Just the start of a piece, which I wrote during creative writing society when we looked at script-writing. As I tend to do, I used the prompt of taking characters I already have and working on extrapolations of their life. The only constraints we had were two characters alone and to have ‘actors’ be able to act it, rather than a narrator reading the [stage] directions. It was meant to be a screen-script, but I think my play-script background crept in and it turned into more of something that would actually stand alongside the play of A Game.
As it’s unlikely you know much about the novel, this is set five years after the events of A Game of Murder. If you’re following Downton Abbey, feel free to imagine a young, French Bates and Anna, though I created these characters before those two existed on TV. That’s all I’m saying because the piece is meant to stand on its own, even when it provides new information for me, such as the name of where Alexandra works and the aftermath of the final chapters of A Game.
1935. A small dining room with red fleur de lis walls. Alexandra strolls around the central oak table. She carries a fine silver tray from which she is placing down a knife and fork at each table-setting. Occasionally, she slips a timepiece-and-chain from the front pocket of her grey smock.
The door at the other end of the room opens. Christophe walks in, eyes scanning a thoroughly-creased piece of paper.
Is she here yet?
Mrs. Winters is keeping an eye out by the gate.
Alexandra sighs and pauses deliberately to throw down a fork. She’s reached the final place-setting at the head of the table, and that closest to Christophe and the door.
Darling, you shouldn’t have to do that.
And who-else will in my absence? After the last kitchen maid left, none have even considered Coventry Hall. “A cursed house,” I hear them say at the market.
Christophe seizes her hands, and the silver tray bangs to the floor.
Well, I’m still here.
Alexandra reclaims her hands, but holds her gaze for a second longer, before kneeling and retrieving the tray with a flourish.
On the white-stone mantelpiece to their left, a square clock chimes midday.
I’m running late. I should return this to the pantry.
She makes her way to the door, but Christophe extends a hand. He catches the small of her back, and she flinches.
What have you to be afraid of?
I’m not afraid.
Still, she doesn’t face him. Christophe watches her.
You’re thinking “how can a mother do that to her own child?”.
Alexandra’s shoulders drop. She rotates slowly, as if on wheels, and lifts Christophe’s hand from her.
I don’t condone what the young mistress did – how she acted – but for Mrs. Winters to turn her own daughter to jail… I couldn’t.
They stare at each other for a long, pregnant moment. Alexandra breaks the hold, and keeps her eyes from his, whilst her cheeks flare.
Right. Pantry. I should go.