(1310-08-27) The Harbour and the Bay
Summary: Two neighbours fortunate in their harbour views discover they are fortunate also in one another.
RL Date: 01/09/2018 to 05/09/2018
Related: None
oriane clementine 

Maison de la Porte Bleue ~ Salon

Two square chambers are united by broad sliding doors of black-painted wood, creating a double cube lined with simple white boiseries and floored by squares of dark and light parquet in an echo of the marble downstairs.

The resulting combined salon is sparsely furnished with a few small chairs and tables light enough to be rearranged at will, their styles mismatched but harmonious, all of them painted white. In the rear chamber a single large sofa covered in deep sapphire-blue velvet is placed against the wall to the left as one enters it, across from the fireplace to the right.

The small balcony overlooking the Rue du Port, is echoed by a much larger one on the opposite side of the double cube, between the sofa and the hearth. Sliding doors, similar to those in the middle of the salon but set with diamond-shaped panes of leaded glass to let the light in, give onto a fragrant bower suspended amidst a magnificent view of the harbour. Small orange trees grow in pots, scenting the air with their sweetness; the blue wrought-iron railings are festooned with windowboxes planted with such useful household staples as rosemary, thyme, basil, sage, and lavender. And, for pleasure's sake, every white flower that might hope to thrive in the climate of Marsilikos has a place here, whether in a hanging basket or a pot moved inside at night. Overhead stretches a black and white striped canvas awning, the angle of which can be adjusted by lever to provide shade to plants and persons resting beneath it as the southern sun moves in its course.

The house with the blue doors in the Rue du Port is vacant for a long time, until the late summer of the year 1310. Then workmen begin to come and go. In the daytime their hammering and sawing is a minor plague upon the houses at either side, but it doesn’t go on for too many days. One evening there’s a black and white striped canvas awning over the rear balcony, that wasn’t there in the morning. Another day black and white windowboxes appear hooked over the blue wrought-iron railings. And another day the blue paint on the doors is smartened up.

The workmen, and the women servants who follow in order to clean up after them, are pleasant enough in brief encounters with other domestics of the neighbourhood, but disinclined to say much about their employer other than that she is a widow who has only recently arrived in Marsilikos and taken a fancy to the house. A white-haired old lady in a black silk gown is seen, once or twice, going in or out of the blue doors; belowstairs gossip, which makes its way up the stairs with the usual swiftness, is that she must be the new tenant.

Then one day the balcony at the back of the house is fragrant with small orange trees in pots, and that white-haired lady makes her first appearance upon it, in a black apron, with black gloves to protect her hands and black linen sleeves to protect her simple white silk gown. Beneath her black and white awning, and with the aid of a neatly sectioned basket of gardening tools, she is planting seedlings in her black and white boxes. It is almost a surprise to see that they aren’t black and white too, but green, or the tell-tale hue of lavender.

Anyone who happens to step onto the balcony next door could see her.

Houses on the seaward facing side of La Rue du Port are amongst the most sought after residences outside of those to be found in the noble district. The views across the harbour and bay afforded to those whom are lucky enough to snare for themselves such a property, ensures that the balconies and terraces that cling to the rear of the buildings are imaginatively created and very well used. That the house with the blue doors had been vacant for so long is a mystery, but anyone seeking to purchase it would find that it's mainly due to the owner; a cantankerous merchant with gout who, for reasons unknown, has turned down every offer made on it. Which makes it all the more unusual that it's now been sold. It makes the new tenant a 'person of interest', for surely strings have been pulled, or favours been called.

It has become routine for Clémentine in the weeks since her marriage to Pierre, to spend the afternoons upon her own little portion of balconied real estate. It's the time of day that she sets aside for the dealing with of correspondence relating to l'Opéra Marsilikos, and also indulges herself in the writing of letters of a more personal nature. Dressed in pale green silk that does much to complement the creaminess of her complexion and the richness of her hair, she catches in the periphery of her vision the movement next door, and her quill is set down.

She'll allow herself a moment or two's indulgence within which to study their newest of neighbours, the addition of potted trees on the balcony next door adding an extra layer of privacy to the ones that her own afford. Stately, verging on tall. Elegant. An air about her that would suggest she's of noble birth. Curiosity killed the cat, and though there's a certain feline quality to the slant of Clémetine's eyes, she's d'Angeline through and through. Besides, it's etiquette and politeness, not curiousity (or so she'd claim), that has her pushing to her feet and walking to the side of her terrace where it abuts to the one that's newly painted in blue.

"Good afternoon, my lady." A curtsey is swept. She offers no more than that, perhaps waiting for Oriane to notice and acknowledge her first, before diving off into a prattle of introductions.

The gardening lady’s eyes lift from a seedling she is unwrapping from its protective cheesecloth, just in time to admire that flawless curtsey. They are blue eyes, kind, intelligent, a little reserved.

“Good afternoon,” she returns, in an alto voice bearing no trace of a regional patois, but only the elevated accents of the City of Elua. “I was told the advantages of this house were its vantage, its boiseries, and its excellent watertight roof. No mention was made,” she confides, smiling, as she steps neatly around one of her little orange trees to come nearer, “of such a beautiful neighbour. How do you do?” And, stripping away one black glove, she reaches out to clasp Clémentine’s fingertips with her own across the narrow gap between the blue railings and the black(?). Her hand is well-kept and very soft, and she wears a signet ring turned presently toward her palm, obscuring its device. Closer to, the lines about her eyes become apparent, and her age resolves itself to match her snow-white hair. She was a beauty herself — not that long ago, either.

"How very kind of you to say." The smallest of blushes warms Clémentine's cheeks, and she looks genuinely touched by the compliment paid. Her hand is light in Oriane's. "Clémentine nó Trevalion de Delaunay." A smile touches her lips. "It is only recently that I have moved here myself. My husband wasn't in favour of living either at my own previous address or his, so we compromised with this. Not…" she goes on to add, "… that it is by any means a compromise — for it is everything that I have dreamed of." Unlike Oriane, Clémentine does have a regional accent, one that’s been acquired during her years spent in the southern-most city of Terre d'Ange, and betrayed in the gentle rounding of her vowels that softens her words. "Forgive me, but you are newly arrived to Marsilikos? I would know had I met you before, and I am certain that I have not."

The nicety of a hand-shake now done, she reclaims her fingers from Oriane's and places it atop the railings (black with gold-tipped finials) instead.

When the redheaded beauty feels obliged to correct herself and sing the praises of her home, lest the very stones and tiles and glass panes of it feel slighted, Oriane’s polite social smile softens into an expression more suggestive of genuine, unprompted feeling. She nods her understanding; she listens as attentively as, well, a courtesan might, her white head inclined toward Clémentine the better to hear every word over the not too obtrusive sounds that rise to them on the breeze from the harbour and the sea. She keeps just barely in her awning’s shade.

“… I recall Louis de Trevalion sitting in my garden,” she begins, with the air of one dredging the depths of an inexhaustible font of memories, “eating peaches we picked together and drawing a boastful comparison with the cheeks of his favourite courtesan. His songbird, I should say,” she clarifies; “for that is the name he would give her. My peaches,” she explains confidentially, her hair shining as she leans a fraction nearer, out of the shadow and into the summer sunlight, “came off rather the worse for it. At the time I felt the slight — but now I think I see, do I not?” She allows herself a modest but knowing smile, implying that the duc de Trevalion had the right of it, and that her gardener’s pride must simply accept such mortification.

And then she corrects her own brief lapse in courtesy. “… But you must forgive me. My name is Oriane Somerville de Toluard. You are quite right, I have not been long in Marsilikos.”

"You are acquainted with His Grace?" The question slips easily from Clémentine's lips, and there's a warmth to her tone that speaks of a fondness for the Duc. That question becomes more of a rhetorical one when that acquaintance is further elaborated upon by the mention of peaches.

"How very like Louis."

The most magical of smiles flirts with the corners of her mouth, and eyes of the clearest blue meet in shared amusement with Oriane's. "You are astute, my lady, though I blush that my cheeks were a topic of conversation between yourself and His Grace." And she does, it's no lie, the faintest wash of colour stealing its way across her cheeks to lift and warm her complexion just enough that it doesn't clash with the red of her hair. A feat in itself.

"But I confess…" Clémentine hesitates before going on to say, "…that your name is not unknown to me, for even had His Grace never mentioned you personally, it would be hard to claim ignorance of whom you are. I am so very sorry for your loss." Quiet compassion shows in the manner with which she speaks of the older woman's bereavement, with no over-emotional expressions of sadness for Oriane’s plight (for surely she has dealt with that time and again). A leaf is pulled from the bay tree beside which she stands, and it's methodically crushed between her fingers as she contemplates her best way forward. "His Grace's health has not been the best of late. He writes and tells me he expects to winter here in Marsilikos. I must write him back and tell him of my delightful new neighbour." Her smile returns. “I shall include a peach with the package.”

The retired courtesan’s colour is one that any connoisseuse of beauty (or, for that matter, ripe fruit) must admire. And Oriane does, idling by her blue railings with one gardening glove on and one off as though she hasn't any duty in the world to draw her away from the enchanting tableau on the other side of them. Seedlings? What seedlings? Her only fidget is nudging her signet ring to face outward, displaying the “Œ” formed with a crescent moon which for many years sealed not only her own private correspondence, but that of the duc de Toluard. In truth, she's glad to have her curiosity satisfied — and glad of the interruption to her own thoughts…

Then, offered condolences with such graceful candour, the widowed consort straightens her head, bringing her face again into the awning’s shadow. In the same moment her smile loses its ease, as though even at a year’s distance the reminder is a sobering one.

“My dear, thank you,” she says quietly, after a moment. And then she goes on, creating the deliberate impression that her thanks are for removing a lesser burden from her mind, as well as acknowledging the greater one that must remain. “His Grace’s illness is spoken of in Elua, of course, but as usual little is said to the point — and then the last letter I had from him was full of my concerns and not his own, leaving me none the wiser as to his condition.” Spotless white silk ripples over her shoulders as she shrugs, elegantly helpless in the face of such generous epistolary manners. “If we’re to be given the opportunity to see for ourselves, and so soon, what a relief! And I trust that he’ll be all the better for a mild winter, and the sound of your voice.”

One duc’s death, another's illness; before the mood between the two women can plummet over the railings and into despair, Oriane too seizes upon the thought of that peach. “Then he shall guess,” she claims, “that I’ve been telling tales…” One corner of her mouth lifts, lending her smile a more youthful air. “Of course he did tell first. It’s unfair, don’t you find, that an Azzallese nobleman should be smitten with such a passion for the south? Perhaps it was his tales of sea air and softly coloured houses, and such fine fish for dinner every night, that lured me here without my knowing it…” Her blue gaze lowers to Clémentine’s fingers and the mangled bay leaf caught between. “I think I shall want a bay tree of my own,” she adds irrelevantly.

Clémentine inhales the fragrant oil that now paints her fingers, a smile of amusement at Oriane's observation on the duc and the telling of tales. "Indeed, he did. But perhaps I am glad that such is the case, for it has now served as an introduction between ourselves — even before we met." The remains of the leaf are released from her fingers, and they flutter through the railings as she pauses before speaking again. "Louis…” she uses the familiar form of his name now, “… is hoping to be here towards the end of this month, and will spend the majority of his time at the Trevalion Townhouse. His daughter, Lady Regina, is currently in residence there. I've not run into her since her arrival in the city, though I am given to understand that she is quite the loveliest thing. His nephew however, Ser Augustin Trevalion, has called upon me a time or two. Have you, yourself, had the pleasure of meeting with either?"

Another leaf is twisted into her fingers, and a tug is given to snap it free from the tree, her expression clearing a little as thoughts of a more domestic nature push to the fore "Bay is such a wonderful herb, and one which is excellently used by our cook for flavouring the fish chowders she makes. You simply must come for dinner one evening so that you might see for yourself that what you’ve been told is quite true. The harvest from the coastal waters here in the south is yet to be matched. We can even find you a bay of your own to add to the plants on your terrace, though this particular one, Pierre confessed to me, came from the Delaunay Estate." Her eyes glint with humour at the confession to come. "I'm not too certain whether he simply took it, or whether he asked, but here it is now.” A caress of the leaf. “As are the peach trees and the lemons which he also acquired. They do wonderfully well on our terrace."

Oriane concedes with a smile that she may well have met either or both of those young sprigs of House Trevalion, though at the moment she can’t quite recall the faces that might match their names; and then the talk turns to sprigs and cuttings of another kind, and her still-lovely face grows again more animated, more amused. “Do they? How relieving — I’m already so fond of my new orange trees, I shouldn’t like to think I’ve condemned them to an early demise,” she chuckles quietly, glancing at the nearest specimen as though to reassure herself of its health.

“I haven’t your husband’s good fortune in knowing an estate garden I might pilfer from — I bought them from a merchant who deals in exotic plants and animals and so on,” she explains. “His wife very generously let me take a few cuttings from her kitchen garden,” she nods to her temporarily arrested replanting project, “as a beginning for my own… I’ve engaged a local woman to cook for me; I’ve been pleased with every dish she’s sent up, so far, but she has not been so bold as to essay a chowder. I’d accept your invitation with the greatest pleasure. I am usually,” she smiles, and breathes out a light and murmurous sigh, “at home in the evenings.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License