(1303-07-12) An Inconvenient Man
Summary: An historical vignette, detailing a first meeting.
RL Date: 13/10/2018
Related: 1. An Inconvenient Man. 2. Oh, It’s Only You, 3. Having A Good Time.
chimene symon 

A Completely Made-Up Place


Four hours past midnight on a morning in Juillet. Light already tinges the sky over the gardens of this palace in the City of Elua, the strains of umpteen violins seem to herald the oncoming dawn, and if the flowers ornamenting the hair and the shoulders and the plunging necklines of the ladies present begin to wilt — why, they may simply pick fresh ones and commence their seductions anew.

This particular fête, not the first of the season and certainly far from the last, seems even less than usually terminable to Chimène Rousse de la Courcel. Her own little party-within-the-party, located in a folly at the farther side of the ornamental lake and kept exclusively to close cousins and friends of qualities known to amuse, has just devolved into a drunken brawl over the favours of the Bryony adept who was serving them as croupier. Really, could the night get any deadlier? Well. Experience suggests that, yes, where there's a will, the universe will find a way. To stave it off as long as she can she slips away from the dueling suitors and their wine-loosened tongues, and the Bryony lad striving to turn it all into yet another wager with himself as the stake; and in her moonlight-pale blue gown and deceptively simple strand of large white-golden pearls she drifts back toward the terrace and its fountain of sparkling wine. By this hour they've probably run out of the good stuff and left it running with some inferior vintage — to be proved either right or wrong will be some sort of satisfaction. She takes one of the last clean-ish glasses from the fountain's rim and holds it beneath a gently fizzing trickle of wine.

Symon has not yet wearied himself much with the cares of the world and therefore seems replete with energy whatever the hour. He seems to be bidding a farewell to a similarly young fair-haired girl who insists she must be home before the dawn, and finds his tongue not quick enough to persuade her to stay. So the catch is released and he turns to seek other amusements. First: wine! He finds himself a glassclean or notand leans forward to fill his glass as he turns, but then realizes that he's invading the personal space of a lady he's seen here and there throughout the party, but not yet in close range. "Oh," he says, "P…p…p…pardon me."

Chimène's graceful long body arcs away from this interloper; "No, no," she murmurs by way of politely disclaiming that he has done, that anyone included in this august assembly could possibly have done, anything wrong. Unfortunately then she risks a sip of the wine and finds herself pulling a gruesome face. As a rule she wouldn't. But being right about the vintage proves, in the moment, to be the crowning indignity of a lacklustre evening among too many people she knows.

Symon has straightened up by this time, but he notices the lady's expression right away. "It can't b…be that b…b…b…bad, c-can it?" he says, just managing to maintain a jovial tone through the stuttering. He is undaunted by this dire warning and has a swallow from his own cup. "S…seems all right to m-m-me," he judges, smiling. A half-educated palate spares him the suffering Chimène endures.

The lady's swanlike neck bends, bringing her dark head closer to catch his words over the sounds of the fountain and the violins. "… The Fiscardes had worse," she concedes in her sweet and airy soprano, "last week; or had you not the dubious privilege of sampling it?" She lifts her glass again, eyes it, and upends it over the fountain, returning the swill to the trough whence it came.

"I had not," Symon responds, not following her example in abandoning the libations. He drinks another swallow, eyes remaining curiously on the lady's face. "W…which is p-p-possibly w…why I have not had the p-pleasure of m…meeting you." The stammering comes along with some not-insignificant involuntary facial movement, but at other times he appears charming and composed. At least, for an eighteen year old.

Chimène resigns herself to this accidental acquaintance — he can't be of such low birth or he wouldn't be here, would he? — and brings into languid motion one preposterously long white arm, summer-bare, and one large and long-fingered white hand, thrice-laden with priceless rings, at the farthest end of which Symon will find two silky fingertips to press with his own whilst he bows. Ah, the effortless superiority of one-and-twenty over eighteen. Especially when one is a court-trained young lady, and the other a country gentleman. "How do you do?" she inquires in tones likewise silken. "I am Chimène Rousse de la Courcel."

Symon seems delighted to be offered the opportunity for introduction, taking the hand in his and making her deep a bow that shows that his body is at least more graceful than his tongue. "A p-p-pleasure," he responds. "Symon de P-P-Perigeux," is his return. Though he is not over-grand about it, since one can hardly beat Courcel. "Isn't the m…m…music tonight w-wonderful?"

Reclaiming her fingertips the future duchesse smiles upon the scion of erstwhile ducs, with a regal kindness which doesn't quite verge upon condescension. She really was very well brought-up. "I might wish they knew more different songs," she confesses, "but I suppose they play what they're told to play, don't they—? And there are many who don't care to risk themselves upon the unfamiliar."

A twinkle shows in Symon's eyes as he picks up that this Chimène is quite disappointed with the hospitality here. And that seems like gossip, and gossip is never not fun. "You m…must be b-better v…v…v…versed in the unfamiliar," he concludes. "I like the unfamiliar. B-but even if the tune is dull, the dancing doesn't have to b-be, does it? W…won't you join me? Keep the dawn at b-bay?"

He wasn't wrong, that Chimène was growing more receptive to his company as another taste of the unfamiliar — but at that perfectly courteous and inoffensive invitation to take to the dance floor, the portcullis slams shut and the hatches are battened down. "I don't dance anymore," the lady explains with considerable dignity; "and, in truth, I plan to leave very soon. I had a baby not long ago," though in that shimmering pale blue gown her figure seems marvelously svelte; "you understand," she confides quellingly, certain that he doesn't. But nothing shuts up an inconvenient man like a turn toward the gynaecological.

Symon blinks at the swerve the mood takes, just when it seemed it had been headed in the right direction. Doubtless he is going back over what he has just said, trying to figure out which comment was the one that caused the eyes to harden. "Oh yes," he agrees while still doing the mental figuring. "Goodness, of course." That's right, women just go and have babies sometimes. "P…perhaps I'll see you again somewhere the w…wine is b-better." Having said that, he retreats in search of another dance partner.

Incredible, the things women do. Such as drinking down a whole glassful of inferior champagne, and then another, hardly stopping to take breath.

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