"His Auntie, Disenchanted."
Disenchanted: past participle, past tense of dis·en·chant
Verb: Freed from illusion; disappointed.
London, they used to fondly refer to me as the little Lady Phantomhive, and it was a nickname that stuck well-past the years in which I was only beginning to become of age. I suppose it was an appropriate term of endearment for a tiny tot like myself that was never seen if not attached obstinately to the trouser leg of the Earl of Phantomhive's dresspants, but as I matured I could not help but to develop an aggravated aversion for it.
After all, I had already outgrown all things that would have originally marked me as juvenile – my governess, my porcelain dolls, and even my beloved riding pony: Rutherford. Yet, despite such things, I was nearing twenty one years of age and still cursed by the once beloved identify. My elder siblings had long since been welcomed into the world of holy matrimony with individuals of high noble esteem and each of them had already been blessed with bouncing bundles of joy, and the youngest of which, Ciel Phantomhive and Elizabeth Midford, were already predestined to be betrothed. Life was progressing with all of those around me, but I, Florence Ruxandra Phantomhive, was still living in the shadow of childhood innocence and suffering the fate of a premature spinster due to my reputation as well as my infuriatingly diminutive physique.
It was something I had often found rather ironic, though, that the only solace I would ever receive from such a babyish fate was granted to me only by children who were much younger and condemned to an ephemeral version of the very same fate. It used to be that my elder sister's son Edward was the only one able to alleviate my woes, but as he too began to age in both looks and appearance, he no longer looked the part of an innocent little Lord Midford and despairingly enough, his look of adoration for his Auntie Ren had plunged into pure adulation alone. Almost desperately, I found myself looking elsewhere for comfort. Fortuitously enough, Edward was not the youngest of my family's growing brewd.
Being who he was, the upcoming Earl of Phantomhive and the son of Vincent, I knew not to put too much of my faith in the transient adolescence of Ciel, so instead I had turned my full attention to Lizzie. Like her mother and her aunt before her, Elizabeth would always maintain a face that, to some degree, exhibited a grace of childlike innocence, and whether or not it was coupled with the same blithe brazen that her mother perpetually displayed or with the charming demeanor that I had failed to escape was of little, ultimately inconsequential importance as long as she continued to somewhat look the part. So, in an odd way, I clung to her, befriended her, and lavished her in dresses and dolls of the finest variety. A charitable arrangement that, looking back now, I'm sure she incontestably appreciated.
I was known to have dresses tailored for her of the most expensive materials in all of Europe and in every shade of the rainbow that could be created through the use of pretty dyes, but the best dress I ever bought her was the only one she blatantly refused to wear. It was lacy and a vibrant shade of orange, the kind of luxurious garb that would have made my darling niece look like the sun personified. Ordinarily what I would have remembered most about the dress was that it cost a pretty penny, an incredible amount of the Queen's coins spent negligently on a dress that Lady Elizabeth Ethel Cordelia Midford was only going to where for one simple occasion – the extravagant tenth birthday of the youngest heir of Phantomhive, but I think that the thing that stood out the most about it was, ironically, its incredible likeness to that of searing flames.
Originally, Lizzie had requested its color so that she could have something complimentary to the blue that the young master was famous for. I couldn't help but find her request the perfect opportunity to both please my favorite niece with a brilliant orange dress and satisfy my sweet little nephew with a suit that was a color that proved to be the exact opposite entirely of Lizzie's ballgown request. It was a spectacular concept for the likes of which the destitute dress shops in London simply would not do, so I took a trip to France – the fashion capital of the world, in my own opinion – and pursued the creative craftsmanship of the best designers in the world. It was winter then, as Ciel's birthday was amidst the bitter chill of December, and both the cobbled and dirt roads had been glazed over with a perilous sheet of ice. This had made traveling across the continent rather difficult, so my driver had insisted upon taking things slow for my own safety. Due to this stubborn decision, I arrived back at the mansion a day later than Ciel's original day of birth. I did not find the cheerful remnants of an aristocratic affair upon my return, but instead the charred remains of my childhood home. December 14th, 1885: that had been the day that Phantomhive Manor burned to the ground and along with it, the Earl and his immediate family.
I suppose that it was because the shock of the situation had not yet fully hit me, but I remember that the only thing I could fathom to say as I stepped out of my horse-drawn carriage and subsequently fell to my knees in the blackened snow was, "Well, it certainly looks as though I've missed the party…"
I couldn't quite tell you how many days it took to recover from the surprise of it all, only that to this day I still wake up in the middle of the night, screaming for my big brother to come back to me. However, I did eventually manage to get out of the bed I had been confined to due to my sudden case of Hysterics, brought on by an enormous loss, and deliver my promised present to Lizzie, just as I had originally intended to do. I could not yet follow through with distributing Ciel's birthday present, though, because it turned out that the boy – although his incinerated corpse had not been found alongside his parents – had gone missing the day of the fire.
This was not a piece of information that I learned from anyone but myself, because I could not work up the courage to ask anyone – especially not my big sister – about it. No, instead I simply settled for side-saddling up a borrowed Midford mare and taking a canter into town, Ciel's new suit in tow. It was a morbid aspiration, but at the time in which I had presumed Ciel to have perished alongside his parental units, I was absolutely determined to have him wear the suit that I had gone to such lengths to acquire for him. So I had arrived, a jittery bundle of grieving nerves, at the doorstep of the town's mortician.
"Excuse me, can I come in?" I had hastily inquired whilst my knuckles rapped against the wooden door with such frequent force I was sure that they would bruise. It didn't matter that I didn't know the person in the slightest and that I was probably going to catch my death of cold, adventuring without a coat in the midst of a macabre winter, only that I could do what I set out to accomplish before any tragedies and traumas had happened to turn my world upside down.
"Certainly," A masculine voice from behind the door had purred. The frothy door-handle turned and jerked accordingly without my touch, and a loud, metallic click had resounded before the door came to a creaking open. "Ohoh~ what have we here?"
The man that had stood before me had muddled gray locks that were unexpectedly thick and fell well beyond his broad shoulders, and a fringe that excelled at hiding his curious eyes from view. Even though I could not see it, I was certain that he was sizing up my frazzled, violently shivering form, as it quivered before him, expecting entry into his peculiar place of business.
"It's cold outside and I have business with you, mortician." I had stated simply, indignantly as I stared him down. A manic grin seemed to stretch itself across his pale face and I recall that at that moment I was more concerned for the man's sanity than for my own well-being.
"I'm the undertaker, actually. It's smart of you to have come for a coffin fitting on such a wintry day since you'll surely catch your death of it out here~" He trilled as his smile widened, seeming to stretch the very parameters of his thin face. It was odd to see how giddy he was at the prospect of my impending death, but nevertheless he had moved aside, letting me inside in order to seek shelter from such a frigid fate.
"And I'm the Lady Phantomhive. I would like for you to outfit the remains of my nephew in this." I instructed, shoving the neatly packaged ensemble into his unsuspecting hands.
"What's this? A Phantomhive? I've had a lot to do with your lot this month, you know~" He replied cheerfully, placing what I had just given him upon a nearby table. I opened my mouth in order to reprimanding him for pouring metaphorical salt on the rather fresh wound, but he pressed onwards before I could utter a single word. "Although I dare say, unfortunately the young master is not a client on whom I've been able to decorate…"
I was particularly puzzled at this. "Wait? Do you mean to say that the body of my nephew is not located here?!" I exclaimed, eyes widening in surprise. After all, that fact alone could mean a number of things – the most optimistic of which being that if his corpse had not been found, than he could very well still be alive.
"'Fraid so, milady; As far as I've heard, he's not been found." The Undertaker confirmed, smirking wryly at the obvious pleasure this news had brought me.
"Well," I sniffed, twirling a lock of ebony hair around my index finger. "That's good then, I suppose. Thank you, Undertaker, that will indeed be all." I finished, putting proper emphasis on his preferred vocational title. I had made to leave without any sort of elaborate farewell, but had been stopped in my tracks by the gentle touch of a calloused hand to my elbow.
"I don't think that would be wise, my dear. You live quite a ways from here and I can't be certain that you'll make it home safe. Please, allow me to offer up my humble abode for the night?" He suggested politely. I turned to glance at him out of the corner of my eyes and found not a lecherous expression, but an earnest smile.
"Well, I – that would be most improper, sir…" I countered as my cheeks tinted a fleeting pink. Hopefully it was hard for him to tell since they had already been rather flushed from the cold, though.
"Don't worry; I have no such unfavorable interest in a dog of the queen." Although his tone was warm enough, there was something rather threatening about the way he had addressed me with the base title that had always been synonymous with members of my family.
"Well, alright then, mister – " I paused mid-sentence as the undertaker shuffled me into the room, realizing at once that I knew nothing of his real name.
"Just Undertaker," He replied shortly, shutting out the wind with the slam of a rotting door.
Although it was certainly unexpected to meet such a mysterious man, I think what became the crowning achievement of oddity that night was more importantly the fact that as the Undertaker, who was a man with a heart only for his work, lived in his mortuary; the only fitting place to sleep would be an empty coffin.