A man walked into the dimly lit drawing room with a brown paper bag from the market, filled with various fruit and vegetables. His dark trench coat fell below his knees.
He removed his hat and tossed it onto the coat rack by the door.
He addressed the room with what I presumed to be a question.
Chatter spilt across everyone, light and carefree, without consequence.
Someone must have spoken to me or directed a query meant for me to answer.
“We were asking you if you wanted to attend the ball with us, tonight?” There was a slightly mocking tone in her voice, a perpetual scoff perhaps.
“Not really my thing, sorry.”
Another person murmured something, under their breath, only loud enough for those nearest to them to hear. Whatever they had said was met with yet another scoff, followed by a mocking chortle.
The room quickly moved on and was lulled back into private conversions in hushed tones. No one bothered to speak with me after that.
We were all alike in aptitude and enthusiasm for the subject that we studied together but to say we were alike in mannerisms and demeanour would be a lie.
They were stuck up in disposition, languid in speech, and far too sumptuous in the way they conducted themselves for my liking.
I do not consider myself a capricious person when choosing my friends, but, then again, I do not believe myself to have ever had a “friend”.
Humans are finicky creatures, they lust and loathe and want.
I am by no means, a “bad” person, but I do know that I lack certain empathies and attributes that are needed to maintain a friendship. I prefer solitude.
I do not do anything to change this fact.
It is not until much later that day, that I find myself sitting in the library alone, whilst below me the ball rages on. The music is too loud, I don’t like it. The laughter and the sound of movement which I assume to be dancing of some sort is also too much.
I hate noise.
I am deeply immersed in the book that lies on my lap. I have read it before, most definitely. That does not deter me from reading it as if I do not know the plot like it is a strange part of the inner workings of my mind.
However, just like anything else content in my life, I am interrupted.
Interrupted by the sound of silverware clattering which is followed by cursing and then quickly-paced footsteps which verge on running. The library doors swing open to reveal a man dressed in a cinched black waistcoat and a white button-up shirt paired with deep mauve trousers and dress shoes. He stays planted in the doorway as I look up from my book. We lock eyes for a second, his appear to be red around the rims and slightly shiny. I watch him as he seems to take a very deep breath and huff his chest before he speaks.
“I didn’t expect a butler to be in the library in civvy dress at this hour. The ball is not yet over.” He ridicules.
“I’m not a butler.”
He looks over my attire for a moment and seems to be lost in thought before he latches back onto reality again.
“Why are you up here?”
“I like books. Why are you?”
“I thought no sane person would be here at this hour. It’s quarter past two.” His voice is much quieter and scornful inflections in tone have lessened but only just.
“Well, it seems you are correct in that sense.”
“It looks as though there are no sane people in the room at this hour.”
At this, he steps away from the doorway and into the light. There are clear signs of upset on his face and it is clear to me he has been crying.
I’m not sure I care enough to ask. I ask anyways.
His response is vague and I do not press on any further than that.
With great caution, he makes his way over to where I am sitting and places himself in the armchair next to me.
The attention that was focused solely on the book I had been enjoying thoroughly has been displaced and I cannot seem to garner the strength to put it back.
He is everything I despise most. From the way he spoke at me rather than to me, as if I was scum on the bottom of his dress shoe, to the way he walked over to me in long yet wary strides, I hate him.
He likes to ask questions. A lot of them. All at once.
In the beginning, my responses were dry and rightfully so, I did not know this person. However, the interrogation led to conversation and somehow, between the humorous jokes and upper-class society gossip, the minutes turned to hours and this ineffectual stranger turned out to be not so mundane and righteous after all.
He, too, studies English.
We like the same novels and authors.
His favourite genre is gothic literature.
His family own various bits of land up and down the country.
He hates the sun, he has an affinity for dark, gloomy weather.
His engagement just got called off.
His name is Francis.
Francis and I are friends.