(1310-12-19) Talking Piffle
Summary: Symon calls upon Chimène bearing gifts, including an apology.
RL Date: 02/01/2019
Related: Swan Dive.
chimene symon 

Rousse Residence — City of Elua

It's a beautiful, bright winter day of the type that sends hard, clear sunlight streaming through any window left uncovered. About an hour before, an arrangement was delivered: fragrant branches of fir, holly with glossy berries (tucked in among other things so it will not prick fingers or catch skirts or shawls), and the best of the local winter-blooming flowers in red and white. A small piece of paper among the branches has an S in Symon's unmistakeable large, sloppy script, and the other side reads 'will call later' in the same hand. For once, everything is even spelled correctly. And so it is that an hour later Symon is sending a servant to inquire whether Chimène might be good enough to see him.

Since its ceremonial reopening for the winter season the Rousse family's residence in the City of Elua, a walled-off palace on the best side of one of the noble district's most fashionable squares, has been masquerading as a hothouse. Fresh arrangements of out-of-season blooms arrive daily for the lady Chimène, from cousins and friends and aspiring lovers; and even from faithful patrons of Eglantine House who still in their cups speak of what it was to see her dance… Her maids triage these offerings, of course, and disperse them about the house in the chambers she's most accustomed to occupy. There are also in residence lady cousins who receive from time to time floral tributes of their own. Altogether it's a heady atmosphere, made more so by the ladies' own perfumes as they rustle in and out of the house in a rainbow of extravagant gowns, bent upon parties and pleasures.

When Chimène wakes, naked and alone in the middle of that great canopied ducal bed made up with her own soft, cool, hemstitched white linen sheets, she is at first absorbed in dealing with the fur in her mouth and the hellish pounding in her head, and no wonder. But once her quietest and most sensitive maid has served her usual Elua breakfast — a concoction consisting chiefly of raw eggs, which yet burns its way down every inch of the interior of her delicate swan-throat — and put up her hair with gentle hands decanted her into a steaming hot bath, she contrives to get both her bleary hazel eyes open at the same time and they happen to fall upon a display of the best bits and pieces to have arrived whilst she slept.

The evergreen wreath, now, that's unusual: in her circle it is thought more chic to be unseasonal. The berries are so red they hurt to look at; nonetheless, her imagination is engaged, and at length she inquires, "Who sent that one?"

And so, when "S" does indeed "call later", the servant who admits him discovers via a conference with Chimène's women that he's expected; and a liveried lackey is soon escorting him through a suite of half-lit reception-rooms, laid out in the old style, and into the ducal suite wherein the progression terminates.

No doubt it's all very splendid — the firelight just suffices to bring out a gleam of polished wood here, of gilding there — but the drapes are drawn shut against the late afternoon sunshine, and the exact dimensions of the salon are impossible to determine in the resultant gloom. Chimène is alone: a puddle of white silk and lace on a chaise near the fire, and a dark head resting upon a satin pillow.

Symon smiles placidly at the gorgeous surroundings, a basket gripped in one hand. "Well, good m…morning," he greets, though it is not morning by any typical definition. Symon is clever enoughor hung over enough himselfto keep his voice down, though it is cheerful. "You look p…poetic." It sounds like a compliment. He pulls back the cloth covering his basket. "I w…wonder if joie is the last thing you'd w-want to hear of right now or the first."

It is so morning; they've a consensus agreement on the subject, sealed when Chimène replies in a distant, frail soprano voice: "Good morning, Symon."

She doesn't seem to have the strength to lift her poor poetic head, but her hazel gaze languishes downward from Symon's face to his basket. "… Perhaps not yet," she temporises, though of course in anticipation of his arrival a decanter of red wine has been put out on a convenient low table, and she appears to be halfway through her own glass of that life-giving liquid. "Won't you sit?"

Symon sets his basket someplace that seems the least rude, perhaps another table not far away so as not to crowd the wine. "How kind," he says. "I know you m…must b-be busy, b…but I did w-want to come by if it could be at all p…possible to see you." He helps himself to a seat. Then, after a hesitation, a glass of wine. "You don't m…mind?" he inquires softly. Then once he's settled he looks at Chimène. "Of course you realize I've come to b…beg your forgiveness."

Chimène shifts upon her chaise, turning further onto her hip to face her visitor where he sits. The light falls upon her well-brushed dark hair, more lustrous than the blue satin beneath it. "It feels," she says vaguely, "as though it was such a long time ago already, doesn't it? Though I suppose it's only a fortnight…" She trails off; in all likelihood, she would prefer to hear some of that begging he mentioned, before she goes so far as to concede he's forgiven.

"I find I cannot forget it," Symon replies with a rueful smile. And he does not even drink his wine, yet! "One of m…my w-worst errors yet, and that is saying something. It w…was never m-my intention to p…put you in a difficult p…position. I imagined things unfolding quite differently! B-but instead of p…pleasing two friends and having the chance to m…meet a w-wonderful third, I only offended all." He does indeed look sorry about it, reminiscent of a dog looking very remorseful after having broken a vase. The dog may not know what the vase was or how exactly it got broken, but it knows that the brokenness is Bad and that it has caused the unhappy event.

"… Oh," the lady sighs at last, closing her eyes to demonstrate an exhaustion not purely affected, and then opening them again with the utterance of another small sound of exasperated fondness: "I shan't give you a lecture, Symon, I know you don't like those and so they don't do you any good. But you must see it was awkward for me to learn the night before the journey that I was expected to include a complete stranger in my retinue, without a word of warning, let alone a proper introduction — and I don't doubt his servants as well as you and yours, and when my papa-in-law is already so inclined to castigate me for my extravagance in traveling and entertaining — though how he expects me to keep state for House Rousse on anything less, I don't know," she points out pettishly. How is this not a lecture? Perhaps because it concludes with: "Oh, drink your wine, darling, and show me what you've brought me. I did like your wreath."

Symon gratefully has a sip of wine. "I had every intention of m…making an introduction," he replies, inclining his head forward, "And of discussing it w…with you, b-but I had completely lost track of m…my dates, you see. I thought I still had time to ask. And I'd no intention of him approaching you alone, of that you can b-be sure. Really I thought he m…might amuse you. He does a new kind of dancing, you know…" He trails off, tightening one corner of his mouth and shakes his head regretfully. "B-but look at all the trouble I ended up causing you instead. M…my fear is that if your sister came w…with you, I may have done her grave offense as well." That says, he heaves a faint sigh, but fetches his basket. "I b-bought a joie I thought you m…might like. I hope you found the arrangement cheerful in a w…wintry sort of way." Here he flashes teeth in a smile.

All of this sounds so plausibly Symonic that whatever ire might have lingered on in Chimène's heart through two long weeks of travelry and revelry, during which she has had so much else to occupy her that in truth she's given it all far less thought than he seems to have done— well, it dissipates, doesn't it? One cannot be cross with him for very long, unless one is given to kicking puppies.

"Well, as it happens Fleur didn't come," she says absently; "I couldn't persuade her to it. I begin to think she's enjoying her unhappiness too much to amend that state. I did and I do want you to know her; perhaps when we're all back in Marsilikos with nothing to do till the sun starts shining again? She does need friends, and I don't know anyone who talks piffle better than you do, darling." She begins to sit up, to pay due attention to his offering of joie: but the movement of her head provokes a delicate wince, and she lays it down again with care.

"How p-perfect," Symon says, smiling sunnily enough that he cannot possibly have taken her words as an insult. "You are terribly good." He unpacks the joie and brings it a little closer so she may inspect. "Have you b…been having any fun at all?"

"… Not really," Chimène allows in an even smaller voice; "I've been going about with my cousin Hugues and he isn't so amusing as you are. I almost took him to bed out of sheer boredom — but I'm so glad I didn't." She examines the bottle held up thus for her approval, her ivory brow furrowing for an instant as she reads the date on the label. "Oh, heavens," she murmurs, letting her eyelashes flutter as she looks up to Symon's face, "what a handsome apology. Do put it on the mantel and I'll try not to drink it all at once, without you."

Symon smiles, pleased that he can at least count on his dear friend to /notice/ when he is turning his pockets out with remorse. He sets the bottle gently on the mantel and turns to look at Chimène. "B-by the way… You m…mustn't let my foolishness sour you on Étienne, he's dreadfully interesting and kind-hearted. If he offended you it must only b-be b…because he is foreign and doesn't know one thing from another yet. He w…was so terribly upset to think he'd offended you, you know." He smiles. "If you do m…meet him again, you ought to give him another chance. It w…was my fault things got confused; he'd never m…mistreat you on p-purpose. And actually he is quite clever and amusing."

Chimène makes a moue, and sighs. “Do you really like him so much?” she wonders, in a tone doubtful but not wholly opposed to the possibility of being convinced. “I must say he didn’t seem prepossessing, or perhaps that was just the contrast with my other company… I’d just won a very pretty Glycine,” she confides from beneath lowered eyelids, “and quite a bit of my own gold back too. You see, that night I debuted my new system…”

And these two frivolous beasts, reunited in their old sympathy, drink their Bordeaux wine and talk their piffle until the future duchesse de Roussillion can no longer swallow her yawns and chivalry demands she be left alone to sink into a ladylike little nap.

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