September 9th, 1890

Collette Petrova allowed herself to relax after the long day's work. It was well after ten, and the day had started at four in the morning. Although her bed wasn't plush, it was soft enough to be slightly comfortable. She folded her hands over her stomach as she reclined on the small bed. As a servant, her room was small and very basic. Her bed, which could hardly be called that because it was so small and thin, was in the corner. A plain blue blanket, along with a thin pillow, were the only luxuries in the room. A small dresser with a washbasin on top was against one wall, and a small mirror hung above it. A dirty window above the bed let in a small amount of light during the day; unfortunately, she was almost never in her room during the day to enjoy the light.

For as long as she could remember, she had been a servant for the Walker family. Her mother, Anette, had been employed there as a cook, until she died of tuberculosis when Colette was ten. Her father, a Russian man, was somebody she only saw a few times a year. Her mother always told her that he was away at work, but never said where. Judging by the clothing she remembered him wearing, Collette figured he worked for the railway or did some kind of construction work. From what Collette remembered, he was usually drunk. Her mother was simply one of his possessions, one that he could beat or use to his liking. She remembered them fighting, always behind closed doors or outside, so as not to disturb the Walkers, or anyone else. Although Dmitri Petrov was an attractive man, he seemed to be perpetually angry.

After her mother's death, she only saw her father one more time. She recalled him coming to the Walker home the day after the funeral, and holding her on his lap. For once, his breath didn't smell of alcohol. He'd changed his dark work clothes for a worn, but well taken care of suit. With a soft voice, he told Collette that he needed to go far away for work and that he wouldn't be able to come back very often. The child in her wanted to cling to him, and beg him not to go, but her rational side knew he didn't really care. He was just being gentle because her mother had just died. That loss was something she didn't mind, but she often wondered where he'd gone. At the age of ten, Collette already had small chores to do at the Walker household. This didn't change when her mother died. She was left in the care of an older couple who also worked there, and they were also the ones who looked after her wages.

Her chores were all done for the day, so all that was left was to sleep. Or at least try to sleep. Collette found she could not close her eyes without thinking of her employer's only son, Andrew. As a child, Collette had been infatuated with Andrew, and had her foolish childhood dreams of growing up and eloping with him. He was several years her senior, but that didn't stop her from liking him. His hair was so dark it was nearly black, and it never seemed to stay in place. His green eyes were bright, and mischievous. When they were younger, Collette loved to sneak away from the house with him and play games out in a nearby field. Then, he went away to a boarding school, and next to college. Now, six years later, he had just finished his degree at Harvard.

At first, Collette was unnerved at his return. It had been so long since they had last seen each other, and she wasn't sure that he wouldn't dismiss their childhood play as foolish. Now that she was nineteen, and he twenty-four, they were hardly little children playing games. Part of her wanted to believe that he might still have affection for her, but the other part of her tried to be reasonable and pass off their childhood friendship as something of the past.

To her surprise, Andrew seemed excited to know that she was still employed at his mother's home. He followed her around while she did her chores, and they talked of everything that had happened in the last six years. Collette was flattered by his attention, but wondered if it was just because he had been away from home for so long. While he was at college, his mother insisted that he take all his holidays with his friends, saying that he needed to learn how to manage without his mother constantly looking after him.

Andrew had grown much taller since she had seen him last, as he towered over her at three inches over six feet. His green eyes, once hinting of wild plans he had yet to reveal, were now serious and contemplative. Overall, Collette was pleased that he still seemed to consider her his friend. He had not lost his charm and disarming personality in the years he had been gone, and he flirted openly with Collette while they talked. She found it flattering, but wondered how serious he really was. Nobody married a servant, not even in 1890. Still, she allowed his behavior to continue, hoping she wouldn't regret it later. Later came much sooner than she thought, and the regret hurt more than anything she had ever known.