“I know why you’re here,” Eleanor said softly, smoothing out the blankets in the bed around her.
Bette looked up from the dress she was carefully folding and laying down in Eleanor’s trunk. “I’m sorry, My lady?” She looked wide-eyed and innocent, and Eleanor understood why she was so good at her job.
“Everyone knows that you are the King’s illegitimate child, even if he won’t publicly announce it, but everyone thinks you’re just happy to take the lowly jobs, not able to do much more and desperate for any respect.” Eleanor offered, explaining what she was sure of in an attempt to strengthen her resolve for the less certain claims.
“I am just pleased to take any position that the King, My Grace is willing to give me since the death of my mother,” Bette confirmed, turning back to the dress.
“But you’re not just some lowly maid, are you?” Eleanor pressed on, “Your mother was a strong and smart courtier. You have royal blood, if not publicly acknowledged. I’m sure you spent your life learning to listen and see and plan, but everyone overlooks you because you are just a maid, just a servant, just the orphan of a disgraced woman and an ‘unknown’ man. My mother wouldn’t believe me, but…” Eleanor took a deep breath, trying to smile at the woman she knew held her life, or her life at court at the very least, in her hands. “You’re here for a reason. I was just hoping you could tell me what that reason was.”
When Bette looked up, she was a different woman. It wasn’t the wide-eyed look of a sweet girl, it was the calculated smile of a woman who knew how to work her world to her advantage. Eleanor was impressed and terrified at the same time. “You’re smarter than you look, Miss Lakeson.” Bette closed the trunk and came up to the side of the bed. “Subtly is the most important part of this life, Miss Lakeson, please keep that in mind. I can’t tell you all I know because that would make me not very good at my job. But I will tell you that I am not here to ruin your day.” Bette reached up and pulled the blankets up around Eleanor, tucking her in. “I like you, and heaven help me but I like Prince Arlo too. So, if you keep honest with me, I’ll try to keep you safe. Sound good?”
For some reason, Eleanor did feel safe. This woman who went to bed after her and woke up before her, who had control of a lot of aspects of her life, and she had just admitted that she wasn’t what she wanted claimed to be—but she believed Bette. She believed that she was in good hands. “Sounds good.”
Bette turned and tended to the candles, dimming the room so that Eleanor could sleep. “Sleep well, Miss Lakeson, I’ll be back in the morning for you.”
“Thank you, Bette.” Eleanor rolled over on her side and fell asleep.