14. Manners At The Dinner Table [III]

Richards looked in and announced the starter (a sweet-smelling prawn and avocado salad, lightly garnished with mint and pepper) as Beth and the two other scullery maids brought the plates in.

“So, Peter, do you have a lucky lady in mind for marrying? Your time should be coming soon,” Aimee said.

With a squeal, Beth, who’d began to serve Aimee at that point, dropped the dinner tray that she was holding, and it clattered to the floor with a bang, as Beth blushed bright red. Aimee scowled, brushing the pieces of fish off her jacket.

“Fool. My goodness, you just can’t try the help these days.”
Peter jumped up and out of his seat, hurrying to kneel beside the red-faced maid.

“Peter.” He looked up at his name, called commandingly by Mrs. Costello, who was shaking her head with much criticism.

Peter blushed too, and got up, brushing down his already dirty shirt.

As he wandered back to his place, Phillip heard Ryan remark to the table:

“Don’t fraternize with the servants, Peter. They don’t need our pity…or love.”

Phillip scowled and turned angrily to his brother.

“He’s not ‘fraternising’, that’s not fair. I wish you’d lay off bullying Peter just because he’s the youngest and a little bit different, Ryan!”

Ryan turned, annoyed, and started to argue back, but Dr. Costello stood up loudly at the head of the table.

“Boys! Stop arguing. The war is over and we should be making peace at home, with one another, not splitting back into the enemy camps.”

Phillip’s anger reached its final crescendo.

“Everything is about war for you, isn’t it? I’ve lost my fiancée to war; I chose duty over love. You were lucky you went into the profession of being a doctor at the time you did, father, at a time when there was no pressure, and no war to fight in. I never wanted this; I only did what I thought would be best for Aidelle. I was wrong. I was stupid. I wanted her alive, but now she may be dead, or living an unhappy life.”

He sighed, but shrugged off Stuart's hand on his back, and continued, still deep in fury.

“All I wanted was to make sure that she had money to have a future with, but now she has neither me, nor the money.”

Phillip pointed one of his long, slender fingers accusingly at Ryan.

“For you, selfish man, it’s all about riches. I don’t want to live in a mansion with servants forced to wait on my family with hand and foot. All I want is my fiancée by my side, safe. I shouldn’t have given in to your threats.”
With that, Phillip stormed out of the room, his dinner forgotten. Peter, too, got up and left, but gestured to Beth to follow him. She crept out, happy to be out of the staring eyes of her employers.

“Threats?” The women clutched each other’s hands as they cried out.

The End

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