Sisters of String and Glass, Part 43

Chapter Eleven – continued

A throat clearing bordering somewhere between ladylike and decidedly not interrupted the small reunion, drawing a frown from the Princess and a hasty curtsy from Muriel.

Muriel shot a quick glare in Camille’s direction before clearing her throat again. “Your Highness, our tea awaits. May I escort you into the parlor?”

“If I may,” Adrian said quickly, stepping forward. He looked around the group nervously, his gaze skittering across Madeline as she smiled and preened a little under his gaze. He cleared his throat and looked away. “I’ve been looking for someone. I believe she works as a maid in a household such as yours,” he said, bowing slightly to a baffled Muriel. “She-she dropped her basket. All I know is she is called Gail and she works for a royal household. I’ve been to a number already. I hope you might forgive my intrusion as I know only my mother and father were invited, but I couldn’t pass on a chance to perhaps come across the woman who dropped this basket.”

“That is very kind of you,” Madeline said, smoothly cutting in and gliding forward to smile and rest her fingers on the basket. “The markets become ever so busy. Someone collided with me and I dropped my basket. By the time I had dusted myself off, it must have been kicked away.”

Camille watched with dread and fascination warring in her chest. She had never seen such a smile on Madeline’s face. Neither had she seen such confusion and consternation on Adrian’s. Beside the Princess, Andalissa smiled and winked at her, drawing a few blank blinks from Camille. What was her friend planning?

“My basket!”

The surprised gasp drew everyone’s attention.

Camille looked up sharply to see her sister, dressed in the gray dress she always wore to the kitchens and her heavy winter cloak, standing at the entrance to the great hall, apparently on her way back to the markets if the white basket matching the one in Adrian’s hands was an indication. Her eyes quickly cut over to Adrian, who stepped away from Madeline, pulling the basket with him. Madeline’s eyes flashed, especially when they landed on Abigail.

“G-Gail?” Adrian stammered as he walked over to her.

“Abigail!” the Prince thundered at the same time. But his pleased expression devolved into one of confusion and he quickly turned to Muriel. “Why is Lady Abigail dressed like a servant?”

“Abigail?” Adrian asked. “I don’t understand.”

Camille drew in a breath as she watched her sister’s face drain of color. Abigail’s eyes darted around the room. Muriel was furious while Madeline had a carefully crafted mask of confusion. The Prince and Princess looked affronted and confused while Adrian was bewildered and Andalissa had a hand over her mouth.

Abigail was still as a statue. Her eyes landed on Camille before she turned and fled.

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