My glasses prescription was up-to-date, but I couldn’t be reading my email correctly.
I got the job? The butler job? Without so much as an interview or display of my skills…?
Everything was finally–finally–falling into place.
I immediately called Father with the news. As a butler himself, he would appreciate my achievement most of all.
“That’s fantastic news, son,” said Father, his voice echoing slightly. “Do you see where good old-fashioned Lyons perseverance gets you?”
I wasn’t expecting him to sound so happy. I was expecting me to compare me to Leopold, or warn me, or…anything else. “You don’t think it’s a bad idea, even if I haven’t graduated from the academy…?”
“Everyone has to start somewhere, son–and your first job will be a trial by fire. I hope your master–or mistress–isn’t as punishing as my first.” He was in an extremely good mood. …And then I heard water running in the background.
“…Father, are you in the bathroom with Mother?”
“He most certainly is, my darling,” said Mother. Damn her and her vampiric hearing. “Lysander, give me the phone.”
The phone clattered–by the sound of it, against the bathroom floor tiles. “Lysander, you naughty creature,” my mother said, the phone clearly not even halfway to her mouth–and yet her words were still audible. “You clearly only wanted to see me bend over. …Benedict?”
“Now, I want you to take a photograph of yourself in your butler uniform and send it to me. You still have one of your father’s old ones, don’t you? Several photographs. Your father and I are so proud. Aren’t we, Lysander?”
“We are, Miss Bianca.”
I groaned inwardly–not the Miss Bianca. No wonder he was in such a good mood. Was it really pride he felt, or just…anticipation for something else? “Thank you, Mother, Father,” I said. “I’ll try not to tarnish the Lyons name.” It was best to extricate myself from the conversation as soon as possible.
After all, I had to find out if my father’s old uniform still fit me.
Mirrors weren’t particularly helpful in that regard.
I took a selfie for Mother as well (she liked seeing my fully descended fangs, as she constantly reminded me), otherwise she’d never leave me alone about it.
I might not have had anyone else here to tell me about the fit, but it felt right. This all felt right. Would Mother and Father tell Leopold of my victory…? I hoped so. He’d probably be in denial when he heard, or maybe call to lecture me about proper Lyons butler behavior. He still came to the coffee shop as often as possible to rub my face in my own disappointments.
But the address listed in my offer of employment was anything but a disappointment…
I swallowed. Should I have shaved first…? Leopold undoubtedly had something to say about a butler’s grooming habits, but my face felt naked without anything on it. And it had the unfortunate effect of looking too much like his face.
Should I go back and shave…? No, then I’d be late, and punctuality was of paramount importance to a butler…
The front doors opened before I could make a decision either way.
“Ahem,” said the distinguished, older butler awaiting me. “Mister Lyons, I presume?”
I nodded, entranced. He looked like such a butler–a perfect, trustworthy butler, like one out of an old film.
“An honor, young sir.” He held out his hand and shook mine when I unfroze long enough to offer it. “I am Miles Big-and-Long, and it will be my honor to train you as my replacement.”
“Miles…” I kept shaking his hand, because I didn’t know what else to do. “I’m afraid I didn’t catch your surname.” I hoped my smile looked polite and natural.
“Forgive me if I’ve failed to enunciate properly. I’m getting on in years, young sir.” He cleared his throat. “Miles Bingham-Long, at your service.”
I relaxed and released his hand. That’s what it had said in the ad. I wasn’t sure why I felt so jittery–this place felt familiar somehow, like I belonged here. “One question–do you have a policy on facial hair? I wasn’t sure if…”
“As I recall, the master of the house enjoys a ‘bit of scruff.’ Now allow me to take you on a tour of the manse.” Before I could respond, he proceeded through a set of nearby doors.
This room was even more beautiful than the foyer–and I felt like I already knew where everything was. Could this be…butler’s intuition? The grand piano felt like an old friend, and I’d never played a note in my life.
And then, before I could ask anything, he took a detour out on a balcony and ended up in the dining room–which again, looked familiar.
“Meals will be served here,” he said. “I suppose.”
He supposed? “Does the master of the house have any particular eating habits I should know about? Silverware or china he prefers…?” I was really excited about meeting him. Would it be someone I recognized, some TV or movie star? I couldn’t contain my excitement, even if that was distinctly unbecoming of a butler.
“The master of the house…ah, before my ancient memory fails me, I should show you where he sleeps.”
Again I had to trail after him. For an older man, he was remarkably spry. But why hadn’t he answered my question? Old men lost focus easily, maybe.
“Here we are, young sir. The master bedroom.”
The mirrored walls, that bed, those chandeliers, even the view from the windows…I knew them.
In my butler’s heart, clearly. Did Leopold feel like this? Was it an ability my twin shared, or had I finally found an area in which I excelled that he didn’t?
Mr. Bingham-Long took me on a tour of the rest of the manse (even the bathroom was as hauntingly familiar as my parents’), then dismissed me–but not before giving me pay for doing absolutely nothing.
“The master is a generous sort,” he said, over my protests. “An intensely private man. He values your discretion a great deal.” That definitely made him sound like some kind of famous actor or director.
“I won’t let him down,” I vowed. “I’m a Lyons butler.”
And being a Lyons butler–or a butler at all–meant I didn’t have to work at the coffee shop anymore, especially when my new position paid so well.
I was quitting. For good. And I’d do it in my butler uniform, so if Leopold showed up and saw me, he’d know exactly why.
After all this time, Benedict Lyons was finally a butler.
But it wasn’t Leopold I saw on my way to hand in my letter of resignation.
It was Finn.
And he wouldn’t look at me as we passed each other. He ignored me so thoroughly I might as well have not existed.
And now that I was quitting my job at the coffee shop that just so happened to be underneath his apartment, I’d have no reason to ever see him again.
It was like there was a shadow looming over my resignation. Who did I really have to share my success with? Father was busy with Mother, Leopold was busy with his own self-importance, and Ophelia was…Ophelia.
Only once had I ever had a friend who could’ve truly understood how I felt now. And he was lost to me for good, along with ButlerQuest.
The words MISSING PERSONS caught my eye on the notice board on the wall, even though it was an old advertisement I’d seen a hundred times before. That’s what Leonidas was, wasn’t he? A missing person. Missing from my life…my unlife.
And this detective apparently specialized in finding people like that, and “for a reasonable fee.” With my new job, I could afford reasonable.
I never lost faith in you, Belladonna, he would whisper. I’ve never known a greater butler than you.
Missing people were found all the time. And if everything was finally starting to turn around, maybe, just maybe…
Maybe my old friend was waiting to be found.