A/N: This chapter has been a long time coming, and I'm so sorry! I've got new-found inspiration, and more will come soon, I promise! Please review and let me know what you think. It helps keep me going!
"Hyacinth, would you please calm down?" Richard pleaded to his wife. She was fidgeting on the sofa, reaching to straighten the perfectly placed cushions, then jerking her hands back to stop herself. She would do the same to the imaginary wrinkles on her dress, as well as the fictitious dust on the coffee table.
"Richard, I just don't know what to do with myself!" she replied in an exasperated tone. "You told me not to put so much effort into making everything just so, but now I found I can't just sit here doing nothing!"
Richard sighed and walked over to the sofa, taking Hyacinth's hands in his. "Everything will be just fine. Your sisters love you no matter what. There's nothing you can do to change that. And you've never liked Onslow anyway, so what's it matter what he thinks?"
"I don't particularly mind Onslow. Daisy loves him for some reason I cannot fathom, and he makes her happy so why shouldn't I like the man? I know I gripe about his usual lack of a shirt and his general lack of propriety, but that isn't really important, I suppose," Hyacinth conceded.
"That's a girl." Richard smiled and kissed her on the cheek as the doorbell rang. Hyacinth jumped up so fast, she nearly hit Richard on the nose.
Outside the door, Onslow, Daisy and Rose were anxiously waiting for Hyacinth, in usual form, to usher them in quickly before anyone of importance saw them at her doorstep. However, Hyacinth seemed to be taking her time in answering the door. Onslow and Daisy simply shrugged at one another. Rose was busy craning her neck to see if Emmett, Hyacinth's dishy neighbor, was out and about.
Inside, Richard had to physically restrain Hyacinth from fussing with the sofa cushions again. He told her to go to the kitchen to regain some control and went to answer the door.
"Come in, everyone. Hyacinth is tied up in the kitchen at the moment. She'll be out soon. Just have a seat in the parlor. Can I get anyone a drink?" Richard asked, welcoming his in-laws.
"I'll take a beer, if you've got one, Dickey," Onslow responded. He collapsed into the sofa. To Richard's slight dismay, Onslow hadn't had the forethought to put on a proper shirt, only his usual hideous sweater vest over his undershirt.
"I'd love a sherry, Richard," Daisy added. She sat beside her uncouth husband with as much grace as the plump woman could muster.
"Coming right up. Rose?" Richard turned to the younger sister in her frightfully tight, short dress.
"No thank you, Richard. I'll just go see Hyacinth in the kitchen." She left the parlor to find her oldest sister.
Hyacinth was standing in her kitchen, resisting the urge to re-sanitize the counters, when Rose came tottering in on her sky-high heels. "Hyacinth, is there anything I can help you with?"
"No, dear, I have everything under control here. How are you Rose? You look well," Hyacinth commented politely. She despised the way her youngest sister dressed and behaved, but Hyacinth loved her dearly and always wanted to see her happy.
"Oh I'm alright, Hyacinth. But how have you been? We haven't heard from you in a few days, and now you've invited us over for dinner. It isn't like you, Hyacinth," Rose replied. She was rather skeptical of her eldest sister's behavior.
Hyacinth sighed and put down the sponge she was about to use to scrub the spotless sink. "Actually, Rose, I haven't been myself lately."
"Oh? What's happened?"
"Well, Richard and I had a terrible fight, but we're just fine now. I'm trying to be a better person, you see. According to Richard, no one really liked me, and I had no idea how hated I was."
"We never hated you, Hyacinth," Rose interrupted.
"That's nice to know, dear. But I know I haven't been the nicest person I could be, and that's what I'm trying to change," Hyacinth explained.
"But Hyacinth, you don't need to change! We're all from the gutter, and you're the one bright spot in this family. You give something for the rest of us to aspire to! Don't give that up," she countered.
"Rose, I'm not going to be any less respectable, just less…nightmarish."
Rose narrowed her eyes and asked in a quiet voice, "Did Richard say you were a nightmare?"
"Yes. And it was true. But I'm doing my best to change that."
Rose crossed over to the other side of the kitchen and took her sister in a hug. "You were never a nightmare. That was a terrible thing for him to say. If he weren't your husband, I'd say to get rid of the swine."
Hyacinth released Rose and stepped back. "My husband is not a swine, Rose!"
"If a man says that to his wife, he's a swine."
Hyacinth didn't respond. She was strangely conflicted. Before this moment, she thought that Richard was finally honest with her, telling the truth because he loved her. But Rose was infinitely more familiar with men than Hyacinth was, so was she correct in thinking that Richard was wrong to tell her anything? Was Hyacinth really not so bad before?
"Hyacinth, is everything alright?" Richard called from the other room.
Hyacinth ushered Rose out of the kitchen to join everyone in the sitting room. "Yes, Richard. We're right here. Just having some sister time," she replied, laughing off the discomfort she was suddenly feeling at the situation. "Daisy, Onslow! How nice to see you both. Thank you for coming. Has Richard gotten drinks? Can I get you anything?"
Daisy looked at her elder sister with wide eyes, slightly stunned at her agitated demeanor. "We're just fine Hyacinth. Are you alright?"
Hyacinth laughed nervously again. "'Course I am, dear."
Daisy furrowed her brow. "Well you seem…"
"Off your nutter," Onslow finished.
"Oh no, certainly not!" Hyacinth protested. "I'm fine. Shall we go into the dining room for dinner?"
Onslow, Daisy and Rose made their way into the pristine dining room. Richard stopped Hyacinth before leaving the room. "Relax, Hyacinth. Everything's fine. Just calm down, alright?" He gave her hand a squeeze and softly kissed her cheek before following his in-laws.
Hyacinth stood in the hallway, unsure of what to do. She wanted to make her husband happy. But she wanted to believe her sister, who had nothing but good intentions. She had no idea how to act anymore. "Calm down," she whispered to herself, "Richard is right. Everything is fine." With newfound determination, Hyacinth marched into her dining room with her head held high.