On a lighter note today Charlotte and Josef argue about The Thames and Josef shows more than he means to.
London – 1841
‘It’s got a tide, and beaches, and docks. It’s the sea,’ I said.
‘It’s a river and, in the grand scheme, not a big one,’ Josef shot back, following me down the hallway.
‘I never said it wasn’t river. Just that bit.’
‘A sea needs salt. The Thames is freshwater,’ he muttered.
‘Fresh? Have you smelt it recently?’
He was right. I knew my eleven year old self’s logic was wrong, but that didn’t mean I had to admit it. It was more fun if I didn’t.
I found Bran in his study going through his account book. ‘Tell Josef that part of The Thames counts as the sea.’ I looped my arms around his neck and kissed his cheek.
He tilted his head to look at me. ‘As much as I love you, it’s a river.’
‘Spoilsport,’ I murmured and touched my nose to his. ‘Would you change your mind if I said I loved you?’
‘That’s cheating,’ Josef said and threw himself down in one of the chairs opposite the desk. ‘I can’t compete with that.’
‘Why’re you arguing about this?’ Bran asked. ‘I think I missed that bit.’
Josef looked at me. ‘Why are we arguing about this?’
‘Because the children thought it was the sea and you had to correct them.’
‘And you have to be right,’ he said.
‘Only when it’s you. I’d have conceded Bran’s point ages ago.’
Bran smiled to himself.
‘Infuriating woman,’ Josef muttered, but still seemed pleased.
I nuzzled Bran’s cheek and didn’t reply. I was surprised we’d managed to carry the argument on for an hour, it was a record, though the fact the children had found it funny might’ve helped. Until they decided we were being boring and went to help Mrs Stapleton bake. Though ‘help’ seemed a misnomer.
‘Mind if I take seat?’ I asked and slid onto Bran’s lap.
He put his arms around my waist, rested his chin on my shoulder and carried on reading his accounts book.
Josef wrinkled his nose. ‘How do you know so much but not this?’
‘It’s no matter to me what that end of the river is. I don’t sail,’ I said.
‘Ah, you admit it’s a river,’ Josef said. ‘Time to celebrate.’ He went to the drinks cabinet, got out a bottle of whiskey and took a swig without pouring it into a glass. ‘Victory is sweet.’
Bran shook his head and sighed. ‘The children don’t argue like this.’
‘Just the other day Mary was arguing with a bookcase because she knocked a book on her head.’ Which wouldn’t happen if she asked people to reach things rather than climbing up the shelves to get them.
Josef saluted me with the bottle. ‘Who won?’
‘Mary was winning until she kicked the bookcase and hurt her toe.’
‘And if she’s anything like her mother she won’t learn a thing.’ He downed another gulp of whiskey.
He grinned. ‘I love it when you talk like that.’
I shook my head then kissed Bran, a deep, toe-curling kiss the made his fingers grip my hips. He didn’t seem to care that Josef was watching us, not that he should, but he often did.
‘Feel free to carry that on to its natural conclusion,’ Josef said and returned to his seat like a theatre goer after the interval.
Bran blushed and broke the kiss.
‘You remember you have a home, right?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ Josef replied but just sat there with the bottle of whiskey resting against his knee as he watched us expectantly. What he was expecting I wasn’t sure but it felt like we were at risk of him inviting himself to move in. Between Josef and the children interrupting us I’d never get any sex again.
Bran kissed my neck and I realised Josef and I had been staring at each other in a silent dare. Speaking of dares I wondered if Bran realised he was caressing the inside of my thigh, he didn’t seem to. Judging by Josef’s barely suppressed amusement he did.
‘What’re you doing here anyway?’ I asked.
His smile vanished and he shifted in his seat, once again forgetting that whatever image he project with his magic I could see right through it. I often wondered what other people saw, it must’ve been enticing given the way he could notch his bedpost with anyone he took a fancy to. Except me.
I turned my head to rest my face against the side of Bran’s. His stubble was scratchy against the tip of my nose and there was whiskey on his breath, but not too much.
Josef glugged from the bottle and pulled a face. ‘Ever consider anything Scottish?’
Bran stirred. ‘Don’t blaspheme in this house.’
I chuckled and kissed his cheek. ‘Not everyone has your refined tastes, chuckaboo.’
‘Funny,’ Josef said. He slammed the bottle down and strode out of the room. A moment later the front door slammed.
‘Is Josef jealous?’ Bran asked.
‘Have you only just worked that out?’
He blushed. ‘Men like Josef don’t get jealous of me.’
I touched my nose to his. ‘You really are a noodle sometimes.’
His lips twitched. ‘People don’t choose me over Josef.’
I caressed his cheek. ‘I think you both need to adjust your thinking.’
‘We’re old and stuck in our ways,’ he said and sat back in the chair.
I turned to straddle him. ‘Is that so?’
He smiled faintly.
The wailing preceded Mary. She came through the door, red-faced, running from her eyes and nose with her hand to for forehead. ‘Mu – Mummy, Pa – Pappy. The biscuit box was mean.’
I got off Bran’s lap and picked her up and wiped her face before she wiped it on me. ‘What do I keep telling you about climbing on shelves?’
‘It hurts, Mummy. You have to kiss it better. Rules.’
I took her hand from her forehead and kissed the red mark. ‘Shall we get you a biscuit?’
She snuffled loudly and nodded.
‘And no climbing shelves.’
‘I won’t fall, Mummy.’
I wondered if I should list all the injuries I’d had from falling but I didn’t think that would help. It might even be on the list of ‘inappropriate conversations’. Or the thought of such adventures might encourage her.
Bran sighed heavily as if he’d read my mind.
Maybe Josef had a point about Mary and I.
Part of Jesse’s Studio’s Fiction Frenzy there will be a new episode of Victorian Mistress everyday from 4th June until 17th June 2017.