Sybil is something in the archives now. But here, have some past-midnight, incoherent O’Brien things:
1. For all her adherence to the rules, her regard and, as far as Sarah sees it, worship for them, Sarah knows Elsie Hughes is capable of a certain slyness of her own. She knows this because Sarah O’Brien has noted the way the housekeeper has positioned that small chest over the grating (and the indicators she uses to know when someone has moved it). She knows this because she knows the way Elsie Hughes can walk without making a sound, despite the keys at her hip, the way she lingers in doorways. Sarah O’Brien knows this because she taught Elsie Hughes all of this.
2. Whether she should or not, she respects Carson. She likes to mask it as pity, claim she thinks of him as nothing more than an old fool, but that would be a lie. Perhaps it’s because he’s her superior for the entire year, while Mrs. Hughes has no say over her during the season. Or maybe she’s just a different person in London. (All truths be told, she does prefer Elsie Hughes to the London housekeeper.) The truth of the matter is the smallest bit of her envies the butler. The butler who never refuses nor questions nor condemns the unfairness of class and servitude, the butler who just lets himself love the family and be loved by it in return, the butler who is accepted by every single Crawley, who is a member of that family in some strange, perplexing way. She doesn’t care for the Earl’s affections, nor for any of the daughter’s, but she wishes desperately and dearly Cora truly does see her in much the same light they all see old Carson. Before the soap incident, she hated herself for wanting this. After it, she merely hates herself because she knows she’ll never be like Carson; a part of her will always hate.
3. Her brother, her favourite brother, was the one who gave her her first cigarette. He was the one who looked at her from across the table, grinned with no teeth and taught her what a secret was. (He used to whisper gossip and stories into her ear - and that’s when she learned what power was, at least for those of her class.) Her brother was the one who drew her up into his lap and told her, very seriously, that you could never trust anyone, that life was safer when you kept your distance (for all she tried and pretended, she could never do that, not fully). Her brother was her favourite and she was his. Since leaving him and their too-small house (she traded it for a dinner table equally crowded), Sarah O’Brien has had a handful of favourites. But she has never been someone else’s favourite, not in the same way. (For all her hopes and dreams about the Countess, a part of her knows they will never be equal and so it will never be the same.) She loathes herself for thinking about something as silly and juvenile as favourites as often as she does; she loathes herself for, at the end of the day, being unable to keep her distance.