Boisterous laughter echoed through the passageway. It was another icy Winter’s morning, the solstice of the season. The aroma of the fireplace filled the living room as Lady Hazel chatted excitedly. Heather, the Lady’s Pomeranian, nestled deep into the Persian rug, waking every few minutes startled by the Lady’s outbursts, then canoodling back into her slumber.
An old friend of the Lady was visiting for Tea, the usual there at the Castle. Before her guest, lay an elaborate display of freshly-baked scones, fine jams, clotted cream, and milk tart. Unlike other visitors that floated in and out of the plot, however, this friend came bearing bad news. She was a good woman, a body of warmth in the otherwise crisp fort, and was well-known in the city for the orphanage she ran on Kettleway Avenue, an almost Mother Teresa of her time. She lived in a quaint cottage on the same property as the children’s home so that she could be close by. The woman was unmarried and never had any kids of her own. Her short blonde hair was pulled back into a tight pony-tail, golden loose wisps cascading around her pointy face. She was garbed with a thin cotton scarf around her wrinkled neck and her blue eyes glistened with the glow of the fireplace. She shook her leg anxiously as her faux-booted foot made a tap-tap sound against the wooden flooring of the lounge.
After pleasantries were concluded and Lady Hazel had got her droning monologue out of her system, the woman crouched forward, her husky voice barely a whisper, “Hazel, the most tragic thing has happened to me and this is why I have come to see you. I am not asking anything from you, obviously, but… I just needed to see an old friend and catch up. You know how cake makes me feel better.” Lady Hazel listened intently, pursing her maroon lips, the stained colour clashing with her volcanic hair; a theatrical scene against the backdrop of the lively fireplace. With each passing second, the flames seemed to reach out like arms to engulf the two women before it. The woman’s eyes suddenly pooled with tears and she began sobbing, her voice escalating in pitch. “My orphanage was broken into last night. They raided our kitchen, emptied out the pantry… and what is worse, they have stolen the entire chest of savings that we had hidden behind the shelves… I have no idea how I will be able to feed the children and and…” the woman let out a shrilling howl. Lady Hazel gasped in shock and tried to soothe her friend, reaching out her slender hand. “There, there,” she caressed the woman’s head as her friend rested her crown on the Lady’s pearled shoulder. “That is just horrific, my dear! I know exactly how you feel, why, just last week my beautiful diamond earrings went missing and I have been a wreck ever since!”
The woman’s wailing echoed through the empty Castle. Heather got up and trotted out the noisy room.