Thomas Thorne was scandalised. Though it had only been an offhand remark, it was clear that his family did not really love him. Having just recited to them his most recent poem, he had been hoping for their opinions, praise even. Instead, his mother had asked him when he was going to start thinking about what he would do with himself.
"You can't write poems all day. You'll have to find a respectable occupation for yourself soon."
She did not even look up from her embroidery to acknowledge him while she said it and, really, that had been the worst part.
The hot sting of irritation and hurt pricked at his eyes and his chest, and he turned abruptly and headed for the door, declaring angrily as he did so, "I won't need to consider my future, mother; I'm going to drown myself in the lake!"
In the silence that followed, his voice drifted easily from the corridor.
"I mean it!"
The clock ticked on the mantelpiece and a page was turned in a book.
Finally, Lady Thorne sighed, "James," she addressed her eldest, still not looking up from her needlework, "be a dear and go and pull him out."
The book was closed and set aside.
James Thorne stood and pressed a quick kiss to his mother's temple before following after his errant brother.
Tranquillity returned to the drawing room, barely penetrated by the distant shout of "Thomas!"
As he approached the lake, he watched his brother quickly duck his head back into the water so that only his glaring eyes and chestnut curls were visible above the surface. He had not waded out far, keeping within standing depth. If there was ever doubt that he would truly drown himself, then this was it, for the lake went much deeper at its centre.
James stood at the bank and rested his hands upon his hips, glaring right back at his younger brother so as to make it clear that he was tired of his attention seeking games.
"Thomas, you're not fooling anyone; I saw you sneak a breath just now. Stop making a nuisance of yourself and get out, I am NOT coming in after you!"
His younger brother narrowed his eyes challengingly and began to submerge himself further.
He was being completely ignored.
Soon there was no sign of his brother save the bubbles breaking the surface of the water.
"Oh for God's sake!"
He crossed his arms and stubbornly stood his ground, determined not to get into the water. It was all a matter of waiting him out; eventually Thomas would have to surface and concede defeat. He turned away from the water, telling himself that he wouldn't care a jot if Thomas died and that it would serve him right for threatening to do so so often. But from the corner of his eye he noticed that the bubbles had stopped and the lake had gone still. He continued to watch the surface of the lake, but there was nothing. Worry gnawed at his belly.
Quickly pulling off his outer jacket, he dove in after his brother.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust in the murky water, but he eventually made out the shape of his brother, sat on the silt on the lake bottom, tucked into an angry ball, having let all the air out of his lungs to stay submerged.
He swam towards him and gestured angrily. What was the fool playing at!? Thomas' face began to turn red and James gestured demandingly for him to resurface. Thomas stubbornly refused, his face going an alarming shade of purple before his eyes began to lose focus.
James realised that he would have to manhandle his brother out of the lake after all.
Wrapping his arms around him, he stood up on the lake bottom so that his head broke the surface, heaving in a much-needed breath. He hoisted Thomas out of the water and held him steady as he coughed and spluttered. Once he felt that he was done, he began the arduous task of pulling them back to the grass, trudging as angrily as he could manage to make sure that Thomas understood that he was not pleased about the situation.
Once he reached the water's edge, he deposited his brother gracelessly into the mud, still half submerged in the lake, and then sat himself down heavily in the grass, just a little higher up.
He leaned over his brother. "I hate you," he told him flatly. There was no venom in his voice; it was hard to stay angry when Thomas just looked sad and bedraggled. James sighed and ran a hand through his wet hair, pulling it out of his face. "Would it please you better if it was father pulling you out of the lake? You know how angry he gets when you act like this." He turned from his brother and pulled off his sodden boots, emptying them of muddy water.
"It would please me," Thomas admitted softly.