The sun had just barely risen on Ashington when Ms. Genevieve Wilkins opened her eyes for the first time that morning. She stretched and reached for the bell on her bedside table so she could ring for Rebecca, her ladies' maid, to help her dress for the day. She shook it and it was a few moments before she could hear the steps approaching her bedroom door. There was brief knock before Rebecca entered the room, already dressed for the day in her maid's outfit.
"Yes, miss?" She asked with a smile in her thick Irish accent.
"I know it's early, but I'd really like to dress for the day. Could you please pick something out for me?" Genevieve wondered.
"Of course, miss. Right away." Rebecca waltzed over to the closet and began rummaging for a dress. She finally chose a yellow dress with a large hoop skirt and a deep blue bow tied around the waist.
"Oh Ms. McDonald, you always pick the best for me." Genevieve grinned, still a little groggy from her sleep.
"How many times must I tell you? You may call me Rebecca, or even Becky." She replied simply.
Genevieve sighed. "Yes, I know. You've told me many a time. I just feel like it is impolite."
"That's all right, miss. Come now, let us get you dressed." She said.
Genevieve got up from her bed and briefly stretched again before obeying Rebecca's commands. She found the whole process to be tedious, and wished she could just dress herself, but the Lady of the House would never allow such a thing.
Mrs. Margaret Youinou was that lady, though it was her husband who owned the house. The two of them had moved from France, where they had met, to the Ashington estate 20 years before, and sadly could not have children. Fortunately for them, an orphanage closed down and the curator went door to door, trying to find homes for 5 baby girls that had not yet been adopted, so the Youinou's decided to care for them all.
While Genevieve quite liked Ashington, and adored the Youinous and her fellow 'sisters', she often wondered what had happened to her real parents. All she knew was their surname, and that they of course chose her first name, but no other information had been given.
"If you'll pardon me, miss, but you seem to be out of sorts today. I couldn't help but notice." Rebecca stated.
"Oh no, I'm fine. I was just thinking." Genevieve replied.
"Aye, now don't do too much of that. My father always said thinking will only get you into trouble." She mentioned.
"Mrs. Youinou says that if you don't think, you're an outright fool." She retorted.
There was a pause as Rebecca laced up Genevieve's corset. "Of course, miss."
Genevieve felt terrible for snapping at Rebecca in such a way, but she felt very strongly about scholastics. After all, with Mrs. Youinou acting as her governess, she was practically raised to think that way, not that she minded.
Soon after she was dressed, there was another bell ring from across the hallway. This meant that is was time for one of the others to be dressed. Rebecca politely excused herself and went to help Ms. Phoebe Toone with her clothes. Genevieve strolled downstairs to the library, hoping to read a few more pages of her book before she was called to breakfast.
Meanwhile, all the girls started to wake up from their slumber. Ms. Minerva Jansen, Ms. Stella Blann, and Ms. Victoria Nobles rang their bells almost simultaneously, leaving poor Rebecca slightly flustered and forced to dress them all quickly. She didn't know how she managed all 5 girls most of the time, but somehow, she prevailed in her duty.
A half hour passed before Minerva came to disturb Genevieve's reading. "Genny," She said as she entered the library. "Breakfast is about to be served. Your presence at the table has been requested."
"Oh Minerva, I wish you wouldn't speak so formally to me. We're adoptive sisters, not master and servant." Genevieve stated as she folded the corner of the page in her book and set it down.
"Why do you think I do it? I know how terribly is pesters you." She replied with a devilish smile.
Genevieve rolled her eyes playfully. "You've made it your duty to bother me. I've known it since we were young. Come now, before Mrs. Youinou comes to call for us herself."
They left the library and walked to the dining room, where Mr. Youinou had the newspaper out in front of him at the table and Mrs. Youinou was waiting patiently for the cook to serve breakfast. The other girls were already seated at their neatly set places, talking amongst themselves. Genevieve smiled as she and Minerva sat down and joined in.
Breakfast was served, and there were a few moments where they all ate in silence before Mr. Youinou spoke.
"Dear, would you like to tell them the big news?" He asked.
Mrs. Youinou got an excited expression on her face and chewed the rest of her food so that she could speak. "Oh yes! Girls, we've all been invited to a ball being held at the Winsford estate in about a fortnight's time!"
"A ball?! How terribly exciting!" Phoebe remarked.
"Most importantly," Mr. Youinou added. "There will be young gentlemen there."
"Are you just trying to marry us all off?" Genevieve asked in a shocked voice.
"Now, Genny, you know I don't mean it like that. The five of you are all 18, and you've been cooped up with only other females your entire lives. I think it is time that you all go out and start to meet some young men for a change." He replied defensively.
"Like there will be any gentlemen quite as interesting as my own sisters." Stella mentioned with a grin.
"I actually think it will be nice to get out of the house and into society for once," Minerva commented. "With all of our lessons, it always seems as if we never get to go anywhere."
"I agree. I've grown tired of being cooped up in this place." Victoria added.
Mrs. Youinou smiled. "I think tomorrow we shall go dress shopping. I do not think that there is a fabric in any of your closets that is quite fancy enough for a ball."
"Well," Genevieve cut in. "I don't know about you all, but I find the idea simply preposterous."
"You have such a sour attitude about these things, Genny," Victoria replied. "I wish you wouldn't be so quick to judge things before you try them."
"Why do you think we're going to this ball, hm? It is so we can find a man with a good fortune to take us off their hands!" She exclaimed, pointing at Mr. Youinou.
"Maybe we will meet men whom of which we might marry, but why does that matter? We can finally meet new people." Phoebe stated.
Genevieve quickly stood up from the table. "Then you shall all have fun gallivanting with strangers. I for one, refuse to talk to any of them."
She stormed away without excusing herself and went back to the library. "Lessons won't be for another two hours. I should have this book finished by then." She thought to herself.