The tenth story in the Winter Prose Competition 2011 series.
The sun was high in the sky over the dark manor of Arlingcroft. The garden was a mine of pristine-cut jade grass, accented with sharp diamond and ruby roses as far as the eye could see. A path winded through the patches of blooming buds, its cobbles glittering under a film of fresh dew as the cool winter sun shimmered dully.
The building had begun to wane under the stress of time. Ivy scaled the walls in dense patches of emerald, twining around the frames that aided in its destructive path as it danced around the decrepit brick. The large bespoke mahogany doors portrayed a deer being chased by men on horses, inlaid with gold and lighter pine accents – they opened onto the main hall.
Two large staircases ascended to a gold fenced balcony. White beech panelled walls were paired with white marble flooring, accented with white framed portraits of the Arlingcroft family. Sullen, hulking giants with broad shoulders sat on the furthest wall as if bodyguards to the two women in the middle. They sat facing each other - mirrors of each other - from the long flowing chestnut locks to the almond-shaped pacific blue eyes. The only difference was, the locket hanging from the left reflections’ swan like neck.
“Master, Master Arlingcroft! Master -” the annoyed voice ascended the winding staircase and down the austere halls. It halted at a white door which swung open with enough force to ricochet off the hallway wall. The beast that stood in the doorway let out a yawn from its gaping jaws. Its unkempt hair and sunken look only accented by its slurred growl, “yes! Yes... I’m awake.” He shook his mane and turned sharply on his heels.
“Master,” the soft voice became a sigh as he observed the young man searching through the wardrobe desperately, “please, allow me...” the pale blonde gently pushed Arlingcroft aside.
“Yes, yes. I do seem to be a bit lax in my duties lately... I’m dearly sorry Amandus,” he began slipping out of his pyjamas as Amandus began placing an overcoat and trousers on the bed. “Amandus?” He asked just as his trousers met his midriff. Amandus turned and began buttoning up his shirt for him, a smile on his face.
“You know... you shouldn’t stay so late in bed, just because you’re the only one in the manor does not mean you can afford to be lazy –” Arlingcroft grabbed his wrist gently.
“Amandus...” He started, but the servant looked into his master’s eyes and let out a small whimper.
“Master. I vill alvays do vhat you vant. It’s my job vhich I do happily, but...” Arlingcroft nodded and he continued to do up his waistcoat and fix his tie. “I shall be back vith the news and a fresh pot of tea...” he murmured, lingering a little while in the doorway.
Arlingcroft moved gracefully over to the gilded mirror and stared longingly into it. His hands moved into the dresser drawer and clasping around a silver pocket-watch, his fingers gracing over the pattern of the lion, stroking its mane as he clipped it onto his pocket.
“These eyes are not mine. These hands are not mine,” he shook his head solemnly and his face fell, “this is not me!” He snarled, slamming his palm into the dresser with a wordless shout, the other resting on his forehead.
A clatter could be heard just down the hall, followed by the quick stepping of Amandus as he rushed into the room, “Arlingcroft!”
He composed himself, looking to Amandus with a smile, “yes? What’s the matter, what’s new?”
Amandus looked dubious, servant’s eyes searching master’s, a frown pulling at his gentle features. “Good sir, that vidow down the vay has passed in the most suspicious vay...” he began to wipe at his suit awkwardly.
Arlingcroft beamed. “Perfect, let’s go!” He practically skipped out of the door, patting his shoulder on the way past. “Come, Amand!” He grinned, jumping effortlessly over the spill.
Amandus lingered a little while, a giggle surpassing his tightly closed lips as he shook his head. “Yes, Master, right away.”