An alternate beginning for the story on here, which I intend to edit or rewrite over the summer sometime.
In the midnight hour in the middle of the year, someone was scheming.
Alexandra dusted off her apron and listened at the door of her mistress’ room. Hissed directions spilled out. One hand balanced below the platter that she was carrying, Alexandra smiled slightly; even the words she was able to hear – window, plan, poison – were enough to set her pulse racing. Tomorrow would be a big day and the mistress was already tiring herself out with late-night preparation for the meal. Of course, servants didn’t go to bed until their ‘family’ had done so, too. Alexandra’s rest relied on her mistress.
As Alexandra let herself into the mistress’ sitting room, her eyes roamed to the portrait above the sofa that the lady was sitting upon, the cushions around her strewn with the pieces of her thoughts. Such questions about the results of this scheming had crossed the maid’s mind since she had been given the honour of being informed, but she dared not voice them. Not yet, not ever.
“Your drink, Mrs. Winters?”
“Thank you,” the lady of the house said without looking up. A hand of bangles waved to the coffee table, and Alexandra obeyed the silent command, gently lowering the cup and saucer of tea.
Besides, scheming had levels; and the maid knew only a little. Mrs. Winters’ ‘entertainment’ involved not only herself acting. Why else would she have gathered together the highest in society as dictated by the ‘1930 report’, that thin segment in the Daily Mail listing the most fashionable of people?
Nevertheless, Mrs. Winters kept it by her side even now. The lady of the house bubbled with her childish glee as she thought of her plans, having spread the news around for many weeks before her chosen time of unveiling.
“Is there anything else, ma’am?” Alexandra stood in the shadows of the sitting room, and could no longer help looking towards the ominous portrait that studied them both with firm eyes. It must have been of the young Mrs. Winters, blonde hair in a bun above her head, whilst strands slipped out and down beyond her ears. Now her hair was coppery with grey, only half the beauty she had been, and one lavish meal too many had put an extra layer dulling the contours of her body.
Mrs. Winters cleared her throat. Alexandra felt her cheeks burn as grey-green eyes met her own.
“Nothing else, no. I think I shall rest up for tomorrow. You may go, Alexandra.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Alexandra curtseyed out of embarrassment rather than respect.
She wandered out of the room, thoughts straying to what other people were doing at this time of the night, sleeping most likely, but no doubt, there were other owls stalking their prey.