(1311-12-12) Le Camélia Roux
Summary: Émilie makes the acquaintance of a young gentleman she truly desires to attract, and changes colour to match him too…
RL Date: 12/12/2019
Related: None.
emilie soleil 

Second’s Office — Le Lis d’Or

White boiseries, discreetly gilded with a pattern of lilies in which a sharp eye might discern the occasional camellia or dahlia, cereus or eglantine, panel the walls of this airy and well-proportioned chamber in which the business of the Lis d'Or is carried out in an atmosphere of impeccable elegance.

Long gilt looking-glasses mirror the positions of long windows framed by lavender silk drapes: each revealed and reflected prospect upon the salon's gardens seems more ideal than the last. Dainty mahogany or gilt furnishings are arranged in perfect harmony about a porphyry hearth, the tables topped with alabaster and the chairs and sofas upholstered some in white silk and others in lavender and white stripes. Flower-woven Akkadian carpets soften footsteps and lend the warmth of their own rich hues. Gentle light comes when needed from curvaceous glass oil lamps upheld by bronze-doré figures of beautiful nude youths of various sexes, for which some of the salon's earliest adepts are said to have posed.

In the corner farthest from the double doors leading out toward the salon proper stands a desk, in an unavoidable nod towards the chamber's more official purposes. The top of it is never cluttered, but laid out with fine parchment and a tray of pristine white quills, and a statuette of a golden lily from which one may draw violet ink like nectar. Above it shelves set in an arched recess hold ledgers leatherbound in soft shades of blue and lavender and yellow and rose.

Even in the depths of winter fresh hothouse flowers bloom in a rotating array of priceless vases and bowls, scenting the air just sweetly enough.

An Eglantine lutenist with remarkably clever fingers is beguiling the salon of the Lis d'Or with playful melodies, from the midst of a small admiring throng of colleagues and patrons— the novices serving this afternoon are finding it somewhat distracting, and Soleil has come some way inside before one of them notices her, greets her, and answers her inquiry by leading her through open double doors into the corridor consecrated to the business of the house. The boy knocks for her on the door of the Camellia Second, and stands back with a bow. Some moments later a clipped and aristocratic Mont Nuit soprano — a voice Soleil has heard often enough before, though not lately — calls out a tranquil, "Enter."

Émilie Perigeux nó Lis d'Or, to give her the name she has worn with her impeccable couture gowns for less than a fortnight, is discovered sitting on a silk-upholstered sofa close to a small fire lit in her porphyry hearth. She has just laid down her tambour frame in her lap: the white cloth she's embroidering upon spills over skirts of azure blue silk, worn beneath a mantua in a more delicate hue. Her wide brown eyes are fixed on the doorway to see who comes through it. For a moment she doesn't seem to recognise, or to believe— then the slight, composed smile which is her usual expression broadens slightly. "This is a surprise. Do come in." She rises with her embroidery in hand.

"The rumors are true!" Soleil says with a charming smile as she glides across the room, her cloak having been handed off to a servant or a novice downstairs, the better to show off her open-backed golden gown. If anything, she matches the room like she was designed to fit in, like something ornamental, except all done with violets down the spine, for her marque is Gentian, and it contrasts beautifully with her skin and the hue of her dress, giving her a soft and dreamy look. "It is you!"

Putting down her handbasket, she glides across the room to embrace her friend with a delighted smile, offering Émilie a kiss on either cheek in a fond sort of way. "I am over at House Coquelicot now! I have been in town just a smidge longer than you, if my informant was correct, but la! I see that you have set yourself up nicely here. You are going to breathe some life and beauty into Lis d'Or?"

Émilie puts down her embroidery and submits to being kissed as something which is inevitable and well-meant; she returns the gesture, but her subtly-painted coral lips never quite touch Soleil’s cheeks. “I was invited to Marsilikos months ago,” she admits, “but I was asked not to say anything at first… and then you’d gone, and it was too late to tell you I’d be following… do sit here,” she suggests, ushering Soleil to a gilded fauteuil upholstered in lavender and white silk and placing her there as though she were composing a picture— which, in fact, she is.

She takes a step backward and smiles the smile of a satisfied Camellia. “You do look well in my room,” she pronounces. Then she turns toward a cabinet, itself placed well away from the fire, and opens it to reveal an array of bottles and glasses. She doesn’t ask Soleil what she would like. She’s drinking red herself — there’s half a glass on an occasional table next to where she was sitting — but for her visitor she opens and pours something white-golden, with a sparkle of bubbles glinting beneath the facets of a cut-crystal glass engraved with lilies. “I’m not sure what I’m doing,” she admits, whilst her hands are busy, “but after all one must do something…” She sounds vague about it.

"After all the things that transpired, and then my family being so concerned about Grandmother, well, I didn't really make the rounds with goodbyes, did I?" Soleil admits, settling where she's placed and assuming a poised posture, just so that if there were a surprise painting, she'd look quite good. She arranges her skirts just so and makes sure the lines of her neck are properly elongated by her posture, and in general, does her best to look delightfully ornamental. She is, after all, incredibly pretty.

Taking the crystal flute from Émilie, Soleil has herself a delicate taste of things. "Right now I'm just going out and meeting people," she says with ease. "Trying to build up my patron list. And speaking with the novices and adepts, trying to be a good mentor."

Émilie reclaims her own glass and sits along the sofa from where she was before, at an angle unconsciously chosen to present the most flattering prospect upon Soleil— who, with that grace note of glinting crystal in her hand, really does embody the phrase ‘as pretty as a picture’. She runs a deliberately casual hand over her skirts as she settles, perfecting the already ideal, and sips her deep ruby-hued Eisandine red as she nods to her guest.

“You had more than enough to do without going on a parade round the Mont,” she agrees; “I’m sure no one thinks less of you for slipping away quietly… and it’s more stylish, I think,” she decides, “to be discreet, and to inspire curiosity.” Then, with regard to the novices and adepts, she sighs, “Yes — it’s dreadful sometimes, isn’t it, the way they look at one as though one has all the answers, when really what one has usually got is an expanded set of questions—?”

The basket on the floor opens by itself and a little ginger kitten peeks his head out, before jumping daintily out of the basket and sitting down to set his fur to rights. He sniffs delicately once he is done licking his fuzz back into place, and he rises to explore the new room on silent little cream colored feet, curious and mischievous.

Soleil notices him and sighs slightly, clicking her tongue to get him to come to her, which he largely ignores. "My gift from the duc upon leaving has escaped his basket. Please allow me to present Le Chat Roux," she says, gesturing slightly with her crystal goblet. "And yes — when it comes to the novices and adepts, sometimes there is guidance from the canon, and sometimes… well, sometimes the patron is just looking for sexual congress and finds the courtesan in question to be an attractive partner for that, whatever their canon."

Like most people Émilie loses all interest in what Soleil is saying as soon as Le Chat Roux enters the conversation; and then the Gentian is vouchsafed a glimpse of what real interest, and real pleasure, look like when they break through a Camellia’s mask of the same. Émilie slips down from the sofa to kneel in a pool of blue silken skirts and reach out one perfect manicured hand, her eyes alive and bright and fascinated by the sight of a gentleman she truly does wish to attract. “He’s beautiful,” she murmurs, without looking up. She is wearing a golden lily pendant on a blue velvet ribbon tied snugly about her white throat: she hastens to untie it and convert it into a kitten toy, trailing it along her carpet as a temptation. “I’ve always wished I might have a cat,” she admits, “but of course, at Camellia House…”

Le Chat Roux is, as always, the most important personage in the room, and he is very interested in this blue velvet ribbon. He watches it from afar for a long moment, not yet giving in to temptation, and then it moves in just the right way and he stalks towards it, to sniff it and its inevitable perfume. His eyes never leave it, a little greenish study of the ribbon, and he sits down to watch with great interest. Just when one might be certain that he's not going to pounce, he does, catching his little claws in the velvet eagerly and attempting to bite it.

"Thank you," Soleil replies to the compliment, for he is a beautiful little cat, with his orange striped markings and dainty cream colored feet. "And I don't know that you could stand to compete with a cat, my friend. Le Chat Roux steals the scene in every room he's in, making everyone stare at him. But you are welcome to love him and play with him, and I shall continue to be nothing more than his human."

In dialogue with her young orange gentleman Émilie varies the ribbon’s movement, watching him watching it, until her efforts are crowned with success: and then she smiles with sudden brilliance, and unfeigned soprano laughter rings out through her office. “Oh, he does have claws, doesn’t he?” she muses. “Still, one could trim them… Hmm?” And, still dangling the ribbon, with one cream-coloured paw hooked in it, she glances up at Soleil.

“Is that really what you think of me, Soleil?” she asks, and there’s a slight wrinkle of her classical nose before she remembers herself and smooths her expression. “… I suppose you must,” she sighs, gently detaching the tiny paw from the blue velvet so that the game might begin anew. To the kitten as she sports with him, not to his mistress, she elucidates a truth fit to startle any friend or acquaintance of hers: “I don’t like being looked at. I never have done. When I was an adept, and every time I walked into the salon everyone would look up and stare at me, I used sometimes to have to go out again just to throw up. I don’t mind it that much now, of course, but I still… I don’t like it,” she says simply. “Perhaps I ought to have a kitten with me too.”

"I do take a little nail file to his claws, just to gently wear them down so that they don't get too pointy. Kittens are sharp, though, and his teeth are like little needles," Soleil points out as Le Chat Roux plays happily into Émilie's trap, pouncing and flailing and falling all over himself as he tries to bite the ribbon.

"You don't like to be looked at? You're a Camellia, and you're… so beautiful. Oh, darling, I had no idea. You're so effortlessly artful, so perfect, so lovely," Soleil murmurs in surprise, not entirely certain how to react to this news. She shakes her head slightly as if to clear it. "Well, let us get you a kitten. They are not in short supply, and we can get you a companion for Le Chat. You can probably match the fur to your eyes, even. Although if you end up with a female, we may overrun the Night Court with kittens before long."

Feeling, belatedly, that she has gone too far, Émilie looks up at Soleil with more colour than usual in her peaches-and-cream complexion. Le camélia roux.

“It isn’t so unusual among Camellias,” she admits; “when one strives always for perfection, which by its nature is unattainable by anyone but an angel, after a while one sees in oneself only what is imperfect…” Which anyone else would have a tough time finding in her, even when she’s on the floor playing with a kitten. The hand dangling the ribbon is flawlessly manicured, each nail lacquered like a rose petal; her kneeling figure is full of grace as she inclines forward and then straightens; the intricate braided style of her strawberry-blonde hair is glorious from above, behind, below, any conceivable angle, with not a wisp out of place. And the idea of matching the fur to her eyes, has renewed the gleam of interest therein. “I’ve two rooms upstairs as well, that’s enough to keep a cat, don’t you think? … And I’m a Second now,” and she laughs, as if just remembering that pertinent fact, “so I don’t suppose there’s anyone to tell me I can’t keep a cat. The novices will simply have to tidy up after him,” she decides. “Or her.”

"The Novices will fight for the opportunity to clean up after your cat. Trust me. They're very good with Le Chat Roux," Soleil replies with a charming laugh. "I think you're practically perfect in every way, even if you aren't angelically perfect. At least I don't have that hanging over my head. No wonder it's giving you a complex. Oh, Émilie, I am ideally the person to talk to about this. I am skilled at helping people deal with their anxieties and their fears. Yes, some of it comes in dreams, yes, but all of the analysis is done waking, and I have a great understanding of human emotion." As someone who is intensely beautiful herself, but without the pressure to be absolutely perfect, she manages to be effortlessly lovely.

"And getting something to care for that isn't you could be a real solution to your fears about being looked at. They aren't looking at you. They're looking at the cat, of course! And if the cat's human happens to be practically perfect, beautiful without flaw, even better. You can lounge together and be absolutely picturesque!" Soleil adds brightly.

"Oh, let's not have things out of proportion," Émilie insists; "I don't fear being looked at," she stresses, and laughs silkily at the idea, "I merely feel a little uncomfortable." There's a pause as her new friend flops over onto his back the better to strike with all four tiny paws at the ribbon wavering above; she's distracted by exclaiming, "Oh, just look at him—! Doesn't he look soft? Softer than sables, I should think… but if he's playing he might rather not be touched…"

She glances up at Soleil. "I appreciate your kindness, of course," she assures her serenely, "but I find that a new gown and the right lighting do far more good for me than dwelling upon facets of my nature that are unlikely ever to alter… Or perhaps a kitten will cure me of my unbecoming shyness," she ventures, just as the little orange gentleman succeeds in tearing her ribbon away from her and tangling himself up in it. She lets him have it and clasps her hands together at her blue silken bosom, just below her heart-shaped neckline — in fact, over her heart. "The blue and the orange, aren't they ideal—?" she sighs.

"Just because you are in love with my kitten does not mean that you are not lying to me about your mental state," Soleil points out with a little shake of her head, smiling in spite of herself; Le Chat Roux is easily the most perfect little orange gentleman ever devised, and he is playing with gusto with the ribbon. He is fierce, in his own way, and then he loses track of the ribbon, even though it is on the floor next to him, and he goes pouncing …nothing. And then he spies the ribbon again and pounces it, savaging it as if he is a mighty hunter.

"You should pet him. He loves attention. Far more than you do. No one has ever told him that he needs to be perfect. No one has ever drilled it into his tiny little brain that he cannot have his fur out of place. No one has ever told him that he must catch every eye in a room and is a failure if he somehow does not," Soleil points out reasonably, watching Émilie as she takes a casual sip of her wine, effortlessly calm and content. "It's not unbecoming shyness, at this point. It's true anxiety, and talking about it is going to be the only way to work through it. Go ahead. Pick him up. Snuggle him. He won't mind."

<FS3> Émilie rolls Mind+Empathy: Good Success. (5 3 1 3 1 7 5 4 7 2 3 6 7 1)

“… Really, Soleil,” chides Émilie softly. She tucks her feet beneath herself and gathers her skirts, rising lithely to her feet; the velvet ribbon she leaves to Le Chat, and her lily pendant with it. “You know I can’t be seen with cat hair on my gown,” she points out, smoothing pristine blue silk anew as she resumes her perch upon the sofa’s edge. The spell seems to be broken. There’s a Camellia sitting again across from a Gentian, in lieu of a kitten fancier on her knees.

“I think sometimes it’s tempting to turn from a problem of one’s own that one can’t solve, to a problem of someone else’s that perhaps one supposes one can,” she suggests. She takes a sip of her wine and then deliberately meets Soleil’s eyes. “Perhaps one might even make more of it than it deserves, in order to occupy one’s mind when otherwise it hasn’t enough to do but to go over and over the same unwelcome thoughts… especially if one is a servant of Naamah, trained always to think of what gifts one might offer to others. You’ve hardly arrived, yet. You’ll find more patrons soon,” she assures Soleil gently. “But I don’t think I’m one of them.”

Speaking of understanding human emotion.

"Oh, I should be a better friend and not try to work on you. I'm just so eager to get back into work, and so terribly bored with not having nearly enough patrons to work with. But you're right. I want to give. I want to help. And if you do need help, I'm here for you. But if you just need me to be your friend, that's probably for the best," Soleil replies with a little sigh, offering Émilie a wry smile. Meanwhile, Le Chat Roux takes the opportunity to jump up on the furniture, looking to Émilie for a potential snuggle.

“Oh, you see I’m hardly suffering,” the Camellia Second remarks tranquilly, lifting her empty hand to gesture about herself at the elegant sitting-room, the cosy fire in the hearth, the hothouse flowers blooming upon her tables and her desk in cut-crystal vases engraved with the same lilies that adorn Soleil’s glass of sparkling wine… Which reminds her.

“Would you like a little more wine?” she suggests, rising. She glances down at Le Chat Roux, blinking back her regret. Her hands are too disciplined to reach out. “I think you’d better take him,” she suggests, “before he conquers my upholstery as well as my ribbon… He can keep that, of course, I’ll just take the lily and put it on something else,” she adds, as she carries both their glasses across to the drinks cabinet in a rustle of blue silk.

"Yes, well, look at you. Second of a salon. You're doing quite well for yourself, really," Soleil points out as she rises to her feet to collect the kitten, as well as the ribbon, which she removes the charm from to hand to the Camellia Second. "I didn't mean to imply that you weren't, really," she adds momentarily as she plops the kitten in her lap and he sprawls there. She is less concerned about little hairs on her gold silks. "But a little more wine would be lovely."

“I didn’t mean to boast, I just think,” Émilie volunteers, becoming momentarily a Beauty Gazing over One Shoulder as she pauses in between pouring one glass and the next, “you could find needier and more deserving objects for your reforming zeal…” She pours the other, then glides back across the sitting-room, depositing her own wine in passing before trading Soleil’s to her in exchange for the lily pendant. That, she tucks into a pocket before sitting down.

Le Chat Roux as a note of orange in the composition which is Soleil L’Envers upon Striped Silk, is far more to her taste than Le Chat Roux upon white silk. She smiles. “For your friendship, though, I’m very grateful. I spend every hour of the day looking at strange faces and trying to match them all to names. It’s quite relaxing to see a familiar one, and one so lovely.”

Soleil keeps Le Chat Roux cornered and off the furniture, a little ball of furry orange against her soft golden silks, as she takes her crystal goblet of wine with her other hand and lifts it towards her friend fondly. "It is nice to have someone familiar in the city. And think of how perfect we'll look together if we go out walking in the gardens or something! Particularly if the weather improves. It's been so dreadful lately. Generally overcast and cold, with a little sun peeking out here and there. And you know I live for the sun," she says with a little laugh.

“Yes, you were well-named,” agrees Émilie, reflecting her friend’s toast and then setting her wine aside after a quick mouthful. She collects her tambour frame from the other side of the sofa and arranges it in her lap, and retrieves her needle from where it’s tucked in safely at the edge of the cloth. “I haven’t been out since I arrived,” she admits; “I brought with me a dreadful cold in my head, and since I began to recover I’ve had so much to do here. I’m not on duty this afternoon, thank the Companions, but I was last night and tomorrow too.” She essays a tiny stitch and then another. It’s too soon to say what her subject might be — but Soleil will know it’s usually floral, in one form or another. “Most of the time it’s no trouble, of course,” she’s quick to add, “but it does occupy one’s time. Simply being here, in case one is wanted. I hope you’ll have some sunshine soon, even if I’m not free to partake of it with you.”

The kitten in Soleil's lap is very interested in what Émilie is doing now, with the flashing of the needle and the moving of the cloth, and his mistress keeps a steady hand on him so that he stays where he belongs. "I end up doing a certain amount of my own paperwork myself, keeping copious notes for my patrons. It doesn't bother me much, but I do like the freedom to come and go as I please. Still, I am happy to help our adepts with their patrons. They are often very nervous about the long term contracts and need a little friendly compassion and counseling on how to handle those," she says lightly.

Émilie continues her stitching, slowly, with all the precision and fastidiousness for which her canon is known: lavender silk thread drawn through white linen, to Le Chat’s fascination and her own. “I’ve always found it easier,” she ventures after a moment; “once one has already gathered a patron’s idea of the perfect woman, it’s easier to manage it again than to be obliged to guess every time. Of course your canon requires so much more intimacy than mine. It must be overwhelming, sometimes, at that age,” she guesses, looking up.

"Yes. You have to impress them every single time, and you know if you fail the first time that it's going to set you up for more difficulty in the future," Soleil points out as she attempts to soothe her kitten to sleep. He is a cat, and readily naps in her lap for the moment.

"What if you think they want a certain sort of intimacy and they want another? What if you accidentally insult them by doing something innocuous? It happens, and if you never have to see them again, you must only get through one assignation. But a Gentian might end up with eight sessions scheduled, and that is a lot of time to spend with someone who you've gotten off on the wrong foot with, trying to force it to work."

“But do you really contract for so many assignations without writing in provision for the patron to choose another Gentian if the first night goes wrong—?” asks Émilie frankly, this having not occurred to her before. “How can something so intimate be forced? I really can’t imagine trying again,” a slight curl of her lip, “after a faux pas like that.”

"It's usually encouraged for them to try to work together if at all possible, but there's always an out in a contract for the patron and the courtesan to end prematurely. Usually one doesn't select a Gentian without wasting a whole lot of Gentian time first, as it turns out," Soleil points out, but there's no real bitterness to it. "We want there to be chemistry, of course."

Émilie sighs, this being all too familiar a phenomenon. “Yes, as though one’s time had no value to oneself,” she agrees. “I spent eight hours yesterday in the salon, Soleil— eight. And the only contracts I negotiated were other people’s… It was more fatiguing than I expected,” she admits; “I begin to realise just how strict I shall have to be, the rest of the time, to make sure I get my beauty sleep. After all, I’m growing older now,” she says frankly. She leaves her needle part-way through the white linen cloth and reaches for her glass, to take a little wine. “… I’m glad you have that protection, of course,” she adds, “for when it really is impossible.”

"We're all getting older. It's easy to be perfectly beautiful when you're a confident seventeen, done with your debut, far enough along in your marque to feel like you know what you're doing, full of energy for your patrons," Soleil points out with a little shake of her head. "And then, ten years later, you're more careful about how many glasses of wine you have and more cautious about how much sleep you're getting. And where will we be in another ten years? Retired? Married? Consort to some lord?"

The Camellia closes her eyes.

“Don’t let’s think of it,” she pleads, her voice and her air lending an impression of artifice to what is quite genuine. Then her eyes open again in a flutter of long dark lashes. “Not when we’re having such a pleasant talk, otherwise,” she teases wryly. “I can think now of the next ten minutes, or if I must the next ten days, but beyond that…” A slight shake of her head. “It seems impossible even to conjecture. I won’t offer you more wine, then, but if you’ll take something else? Or we might order a saucer of milk for your gentleman,” she suggests, for her gaze is once more playing upon Le Chat Roux, irresistible even at his rest.

"I think we should let the baby sleep. He's tuckered himself out playing with ribbons and ought to be tucked back into his basket," Soleil declares, laughing as she strokes the little fuzzy body in her lap. "I had it all planned out, and then, in a moment, all gone." She shakes her head slightly. "And now that I'm here in Marsilikos, I'm making a new life. We both are. Except that you're a Second, so you're busy with other people's work, and I'm idle."

“It does make one question the wisdom of trying to plan,” sighs Émilie, having recourse again to her wine. On which point, at least, she may be less cautious than Soleil. “I must admit I don’t know who’s the Gentian Second at Coquelicot,” she admits, “I haven’t met them yet, but perhaps there’ll come a time…?” She cocks her head, considering her friend, now nurturing a kitten’s sleep in lieu of a patron’s. “After all, you’re more than qualified.”

"Oh, there isn’t one — the Dowayne is our Gentian," Soleil offers with a little smile. "He appreciates my willingness to mentor the younger ones. We have an adept that I'd like to see in action, but I'd like him to learn how to be intimate with someone without it being sexual. Courtesans so often take the sexual shortcut to intimacy, but things can be greatly deepened through different techniques."

“Oh, I see,” Émilie murmurs, nodding at the correction. But there’s no more to be said there, and she gladly follows Soleil along as she plies her needle across a lavender petal blossoming upon white linen. “You’ve a vocation for intimacy,” she muses, “I think Gentians must have it or must learn it, no? It isn’t always necessary in other canons— thirteen of us,” her lips curve into a smile, “and all more different even than we seem. The confusion in Marsilikos, of three and four at a time, seems sometimes to heighten rather than erase our dissimilarities.”

"Yes, it's quite different than giving someone a massage. You can give someone a massage and have it not be intimate or sexual, just personal," Soleil points out with a little laugh, nodding to this. "You can certainly heal someone, and not have it be intimate or sexual or even personal. For the Balms, it is all about bedside manner and medicine." She laughs suddenly. "In complete opposition to the Heliotropes, who are affectionate, sometimes falling in love with someone with whom they have a very superficial relationship. Frequently a conspicuously superficial relationship. It is meant to be love, but it is often just lust with a sheen of romance."

Spreading her hands, Soleil notes, "And then there are the Gentians, who need intimacy to heal the mind, who cannot truly have a superficial relationship with their patrons or they're likely to fail in their analysis of the dreams."

“A Camellia is always a phantasy of perfection,” is Émilie’s contribution, to this talk much franker than the two women ever had before they were exiles together from Mont Nuit, and so joined together by that implicitly deeper bond; “no one desires intimacy from us, only an angelic remoteness fading with time into— another kind of illusion.” She smiles faintly. “It must seem like intimacy, sometimes, without ever showing what is not their ideal. One must know them very well, as a rule, but without granting them unwanted knowledge in return.”

"I don't think I could ever be a Camellia," Soleil murmurs with a little shake of her head, even though she's rather perfectly gorgeous, a tiny little blonde beauty with inviting features and an ideal shape. "I'd be so terrified that I'd fart or something awful like that. I'd just be petrified. I wouldn't be able to keep up the performance."

Her more statuesque companion shrugs elegantly. “It’s normal to be terrified sometimes,” she suggests, “when one is beginning.” She has already alluded to her recourse to bowl or privy, in her adept days; now, less absorbed in the kitten, she seems simply not to hear any mention of bodily functions. If Camellias don’t hear something, it wasn’t said in front of them. This is a well-known fact. “But I could never do what you do— laying oneself open so, with a veritable stranger.” She shifts upon her sofa, pantomiming a fastidious shudder. “Perhaps we both found our places,” is Émilie’s suggestion, “even if now those places are in… the provinces.” A quick lift of her finely-drawn eyebrows, mocking Marsilikos in a friendly way.

"Well, at least I am not staying with my dear Grandmother. She has upset the entire L'Envers local family, and she's attempted to redecorate the house twice," the petite blonde admits with a little sigh, shaking her head slightly. "You cannot fit another chaise longue into the parlor. It is not possible. It should not be done. She has made it very easy for her great-grand-nephews to play 'the floor is lava' in there."

“Oh, my. How is she otherwise?” And Émilie asks a number of polite questions about the baronne de Vézelay, until Le Chat Roux wakes up to take his leave of her.

Only then, at last, do her fingertips indulge in a tease of his gingery fur, which brings that fugitive gleam of delight back into her eyes and lends a real regret to the ensuing farewells.

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