The bustling streets of Deling were filled with chocobo-driven carriages that were hurrying their way through one of the most poverty stricken areas of the city. The air was filled with noise and the stench of aging produce as fruit and vegetable merchants shouted their wares on the foggy morning. Amidst the noise and movement was a blur of raven black hair quietly weaving in and out of the crowds. The hair belonged to a frail young woman who stopped to tighten a well-worn scarf over her head before she resumed her brisk jog through the town. She was desperately seeking new employment, like many others visiting each of the buildings which lined the outer edge of the district. The buildings themselves had seen better days as times were not good. Nobles and royalty had been taxing the poor in such a way that most of Galbadia's subjects could no longer afford to buy fresh food or pay for desperately needed services. The current government of Galbadia was supposedly ruled by a Witch but the poorer folk of the country did not know the half of it nor did they care. Those were myths and stories that meant nothing in their world, a world where finding tomorrow's dinner was the real concern.
The frail girl finally slowed down at a nondescript building marked with a plaque that said "M. Agency" at the side of the door. Walking up the steps, she hoped against all hopes that she was not too late.
Inside was a middle-aged man with light hair and a perfectly curled moustache, sitting behind a desk that could not have been more disorganized. His fine clothing and powdered face suggested someone well off in trade but not necessarily of noble connection. He cocked an eyebrow at her approach and dipped his pen into an inkpot, taking up a fresh leaflet of paper to write on.
"Good day, sir. Is there anything available this week?" as the young woman asked, she loosened the scarf which had been covering the top of her head.
"Name and age." He asked in a deadpan voice.
"Rinoa Heartilly. 26 years old, sir." She watched with interest as he lazily scribbled her name and age on the paper. He then began to rummage through a stack of finer looking papers. At length he paused at one and raised his eyes, looking at her once before looking back at the paper.
"Do you be having any experience with cleaning? Housekeeping? That sort of thing." He trailed off into a mumble as he skimmed through the contents of what he was reading.
"Oh, yes sir. I had been working as a maid at the Trepe Manor for four years until last week. I'm willing to learn anything if need be."
Rinoa fidgeted with her scarf and began dragging her feet. Various nervous habits were kicking in as she watched the man with a growing unease and anticipation. Rinoa had worked at the Trepe Manor as a live-in maid and believed she would be there for the rest of her life. That was until the recession made the cost of the maids' upkeep a serious burden and they could no longer be paid. Rinoa had no home or family to go back to, so she had been staying at the Trepe's during her search for work. Rinoa honestly didn't want to ever leave the Trepe House but desperate times meant she was only a burden to the kind family.
Lesser noble families such as the Trepes were taxed far more than those above them. The head of the House, Lady Trepe, had refused to marry anyone her mother had tried to arrange marriages with and as such her fortunes had not grown enough during a recession beyond living in a manor while renting the country estate. Knowing the challenges that lay ahead due to her choices, Lady Trepe was a self sufficient woman who could not bear the idea of life with someone who could not respect her. She wanted to find a man equal to her excellent mind and fifteen years of callers, balls and celebrations had yielded nothing to her favor.
The older man suddenly picked up another paper and Rinoa stood at attention, stray thoughts evaporating from her mind. He scribbled a few things onto it and handed it to her. Rinoa looked at him questioningly.
"Do clean yourself up before calling at this address between three and six o'clock tomorrow. Greet the current keeper accordingly. Ah, and bring this. It is the recommendation from the agency. The client is a very… peculiar man of sorts… and you must understand his needs. Should you meet his… requirements during the interview you should be set." The man cleared his throat many times as he continued to drone out the instructions and Rinoa nodded, trying to follow his words and put them to memory.
"Thank you, sir! Thank you!" she enthusiastically chimed as he finished. She made her way out of the building, wrapping the scarf around her head once more.
Rinoa adjusted her glasses and read the small piece of paper as she walked away from the busy district and back towards Trepe Manor. The address given was far from the city and she would need Lady Trepe's help in getting transported there.
When Rinoa finally reached Trepe Manor, she knocked three times loudly on the mahogany door. Moments later the door slowly creaked open to reveal one of the older servants of the house. Rinoa greeted him as she walked inside and quickly made her way to the servant's wing but the dignified sound of Lady Quistis Trepe's voice called her back into the hall. Upon hearing the voice, Rinoa walked back and stopped to do a short curtsey in front of Lady Trepe. She lowered her head, waiting to be addressed.
Quistis Trepe was a woman in her thirties whose commanding presence was at odds with the fine red gown trimmed with lace and gold she was wearing for dinner. Her long blonde hair was done up and golden strands holding pearls were carefully beaded through it. Rinoa recognized the necklace Quistis currently wore as one of the family's treasures as her eyes trailed upwards. The blonde looked down at the shorter woman, smiling.
"Rinoa." Rinoa looked up at older woman's face. "How did it go?"
"Very good, My Lady. I have an interview tomorrow with a new Master for the role of Housekeeper. I must dress appropriately but the direction is quite a ways off, My Lady."
"Understood, I'll have Nida take care of your ride."
"Thank you My Lady, I am ever so grateful." Rinoa nodded and lowered her head once again.
"Best of luck to you. Have the dining room cleaned as soon as you are changed. My associates from Winhill are giving a courtesy call at eight o'clock." Quistis made a slight nod and strode back into the main wing of the house.
Rinoa raised her head, watching the older woman's retreating form before she hurried down the hall to her own room and closed the door. She observed her room while she exhaled a long sigh. The room was tiny and dark but it was home. She had a small wooden bed, a rusted wash stand, a mahogany dresser and a small window looking out into the gardens that she opened for fresh air. She then took off her glasses and placed them on the dresser. Rifling through the drawers, she took out some of her best dresses. She eventually picked a simple brown and white dress made of velvet and trimmed with some damask, what was once a trend among the common folk in Galbadia ten years past. Having lived the life of a housemaid for several years, she had no use for the few dresses she owned other than uniforms and peasant's clothes for shopping. This dress in particular had not been worn in two years and she wondered if it had grown too big or needed mending. Not having much to eat meant her size had slowly shrunk over the years.
Rinoa looked at her hazy reflection through the small dresser mirror and stood up. She held the dress against her body and frowned.
"Do clean yourself up." The older man's voice echoed in her mind.
She fumbled for her glasses and put them on to get a clearer look. Her face had become slightly sunken with age and a lack of nutrition, even her hair had grown dull after years of not properly taking care of it. Her skin was sallow from doing nothing other than working day and night. Determined to change herself, Rinoa decided she would look her very best for the next day. She didn't care if she couldn't get the job; she wanted to become a new woman and no longer the shadow of a woman who she saw in the mirror.
I will repay the Trepe Family for all their help. I will be someone who isn't just a burden to them. Someday, I will.