Jenara entered the breakfast room and sat at her usual spot. She’d tried sitting elsewhere a few times. Her family either didn’t notice, or, if she sat in their usual place, she was treated to a vague frown and a shuffle to another chair. Her eldest brother, Vance, had actually sat on her once.
So, she went back to her usual spot. It had a nice view of the gardens and she didn’t have to circle the table to leave after the meal.
The servants brought her usual fare, she’d tried changing that order too, once upon a time, and ended up reaching a happy agreement with the various members of staff involved. She would take tea and toast in the breakfast room, in front of any governesses or companions that might be inflicted on her – they never lasted.
Once her requisite time at the table had elapsed, she would glide from the room, then scurry down to the kitchens for a proper meal of porridge and fruit, or bacon and eggs on the truly hungry days. She wondered if her brothers had ever had properly hot bacon, or sausages, in their lives. The kitchens and the royal family’s dining room were a fair distance from each other.
Once breakfast was done, the day loomed. Large and empty. The tutors her father had promised would be engaged for her education – to ready her for her role as the Empress – had never materialised and time was starting to tick.
She rather liked the idea of her arriving at the Imperial Palace on her father’s arm, empty-headed and ignorant, and all his fault. But her other voice was louder. The one that said she wanted to be the Empress. To make a difference to the voiceless people of the Empire and have people notice her when she entered a room.
She also wanted to learn. To prove she was every bit as clever as her brothers. She had a sneaking suspicion she was cleverer. They had struggled with their lessons. She’d hidden herself in a quiet corner of their classroom and found learning a delight. Their tutors had been thankful for a receptive student and spent extra time with her, after they’d run off to play with wooden swords and horses.
But then the boys had grown too old for lessons, they were many years her senior, and so the tutors were dismissed. For what would the mostly-forgotten girl want with an education?
She swept into the kitchen and planted a fond kiss on Cook’s apple-round cheek. “I need fuel for plotting today. What do you recommend?”
Cook raised a brow and hid a pleased smile. She plunked a bowl of porridge, liberally strewn with raspberries and chopped hazelnuts, on the battered table in one corner.
“I recommend a serve of oats to stick to your ribs and a bit of a tang from the berries to wake up your mind. What do you need to be plotting about now?”
Jenara sighed. “My future. If I’m to be a proper wife to my very absent husband, I must find a way to an education.”
Cook crossed her arms. “So you’ll be following your mother’s example then and leaving.”
Jenara started. “What? I couldn’t… they’d never…”
Cook snorted. “They’d never notice.”
Jenara settled into thought, the world was suddenly full of opportunity. As she finished the porridge, she spoke again.
“If I were to leave, I think there are two options…”
Cook held up a hand. “Think it through a little further, then tell us all tomorrow morning. Best to have a full staff enclave so we can get you properly on your way to wherever you wish to go, without any the wiser.”
Jenara nodded, then smiled, kissed Cook’s cheek again and danced to the door to the gardens. “Thank you. I think I might even have an adventure ahead of me.”
She spent the rest of the day ruining a dress far too elaborate for her taste. It was the easiest way to deal with them. She’d ruin one, it would be replaced, and just sometimes, it would be replaced with something she liked. Those dresses remained whole.