She said the same to her mother fifteen minutes later after breaking home in a clouded mood.

“I hate how he thinks – how they both do – in contention and classification.” She slid onto a counter-top, knocking heels against the wood. Its shade shone a comforting aura; its style bedazzled as always. Zara loved her house – her sanctuary, even when daily Leigh wore her down to nothing.

Ms. Delcie Costello-Masters, slicing carrots for the hotpot by the stove, cast a glance at her, eyebrows raised by a slight.

“Zara,” she said, voice neutral as ever. “Leigh is only trying to impart wisdom –”

 “He thinks I’m going to cheat through my exams!” she exclaimed. “He’s always had that opinion of me, ever since he found out I was Phillip Costello’s granddaughter.”

Ms. Costello-Masters smiled, tipping her narrow lips into a wider line. The grin grew bright, though, for Zara’s sake indeed, Ms. Costello-Masters didn’t laugh. For that, Zara was grateful. Her mother probably had an idea of the torment one got from being the daughter of a once-celebrated socialite who married quite a bit below himself.

It was cute they married for love, but it didn’t allow the older generation any remorse that they missed out to be a Costello. Zara, according to the professor, wasn't worth her place at the College. No amount of 84s would change that opinion.

“Damn middle-class professor.”

Delcie’s hand hovered above the carrot. She eyed her daughter. “Now, Zara, be nice. The Leigh dynasty ends with him. You simply remind him of what he will leave behind.”

Zara rolled her own eyes. She leant back against the clear, cold window, before pressing her turned cheek against the pane of glass. Comfort. It seeped from this house alone.

When the chopping resumed, with a sniff Zara declared, “Yes, and why should I pity him? And the middle class vanishes when all the titular are gone.” She trained her voice into politeness as often as she had done before. As much as status didn’t matter, it hurt to be scowled at.

“Don’t be that way,” murmured Ms. Costello-Masters. “Remember your heritage that having a middle class is necessary. It comes from the risk of having upper and lower syndicates, of course. They can’t separate for long.”

“Yes, Mother, I know.” Zara hung her head. It wasn’t time for history again.

“That reminds me,” her mother added. “The Costellos said they would make their trip down tomorrow morning – for Cousin Freidrich’s wedding plan.”

She pursed her lips, voice in clear disdain at her rich relations.

They were the upper class, whilst Zara bore the middle-class half of her name well; only her grandfather’s act of breaking away from his domineering family and living in the suburban streets had brought her to the levels of education. Benjamin, Aimee, Freidrich, Elyse and Cassandra Costello themselves still employed a scarce cache of servants. It was little surprise that the three ‘children’ lived at home, in the Mansion; the youngest had left, but, after two years and a well-publicised break up, she had returned home after her divorce. Now, Freidrich had entered into an arrangement, and they were meant to celebrate his pomposity in more ridiculous circumstance.

Reaching forward to the set of cool taps, Zara poured herself a glass of water. She downed it in one.

“I look forward to it.”

Ms. Costello-Masters said no more beyond her set face. The carrots were felled with more power this time. Sensing the need for space, Zara slid off the worktop, casting her glass into the sink as she did so. Easy.

“I might take some fresh air before dinner,” she said aloud. “If the night gets any darker, I might have no time to breathe before the implosion of Costellos.”

“Zara!” called her mother. Zara turned. The lady’s face had half a smile again. “Let’s not talk about them like that.” Yet, her smile didn’t change. She wouldn’t allow her uncles to crowd her own family. Good for her.

Zara smiled and headed for the door. Her battered coat still lapped at her knees; her hands still curved. This time, however, their movement was that of determination. If 90 MPH was needed for a pass, then 90 she would acquire, with or without the chortling of Mairim behind her. Tomorrow she would present her findings to Professor Leigh – explain her deception whilst proving to them both that she was able to operate the time-manipulator in her special way. Phenomic positioning or not.

Yet, the house was so warm and buzzing. Zara’s fingers retracted from around the door-handle.

“Oh, Zara,” Ms. Costello-Masters called. “You have left behind this key.”

Key? Ah. Zara raced back into kitchen, where she snatched the inch-long piece from her mother’s gaze. It was identical to Mairim’s, but Zara had tried to etch a Z into its hard, metal surface. At least the jagged line confirmed Zara’s possession.

Ms. Costello-Masters twitched her proper face. “It doesn’t look like our house key…”

“Thank you, Mother.”

Zara jogged back through their living area, throwing the key to the machine back into her coat-pocket where it belonged. She opened and closed the front door in a rush, but no more comments there were from Ms. Costello-Masters. Zara sighed, and threw her head back against the painted door.

The fresh air was a panacea. Nearly.

Zara recalled her task with the rise of acid vomit up her oesophagus. No thrill enticed her, nor dramatic happenings; this was the necessary – there was no other way of looking at the situation. As she started walking, Zara rubbed her head, calming the information that swelled within the combined chambers of her brain. Better get moving. No turning back from the rolling driveway.

The End

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