Author's Note: Since it seems people like this story, I guess I'll continue with it.
Despite all the housework mother had me do, a year passed swiftly. All too soon, we were saying goodbye to Dreary Manor and Nanny as well.
"Nanny, don't go!" Stacey cried, sobbing as she grasped Nanny's skirt.
Nanny sighed and kneeled, stroking her head. "Anastasia, darling, you'll be living in a much grander home. I'm afraid that I must go back to my former life now that things have righted themselves." She glanced at me and smiled weakly, but I could tell that she would miss us more than she was admitting aloud.
"I don't want you to leave! I'll hate it there without you!" Stacey shouted woefully.
"Nonsense, child," Nanny replied. "I know you're looking forward to seeing your new stepsister. You won't even remember an old woman as boring as me."
Mother was soon in the room as well, hushing Stacey's sobbing. "Cinderella told her father that she's looking forward to seeing both her stepsisters."
Stacey immediately stopped her tears. "Cinderella?" she asked. "Like in the story book, momma?"
Mother laughed and nodded. "Of course, and I'm sure she's as wonderful as the Cinderella in the story book."
Nanny rolled her eyes, and I hid a chuckle.
"Have you finished packing?" Mother asked Stacey.
Stacey shook her head, and mother told her to hurry and pack her things.
It was as she was leaving the room to pack as well when I stopped her. "May I pack a bag as well?" I asked hopefully.
She stopped and stared at me. "What could you possibly have to pack, Drusilla?" she demanded.
I mentally held my breath as I answered. "I just wanted to pack a few of the things you would probably think worthless that I've grown attached to."
Mother nodded, not seeming to notice my extensive vocabulary, or at least what was extensive for a seven-year-old. "I suppose a bag wouldn't hurt." She stopped and pursed her lips as she looked me up and down. "Drusilla, I want you to take a bath and change into something…less…raggedy."
"But I don't have any other dress," I replied.
She looked thoughtful a moment, then smiled and shook her head. "Come with me. I shall lend you one of mine from years ago."
I followed her up to her room, and was surprised to see her take out a trunk with clothing in it. She went through various dresses, holding them up and deciding if they were too large or not.
"You are rather large for your age," she admitted disdainfully.
I blushed and looked at myself in the mirror, but instantly wished I hadn't. Staring back at me was a girl with so dirty a face, it seemed almost permanently brown. Large brown eyes, too large for my face, stared blankly back at me, as if jaded from seeing the evils of the world. My brown hair was scraggly and cut to my shoulders so it didn't hinder my work when I was cleaning and cooking. My nose was too long and crooked. I wrinkled it in disdain. My dress was in tatters and was stained, but it had once been a blue color. Now it appeared as faded and brown. My arms were too muscular to be petite and ladylike. The way I carried myself was so different from mother and Stacey. What mother said was true; while I wasn't fat because my meal portions had been greatly reduced, I was taller than most girls my age, towering over Stacey, who was only a little less than two years my junior.
Finally, mother took out a pretty cranberry-colored dress with a snow-white collar, and cuffs. She put it up to me and nodded. Then, she told me to ask Nanny to help me look presentable for tomorrow's visitor. As I was leaving, she remarked, "I suppose that even you could look presentable when fitted with the proper apparel."
It was the closest thing I had ever gotten to a compliment from her, and I dashed off in search of Nanny. I found her in the study, looking at various books, and excitedly recounted what mother had said and done. At the end of my tale, I showed her the dress, which I had thought to be the most beautiful dress in the world.
Nanny merely shook her head, disappointed. "She throws you a crumb, and you treat it as if it were a feast. You'll only get hurt again, child."
I was angry. Mother had given me such a wonderful gift, and Nanny was treating it as nothing. "Don't say things like that, Nanny!" I cried.
She wisely changed the subject. "I heard you speaking with your mother about bringing some things with you?" she inquired.
My mood instantly brightened, and I nodded. "Yes, I want to continue learning."
Nanny nodded and smiled. "I hoped you would say something like that." She pulled out a suitcase, well-worn with the letters A.G. inscribed in the corner. "This is my gift to you, dear."
My eyes widened in disbelief, and I reached out a shaky hand and traced the letters. "I never…" I started.
Nanny nodded. "I know."
I continued to look at it. "What do the letters stand for?"
"Agatha Greyson: that's my name, child."
I gasped and looked at Nanny once more. Was she actually giving me something of hers? She never so much as let Stacey look at her things.
Nanny laughed. "Well, don't just gawk at it. Open it up!"
I did so, admiring the fasteners, and gasped at what I saw inside. There was a beautiful hard-cover book as well as books on arithmetic, languages, philosophy and geography. In the corner was a pristine white kerchief. I first pulled out the unknown book, and stared at its cover. There was no title, and when I opened it, I was surprised to find it blank.
"That," Nanny explained, "is a diary. You record your thoughts and feelings in there, but I want you to use it for whatever you wish, should it be drawing or writing your own stories and poetry."
I hugged her and thanked her repeatedly, and she laughed once more. I could never repay her for the kindness she had shown to me, and she was even buying me things when she didn't have much money herself.
"There's more in there."
I pulled out each book one by one and saw Nanny become agitated and impatient.
"The kerchief!" she finally cried out. "Pick up the kerchief!"
I did so, and was surprised to find a beautiful set of silver plated and jewel-studded combs beneath it. Wrapped in the folds of the kerchief was a beautiful silver chain with a pearl bird dangling from it. So beautiful were these gifts, words could never describe my gratitude, and I began to sob with a bittersweet feeling. It was as if I was torn between bliss and wretchedness. I was so happy with the gifts, but I didn't deserve anything so grand.
Nanny hugged me close as if she understood, and I believe that she did understand exactly what I was feeling. The only gifts I normally got were an afterthought, not intended to satisfy my interests nor bring me joy. Nanny was the one who had shown me that I wasn't unwanted, and I was loved. Later, as she helped me decide on which novels to take from the study, I couldn't help feeling as though I would miss her most out of mother, Stacey and I.
The next day came too soon, and Nanny was leaving before Victor had come to pick us up. Our goodbyes were tearful, but Nanny promised to write to us, and she left mother with an address to write her. Stacey and I were sobbing as her carriage drove off into the distance and finally out of sight. Mother wrinkled her nose and crumpled the paper Nanny had given her into a ball. She tossed it behind her and walked back into the manor. Stacey followed her, and I stayed, staring at the discarded address. When I was sure I wouldn't be seen, I picked it up and smoothed it out. Then I raced to my room, where my suitcase lay waiting to be taken. I slipped the paper inside and shut it just as mother was shouting for us to bring our luggage downstairs. Victor had arrived.
Victor was a man with gray hair and blue eyes. He had wrinkles at the corner of his eyes from smiling too much, but also lines at his mouth from frowning too much. He was dressed in a suit and looked every bit the gentleman he was supposed to be. He was incredibly handsome and seemed to be only in his thirties, but he aged prematurely. Surely, he had to go through a horrible ordeal to age that early, or so I thought. If mother had heard my thoughts, I would've gotten a lashing, but I couldn't help thinking this as his eyes took on a distant look before he smiled and greeted us.
There was a stage coach and two wagons. The wagons, I learned, were for our things, which mother and Stacey had spent almost the whole year packing. Victor took mother's hand and helped her into the coach and did the same for Stacey and me. Stacey worried about the safety of her things, but Victor assured her that his servants were very trustworthy. Once she was over that worry, she then became upset that she wasn't by a window. Mother asserted that she would sleep most of the time we traveled, so it would matter little if she had a window or not. I thought that mother just didn't want me sitting next to her. But I was fine with the window, and I watched as the servants got to work loading heavy chests and suitcases into the wagons. We left as I saw them place my suitcase in the second wagon. The men grew smaller and smaller, as did the home I had spent the last seven years of my life in. When it was out of sight, mother laughed.
"Well girls, isn't this exciting?" she asked, fluttering her lashes at Victor, who laughed as well.
"Very!" Stacey agreed, and the three talked of Nasarette as we passed through the town. It wasn't until there was nothing but trees that I drew back from the window. I had wanted to etch it into my mind so I would never forget and carelessly toss it away like mother had done with Nanny's address. This town had been a part of my home, where Nanny had often taken me and Stacey to buy things, and mother had often gone to visit with friends and acquaintances. This town and our home were a part of who we were, and to forget it would be forgetting a part of us.
True to mother's word, Stacey fell asleep soon after we had started our journey, and soon the journey of two days would come to a close. We stopped at an inn to spend the night and arrived the afternoon of the next day. Our clothes were wrinkled from our travel, but we were in high spirits when Nasarette came into view.
Victor had not done justice in describing his home. Dreary paled in comparison to Nasarette, in size, servants, gardens, and location. Nasarette shared the same forest as the castle of Exultia, and they often visited the royal court. As mother was waking Stacey, I could only gape at the sheer grandness of the estate. Servants were line up outside the large oak front doors, and in front of them stood a girl with beautiful blue eyes and blonde curls. She seemed as if she was an angel.
As Victor stepped out, he said, "My dearest daughter, I have brought you a new family."
We stepped out one by one and stood much like the servants were, as if we were being judged.
"Remember the wonderful woman I told you about?" he asked. "This is Countess Nadine and her daughters Drusilla and Anastasia."
"Stacey," Stacey automatically corrected. "I want Cindy to call me Stacey."
'Cindy' looked at us and regarded us carefully before she ran to her father and threw her arms around his neck. "I love my new family! Thank you so much, papa!" Then, she took his hand and stepped up to us. "Are you going to be my mommy and sisters, then?"
Mother found absolutely no excuse not to be. Cinderella was exactly as she had always wanted. She was a beautiful child with wonderful manners and carried herself expertly. "Of course!" she rushed and hugged the child.
Stacey automatically did the same and went on to talk about her toys and the difficult ride here. I stood off to the side, unsure of how to carry myself, and not exactly trusting of a girl who seemed too perfect to be true.