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Flash fiction: The tea party

The guests all straightened up in their seats.

The Princess had lost her temper, and now, as she re-entered the room, composed again, they were all resolute that nothing would get in the way of them all enjoying her “very pleasant tea party”.

Prince Rupert turned to the Marchioness, commenting on the beauty of the countryside at this time of year, and offering her some cucumber sandwiches from the platter which had landed in front of him when all the fuss began. On the other side of the table, the Marquis was avoiding the Princess’ gaze for now, and pretending to be deep in discussion with the Duke about his estate in Buckinghamshire and the difficulties he was having deciding where to holiday that summer.

The Princess sipped her tea daintily from the royal China, its gold inlay glinting in the morning sun, and after a while the tension in the room appeared to dissipate.

After they had all eaten, the Princess called one of the royal servants over and asked him to bring out the croquet set. She regaled them all with a story of the “darling” time she had playing croquet at the Duke’s last garden party, and turned to Prince Rupert to ask if he was familiar with the game.

He was. The Princess was but a fraction of his age, and he had probably played more croquet than she had had cups of tea, but he was conscious to be diplomatic. Having carefully chosen his words, he went to respond, when to his horror, he let out a burp. It had crept up on him but was surprisingly loud, echoing around the walls of the small courtyard. As soon as he felt it Rupert had tried to swallow it, but to no avail. His throat tightened as everyone looked to the Princess for her reaction.

“Prince Rupert did you… belch?” she demanded. The sentence had started softly, but as it finished, her voice rose sharply in pitch, volume and accusation. Rupert’s stomach churned in response. He tried not to think about the number of cucumber sandwiches he’d eaten, and prayed there was not another one coming.

It was a relief when he saw the Princess trying to hide her smile. Soon it became clear that she couldn’t contain herself, as she giggled quietly behind her hand.

Rupert’s face softened and he returned her smile, taking in the whole scene - all the stuffed toys balanced on their make-shift chairs and up-turned pots, and 3-year old “Princess” Daisy in her best dress-up with her little tea set all laid out.

“Oh Grandpa,” she said, still trying to contain her giggles, “You have no manners. I don’t know why I let you play with the teddies and me.”

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