Photo in the public domain by Jack Kurzenknabe
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Wolf Slave 18 – Alex Ankarr
When he’s gone, searching out expensive items of men’s tailoring in a back room – or falling down the cellar steps and breaking his neck, Penn isn’t fussy – Penn is still. He’s not fool enough to think it’s over there: though perhaps Ree will wait to mete out his punishment until they’re back at the family estate at least. He may spare Penn’s dignity that far.
He feels Ree drift over to him, stand behind him very close indeed. He isn’t sure he imagines that he can feel Ree’s breath on the back of his neck: then when he feels Ree speak into his ear, he knows he wasn’t imagining it. ‘Can I not let you loose without you getting into some kind of trouble?’ Ree asks, and his tone is neutral enough that Penn isn’t quite sure of his response.
‘My apologies, sir,’ he tries. ‘I-’ But he has no excuse, really. He knew better, he just didn’t do better. He hadn’t wanted to.
‘Penn, Penn,’ Ree says. There’s a hand on his shoulder, now: firm and warm. ‘You always did have a lousy temper. I remember when that red-haired cook with the cast in her eye wouldn’t give you any more ginger cookies. You said she could perfectly well make extra out of her hair and it looked like it was set on fire anyway. Then a lot of stuff about her eye too, rather less civil. Three years old, it was amazing how you thought of it. Eloquent, you were.’
His voice is reproving. But it’s also indulgent. And Ree realises that, whatever Ree’s implied to the tailor, he’ll not be punished: not right now, anyway.
On the way home, he’s waiting: but the other shoe never drops. Ree talks about land purchases, when he talks at all: makes the chauffeur detour so they can go by the coastline and see the incoming migratory bird-flocks. It’s impersonal, mostly: but still, Ree talks as he might to a friend.
When they arrive back, Ree dismisses him, and Penn goes to his room and sits, thinks. He thinks hard. Mostly he thinks that he must remember not to presume, to take any of this for granted or appear, especially in public, to feel he has special privileges and license.
© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2013 All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.