“What are you doing all the way over here?!”
Feira’s golden head snapped up from the thick pages it hovered over. “You’re supposed to speak quietly in a library, Nellie.”
“It’s too quiet… and full of books,” the young woman huffed, pursing her painted lips. “But you’re never on this side of the place! Not as colorful here if you ask me.”
“It’s the law section, Nellie. There are no painted pictures in the pages.” Feira closed the heavy tome before her, and subtly wiped at a damp cheek. She knew what she had set out to do, what she thought had been a good idea. In truth, though, it had been but a fruitless attempt to try and find a way to fix the empty ache in her chest.
“… but oh no! Told them straight up. Really, it can be such a burden, being right all the time.”
Feira blinked her long lashes as she rose from her seat, only just realizing that Nellie had been talking. “Think you’ll go back?”
Nellie tossed her long brown hair over her shoulder. “No way! Got your books? Anyways, I got a date and — Hey, you okay?”
Feira tucked her single book, having nothing to do with ships or sea or sun, beneath one arm. She felt numb, having cried more than she ever thought she would. Her free hand lifted to brush at her slender, unadorned neck, and swallowed the miserable lump she had not felt rise in her throat. “I’m fine, thank you,” she replied, her voice soft and smile weak.
Nellie huffed and led the way out of the building that was probably the least interesting to her in all of the city (aside from maybe the temple). “Know what you need?”
Feira sighed, brushing at her neck again, missing the necklace that had hung there. “No. What do I need, Nellie?” She caught the library door, forging into the daylight after her fellow maid.
“You need to get laid.”
Feira balked at her. Cheeks flushing crimson she lifted her chin and strode quickly ahead. “Nellie –”
Unphased by Feira’s warning tone, Nellie sashayed dramatically down the stone steps. “Really! Gotta do the deed someday. You might like it! And it does wonders f –”
The faint memory of her gold note locket breaking free in the bottom of the Alshier flooded in and a crushing weight of several very different emotions bore down. Spinning on her heel, she stopped abruptly in front of Nellie.
“I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to allude to it. He’s not one of your dozens of trash weekends boyfriends, and never is any form of such a suggestion helpful or appropriate. Do I make myself clear?”
Nellie stared at her in surprise. “I get you…. Sorry. I’ll try and be good about it as long as I can.”
Feira nodded weakly turning to start the walk back to the estate. “… The whole day.”
“A whole day?!” Nellie exclaimed, leaving Feira unsure if she was joking or serious. She looked to her golden-haired friend, studying her tired, red-rimmed eyes. “I’ll behave for two days… Then I’ll make a list of all the single guards for you!”
Feira sighed, shaking her head as the fastidious maid looped an arm with hers. “What am I going to do with you?”
Nellie giggled and very nearly drug Feira along. “Help me spend my pay, of course! I’m not a penny pincher like some people,” she said, giving her a pointed look. “And you need cheering up.”
“Nellie, I don –”
“Nope! No choice! It’s unnatural, you smiling less than me. But that reminds me! So Kelly told El, that Master Hanley to Baelen that the Lady –”
Feira tuned Nellie out as the flood of worthless gossip began. But it did make her smile, and that, for the moment, was probably what she needed most.