Chapter summary: Of all the insolent, ... egalitarian ... "Good morning, Mistress"? What next? Shall we all break bread together at the same table, too?
WARNING: Many, many droppings of the f-bomb in the chapter, but not in the nice way as before-before, but in the not-nice mean way, as before.
I went downstairs after breakfast to talk over the Independence Day preparations with Mr. Brown and Mrs. Wilson. Of course, they had everything in hand, but I've found things were always handled with much more care and attention to detail when they knew the Mistress of the house would be checking up on things.
Not that anything ever slipped — not with my staff — but this was an important event. As we had our hand in most of the goings on in Rochester, it was vital that we brought everyone of note beholden to us into the fold, as it were, to show our beneficence. And to show them that we were worthy to lord our position of wealth and power over them: the party would be lavish, extravagant.
Everybody needs somebody to look up to. And we weren't just somebody: we were the Kings.
I was talking with Mr. Brown, going over the courses for the banquet, again, before the ball. The servants kept a respectful distance, working frenetically, quietly and respectfully. They really weren't supposed to be working at all in my presence, but I was working, and I had to invade their space on occasion just to get things done. Not necessarily proper or old-school of me, but a necessary evil, coming so close to the event. The servants knew the drill. They stopped work when I entered a room, and waited until I waved them on, just as I had done in this case. They needed to get their day-to-day work done, along with all the preparations for the July 4th activities, and I needed to make sure everything was on schedule.
Mr. Brown was standing next to me, reviewing the sixth course, when Sarah entered the room, walking past Mr. Brown and me and said: "Good morning, Mistress," sweetly, smiling as she passed me. She then set to work, folding napkins.
I looked at Mr. Brown. His face stayed firmly fixed in its professionalism. His eyebrow was not climbing up into his bangs.
He was very good, not even showing his shock in front of his employer.
The other servants continued working as if nothing had happened, but I saw glances exchanged here and there. I saw Moira in a far corner, polishing the silver. Or trying to. She was pale and looking between me and Sarah.
"Excuse me, Mr. Brown," I said calmly, "I think I'll take a smoke now."
"Of course, Mrs. King," Mr. Brown said, equally cool, closing the portfolio.
"Would you like me to join you, Mrs. King?"
It was Mrs. Wilson. She wasn't anywhere in the servants' work area before that I had seen, but here she had materialized, right beside Mr. Brown, looking unperturbed.
But she knew she was in for it.
"Why, yes," I said to her, "that'd be nice."
We headed out to the courtyard. On our way out, Mrs. Wilson looked toward Moira, then looked out the door. Moira headed over to Sarah and whispered something, then pulled on her arm.
As Mrs. Wilson and I left, I heard Sarah's befuddled, "... but I don't smoke!"
It was a cute Irish accent, I would miss it if she didn't make it through this next 'conversation.'
Mrs. Wilson lit me a fag. She didn't light herself one. Smoking wasn't a good idea for her now. Not for this case. I discarded the filter on my cig and took a long pull, blowing the smoke out slowly. The two girls came out and joined us, one looking confused; the other, mortified.
I looked around the courtyard. The other smokers were leaving. Hastily.
"It's a bit warm out in the sun," I said to no one in particular. "Why don't we go under the tree in the shady corner?"
The shady corner. The corner farthest from the door. The corner.
We walked over to it. The courtyard was a quadrangle, but it wasn't a perfect one. In this particular corner the building had additional space built out into the area, providing two opposite areas, providing privacy and separation for two groups, should they be congregating for a smoke break at the same time.
We were the only group this time.
I took another long pull, then ground the fag underfoot.
I looked at Mrs. Wilson. "What the hell happened in there just now?" I demanded quietly.
Sarah, sweet, little, innocent Sarah piped up defensively: "All I did was say 'hello.'"
Sweet, little, innocent ... ignorant ... Sarah.
I stared right at Mrs. Wilson, watching her blanch at the utter impropriety of the girl. After a second, I raised my eyebrow at Mrs. Wilson and shook my head with disappointment.
Mrs. Wilson dropped her eyes.
I turned to the girl. She was beginning to catch the drift that something was up.
"What's wrong with me ..." she began. She wasn't catching the drift clearly enough, however.
I interrupted her. "Was I talking with you?" I asked.
"I ..." she tried again.
"WAS I FUCKING TALKING TO YOU?" I screamed. So much for this being a private conversation. They probably heard that in Ottawa, ... that'd be the capital of Canada, if you just got off the boat from Ireland.
The girl who just got off the boat from Ireland shut up.
"No," I answered her, and then I explained. "I was talking to Mrs. Wilson. That's how it works, see? I talk to Mrs. Wilson; you talk to Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Wilson talks to me. If you ever have something to say to your employer — WHICH YOU FUCKING WON'T! — then you tell Mrs. Wilson, and Mrs. Wilson tells me."
"The only people who talk to me," I said fiercely, "are Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Brown and my maid. You should have known that the first time you put on that cute little black uniform that we provide for you. And I told you this explicitly last night. I fucking hate repeating myself. The only fucking time you talk to me is when you are answering a question I pose directly to you, and then the only answers you need to say are 'yes, Mrs. King' or 'no, Mrs. King,' and you better have damn good reasons for saying either. Do you understand me?"
"Y-yes, Mrs. ..." Poor Sarah was white.
But not white enough.
"THAT WAS A FUCKING RHETORICAL QUESTION!"
I rounded on Mrs. Wilson.
"And why am I even having to do this?" I gave free reign to my anger, towering over Mrs. Wilson, who didn't dare to look at me. "This was supposed to be your job. How the hell can any work get done when discipline goes to shit like this, hm? Answer me that Mrs. Wilson. Do you know what every single servant is doing right now back in there?"
I demonstrated, raising both my hands, mimicking parrots talking to each other as I hissed out gossipy sounds.
"Psst-psst-psst! That's what they are doing," I said angrily, "instead of doing what they are supposed to be doing. You know exactly what they are saying to each other. 'Oh, that's Mrs. King's new distraction ... she must be pretty fucking good if she can call Mrs. King 'Mistress' out in the open like that!'"
I shook my head. "What are you telling me, Mrs. Wilson? Are you saying you're tired of being the head housekeeper? You want to go back to some other task in this household and have me call you by your first name again?"
"Is that it?" I demanded when she didn't answer.
"Mrs. King," she said quietly, "if that that's what you wish, then ..."
"That's not what I fucking wish," I answered imperiously, cutting her off. "What I fucking wish for you to do is your fucking job, which fucking includes training the new staff and keeping them in line!"
I turned back to Sarah. "'Mistress,'" I instructed her, "is only for the bedroom. It's 'Mrs. King' when you're on the job, and only if you're really, really lucky from now on, little Sarah, you may call out 'Mistress' when I'm fucking the shit out of you, and at no other time! Is that fucking clear?"
My voice got louder and louder until it echoed from the other side of the courtyard.
Sarah shallowed convulsively, entirely cowed by me, and nodded fearfully.
"And you!" I rounded on Moira. She turned whiter, if that were at all possible. "Sarah's your lover that means she's your responsibility. She screws up like this, it's your own fucking fault! You've been here long enough to know the ropes. You know the rules, be they written in the employee manual or otherwise, and it's your job to make sure your little Irish doll knows them, too. Got it?"
Moira's lower lip quivered.
"Don't you dare cry on me!" I was right in her face.
Moira's breath came in short, ragged gasps. She was really working on bottling her emotions.
I took a step back an examined the three women.
"If anything, I'm the one who should be crying," I muttered. "How am I going to go back in there into that mess? You know what's going to be happening for the rest of the day? All the girls are going to be all over Sarah: 'How was she to you? Did she this or Did she that?' and all the men? 'Let me straighten you out, darling! I'll meet you later tonight.' Mark my words. And, the o!-so-correct behavior I'll be facing from everybody that hides absolutely fucking nothing of what they are actually fucking thinking!"
I answered my own conundrum. "I'll tell you how I'm going to go back in there. I'm going to go back in there with my head held God-damn high, and I'm going to pretend like nothing happened — because nothing fucking did, and that's the fucking story from all of you! In fact, that's what you're going to do, too: you're going to walk back in there and carry on."
I glared at them for a moment.
"FUCK!" I shrieked, startling the two younger girls.
That pleased me a little bit. I was really put out that this incident had occurred, so openly in front of everybody like this. It would be a while before I could even pretend that my outward composure reflected anything like inward calm.
"Mrs. Wilson," I emphasized her proper name befitting her proper title. "Please take care of this discipline problem for me?" Then I added dismissively: "Thank you."
I turned on my heel and marched back toward the courtyard entrance.
I heard Mrs. Wilson say ruefully to the other girls. "I believe that's all that needs to be said for now. Return to work after you've composed yourselves." Then she added her own afterthought: "Let's not fuck up again, okay?"
I reentered the servants' area. Mr. Brown was standing off at a respectful distance, pretending to inspect the work going on in the kitchen.
Mrs. Wilson reentered soon after I did, walking right over to Mr. Brown, talking to him in low tones.
I went over to them. "Mr. Brown, we were looking at planned activities for the gala ball, correct?"
"Yes, Mrs. King," Mr. Brown said in an unaffected voice. He reopened his portfolio and summarized the meal up to the sixth course, then continued from there in detail.
Moira and Sarah reentered. Sarah went back to her napkins, Moira, her spoons.
I didn't hear a word Mr. Brown said, but he droned on, none-the-less. I waited a respectable amount of time before interrupting him. He paused, anticipating me.
"Mr. Brown, we'll pick this up later," I said, looking up the stairs to my escape. "I think a bit of riding will do me good."
"Of course, Mrs. King," responded ever-correct Mr. Brown. A servant ran off to warn the stable boys.
I left. Not one whisper trailed my wake. I felt not one single eye on me.
But they all knew. And I couldn't stand it any more, the pretense. I needed some time alone and some fresh air to clear my head, and the constant attention demanded by my horse would keep my mind distracted and also engaged.
After changing into my riding wear, I got the hell out of the house and rode one of my horses hard for a solid hour. It was a thoroughbred, so it reveled in the workout.
As did I.
 So, my dears, some fireworks in this chapter for your New Year's Eve. I'm sorry to say the next chapter is also going to be ... not particularly Rosy nor Happy (even though this story is about our Rosie who is supposed to be Happy, eh?). But after that it may turn to some activities of a different variety than the strife in this grouping. So, sorry for this chapter, and sorry in advance for the next one, but I do hope you have a Happy New Year! ... with Happy new chapters to put you back in the mood ... tee-hee!
 Oh, and it's probably not a good idea to piss off Mrs. King. Avoid it if at all possible.
 I am gently reminded by one of my dear readers (and you all are dear to me, my dear readers!) that Rosalie, rich Rosalie, cursing up a storm in this chapter seems ... improper. Wouldn't she be skilled at scaring the death out of the girls without so much salt in her language?
Yes, she would, but here's a few things.
a. This is the East Coast, or Back East, or "Up" East. I noticed that when I moved down to the mid-Atlantic that people talk differently — very differently — depending on which region of the U.S.A. they are in. Up Back East, we say the f-word every three words, and it doesn't mean anything. Yes, we really put off and sometimes scare visitors "who talk slow[ly] and with an 'accent.'" But, go work at Bell Labs, like my brother did for a while, and you'll get used to it after hour one. It's not an excuse for bad language (and you can tell the other person you don't like hearing that word), but it's one of the reasons why Rosalie cuts loose here.
b. And that's another reason. Rosalie had to keep her cool in front of her children then in front of her husband. Yes, she didn't do such a great job of it, but it was a lot of effort for her, being Rosalie King and always getting her way, so long as she rises above. So, she's already got a full head of steam on. Then this little servant so badly breaks the rules that everybody's not going to be thinking about work for at least a day but about this? About her? About Rosalie King? And not admiringly but naughtily, even condescendingly? With the servants, she can blow off the steam (privately) because why? Because she considers them underlings, less than. Very wrong of her, but IC for Rosalie, I think.
c. Read about the Big Dogs. Yes, they can be cordial and unperturbed, ... when the business is booming and everything's going their way. But when things are going South (remember War's just been trumpeted in the newspapers) and the underlings are slacking off? Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. Other Top Dogs. They are famous for what? Their blow-ups. Yes, they get right in the trenches and dirty their hands (as Rosalie does here), but if you read testimonies from exposés by underlings, you find that they have blown people out just as often as they motivate with their "let's do this thing, dammit!" speeches. This was Rosalie's little "motivational" speech for her girls. That means she wants them to keep working for her, and well at that (remember her comment to Mrs. Wilson). But she just as easily might blow them out.
I hope not. I'm growing to like 'her girls.' But you've got to be tough to be under Rosalie's thumb, as a certain girl in a certain story in a certain cabin in a certain wood is finding out.
 So I hope that all (point ) explains Rosalie's salty and apparently OOC tirade. I'm sorry if I've turned you off with her potty mouth, but, in my view, that's what'd she say and how she'd say it. She won't, in future chapters, be so vehement, because, obviously, I think, her point got across rather well.