Grace gets another visit from Goliath... and a summons from the mansion's mistress.
Goliath was true to his word. Two nights later, he rapped quietly on Grace's door. Grace had been almost asleep, but at the noise, excitement rushed through her, and she tip-toed to the door.
Goliath was biting his lip in anticipation. “Hi,” he whispered. It was funny hearing the muscular man whisper.
“Come in,” Grace whispered back. The fact that a man was in her room in the middle of the night was not lost on her. She thought about Of Mice and Men for a moment and of Lenny. She bit the inside of her lip to punish herself. Goliath was not a Lenny. “Did anyone see you?”
Goliath shook his scruffy, blonde head as Grace closed the door. He sighed with relief. “Little Tommy woke up when I got out of bed, but he was snoring again soon enough.”
“Is it that bad to associate with me?”
“Guess so,” he said. “Helmut gave me a tongue lashing since he heard me talking to you other day. Told him I had to talk to you, seeing as you were there when the first desk was brought in.” He grinned.
His grin brightened and his eyes crinkled. “Thanks!”
“How long have you been working here?”
“Little over two years. It's a beautiful place, but damn, I liked my old job better. Here it seems like you're a slave to the mistress and there's no other place but here, you know?”
Grace had always felt that this was a secluded part of the universe where nothing else could invade. Katerina liked it that way. “I know!”
“You're stuck here aren't you?”
“Till I'm eighteen. Less than a year, and if Katerina believes I’ve learned all I can, I get set up with a job outside.”
Grace nodded. “I thought my mother was crazy sending me here without an ounce of magic, but it will turn out pretty well for me. Even if it’s non-magical, I’ll still get a job.”
Goliath's expression turned grave for a moment. “Grace, I heard the mistress talking about you, other day.”
Grace's blood ran cold. Katerina was talking about her?
“She said that you finally did seem magic and that you reminded her of herself when she was your age. Not to overbound but, that's a little scary.”
Grace paced back and forth, digesting the news. “How did I show signs of magic?” She glanced, frightened, at Rose for a moment.
“Don't know rightly, but she said things might turn interesting when that new girl shows up.”
Goliath looked at her curiously then shrugged. “Didn't make much sense to me either. Just thought you should know.”
Goliath shifted on his big feet a bit. “So, you've never done magic?”
Grace was immediately suspicious. “Did she tell you to come here? Ask me about this?”
He straightened to his full height, which was impressive. Six and a half feet? “I never talked to her. I never really talk to anyone around here. I'm only here 'cause I like you.”
She calmed down. Melted, really. “You do?”
He shrugged shyly and nodded.
Grace almost laughed happily before deciding that it might seem unkind. “Well, I like you, too. I'm sorry for mistrusting you.”
“That's alright. I get it.”
After they stood in silence for a few moments, Grace had an idea. “Can I ask you a question?”
He looked up—blue-green eyes that pierced through his thick, blonde hair. “Yes.”
“Come look at this tree, will you?” She led him to the window.
He followed after her, hands in his pockets, peering into the night at the gnarled tree. “Ugh. Looks like a old man from here.”
Grace laughed. “Doesn't it!”
They stood side by side looking at the tree for a minute. Then, Goliath said, “You won’t see this unless you look out this window. From the ground it only looks knotty. You know, it almost looks to be alive. It's less scary… now I know it's just a lonely old man.”
Grace had never thought of it as lonely, but now that he'd said it, she saw that it was true. And Grace knew loneliness. She should have noticed.
“That's sad,” Goliath said. “Helmut says this tree's about to come down. The mistress doesn't like it 'cause it doesn't give any shade.”
A rush of indignation swallowed Grace. “That hag! Doesn't she have feelings for anything living other than herself?”
Goliath chuckled. “I don't know that she does.”
Grace threw open the window and shouted at the tree. “Hey, old man, you know the hag will cut you down if you don't grow leaves. You've been here since before I have and I don't want to see you go, so you'd better work something out!”
To their surprise, the old tree gave a creaking groan against the wind and they both sank down to the floor, breathing hard with fright.
They shared an amazed look and then both of them burst out laughing.
When they'd calmed down a bit, Goliath stood to leave, looking regretful. “I'll listen for anything else. No-one minds talking around me as they all think I'm slow.”
“Thank you, Goliath,” Grace said, full of admiration. “I'm lucky I met you. I don't think you're slow at all.”
Goliath bent down and gave her a kiss on the forehead, then headed out the door.
Grace wandered the room for a while, collapsed on her bed and sighed.
“So do you think you have magic?” Rose asked, startling Grace.
“Um,” she said, trying to focus her thoughts in that direction. “Well, I've gone so long believing that I didn't. Shall I try some?”
“Very well, what shall I try?”
“Something simple to start.”
Something simple... “Aha! I have just the thing.” She focused on the letter on her desk meant for her mother. “Katerina can make objects move with magic.” Grace willed the envelope toward her with every usable cell in her brain.
Nothing. Grace slumped back down into the bed. “Nothing at all.”
However, when she awoke the next morning, the letter was in her hand. “What on Earth?” she muttered.
She had barely gotten to her feet when there was a knock on the door. She rushed to grab her robe before she realized she’d fallen asleep in her dress. “Come in!” she called. Then she hastily tossed the letter onto her desk.
It was Violet Em who opened the door. Grace wasn’t sure why Katerina called the maid, “Violet Em”: whether it was her real name, or a reference to the rather beautiful woman’s purple eyes.
The maid squinted at Grace, then shrugged. “The Mistress calls you. Straightaway.”
“Oh,” Grace uttered. “Oh!” She rushed to her dresser for a fresh dress while Violet Em clucked her tongue and went away.
“Wonder what she wants,” said Rose.
Grace said nothing and hurriedly dressed.
If you like the story so far, pick up Mistress of Magic from the Amazon store!