It was hard to relax with ‘His Perfection’ seated down the table, but really, she could do this.
1, 2, 3
She counted to ten in order to restore her equilibrium. Then, fork in hand, she pulled herself together and refocused on her plate: prawns. Still shelled. Her worst nightmare. But there was nothing for it. It would be rude to leave the little buggers untouched; therefore, she simply must persevere.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
Right. Think delicate gentility and the meat shall simply slide right out.
Grace looked around to see if anyone noticed her extraordinary glee over the success of such a simple task, and again, could not stop her eyes from straying to the duke near the head of the table. Had he looked away just as she looked up?
Ha! Not likely. Right. I can do this.
The next prawn was even larger than the first. Excellent. No problem then. Delicately hold the prawn steady, thus, and with gentle persuasion using the explicitly designed prawn fork, simply pull…
“Oh. My. Goodness.”
Of course, she said it under her breath so as not to draw attention to herself, but she did say that out loud. She watched with horror as her little prawn soared through the air. She didn’t dare move her head as her eyes followed its progression through the air, which seemed to arc down the table in slow motion. Alas, there would be no rescue from her guardian footman this time.
And, oh dear, it was headed straight for Stonebridge. This could not end well.
Stonebridge, who had been conversing with the Dowager Duchess of Lyme, froze in horrified amazement as he watched Miss Radclyffe’s flying prawn make its way down the table. Miss Radclyffe truly was a walking disaster. It amazed him how he could continue to be shocked by anything he witnessed happening within her presence.
After commiserating with the poor footman’s pain and watching the flying fork, he still could not believe how things could possibly continue to go so completely wrong for Miss Radclyffe. Now this.
He returned his gaze to the lady seated next to him whilst drawing forth his napkin from his lap. The Dower Duchess of Lyme, who had been talking incessantly up until now, froze; her eyes widened in shock. The prawn had narrowly missed her great beak of a nose, and she didn’t even know it. He, however, wasn’t so lucky.
“You were saying, Your Grace?” he prompted. He refused to acknowledge the feel of prawn in red sauce sliding down the side of his face. He casually wiped his cheek with his napkin as he encouraged the dowager to continue whatever it was she had been saying.
“N-Nothing, Your Grace. I was q-quite finished.” The dowager blinked once in quiet confusion before looking down and attending to her plate. She studied it as if she had never seen one before today.
Stonebridge calmly folded his napkin and placed it next to his plate. He glanced down and noticed prawn sauce splattered all over his cravat and waistcoat. He ground his teeth as he drew on every ounce of his self-control; then he looked up and bored into the eyes of Miss Radclyffe.
She grinned (grinned!) in return and wiggled her fingers as if in greeting. He couldn’t believe her audacity. She’d just flung a prawn into the side of his face, from down the length of a dining room table no less, and now, she sat there, without a hint of apology twinkling in her eye, laughing and waving merrily as if they were simply acquaintances passing by on the pavement outside.
No one but he, and now the dowager, seemed to be aware anything was amiss, thanks to her sentinel footman and pure, dumb luck. He noticed she had placed her napkin on the table, a sign that she was finished eating. Good. It would be better for her to risk being rude and not eat, or even pretend to eat for that matter, rather than continue to tempt the hand of fate with additional opportunities for victual mayhem.