Time for Eternity
feminine.
    Françoise felt like such an interloper. What must they all think of her? She wandered from bed to dressing table, touching silver-backed brushes and tiny colored glass bottles that smelled of expensive perfume. Her senses were a little dulled with all the momentous events tonight. She felt as though the world had lost color, somehow, or taste.
    A knock sounded at the door.
    Françoise almost looked around to see who had the right to allow entry to this lovely room. “Come in.” A young woman hurried in and bobbed a curtsy.
    “Annette, if you please, my lady,” she said, slightly out of breath. “I’m to help you dress for dinner.” She had red hair, a plain, round face with light eyelashes, and a dumpling of a chin.
    Françoise smiled ruefully. “I’m afraid that will be quick work. My other clothing was destroyed in the fire.” The servants would know she lived next door.
    The girl smiled, almost kindly. “Do not worry your head, your ladyship. Gaston, he has ordered the bath, and before you can dry yourself, I will have just what you need all laid out and waiting. Mind you, I ’m not a lady’s dresser, so I hope I’ll do for your ladyship.”
    “I’m not a lady, Annette.” Just someone with nowhere else to go. Annette opened the wardrobe. It seemed fully stocked. “I’m sure you will be just fine. Are you normally a housemaid here? ” That seemed the most plausible explanation for her sudden appearance.
    “La, no, mademoiselle. The duc has no female servants. I’m housemaid three doors down. Or was until ten minutes ago.”
    Françoise blinked, not sure which part of this speech to question first. “So you just … quit without notice?”
    Annette chuckled. “Don’t expect Madame even knows I’m gone. But when my brother tells me that my salary just tripled if I’m here within five minutes, I don’t ask questions.”
    “Your brother?”
    “Footman here,” Annette said proudly. “Name is Jean. He’s been with the duc near on three years, and everyone knows the duc only takes the best.”
    So that’s how Gaston had provided a maid on short notice, and why Annette’s red hair seemed familiar. No wonder Avignon had thought it a hard task to procure a female attendant —he employed no females himself. She would have expected a man of Avignon’s morals to keep a host of girl-servants he could take advantage of at a moment’s notice whenever the latest in his string of paramours was unavailable. That was the lot of young women. It might be her lot when Avignon ended his charade. If she was lucky. If not, it might be the brothel.
    “You’re not afraid to serve here?”
    “Well …” Annette looked dubious for a moment, then she shrugged. “Jean says the devil … his grace, I mean, won’t bother about me as long as you’re here.”
    Oh, well, that made Françoise feel better all around.
    Her grim thoughts were interrupted when the door opened and two footmen brought in a bath three times larger than any she had ever used and set it by the fire. They were followed by a line of servants all carrying buckets. The room overflowed with activity, then emptied. Before she knew it the room held only Annette and a steaming bath, lavender -scented soaps, and thick towels, all looking more inviting than she would have imagined. The water didn ’t even smell. Wasn’t it from the Seine? But water from the system of wells that sold water privately was horrendously expensive. Could Avignon be rich enough to use it for bathing?
    “Now just you let me help you out of that nasty dress,” Annette fussed, unbuttoning and unhooking and untying.
    Françoise stepped into the steaming tub. “Thank you,” she breathed, sinking in to the nape of her neck. Heaven. Her hair would still smell like smoke, she was sure, but the rest of her would be clean, cleaner than a bath with river water could ever make her.
    And Madame LaFleur was spending the night in who knew what horrible cell? Guilt slapped

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