"Thomas? Thomas, you come here this instant!"
The loud shrill from his mother cut through the cobblestone-lined street. Several children around him, sitting in the darkened alley, snickered.
Thomas frowned. "Hey, it's not funny." He sat back down on his heels, tossing the dice once again into the dirtied rope ring.
The kid across from him shrugged. "Whatever. Ah—fives. I win. Pay up." He threw out his hand, quick as lightning, for his payment.
"You're a dirty rotten cheater!" Thomas complained. After his accusation was not met, he dug into his small pocket for a small piece of metal. He flipped it over to the other boy, not wanting to dirty his hand up.
"Whatever gets my money in." The boy smirked. He shooed Thomas away from the gambling circle and motioned the next contestant in.
A dirty-faced boy pushed past Thomas, knocking the boy off his heels.
Thomas stood up, mumbling to himself, and dusted himself off.
"Stop being such a little girl," The cheater called out to Thomas in his smoke-like voice. "You little prim-an'-proper boys ain't gotta worry 'bout no dirt. Go home to ya momma."
He scowled, storming past the small crowd out of the cramped alley.
The streets of London were usually always like this—cramped, dirty, full of cheaters. It was a huge contrast from his house, but it was nice to know that everything wasn't always so—spotless.
He ran his hand through his hair quickly to straighten it, approaching the stoop where his angry mother stood. She was holding baby Lilith in her arms, and her permanent scowl seemed to deepen a bit more just by the sight of him.
"Where have you been?" She demanded. "I've been calling your name for hours!"
Exaggeration surely was his mother's best quality.
"Just taking a walk, mum." Thomas grumbled, sticking his hands in his pocket.
"A walk—hmmph!" His mother exclaimed, sticking her nose up in the air. She turned on the stoop in a flutter of skirts. "Come inside, Thomas—we've dinner to eat."
He glanced over his shoulder down the street. When it was exactly silent, he could still hear the cheers and laughter of the gambling kids in the alley.
One of the maids—whose name he never bothered to remember, because she was always replaced by another—seated him at the large dining table.
Thomas stared listlessly over the sparkling, spotless table at the sparking and spotless silverware and china.
It made him sick to see everything was so clean all the time. It made the whole house look artificial and out of place.
"Mother," Thomas whined as soon as he saw his mother walking into the large white dining room.
She cut him off with an abrupt dismissive sound from her throat, handing baby Lilith to another one of the maids. His mother took her seat across from him in one of the overly-detailed and high-backed chairs.
"Now," She said in her short, snappy tone. "We can eat. Abigail—bring in our supper!"
Thomas rolled his eyes and slumped back in his chair as he waited for the maid to bring in their food. He wasn't very hungry, but his mother constantly insisted him on eating any and everything that was set before him. 'Good manners', or something of that like. It bored him to learn of such terrible nonsense.
"Thomas, sit up." His mother addressed him in a cold voice. When he didn't comply, she let it go, though rage was still noticeable in her face.
The maid served them both stew, though Thomas barely acknowledged the maid before he sat up.
He picked up a spotless spoon and dug into the stew, having not noticed how hungry he was. Running around and playing with the poorer children of the neighborhood had taken a lot out of him, though he didn't necessarily notice it.
The rest of dinner remained silent, save for the occasional clinking of silverware against china, or a maid's footsteps in the hallway outside the room.
Thomas had no real want to converse with his mother, seeing as she was rude and unforgiving. She never understood his perspective, and she didn't allow for him to speak his mind or imagination. His mother was what the complete opposite of his father seemed to him.
His father was a kind, caring person, who enjoyed hearing fanciful and reckless thoughts and ideas. He was never quick to judge, and was a child at heart. Thomas enjoyed spending time with his father very much, but lately, there was no time to spend with him whatsoever.
Maybe he wouldn't have been so harsh towards his mother if there was a sibling of his to play with.
He hardly saw Lilith, as she had her own nurse, and his mother forbid him around the small child.
It angered Thomas that he couldn't even be around his younger sister, but he digressed. Finding a playmate was as simple as walking down the street.
Most of the children didn't think twice of him, however—they only saw him as the uppity, higher class that he was. But Thomas was not like the other boys of his rank and background. He cared not for titles and such; rather, he was a free spirit, seeing everyone as the same thing.
Besides, if everyone was covered in mud, it wouldn't matter who was who, now did it? He had tried often to tell his mother of that, but he lost her attention by the mention of mud.
His father would understand, he was sure of.
It made Thomas snicker at the very thought of people walking around as usual, completely covered in mud. In that world, people would hate to be clean, and they'd fling themselves into pits of mud just to keep their sanity intact. Instead of a cleaner, they'd have a dirtier, and baths would be a form of torture. The streets would be lined with slippery mud, and people would get where they wanted to by sliding on their bellies in the mud. Children would have tons of fun games, and adults would always join in on the games. Everyone in his muddied world loved games. And they loved to spend time together.
He settled down his spoon on the rim of his plate and looked up at his mother with a faint grin.
"Mother," Thomas started off. He waited until she looked up at him, her scowl still set in place. "Wouldn't it be absolutely wonderful if everyone ate mud all the time? There'd be fried mud, mud stew, mud pies—"
"Thomas, don't be ridiculous." His mother snapped. "Mud is a terrible substance, and quite disgusting. Stop dilly-dallying in your pretend-worlds and come back to reality. Proper boys do not speak of subjects like mud."
With that, she took another dainty sip of stew from a small spoon.
Thomas crossed his arms and slumped back in his chair. He curled his chin into his chest and glared at his mother. "Being proper is boring." He retorted.
"Being proper is the only thing you will ever know, once you go off to Kingsley."
Thomas made a loud whining sound. "I absolutely despise Kingsley, mother! They all wear the same thing and they never go outside, and all they do all the time is learn useless things that are stupid and boring! I'm never going to that wretched place!"
"Your father paid good money to send you to that school!" His mother snapped at him. Again, an exaggeration. She was the one who had actually paid for the school, but with his father's money. "You will go, and you will do your best to become a proper boy!"
"I refuse!" Thomas replied loudly. "I'd rather be turned into a pig by a witch and be shipped off to the slaughterhouse than become a proper boy! If I was a pig, I'd sit in the mud all day and then run through the streets and trip as many people as I could!"
"Stop all this nonsense," His mother shot at him, bunching her shoulders up. "At once, do you understand me, Thomas?"
Thomas closed his eyes rebelliously and folded his arms tighter. "Oink."
"Thomas Alexander Gatesforth, you stop this nonsense this instant!"
"I cannot understand you—I am a pig!" Thomas declared, and promptly stuck his face in his stew bowl. "Oink, oink, oink!"
"Thomas!" His mother shrieked. "Get your face out of there at once!"
With his face covered in stew and flushed by steam, Thomas felt extremely pleased with himself, and very liberated. Nothing his mother said would ever affect him—she wouldn't do anything to him!
He lifted his face at her request, rejoicing in the feeling of stew broth rolling down his chin, and spit a piece of carrot across the table.
The vegetable landed thickly on the pure white table, leaving behind a trail of brown beef stock spots.
His mother gaped, staring at the disposed carrot.
Thomas sat back in his chair, and laughed.
One of the maids rushed forward to his mother, grabbing both of his mother's shoulders. "Ma'am—" The hurried maid started.
"Out!" She shrilled at the top of her lungs.
The maid retreated quickly, and soon, only the clicking of her shoes was heard.
His mother looked up at him in his laughter. He quieted down immediately, though a smirk was still evident on his stew-covered face.
"Oink." Thomas said smugly.
"OUT." His mother growled.
"Into the stinky, mud-covered streets?" Thomas replied easily, his hand already on the table to leave.
"To your room! NOW!" Her voice and face shook at the raw anger she faced, but she was completely serious.
Thomas took this in stride, however, seeing her boiling rage as a victory for him. He skipped leisurely out of the room, singing, "I am a pig in the mud! Oink, oink! I am a pig in the mud, being sent to my room! And yet, I still oink!"