Servant for Howl
Chapter one: The New Cleaning Lady
Sophie pulled her hat on tighter uncertainly and moved towards the job office. Her father's hat shop had been closed down so she had no money and no job. Her brothers and sisters had all moved away to make a better life for themselves so now she was alone. Desperate she now was faced with becoming a servant for someone.
The job office was empty with one office still open. Nervously she walked up and knocked on the window. The women on the other side who was asleep woke in mid snore and adjusted her spectacles. "Yes?" she asked grumpily.
"I would like to apply for a job" Sophie said quietly.
"We have none because of the war." She said sorting some papers.
"Oh" said Sophie looking down. She looked slowly over the desk to see the woman's hands stacking (almost spider like) papers to and fro the In and Out boxes either side of her desk.
Sophie's eyes quickly scanned the papers chewing the inside of her mouth, until pointing out, "you have a lot of donations."
The woman looked up as if seeing Sophie for the first time since she denied her job prospects. "What?" she asked her flabby face resembling a bull dog's disgruntled snout.
"I was merely pointing out the amount of donations and the generosity of them." Sophie said calmly even though her heart was beating.
The woman stood purple with rage "Get out of my establishment!" she shouted pointing to the door with a flabby ringed finger. "I will NOT see you in my office again am I understood young lady?"
Sophie stood her ground "As I was pointing out which I'm sure you have noticed, there is a lot of money, many people think the wizards are stealing money from the king, but in fact it is seedy businesses like yours that are the course." Sophie said bluffing shamelessly. There was a war on.
The woman stared at Sophie her expression turning once again purple before gulping her three chins and sitting down with a heavy thud sighing: "I do have one job going."
Sophie looked up hopefully.
"It's for a cleaning lady at a master Pendragon and his wife." She said taking out a form for Sophie to fill in. Sophie quickly began filling it in desperate to find a job. "Here's the address and good luck" she said feelingly pulling the blinds shut on Sophie.
Sophie looked down at the address in her pale fingers. She knew it; the magic spells request shop a few streets from where her house used to be. She never saw anyone come in or out let alone who lived and owned it.
Just as she turned the woman pocked three blinds aside to show her eyes: "I don't like you missy, but here is a word of advice, it is the first and only one I shall give you: Beware the witch and don't ever look at the master."
And with a snap! The woman was gone from sight.
It was dark and beginning to rain as she ran. Sophie slipped a couple of times as she skidded around the dusty roads, she might make it and have a bed for the night, she licked her lips imagining dishes like grilled fish, fresh grapes, warm milk and spicy chicken.
It took her an hour longer to reach it than she thought. And by the time she did get there she looked like a drowned rat. "First impressions" she muttered bitterly to herself as she knocked on the door.
"Stand by" said the other side as the door was pushed open.
A small old man with a long dark grey beard opened the door holding a lantern. "Yes my Child?" he said in a gruff voice.
Sophie raised an eye brow looking at the old short man; he seemed a stern and demanding sort of man. Sophie became more nervous by her situation and the man's unflinching stare but refused to give up. "I'm here for the cleaning lady job" she said standing tall.
"Oh right come in" he said opening the door wider so Sophie could come in.
"Are you master Howl or…" Sophie began.
"Master Howl is away on business. I am his apprentice Markel." He said pulling his hood down to reveal that he was a ten year old boy.
Sophie raised her eyebrows in surprise but it would have been rude to point it out.
"Well come on" said Markel impatiently waiting for the confused Sophie to come in. Sophie scurried after him into the shop. Ahead of her was some dusty stairs that looked like they were made of stone. Sophie absentmindedly made a promise to herself not to walk down without looking, with heavy shopping or her shoes untied.
Sophie was like that. She often was nicknamed the cautious little mouse in the corner by her father, siblings and co-workers. "Let's not think about that now, this is a fresh start Sophie" Sophie thought to herself.
"Are you coming or not?" asked Markel.
Sophie sprang awake and moved up the heavy stair.
There seated in a chair was the oldest and fattest woman she had ever seen sitting in a chair by a fire, she had bleach white skin and it looked even whiter because she was dressed in black. "Who's this?" she asked with her deep red lips.
"This girl is applying for the cleaning lady job" said Markel going back over to the table to finish his supper which was cheese and bread.
"I'm here for the job" said Sophie meekly.
The woman stood, her form changing instantly changing into a younger and better portioned attractive woman. She looked down at Sophie and began to size her up, using her black walking stick and flabby hands. It didn't help poor Sophie that the woman was twice her size in every way. "You're quite a small little thing" she said taking Sophie's face rather roughly in her sharp nailed fingers and turned her face to the sides.
Sophie blinked keeping her face drawn from emotion.
"Your quite pretty" she said cautiously.
"Not really" said Sophie trying to keep her eyes on her.
The woman's lip twitched as she let go of Sophie's face. Sophie rubbed her sore cheek.
"Come on" said the woman walking towards the stairs that led upstairs. Sophie followed her upstairs. "I am the witch of the waste your employer" she said when they reached the top of the stairs "My husband is the great wizard Howl Pendragon and I want you to keep away from him. Under no circumstances do I want you near him" She said threateningly.
Sophie nodded staring at the clawed hand in front of her face.
"Good" she said "And another thing the place you are standing in is the great moving castle… So try not to break anything" she said as Sophie was about to touch a glass jar made up of different colours with her fingertips. The second she said that Sophie jerked her hand back.
"You shall cook all three meals a day, keep the rooms clean, do the shopping, do the washing and ironing and keep out of my husband's way. I don't want you flirting with him." She said pointing at Sophie with a pointed finger.
Sophie nodded shaking slightly.
"Good here's your room" she said pointing to a side room under the stairs. Sophie nodded; it looked small by the looks of the outside.
"You will be paid eight silver pieces a week. And you will start tomorrow at six. Good night!" she said shoving Sophie into the room.
Sophie landed on the bed that was quite lumpy. She looked around. It was about the size of a bathroom that she and her siblings had to share when they were growing up. The small bed was an inch from the floor and was dusty. There was one window and it was too high up to see and too small to escape.
She sniffed as she examined her new prison better. It was still a prison.
She hugged her legs this was a bad idea. But she was too desperate and too stubborn to give up or maybe it was fate telling her to stay, who knows?
She frowned her expression cracking breaking slightly at the seams as her great inner sadness blotched into her face. She felt great tears forming in her eyes as she lost herself for a moment. She recovered as suddenly as she had started rubbing her eyes roughly as she got her bag out to find her night dress, she would need an early night.
Howl stood onto the side of the hill watching his castle as it rested against the hill for the night. It was dark and it was raining which was running down his short pitch black hair. Any other time he would have objected but he couldn't care less today.
His claws dug deep into his skin as he determinedly turned away and spread his wings away pretending he didn't hear what he just heard.
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