The conversation broke off into various individual ones again, and the members of the company folded back on themselves.
Azura glared at her plate, picking at the food, and swirling round the vegetables in the gravy. Most of her conversation was crooning over her young children, although time was spent between the warring youths, Cynthia and Joshua, even though she found their talk simple and childish; on the other hand, she pointedly ignored Mr. Stones, looking down on him venomously. Her acidic tongue scorned everything she set eyes upon; only the littlest of people listened to her rants but Alexandra marvelled that nobody was offended by her spitefulness, indeed the maid was actually a little hurt herself that the older woman disregarded the hard work put into the façade of the room.
Rhaïd himself was the great conversationalist (though his food consumption suffered because of this), and made his voice clear to most of the table, especially Mr. Winters with whom he was seated next to, although they themselves did not seem to talk about anything substantial in matter. The only singular person Rhaïd did not take steps to address was Mrs. Winters. Alexandra had a sudden feeling that it was not due to the distance that separated the two figures, but something to do with the discontented looks he had given previously.
The lady of house herself chose not to raise her voice too much during the conversation, but neither focused much on her meal. Indeed, she seemed distracted.
“Friends, colleagues, guests of ours,” she finally announced, standing and clapping together her perfectly-painted hands so that the nails made a tinny sound as they connected in time.
“Whilst we wait for our final, and in my opinion, most delicious, course (and thank you for your ongoing patience, friends), I think it may be time to resume our ‘play’. Do enjoy, and remember: stay in good character!”
She chuckled and tossed her grey-blonde hair like an old mare, untiring all the while.
“Quite…” Rhaïd mumbled, attempting to put the face of his character back into form, and delve into small talk, something that, Alexandra noticed, did not come easily to him.
He tried again, and this time there was a true drama in his voice.
“We’re left.” He gestured around the room; the two ‘corpses’ had gone back to their slumped state on the tabletop. “…And there is still a murderer in here with us. I believe it’s called being ‘at large’.”
“How very detective of you,” Azura muttered.
“So who do you think it is?” Cynthia ignored her, directing her question at Rhaïd.
Rhaïd blushed at her, and cleared his throat.
“I have my ideas…” was all he cared to divulge.
“Basically, you still blame Azura…Ms. Peterson.” muttered Peter.
“I never said such things,” Rhaïd calmly replied.
“But you imply it, and you still feel negativity towards her.”
The youngest of Azura’s sons looked up and batted his big blue eyes at the noisy crowd. Though he knew nothing of the game, he enjoyed observing the performances going on around him. It was amusing, a child’s folly, and not at all serious to the little boy. Being so little, though, the boy had spent time dozing under his mother’s chair, oblivious to that which he was not able to understand. Both children were looking to Alexandra to attend to them; both expected to call her for more food, or to supply the necessary drinks and handkerchiefs.
Though he displayed no emotion on his plain face, Alexandra assumed that the elder brother knew most of what was going on, or at least did not take a fancy to the adults shouting. He barely uttered a few words, and those were only whispers to his brother.
The little one looked up at the arguing company, and parted his rosy lips.
“Mama,” he gasped. “Why is everybody upset with you? Did you do something naughty?”
Azura gazed down at him, and lowered her ringed hand down to stroke his fluffy locks.
“Of course not, my lamb. Of course not. I’m innocent.”
Looking back to the company, her eyes flashed with anger, and a small amount of long-withheld humiliation.
“You see…” she whispered, deathly, “I believe in the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’, which is the point which I mean to reiterate: I never will be proven.”
“A motive would be the best thing to prove, a motive would be the best thing to find, at this moment,” announced Mr. Winters carefully.
“Indeed,” Azura said smugly. “And I have not one.”
“No-one is saying that you have. It’s just a precaution for everyone.”
“But, of course, you could just be saying that you do not have one.” Rhaïd remarked. “If you have one, then, believe me, we will discover it.”
Mr. Winters nodded, giving his agreement, and looked around the room, surveying the slight motions of all. Rhaïd (and Alexandra noticed that it was the man himself, not his character) shot the head of the house a glare for being replaced as the most important ‘detective’.
Alexandra took notice that Mr. Winters didn’t respond to the glare, mainly because he didn’t pay close attention to the tanned man’s expressions. If he had seen it, he had gracefully chosen to be the better person and ignore such rudeness.