“Please, Beth. I’m the one who should be apologising.”
Beth sobbed, her arms around Peter’s neck and her head lolling on one of his shoulders.
“Look at me, I look a wreck,” she sobbed, breaking away from the embrace, and rubbing her puffy white sleeves against her eyes. It didn’t make her look any better.
“You look fine,” Peter rubbed his thumb gently under her eyes to remove the smudge of make-up. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I like you any way you are.”
“You like me?”
“I really like you, Beth.”
“Don’t fret yourself about things you can’t control,” Peter said wisely.
Beth smiled, but her smile was also tainted by sadness, as Peter’s was. They were more alike than either of them suspected, but that in itself was a bond drawing them ever together. Phillip and Aidelle had also shared bonds, but none the same as the young couple’s; those were merely surface lines, whereas Phillip knew, in his heart, that his join to Aidelle was everlasting.
“I like you too, Peter,” Beth whispered, so fragile, opening herself up to be so vulnerable at the quiet tenderness.
As the older maid watched with narrowed eyes, Peter gently stroked Beth’s hair, and she was slowly falling into his green eyes. Every good dream she had was becoming reality. Beth wasn’t afraid of what was coming next- she wasn’t afraid of anything when she was there with Peter.
The kiss was soft, and, although it lacked the talent and artistic touch of practise, it was caring and full of deep passion. Peter ran his hands through Beth’s tied hair, straightening out the kinks, as though he was still trying to straighten out the kinks of his and Phillip’s lives. Beth subconsciously brushed extra dust and lint off Peter’s jacket.
Peter was the first to pull away, breathing deeply as though he was taking his first ever breath. The oxygen that rushed into his lungs was chilling and it never felt enough. From then on, Peter assumed, Beth would be his source of life, for she had a powerful glowing crystal inside her; one that emanated everything that Peter had not received from his parents.
Beth closed her eyes slowly, taking a deep deep breath, and smiled. Then she turned and ran away back down to the servants’ kitchen, leaving Peter to stare in her absence.
He gathered himself and followed his brother up the stairs.
The scullery maid stood, frowning, before she headed off towards the kitchen too.
“You wouldn’t believe the things I have seen in my time working here,” her crass voice echoed around the kitchen. Luckily, Beth was nowhere to be found, “After all that has gone on, I’m very close to handing in my resignation.”
“But if you did,” called the final maid, across the kitchen, “Where would you go?”
“I’m not that unsuccessful. I might start my own business. Finally, I’ll go up in the world.”
The other maid, not as young as Beth, but not as old as the woman full of rumours, cackled and looked up to her friend.
“You wish! But, I do agree. This household is very strange, in fact, my sister (who is posted across town) works for a small family, and there is much less drama there than the stuff I’ve heard here. Our family is cursed!”
Beth wandered in, having touched up her make-up, and watched as the gossips wandered around the kitchen lazily. The eldest maid saw her and gasped, giggling suspiciously, but Beth walked through without comment.
“What was that about?” The ‘middle maid’ asked, eyeing her friend.
“Nothing…” The other chuckled to herself, “Just…rumours.”
“Oh, the silly little things that you’ve heard. I guess I’m not going to get a glimpse into your mind?”
“Well…I can’t have it spreading.”
“But you’ve seen something worth talking about?”
The ‘middle maid’ widened her eyes theatrically and leant forward (once again, across the table), her arms dusted with flour up to the elbow.
“You know that you can trust me.”
“Perhaps,” the other maid let out her cackle again, and stared her friend down. Finally, she vanished into a puff of flour thrown by the younger one.
“Just tell me what’s on your mind, girl!”