Miss Rudd occupied a guest apartment in the Old Wing a month or so each year when she did Mama's administration. She was holed up in it - it was quite comfortable, even had its own small kitchenette - working on her laptop and printer. Now and then she visited them in the main house and conversed with Mama over certain finances, over the yearly plan for the estate, about her health care and staff.
He remembered vividly the first time he saw her. It was in the Great Hall. When Miss Rudd put her eyes in his he experienced female power as he'd never ever had before, not even from Mama, who was quite a forceful character. It brought out an old feeling, a strangely cool sense of self-destruction that he had no hold over. It was as if an invisible hand steered him where he wouldn't normally venture even in his wildest dreams. He shook her hand, the grip cool and dry and firm and introduced himself.
'Henry...' he said and for no apparent reason but this strange cool feeling of helplessness added '...etta.'
For a moment Miss Rudd's cold blue eyes revealed a distant surprise. Then her handsome elderly face creased and a deeply amused smile appeared. 'Hello Henrietta...' she replied, 'well, I'm certainly looking forward to getting to know you...' and with a wink she turned around. In the turning Henry noticed the sharp bulging of beautiful breasts inside the cream silky blouse she wore. He saw the vague impression of a white bra cup pressed heavily into the thin fabric and gasped without sound. Mama looked at him, her lips pursed, her eyes wondering what was the matter with him. 'No further tomfoolery if you please Henry...' she said. Her old voice sounded tired and disdainful. Her motherliness had drained from it and left it dry and crackled. Henry blushed in shame. 'No Mama...' he whispered.
There had always been a lot of whispering in Sudeley House.
Soon enough he heard their chatter in the local vernacular, the singsong of the West Country, approach in the hall. Henry's heart began to beat faster and sweat broke out on his brow as they entered the room and switched on the light. Together - they did everything together, inseparable as Siamese twins - they started removing the sheets from the chairs one by one. Henry heard the linen covers sliding over the leather chairs. But what made him really excited was the subtle and musical hissing of their taffeta silk uniform skirts. He even imagined hearing the same soft hissing emanating from their well filled black blouses as they bent over and their arms moved united in a sudden grand gesture throwing their breasts into the wind to remove the sheets. He felt an erection coming.
He heard the heels stepping closer and heavier on the carpet, the silk skirts approaching menacingly, and then they stopped in front of him and he heard the women giggle. This fatal event determined their relationship for years to come. Gone were fear and respect for the young master of Sudeley House, their future boss. Whenever the old lady was absent they treated him rudely and made humiliating fun of his small posture. They had seen the size of his erection when they tore off the sheet from him in unison and their laughter burst forth full of derision. In the sweetest cloud of taffeta rustling they had sat down on the armrests, one on each side of him, and played a rude game with his lust for their skirts and blouses. They soon discovered that he wasn't merely interested in their content as any normal man would, but in the shapes themselves, gleaming in a dull forbidding black that hissed and rustled in bitter sweet sexual poison, like an opium dream. When they had realized that - his hands couldn't get enough of them - they threw off their white linen aprons and descended a second time on the small naked man like beautiful venomous snakes, hissing and showing their teeth in the cruelty that lurks behind lower class politeness. In a crude one sided role-play they became the snooty high brows and he, Lord Henry Sudeley, the beggar.
The womanly play inevitably ended in tears. The effeminate decadence of lonely empty days within the boundary walls of Sudeley was no match for the villagers. Their mockery became more cruel. They sounded out his unfathomable loneliness and his eerie hunger for their silk skin and without the need to plan they began working on his emotion in earnest, tearing his soul apart with cold angry voices and trampling the shards of his male ego with their black uniform pumps. And when Henry's tears did finally flow they raised their heads and laughed triumphantly, like they did in the local pub. They found his clothes and shoes neatly stacked behind the chair and threw them after him when he fled into the hall.
Mama never managed to get her finger behind the staff's wordless insolence towards her only son. After a while she let it go, without speaking to them about it. She blamed him for it himself, with his endless interest in female stuff and the eerily polite and restrained sexual innuendo that seeped from his pores like thin milk gone off. She never considered that maybe she herself was to blame for his frustrated demeanor, or at least for some of it. And so it festered on like mould beneath the white sheets in mushy rooms with the shutters closed.
Until Miss Rudd threw them open and ripped off the white sheets once again.
But suddenly the solution presented itself to her tired mind as an epiphany. The solution that would safeguard Sudeley from its threatening decay. It had been lying waiting under her very eyes. Humming under her breath she made a telephone call that would change Henry's life for good.
With a soft cry he began to follow her down the Great Hall, gaining on her with quick little passes. Before entering the living room she halted again and turned back to him and watched him cross the last meters hurriedly. An amused little smile hovered around her perfect brick red lips. She stretched out her hand and softly stroked his cheek.
'Good girl... Henrietta...' she said with infinite subtlety and uttered a soft silvery laugh. She opened the door and entered. She closed the door in his face, locking him out of the living room. A bitter love crept through him as he stared at the heavy oak door. She clearly toyed with his heart. And she was very good at it. It was as if the elegant Miss Rudd had done nothing else during her sixty something year old female life. Maybe he was right, and the thought of it rocked his heart. But he never looked further. He never considered the possibility that this was to be Miss Rudd's final game. And he was to be her final victim. That that was why she had returned to Sudeley so strangely out of season.