers,” Anders, their eldest of three children interjected.
“That’s the name of the group?” Mr. Langstaff was astounded.
“Bands, Father. Those are the names of the two bands.”
“Oh. I’ve never heard such preposterous names before. What kind of bands has our Jane gone to see?” he demanded, glowering at Mrs. Langstaff.
“Dear, you need not worry about Jane. She’s a very sensible and responsible girl. Now, I have a more pressing matter to think about.”
“And what might that be?” he asked dryly.
“It’s to do with Nigel’s birthday present. I’m trying to figure out what to get him.” Nigel was their youngest son whose thirteenth birthday was on Saturday. “I can’t decide between miniature marionettes and dime store delights.”
Mr. Langstaff returned his attention to his newspaper.
“Mother, why don’t you ask Nigel to give you a list of the things he would like and then, choose one or two?”
“But, Anders, that would ruin the surprise. He would know that he’s getting something on that list.”
“At least, you’ll be getting him something he likes.”
Mrs. Langstaff sighed. “All right.” She turned to me as I placed the dirty cups on the tea tray. “Nessa, I would like you to ask Nigel what he wants for his birthday and then report back to me.”
“Make sure he doesn’t suspect that I asked you to do it.”
“I won’t, Madam.” As I was leaving the drawing-room, my eyes met Anders’. I wondered what his parents, his mother especially, would say if she knew that we were romantically involved? She would probably have a fit before firing me. I couldn’t help smiling at the thought even though I needed the job and couldn’t allow anything to jeopardize it.
After I took the tray to the kitchen, I set off to find Nigel. I knew he would be in one of two places, the library on the computer or sitting by the pond either reading or feeding the swans. I headed to the library.
The door was slightly ajar so I peeked in and he was there on the computer. I knocked and I saw him quickly switch to another screen before he said, “Yes?”
When I went in, he looked relieved. “Oh, it’s you, Nessa. I thought it was Dad or Mom, although they don’t usually knock.” He switched back to the previous screen. It was a video game.
“That looks like a very interesting game,” I said. “Maybe you can teach me how to play it sometime.”
He grinned. “Sure, but we’ll have to do it when my parents aren’t here.”
“Sure. Your birthday is coming up soon. Are you excited?”
“Yes. I’m going to be thirteen. I’m practically a teenager.”
“I’m curious to know what sorts of things a thirteen year old would like to get for his birthday. At thirteen I was interested in hair stuff, clothes, shoes and jewelry.”
“What did you end up getting for your thirteenth birthday?”
“Clothes and a pair of Converse. What about you? What kind of cool things would you want for your thirteenth birthday?”
“Well, there are five things I really want. A Caster Board, Star Wars Lego Set, Make Your Own Comic Book, Fire Tablet 10 and Spike Ball.”
“Why don’t you write these things down on a list and give it to me?”
“Don’t you want your family to buy the things you actually want? I used to make a list because there were times when I ended up with the worse gifts ever.”
“All right. I’ll jot these down and give them to you.”
I watched as he wrote these things down on a piece of paper. As far as he was concerned, this was my idea.
He folded the paper and handed it to me. I took it and placed in the pocket of my uniform. “Thanks, Nessa.”
I smiled. “You’re welcome. I’ll let you get back to your game.” I let myself out of the library and went straight to the drawing-room. I handed the note to Mrs. Langstaff who took it from me and read it with great interest.
“Thank you, Nessa.”
“You’re welcome, Madam.” I excused myself and left.
This time, Anders followed me. “Let’s go to the study,” he said.
We went to the study. As soon as he closed the door behind him, he took me in his arms and kissed me. I kissed him back and then, I pulled away. We were both breathing heavily. “We can’t,” I said, stepping back.
“Why not?” he asked. “Father and Mother are in the drawing-room and Nigel is either in the library or out by the pond.”
“He’s in the library.”
“So, you got him to write a list of what he wants for his birthday?”
“Yes. And he thinks it’s my idea.”
“He’s very fond of you.”
“Yes. And I’m very fond of him.”
“And what about me? Are you very fond of me too?”
“You know my feelings for you are completely different.”
“Tell me, how different are they?”
“I know you want me,” he said, his eyes darkening. “And I want you too but is desire all you feel for me, Nessa?”
“Tell me how you feel about me.”
I swallowed hard before I confessed, “I love you, Anders…”
“And I love you,” he moaned and then, I was in his arms again and he was kissing me. The passionate kisses lasted for several minutes and then, I pulled back.
“We can’t do this here,” I protested. “How are we going to explain what I’m doing here if your father or mother were to come in?”
“We will tell them the truth–that we’re in love.”
“We can’t. You know they will fire me.”
“Let them fire you then.”
I stared at him, aghast. “You can’t mean that.”
“As my fiancée I can’t have you continue to be the family maid any longer.”
I was completely confused. “Fiancée?”
“That’s why I brought you in here, Nessa. I wanted to find out how you felt about me before I ask you to marry me.” He reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and took out a small black box. Getting down on one knee, he opened the box, gazed up at me and proposed.
“Your parents will throw both of us out,” I said.
“Let them do that. I don’t care.”
“You’re crazy, you know.”
“Yes, I’m crazy in love in love with you. Now, will you please say yes?”
He slipped the ring on and then, rose to his feet. After hugging me tightly, he kissed me.