((A response blog to the brilliant and lovely Valael Valia Tia. The first two parts happened a year ago, and the third is a little recent addition.))
“And maybe a sketch with nothing. Just in case the portrait is not sufficient,” Alduial considered, looking herself over in the dress. “I am going to buy this. I like it. I can always wear something grey to dinner.”
Feira nodded as she slipped her arms into the mostly opened sleeves and adjusted the dress over her slender waist. The fluid grey dress swirled around her legs like a morning mist, the pre-dawn hue warmed by a sunrise glow that crept up from the hem, and somewhat unkindly pulling her away from the first successful distraction she had had in weeks.
Do you have a favorite color?
It took a second to steady her hands. Fastening the pale gold sash beneath her bust she smoothed her hands over her hips even as she nodded to Alduial. “Good! And I am sure your supper will be splendid, whatever you end up wearing. What is most important is him and you, and sharing such a happy occasion with your loved ones.”
“‘Loved Ones’ is a little excessive, but I suppose so,” Alduial said dismissively and looked over Feira, her expression turning to a beaming look of approval as she danced over and smoothed out the shoulders of the dress. “You look like the sunrise made flesh,” she said firmly and fixed a little wrinkle. “That is marvelous.”
Feira blushed, adjusting the delicate gold clasps that fastened the open sleeves over her elbows. “I’m worried it’s too young…. I feel like some seaside nymph.”
“I understand seaside nymphs are in fashion,” Alduial replied and bent slightly to look over the clasps. “You are a positive siren anyway. You could march down to the docks and have your pick of sailors in a heartbeat. But I would not dare call it young, you look bright, that is different.”
Feira’s almost genuine smile faltered at the mention of sailors, and for a moment she looked down at herself, self-consciously brushing at one sleeve and smoothing her hands over the bodice. “Bright is — is good. I do enjoy bright….” She found a smile again, though not one of her own, and nodded to Alduial. “I – It is fun, trying on dresses with friends. It has been a while. Was there anything else that caught your eye?”
“Oh all sorts!” Alduial exclaimed, suddenly far more chipper and bright, and she swept over to the door, calling in a sing-song voice for the tailor and leaning through the doorway to summon more distractions to the dressing room.
“If you are sure…. Remember, just four days a week. Any hour you can spare is welcome. Till next Monday. And thank you again, Miss.”
The headmaster hired by The Jays Ladies offered one last reluctant bow before closing the front door of the new, simple little school behind him. Cloak bound around her library books to protect them, Feria leaned back against the whitewashed wall of the building in Dol Amroth’s lower quarter, her golden hair slowly growing heavy from the blowing sheets of rain that fell, unhindered by the low-hanging eaves.
Not all of us can afford to be self-righteous.
For weeks she had hidden. At the estate, at the library. Even the errands she had to run around the city were done quickly and quietly. It had been far easier than she had thought, slipping back into her former ways of avoiding notice, and it was almost effortless, the way she stole about, smaller than before and entirely unassuming. Work filled her days, study her nights, and exhaustive training found it’s way into her free time. She covered as many shifts as she could, every time telling herself that each kind deed she did for those around her was a lie.
The clouds above the city whipped and churned, chasing couples on the rainy Emeleth’s Day inside, and accompanying the gloom of those who would not celebrate it. A free hand rose to brush at the bare hollow of her neck, a motion that had become habit. She knew where it was, the distant memory of it breaking free played often when she thought of the locked, and Feira tried desperately not to think of it.
One part of her told her to slip down to the warf and check the Alshier if he was not there. Another told her to suffer the loss. And the maelstrom in her mind began to spin.
If he was there, what would he say? What would she say? She felt like a monster, fearing his cold look and reproachful tone as if it were wolfsbane. He must hate her. In spite of all her well meaning she had hurt him. Then he had walked away. Emeleth, he really did hate her. She hated herself, hated the mindset that trapped him, and the men that kept him there. Most of all she despised that she hated. It was a dark weight that held her down. It fueled her loneliness and sadness, trapping her in a hole of going nowhere in circles. Everything was empty, numb and grey. Every ambition nearly loosing it’s fire. She thought about all that was lost… what he didn’t know that had been lost, and the dreadful cycle pulled her down even further.
And then there was a third part of her. It told her to leave the necklace there. If he threw it away she would have to be fine with that. The sentiment and lessons that had come with that locket were not bound to cold metal, but to her. She did not dare to hope that he would come looking for her. Two years of Yule, holidays and birthdays and he had given her nothing. Then again, he had given himself, and his time when he could, and she would not deny that he had given the best that he knew to give. He had said that he had never lied to her, and while knowing full well that it could have been meaningless words spat out to make her feel guilt, she chose to believe him.
If she did not go now and retrieve her locket as the agonizing twist in her chest begged her to, she always had an excuse to sometime… some better time find the Alshier. An excuse to see Lhainan.
Hugging her bundled books to her chest, Feira walked out into the some what quiet street, avoiding a passing cart as she began the long walk through the city. For now the third voice held sway, and she did not mind the chilling rain.
“That is it for today. Bently, you will pick up where we left off tomorrow.”
The nine year old boy groaned, and rolled his eyes as he added his worn tome to the pile of books on the bench his tutor sat on. “Yes, Miss Feira.”
As the books piled up and the small flock of children gathered their things, Feira rose. Motioning to the oldest boy, Dannert, she stepped to the side of the courtyard of the little school. Concern written across her features, Feira opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the young man.
“Don’t say it, Miss Feira,” huffed the fifteen year old as he brushed self-consciously at the dark bruise beneath his left eye. “It’s nothing. I just got into another scrap, is all.”
Feira’s amber eyes narrowed. With a gentle touch she reached for Dannert’s arm, lifting it so they could both see the bruise the poked out from beneath the cuff of his sleeve. “And this?” she asked softly.
Dannert stiffened and withdrew a step from the young woman. His face twisted in frustration and a grimace. “It’s — Just let it lie, Miss Feira. I’m fine. I can handle myself.”
“Dannert, this is the third time in a month,”
“I said, let it LIE,” the young man shouted.
“Let what lie?”
The man’s voice that sounded behind her from the open doors of the school made the hairs on the back of Feira’s neck stand on end. For a second she caught Dannert’s eye, and behind his scowl she could see the same dread that she felt. Her expression steeled, and Feira turned around to face the regrettably familiar man.
“I was attempting to convince my charge to attend lessons tomorrow, but he insists he cannot miss work.”
The tall, muscled man known as ‘Bor’ looked at Feira in surprise, and then wicked amusement as a sly smirk turned up his rugged features. “Well, well, well. Little Miss Sunshine! It’s been a long time. I didn’t know my kid brother was getting his learning from you.”
“Not primarily from me, but yes. I tutor him. Dannert is one of my best students,” Feira replied, her tone crisp and professional, and yet it only seemed to make Bor’s grin widen.
“He better be.” Bor slung an arm almost roughly around Dannert’s shoulders.
Dannert shrugged the arm off and didn’t so much as glance to Feira as he began to stalk away. “Whatever. Let’s go.”
“Hold up there, big man!” said Bor as he caught the lad by the arm. “Me and the pretty lady are friends –”
“Acquaintances,” Feira corrected briskly.
The look Bor gave her made her stomach feel sick just like it had two years before. “Close enough, right? If Miss Feira’s teachin’ you, then I don’t see why you can’t take a break to come to her lessons.”
Dannert rotated his jaw, gazed fixed on the floor. “Thank you.” The response was careful and automatic.
Feira felt a knot coil with a sickening tightness in her gut. She softly clasped her hands in front of her. The presence of the cruel dagger hidden in her sleeve was far more reassuring than she could put into words. “It is my pleasure. Master Bor, your brother works very hard. You should be proud of him,” she said in a collected, but sincere tone.
“You don’t say? Well, I’ll take your word for it,” said Bor as he ruffled Dannert’s hair with a scared hand. “I will have to check in to see how he is doing from time to time.”
At that Feira’s amber gaze fixed on Bor’s cold, hazel eyes. “If the doors are open you are free to do so, of course. But I should not be keeping you, Master Bor… Dannert. I will see you tomorrow.”
The brief glance Dannert gave her was a myriad of emotions, but Fiera was glad to see the hint of relief. “Yes, Miss Feira.”
Arm once more slung over his little brother’s shoulders, Bor smirked in smug satisfaction, and let his gaze wander freely over the young woman. “I’ll be seeing you.”
Feira didn’t remember to breathe till the brothers left the courtyard. One hand grasping the small, broken shell that hung from a gold chain around her neck, she moved to the front doors of the school to watch the bustling crowds flowing up and down the filthy street. There was no sign of the man, but there was no relief. She wanted to be away from the lower quarters, in the safety of the library or the estate with — Emeleth, with anyone who could take her mind off of that bastard.
Hands grasped at her indigo skirts, and Feira looked down in surprise to see Akiva suddenly clinging to her, and glaring out at the world. “I told ya tha’ you didn’t wanna meet his brother.”