As you can imagine, the next few days following the, well, let's call it the book incident, were tortuous. I did my best to avoid Mr Stevens at all costs but of course this was not always possible. Meal times were particularly difficult because we were forced to chit chat politely under the gaze of the entire staff. Every now and again I felt a blush rise from my neck to my cheeks when I remembered my stupidity in his parlour that afternoon. What on earth had got into me? I heard jokes about desperate spinsters becoming batty in their old age and imagining silly romances but I had considered myself a long way off from such behaviour but perhaps I was not! Maybe I was the pathetic spinster that everyone made fun off behind her back. I found myself eyeing the younger staff members suspiciously - could they tell? Did they suspect the batty old housekeeper had thrown herself at the butler in a fit of romantic desperation? Even worse, had they guessed that the foolish housekeeper had been rejected? That even when the man who had all the charm of a duster and whose last romantic opportunity had probably been at least a decade ago, had been offered the chance of...well something, with the housekeeper, he had turned it down?
Suddenly I was not sure if I was more embarrassed or angry. It was not as if Mr Stevens was anything to write home about! He was not the romantic hero that young girls (or old spinsters) dreamed of! He was a humourless, repressed, dust obsessed man who needed to realise that there was more to life than being the perfect servant. Perhaps the anger showed in my expression because Mr Stevens was suddenly looking at me curiously. He smiled tentatively and seemed about to say something but Charlie interrupted with a question and Mr Stevens' attention was diverted.
For the rest of the meal I sat rather sullenly, too wrapped up in my new fury to care if the others noticed. When finally it ended, Mr Stevens and I rose simultaneously from the table. Again he smiled at me, almost shyly I noticed. I felt myself stiffen, my jaw setting determindedly. I was, I admit, spoiling for a row! But there was something about Mr Stevens, the way he was looking at me. Normally he greeted any sign of frustration or anger on my part with a look of knowing superiority and infuriating calmness in the hopes of quashing any protestations. But there was no calmness, no patronising look. Instead, he seemed almost nervous, which was ridiculous. What reason had be to be nervous? All week, since the incident he had pointedly maintained a cheerful disposition towards me, which had made my efforts to avoid and ignore him all the more difficult. It was as though he had been trying to rub it in, laughing at me.
"Yes Mr Stevens? Do you want something?" I snapped.
"Uh no, Miss Kenton." he said, taken aback perhaps at my abruptness. He looked at this hands briefly. "Dinner was, uh, nice."
What is he doing? I wondered. In all he years we had been having dinner together, he had never once passed any comment about the meal to me afterwards.
"Cook always does a good job." I replied curtly.
"Yes, yes she does. We're very lucky to have a cook of her calibre." he said, nodding several times for emphasis. He still was not moving away from the table and all of the other staff were leaving the room by now. "Uh are you retiring for the night?" he asked.
"My work is done."
"Right. I thought umm, that we might discuss..." Why was he stammering so much?
"I am very tired Mr Stevens. Anything you want to discuss will have to wait until tomorrow." He looked disappointed by this. "You don't mind do you?" I asked in a tone that indicated I did not in fact really care if minded or not!
"No, no." He forced a smile. "If you are tired, I understand. Have an early night, get a good sleep. We do not want you being overworked." he gave another strained smile. "If you fall apart the whole house will."
I stared at him for a moment, unable to tell ifhe was being sarcastic or not. He maintained his faltering smile.
"Good night then Mr Stevens." I said eventually.
"Good night Miss Kenton. See you in the morning." Again in the cheerful tone he had been using with me all week.
I lay in bed for a good hour that night trying to analyse Mr Stevens' behaviour but I could not.
*I know this is a pathetically short and dull update but I've been busy lately, will try and get something else up really soon and will be switching to Mr Stevens POV for the next part! Miss Kenton has the wrong end of the stick in thinking he doesn't want her!