Becoming Sophia (26)

I needed a place to put the ashes so I lined a basket with parchment and set it nearby. I pounded the grate against the ground, shaking free any ash, and leant it against the inside wall of the fireplace. I swept it out first, getting up as much soot as possible and sweeping it into a pan to dump in the basket. Once done with that, I wasn’t much sure of what else I should do. The fireplace still looked dirty, but surely it was supposed to; it was a fireplace!

Nevertheless, I carried the basket of soot downstairs and dumped it outside and then fetched some water and soap. It was backbreaking to carry it up three flights of stairs, but I dearly hoped that I would only have to do it once. I scrubbed the hearth clean, but left the inside of the fireplace black as the chimney. It was just too much.

I was up to my elbows in soapy water and dirt when Cristyne walked in. “Even cleaning the fireplaces now, Marina?”

I bit my lip. “Yes, Miss.”

She "hmph"ed “Well then when you’re done here, clean mine.”

“Yes, Miss.”

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