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The Reluctant I

A Stutter at Eastbrooke Manor

By Omar Al-MahmeedPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
The Reluctant I
Photo by Mike Smith on Unsplash

The halls of Eastbrooke Manor rang with a demand of a busy clamor. Some of the aristocrats and landed gentry of the county have assembled in the estate today for a quick celebration as the plans to expand the estate’s farmland were approved and underway before the third-quarter’s rental income to be collected to Habersham Thane, Esquire of Eastbrooke Estate and father to Edea Cavendish, Arthur Thane, and Ingrid Thane.

Mr. Habersham is my father, and he is currently spending his days as a thinning, greying elderly gentleman whose breath comes in wispy gasps. He was suffering from a chronic bout of coughing-fits in his old age and is unlikely to live out the coming winter next quarter.

Eastbrooke’s company were gathered in the deeply ornamented drawing room of the house. Friends and colleagues were gathered, discussing the current events and affairs that have befallen the country as of late. Stanhopes were left conversing with the Throckmortons, Churchills with the Earls of Chesterfields and so on, all spoke confidently to one another in the hall. Edea sat cordially beside her husband of two years; her laughter gliding freely through the room like songbirds on a spring afternoon. Her smile dazzled in the room, demanding the attention of the company she kept. She always seemed to have aptitude for small talk with people. She knew how to make others feel welcomed and listened with a poignant curiosity while still retaining her strong presence. Ingrid, though, never inherited that same strength.

She stays a recluse, away from the folly of the gathering, probably staining her hands and dresses with writer’s ink. Her latest shipment should be coming in soon, actually; had she expressed that she had run low, again. Ingrid suffered from a horrible affected floundering of the longue. She stuttered, constantly, ever since she was a child and never truly learned to deal with her plight.

Ingrid sat, recluse, on a lonesome armchair placed precariously away from the party-goers. The chair sat between a six-foot tall bookcase and a long auburn chairside table complete with a proud marble bust of a vaguely Greek figure beside a colorful array of cheerless, drooping flowers now freshly picked from the nurturing soil they used to call home.

The flowers, still beautiful and colorful and young, were aberrantly slumped sadly in the vase that held them. They looked out of place in the gleeful hum of the busy room – coaxed out from the earth that kept them safe and sound far away from the prying eyes of the Cavendishes, Collins, and O’Learys that survey the halls of the house. Those same eyes now travelled from the blue flowers to the women sitting beside them. Ingrid turned away from the cluster of people that assembled by the flowers, not wanting to make eye contact with them. With no point of origin to adjust the gaze to, it fell awkwardly and focused onto the brightly hazel eyes of handsome man. He leaned against the other side of the bookcase when her eyes met his for a little too long of a time. A deeply set smirk blemished his face as an insight crept deftly onto it like a curious beast in waiting.

“Hello, Ms. Thane,” his voice, swift and gentle, broke through the deafening ring of voices within the small room. A single word tried to birth itself anew into the now crowded room from a mouth that tremble uncontrollably while the tongue it sheltered lashed around in a deep frenzy.

“Eh-He-eh-eh,” and there it was. The inevitable stutter that fled passed trembling lips before the breath had dreamt a chance of escaping from the depth of lungs that housed it. The sound seems to shudder the silence and hung just a few seconds too long midair; filling it with a displaced resonating sound that unwantedly inhabited the atmosphere of the noble home. The echo, now lording sovereignly over the brisk air that embellished the manor’s drawing room, rang and bounced off the empty walls of the chamber, demanding everyone’s attention as it waltzed clumsily with feet too unsteady and too untrained to accompany the melodious banter of the gala within.

A multitude of eyes now fell towards the origin of the chirping noise. Some looked at Ingrid with pity—their eyes betrayed any attempt at passing off the look as unyielding attentiveness—as if they weren’t silently judging the ugly impediment that permeated the hall. Others smirked coyly as these lips trembled to catch up with the stammer before the breath hitched back and she was left gulping in wafts of air to complete the vocalized inference...and yet, the man kept looking on, expecting a greeting to break free past the parted lips, but no other sound ever broke past them at all.

The words never came in time. Any effort at rescuing Ingrid from this mortifying situation was now left broken, locked, and crippled at the bottom of a throat and a lapsing tongue caged behind a pallid chittering vault that wouldn’t allow any further liberation. The gossiping in the room lulled for a while as the eyes darted to perceive the situation unfolding before them. Crossing the room, I placed a heavy palm over the top of Ingrid’s back, reassuring her, silently.

Ingrid’s eyes fluttered to the hard-woodened floor of the manor, her head dropped to conceal her discomfort.

"Mr. Collins," began I, "how lovely of you to grace our parlor."


About the Creator

Omar Al-Mahmeed

Omar Al-Mahmeed is a bi-cultural, dual national Bahraini-American currently living in Houston, Texas and a graduate of the University of Houston’s English Literature department. He enjoys writing fiction, playing D&D, and reading edits!

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    Omar Al-MahmeedWritten by Omar Al-Mahmeed

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