" Rainy! Rainy! Wake up! A potential suitor's coming in today!" cried an altogether chirpy voice.
I groaned loudly, wondering if Alisa was watching old re-runs of Pride and Prejudice with that Colin Firth guy in it, and continued to pull a fluffy pillow over my head. The next moment it was snatched from my hands and plummeted on top of my head over and over again. That was it! If my sister thought I was just going to lie there and accept every bollocking coming for me, then she was very much mistaken!
I rolled over and pushed my hair back from my face, reaching out to grab the intruder's wrists in my very firm grasp. " Alisa! Stop it! I'm having a lie in!" A vision of my younger sister dressed in a mini corset and electric bull gown entered my field of vision and I turned my head away, rubbing my eyes. " Isn't it too early to be playing dress-up?"
An uncharacteristic gigle escaped from the direction of my sister and I increduously turned my head to face her again, perched on the edge of the bed. " What are you like! In the state of half-awakening! Whatever would ma say? She'd give you a proper good hiding if you don't dress in that yellow dress Uncle Sebastian gave you last michaelmas and do your hair all pretty-like. She wants you to make a good impression on the Barnston lads! One of them may take a fancy to you and declare you his mistress!"
Huh? Was Alisa taking this whole dress-up thing a bit too seriously? I mean sure she watched a lot of costume dramas- but enough to speak like some pompous victorian brat? This was way too early to be dealing with this now. I rolled over and proceeded to bury my ear against the matress listening to the clatterings of pots and pans down below, and the warming aroma of chicken soup.
" Hurry!" trilled Alisa panicing a fair bit. " Marcia's coming up those stairs! If she catches you lounging round bed, she's going to snitch to ma, who'd order Marcia to take away your rocking horse!"
Marcia? Who the hell was she? Alisa in her haste pulled of my silk sheets and started tuggin non effectively on my arm. Wait! Silk sheets? I wrenched away from Alisa's warm little hands and launched myself over the side of the bed onto the floor. This wasn't my floor! Oh my god! What was happening?
A door opened and slammed before a wary voice intoned, " Morning Miss Alice, is Miss Raina up today?" I could almost imagine a frilly little maid decked out in an apron curtseying low to the ground.
" Yes." and then lowering her voice conspirationally, " I think she's having one of her bad days, Marcia."
" Tsk! And on the day the Branston boys are coming over too! You head yourself down to breakfast miss, and I'll deal with Miss Raina here,"
I could almost picture Alisa, dressed ever so smartly, in a blue ribbon encrusted dree with a matching ribbons in her hair skipping out of the room, with a victorian doll in her hand. If I was in the dreamland then this had better end soon. This was freaking me out, big time. A pair of dainty feet clad in dirty shoes rounded the corner and then a young woman in her early twenties was curtseying to me, a cap hiding the escaping curls coiling out of her auburn hair.
I opened my mouth and screamed bloody murder.
Flutter, flutter, flutter. And there I had been thinking only girls blink their eyes so much. The deepened scowl on face had no intention of disappearing any time soon, and if I had to remain in this pouncy little dress any longer, then I would run through these open hallways naked, screaming my head off. Alisa, no sorry Alice, was flirting away as much as an eight year old could, curtsying ever so daintily and peering at the Branston lads from underneath her lashes.
Truly, was has gone wrong in the world? An alternate versio of my mother, but dressed in a teal coloured gown, shot me a warning glare as if warning me to get rid of my sullen expression pronto. I didn't comply and instead raised one eyebrow, clearly unimpressed by this era I had the misfortune of being stuck in. My only hope, was that it was all a cruel dream and I would wake up with nothing more than an enquiry for a glass of warm milk.
" So Miss Raina, what are your interests?" lisped a voice, which was preceded by much eye fluttering. Oh great, I was being chatted up by someone around my sister's age- Victorian style. Could this get any worse? I bit back a yelp as something kicked me in the shin, most probably my "mother" and started churning whatever came to mind-
" Oh yunno, bike riding, computer games- Xbox rocks! Oh and running, I do that a lot and how could a girl survive without some TLC time with her TV?"
Everyone stared at me blankly as I prattled on, and a voice in the back of my brain went, "No! You dolt! You're meant to say sewing and playing with your dolls or having tea-parties..."
I gulped, and mentally banged my head against the floor a couple of times.
Alfred, I think his name was, and really should be in Year 3, with his legs dangling quite away from the ground, batted his eyelids. I was only ten but yet they were arranging engagements already! Life in twenty first century was so much better....
My mother gave a tinkling laugh, hiding the murderous waves rolling of her and said, " Oh please excuse Raina, she has such imagination at times! I assure you, she adores playing dolls with Alice and staying inside much like a good, little daughter does."
Mr Branston didn't look convinced. " Ah..." he intoned, " I see....but don't you agree Miss Winstone, that too many opinions in one household is not a marvellous concept? A man needs a loving, peaceful wife, who will bear him fine heirs and remain by his side in social occasions.."
In other words, a trophy wife. Jeez, I forgot guys back then were more chauvinistic than the recent times.
My mother laughed again, but this time it sounded much more forced. " I understand Mr Branston! My husband and I like to think we teach our daughters the same principals..."
Uh-oh. Major trouble ahead. I should make a quick getaway before anybody decided to raise their voices towards me....
I stood up, and tried to imitate the curtsy Alisa had done so perfectly earlier. " You must excuse me gentlemen, and mother. I have a pressing emergency that I must deal with right away."
My mother looked dumbfounded, whilst the three brothers fidgeted their tiny feet's. They were all probably thinking what a ten year old had to do that was so urgent. I was so going to get it later. And with that, I skipped out of the room, flicking my ringlets along the way...