Nancy had taken most of her work to her room since that day. She didn't know why, but she had expected Mr Francatelli, the household's Chef, to always be around. She was wrong. He had his own dreams that extended beyond the palace walls and he wanted her to go with him, but she had refused him. She wished that he had just given her more time. It had been too late when she had realised that he was a good man, not like the others. He was gone by the time that she had changed her mind. London was a big city and she knew that she would never be able to track him down, no matter how hard she tried. So, she did her needlework in her room and tried not to think about it too much.
Mrs Jenkins had noticed that Miss Skerrett wasn't right lately. A light had gone out of her eyes and she requested to do all of her work in her room.
"Would you like for me to call a doctor?" She asked one afternoon.
"No, Mrs Jenkins. I am quite well." Nancy had lied, but it was better than the alternative.
Mrs Jenkins worried about the young girl. She wondered what could get her so down, what could make her so blue. To her, it seemed that Miss Skerrett was in a privileged position, working for the Queen and living in the palace. But she knew herself that it was not always what it had been cracked up to be.
"I just don't understand why she stays in her room all day." She sighed, sitting opposite Mr Penge.
"I think that might have something to do with the lack of Chefs around, Mrs Jenkins." He told her, his eyebrows raised knowingly.
"You don't mean Mr Francatelli?" She asked in a hushed tone.
"Whilst you were gone with her Majesty up north, they were close. He made her a dinner and all." He gossiped and Mrs Jenkins sat back, in deep thought.
"I see. It did always seem strange how he left so abruptly. But I had never guessed that Miss Skerrett had been involved." She mused, to herself more than anyone. So Mr Penge left her with her thoughts.
Nancy heard a knock at the door and looked up from her work as Mrs Jenkins came and sat on the end of the bed.
"I didn't expect to see you so late at night, Mrs Jenkins." She stated, looking down at her needlework.
"We have all been jilted in love, my dear." She said softly and watched as Miss Skerrett looked up at her, wide eyed.
"I heard what happened when I was away with her Majesty." She told her and Nancy felt her eyes well at the thought of that wonderful evening.
"He was so good to me and I was so blind. How could I be so stupid?" She laughed through the tears and Mrs Jenkins took her hand, glad that she was finally sharing.
"We are all stupid when we are young." She smiled down at her, remembering the young paper boy she had eyes for when she was a girl of Skerrett's age.
There was silence for a moment.
"He asked me to marry him, to help him start his business." Nancy admitted and Mrs Jenkin's gasped, not knowing that it had gone so far.
"But I have known men to be mean, horrible, selfish creatures and my fear got the better of me." She admitted and Jenkins understood, she was sure she would have done the same if she was in her position.
"I am safe here, with a fine position and a good wage. How could I give that up?" She asked.
"How indeed." Mrs Jenkins agreed.
"I care about him, deeply. But I couldn't risk my position for love. It's not just me I have to worry about." She sighed, her head hanging in shame.
"We all have people that depend on us. But that does not mean that you should be miserable." Mrs Jenkins stroked her hand and smiled down at her.
"Come down tomorrow. It is no good, you being cooped up up here." Nancy nodded and felt a weight leave her chest, having shared her burden.
Mr Penge was glad to see Miss Skerrett at the table the next morning, as glad as Penge ever seemed to be. Young love was hard, especially when one half has moved to the other side of London. He wondered if he might do something for her. He wanted to help. He wished someone had helped him when he had been in love, and he didn't want Skerrett ending up alone, like he had.
Her Majesty had requested one of Mr Francatelli's cakes for the Christening of her first child.
"But he doesn't work here anymore. How am I supposed to get a cake off of him?" Penge had asked the Baroness.
"The Queen will not have a cake from any other man, Mr Penge. I am sure that you will find a way." She had smiled in that way that made his skin crawl and at the time, he had considered the request a nuisance. But now, he had the perfect excuse to reunite Miss Skerrett and Mr Francatelli.
Penge called Mrs Jenkins and Miss Skerrett into his office.
"I have an errand for you to run for me, Ladies." He began.
"An errand? Why can you not send one of the boys to do it?" Mrs Jenkins scoffed, offended by the request.
"Her Majesty has requested a cake from our old Chef, Mr Francatelli, for the Christening of the new babe. She has insisted that you go so that you can insure that the design will be to her liking." He explained and Mrs Jenkins smiled knowingly while Miss Skerrett blushed a deep shade of scarlet.
Later that day, Mrs Jenkins and Miss Skerrett were sat alone, one working on a dress and the other on a hat.
"Mrs Jenkins, I cannot go." Nancy admitted and sighed. The thought of seeing Mr Francatelli again made her stomach do flips and she didn't think she could cope with the embarrassment of it all.
"That is out of the question. We have been given an errand by her Majesty and we shall fulfil it. Am I clear?" She asked and Skerrett nodded silently.
"Very good." Mrs Jenkins was looking forward to seeing the young man again, but she was far more excited to see his reaction to seeing Miss Skerrett again. Mrs Jenkins was nothing if not a lover of romance.
It was a Wednesday morning that they were permitted to run their errand.
"Please, make sure that it looks pretty. I know that his work is some of the best, but there is nothing like a woman's touch." The Queen had told them that morning, and Miss Skerrett was determined to run this errand for her Majesty and not let her emotions get in the way.
It was a long journey to the bakery. It had been two months since Mr Francatelli had left and if she admitted it to herself, Nancy was scared. She was terrified of seeing him. She had behaved so awfully at the end that she was embarrassed by what he might think about her or what he might say to her.
Mrs Jenkins knew that Miss Skerrett was nervous. But she had been given a second chance that most weren't offered. A chance to make things right. Another opportunity for love. So, for this reason, when they arrived at Mr Francatelli's shop, Mrs Jenkins placed a hand over her mouth.
"Oh my, I have just come over ill. A smell has wafted through and I am sure if I see one pastry I shall be sick." She closed her eyes and shook her head.
"Perhaps we should return to the palace?" Skerrett suggested and Jenkins shook her head again.
"No, we've come all this way. You go in. I will stay out here." She shooed the girl away and stayed in the carriage that was saved for the household's use and watched as Miss Skerrett hopped out onto the road, and entered the shop.
Nancy had never seen anything like it. Mr Francatelli's shop was beautiful. There were pastries and cakes lined up in the window and packaged goods arranged along the wall to her left. Behind the window display were tables and chairs. A pair that was inhabited by a lady of medium wealth, and what Skerrett thought was her daughter. However, it could have been a Governess with her ward. But her clothes were too fine and colourful to suggest that.
Charles had been forced to leave the palace. He was already planning to go, but her refusal forced him out. He couldn't even think her name, even if he wanted to whilst he was doing his sugarwork. He regretted leaving so soon. But his pride had been wounded. He wished that he could go back and reconcile with her, but his ego would not allow it.
Skerrett felt her legs shake as she walked up to the counter. There stood a large glass box, holding many sweet delights. She rung the bell that sat on the counter and waited for him. She was terrified of seeing him, of speaking the first word. But it had to be done, for her Majesty.
Skerrett was shocked when a woman rounded the corner. Her hair was dark and she was a few inches shorter than Nancy. Her face was very pretty and her smile was sweet.
"How may I help you?" She asked in a melodic voice and Skerrett had to take a minute to compose herself.
"I am here to see Mr Francatelli." She managed to get out.
Charles was at his sugarwork when he heard her. He thought that it was a figment of his imagination, but it had never been so strong before. He had to know. He was scared, if he was truthful with himself. But he could not help himself.
He came out into the shop before Margaret could fetch him.
"Mr Francatelli, there is a women her-"
"Miss Skerrett?" He interrupted his counter girl when he saw her. She was all braids and lace, just as he remembered. He felt the breath leave his lungs when she looked at him with shame in her eyes. He was mortified that he had ever made her feel that way.
Mr Francatelli's face was a sight for sore eyes. He looked at her as if she was an angel, not meant to be there. She should not be there, not really. She had given up that right. She smiled and tried to hold a brave face, but she knew that her eyes told the truth.
Charles brushed his hands on his apron, before taking it off and handing it to Margaret.
"Go and finish your sugar work." He ordered her and they watched as she disappeared into the back. Luckily for him, the Mother and Daughter who came in every week were just leaving.
"I will see you next week, Mr Francatelli." The little girl waved at him.
"Of course, Miss. Ten on the dot." He waved her goodbye and Skerrett smiled, watching him be so kind to the girl.
Miss Skerrett's genuine smile was a revelation for Francatelli. He offered her a seat and waited for her to begin. When she didn't, he wondered if he should prompt her.
"What brings you here today, Miss Skerrett?" He asked. His eyes never leaving her face.
"Her Majesty has asked for one of your cakes, for the Christening celebration." She told him, only then looking up into his eyes.
"I see." He said to her, nodding with a soft grin on his face.
Charles had allowed himself, for a moment, to think that Miss Skerrett had been there to see him, that she had visited him on a personal excursion. But she was only doing the work of the Queen and he wondered if she had wanted to come at all.
"Let me fetch some paper and a pen." He told her, heading into the back. He could see that Margaret wanted to ask questions, but he sent her a look that silenced her.
Nancy let a breath leave through her lips as she watched him go to the back. This was harder than she had expected.
"So what kind of cake would she like?" He asked, once he was sitting beside her, paper in hand and Nancy remembered what the Queen had said.
"She would like it in the same flavour as the cake you made for her and his Royal Highness' wedding. But she would like pastel flowers on it this time, for the babe." Francatelli nodded as he sketched. He found it difficult with her sat there. But he concentrated more than usual to get the design just right.
Nancy watched as his pen scratched the paper and then took the pad from him when he offered it to her. He came to stand behind her and pointed at the sketch.
"I say we do a round base. It is softer for the occasion. I will make the flowers blue, pink and yellow, here, here and here." His voice became quiet as he realised how close she was. His face was so near to her's that he could hear her breath.
"This is beautiful, Mr Francatelli. The Queen will be delighted." She told him, looking up and smiling, seeing him so close.
Charles didn't know what to say. It seemed that Nancy had had a change of heart. But no, he could not let himself dream like that.
"Is there anything else I can do for you, Miss Skerrett?" He asked, his face still close to hers.
"We are having a celebration for the new babe in a week. Please, come?" She asked him, her cheeks burning, and Charles thought to himself that he could look at her blushing for hours on end.
"If you would like me to be there Miss Skerrett, then I will." He smiled down at her.
"I do, want you to be there that is." She smiled and rose.
"Send your price to Mr Penge, he will sort out all of the particulars with you." She told him and he nodded.
"How long do I have?" He asked.
"Three weeks." She told him and he sighed.
"That is not long enough, not for my best work." He told her.
"It is a cake." She recounted the words of Penge. They laughed, and Miss Skerrett was tempted to stay in the little shop forever.
"I should go, Mrs Jenkins is waiting." She said and turned to leave.
"Miss Skerrett?" He caught her attention.
"Please do come back. I will have a bomb surprise waiting for you." He smiled and she blushed, before leaving.
Mrs Jenkins had fallen asleep in the carriage whilst Miss Skerrett was gone. She awoke when she heard the door shut.
"How did it go?" She asked.
"Better than I had expected. He is coming to the celebration." She smiled and Mrs Jenkins nodded knowingly.
"Very good. It shall be nice having him back in the kitchen, he is of finer stock than the chef we have now." She grimaced, thinking of his inferior cooking.
"Finer indeed." She said to herself and smiled as she felt a weight leave her chest and a warmth fill her body that had not been present for months.