"Papa, I'm worried about Mother," I speak quietly from my chair in the corner. My father sits huddled over a stack of papers on his desk, writing furiously. When he doesn't answer I raise my voice slightly.
My father looks up briefly, his icy blue eyes clearly portraying his annoyance. My head jerks down to stare at my hands, folded primly in my lap. I hate this place. It's the one place I am powerless and so it is, of course, the one place I feel unbearable discomfort. My nails are bitten to the quick, the cuticles raw. I examine one bleeding finger and wipe the droplet of blood on the handkerchief I keep in my pocket. I finally build up the courage to peek back up at my father, but he's back to scribbling with abandon. I came to talk about Mama: she's been looking pale, paler than usual, and she's been in bed with the fever for a couple days. Knowing Papa, he probably doesn't even know that she's sick. I don't think too badly of him for this, he has a very important responsibility that takes up most of his time, but I still think he should know. The uncomfortable silence starts to get to my head and I stand up, fists clenched and eyes trained on the floor. While striding out the door I resist the urge to swear mannishly. I feel like such a little girl around my father, although I am nearly a grown woman. I know he is my father, but he seems so indifferent that it is hard to see him as anyone's father most of the time. I enjoy my power, but when I am feeling particularly greedy I wish for a different family. My mother is but a ghost of her formerly beautiful young self and my father... well he's admired by many but I am sure none would wish for him as a father. Other times I gloat over my good fortune. I am so lost in thought that I don't see the maid rounding the corner.
Oh-," I sputter, drenched.
The maid who I had walked into looks horrified, still clutching the now empty water pitcher whose contents were now splattered all on the front of my muslin dress.
"M-Miss, please, I am so, so terribly sorry! I-"
I stare her down, murder in my eyes. "You're fired," I say calmly but with a hidden edge in my voice. To my surprise the maid, I think her name is Bronwyn, doesn't look any more horrified.
"Miss, you don't understand..."
I roll my eyes and jab my finger in her chest.
"Who do you think you're kidding? You don't understand. You!"
"SHUT UP!" I screech. "Get out of my house. OUT. NOW."
The maid gives me a strange look, but before I can process it, runs off. I stand in the hallways for a minute, panting. I straighten out my dress the best I can and exhale hard. Everything is quiet and after basking in the peace I head over to my dressing room. Clarence has an uncanny knack for knowing where I am and as I wait on the sofa, sure enough, I hear his footsteps. He peeks inside and, seeing me, he enters the room. I notice his face is stoic. Clarence is usually serious, it's characteristic for him to look like someone just died, so I don't question it.
"Some idiot maid spilled a pitcher of water all over my dress," I complain. "She just ran right into me. I suppose I'll have to change now... Clarence?"
Clarence was still standing limp in the doorway, unresponsive, his eyes trained on me. I stand.
"Clarence, is something wrong?"
He moves his mouth, slightly, but nothing comes out. His eyes glisten. It's then I start worrying. Very few things ever disturb Clarence and this is the most disturbed I have ever seen him. I approach him, enclose his hands in mine.
"You can tell me," I murmur. "What happened?"
Then he looks at me, the most painful look upon his face. He looked so fragile in that moment, it seemed that if I said a wrong word he would shatter. His mouth twists and suddenly I am afraid. Terribly afraid.
"It's your mother, Roslyn," Clarence whispers. "She's dead."
I'm sure they could hear my silence from the courtyard.