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#1
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January 12th, 1891 — Greengrass home, North Bartonburg

Ford did not like confronting his mother. Their relationship had been thrown on its head after his father's death, and he felt as though it had never fully recovered, and so he never knew what to say. If he'd had the choice, he might have preferred to have sent her off to live with a sister or someone until he'd sorted this entire mess — until the girls were provided for, either through marriage or through some miraculous change in their own financial situation that pulled them back from the brink of destruction on which they were currently teetering. But since her siblings had sent no invitation and she showed no inclination to invite herself, she had moved to Bartonburg with them, where she continued to spend money they didn't exactly have, which made confrontations — at least occasionally — necessary.

He'd gone to work that morning but returned home for lunch, which was when the housekeeper had brought the matter to his attention. With a heavy sigh and equally heavy footsteps, Ford had trudged through the house seeking out his mother, and had found her in the sitting room.

"Good afternoon, Mama," he said gently. "I hope you're in fine spirits, today?"

@Audra Greengrass
#2
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Audra stared out the window, a pair of half darned stockings forgotten in her lap. When her children weren't around she would allow her mask to slip and her melancholy to rise to the surface. It had been a whole year since her husband had died. The pain was only a dull ache now but it was in quiet, solitary moments that it made itself known. Theirs hadn't been a romance to inspire a novel but she had lost a very dear friend and suddenly the ground beneath her feet wasn't so solid and certain as it had been. Grown though her children might be she didn't want them to see her troubled by such things, and besides they were the perfect balm and distracted her magnificently.

The despondent look on her face vanished in a flash as the sound of footsteps snapped her out of her reverie. "Ford!" Audra smiled at him as though she hadn't had a sorrowful thought on her mind in years. "Yes, I'm in as good a spirit as ever. I hope the same can be said of you?" There was a note of uncertainty in her voice as she sensed some unease about him.

Since his father had died their relationship had inexplicably changed. He was now head of the family and suddenly she was more his responsibility than he was hers. Between grief and the unexpected burden of great responsibility she found herself struggling to be a mother to him without coddling him like a little boy. The time for that had passed and he would surely not appreciate it. So the only way she knew to be of help to him was to do all she could to see her daughters married and provided for, although it wasn't wholly altruistic for her greater motivation was admittedly a little more selfish. Simply put, she enjoyed trussing up her girls and proudly flaunting them.

#3
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"I'm fine, thank you," he answered, which was only partially true. He'd been fine this morning, and perhaps he'd be fine again this afternoon if he managed to survive this conversation in one piece. The fact that he had to have it at all was not particularly grand. He always felt so awkward trying to be direct about anything like this, but he feared if he was not direct it left too much room for future missteps.

"I talked with [Housekeeper] just now," he said, leading. It would have been nice if his mother had, for once since his father's death, been on the same page and known where he was headed with this, but he wasn't holding out high hopes. After a slight pause, he continued, "She said the tailor's apprentice called this morning." With a bill, he added mentally, giving her a significant look. He hoped he would not need to actually verbalize the implication.
#4
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Audra was well aware that the tailor's apprentice had called that morning but he wasn't mentioning it because he thought she was unaware of the fact. Of course she'd been the one to receive him and the housekeeper would surely have said as much. She also doubted very much that he was trying to make small talk with her. That left but one other option which was that he was about to inquire further as to the nature of the visit. He wasn't worrying himself about money again, was he? There might be some other reason for his curiosity but that was the only one she could presently think of.

Poor Ford must still be worrying himself over the finances. It was one thing to be a grown man supporting himself but another entirely to suddenly have to manage the situation of an entire family. Most men steadily acquired that responsibility.

In the interest of not jumping the gun or potentially embarrassing her son she chose to say nothing and let him come out with it himself. "He did drop in briefly, yes."

#5
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Was his mother being this difficult intentionally? Even if she hadn't caught on to what he was trying to say, she might have imagined that he had been looking for something more as far as responses went than just yes, he did drop in.

"He came to settle our account for last month," Ford prompted, his tone moving from gentle to slightly annoyed. "Which was several galleons higher than the budget we'd discussed."

Several galleons. Not merely a few sickles here or there; not a pittance, in Ford's opinion. It was half a week's work for him, and while he might have been happy to do it if that was the only expense that needed to be provided for, it was far from that. He was still trying to juggle a few past-due accounts in order to keep any collectors from showing up unannounced on their Bartonburg doorstep; he'd pay one account by pushing another, then pay that account by pushing yet another the following month. He didn't have half a week's pay to spare, and he knew Noble didn't, either.


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