Theodore appeared downstairs with tear stained cheeks. He passed his Father in the hallway. King Rupert tilted his head and tapped Theodore’s arm, hinting at him to stop. He did, but struggled to look his Father in the eye.
“Theodore, what ails you?”
“Something does, I can tell.”
He shook his head, not wanting to worry him. King Rupert lowered his voice tone. “Theodore, I am not your Mother, I am not likely to hit the roof, am I now?”
“I suppose not.”
“Well then, perhaps we should have a little man to man conversation, Theodore.”
Theodore nodded as they both entered his Father’s study. The air smelt of cigars and peppermint and how it comforted him. They sat in dark leather chairs by the window and King Rupert glanced at his son, willing him to go on.
“Hmm, I hate to say anything because…”
“You fear that I might think you are telling tales. Not at all, sometimes it is good to talk and I shall listen.”
“Yes, um very well.” Theodore cleared his throat. “Many negative thoughts have crossed my mind during the last few days. It seems very silly but Father, am I weak?”
“Weak? Not at all my son, I fear that is one of my traits! But no, you are most certainly not that. You have an excellent brain in your head; you are witty, talented and clever. The problem is, you must deal with three very dominant women.”
“Are you referring to Mother, Lady Jane and Baroness Mallis?”
“Precisely. You do well to stay in their company, where as I am afraid that I tend to make myself scarce.”
Theodore nodded. “What can I do?”
“I want to become a better man, and more improved person. What should I do?”
“Oh, nothing. You are very amenable as you are. You make a lovely impression when we are in public, our friends are fond of you, you know. You’re so talented, more so than I ever was.”
“I doubt that is true, Father. You’re far better at Geography and History than I.”
“Never, ever take anything your Mother says to heart. That is a very important thing for you to remember. I fear that….” King Rupert wanted to explain that his wife had not been quite sane in her mind for quite some time, but instead he bit his bottom lip and softened the truth.
“She says things that she does not mean.”
“What can I do? Oh forgive me, I am not a little boy any more so I should not come crying to you. What a baby I am!”
“You did not cry.”
“It was a figure of speech.” Theodore sighed.
King Rupert decided to change the subject.
“So, when will you next be seeing Lady Jane? Your Mother organises these things.”
“Soon, I imagine, but she has only just left.”
“Ah well, that will be something for you to look forward to.”
“Indeed. When is the next occasion?” He hoped that she might be in a better mood next time.
“There is our state dinner, tomorrow night.”
“Oh Father, I will barely be able to speak with her, it will be horrid and..”
“Come now, do not dwell on the negative.”
“All the guests stay so late and I feel exhausted of late.”
“Are you unwell?”
“I don’t know.” Theodore sniffed. “I am not myself.”
“You must dine and then rest. Did you and Lady Jane argue today?”
“A little. I think I shall have a bath and get into bed.”
“You would not care for some refreshments? I’ll ask Mr Howard to fetch some, shall I?”
“No, well perhaps just some tea.”
Mr Howard carried a small tray into the room and King Rupert rose to his feet.
“Oh, you must go, Father?”
“Yes, I have at least half a dozen letters to write, forgive me. It was good to speak with you, Theodore.”
“Ah, your Grace you look tired.”
Theodore tilted his head. “You think I ought to go to bed?”
“Forgive me for nagging, but perhaps.”
Theodore sighed. “No, Mr Howard.”
“Then, I’ll run a bath.”
“Thank you. I’d be grateful for that.”
Theodore lowered himself into the gorgeously warm water. How pleasant he felt to be mulling alone in the darkened room in silence. He lay there for ten minutes or so, before he even attempted to wash himself. What was he going to do, he didn’t know. Theodore closed his eyes and dozed, seemingly exhausted.
He climbed out of the bath and wrapped the large, warm towel around himself before making his way along the hall to his bedroom. Queen Evangeline appeared from one of the rooms and took a double take.
“Theodore!” She gasped, in horror.
“This is no way for you to behave. I cannot have you frolicking around the castle in nothing but a white bath towel. Have some self-respect for goodness sake! Have you none at all? I don’t think you do, do you?”
Theodore sighed. “I am dressed in a towel which covers three quarters of my body. I am pacing twenty steps from the bathroom to my bedroom! It is not…”
“How dare you speak to me in such a way!”
“Oh Mother!” Theodore groaned. “For once could you please…”
“What, Theodore! Could I please what?!”
“Not criticise, belittle or question me. Do you have any idea how horrid it is to have this on a day to day basis? What if I informed you that you are patronising, heartless and rude, every single day!”
“No, I won’t; not any more. I don’t need you, I am not a child!”
“Well this country certainly doesn’t need you. If you are ever King, God forbid, I imagine that you will be gotten ridden of quicker than you can say resignation! The people will walk over you like a carpet, because you are weak and foolish like your Father!”
“Foolish? What makes me so?”
“You’re so naïve and immature.”
Theodore shook his head. “As usual we couldn’t even have a conversation without upsetting one another. How sad.”
“Jane is coming tomorrow, you’ll be glad to know.”
“Mr Howard has told me.” Theodore muttered.
“Perhaps we should put forward the wedding date after all. Your residency is all organised and the decorations and furnishing are all in order.”
“As you wish Mother.” Theodore didn’t care, he longed for freedom; anything to get away from his miserable existence in the palace.
“Goodness me!” She snorted, shaking her head at him and walking off.
Theodore looked over his shoulder and glared at her, wishing that she would trip over her long skirt and fall flat on her face, but she did not. Theodore pulled on some trousers with his nightshirt and played the grand piano a little angrily, picking the most dramatic melody he could find. Queen Evangeline stormed past and slammed the parlour door shut. His blood boiled, but he continued to play even more furiously. He stopped and folded his arms, resting his head on the piano keys.
“Please God.” He muttered. “Please make things change. Bring happiness into my family in any way you think suitable.” He sat up again and closed the lid, sitting in complete silence as he gazed at the beautiful piano, feeling incredibly guilty for taking his anger out on it. He stroked the keys lovingly and began to play something soft and pretty. Mr Howard listened from afar, relieved that Theodore’s mood had changed, walking closer so that he could hear him properly. Theodore sensed his presence, but did not say anything. Mr Howard saw how he shivered in the cold castle and handed him his dressing gown.
“I thought this might help.”
“Ah, thank you. I was getting cold.”
“I am not surprised. Would you mind at all if I listened?”
“Not at all, Mr Howard. Please stay with me.”
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014