"I'm sooo exhausted," I mumbled, lying face down on Rosa's fancy schmancy couch. It was still as soft as ever, and felt amazing against my tired, tired limbs, and was the only thing that was, you know, keeping me alive at this moment. "I'm never doing that again. Bad plan. Bad plan."
Rosa was on the couch next to me, flipping through her papers. "You did a good job though. Bina said her sister said her friend said her cousin said the head maid said" --she took a breath here-- "that she thought you were 'a great addition to the team.'" She flashed me a proud grin (what was she, my mother?), which I saw through half-opened eyes. "Excellent work, Agent Fi!"
"Well, find someone else to do that excellent work next time," I groaned. Ugh, my entire body ached so. Bad. "I told you I wouldn't have any time to do any deliveries myself."
"Yeah, good thing we changed the plan."
I raised an eyebrow. "You mean, good thing I changed the plan?"
She flipped her hair over her shoulder and shrugged until I flung out my leg and kicked her on the shin. "Ow! Fine! Yes. Good thing you changed the plan."
Harrumphing, I rolled onto my back and stared up at the ceiling instead.
The original plan had been for me (me!) to do the delivery of the fan myself, which Rosa had in her hands two weeks ago when we had first discussed this. The fan, according to Rosa, was some important plot device that Snow White would also recognize because of its really, really specific dragon design.
"How can we make sure Snow White will see it, though? What if he doesn't notice?" I'd asked.
Triumph had risen in Rosa's eyes. "Because Lady Kiltred--" that had been the lady in green last night-- "will have already written a letter about its delivery to Sir Pennesbly, and Snow White oversees every letter that is sent within this Academy." And then she had begun explaining the dangers of privacy breach to me before I cut her off.
I'd disagreed with the original plan on the basis of three reasons.
- It was dangerous for me. Who knew what Snow White would do? He might as well kill me for being a little suspicious!
"No no," Rosa had said, wagging her finger. "I know Snow White. He won't kill you."
"But he's a top secret spy!"
"Nope, not dangerous. If anything... heh."
"If anything, you'll be in danger of him falling in love with you." Which, of course, had been of no help to me.
- If Snow White wasn't dangerous, fine-- but he might suspect me and start following me. Then I wouldn't be able to talk to Rosa in case he started suspecting her.
This had had a better effect on Rosa. Scratching her forehead, she'd agreed. "That was originally supposed to be the point, so you can get all his suspicion instead of me... But now that you're going to be my partner instead of just the occasional help, yeah, I see what you mean."
All good, of course, but the third was my most important reason.
- I'd be 'infiltrating' as a temporary help, which meant that I would literally have no time to do anything else.
Sneaking out? Working half-heartedly? Taking countless bathroom breaks to 'spy'? Me?!
"I'm too responsible for this," I'd announced.
And so I'd become an overseer instead, which Rosa still deemed necessary in case either of her, um,
captives friends decided they wouldn't do what she wanted them to do. And so here I was, more dead than I had thought I would be. I'd known that the work would be tiring, but I hadn't known just how tiring it would be. Now I knew much, much better.
"We're going to have to revise the plan for the next ball," I sighed.
Rosa nodded. "Yeah. For that one, you'll actually need to do stuff, so I'm going to have to figure out how to get you in there without being temp help."
"We will have to figure it out, you mean," I corrected. My eyes on the ceiling, I ticked through the options out loud. "I can't go in as a temp help on the mansion's side, because then I'd be expected to work myself to the ground. I can't go in as your personal maid, because I'd draw the attention of He Who Must Stay Away From You to you, and we can't have that. I obviously can't go in as a guest, since one, I can't pull that off, and two, everyone knows everyone there already."
"Sounds about right."
"A position that'll let me access the building, incognito and without getting me killed or imprisoned, but also free my hands so I can sneak off... What is there, even?"
After a moment of contemplative silence, Rosa's head popped up. "Oh! What if you just snuck in? Like a proper spy!"
"Like a proper spy?!" I would've jolted up in disbelief had this couch not been so wonderfully soft. I settled for letting my absolute disregard for that idea by pinning her with a glare instead. "What part of 'without getting me killed' did you not understand?!"1so she says, as if she hadn't secretly wanted a super secret spy scene in the previous chapter.
But at the other end of my glare, Rosa was tapping her cheek with the back of her quill pen , and I knew what that glitter in her eyes meant. It was the very same glitter she'd gotten before she'd planned how to trip Sam (during her rivalry days with Sam over Li'l John) when she got to the hideout, or when she'd decided to get back at Cook that one time he accused Rosa wrongly of stealing the turkey.
In other words, trouble.
"I refuse," I said abruptly. I squeezed the cushion onto my stomach. "I absolutely, completely, 200% refuse."
"Not possible, unless there are two of you," came the distracted answer.
"Even if there were two of me, we'd both say no. I will refuse you a million times over. Whatever you're concocting--"
Was that a gleeful smile spreading on her evil face?! I shimmied away from her as much as possible while still laying on the couch. "Filly," she said sweetly, her eyes now slowly making their way to my widened ones. "Let me remind you, a million spoken "I refuse"'s would take you 10,000 minutes, which would be 166 hours and... yes, and forty minutes, which would be roughly seven days without resting of saying "I refuse," and that's only if you say that at consistently 100 times per minute. No, no, Filly, I can see this happening."
"And I don't!" I yelled, clutching the cushion closer. "Better start preparing yourself, 'cause those seven days are coming!"
Rosa began writing stuff down again in a speed that was not welcoming at all. "No, Filly, it's not as dangerous as you think. You have a precedent. Bina already snuck in to the Else mansion once in disguise as a gardener--"
"Someone had to scope out the place! And at my request, she measured the shadow of the balcony at exactly 1 PM, which gave me the exact measurements of said balcony--"
"--so all I need to do is obtain rope, maybe, of the appropriate length, draw a map of the approximate location, and find someone to teach you how to climb ropes within... Let's see. The amount of time each guard takes to walk around the area is.... Aha! If you learn how to climb fifteen feet up in 3.59 seconds or less, we can-- ow!"
"You deserved that," I called, then motioned at her to throw back the cushion, my only shield in this entire conversation.
Tossing me the cushion, she wrinkled her nose. "What else can we do?"
"Probably something a lot more reasonable," I retorted. "Do you want the entire operation to hinge on my ability to climb a rope in three seconds?!"
"It's 3.59 seconds," she grumbled, but she seemed to understand.
Seeing her deflate, I sighed. "We've got a couple weeks. We'll figure something out." I rolled over and stifled a yawn. "But not today. I have night shift, so I need to get going."
Rosa nodded, shuffling her papers. "Good idea. Bina's right outside the door; she can take you to the carriage."
"Thanks." Speaking of Miss Bina, she was definitely shaping up to be an existence that was more, well, powerful? Than I'd first expected her to be when Rosa had said that her maids were spies.2the true OP, at last?! Was that what it took to be a proper lady-in-waiting? Spy skills?
When I, too busy marveling, didn't move for some time, Rosa looked up from her scribbles with a frown. "Didn't you say you needed to get going?"
"I did," I agreed.
She gestured at me, as if to say, "Well?"
"And I will, in a moment."
Shrugging, she got back to reading over her notes, and I took that opportunity to close my eyes, enjoying the softness of the couch and the fluffiness of the cushion, because I deserved that.
Ahhh, this was the life. My poor limbs felt weightless, sinking into the very clouds. You know what? If it meant I would get to enjoy this couch, then all that work yesterday was... Was...
Nah. It was still not worth it. I'd rather just enjoy both having no work and having a couch, thank you very much.
Had five minutes passed? When I cracked open an eye at a small noise from Rosa's direction, she was looking at me again, her eyes narrowed at me. "Filly--"
"You need to--"
"No. I deserve some sofa."
"You know Cook--"
"Couch! Time! Couch! Time!"
"You can enjoy that later! We have exactly--" she glanced at the clock-- "seven minutes for you to get to the carriage before He Who Cannot Be Seen comes back!"
Clutching the cushion to my chest, I huffed. "Fine, then. I'll go. But!" I held up a finger. "Only if you listen to one request."
She raised an eyebrow. "Which is?"
Exactly six minutes and thirteen seconds later (A complete lie, actually, as I did not actually count the seconds), the carriage rumbled along happily, taking me back home inside it.
Me, and my newly attained cushion, that is.