Trust in Me
Ella gestured to the man in black, wordlessly leading him inside. Her dark brown hair was tucked into a chignon at the base of her neck, but a few stray strands fluttered around her face as she lead them into the dining room. The inn was part of their house, but the dining room was clearly one of the nicest rooms. There were large open windows, and in the orange light of the setting sun, the long wooden table that stretched across the room seemed very peaceful. Ella waved a hand lazily towards it as she led the man in black inside.
"In the morning, monsieur, we will serve breakfast here. Eggs and fruit and whatever else you'd like us to get for you---"
Ella paused, waiting.
She heard the man's voice, as clearly as if he was speaking aloud to her. But she knew he was not. She knew this was merely the voice inside his head, it was his thoughts, and yet she could hear them.
'Breakfast? As if I would eat breakfast in a run-down place like this…'
Ella's eyes narrowed but she turned her pretty smile on him. "We have recently refurbished both our dining area and several of our rooms in the latest fashions. I am sure they are not quite what you are used to in Paris, but out here in the country, I assure you we are quite fashionable."
The man raised his eyebrows, reaching up and taking off his hat for the first time, nodding slightly. Ella's eyes examined his features carefully, but briefly; thick, black prominent eyebrows, and black eyes. He had tan skin, as if he was in the sun often, and a sharp nose. His mouth was set in a firm line but as she regarded him, it curved into a small smile.
When he spoke, his accent was cultured, his voice smooth and refined. "Ah, mademoiselle, it is quite lovely, I assure you."
She smiled at him, sincerely this time. "Thank you, monsieur."
She turned to lead him back up the stairs, her cotton peasant dress swishing around her ankles. It was cream colored, but the color went nicely with her lightly tanned skin and the flush in her cheeks. She had yet to outgrow her freckles, but they gave her face more color and gave her beauty a youthful appeal. She could feel the man's eyes on her as she lead him up the stairs, her dress swaying back and forth, her slippers lightly slapping on the hard wood floors.
'Not too bad..' She heard him think, and she refrained from rolling her eyes. She reached the top of the stairs and turned to the first room on the right. Unearthing a small key from a pouch at her waist, she slid it in the door and unlocked it.
The small room was one of their nicest. It had a small fireplace in the corner, not that he would need it in the summer, and a large open window with a view of the town square, the river flowing gently through the hills in the background. The red thatched roofs of the town's houses contrasted pleasantly with the green rolling hills and treetops. There was a large but simple bed in the middle of the room, a wash basin and a small table. The stone walls were white, the cotton bed linen was white and the small, sturdy table was white as well. The wood floors were swept immaculately clean, and on the table was a blue vase with a single with gardenia in it. All in all, it looked very clean and picturesque.
Ella stood aside as the man entered the room; as he brushed passed her, she caught a scent of his cologne. She stood behind him, her hands folded behind her back, her clear blue eyes narrowed, her lips pursed as she waited to hear his opinion. He stepped passed her, a black shadow in the crisp white room. His hands were at his side as he silently surveyed the tiny room; long shadows were cast upon the wooden floor.
'A bit dark in here..'
Emma wordlessly crossed the room and opened a smaller window that faced the sun; she pulled back the white lace curtains. Light from the fading sun rushed in, and brightening the already bright room. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ears and turned to him, with that ready smile on her face. His eyebrows were raised.
'Very nice,' she heard him think, and she allowed herself a smile of self-content. He took several steps toward the window and peered out, his eyes narrowed. His gaze fell on the village's tiny courtyard where a few young children were playing in the fountain.. 'Very, very nice.'
He turned back to her and with a short nod, said briefly, "Thank you. That will be all.'
She dropped a short curtsey, and smiled up at him from lowered eyelashes. "If you need anything at all, monsieur, my name is Ella."
The man smiled slightly once again. His gaze fell slightly to the neckline of her dress and she didn't need to hear his thoughts to know what he was thinking. "And what do your guests do for entertainment, Ella?"
Ella raised her eyebrows and gave a slight shrug. "The market place is very nice during the evening, monsieur. Perhaps you might like a nice walk."
"And you would come with me?"
Ella smiled politely at him, but took a tiny step towards the door. "I am sorry, monsieur," she said cheekily, as she headed back down the stairs. "But I must stay with the inn."
Ella walked downstairs and through the dining room, outside towards the chicken coop, humming softly to herself. She wanted to check and make sure that they had enough eggs to make Monsieur Black, as she had begun to call him, his breakfast.
She caught her mother staring out the window again and waved. But her mother just pulled away from the window. Ella stifled a sigh.
She and her mother had never truly been close. It wasn't as though they fought, or had arguments – they just didn't talk. Danielle seemed to resent Ella, was almost afraid of her, though for what Ella didn't know.
She did know, of course, that Danielle knew about her gift. Danielle was very careful when Ella was around, moderating her thoughts, and Ella could understand why she made her mother uncomfortable. Being able to listen to someone's thoughts was a total act of violation, but it wasn't as if Ella could help it.
All her life she had this, this gift. She had been aware of it since she was very little, and no one but her mother ever even suspected it. But Ella had used it her all life. Sometimes it wasn't good to be listening to others thoughts. The time the Aiden, the boy Ella had been flirting with all summer, had mentally compared Ella's attributes to Genevieve, the girl down the street. Ella certainly wished she didn't have to listen to that.
But most of the time, it was nice. Ella never had to wonder what people thought of her; she knew. It made her a great favorite among her peers because whenever someone was upset, or too shy to say anything, Ella always knew just what to say.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a sharp whistle; she looked up and saw a tall lanky boy walking towards her. His light brown hair was long, but he held it back in a pony tail. His white cotton shirt had wide, billowy sleeves, caught in cuffs at the wrist, and he wore a beige vest over it, the same color as his pants. She smiled at him. With his light green eyes, sharp nose and firm jaw, Christian already looked like a man, though he was the same age as her -- sixteen. They were born within a few days of each other, and Christian had been one of the many that would clamor around Ella as her and Noel thought up games to play in the woods.
"Bonjour, Christian," Ella called out as he crossed the fields toward the chicken coop. She paused, reaching for the basket she kept in front of the coop, waiting for him. Standing in front of the coop, she could smell the scent of feathers and birds and she wrinkled her nose. The coop was a small, crumbling red wooden shack, with a dark blue roof. It was only several feet long but the family kept several hens that always fit comfortably. Inside, the darkness was warm and comforting, with the rustling of feathers and slight clucking of the birds.
"Bonjour, Ella," Christian replied as he walked up besides her, with his crooked smile, nodding his head slightly.
'Did she notice my new boots?'
"Don't you look sharp today, Christian!" Ella exclaimed playfully, her blue eyes gleaming. The chickens clucked anxiously from inside the darkness of the coop. "Are those new boots?"
Christian smiled back at her, shrugging modestly. "I am to go to Paris with father; he wanted me to look presentable."
'Ask why, ask why…'
"Why are you going to Paris, Christian?" Ella dutifully asked, ducking inside the coop. Christian followed her inside. It was much darker inside, the sweet smell of hay and feathers overwhelming them. Ella coughed delicately; the smell took some getting used to. Wooden shelves lined the walls, with several nests and chickens perched on each shelve. It was several degrees warmer in the cool interior then outside, and Ella shivered. It may smell a little funny, but even as a girl she had always liked the chicken coop. She slipped her hand under the soft, feathery breast of the nearest chicken, who clucked disapprovingly at her. Ella blew her a kiss.
Christian followed just a step behind her. "Well, father wants to see about opening up another shop there, in the city." Christian's father was the cobbler, the local shoe maker. He made all the village's shoes.
Ella paused, then turned and grinned at Christian. "Why, Christian that's wonderful!" He grinned abashedly back. She hesitated. "You wouldn't be living in Paris though, would you? You will come back?"
She glanced at him over her shoulder, and their eyes caught. The shadows in the chicken coop and from the setting sun made him look older then he really was. Ella bit down on her lower lip, and she saw his eyes fall to her mouth.
'Do you want me to come back?'
"Why, would you miss me, Ella, dear?" Christian joked, but his eyes were serious.
Ella gave him a small smile. "I always miss you when you are away."
"I've only ever left the village once," Christian replied immediately, laughing, his eyebrows raised.
"Well," Ella said tauntingly, "I missed you then."
She snuck another look at him over her shoulder, slipping another egg into her basket. She glanced down; she had enough eggs for breakfast, so she turned to leave.
Christian blocked the aisle, and for the first time, Ella realized she only came up to his shoulder. She tipped her head back slightly, her smile mischievous.
"How tall you have gotten," she said, her voice soft. "I hadn't realized."
"We have both grown up, Ella," Christian said, taking a step closer to her. His voice was low. Ella held the basket in front of her; his chest pressed against it. Her face was flushed.
There were times when her gift didn't work. Well, not that it didn't work exactly. But sometimes people thought in emotions, instead of words, and Ella found those hard to identity. This was one of those times. Christian's mind was awash with some emotion, but it confused her; it frightened her.
"Christian.." Ella said, her voice trailing off.
Christian took a slight step closer. "Yes, Ella?"
She paused, her gaze on the floor. He reached over and slid his thumb under her chin, gently lifting her head. And Ella knew, without the use of her gift but with the innate instinct that all girls possess, that he was about to kiss her. Chickens cooed in the background, the feathers ruffling.
"It's getting late," she said suddenly, breaking the silence. Her voice sounded too loud in her own ears. "I have work to do." She ducked under his arm and brushed passed him, hurrying out of his reach and out of the coop. She took a deep breath of fresh air, and turned around. Christian stood in the darkened doorway of the chicken coop, his handsome face marred by a scowl. She smiled brightly at him; waves of disappointed radiation off of him, off of his stooped shoulders and his tightened lips.
"I'm sorry I must run, Christian!" she called over her shoulder with a determinedly cheerful wave. "But there is work to be done. I will see you later?"
He nodded and waved half heartedly back at her. "Yes," he replied. "I'll see you later!"
She dropped the smile as soon as she turned around, hurriedly rushing back towards the inn, the basket of eggs held closely at her side. She shook her head slightly, her head down, lost in her own thoughts.
She turned the corner, stepping inside the cool, welcoming darkness of the inn, headed towards the kitchen. The inn was deserted; her footsteps echoed in the cool, pleasant shadows.
Ella kept walking, having not heard the slight whisper coming from outside the kitchen window. But suddenly, she heard someone's thought.
'Over here! Over here! Look out the window!' someone was inwardly shouting, and Ella stopped in her tracks, looking around. Outside the window, watching and waiting for her, the man in black smiled.