16 Afternoon Tea Time Pt.1

    Gyuri sighed as she hoisted the bucket of laundry down the stairs, grunting with effort and sweat beading on her forehead. "This is unfair" she muttered under her breath.

    "Did you say something?" Madam Zhou queried.

    "No," Gyuri was quick to reply. "Nothing."

    It had been a few days since Gyuri started working as a maid and it was safe to say that she hated every moment of it. To her dismay, she was made to scrub floors; sweep the courtyard and wash the laundry. Gyuri huffed as she cast her memory back to her first day on the job.

    When Gyuri first discovered what her 'reward' for saving Taehyung entailed, she was appalled. Never in her fifteen years of life had she ever done chores as intense as what she had to do in the past few days.

    At first, she had an optimistic image of what life as a servant would be like. She imagined caring for her allocated master and re-enacting the romantic scenes she had watched in her K-dramas. Maybe, her master would fall in love with her and they'd engage in a romantic but forbidden romance? Gyuri had fangirled at the prospect of such things happening. It would be like an epic romance story, one that rivalled the likes of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet.

    But like most things, reality was a lot crueller than her quirky imaginations.

    Gyuri tasted the familiar flavours of disappointment as the few days passed by. There were no romantic encounters or possibilities of love blossoming between Gyuri and her master. And how could there be when Gyuri didn't have a master, to begin with?

    Contrary to what Pho speculated, neither Namjoon nor Taehyung became Gyuri's master, much to the relief of Kalyani and Mayu. When Madam Zhou came to collect her on her first day, she was immediately informed that she would work as a relief maid. At first, Gyuri thought her role was convenient: all she had to do was help the other maids whenever they needed her. But that was before she discovered that her new role was essentially to be everyone's lackey.

    Gyuri believed that Madam Zhou was punishing her.

    Ever since Gyuri had wrestled with Taehyung, Madam Zhou had never let Gyuri out of her sight, not to mention the fact that she had given her the worst job available. It was like she didn't quite trust Gyuri and she probably believed that making her everyone's gopher was one of the ways of keeping her out of trouble. While Gyuri felt it was unfair, she had to admit that she couldn't blame her. If she was ever left alone with Taehyung, she would probably end up strangling him.

    Gyuri huffed as she trailed after Madam Zhou, carrying a bucket full of linen that needed washing. It was so heavy it felt like her arms were going to pop out of their sockets.

    "When you are done with the sheets," Madam Zhou began, "I need you to sweep the courtyard."

    "Yes, Madam Zhou" she murmured tiredly as she struggled with the heavy basket.

    Madam Zhou walked briskly ahead and only stopped when she suddenly heard one of the other maids calling after her.

    "Madam Zhou!" Gyuri heard someone say from afar.

    Madam Zhou inclined her head slightly as the young maid approached her. "What is it, Ada?"

    The young maid was flushed from running, "Pho was taken ill." She gasped for breath, "So now we are one person short of serving the Kims' tea later."

    A worried expression crossed Madam Zhou's face for a brief second before it returned to its usual placid countenance. "What about Kalyani? Mayu?"

    Ada shook her head. "They're already serving. Pho was meant to join them along with me."

    Madam Zhou was quiet once more.

    "If I may be so bold as to suggest something" Ada finally said after what seemed like ten minutes.

    "Go on" Madam Zhou prompted.

    Ada's eyes met with Gyuri's. "Might I suggest Gyuri serve tea with us?"

    Madam Zhou stiffened.

    "Me? Serve tea?" Gyuri sounded surprised at the suggestion.

    For the past few days, Madam Zhou had meticulously ensured that Gyuri never got close to any of the Kims so to her, having Gyuri serve tea to them was like running a marathon despite avoiding exercise: it was both reckless and incredibly unpredictable.

    Madam Zhou pursed her lips. "I do not think that is a good idea."

    "Madam Zhou, we are understaffed" Ada pleaded. "Gyuri is able-bodied and she is a relief maid, after all."

    Still, Madam Zhou was reluctant to budge. She eyed Gyuri from behind her and scrutinised her face as if calculating if she could trust Gyuri not to get into any trouble.

    As much as I am against it, Madam Zhou pondered, it is far worse to provide poor service to the Kims as opposed to the probability of Gyuri making a mistake.

    "Fine" Madam Zhou murmured finally as she turned to face Ada. "Since we have little choice."

    Ada gave a sigh of relief.

    "You're really gonna let me serve?" Gyuri was astounded.

    "Yes," Madam Zhou answered hesitantly. "It shall be a trial run. Someday, you may have a master to serve so it will do you some good to acquaint yourself with the Kims as early as possible." She gave her a warning look, "Just ensure that you behave cordially towards all the Kims."

    Gyuri already knew which of the Kims she was referring to. She nodded slowly. "I'll try my best."
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