Barrett looked down at his plate and smiled. A good roast- not that the cook ever made a bad roast- and no sprouts. His parents and sister had sprouts, but he didn’t. Barrett hated sprouts. Even so, as an earl’s son, he couldn’t afford to be picky about his food, but eat whatever was placed before him. Those were the rules… but Barrett recalled the incident from a handful of years ago.
“You must eat your sprouts, Barrett. They’re good for you,” his mother admonished.
Barrett frowned. “No! I don’t like them. They’re bitter and gross!”
“Fine then. You’ll get no seconds or other food until you eat your sprouts.”
With the rules thus declared, Barrett sat at the table with his arms folded for the duration of the meal. At dinner the sprouts were still there, and he continued to refuse to eat them. By breakfast the next day, the sprouts had started wilting.
“If you eat just one, you can have your breakfast. We know how much you love bacon and eggs.”
Barrett did love those. Meat was one of his favorite things, though he didn’t hate vegetables. Not all of them, anyway. Not like sprouts. He sat through breakfast, his stomach rumbling.
Later, Reina came to him. “Umm, young master… I snuck this bread and cheese from the kitchen for you.”
Barrett was famished. He could have devoured the whole loaf and the cheese wedge in a moment, but he shook his head. “I’m not supposed to eat until I’ve had sprouts. So, I won’t eat.” His stomach growled in complaint.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Now take that back to the kitchen.”
“Oh.” Reina looked down at her feet. “Okay.”
Barrett didn’t eat anything that day. The sprouts wilted enough to be disgusting… so he was given a new batch. He still refused to eat even one. That continued for the next day, and the next… Barrett didn’t exactly remember how many days it was. All he remember was that he woke up with Reina spooning soup into his mouth. At some point, he had passed out, though he didn’t remember when. He didn’t even have the energy to protest at the soup, and he really didn’t want to. Instead, he quietly appreciated it.
At dinner that evening, nobody said anything. However, Barrett’s plate had all of the normal complements of a meal, but no sprouts. The incident was never spoken of again, and meals returned to their normal cheer.
Barrett knew he was behind on some of his studying, but he couldn’t help it. Memorizing people was so boring. There was mostly a lot of names and titles, and even if there was a portrait or sketch it just made it a bit easier. He didn’t really care about many of their accomplishments, and some of them really didn’t have anything going for them except being born into a noble family.
Sure, he had memorized the attractive young women first, but that came more easily. Besides, he would be married to one of them in the future. It would likely be a handful of years, but it would happen. He didn’t want to make a bad impression on any of them if he could help it. After he thought about that, he supposed he should know their fathers… and mother, and brothers. If they had sisters, they were likely already on the list, but some were older and already married, and some were much younger and probably wouldn’t be considered. Regardless, Barrett eventually got through all of the names and descriptions.
He could have taken more time, but there were some social events upcoming. He was now old enough he would be expected to attend, and at twelve years old he was almost an adult, and would be expected to behave properly. It would be better if he knew who people were, to avoid making his father look bad. It would be best if people just remembered him as a nice young man, and not for any other reason.
Barrett had little to do at the party. Even though it was on the Ravenhall estate, people weren’t there to see him, but his parents… and other important people. Even so, there were many others around. Barrett went and introduced himself to some of the attractive young ladies, but that was all. He didn’t have much to converse with them about, so he found himself drifting from group to group.
He heard a group laughing around a corner, and though he would go see what they were up to. When he did, he didn’t like what he saw at all. He saw a number of unfamiliar faces, but at least one of them fit a description for some of those he would prefer to avoid. He also recognized his cousin, Denton… who he was even more keen on avoiding. However, Reina was standing next to the group with her head down.
One of the young men pointed to a puddle on the floor, “Go ahead, clean it up!”
As she bent down to soak up the puddle with a rag, Denton poured a glass of wine over her head. “Don’t forget to clean yourself up as well!” The group’s laughter intensified.
Barrett was not far from the group, and in only a few steps he found himself in front of Denton. “Cousin,” he stated flatly. He had planned to say something else, but instead found his fist connecting with Denton’s face. Denton flew back onto his rear. Then, a brawl broke out. Nobody bothered to ascertain the reason, and fists were flying everywhere, though perhaps mostly at Barrett. He only hazily grasped what was happening.
When the guards heard the commotion, what they found was a number of boys with bruised faces. However, at the moment Barrett himself was on top of Denton punching him as he flailed to fight back. It took two guards to drag Barrett off of him, only after which he passed out and it became clear that the most beaten and bloody was Barrett himself. He was sternly reprimanded by his father afterwards. Barrett was regretful, but it didn’t become a big incident. The most injured were Barrett and Denton, and this wasn’t the first scrap they had… though it was the biggest so far.
Barrett felt bad for causing trouble, but when Reina came to him later and muttered thanks, he felt everything was worth it. Though, his face was swollen for a week and his bruised ribs took a few to recover, he could still smile.