Opening Scene from my Work in Progress - Rough Draft (Not the title, lol)

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The wrought iron gate creaked in the morning fog. April hesitated, then continued up the path to the main house. Her footsteps echoed on the cobblestones, lending an eeriness to the still morning air. As she entered the courtyard, the house loomed above her. The grave stone walls were faded from years spent in the harsh sea air, their only color a coat of ivy weaving an emerald pattern in the morning dew. A slight breeze lifted the leaves, seeming to give the house a life of its own. April shivered and pulled her cloak tight around her body, as if the action could take away her mounting anxiety which by now had almost turned into fear. The old mahogany door gave her a sense of reassurance and, lifting the knocker, she put all her reservations behind her. The door swung open abruptly.
"May I help you?"
"Yes, I'm Marie's sister, April. Lady Simpson told her if I came by early this morning I could start work today."
April could feel the doorman scrutinizing her down the bridge of his nose. "Your sister should have informed you that the servants never enter through the front door. Go around back and knock on the kitchen door. Mimi'll know what to do with you." Sniffing his dismissal, the doorman turned and shut the door.
Flustered by her mistake and the obvious disapproval of the doorman, she practically ran down the stairs into the courtyard. As she rounded the corner of the house, a man appeared out of nowhere and before she could stop herself, she ran full force into his chest.
"I'm so sorry!" April exclaimed in a rush of air.
"And who might you be? I don't believe I've seen you here before." The man regarded April through cold black eyes that sent shivers down her back.
"I'm the new maid, sir. Please excuse my clumsiness, it won't happen again."
"And does the new maid have a name?"
"April, sir."
"Well, April, you'd better get moving before you're late on your first day of work here."
"Yes, sir."
April curtsied and continued down the path to the back of the house, wondering what else could possibly go wrong. So far she had made the impression of a lost little girl, thank goodness she hadn't met Lady Simpson yet. By the time she arrived at the kitchen, she had regained her composure and, taking a deep breath, she tapped lightly on the door.
She was greeted by a woman with cocoa skin and a warm smile. "Come on in, child. I'm Mimi. I do all of the cookin' around her. Marie couldn't have described you better. She'll be down in a few minutes. In the meantime, why don't you go sit by the fire and take the chill out of your bones. I've got a nice warm cup of coffee waiting for you."
Grateful to finally see a friendly face, April hung up her cloak and took a seat by the hearth. "Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Mimi."
"Think nothing of it, child." Mimi chattered away as she prepared the morning's breakfast. "I have to make coffee for the whole household, anyway. Just don't let Master Drake see you with it or he'll have your job. There's not a kind bone in that man. But you don't have to worry this morning. I saw him walk past the window just a few minutes before you arrived. I'm sure he was heading out to the stables for this morning ride. He goes out every morning right about the same time."
April laughed. "From the way you described him, I'd say my timing couldn't have been any worse. I nearly knocked him over on my way up the path from the courtyard. He didn't seem very amused."
"No, I suppose he wasn't."
"Is he always so stern, Mimi?"
"Oh, no. He can be quite charming when he wants to be. Surely, Marie told you what a reputation he has with the ladies. When he puts on a smile he's actually quite handsome, the perfect gentleman. The young ladies enjoy his company so much, why they practically swoon over him just to get his attention."
"I find that hard to believe. I half expected him to thrash me with his riding crop when I bumped into him. You should have seen the angry look in his eyes. At the very least, he looked as though he would fire me on the spot." She felt herself trembling as she remembered the cold look in his eyes, and she took a long sip of coffee to calm her shaking hands.
Mimi went on chattering, seeming not to notice the young girl's distress over the encounter. "Well, you'll see for yourself soon enough. The family is throwing a grand party at the end of the week and I'm sure Lady Simpson will have you working all night long. Then you can see Master Drake at his finest."
"A party, really?" April could not hide the excitement in her voice. "Do you think there'll be dancing, too?"
"Why, of course, child. There's a huge ballroom upstairs. Just wait until you see it. The whole house will be alive with the party." Mimi smiled at April's youthful naivete. "I still remember my first party here. Lady Simpson had just turned sixteen and Charles couldn't take his eyes off her. Oh, and she was beautiful then. They met on the dance floor and you could tell by the look in their eyes they were in love. I was a couple of years younger than her, about the same age as you, and to me she was so grown up and sophisticated…"
"I can see that you and Mimi have made friends already. I heard that same story the first day I started working here." Marie laughed and gave a conspiratorial wink to Mimi. "I hate to take you away from Mimi, but we need to get you into a uniform before you go up to see Lady Simpson."
"Thank you again for the coffee, Mimi."
"There's always a fresh cup waiting. I'll see you at lunch."

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