"What pin would you like me to use for your hair, Miss Rosalie?"
"Hm…the blue one perhaps. I think it would work well with this dress,"
I nodded and quickly set aside the small silver hair pin with a blue butterfly perched on top before working a comb through Lady Rosalie's golden hair.
"Besides," she continued. "That blue hair pin was given to me as a gift from Lady Cullen. It would only be appropriate for me to show that I appreciate it by wearing it to her homecoming party,"
The Cullens were very close friends of Lady Rosalie's family. Lord Cullen and Lord Hale, Miss Rosalie's father, used to be business partners in their homeland of Great Britain up until Lord Hale saw an opportunity in the Philippines and decided to grab it.
Last year, Lord Cullen sent a telegram stating that he wished to see his old friend again and so he decided that he and his family would be coming to visit. Naturally, they would be greeted with a party which was going to be held tonight.
"Has she and her family already arrived?" I asked as I worked to secure any stray strands.
"I don't believe so," Lady Rosalie replied as she glanced at the clock through the mirror. "But we must be on our way. It would be rude to arrive later than the guests of honor,"
I quickly finished my work and let her stand after she checked her reflection in the mirror one last time. "Perfect. Come along now, Isabella,"
I blinked at her, surprised. "I-I am to come with you?"
"Yes. Apparently, they are in need of more servants and you are one of our most competent ones. It is only right that you come,"
I nodded quietly and followed Lady Rosalie down the stairs and outside where the rest of her family was already boarding the waiting kalesa. The other helpers whom I assumed would also be coming stood quietly at the side.
"Rosalie, make haste," Lord Hale told his daughter. "Kapitan is already waiting for us,"
"If only we decided to have the dinner here instead of all the way over to the other side of San Diego," Lady Hale sighed from her seat.
"Now Charlotte, Kapitan Tiago volunteered to host the feast at his house. It would be very disrespectful if we just ignore his offer. After all, he is a good friend of mine. Hurry along, Rosalie!"
"Yes, Father," Lady Rosalie grumbled as one of the servants helped her get on the carriage.
"Well, now that everyone's tucked in, we can leave," Lord Hale signaled to the coachman but before they could take off, Lady Rosalie spoke.
"Wait, what about servants?"
"What about them, dear?"
"Didn't you volunteer the services of our own maids to Kapitan since he does not have enough people to serve the guests tonight?"
"Oh yes, yes. How could I forget," Lord Hale looked contemplative for a minute. "Well, we obviously cannot make them walk there; it is simply too far. And this carriage cannot carry all of us. No matter. They will ride in another, then,"
And so, I and the other servers journeyed to Kapitan Tiago's house right behind the Hales. A lot of people were already present when we arrived, all of them joyfully greeting the Lord and Lady when they made their presence known.
"Peter, my old friend, so glad to finally see you!" the captain welcomed as he and Lord Hale shook hands. He was dressed in the uniform he wore when he was still a part of the military and his black hair was combed back.
"And you as well. Forgive us for taking so long, Santiago. Sometimes my daughter forgets that time is gold," Lord Hale smiled ruefully.
"Oh, it's alright. Speaking of whom, Tanya is looking for you, dear." He turned to face Lady Rosalie. "She was waiting for you to arrive as well. The last time I saw her, she was speaking to her aunt. I'm sure they have finished by now. Why don't you go look for her by the balcony?"
"Salamat, Kapitan," Lady Rosalie smiled and nodded her head slightly before doing just that.
"And these must be the servants you generously offered," Kapitan Tiago tilted his head a bit to look over us.
"Yes and I assure you, they are our best,"
"Excellent! They can work in the kusina. There aren't enough hands working there," he chuckled heartily.
We took that as the signal to start working and quickly made our way to the kitchen where we were immediately given tasks to perform. I was in the middle of adding more eggplants to one of the steaming pots when the noise in the other room abruptly grew louder.
I knew what that meant. The Cullens have arrived.
"The guests are here!" Lady Irina, Kapitan Tiago's sister, suddenly burst into the room. "How is everything going?"
"We are nearly finished, senora," one of the servants answered her.
"Good. You can begin serving the dishes shortly. I need someone to serve refreshments now, however," she looked around until she saw me. "You. Prepare a tray of beverages. I am sure the Cullens will appreciate it after their long journey,"
"Opo," I replied quietly with a nod and did what I was asked. After I finished, I carried the tray very carefully, afraid of spilling anything and breaking the expensive glasses as I treaded through the throngs of people in search of the guests of honor.
They were not hard to find. Standing in the center of the room was a tall, unfamiliar man with blond hair who could only be Lord Cullen. He was chatting merrily with Lord Hale and the captain as a beautiful woman with caramel colored hair stood by his side. I assumed that she was his wife and the two young men who stood nearby were his sons.
One of them had golden colored curls similar to the shade of Lady Rosalie's and the other had a head of bronze colored locks. While the former seemed friendly and spoke to anyone who would approach him, the latter appeared to be more…serious. His green eyes roved over the room, perhaps looking for something to hold his attention.
I almost squeaked in surprise when they suddenly landed on me. His gaze was very intense as it moved from the top of my head down to my toes and back again. When it rested on my eyes, I could not help but to stare back.
"Ah, here are the refreshments! Would you care for something to drink, Carlisle?" Lord Hale's booming voice pulled me out of my trance and I suddenly remembered what I was supposed to do. Blushing, I timidly approached the group and offered the glasses.
"As a matter of fact I would. Thank you," Lord Cullen smiled at me before taking one. "The weather here is absolutely blistering!"
"Of course it would be hot, dear," Lady Cullen gave a small laugh. "The Philippines is a tropical country, after all. And Manila is in the lowlands, isn't it Peter?"
Lord Hale laughed as well. "Right you are, Esme. You will get used to the high temperature eventually. As a matter of fact, I quite enjoy it,"
"Father is right. I have been sweating since we got off the ship," Lord Cullen's blond-haired son reached over and took a glass as well. "The environment here is definitely different from that of England's, wouldn't you agree, Edward?"
"Yes but like Lord Hale, I believe I'm going to enjoy it here," the Cullen with the green eyes – Edward – replied with a slight smirk as his eyes held mine again.
I could feel a blush blossoming across my cheeks as I looked down and he came closer to take his drink.
After the tray was empty, I slowly backed away to leave them in their socializing. I was probably needed back in the kitchen. As I walked away, I could feel someone looking at me. I quickly glanced over my shoulder and saw that it was him. Edward.
What could possibly be in me that he found so interesting? I was rather plain, not beautiful like Lady Rosalie. I appeared different from the other Indios with my pale skin, brown hair and brown eyes but I was not worth looking at.
Yet here he was, continuing to gaze as if he could not take his eyes off of me.
I was so lost in my thoughts that I accidentally collided with someone – one of the friars.
"Forgive me, padre," I murmured as we both straightened up.
"It is alright, child," Father Marcus replied rather gruffly before striding over to where the Cullens were standing.
Father Aro followed silently behind him, looking paler and more frail than the last time I've seen him. He looked the exact opposite of Father Marcus with his round stomach and full cheeks.
I heard the beginnings of introductions between the priests and the Cullens before I hastily walked back to the kitchen. I helped the other servants transfer the different dishes from the pots to pretty ceramic bowls then to the dining room where all the important guests were beginning to take their seats.
"Tanya, there you are!" Kapitan Tiago exclaimed when he spotted his daughter enter the room. "I haven't seen you all night,"
Lady Tanya hid behind her abanico shyly then delicately took her seat. Lady Rosalie was right behind her.
"I'm sorry, father. I suppose Rosalie and I got carried away,"
"Next time, remember your manners," Lady Irina scolded. "You haven't even met our guests,"
Brief introductions were made between the two parties and while Edward simply gave a slight nod, Lady Tanya looked very entranced with him. However, just as a decent Filipina would act, she did nothing but smile politely and hide behind her fan once again.
After they said their graces, the food was distributed and the conversations began. The servants hung back just in case anyone needed anything.
"So what is it that your sons do, Lord Cullen?" Father Marcus asked a bit condescendingly as he stabbed a piece of chicken.
"Jasper is in law," Lord Cullen answered. "We sent him to study in the States. Edward, however, carried his studies around Europe. He is already a successful doctor,"
Everyone began murmuring amongst themselves, clearly impressed.
"I see," the priest replied rather gruffly. "Before he could say anything more, Lieutenant Guevarra spoke. "So I take it you have seen the whole of Europe then, Mr. Cullen?"
"Not quite," he smiled slightly. "Only to a few places, I'm afraid. I've been to England of course, and Paris. I've also spent some time in Magdeburg and Madrid,"
"So you've been to Spain," Father Marcus raised an eyebrow. "You will see the difference between how things are run between there and the Philippines. I have spent twenty-two years in this small province of San Diego and amongst these Indios who are content to eat bananas and rice. I am sure you will find the people of Madrid to be infinitely more diplomatic,"
Edward silently contemplated what he heard as he chewed. After finally swallowing, he turned his eyes onto the friar. "Are you saying that the Filipinos are stupid, padre?"
A boisterous laugh escaped Father Marcus' lips. "I assure you, child, there is nothing and no one more dim-witted than Indios,"
"What makes a Filipino an Indio, exactly?" Jasper wondered aloud.
"Indios are those who have no ounce of Spanish blood running through their veins," Lieutenant Guevarra explained. "They are the natives of this country,"
"The captain is an Indio then," Edward concluded. I looked at Kapitan Tiago and realized that he was a pure blooded Filipino as well. I have never given much attention to how he looked before but after some observance, it was obvious he did not have a drop of Spanish blood in him.
"Why is it that you don't regard him as such?" he glanced over to us servants who stood by the wall. When our eyes met again, he gave me a small smirk then turned back to the table. I could feel blood rushing through my cheeks again.
"Santiago is our friend, Edward," Lord Hale said. "And also a good business partner of mine and perhaps even your father's in the future,"
"So this is about wealth and status then," Edward stated.
"Son, not at the table," Lord Cullen gave his son a warning look before shooting Lord Hale an apologetic one.
"How long do you plan to stay in San Diego?" Kapitan Tiago stepped in with a forced cheerful tone, perhaps to prevent a fight from occurring. The rest of dinner was more civil after that and soon, it was time to go home.
I was surprised to see the Cullens following the Hales out of the captain's house. I thought they were to stay there for the duration of their visit.
"Your rooms will be prepared immediately once we arrive," Lord Hale assured his friends before climbing onto the kalesa. He turned to us servants and nodded, hinting that he needed us to do such.
We arrived at the Hales' mansion sometime later and I was assigned a room to ready as soon as both of my feet were on the ground.
"Edward, one of the hands will show you to your room," Lord Hale said as he gestured to me. "You are to stay in the second floor guest room, the one near the library,"
I nodded wordlessly at the implied command and tried to calm my suddenly palpitating heart. Edward approached me with another servant carrying his bags behind him.
"Shall we?" he smiled, effectively ending all my attempts to calm myself. I gave a feeble, nervous smile back and lead him up the stairs.
The man carrying his bags dropped them on the floor and left as soon as I had lit a lamp in the guest room. The fact that we were now alone did not help my nerves.
Edward stood by the dresser as I moved around the room, preparing it for him. He was silent the entire time and a part of me was grateful. I did not think I would have been able to respond like a normal human being if he did. However, I still felt his eyes on me the entire time.
Once I was finished, I took careful steps to the door. I was afraid his attentions on me would cause me to trip.
"Thank you," Edward's quiet voice resonated when I was almost out. I stopped my movements, surprised. No one ever thanked me for doing my job before, not even Lady Rosalie though she does treat me better than how most people usually treat their servants.
Tentatively, I turned around and looked up to meet his eyes. "You're welcome,"
It seemed that Edward took my response as an invitation to speak again. "What is your name?"
"Isabella," I replied timidly.
"Isabella," he repeated, my simple name suddenly turning very exotic as it rolled off his tongue. "Beautiful one,"
He must have noticed the shocked expression on my face. "Your name, it's Italian," he explained. "Italian for 'beautiful one,'"
"Oh," bowed my head in an effort to hide my scorching skin.
"It fits you well," he continued, making me blush even more.
"Th-thank you," I whispered, not really knowing how to respond. No one has ever said anything of that sort to me before.
I heard him chuckle lightly in response and I finally got myself to move. I was sure he was tired and wanted to rest from how many days worth of travelling.
"Goodnight," I murmured so quietly, I knew he wouldn't hear.
However, just before I could close his door fully, I heard him speak again.
Kalesa – Philippine version of a horse drawn carriage
Salamat – Thank You