If You'd Only Known the First Thing About Her (Lilian Rook)

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If You'd Only Known the First Thing About Her (Lilian Rook)
Date of Cutscene: 18 December 2023
Location: Rook Estate
Synopsis: "Overlooking the people in your daughter's life has undone you one more time."
Thanks to: Persephone Kore
Cast of Characters: {{{Cast of Characters}}}

"Can I help you?"
"Yes sir. With just one thing, sir. Then I'll be out of your way."

That alone was cause for Matthew to pause.

That tone of his was always perfectly clear. There had only ever been one answer to it for as long as Cecilia had known him; which was a considerable length of time, as she'd been Allison's retainer before they'd even met, never mind married. Raising his voice like that was the sign for the lady's maid to bow out of the way, after having posed some sort of inconvenience. Seeing her standing on the top step, right between the double doors, hands folded over her carry bag and eyes meeting his, the only way he could interpret this was that she was blocking the front door on purpose.

"Excuse me?"
"I'm afraid it's very important, sir."
"It can wait."
"I'm afraid it's something only you are fit to handle as well, sir."

The little back and forth changed nothing. Matthew still stood out in the garden, winter jacket still on his shoulders and briefcase still in hand, and Cecilia still stood on the house threshold, dressed in that halfway old-fashioned maid attire, and carrying that bag as if she meant to go home.

Determined to remain composed, Matthew subdued his vexation at the standstill with a mere twitch of an eyebrow and the tapping of one gloved finger on the silver head of his cane. It bothered him more that Cecilia's expression could stay so utterly impassive. His wife and children all seemed to prefer her guidance, her assistance, to any of his, yet she was always so much better at showing not the least bit of emotion; something he'd determinedly ascribed to the era in which she learned her trade.

"I see you have a lovely new cane sir."
"Is that what's so impossibly important that you'd still be standing there?"
"No sir. You'd gone very quiet. I meant only to break the silence."
"Then you have time enough to move. I, you see, do not. I am extremely busy."
"Is that so sir? My apologies. You haven't returned to the estate in months."
"Of course I'm busy. On top of everything else that's kept me away, my child is graduating in mere days. I have more than enough things to do without delays in getting everything in order for the ceremony too"
"Oh. I see. Begging your pardon then."

He didn't like the way Cecilia said it. More than just the fact that she was still in his way, something about the utterly professionally neutral way she'd apologized to him had disturbed buried deep in the back of his mind. Enough for him to take a second look at her. Not enough to wonder more than when she'd started wearing violet contacts, of all things.

"Which one?" asked Cecilia.

"I mean which child, sir."

The question agitated Matthew even more.

"Excuse me? You know perfectly well which one."
"I'm afraid it's slipped my mind sir."

Matthew opened his mouth in stunned silence. Two attempts to find something to say did little more than work his jaw.

"The one who is still in school. The only one. Obviously."
"Which child is that?"

Cecilia's reply was quicker than before. The last one, itself, incrementally swifter than the last. The feeling made his skin crawl.

"Have you gone senile?"
"Perhaps, sir. If you'd help me, then?"

"My youngest, then." Matthew stepped forward.
"Which one might that be?" Cecilia didn't move at all.

Matthew gasped in short-strangled frustration. "What is this? You're not pretending to be stupid, are you? There are only three of them."

"Which one of those three is graduating, then?"

His eyes widened. The impatient tapping became a creaking grip on the handle.

"You– Who put you up to this?"
"No one, sir. It's a family matter, as always. I only need your help with one thing, sir. Then I'll not be in your hair a moment longer."
"What then?!" Matthew spat.

Dutifully, Cecilia unzipped the carry bag at her side, reached inside, and carefully, deliberately, withdrew a– faded olive green hoodie, neatly folded up on top of a worn out pair of jeans, evidently to be disposed.

"What is this, sir?" said Cecilia. Fine hairs pricked up on Matthew's neck.
"This? This is what you're wasting my time with?" said Matthew.
"This is the single most important thing I've ever asked you, sir. Please take a moment to think."

Matthew knew she wasn't lying. He was only foggily beginning to grasp the shape of it, but he already didn't like it. Which meant he'd do as he always did.

As he recalled, his wife's lady's maid had been good for two of his children, but needed correction almost as often as his youngest, back in those days. So perhaps this shouldn't have been a surprise. He let loose a tired, fogging breath into the winter air, pulled off one glove, four fingers at once, began the first two signs of the writ, and slammed face first against the front step landing with a boom loud enough to send waves of shaking leaves through the garden.

Matthew tasted blood in his mouth, and felt a million tons of force pressing down on him from above. He could hear the beams beneath the stone steps creaking under the sheer weight of gravity on top of them. The air rumbled against his skin. He found himself unable to lift so much as a finger. The folded clothes in Cecilia's hands fell gently onto the stones in front of him, and lightly bounced.

"I think you've done enough of that, sir." said Cecilia.
Matthew couldn't say anything.
"I wonder what got into you? That you'd start doing things like that after all that time." she continued. The neutrality in her voice turned icy. A bland, banal sort of scorn Matthew realized he knew well. "You were such a good boy back then, too. What ever happened to that charming lad from the Irish countryside? The one that my Allison fell in love with." said Cecilia. Her tone was so thick with it that he couldn't possibly mistake it for anything but his own. "You always had your flaws, but you were always there for her, you know. You used to be such bright boy. So outgoing, so diligent; I used to think you could–"

"Are you - - - mocking - - - me?" Matthew choked.
"Yes sir I am." said Cecilia. "You've been a deeply embarrassing man for at least the past ten years, after all."

Feeling his bones creaking, his ears on the edge of bursting, yet miraculously still able to breathe, Matthew fought the deafening thrum of stone-shattering gravity on top of him, to crane his neck just enough to see Cecilia standing over him.

"What - - - have you - - - done?!"

Straight-backed, head forward, heels together; the posture of a proper maid; Cecilia stared at him from the very bottom of her eyes, as she would examine mud on the toe of her shoe. The shaded angle was more than enough to show him the violet glow that limmed her pupils. The hem of her dress fluttered softly around her legs, caught in an invisible breeze. Her loose hair hung picturesque in space, as if underwater.

"I've only showed a little interest in that girl's life, sir. Getting to know her friends, especially. I'd suggested you might have tried it before, sir."
"I seem to recall you rather violently objected. Amongst many other times, in fact."
"You were - - -"
"Doing my job, sir."
"Your job - - - is to–!"
"Help Allison around the house." said Cecilia. The interjection was harsh enough to cut someone off even without being flattened. "With her dress and makeup. With her children and her errands. Have you really forgotten that much, sir? Were you so desperate to pretend yourself an English gentleman, for marrying into the Rook last name, that you'd assumed I was your personal property?"

The force on top of Matthew redoubled. It couldn't kill him, but it could certainly convey her scorn. The quiet frustration; the particular contempt she had nursed for a very long time; repressed, denied, built up invisibly over years and years, all bearing down on him with the overwhelming intensity of it all.

"I know for a fact you two have fought an awful lot about the way you treat me, sir. Much like Bryce struck you for the way you treat his younger sister, and much like Katrina abandoned you for the same."

Crushing. Drowning. Asphyxiating. Like the years she spent between Matthew's demands and his rages, and the girl she was supposed to care for, doing her very best not to fall apart under the strain. They had both scared her. Lilian had frightened the life out of her, even. But one had hurt her intentionally, and one had hurt her by accident. And after all these years, one of them loved her enough to want her to be a part of her life again, and the other still dealt in curses and compulsions to get his way.

"I have to thank you sir. Despite my station, you've taught me more than most would ever have the opportunity to know about how the 'Enlightened' use their power. How to accrue it, how to hide it, when to use it, and when no one will know if you have; it's all thanks to you, sir. You've done a better job teaching Lilian than you even realize."

Matthew summoned up the strength to spit out the blood in his mouth, aimed for Cecilia. It splattered on the ground an inch from his mouth. "You too - - - is it?! Both of - - - you - - - to the end! Then! - - - I'll have you - - -"

"You've been saying that quite a lot, sir. Does whatever is wrong with you prevent you from realizing how ridiculous you sound?" Clapping down the front of her skirt with her hands, Cecilia crouched down on her toes in front of Matthew. The beautiful, weightless swirl of hair and skirts and ribbon and sash all around her wouldn't quite touch the floor. Staring down her nose, straight into his eyes, she said to him,

"If that girl can't live as long as you darken our doorstep, then I'm afraid this is where we part ways. Once upon a time it was a pleasure working with you, sir. Now, I think that I'd rather never see you again."

Every branch of every tree and every blade of grass in the garden bent backwards simultaneously in the wake of the following 'thoom, and crashed back into rustling place in the vacuum. A little streak of blood, left elongated outwards on the step, was the only sign that Matthew had arrived. Some many miles away, he was someone else's problem, now.

"Ah. Let's find the mop, before Lilian gets home."