[Prompt from http://daily-writing.blogspot.com/ . Characters and story from a novel idea entitled Alkemic Maiden.]
I took a small bite of the pile of brown before me, expecting to taste only the blandness of quickly made, mass produced food. The mush in the bowel did lack many of the complex flavors of the cuisine within the palace walls, and the squishy texture left much to be desired. Yet, the food was oddly satisfying as it left my mouth and traveled to my stomach. It left a pleasant warmth in my core and actually lifted my spirits a bit.
I took another bite.
Syn’s head leaned in close to me. “Stop eating like that,” he muttered around his own mouthful. “People are staring.”
My spoon was poised in front of my eager mouth. “Eating like what?”
He gestured to me. “You’re back is too straight, your elbows are neatly tucked in at your sides, you’re bites are too small. You are acting like you’re better than everyone else in the saloon, Cow Maid.”
I sent a mental check through my body. Yes, my back was straight, but that was how I was always taught to sit. Any slouching was instantly disciplined out of me as a child. The same with how I placed my arms and how much food I allowed on my eating utensil. How else was a princess supposed to eat?
“I worked in the palace,” I said eventually. “I was taught to eat this way so to honor the royal family.”
Syn chucked. “A cow maid eating like a princess. I never thought I would ever see such a sight.”
The very opposite of my nature, I felt my blood boil throughout my body. “And what could a barbaric hunter such as yourself know about etiquette and social mores?”
His glare forced me to bite my lip. True, his words were unfounded and, had he known who I really was, were worthy of severe punishment. I, however, could not afford to snap at the only person in my kingdom willing to help me, my unknown identity notwithstanding.
Syn suddenly sat up straight, his back like that of the ruler that my teachers used to tie around my body. His arms were tucked neatly at his sides, his hand lightly grasped the spoon it was holding. He barely dipped the spoon into the slush and brought it elegantly to his lips, gently taking the small amount into his mouth and chewing before swallowing.
He gave me a look. “Just because I spend my days in the woods does not mean I am a stranger to etiquette, Cow Maid.”