I dreaded going to school in the mornings, and not only because the sun was out.
After I quit ButlerQuest (though I kept my subscription going just in case Leonidas came back), I didn’t spend that extra free time catching up with my schoolwork. I couldn’t concentrate or bring myself to care about anything.
I was miserable, and I couldn’t tell anyone why without them laughing at me. Maybe I could’ve asked Leopold for help in school, but he would’ve laughed at me too.
I had nothing to look forward to, nothing except for graduating and heading to the butler academy. Maybe I could meet Leonidas’s player there–somehow he’d know exactly where to look for me, I was sure of it. My grades were so terrible that I didn’t get into any colleges I halfheartedly applied to, but that didn’t matter.
And then Leopold was accepted to the academy and I wasn’t.
I had to watch from afar as his stolen dream came true and mine blew away like ashes.
Clearly he was delighting in my misery.
But later, I could delight in his too, when he met a girl at the academy and brought her back home to meet Mother and Father.
Mother wasn’t pleased. “You need to focus on your butler studies, Leopold,” she commanded. “You simply don’t have time for this kind of distraction.” By the tone of her voice, it was very clear what kind of distraction she thought Leopold’s girlfriend was.
And so Leopold dumped her, as he’d dumped the others that Mother didn’t approve of–which was all of them.
For once, he wasn’t smirking anymore.
At least Mother never asked me when I was going to bring a girl home. Unlike Leopold, I did need to focus on my butler studies and passing the entrance exam.
But no matter how much I studied, I failed every single time.
“Please,” I begged my parents, after yet another failure. “Please let me in. I promise I’ll work hard to achieve Lyons excellence.”
“I’m so very sorry, Benedict,” my mother said. “But we can’t make exceptions, not even for my poor cursed darling.”
Father nodded beside her. “We need to maintain our sterling reputation, son. The Blackwell-Lyons Butler Academy trains the most skilled, reliable butlers in the world.”
“But I’m your son,” I whined. “Shouldn’t that count for something?” What good was nepotism if I couldn’t benefit from it?”
“You still need to gain admission on your own merits,” Mother said. “Oh, but Lysander, isn’t there something we can do?”
But there wasn’t, not with my parents turning against their own son. I really was cursed.
If I couldn’t become a butler through traditional means, well, I’d move to a place with such a high demand for new butlers that even completely unqualified ones might have a shot at full-time butler positions. And so I headed to Starlight Shores, a place where the rich and famous resided–and required butlers for their fancy mansions.
Unfortunately, the Blackwell-Lyons Butler Academy and Finishing School had produced so many qualified, highly trained butlers that the market was oversaturated even in Starlight Shores. Instead, I had to find another way to make ends meet until I secured a butler job of my own…
Leopold had graduated from the academy, whereas I was stuck serving black sludge to humans who enjoyed it and made the most particular demands on how that black sludge be served.
I’d never had any desire to add anything to my plasma packs–and wouldn’t a caramel-chocolate drizzle and whipped cream completely negate artificial sweetener and almond milk? Humans were so incredibly strange when it came to their coffee…
The Starlight Shores heat and sunlight were brutal, but they’d be worth it once I was hired as a butler.
At least I was able to find a basement apartment I could afford, thanks to my grandparents’ “pity money.” I was even able to make it look a bit like real butler quarters–Leonidas’s butler quarters, but those were only a memory after ButlerQuest was shut down following World of Maids’ incredible success.
And no one would bother me now that I had my own place–not Mother, not Ophelia, and definitely not Leopold. Meals could get a bit lonely, though…
I just had to find someone who was rich and too ignorant or easygoing to care about a butler’s qualifications. Fortunately, there were online forums dedicated to potential butler job openings (and gossip about their former employers).
I had to find the perfect opening someday…