The sound of Meirin's heart shattering on the cold, cobbled floor stung her ears like a thousand wasps.
Her lips formed a small 'o' of surprise, her face paling as it gazed down upon the devastated remains of a freshly washed Blue Willow Ware plate. White powdered dust ghosted the floor sporadically. The varying chunks of china had landed in a shape somewhat resembling the former perfect circle, if not a little out of place.
She tapped the toe of her weathered brown boot, displacing a few specks of porcelain. A pained sigh escaped her.
It never fails…
Every morning, the sole female resident of Phantomhive made a personal promise. Every evening, the fullness of the trash bin, thickness of dust, or color of the banisters determined whether or not she had adhered.
Carefully, Meirin tip-toed around the kitchen island to the supply closet, avoiding tracking the white mess. She pulled a broom from the tangle of handles, buckets, and bottles of fluid. The dustpan was nowhere to be seen. Her eyebrows furrowed, and she could only assume it had become another casualty in one of Bardroy's 'incidents.'
She clicked the door shut softly. The maid returned to the litter on the floor, and quietly began to sweep the scattered remnants into a mound. It took just a few strokes, a few solemn scratches of the splayed bristles against the stone.
She let out a small hum of frustration, and silently was grateful that she was alone. Finny was most likely in the garden, Bardroy, at the storehouse searching for beef suitable for a stew. However, it was really only going to end up charred, and thrown out for Pluto, leaving Sebastian to prepare everything.
"He never ceases to amaze…," she spoke out to herself.
She pulled the old metal trash bin closer, and crouched, careful to keep from dragging her skirts into the retired china. She examined it, and pulled a piece from the debris.
So she tells me a legend centuries old
Of a Mandarin rich in lands and gold…
A fragment of a house and pathway could be seen, stamped in blue upon the pure white surface. Meirin knew this story. As a maid of Phantomhive, most of her days spent cleaning around the mansion sparked curiosity about her young master's belongings. Muttering soflty to herself, she finished the verse, "Of Koong-Shee fair and Chang the good, Who loved each other as lovers should."
The pictures told the tale of a wealthy Mandarin's daughter, who fell in love with a servant. Her father tried to keep them apart, her marriage to a Duke approaching. On the eve of the wedding, the servant stole the daughter away, and they lived peacefully for some time. However, the Mandarin eventually learned of their island hiding place, had them captured and put to death. By the powers above that heard of their plight, the lovers were transformed into doves to live together for eternity.
Meirin retrieved each piece accordingly, silently reciting the rest. It truly was a beautiful story. Bit by bit, she was forced to toss out the plate, until her eyes fell upon the remaining scraps.
The only the doves were left, fixed in their forever flight. A crack ran right down between them. She gingerly picked up the two small pieces, a twinge of guilt in her heart, "Poor dears…"
Without the heart to discard these particular fragments, the dark-haired girl deposited them in her apron pocket. Smiling a bit, she bent to take hold of the dustpan, but yanked her hand back with a hiss.
The broom fell to the floor with a loud clank. She clutched her left hand, examining it, now painfully aware of a cut she hadn't felt before. A droplet of blood surfaced, shining crimon in the dwindling sunlight from the window.
The young woman frowned and clicked her toungue, immediately searching the room for a cloth.
"Meirin, is that you in the kitchen?"
Sebastian's rich bass voice carried into the room. From down the hall, footsteps approached. The maid stood quickly, flattening out the bunches in her skirts with her uninjured palm.
How they hid in the gardener's hut awhile,
Then fled away to the beautiful isle.
The tall, lean figure of the Phantomhive butler appeared in the doorway. Meirin bowed respectfully, her cheeks dusted pink.
"Meirin, why are you here?," Sebastian gave her an inquiring look, "The library has yet to be tended."
"Bard went to find meat for dinner," she explained hurriedly, "I washed the dishes from this morning to help."
The dark-haired male stepped into the kitchen, the soft tap-tap of his black leather shoes bringing him closer to the girl, "There weren't that many, you shoul-" His eyes widened a bit, spying the rubbish on the floor, then traveled upwards, "You're bleeding…"
Meirin jumped a bit, then brought her hand up to study it, "It's not bad, just a little cut," she smiled reassuringly, "I dropped a plate…"
Sebastian's perfect, symmetrical eyebrows knitted together. "Nonsense.," He stepped forward, grasping her arm, and lifted her hand up for examination. The maid elicited a small 'Oh!'
Meirin resigned herself to gazing upon the butler's face as he scrutinized the source of her discomfort. His hair fell loosely to one side of his face, the other side, tucked behind his left ear. Floating afternoon light fell upon her perfect view of his lovely face. His eyes danced over her skin, and her cheeks warmed with delight that the man was concerned over such a small injury.
The butler straightened for a second, muttering something, then began searching nearby drawers. After trying a few, a smile pulled at the corner of his lips, "Here we are."
He withdrew holding a small roll of bandage fabric. Tearing off the necessary amount, he began to wrap her finger, applying a slight pressure to halt the flow. She winced minutely, despite the great care with which he touched her. Perhaps it was to hide the small tremor of pleasure that fought to trickle down her spine.
Sebastian tied off the bandage, securing it snugly, then stepped back, "Now, how does that feel?" A small, striking smile lit upon his face.
"M-Much better, thank you!," she faltered, clutching her palm against her breast.
"Not at all," the man replied, "As a butler of Phantomhive, how could I allow a young lady to remain uncared for?" He chuckled lightly, a small 'hm' of assurance escaping his mouth.
A moment of silence passed, and Sebastian abrubtly turned, offering a half-bow in politeness, "Well, if you would excuse me, I was just delivering the post to the young master."
Though a cruel father pursued them there,
And would have killed the hopeless pair.
Meirin started, posture straightening, "Oh, y-yes! Sure!"
The dark-haired man nodded once again, courteously, then vanished through the doorframe.
Evening had long since descended upon Phantomhive Manor. The end of the servants' daily obligations followed soon after nightfall, as it was often dangerous to carry on with chores in only candlelight.
The young master had retired to his bedchambers, sated by a copious French dinner, accompanied by an Egyptian chamomile tea.
His butler, relieved of his duties, had returned to the servants' quarters. The demon slipped into his own room, placing his woolen tailcoat upon the wrought-iron coatrack in the corner. The near-barren room appeared to be just as he had left it before dawn, but Sebastian had known before even entering that the woman had been in his room.
The dark-haired man moved quietly over to the desk, removing his pristine gloves and placing them upon the worn oak surface. His onyx-nailed fingers enclosed a small object, a piece of white glass, that rested in the middle of the surface. The conspicuous item rolled to the center of his open palm, design upwards.
A tiny bird, a dove transfixed in flight, was stamped upon the porcelain piece.
The butler allowed the corner of his mouth to tilt upwards into a slight smile. He had no doubts as to where the other piece might be.
The piece was stowed away in a drawer with scarce few other trinkets. Sebastian leaned over, cupping his palm around a waning candlestick adorning the desktop, sputtering and flickering in a vain attempt to remain alive.
The slight curve of his lips spread into a sharptoothed sickle grin.
The butlers eyes flashed in the dim glow, a sonorous chuckle resonating from his chest. Likening a demon to a dove?
With a light puff, the candle died.