Mr Francatelli made sure that he worked on the royal cake at least once a day. It had to be perfect and no amount of effort was too much for him. He couldn't stop thinking about Nancy after the party. Her face and the touch of her lips resonated in his mind all the time, not just at his sugar work. He wished that he could go to her, to see her again. But he knew that he could not go to the palace unless he was invited and he had received no word from Skerrett. It was down to her now.
Nancy wished that she had just a little time to go and see Francatelli. She could not get him off of her mind. She knew that he could not come to her, so it was her job to make the effort. He had seemed so dignified and she knew that she was a fool to turn him down. She allowed herself to hope that he might offer her the chance to change her mind. But he would never get the opportunity if Mrs Jenkins kept making her mend stockings. She wished, for her sake, that the Queen, or perhaps his Royal Highness would be a little softer on her stockings, so that she would not have so much work.
Penge had been directed by Lezhen to send someone to Francatelli's shop to inspect the progress of the cake. It was not long now and the Queen had insisted that it be checked by a member of the household. Penge approached Jenkins.
"No. That is my answer." Her voice was final.
"Are you sure that she cannot go?" He asked her and Jenkins felt very selfish. Of course, she wanted Miss Skerrett to be happy, but she had grown very fond of her and the idea of losing her was a painful one.
"You must send someone else." Jenkins replied, before leaving Penge alone in his office. He scowled at the woman and hoped that there was an opportunity that Miss Skerrett might go and visit the old Chef. He liked the girl, but he knew she would be happy in a marriage, most young women were, even the Queen had proven his theory.
Charles opened the letter he received that morning. He recognised the royal seal and hoped that it was from Nancy. But somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew it wasn't, as she was issued stamps to send her letters with. He sighed when he looked down and saw Mr Penge's signature scrawled at the bottom of the letter. But his spirits rose as he read its contents.
"What's the letter about?" Margaret asked and Charles looked at her from over the letter.
"Never you mind." His eyebrows furrowed and he went back to reading the letter for the third time.
After a few minutes, Charles broke down to his cousin.
"Well, if you must know. The Queen is sending someone to check the progress of the cake." He smiled proudly, excited at the prospect of who they might send.
"This must be a pretty important cake." She scoffed, wondering why the Queen would need to send someone to check on such a fine cake maker as her cousin.
"It is in celebration of her Majesty's first born child. I would say that is pretty important, wouldn't you?" He asked her sarcastically and she scoffed, before going into the back to fetch more eclairs.
Charles enjoyed the breaks that he received now, running his own business. He found that apart from the baking - which he loved - and the odd meetings here and there, he was left to meander around and enjoy himself. He found himself reading more lately. Charles Dickens had caught his attention, along with the rest of London and he found himself improved from the self education.
He hoped that this would work in his favour with Nancy. She was a clever woman, no doubt and he wanted to be able to entertain her, with more than just chocolate and gelatin. He was unsure why, but he presumed that Penge would send Nancy to check the cake, as she was the one who came to check the first design. This idea excited him massively and he could not wait for her to be in the shop once more.
Skerrett felt her mouth fall agape when she heard that Brodie was going to check on the cake for the Queen.
"But he doesn't know what it is supposed to look like. He didn't pick out the design." She told Mr Penge and he nodded in response.
"I know, but you are not allowed to go. Not my words." She sighed and nodded, knowing that it could not be helped.
Mrs Jenkins' heart broke seeing Skerrett so upset. She knew how much seeing Mr Francatelli meant to her. But she was afraid of losing her, of having to hire a new dresser.
"If you would like my opinion, I think you are being very selfish." Penge told her in passing and she had nothing to say in response. For once, he was right and she wrong. She had to revel in the moment for a second, knowing that it would not come again for a long time.
Lohlein appreciated Mrs Jenkin's company. He was not the most popular man downstairs and he often found himself a little lonely. It was a little tricky, speaking with Jenkins, with the language barrier and all. But he appreciated their friendship, more than she realised.
"Do you think you will marry one day, Lohlein?" She asked him, whilst they were sat together that afternoon.
"Yes, I would very much like to." He smiled at the thought of having a wife and a family.
"And do you think that you will remain in the service of his Royal Highness when you do?" She asked.
"Yes, Prince Albert is an easy man to work for and he becomes very attached. I would simply live close by and travel in." He smiled at her and wondered why she had never married.
"You see, it was never like that. You could never combine a job and a work life when I started this job. When you began, you knew that you would never have a family. But things are different now, especially you men." She sighed, she wished that she had had the opportunity that was being offered to Miss Skerrett now. She could work alongside Mr Francatelli and raise a family. They would never go without, with how successful Francatelli's business was and he loved her, which was more than many husbands could say. She had been cruel, she knew that now.
Charles had dressed well that morning, wanting to impress Nancy when she came to check on the cake. He worked tirelessly all morning, getting as many of the pastel flowers attached as he could.
"Mr Francatelli, there is someone here to see you." Margaret called out and he patted down his apron and walked out into the shop.
His face fell when he saw dirty little Brody stood in his shop.
"Hello, Mr Francatelli. I have come to check on the cake for her Majesty." He smiled widely and Charles tried to be accommodating, but he could not hide his disappointment.
"Of course, come in the back and I will show you." He led Brody into the back and tried to hold back a sigh.
"Well, it looks nice. But I don't have an eye like the ladies." Brody stood back and looked at it from a distance.
"I think the Queen will like it. It has flowers. Women like flowers, don't they?" Charles nodded, wanting to slap the boy for not having anything of worth to say.
Brody soon wished Charles a good day and left him with his sorrows.
"Margaret, you have all that you need. I am going to rest for the afternoon. Do not disturb me, please. Unless it is an emergency." He nodded to her, before retreating upstairs. He had so dearly hoped that Skerrett had come. He wondered why she had not and feared that she might not have wanted to come. The thought scared him stiff and made him resentful. He knew that he could not harbour resentment towards Nancy. So he did as he had promised and rested.
Nancy had worked hard since Brody had left. She had so longed for that to be her. He wouldn't understand the glazings, or the placement. Not that she fully did, but at least she would have appreciated it. She knew that it was Mrs Jenkins, who had stopped her from going, but she could not figure out why. And until she could, she did not want to be in her company.
Mrs Jenkins felt awful. She had never meant to make Skerrett feel so awful. She had remembered what being in love was like. It was bad enough not seeing him when he working in the same house. She could not imagine what it felt like with the man being across the city. She had to do something, she knew that.
Nancy cast her eyes to the ground that Saturday morning, when Jenkins came into the sewing room, after dressing her Majesty.
"Miss Skerrett. I think that you have earned yourself a holiday." She told Skerrett and watched as her face lit up.
"But, the Queen?" Skerrett asked and Jenkins dismissed her question.
"I will look after her Majesty. I suggest that you go to a certain establishment and pay a certain man a visit." She suggested and Skerrett took Jenkins into her arms.
"Thank you." She whispered and Jenkins felt the overwhelming emotion of having done a good deed.
"I would stay with your cousin for the evening, if I were you. I will inform Mr Penge." She shooed her away and watched a giddy Miss Skerrett waltz out of the room.
Margaret knew that her cousin, Charles had been disappointed when the boy came instead of the pretty girl. She hadn't said anything, but she had noticed. She tried to console him before he made his weekly trip to the bank, but to no avail. However, it seemed the Francatelli luck was finally going up when a certain young lady walked through the front door.
She was wearing a light beige dress, which was well tailored, Margaret noticed. Her hair was neatly styled and her eyes were wide. She was a beautiful woman, there was no doubting it and Margaret felt a pang of jealousy as she looked at her.
"I am here to see Mr Francatelli." She told Margaret.
"He is out at the moment. But you can sit and wait for him." Margaret smiled.
"I never quite caught your name. I am Margaret Hobbs, it is nice to meet you." She extended her hand and watched as the young woman slid her hand into an embrace.
"I am Miss Skerrett, her Majesty's Dresser." She announced and Margaret thought that the name suited her well.
"I see. Well, you go and sit down and I am sure that Charles will be back soon." She smiled and watched the young lady perch herself, looking out of the window.
Margaret set to making the woman a cup of tea and sliding a slice of cake onto a plate for her.
"Oh no, I did not-" She began to protest.
"It is on the house, Miss. Any friend of Charles' is a friend of the bakery." Nancy smiled as she sipped the tea.
"Thank you very much." She smiled as she placed a forkful of cake into her mouth and closed her eyes in pleasure. Margaret could see why her cousin took a liking to Miss Skerrett. She was beautiful in pure, wide eyed kind of way.
Charles had huffed all the way to the bank and all of the time that he was at the bank. He was not to enjoy his weekend, he was sure of it. So he huffed on his walk back from the bank as well. He did not look into the shop as he stormed in.
"I swear the men in that place are idiots!" He shouted, taking off his jacket and hanging it on the stand.
"Mr Francatelli, there is someone here to see you." Margaret whispered, pointing over at Miss Skerrett and Charles turned, regretting his outburst, not wanting to embarrass himself around a customer.
Miss Skerrett smiled up at Mr Francatelli when he finally saw her. It was not the first time that she had seen him lose his temper, so this did not shock her so much. She watched as Charles' cheeks turned red and he cast his eyes to the floor.
Charles could not have been more embarrassed. He had lost his temper in front of Miss Skerrett, which was not how he wanted her to see him. He approached her table and watched as she sipped on her tea.
"Miss Skerrett, I did not know you were here." He whispered.
"Well, you said I should return and I have this weekend off. So I thought I would come and see you." She smiled up at him and he felt the air leave his lungs.
"I am glad." He smiled and wondered what they might do with their time.
Skerrett was shocked when Charles told Margaret to man the shop, so that they might go into the city. Nancy could not remember the last time that she ventured into the city and that was the very reason that Charles was taking her.
It was a wonderful day, so they sat on a bench in the park.
"It is so freeing, running your own business. It is a lot of work. But it means that I can take days off, like today." He smiled down at her and watched as she blushed.
"I think I might agree with you, Mr Francatelli. I do not get much free time. But that comes with the job." She looked down at her hands. She had been offered an opportunity to leave the palace, to live with Charles, and take as many holidays as she liked. She kicked herself now, for not having taken him up on his offer.
Charles watched as Skerrett thought deeply. He wondered what was racing around her mind, what she was thinking of. He hoped that it was him, but he couldn't be sure. However, when she smiled up at him, there was very little doubt in his mind.
"How is the palace, without me?" He asked and Skerrett giggled as his eyebrows danced in a suggestive manner.
"Well, everyone says that the Chef is not as good as you." She blushed and Charles smiled.
"So they should." He jested with her.
"Her Majesty and His Royal Highness seem very much still in love. Lohlein seems to have become somewhat of a son to Mrs Jenkins and Penge is the same as ever." She gave him the rundown on the palace and he sat back and thought about the place.
"I do not think you could pay me enough to go back." He stated and Nancy knew that he was telling her the truth.
"How come?" She asked.
"A man's freedom is worth no amount of money." He told her and she nodded. Freedom, that seemed to be all that anyone was talking about lately. She had been advised to refuse Charles to keep her freedom and now he was happier with his freedom, but her life did not feel so free. She envied Charles.
"I wish I could be in your position. But it is not so easy." She sighed and Charles furrowed his brows. It sounded to him as if Miss Skerrett felt remorse for turning him down and it was an emotion that did not suit her well.
"You do not know what the future might hold for us yet, Miss Skerrett." He winked down at her and she smiled.
"I suppose you are right, Mr Francatelli." She smiled and allowed herself to be hopeful for the first time in a long while.
Charles walked Nancy to her cousin's new house, the house that he had provided for her and her child. When Nancy thought about his kind deed, she could not see Eliza's point of view. He would not run out on her, he would not leave her, she knew that. What had happened to Eliza was awful, but Charles was not like the man who left her.
The sky was becoming dark as Charles walked with Nancy. Her cousin's house came far too soon and he wished that he could stay with her longer.
"It is just here, Mr Francatelli." Nancy pointed up at the house and then looked into the man's eyes. He really was a handsome man and she saw him as even more handsome in the moonlight.
"Nancy, why did you come to see me on your day off?" He asked, taking a step towards her.
"I told you, Mr Francatelli, I don't have friends." She shrugged her shoulders and smiled up at him.
"Do you see me as your friend, Miss Skerrett?" He asked her, his head tiling down towards her.
"Now that entirely relies on how you see me, Mr Francatelli." She whispered, her lips pursed.
"Well, Miss Skerrett. I asked you a question once, and your response hurt me. But you are the finest woman I have ever known. I still hoped, despite my better judgement, that you cared for me. This hope held no ground, until you came to my shop." He paused, remembering that wonderful moment.
"You could not pay me enough to work at the palace again. But if you asked me to, I think I would. There is nothing I wouldn't give to see you every day." Nancy blushed and Charle rather enjoyed that.
"I know now that I was too sudden before. I'm asking now that I might court you, Miss Skerrett. Take you to the park and to museums and go to eat sweet treats that never will be as good as mine. I want to be able to fall asleep at night, with the hope that you might be my wife one day. I know how hard it is to give up your position, so I won't ask that of you. But please, give me a chance." He begged her and Skerrett smiled up at him. This was exactly what she had wanted to hear. She could think of nothing better than being courted by Mr Francatelli. He did know how to treat a woman and she would just have to deal with Eliza at another point.
"I would like that very much, Mr Francatelli." She blushed as she felt his palm on her cheek.
"Call me Charles." He looked down at her and saw a girl who was asking for forgiveness. He pressed his lips against hers and Nancy felt as if they had started anew, that they might actually have a shot.
The kiss lasted longer this time. Nancy never wanted it to end. She sighed when he pulled away.
"Might I see you tomorrow?" He asked and she nodded.
"I am going to the book shop to buy a book." She said and felt rather foolish for saying it. Charles lit up, hearing that she spent her extra money on such things.
"Then I shall accompany you."
"I would like that very much." Nancy smiled, watching Charles bow.
"Good evening. Miss Skerrett." He doffed his hat and walked away.
"Good evening, Charles." She whispered as he left. The tables had turned, it was his birth name she was using now and no matter what Eliza said to her Nancy knew, that her future was going to be in that little shop, with Mr Francatelli.