‘Wait in the garden for me, Michael. Do not go anywhere,’ Lady Williams said sternly.
‘Alright, mother,’ Michael replied. ‘But mother, where are you going?’
‘It’s a surprise, darling,’ Lady Williams smiled broadly.
Excitement ran through Michael. For the first time in many years, he returned her a smile. He watched her walk back inside the house.
He inhaled deeply and tried to control his emotions. His mother was happy and that was enough for him. Looking up into the sky, he made a wish. ‘Please keep my mother happy. Childish wishes, but then I, myself, am still a child,’ he whispered.
Looking back towards the door, he noticed candles flickering. A big smile spread across his face, as he noticed his mother pushing a trolley holding a cake on top of it. It was a large cake and all the servants were walking with her. Even John held a smile. Genuine or not, he was still happy.
There was no sign of his young cousins, of any children for that matter, but that did not bother him the least. His mother was smiling, that was all he cared for.
‘Happy birthday, my little baby,’ she whispered.
‘Mother, a ‘baby’? In front of the servants?’ Michael whined. But the joy was given away by his eyes. His mother pulled him towards her and embraced him in a tight hug. As soon as she let go, John pulled him into a hug. Strange as it was, Michael still accepted it.
The candles were blown, the cake was cut, then cheers and songs were followed. Michael could not think of a happier day.
Dusk was slowly approaching when everyone began packing up.
‘No, no, Master Michael. Leave it for the servants. Let me warm some milk for you,’ John gripped Michael’s hand as he moved to grab a plate.
‘John, please, no Master today. Let us lose the titles and status for today. I promise, I will follow your orders of being a master of the house tomorrow,’ Michael responded. Today was his day, and he wanted everyone to be equal. Status did not bring happiness; it did not define a person. It certainly did not define him.
‘But, your mother,’ John began.
‘No, nothing. She will be pleased that I am not one to look down,’ Michael fired back.
With a small smile, John loosened his grip. ‘Tomorrow, then,’ dropping his hand, he stepped back and gave a final nod.
Michael smiled and carried on with clearing up.
Lady Williams sat and watched the whole scene play out. She could not help but glow with pride.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang. There were loud voices, shouting even. She turned towards the door and watched some cutlery being thrown out the door. The first thing on her mind was her son, Michael.
‘Michael,’ she gasped. Standing up, she made a dash towards the house before John hauled her back.
He put a finger to his lips and pushed her behind him.
Lady Williams watched her son being thrown out. Michael landed with a thud.
Again, she made an attempt to reach him, but John was adamant to keep her behind him. It was almost as though he was trying to protect her. Some of the servants had rushed out. They were scared at the turn of events. She noticed the cook run out and pick Michael up into his arms. The cook ran towards the shed. Then walked out the man causing all the commotion.
He was a handsome man. Tall, slim and light brown curly hair. His hazel eyes shadowed with anger, as he stalked his way onto the lawn. He made a quick skim of the area and noticed the butler standing guard. He also noticed several servants surrounding a figure.
‘She’s behind you, I know,’ he stated with a soft voice. A small smile began forming across his face. John did not budge. The servants refused to move. ‘I said she’s behind you. I demand to speak with her,’ his calm voice contradicted his intention.
‘Lady Williams is engaged at the moment with some pressing matters. She will not be able to speak to you, sir,’ John replied just as calmly. John did not seem fazed by the event.
‘Move out the way. Do you even know who you are speaking to?’
‘No, and quite frankly, I do not care,’ John replied tersely. He heard Lady Williams let out a loud sob behind his back. This was no time for emotions.
‘Very well. Where is the boy?’ He tilted his head up to demonstrate their difference in status.
‘He is probably somewhere in the house.’
‘No, he cannot be. I just threw–,’ he coughed lightly, ‘I mean, I watched him jump into the garden. Now if you could kindly show me where he is,’ he finished off.
John gave him a slight smile and turned his back towards him. He heard the man growl with anger.
‘You will be sorry for this day. I will not let you forget it, Marie!’ He yelled. The servants, watching from the doorway, scattered as he stormed off.
John composed himself and looked down at Lady Williams. She remained crouched, covering her eyes. ‘He will get to me one day, he will,’ she let out.
‘No, as long as we are here, he will not touch you,’ John looked down at the frightened figure. ‘Maids,’ he clapped his hands, ‘Lady Williams needs you all.’ With that, he moved aside. The maids all scurried to Lady Williams and helped her stand up.
‘Where is Michael?’
‘He has actually fallen asleep. I took him to the cottage,’ the cook responded.
John looked first at his watch, then directed his intense gaze at the cook. ‘He has his own bed. Please bring him back to the house,’ with that, he turned and walked back towards the house.