Heidi, the Inn Keepers daughter, was serving tables, the Inn was crowded filled with people, who made Irina think she should give up this crazy idea. When Heidi saw her she smiled and waved while walking toward her. Heidi pulled Irina into the backroom and handed her an apron and pulled her hair out from underneath the horrible cap and tied it back with a ribbon.
“Come help me.” Heidi implored.
When Irina seemed to resist she changed her tactic and mentioned how the other girl quit and she really could use her help. Irina was reacting to the crowd of people more than anything else. Her senses were on overload.
Heidi handed her the tray and she signaled for her to follow. Heidi went to the tables and removed the items from the tray not asking much else of Irina. As the night wore on Irina became a little more at ease. Her eyes were downcast through most of her interactions with the patron, until Heidi was serving a table with several young men who were openly flirting with her.
“Heidi! Who is your friend,” the boy asked while smiling at Irina.
“You cannot be that shy!” asked another.
“She is!” Heidi snapped as she swatted away his hand.
Heidi put the drinks down and guided Irina across the room to where an older gentleman and woman sat.
“Take their order.”
Irina had watched Heidi for most of the evening and knew it was a simple task. She was feeling the mood of the room and she was starting to enjoy herself. Heidi stopped by with some bread and cheese for the table in the corner and asked Irina to bring it to them.
“I told them you were Justine, we don’t want to use your actual name. So you can be Justine for today.” Heidi laughed.
Heidi’s father came out into the room when he thought the patron’s might be this side of intoxicated and it was becoming the atmosphere he didn’t want his daughter to experience. He was surprised to see Irina and moved quickly to get the girls upstairs.
Heidi and Irina sat in the room next to where Uri, Elizabeth and Pietro still slept. They talked for quite some time and Irina thanked Heidi for the experience of a lifetime. Heidi realized Irina was not just any girl by the way her father ushered them upstairs.
“Who are you?” Heidi asked.
Irina was tempted to tell Heidi the entire story but thought better of it. “I will tell you someday, but for now its better for you that I am simply Justine.”
“Alright,” Heidi acquiesced. “You have never serviced tables have you?”
“No,” Irina laughed. “I have never seen so many people in one room!”
“Will you be around? Can we do this again?” Heidi asked.
“I would love to, I might have to keep it our little secret though.”
Heidi’s father knocked softly on the door.
“Fordham has returned, you are to be escorted to the Palace now, there is an army outside.”
Heidi looked at Irina in amazement, “You are the Princess.”
“I will never forget your kindness, Heidi, I hope to see you again!”
The Innkeeper guided Irina out of the room and into the arms of Andrew Fordham who woke Uri and the children, and escorted them outside to the waiting guardsmen.
Uri was none the wiser but Andrew Fordham was worried about the free-spirited Irina who was still wearing the apron from the Inn, her hair coming free of the ribbon.
The Wooden Palace was the residence of the Royal Family, built by the former Tsar, it was replaced by the stone structure as the Royal Residence. The foreign section of town was at great risk of fire, most of the structures were made of wood. They would often be razed by fire and rebuilt adding to the ever changing skyline.
If Irina had a diary this would be the night to write. Her mind was reeling from the excitement; the kind older couple, the man with his son, the woman who told her she had the prettiest eyes, but mostly Heidi, who accepted her and was a true friend. The Innkeeper who gave them refuge, knowing the risk of such a deed, showed Irina the quality of character she hadn’t witnessed to date in her young life.
She thought of the young men who teased Heidi and wondered what that would be like, a real relationship with someone who didn’t exist in the pages of a diary. She watched the activity out in the streets as they made their way to the safety of the Wooden Compound. When she wakes up in the morning it will be a new day. She will find out the fate of Sophia and Ludmilla and she will get to know her brother and Elizabeth will be free to live the life they had previously been denied.