The Black Widow and the Peacock: First Date

Shops, street merchants, taverns, brothels and inns situated along the busy Main Street that runs through the middle of the city.
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Aurelio
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The Black Widow and the Peacock: First Date

Post by Aurelio » Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:21 pm

Summer, 124PW

Disgraceful.

That was the word smeared across his elders foreheads', spread like banners before the lanterns of their eyes. They sneered at him behind his back. They schemed and plotted and moved the piece that represented him across their boards as if his own moves were so slow, so predictable. As if he was so stupid.

Aurelio strode across the street, pausing only to let a heavily laden carriage pass. The rest were merely flies getting in his way; he cut across their paths without bothering to even look at them. They, no matter what outcry they might have raised, responded with silence, perhaps a stir of mutterings at his back; his clothing and bearing marked him. They wouldn't dare fuss at him. It suited his mood to get in their way. Rather similar to how the older members of his family liked to get in his way. That was the gist of it, he thought while he searched for the right sign, he had tweaked their whiskers and now they sought to chain him down to some boring widow. Not that it was any of their bloody business who Aurelio used for the funding of his various financial ventures, but they had found the source and twisted. It was a substantial enough threat that Aurelio had seen fit to comply.

Which left him in the dusty streets of the common part of the city. The part he only ever sent servants to. His shiny black boots were now coated with grime, and he had been touched numerous times by poor people. Not ideal circumstances for any time of day, much less early afternoon. He could have been taking tea and slowly strangling out a competitor in favor of his own trade interests, and instead -- ah, there it was.

His inner complaints had circled the same topic innumerable times during the week he'd had to fume before the meeting. Malatrast was such an insignificant family, to boot. Why would he ever deign to marry one of their daughters? He'd never found a woman worthy of his status or his time, not when it would appear on all sorts of official documents. His name stood alone. Besides, it pissed off his dear father, and that was surely worth remaining a bachelor. Aurelio had no need for heirs. That was a family conceit.

He entered. The bistro was a plain affair, but filled with the sorts of commoners who could scarce afford better. He pressed his lips together, and sighed. So many women. He hadn't bothered to look at the picture that had come with the engagement request -- after all, the point was to get out from the noose around his neck and better secure his business interests. They had no business poking around his life.

"Ivone Malatrast," he said, pitching his voice to carry over the small din of conversation. "Could you raise your hand, darling?"

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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Ivone » Thu Oct 03, 2013 5:50 pm

Ivone rested her chin on her left hand and stared blankly through the window of the patisserie shop. Black tea was served along with lavender cakes. The young server clasped the tray flat against her, undecided if she should interrupt the woman’s reverie or not. Thinking better of it, the server left well enough alone.

This was the first time in six months she had left the house. Socially, she could have come out three months prior, but her heart was not in it. Ivone did not think she could stomach the women in her circles before now. This was not to say that well-meaning people had not dropped by with casseroles and baskets of fruit, only that the social niceties of smiling and saying thank you had been too hard. That, and her body had thought the baby she'd lost needed to nurse. She had to wait through the painful sensation of her milk coming in, breasts swollen and tender, and the pain of it going away. She had developed a fever and spent much of her time either in a cold bath or in bed. She also had to wait through the days she spent climbing emotionally from numb to crying inconsolably. In between those moments, she thought about how she would make the Battle Mages and their handlers, the Judges, pay. Frustration resulted in a whirlwind of anger, followed by the need to put everything back just the way it had been… before.

She had let the staff go on hiatus, with pay, after they draped most of the furniture and fixtures. This meant she had no buffer between her guest's pitying looks and insincerity. She persevered, though, and learned to smile because that is what she was expected to do. Eventually, she turned back to her talents and began making things. The kitchen was filled with the results of her labor. She rarely used the gnomish electrical devices any more, instead she used the myriad of candles she made to light her way at night.

A chance encounter changed things. Ivone had been in the front garden, on her knees, harvesting herbs for her next endeavor. A large hat shaded her from the sun and cast shadows across her face. She wore one of her husband’s shirts, along with breeches, and boots. Gloves covered her hand. The collar hung over her shoulder, exposing it to view. Leaning over, she offered a view of what lay unfettered beneath the shirt, not that she noticed or cared. A frown furrowed her brow and she leaned further into the bushes. Some kind of pest was on her plant. Reaching for the creature, she stumbled forward. A sharp gasp escaped her and Ivone sat back on her haunches. Pulling the shirt forward, she looked down at her chest. Scratches lined her skin and little droplets of blood welled up. One of the Malatrasts had come to visit. Appalled at Ivone's state of dress, the matron realized it might be necessary to get the Malatrast name removed from Ivone as soon as possible. Back room conversations were held and suddenly she was bathed, dressed, escorted, and left in this shop with instructions to meet a nice, young man because she needed to spend time with people - particularly those her own age.

Even now, Ivone still felt empty. Six months was not a long time to wait, especially considering she had carried her baby for longer than that. Her stomach was just as flat as if she had never been pregnant, but other subtle changes existed. Her hips were just a little wider. Her breasts and buttocks were just a little fuller. She still wore her wedding ring, though. She could not bring herself to put it on her other hand. The stone sparkled in the mid-morning light.

Ivone’s right hand plucked absently at the fabric of her skirt. The skirt and its accompanying jacket was dark blue, which made her eye color and fair skin much more vivid. Other women her age cast glances in her direction as they sipped their tea, but made no effort to approach. Someone needed to break the ice, but the women were unsure of the protocol. Ivone had been married before the usual presentation party announcing her eligibility to the marriage market. Then, she had lost both her husband and unborn child on the same day. The women were startled when Ivone suddenly sat up straighter and focused on the tea and the cakes. She needed her strength.

The women were even more startled when rogue and dandy boy extraordinaire showed up and called for Ivone. Eyes widened. Her and him? Never! Heads leaned near to one another, whispers and glances were given. Admittedly, the two together were quite an unusually attractive pair, seemingly opposites in every aspect but their good looks and breeding. Ivone had never been flashy. She was the good girl, dutiful daughter. Merynir, though... Plus, rumor had it Ivone told Judge Vyaduka that her husband's and baby's death were because of the Judges and the Battle Mages. Really, what man from a good family with a good reputation would want to marry Ivone, now? Perhaps it was for the best...

The tone of the request, followed by the cheeky "darling," encouraged her to do anything but raise her hand. She was saved the embarrassment by the serving girl. Stifling her emotions, Ivone reverted back to her training. She lifted her tea cup with grace and took an appropriate sized sip.

"Sir, if you please, Ms. Malatrast is over here." The girl headed in the direction of Ivone, the only woman in the room, other than the serving girl, who wasn't eyeing Aurelio as if he was the special of the day on the menu. Truth of the matter was that, Aurelio, as a bad boy was much more appealing to the young ladies than most of the young ladies' families wished he was. The servant girl hoped the Merynir would follow her (everyone knew who he was, who wouldn't?). It was her job to inform the young Lady that her tea-time partner had arrived and to facilitate introductions. Protocols and such...

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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Aurelio » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:03 pm

The airs being put on in the bistro were thick enough to choke any sensible man. It was a lower-class establishment, by Aurelio's standards, but that did not stop the little sparrows fluttering about its confines from acting the part of songbirds. They were all pretty, one might say. Pretty enough? His standards were high. They always had been. It could be reasonably expected then that the prettiest woman in the room would be the one he had come to meet; his family wasn't pissed off at him enough to try setting him up with a girl who was anything less.

A wench asked for him to follow. Well, well: a point in the favor of the Malatrast girl. Any woman who responded to being hailed in so crass a manner wasn't worth the effort it took to speak to her. At least for a marriage prospect. Though Aureliio had no intention of marrying anything, he fully intended to use standard conventions to find a convenient excuse to refuse. Thus beget the need to test.

He neither enjoyed nor detested the attention laden on him by the sparrows. It was as expected as the sun, though any warming effects it had once had were long since cooled. Aurelio entered a room, he gained attention. That was how it had been for years; a side effect of being considered a black sheep of one of the descendant families. Background noise, Aurelio was aware it existed and paid it no heed all the same. What he did pay heed to was the destination he was walking towards. The Malatrast girl was as beautiful as he had surmised she would be. No obvious signs of deformity or sickness. Not even any scarring from former sickness, as some unfortunates were cursed with.

"Ms. Malatrast, may I present -- "

"Charmed, I'm sure," Aurelio interrupted, sliding into the chair opposite Ivone's. He watched her while the wench's tongue went overboard trying to retain some sense of propriety.

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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Ivone » Mon Oct 07, 2013 5:05 pm

Ivone did not immediately look at Aurelio. If he chose to toss conventionalities out the window, then it was all the better for her. She would be able to decline further marriage mart meetings easily if he acted boorishly. Annoying as she found his behavior, it did not show in her bearing – no muscles twitched or clenched on her jaw, affront nor annoyance changed her posture. Ivone had been trained well. Instead of immediately acknowledging him, she looked to the serving girl first. The movement offered Aurelio another profile view of her, but as before, the semi-veil of lace that hung from her fashionably tilted hat hindered a good look at her eyes

“Thank you, Sara. That will be all.” Her voice was well-modulated and possibly surprising. The tone was not a squeaking small voice as one might expect from such a small body, instead it was rich, warm, and cultured.

Then, and only then, did she finally look at Aurelio Merynir. Ivone's eye color might be considered unusual, except for the fact that so many in Marn had stunning emerald eyes or green and gold. The color was a dusky, deep blue bordering on violet. Aurelio's were a more startling blue in comparison. Looking upon them, others would remark that the pair were aesthetically pleasing and quite beautiful. One could see why they had been put together. Perhaps, her refined air would help tone down his ostentatious and pretentious one.

As for Ivone, when their eyes met, as ridiculous as it sounds, the world seemed to stop and the murmurs and whispers around them disappeared. A spark lit and jolt ran through her. For the first time in six months, Ivone actually felt alive. In an attempt to dismiss it (or perhaps even prolong it?), Ivone boldly kept the eye-contact, sat up straighter, and raised her brows slightly. Her body chose to betray her in subtle ways. Her pupils widened and just the slightest hint of color lit her cheeks. Her voice, thankfully, remained steady and she slowly found the means to tame the fire-flare. Just her luck she would find such a peacock of man attractive! He was probably used to such things and she would not give him the satisfaction of mewling over him as the other women did. Perhaps she could just use him to rid her of this unexpected derailer? She had other things she needed and wanted to do.

“Would you care for tea?”

A graceful gesture made by a well-formed, dainty hand indicated the setting before them.
"Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting."


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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Aurelio » Thu Oct 10, 2013 1:17 am

Stone cold. Aurelio could feel his attention slipping as she affected no response at all. Probable, if she was acting by such prudish standards, that all it would take was a few off-color remarks and some well timed social ugliness, and he wouldn't have to slip the bait; she'd take care of it. After all, if a woman played the part of cold fish in such a public setting, the likelihood of it being forgiven in private was slim indeed.

Their eyes met. Aurelio's narrowed. A moment of awareness made his skin crawl. He was quite sure they were being stared at and discussed in any number of speculative and crude ways, and he liked that idea. He liked the idea of the filth of his reputation sliding from his skin and over hers, so that the Malatrasts might never recover this perfect porcelein doll. Then again, a perfect accomplishment in that vein would require time and effort, and he had no interest on spending those on a woman who had none in him. Beauty was no substitute for a warm body. He'd learned that well enough.

"Do they serve anything else?" He meant to ask the question normally, but his voice came out of him with far more throatiness than was usual.

Irritated, he leaned forward. The latent heat in his expression leached away, and he returned her disinterest with a cool calculation that any Descendant should rightfully know. You are a product, the look said, means to an end.

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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Ivone » Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:20 am

“Would you care for tea?”

"Do they serve anything else?"


Before, between, and after these two simple phrases, something happened.

The way he looked at her was … raw and a little dangerous. Ivone could imagine him slitting someone’s throat or beating them senseless with ease. She needed someone like that.

When he spoke with that throaty growl, she imagined that and more. She needed someone like that, too. So, so much more, if fact ,that when he leaned forward, she unintentionally leaned forward, too, with eyes wide and lips slightly parted. Her breath caught in her throat.

When the predatory gleam left his eye to be replaced by calculated disinterest and a message read loud and clear, she couldn’t help herself.

Ivone laughed.

It was a genuine laugh, out of place in the oh-so-proper patisserie shop and coming from that oh-so-perfect little porcelain doll. Laughing, at least like that, was not part of the protocol. But, the message in that cold, fierce, straight-lipped look, was so similar to her own thoughts. What else was there to do, but laugh?

The serving girl, waiting in the corner of the room, looked confused. The other twittering little misses paused in mid-chatter, wondering what the naughty Aurelio might have said to make that one laugh.

Shaking her head, Ivone smiled a mischievous little smile, accompanied by a pair of dimples and a telling look.

“No, but I am sure we might find somewhere that does. Shall we?”
"Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting."


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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Aurelio » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:33 pm

Unexpected. Aurelio stayed where he was at, staring at her. His facial expression tightened, and for a moment it might have looked as if he was sneering at her. It was a look that went well with the politicians and their constant rounds of asskissing. Then his face slackened, eyebrows lifting and mouth crooking a little on the left side. He folded his hands on the table, shoulders curving inwards a little as he put his weight onto his elbows. "Did I say that I dislike tea?"

He was staring at her, but he made no apologies for it.

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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Ivone » Thu Oct 10, 2013 11:34 pm

"Did I say that I dislike tea?"

He was staring at her and she liked it.

Had she confused him? She liked that thought. That feeling of being alive was returning and she liked that, too.

She stared back. The crook of his mouth highlighted a dimple on him she hadn’t noticed before. She also had not noticed the shape of his lips before now, either. Interesting.

She put her forefinger against her lips as if thinking

“Mm.” Ivone's finger slid down her bottom lip and tapped her chin.

“Do you always answer a question with another question?” Ivone gave a little tilt of her head and raised her brows in return. The smile still played on her lips as her hand fell gracefully back down to rest on the table.

Watching them was becoming a favored past-time for the other ladies. The exchange was fascinating and much more interesting than bows and petticoats and marriage prospects. Certainly, once Ivone started laughing, one expected Aurelio Merynir to leave in a huff. Rumor had it he thought the day began and ended with him. If his behavior upon arrival was any indication, the rumors were most definitely true.

Was he going to give her a verbal lashing? His face said so, but then… no? He stayed! He even leaned on the table. What would happen next? What were they talking about? They really didn't seem to be saying much at all.

Was she… was she actually interested in him? Well, why wouldn’t she be? He is nice enough to look at and she is a widow. Conventionalities no longer applied to her, though having a marriage meeting only six months after one’s husband had died really said a lot about the type of woman one was. But, then again, why was she getting marriage meetings when they were not? It wasn’t fair, really! She’d already had her chance and despite his flaws, he is a Merynir.

Caroline Demarest rolled her eyes and leaned over, murmuring to her companion, Prudence. “Really, is this all we have to do? Watch a grave-robbing little troublemaker and a ne’er-do-well playboy at a prospective marriage meeting? Those two deserve each other. He might be a Merynir, but you know, that slavery scandal a few years back was all his doing. Threw away his chances at being a Judge… and, speaking of Judges… you know, at the wake, she all but blamed Judge Vyaduka for killing her husband and causing her miscarriage?” Caroline gave a snooty, scandalized look. “My cousin was there and said so.”

Caroline was already engaged and her wedding was just around the corner. She and Prudence had been doing the final shopping and arrangements before stopping into the shop. Prudence was the follower of the two. She shook her head, wide-eyed and glanced toward the pair. Prudence was a mouse. She nibbled at her cake like a mouse and held her cup like a mouse. Even her hair was a mousy shade of brown. She couldn’t help but give a mousy little titter before speaking in an hushed whisper. Prudence was more scandalized by Caroline’s gossiping in the near vicinity of the subjects than she was of the pair for the moment.

“Caroline, shush. You’re being so rude!”

The rage almost, almost over took Ivone then. To give in, would mean baring her teeth and trying to rip out Caroline’s hair with her bare hands and that just would not do, would it? And, that would interrupt this moment she was having and enjoying. She could make a cutting remark, but she didn’t think she could pull it off with any sense of grace. Ivone suspected that might interrupt and ruin the moment, too. The best she could do was retreat to the high ground and rely on her training.

Ivone closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to quell the fire that burned in her belly and probably showed in her gaze and the small baring of teeth that she tried to pass off as a smile. Opening her eyes on the exhale, she reached for the teapot and poured both of them a cup, making sure to pour his first. So what if he wanted one or not, the motions were a means to an end. She lifted the cup for a sip and resumed looking at Aurelio Merynir. Yes. Studying him would give her the opportunity to regain her composure, right?

She looked at his hands, clasped on the table. She looked at the way the cut of his clothes fit his build perfectly and the colors complimented his looks. She looked at the shape of his face and the line of his jaw. She looked at his mouth, his cheekbones and finally she looked him in the eyes once more. Suffice to say, she liked what she saw. He was a pleasure to look upon.

With the cup still against her lips, she gave a demure little smile. Lowering the cup back to its saucer, she said.

"I find this place tedious. Perhaps we might go for a walk? The Memorial Gardens are not far."
"Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting."


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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Aurelio » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:55 pm

Interest was a funny thing with Aurelio. That was the life one had to lead, he supposed, when the road to glory had been splintered into fragments of possibility. As to what part Ivone had to play in that -- it did not mean leaving so soon into the game. Aurelio could not be said to be one easily put off, though his carefully groomed mannerisms appeared like all sorts of boorishness to his more idiotic contemporaries. Then again, almost none of them worked as hard as he.

He allowed the silence to draw out, listening as did Ivone to the hushed conversation. Only after she spoke a second time did he deign to reply.

"Do you always jump to conclusions?" Aurelio's smile didn't return, but the faintest -- the very faintest -- hint of amusement was present in his voice. The look in his eyes was far more predatory than the tone of his voice could account for. It flickered in and out, much as if he was struggling to contain himself, or something in himself. "I rather like it here. I was rather hoping for a cup of tea with a spot of entertainment on the side." He sprawled back, the edge in his expression dampening as if it had never been there to begin with. "Besides, only timid little mice enjoy hiding in tangles of shrubbery. I'm not terribly enamored of them."

He met Ivone's eyes, and held them long enough to show her that he was not a man to be intimidated, nor to give in to social amenities based upon someone else's discomfort. Then his gaze cut askance to one of the tables the twits were chittering at, and his lips twitched. For a single moment his smile was naught but a slim edge, an acerbic sliver of social commentary that needed no language to explain. When he looked back at Ivone he'd returned to his typical empty arrogance; a display that showed nearly nothing at all.

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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Ivone » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:49 am

Ivone was mesmerized. It was true. At age 20, she was complex mix of naïveté, innocence, and knowledge. Aurelio was ten years her senior and he had perfected the art of being in the spotlight. He even relished it. And, as far as Ivone was concerned, he could have it. Wasn't it true of most animal species that the male stood out more than the female?

He was amazing. Whether he felt it or not, she felt as if she had found a kindred spirit. Here was someone who also behaved in ways he or she thought appropriate for the situation, but his behavior flaunted convention, dictated he be seen and accounted for according to his own terms. This was something she could respect. He was like an open book, but one written in a language she had yet to learn. She was making conclusions and assumptions about him, but…

"Do you always jump to conclusions?"

Ivone made a small, amused sound and glanced away. It would appear she was the open book… When she looked back Ivone experienced another momentary jolt. The look in his eye was predatory for all he tried to contain it. Yes, contain. Aurelio wasn’t trying to conceal it, no. Like Ivone, Aurelio was trying to keep whatever swirled around inside at bay, if only for a little while. Ivone’s breath caught and she had that butterfly feeling in her gut again. Her eyes widened slightly as she watched the emotions play across his face and eyes. She had never felt any of this with her husband. Tian had been safe, considerate, and careful of her. This man was different.

When he lounged back in his chair, his demeanor was insouciant and Ivone noticed she was not the only one affected. A wave of interest rippled through the room. Her eyes narrowed and she glanced away from him. She was annoyed at being sucked in like the rest of them. She was better than these women. What did they know?

Aurelio seemed to accept the admiration as his due. Ivone had no interest in simpering or sucking up to him. Whatever approval, admiration, and fascination he gained from her would come because she thought he truly deserved it. Those other women saw the packaging on the outside. Had they ever looked in his eyes and caught that dangerous gleam? Ivone doubted it. If they had, they would run away in fear. Ivone knew she would get burned, but that was alright. She was already fire and ash inside. What fear did she have of a little more fire?

With a sideways glance, Ivone looked up at Aurelio as she took another sip from her cup. The interest the other women evinced, even when trying to feign indifference amused her, too. He really is fascinating, she thought, and the fascination showed. But, the fascination wasn't like the ones the little mice and sparrows gave him. Ivone wanted to know if he was fire and ash inside, too, or if he was something different. Lava, perhaps? She wanted to get him alone and see if he behaved the same way. She wanted to look at him, study him, understand him, but her interest was more than clinical. That probably showed, too, though the showing of it was unintentional.

"I rather like it here. I was rather hoping for a cup of tea with a spot of entertainment on the side. Besides, only timid little mice enjoy hiding in tangles of shrubbery. I'm not terribly enamored of them."

Ahhh! The look he gave her, the room, and the people... How contrary of him to want to remain, instead of being considerate of her request. He was testing her to see if she had resolve. Retreat was not an option. A delighted sort of smile lit her features, one filled with genuine admiration. She could learn so much from Aurelio Merynir! At first, she was going to quip about which thing he was not terribly enamored of - the mice or the shrubbery, but instead she said simply,

“One should poison the little vermin before they begin to breed.”

Her tone was as matter-of-fact as if they were discussing the weather, a simple rejoinder as an observation to follow upon his comment, accompanied by a negligent sort of shrug. Ivone regarded Aurelio once more.

He had his tea. Did he expect her to serve him?

"Do you take sugar or milk?"

The enquiry was genuine and not prompted from social courtesy. She wanted to know so he might have his tea as he said he wanted. As for the entertainment part, that was wholly subjective. The more he affected a mask, the more hers fell away. Let him see, then. Let him see.

She was entertained and felt quite alive. So, she wanted to keep him happy and to keep him with her. Because she had been raised to be a good wife for a different sort of man and because after marriage she was trained by her husband to make her husband happy, she really wasn't sure what to do with this one. She was willing to learn, though.
"Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting."


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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Aurelio » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:27 pm

"Indeed," Aurelio said, his voice momentarily clouded by satisfaction. The sound was not repeated with a change of expression. When next he spoke, his voice had changed to be couched in the flippant, empty confidence that so often plagued the elite in any city. Marn though, oh, Marn had its own version. Aurelio had learned how to surpass it years ago. "Neither."

The look he gave her held some significance. It was not the look one might give when judging a conversational partner or even a marriage prospect, but there was still something in it to evince a re-evaluation. There was no heavy intent in the look, but still -- in their brief exchange had been something to make him reconsider. Poised in his relaxation, something had changed.

He was certainly showing disinterest towards his cup, and despite his earlier words he seemed not to care for the setting or their eavesdroppers. Then again, he had affected a nonchalance that seemed eternal in how settled it was in him, the sort of attitude that proclaimed the world in its entirety to be dull and beneath him. His betters couldn't stand him for a reason, after all. Still, still he watched her as if she was some passing interest, a temporary fancy; something to stave off the boredom for but a few fleeting moments.

"Do you?"

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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Ivone » Sun Oct 27, 2013 2:19 pm

”Neither.”

Ivone observed Aurelio, watching as he put on a mantle of affectation and disinterest. They shared a look that implied more interest than his body language offered, but that was short lived. Ivone lifted her tea cup and smiled behind it, eyes downcast as she looked a little to the left in amusement. Taking another sip of her tea, she thought again that Aurelio was a curious and interesting man.

Everyone knew Aurelio Merynir was a dandy and frivolous. He was held accountable for the slavery scandal, but Ivone had begun to suspect differently. His behavior was too perfect, his costume too exact. He reminded her of the actors she had seen in the plays Tian took her to see. Even when she met them behind the scenes, she observed the actors realize their benefactor had arrived and watched as they put on another performance: grandiose, pandering, chivalrous, fluttering... but underneath the grease paint, she could smell the alcohol. She could see the resentment in some. Some genuinely liked her husband and appreciated his foster-care of the arts.

The actors had paid her attention because of her husband, but her husband was the important one. Some had tried to seduce her, but she loved her husband and had no interest. Some tried to seduce her husband, even when she stood beside him. Thankfully, Tian showed no interest either. That was not the point, though. Ivone had observed, choosing to remain quiet behind her husband. She saw. She noticed.

So, as Aurelio evinced his affectations, Ivone observed and studied him. She wondered if he had always been this way or if he had learned it. He was so perfectly poised, he oozed it. Were the room a stage, Aurelio would outshine the other players. He eclipsed them all. She wanted to see him perform in other venues. He was not adapting his style to the locale or customs. He came as himself, larger than life, and everything else was expected to conform to him. And, despite all that she could see that he was interested in her, if only for a moment. She could tell, too, that it was only her novelty keeping him interested in her. Should she fail, even once, she would lose it. And that was a pity, because she had no intention of jumping through hoops to keep it.

"Do you?"

As she lowered the cup back to the table, her gaze flicked back to him. She stared at him. His interest was intriguing. He was definitely fascinating, but his lack of attention to the details was annoying. She supposed someone as supercilious as Aurelio would find it beneath him to notice a lady’s preferences. He was probably selfish in bed, too. Did she really want to pour so much effort into this?

As she stared, she waited. The stare was a challenge, wasn't it? She had been drinking her tea the entire time and at no time had sugar or milk been placed in the cup. In fact, milk and sugar weren't even on the table. They would have to order it if he had wanted it. When Tian had been alive, she had used milk and sugar. But, afterwards, the bitter taste of plain tea seemed to appeal to her more. Tian had taken his tea without milk and sugar. The flavor reminded her of the aftertaste on his lips when they would kiss.

“Does it matter?”
"Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting."


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Aurelio
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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Aurelio » Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:06 pm

"Aren't we being so courteous, together?" His reply was faster. There, then, the boredom, slowing the pace of his words even as he declined to make her wait a second time. He looked sideways, lifted his cup as his eyes caught the glances of nearby ladies. Acknowledging, at last, the flies that plagued the room with their presence, he failed to offer them any more than that glance.

He tipped his tea this way and that, watching the liquid as it hovered on the edge of spilling over. Front to back, side to side, in trembling circles -- the focus he gave to it was, strictly speaking, more complete than that which he had given to any single person since entering the establishment. He replaced the cup onto its saucer without taking a single sip, though he did affect one long inhalation before sitting back.

He was waiting. As he returned to watching her, it was there in the slight tension at the corners of his mouth, implying an edge of a smile she had not yet earned. The conversation was this side of pointless, had managed to delve into the social sphere of pleasant nonsense that gained little beyond some arbitrary desire to affect the mood of the other person. Yet for that, he had not checked out. His attitude may have been spoiled, and his posture on the verge of rudeness, but he was seeing her.

There was a challenge in that.

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Ivone
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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Ivone » Tue Oct 29, 2013 3:19 pm

"Aren't we being so courteous, together?"

Aurelio broke the stare and glanced to the women sitting nearest them. Prudence looked away quickly, embarrassed at being caught staring. When she looked again, Aurelio had turned his attention to his tea. Prudence quelled a feeling of disappointment she did not want to admit she felt.

The flavorful reminiscence broke Ivone’s amused smile and gave it a more melancholic bend. She held the cup paused in mid-air. The sadness and anger threatened to overtake her, then, and made her hands tremble. Ivone replaced the cup and dropped her hands to her lap. She clenched them together tightly and fought to regain her composure once again while Aurelio played with his tea.
His sigh and the clink of the cup onto its saucer brought her back to the moment. When she looked up, he was waiting and watching her. She probably would not earn that smile.

“A most amazing farce from actors extraordinaire.”

Ivone reached for the pair of kid gloves that lay near the edge of the table, knocking one to the floor as she stood up. She watched it fall. Caroline gave a little snort at Ivone’s lack of grace. Ivone’s hand clenched into a fist, crumpling the glove she held. She looked down, her hat shadowing her face. Men dueled. Women sniped.

Ivone glanced to Aurelio one last time, looking sideways, up from under the shadows. A myriad of raw emotions were in her eyes and upon her face. She attempted a smile, but it was still broken. Instead, she gave a brief curtsy. She hadn’t had enough time to learn Aurelio’s nonchalance. Her performance was lacking. She was weak. She had failed. It didn’t matter. Too soon. Too soon. Too soon… too sad, too lonely, too angry…

“My apologies… I really must go.” She meant it to be the same, modulated tone, but it was more of a whisper. Ivone pressed the hand clenching the glove to her stomach and turned to leave. She needed to escape.
"Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting."


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Aurelio
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Re: The Black Widow and the Peacock

Post by Aurelio » Tue Oct 29, 2013 4:06 pm

"Ah? I hadn't taken you for a virgin at this." He had raised his voice just that little bit, enough to be overheard by any who were listening with intent. Still, still, there was a hint of apology in his voice. It might have been recognizable as mocking. "I do so hate to be left to the mice."

He did not move to stand. There was no return courtesy save for a brief lift of his fingers in farewell. He had claimed the chair, and the table, and the tea with his posture and his indolence. She, though, he lay no claim to her. His eyes laughed at the thought, of even the idea of trying to tie her down. There was no obvious malice in him, but of cruelty there was much to discern. He was not a man good ladies were involved with. He knew this very well.

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