1. Crows Don't Bark
At six o'clock in the morning - quite around the point at which a desperate crow settled on her windowsill and started barking- Margaret Mcfarren knew it was going to be a bad day. Yes, she was perfectly aware of the zoological fact that crows do not bark, but this specific mutation of nature - a huge, black, mean, ugly bird - did just that. Always on her windowsill - like it knew she hated crows - always at impossible hours, only on bad days. Barking like a bloody Bloodhound. Maybe it used to have a parrot-uncle, Margaret didn't know.
"Shut uppppp…." It wasn't Margaret's voice filling the gloomily-lit room, although these were definitely the exact words running through her brain for the last five minutes over and over. Damn bird. She should ask Julian, the head-chef and a semi-psychotic human being, to hunt it down, skin it with his bare paws and cook it for supper. Crow a l'orange, maybe with a side dish of asparagus, or green peas. She could imagine Lizzy, her boss and master of the house, taking the first bite with a pure silver fork, chewing elegantly for a few seconds and blurting gracefully: "Lovely! Just lovely". She'd give anything to serve at this supper, to watch the stupid barking creature floating in gravy, featherless and silent, becoming the weakest link of food chain. One glorious evening that would be. She would even consider tasting, just for the fun of it. What would a medium-rare crow taste like?
"Six AM already, Megs?" Angie's first sentence on this probably-very-bad day (actually second, the first being "shut uppp…") was covered with such a gigantic yawn, it sounded more like hik A.M oh-ye-hee mes? She stretched under the white sheets and blankets in her bed, three and a half feet away from Margaret's bed in the servants wing.
"Damn bird," said Margaret, generating a medium-sized yawn of her own. Yawns are contagious at six AM, "kitchen duty this morning, Angie?"
"You're so lucky you just have to deliver her breakfast and not actually make it," Angie sat up in her bed, rubbing her eyes, stretching again, her braless breasts rising high, almost escaping her worn-out "I love London" pajama-T shirt.
Margaret shrugged. "tell me you really wanna see Lizzy when she wakes up and stir tea for her while she clears her throat for fifteen minutes. Tell me that and the job is yours," Margaret smiled. Angie started dressing. Her pure white silk apron had a tiny spot in the exact point her legs met. Seemed like soy sauce.
"Beats raiding the cold kitchen in the middle of the night. Plus you get those extra 20 minutes in bed with our black amigo here…"
The crow barked.
"shut the fuck up!!!" Angie opened the window so quickly, taking the black winged devil by surprise. It stumbled back a little, almost falling down (margaret laughed with contempt), gave a final bark (that sounded frighteningly like "whatttt?") and flew in the general direction of the greenhouses.
"Not so clever now, eh, stupid bird?" Angie called after it. "Come down in twenty minutes, Megs. I'll have the tray ready for you".
Angie was gone. The crow was back, barking like there was no tomorrow. Bad day for sure. Starting in twenty minutes. 19. 18. at least she had a job, working for a year and a half for Lizzy's family. The bottom line - it was a good job, promotion possibilities, good health care. She just wished crows were extinct from modern civilization so she could have 17 minutes to herself before entering Lizzy's quarters.
Of course, Margaret never called her direct boss "Lizzy" or even "Liz" to her face. Most of the time she called her "Your Highness", sometimes "Your Grace". After all, for the last eighteen months she'd been the substitute first-personal-maid for the Queen of England.
And the crow barked, greeting a very sleepy Buckingham Palace as a pale sun hatched slowly behind a thick pile of grey clouds.