Just a little "mood" setting - this story is set in the early 1900's in Bradford, England.
“Why must you be so pathetic all the time?” Bethany spat out in contempt for her mother. She couldn’t stand the way she sat there, in her chair by the window, like she always did; Trying to tell her what to do, while calmly practicing her stupid embroidery.
“And why must you always be such a wicked brat?” Her brother intervened as he walked into the drawing room. Given Bethany’s reaction, he knew exactly what the quarrel was about.
“Ah, little brother,” she greeted him. “Perhaps it has something to do with my upbringing.”
“Do not speak to our mother this way,” he threatened.
He was sick of the way she constantly shook the stability of their small family. She had been acting selfishly, and since their father had passed, he had to be the responsible adult.
It didn’t have as much to do with the fact that he was now the man of the house, but more to do with their mother’s decline. She barely spoke, barely ate. Always sat in front of the window and stared outside in melancholy. She obviously missed their father greatly; she had not been the same ever since that damned day.
“Don’t you speak of what you don’t understand, you foolish boy,” Bethany fired back, her tone somewhere between disdain and pure annoyance. He could be so naive sometimes – too naive for his own good.
“I understand perfectly. Our mother has given us everything she had, until she had nothing more to give. Have you no shame?” His face contorted. He was disgusted and ashamed to see his sister turn against their mother like this.
“None whatsoever, dear brother,” she simply smiled. “That deranged witch needs to understand that she can't control our lives.”
“She is only trying to set you up for a proper marriage, with a proper man. Tell me, what is so wrong with that?”
“Stop arguing,” their mother commented from across the room without so much as glancing at them, “you’re tiring me.”
“I’m sorry, mother,” he rushed to her side and kneeled before her. “But I must insist that Bethany pays you your deserved respect. I will not have such talk in our house.”
Bethany sighed. “You’re right, James,” she said softly. “I have spoken out of term.”
He turned to face her, feeling exhilarated. He felt as if he really were the man of the house. “And you will apologize to mother?”
She nodded to him. “Let me speak to her alone,” she implored.
He nodded back warily and left the room, hoping his sister would at least try to behave. She wasn't bad; he knew that much. She could be a handful, but she wasn't a bad person. She had always looked out for him and cared for him. She would hide him in the closet when their father came home drunk and looking for a quarrel. She would prepare his meals and help him study from books in their library. She was good.
Bethany looked at her mother, awaiting.
Soon enough, her mother started laughing heartily.
"You stupid girl. Did you really think he would take your side?" Her mother finally looked at her, and put her embroidery aside. "He's my precious boy, and it's going to remain that way."
"I will not leave him alone with you wretched woman," Bethany said solemnly.
"I'm afraid you will have to," Mother replied. "Surely my bargain with Lord Valmont won't take long now. You will be his, and his money shall be mine."
"You cannot sell me to a man!" She screamed out. "Has cruelness taken over you at last?"
"I'm sure you know by now, dear," she began embroiding again, "I can do whatever I wish."
"James will not believe you, you know. He won't stay with you until the end of his life, he wants marriage, and children."
"I already ruined one of his engagements, I can do it again until he gives up - and realize the only person he should spend the rest of his life with, is his dear mother."
Bethany wanted to cry out in frustration. She didn't care much about her fate; there wasn't much to live for these days anyway. But she couldn't bare the thought of her brother being deceived in a way that would leave him miserable for the remainder of his life. He deserved a life.
"Now, if you're quite finished, go and fetch me my afternoon tea," Mother said, leaving no room for further argument.
Bethany stormed out and walked determinely into the kitchen to prepare the tea.
She couldn't let this happen. She wasn't going to be removed from the way so that her mother would satisfy her twisted need to hold onto her precious boy forever.
She looked down at the tea, and at the empty vile in her hand that read Rat Poison, Do Not Consume.
Her mind was resolved.