Prompt 262-Table Manners

Do you think table manners are important? Why?

“Tonight’s the night,” Mira breathed, rubbing her hands together nervously. The table was set. The cooks were steadily working the kitchen. The wine was chilled. Everything was spotless and in its rightful place.

Well, everything except her brother.

She glowered at the dirty jacket Theo wore, but at least it covered his obscene tattoos. She doubted her guests would appreciate the graphic sleeve on his left arm. It was bad enough he had that fang earring dangling above his right shoulder, but he would as soon take it out as the sun would rise in the west. He seemed to relish flaunting every bit of his rebelliousness despite being old enough to know better and no parents left to rebel against, but at least he had agreed to cover his arms.

“Don’t scowl at me so, Mira,” he said, leaning his chair back on two legs. “I promise to be on my best behavior.” The sly grin he flashed at her did little to convince her.

“Theo, I swear, if you ruin this dinner for me I will do whatever it takes to cut you out of your inheritance.”

“Trying to steal from me now, sis?” He chuckled.

She sniffed. “Hardly. I’d put it into a trust where you can’t squander it.” He spent indiscriminately and invested riskily. How he’d nearly doubled his inheritance instead of going bankrupt, Mira didn’t know.

“I’m doing just fine with my half,” he said coolly. “That’s why you need me here tonight.”

Mira held her tongue. He was a wildcard, but she did need something to throw off the White’s. Her brother’s presence could be advantageous to her. If nothing else, he might pick up on subtleties she missed. He had always been good at reading other people.

The doorbell rang and Theo’s chair snapped back to the ground as the butler went to greet their guests. Mira shot one last warning look at Theo before heading to the foyer to meet her new potential business partners.

Mr. and Mrs. White were very likely not using their real names nor, Mira suspected, were they even married. Probably. Theo’s warnings hadn’t gone entirely over her head. Regardless, she greeted them with warm smiles and blessings of good health, just as her mother had for guests before…well, before.

Pleasantries exchanged, introductions made, they convened in the dining room for their meal. Business would come after. To her surprise, Theo kept his word. He was a model socialite, despite his roguish appearance. He kept his elbows clear of the table, was conscientious about his chewing, and even used his napkin for its intended purpose.

Her only moment of trepidation came when Mrs. White had asked him to pass the salt. Their mother had drilled it into them as children to pass both the salt and the pepper if anyone ever asked for just one. Usually, the other would follow soon after and it was good etiquette to be proactive. When they were teenagers, Theo refused to pass both unless specifically asked. It was a habit that had followed him into adulthood, but his childhood training held tonight, and Mrs. White seemed pleased when he handed her both shakers.

After dinner, they moved to the parlor. Theo’s patience was beginning to wear thin. He draped himself over their father’s armchair instead of sitting in it straight. He had promised to be good through dinner; she hadn’t exacted a promise from him for after. That was part of her plan, though. His apparent change in demeanor was enough to unbalance Mr. and Mrs. White.

Mira smiled sweetly. “Now then, let’s get down to business, shall we?”

Notes: I have terrible table manners. I lean my elbows on the table, slurp my soup, talk with my mouth full, reach for things instead of asking, but mostly only within my own home or in a place I’m comfortable. I’m perfectly capable of faking etiquette when out in public or in otherwise polite company. (That’s not to say my family isn’t polite company, but we do tend to be more lax about these things when we’re together. The salt and pepper thing is a running joke in my family and I don’t know who started it.)

I’m not sure what business these characters were getting into, but it seemed shady to me. Maybe Mira and Theo will come back some day. Or maybe they were a one-off to get me through my prompt for tonight and I will never come back to them. The muse is a fickle mistress.

Anyway, that’s all for this Tuesday night post. See you again tomorrow same time? Cool. It’s a date. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

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