Chapter fifteen: The proposal
We come rushing through the front door, then start pulling open the breakfast cabinet to go and set the table.”
“What should I do?” Melody asks after handing me the breakfast plates.
“You can get the bread basket if you like.”
“On it.” She smiles as she strides into the kitchen.
Then as if on cue, Harmony comes down the steps.
“Good morning Delaylah.”
“Have you seen Melody?”
“She’s in the kitchen.”
I pull out the silver and start laying it around the table when a man appears inside the door frame. “Uhm, good morning miss.” He says, holding his cap in his hands.
“Good morning Mr. Dovey.”
“Have you seen Harmony?”
“In the kitchen, she’ll be back soon.”
He flips the cap over in his hands “Oh uhm, can you take a message then? I’m afraid I can’t make breakfast today.”
I nod “Of course. Work?”
The man nods, then slaps the cap on his head and rushes out the door.
I pick one plate from the table arrangement and set it back into the cupboard.
The girls exit the kitchen together. The moment they see me they start giggling as if some sort of secret has passed between them. I wonder what it is but it feels rude to ask.
“Has mister Dovey come down yet?” Harmony wonders aloud.
“Oh yes, you just missed him, he said he had to skip breakfast due to work.”
“Really? I wonder when he heard about that.” There’s a hint of disappointment in her voice but Melody gives her a friendly push on the shoulder “Hey the more he works the sooner he can ask you.”
“Yeah, that’s true.” She responds but she doesn’t sound happy about it. “Well uhm, did you boil water for tea yet?”
“I’m on it then.” She rushes back to the kitchen and I look at Melody with a question on my face.
“It kind of sucks when the guy you spent the night with runs out on you the next day.” She explains.
“Oh, right. Do you like mister Dovey?”
“I guess he’s not a bad sort, as long as he actually keeps his promise of marrying my sister that it. If he runs out on her for something other than working towards that goal I’ll make him wish he never set foot in this place.”
“Remind me not to cross you.”
She smiles at me, gives me a quick peck on the cheek and rushes off to other duties.
Hours later I’m cleaning room six when the door suddenly opens up.
“Mister Dovey, you’re back earlier than I expected. If you have a moment I’ll clear out.”
“No no, uhm it’s fine. Carry on please.” He walks to the hook by the door and takes off his cap.
I nod, wipe down the desk and pull back the chair, offering him a seat.
I can feel his eyes on my back as I change the sheets on the bed.
It’s kind of annoying.
“Is everything all right mister Dovey?” I ask.
“What? Yes, yes uhm…Can I ask you a question?”
“Have you ever been married before?”
I look back flabbergasted not entirely sure if I heard that correctly “Come again?”
“I mean no offence I just.” He waves his hands round apologetically, then sighs “I’ve been saving up to ask someone, but I’m not entirely sure if I have enough to give her the wedding she deserves. But I also don’t want to wait too long because. Well, I mean what if someone snatched her out in front of my nose.”
“I’m pretty sure Harmony is prepared to wait for you.”
His eyes grow big for a moment, but then a smile curls around his face “She’s told you then?”
“I had to figure it out first, but yes.”
“Willing to wait or not, every time I have to return to Tjits I wish I could just take her with me. With her father’s blessing of course.”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
“I was just wondering when is the right time?”
“How much did you save?”
“Well…you’re not going to rent out a music hall for that money, but if mister Viola is truly on board you could ask him to hold the wedding at the hotel.”
“That’s…not a bad idea. But would it be proper?”
“Would Harmony mind?”
“No, she’d wed in a cardboard box if needed. Not that I’m proposing that of course” he quickly adds.
I nod approvingly “Then I don’t see a problem.”
“Right…thank you Delaylah. I should go talk to Harmony’s father then.”
I nod “That’s probably best yes.” I put the blanket down on the bed again “And now if you don’t mind, I have other rooms to tend to.”
“Quite right, I don’t mean to hold you up of course.”
I nod politely, pick up my bucket again, and head on to the next room.
While assessing the amount of cleaning required, in the room next to me I can hear mister Dovey leave his room and go down the stairs.
Oh no…Mister Viola calls me ‘miss’, I must be in trouble.
I put my dusting rag into a pocket on my apron before turning around “Yes? Mister Viola?”
“Can you come to my office please?”
“Of course, right away,” I tell him obediently before following him up the stairs wondering what I did wrong.
I sit, mister Viola does too.
“It has been brought to my attention that my daughter has a sweetheart.”
“Which one sir?”
The man pulls up an eyebrow at me “Harmony.”
Relief washes over me.
“I’m surprised you need to ask, I thought you knew as much. In fact, Mister Dovey told me it was you who convinced him to come to me and ask for her hand.”
He makes an excellent point.
Uhhhh… well… Guess I should just tell the truth.
“Harmony asked not to tell you until mister Dovey had the chance. I apologise for acting coy.”
“I see, Well I would have preferred if you had told me anyway because then we could have held the wedding in summer rather than autumn.”
My voice is hopeful “You mean you said yes then?”
“I said I’d discuss with the missus first, and I just did.” A smile curls around his lips “She’s overjoyed meaning I’m overjoyed.” But then his gaze drifts to his hands and his voice becomes serious once more. “However I still desire to know how long you’ve been holding this courtship a secret from me.”
“Ah, well. It was around the time you asked me to spy on Melody, that’s three months back I believe?”
“I see.” His voice sounds cold. I don’t like it. “Now I’m not the kind of person who likes to act like I own the place, even though I do. But as your boss, it’s very inappropriate to conspire with my daughter behind my back. If it was just a recent thing I could have believed you didn’t have the time but you’ve made it all too clear you had no intention of breaking the news to me.”
I don’t like where this is going. My head is rattling for excuses but honestly, all I want to say is “I didn’t want to put Harmony on the spot.”
“Which I can imagine but my daughters holding secrets from me is one thing, my employees holding secrets from me is entirely different in my eyes. Do you understand?”
Sound like that wasn’t enough of a reason for him “Yes sir.”
“Good now, I won’t be too harsh on you. You’re a valuable member of our staff and I’m not sure what you did but I haven’t seen Melody this cheerful in years. I appreciate that greatly. However, I expect to be told next time news of this magnitude reaches your ears.”
“Good. Then that will be all, you are dismissed.”
“Thank you, sir.”
I get up, bow, turn around and rush out of the room.
While trying very hard to keep the little panic voice out of my head.
I should have told him about Melody.
I’ll get fired if he finds out.
I’d have gotten fired then and there if I told him. Pretty sure.
And Melody would hate me for it.
I did the right thing, right? I wonder.
Then why do I feel so bad
I turn, heart skipping a beat “Melody, how-?”
“I’m on break, come with me.”
She takes my hand and leads me back up the steps, to the floor I just left.
“Where are we-” she shushes me.
Pulling me along to her bedroom.
She opens the door silently, then closes it with the same amount of care once we’re in.
“Mister Dovey asked for Harmony’s hand.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Good, that means that at least until the wedding dad is going to make it his life’s work to make sure Harmony sleeps in her own bed at night.”
“And we haven’t…done anything yet.” Her cheeks fire up and my mind is instantly taken back to her and Hope back in the alleyway.
“I don’t want to make you feel like you have to. I don’t even know how dolls do…do they have sex?”
“I can’t speak for all of us but I never tried anything of the sort.”
“Do you want to?”
“Yes, but…” I look at the wall and try to cross-reference it with the floor plan, is it her mom’s or her dad’s office on the other side? I’m not sure and right now that worries me. Harmony stays silent but her eyes look at me questioningly “But I just got a lecture from your dad about staying silent on Harmony’s behalf and I’m worried we may get caught.”
Her face grows even redder than before “Oh…right.” She chuckles awkwardly.
I hug her “Thank you though.”
“For not trying to force me.”
“Of course not, that’d be horrid.” She sounds appalled by the idea.
I hold her hands gently as I speak “I want to share that experience with you, just some other time.”
“It…was a bit silly to ask now wasn’t it?” she laughs, rubbing her face with her hands for a moment “Oh and now the moment’s gone anyway. Well, I’m glad we talked at least.” She kisses my cheek.
I kiss her cheek back.
Then her stomach starts rumbling “I should probably go back to the kitchen and eat something.”
“You haven’t eaten yet?”
“My appetite was towards something else okay?” She sounds defensive but in a playful way. “But yeah, I’m going down again. You coming?”
“Sure, I’ll just get started on dinner preparations.”
About an hour later it’s time to set the table, serve dinner and call it an evening.
“Delaylah can I have a quick word?” It’s Miss Viola, she doesn’t come down much I wonder what the problem is.
“Yes ma’am?” I ask as I follow her to a discrete corner of the room.
“You should stay in the dining room for dinner tonight.” She tells me.
“Oh, okay?” I leave a question open in my response.
“Mister Dovey is going to propose to Harmony and I want you to be there for the surprise.”
“It’s not really a surprise to me.”
She waves away the remark “Nor for me or the family but the guests don’t know yet.”
“So? It’s a performance then?”
“In a way. It’s just so everyone’s on the same page at once, and it’ll be a fun evening of congratulations for the young couple.”
I’m not entirely sure why it’s vital I’m there. But on the other hand, I’m glad they think to invite me. “Yes ma’am, thank you, ma’am.”
She nods briskly, smiles brightly at the prospect and disappears out the door again.
The dinner table is quite the sight that evening.
With half the guests knowing what’s to come and the other half eating their food while blissfully unaware.
I wonder when they’re planning to make the announcement. They’re already devouring the meat course.
Maybe they’re waiting until dessert?
End the day on double sweetness?
Either way, it feels a tad awkward standing here by the door by myself without anything apparent to do but wait. The guests don’t seem to notice, but if they do, and they ask about it. I wouldn’t know what to say in return.
I can’t reveal the secret and I have no excuse in its place.
Harmony keeps sending looks at Mister Dovey.
Then Melody sends a look at me, head tilted ever so slightly at my being here.
I wonder if her mother explained beforehand.
I hope she did.
Please don’t make this weird Melody.
But then she and her sister get up to collect the plates and bring them to the kitchen.
I jump in to help, pretending that was my function all along.
Melody pushes into me, snatching the cup I was reaching for while whispering. “What’s with the hovering?”
“Your mom’s idea, for the announcement.”
“To the kitchen, come on.” She tugs on my sleeve.
“Yes ma’am.” I get dragged along to the kitchen where dessert is already standing proudly on a silver stand.
It’s a sweet pudding, but one of those tall ones made up of several smaller puddings with cream piped along the sides and topped with fruits and flowers.
I let out a small “wow” as we enter.
Melody smiles at this. “Thanks, also mom told you to stand in the corner without giving you anything to do?”
“Well, then I got the perfect job. You can help me carry this monstrosity into the room.”
“Sure, now when are they going to announce the wedding?”
“As soon as this is on the table.”
“Guess we better get on it then.”
“Yeah, but first-” She gives me a kiss on the lips and wraps her arms around me “Just hug me for a bit?”
“Okay?” This feels rather sudden but I wrap my arms around her waist, and she lays her head on my shoulder. My eyes gaze at the pudding as I wait for her to be done.
She lets go “Thank you.”
“Of course.” I wonder if I should ask what that was about…but as I’m considering that she already made her way over to the gelatinous mountain and beckons me to help her carry it.
“We could use the trolley?”
“This is more fun.”
“If you say so. Uhm, are you okay?”
Melody swallows, “Yeah just…a bit sad. Harmony will be moving out after the wedding. We both knew it was coming but suddenly things go so fast. It’s a big change and I think I’m gonna miss her a lot.”
“Oh, I didn’t think about that yet. I’m sorry to hear it.”
“She’s not, she’s looked forward to this for months.” She takes a deep breath “So I’ll be happy for her.”
“And we could visit.”
“Yes, we could visit. We’d visit all the time.” A smile creeps through at the thought “But now, pudding or else no one’s getting married anytime soon.”
The moment we come in with dessert all eyes point towards us.
“Dessert is served,” Melody announces. There are approving hums and wows from the guests. “I went a bit overboard today, but that’s because today is a very special day.” She looks at Mister Dovey meaningfully.
“Now?” he asks pointing at himself.
“Yes now.” Melody rolls her eyes, but a smile escapes her lips.
“Right! Uhm.” Mister Dovey gets up from his chair “Hi, all, uhm, I’m Mister Dovey, room number six. You’ve seen me at breakfast no doubt.” He coughs softly “Anyway I have an announcement to make. I’m getting married to the lovely Miss Harmony Viola.”
It’s silent for a beat.
Then Harmony’s mother starts to clap, prodding her husband in the side to do the same.
And soon the whole room is filled with applause, felicitation and mirth.
As Harmony is swarmed by guests trying to congratulate her, Melody leans into me.
“You think dad’s looking at me right now? That’s cute.” She grabs my wooden arms and wraps them around herself.
It feels secret but also not so secret.
We stand there like that for a moment, maybe two.
Until the people’s attention is grasped by frosting and flowers and the promise of sweetness.
And we’re finally allowed to serve dessert.