𝔉𝔦𝔯𝔰𝔱 𝔈𝔫𝔠𝔬𝔲𝔫𝔱𝔢𝔯𝔰, 𝔓𝔬𝔬𝔯 ℑ𝔪𝔭𝔯𝔢𝔰𝔰𝔦𝔬𝔫𝔰

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"Sorry?" Ezra's brows raised and then sunk into a furrow. He parted his lips, his open mouth smile shifting into a stiff gape as he processed everything: the sudden recognition of his presence, the sudden demand, and the sudden sparks when they met eyes.

For the moment, they both seemed to process each other with the intensity of stretching a rubber band with scissors.

"E-Erina." Lady Sutherton stumbled over her tongue as she hurried to speak to his defense. "Mister Ezra is our guest, so don't start with the nonsense."

Erin slowly directed her attention to her mother. "And?" She cocked her brows. "Who was it that always said Suthertons over all---especially lowborns," she said, finishing with a venomous hiss.

"Yes, darling, but this is not the time to---."

Erin interrupted, eyeing Ezra. "---As a Sutherton I am not in the habit of repeating myself. Move it." She tugged on the chair, looking down upon him; her frustrations suddenly had a medium and she couldn't resist the offer. "I need to sit. So, get moving, now."

"Erin, I am requesting that you have some respect for my guest." Lady Sutherton cried. "You can take the other seat right there." She pointed to the available empty seat.

Erin's eyes swiped past her mother before landing sharply on Ezra. "Mother, I'm being considerate enough. I am kindly asking him." She paused to whisper lowly enough only for him to hear. "Asking instead of pushing you out of this chair."

He heard and glanced up once at her.

"Erina, enough!" Lady Sutherton held up her hand. "Do not start this right now."

"Don't start what?" She batted her eyes, placing a hand on Ezra's shoulder.

"Erina." Lady Sutherton's eyes fluttered.

"Mother." She smiled sweetly, letting her claws dig into his shoulder.

"D-Daviyd." She turned to her husband. "Daviyd," she said again, pleading for his attention with bulging eyes and a high-pitched strained voice.

Yet, despite her calls for his assistance, he seemed more focused on checking his pocket watch as if he was ready to move on with his daily itinerary of responsibilities.

"Daviyd!" Lady Sutherton snapped at her husband's indifference. "Daviyd!"

The fourth attempt finally captured his interest and he looked up from his watch. "Anya?" That was all he replied before the dialogue between them turned into anxious bickers and complaints from 'she can not scare off our butler, already' to 'perhaps we should look into sending her to a different lady's retreat'.

Erin was glad to take advantage of her parents' brief intermission. She remained lurking behind Ezra's seat; hand pressed firmly on his shoulder.

"One," she said, roughly tapping his shoulder. "Two."

The longer he remained seated, the fierier her glare was growing.

"Three." She let her nails prick him. "Four."

Her other free hand rested atop the rim of the seat, preparing for movement. "Five."

"Well, Daviyd, what do you expect me to do? Simply not be worried?"

Erin peeked at her parents, hearing only bits of their squabbles.

"Six and Seven~," she hummed, threateningly.

"No, it is simply that your anxious fits are not my concern to settle, Anya."

"Oh? But what if some issues are indeed both my and your concern."

"Whom are you directing your tone to?"

"Eight. Nine." Erin was nearly clenching a fistful of his uniform.

"M-my apologies. You know I don't mean sound any way to you, dear."

"Then perhaps maybe you shouldn't open your mouth."

"Ten---."

SCREECH!

Ezra slid his chair back, a loud skidding of metal against the ground alerting everyone. Even Erin jumped back a little, startled. He had just barely missed knocking her over if she hadn't bounced on surprised feet.

Lady Sutherton pulled her eyes from her husband and dramatically ogled him. "Mister Ezra?"

Ezra straightened his uniform as he stood to his full height. "Lady Erina, you would like to sit?" He gave Erin a honeyed smile. "I apologize for my delay; I was a little surprised. But now that I found my bearings, I can only be honored to be of assistance to the Sutherton family in any way possible."

"Y-you will?" Lady Sutherton spoke before Erin could open her mouth. "Y-you're offering the seat?"

"Of course!" Ezra eagerly exclaimed. "It is my job to be of your family's assistance." He looked away from Lady and Lord Sutherton and sent his joyful gaze to Erin. "So? My lady, please have your seat!" He smiled, pulling the seat out for her.

Lady Sutherton turned to her husband, unsure if he was witnessing the same thing. Erin shared her parents' shock but not in the same way. While her parents viewed him with wonder, she viewed him with repulsive curiosity.

His smile was too honeyed.

Too gentle.

Too joyous.

It reminded her of her mother's flaccid, sugary smile that never charmed nor convinced her of sincerity; and the more she stared, the more she concluded that he was repellent and off-putting.

Like a butterfly, she thought. He was like a butterfly; those bothersome buggers, pretty and bright, flapping and fluttering, always putting on a show. Oh, those 'pretty' distractions, nice-looking, they really were, but completely useless to the fact that it was an insect, family of the moth.

She turned her gaze from him and cracked a smile at her parents. "Oh, this one is a bright one, isn't he?" Her eyes went from her parents and back to him. "Where and why did you dredge up this fellow? From some shanty pit?"

Ezra laughed as if the mockery wasn't against him. "It's wonderful to meet you, Lady Erina. It seems the stories about you do you absolutely no justice."

Her smile died, a scowl assuming its position. She looked him directly in the eye. "Excuse me, but was I speaking to you? Haven't you heard of speak when spoken to?"

He smiled, locking his lips.

"Lowborns. No manners these days," she seethed. Rolling her eyes with a huff, she prepared to sit, adjusting the layers in her dress first.

Lady Sutherton, still shell shocked at the exchange, quickly spoke up. "Erin, please. What did I say about calling people lowborns? You must stop assuming that."

"Mother, if it looks like a lowborn and it talks like a lowborn. Can you blame me?"

"Erina no," she said, exhausted. "Please if you would just stop causing issues, we might be able to properly explain that Mister Ezra is supposed to be the new but---."

It all seemed to happen so suddenly.

There was an impact.

Erin's head was first.

It slammed hard against the ground, the force radiating from the base of her head to the front of her face.

Her elbows were second. Bone against the stone.

Then were her legs that tangled together as kicked up and smashed down.

Everything else that followed merged into one mess of shock and brief pain as she collided with the floor. Eyes wide, jaw hanging, and flat back pressed solidly against the ground. She remained paralyzed in both shock and bewilderment.

Just a few moments prior she was about to take her seat. She was about to sit down. She was about to.

She blinked.

Somehow, there she was, flat on her back, gazing into the sky, the world a panorama of dizzy disorientation.

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