(1312-05-21) Blue Satin Shoes
Summary: Two exiles from Siovale meet over kahve at La Perle Noire; and Émilie at any rate finds Symon more agreeable than she remembered…
RL Date: 19/05/2020
Related: None.
emilie symon 

Courtyard — La Perle Noire

The courtyard is a narrow rectangle reaching far from the noise and bustle of the Grand Plaza, girded up and down and on all four sides by gracious white marble colonnades in the Hellenic style so favoured by the architects of Marsilikos. Orange trees in terracotta pots stand beside each column, perfuming the air.

In the downstairs colonnade the dark wooden tables are of an ordinary height, and surrounded by chairs save where sofas are set against the walls. White marble steps climb from either side of the doors, into the upper colonnade where tables crouch low upon a cushion-strewn, tiled floor. The orderly and geometric patterns of the tiles pick up the teal-blue and yellow-gold of the upholstery and cushions, toy with them, and augment their hues with cinnabar, azure, and rose.

The middle of the marble floor is left empty around a rectangular pool, too shallow for bathing, tiled in a blue to echo the sky above. A two-tiered bronze seahorse fountain rises from it; on even the warmest Eisandine summer days the water cascading therefrom and flowing slowly through the pool lends an impression of coolness, as well as obfuscating conversation beneath its own murmur. Morning finds seasonal flowers adrift upon the surface of the water; towards evening candles are launched in gleaming glass dishes to illuminate the dusk.

Wet weather closes the courtyard, for the marble becomes treacherous.

This morning the Eisandine summer skies drizzled on and off, and the courtyard of La Perle Noire was very nearly closed for the day. But around lunchtime the horizon clears and Safiye Hanim sends out a couple of local lads with mops to dry the marble— and then one of her Ephesian youths who has quite a way with his flute, the foreign and silvery song of which serves to beguile some of her patrons out of the lounge and into the fresh air.

Being himself quite an aficionado of wind instruments Symon de Perigeux is one such migrant. And he has hardly settled himself in the rain-fragrant colonnade than he has plenty to watch as well as to listen to, including a shallow but exquisitely appropriate curtsey from a cousin of his he hasn’t set eyes on in years, and that was at a party in Elua. Who knows, really, what Émilie Perigeux nó Camellia could be doing in Marsilikos—? Apart from, perhaps, a little shopping in the Grand Plaza. She has a parcel tucked under one arm, which accords ill with the elegance of her toilette, her summery forget-me-not blue silk and the fashionable but not outré angle of the golden straw hat perched upon her pinned-up dark strawberry blonde curls. Duty requires that she make obeisance to her own family’s heir, as to any other; practice ensures that when she straightens and the shadow of her hat recedes to leave her perfectly painted face in the light, she manages to look genuinely pleased to see the family disgrace.

“My lord Symon,” she greets him, but makes no more claim upon him than that.

Symon can hardly get enough of the outdoors this spring, so it is a delight that it is dry enough to take advantage of the courtyard. He only looks up when he's called, and he blinks once as he resolves the face before him and the context he knows it from, but then he beams.

"Oh, hello," he says warmly. "Isn't it m…my cousin Émilie?" He looks like he might stand, but then thinks it might be too much, so instead he gestures at another seat at his table. "Oh, it's b-been so long! W…wouldn't you join me?"

Quite alone and without anyone coming along to lend countenance to an evasion, plain Émilie Perigeux might still have made the attempt— but Émilie Perigeux nó Lis d’Or, a minor public figure in her own right in Marsilikos, has a salon to consider. “Yes… how kind of you, my lord,” she remarks smoothly, and comes to sit next to Symon on his yellow sofa. Out of whatever rays of sunshine might have contrived to get under her tilted straw hat, if she’d taken a chair opposite him. She slips her parcel onto the edge of the table with a muted thump which suggests the contents of it is, at any rate, heavier than meringues. She rustles expensively as she moves; her scent is fresh and lovely, something floral with a warm feminine musk beneath. Courtesans must after all be lovely all over, right down to their low-heeled blue satin shoes…

“I didn’t know you were in Marsilikos, Lord Symon,” she adds with deliberate lightness. She has still the elevated elocution they teach upon the heights of Mont Nuit. “Have you come for the summer? I understand the sailing and swimming are very popular.”

"You are like a b-breath of spring," Symon says, but his tone is much more friendly than amorous. "I quite like your shoes." But he brings his attention back to Émilie's face. "In fact I've b-been hiding away here for some time," he admits. "B-but you're quite right about the swimming and the sailing. I've never b-been too m…much for b-boats, b-but I may take a little trip sometime in the summer. I think M…Marsilikos is fine for m-many things. Not Elua, b-but…not every p-place should b-be Elua."

Émilie tilts her head (and thus her hat) quizzically and studies Symon. “Oh— thank you,” she says, a tad surprised to have received a compliment upon an article of footwear, rather than her lips or her bosom or her eyes. She draws the natural conclusion, and finds it thoroughly congenial. “I have several pairs alike,” she explains, “dyed to match different gowns.”

One of the perfumed young Ephesian men charged with serving coffee and sweets steps out into the courtyard and glances about, seeking. He espies Émilie and comes nearer, and bows over his tray to her and to Symon both. “My lady Second,” he murmurs; “my lord.”

The ceremonial deployment of a copper cup of steaming kahve, a glass of chilled spring water, and a prettily painted pottery dish of powder-dusted Ephesian delight, distracts Émilie sufficiently that by the time she’s thanked the boy and turned back to Symon she’s forgotten what he was saying, and so she just gazes at him with doelike brown eyes and blinks her sooty lashes twice and twice again while she thinks. “… Yes,” she agrees slowly, “one wouldn’t wish everywhere to be like Elua. Think how crowded it would be, and nowhere to get away.”

"I'm sure you do," Symon agrees with a smile. "That m…must b-be nice, to have everything to w-wear just so." He smiles, too, at the serving man. "Right," he follows up. "M…Marsilikos is a little quieter, b-but still has everything one needs. And then one can still have the excitement of v…visiting Elua from time to time."

Émilie pats her parcel as if in testament and begins to take off her pale leather gloves, each of which fastens with a pair of luminous, gold-tinged pearl buttons. She admits, “I haven’t seen much of the city yet, but I can answer for the bookshop across the square— it’s the equal of any I’ve visited in Elua.” She folds the thumbs of her gloves just so and places them palm to palm, atop her parcel. Yes, that’s two books she brought away with her rather than having them sent, because she didn’t want to let them out of her own paws…. for which her gloves now stand substitute. “… Do you take coffee here often, Lord Symon?” she inquires.

"Oh, how good to hear," Symon says, although he certainly isn't from here. "I hope the b-books p…please you as much as they p…promise to." He smiles and reaches for his cup. "Oh, from time to time," he says. "In truth I like the sweets b-better than the drink. B-but then I suppose the b…bitter makes them the sweeter. And the atmosphere is good. Interesting p-people tend to turn up."

“Then you ought to have mine,” suggests Émilie, deploying two fingertips with rose-petal nails to nudge her own dish of Ephesian delight over the table to meet Symon’s. “I never eat it.” Then she touches the side of her cup, gingerly, speculating upon its temperature and drinkability. “Is that a compliment for me, my lord?” she wonders. “I suppose,” she turns an apologetic smile upon him, “I thought you didn’t care much for courtesans, or for cousins.”

"W-well, p-perhaps," Symon allows, "If you don't m…mind." But he doesn't reach for the dish yet, instead looking up thoughtfully. "There are exceptions to b-both of those feelings, you know. Actually, cousins are p-perfectly all right so long as they don't come w…with m…messages on b-behalf of the family. As for courtesans," he looks back toward Émilie. "It's not antipathy, exactly. Just, if I don't contract with them, I can b-be that m-much more p…p…profligate with my m-money elsewhere."

“I don’t mind at all,” Émilie assures him. Her perfect pink lips just barely twist as she adds, “I don’t like the stickiness on my fingers… Perhaps if they gave one a fork,” she muses, the thought just striking her. “I haven’t any messages for you, my lord,” is her next soothing statement. “I’m sure I’d be the last person to know what’s going on in Siovale.”

Symon takes one at that assurance and chews it over while Émilie speaks. He smiles a little and shrugs. "I thought that w…was m-me. Good to hear. W…will you b-be in M…Marsilikos long, then?"

Émilie is just lifting her cup of kahve, cautiously, held in both hands, when her eyes widen. “I don’t know,” she says honestly; “I suppose that depends upon what length of time you would consider to be long, Lord Symon, as well as everything else… I live here,” she explains, “since last December. One of the Night Court salons, the Lis d’Or, invited me to join them as Second of Camellias, and I did.” She seems to have forgotten the cup in her hands.

Symon looks likewise a bit wide-eyed. "Oh, I don't know," he replies. "You said you hadn't seen m…much of the city, so I thought p-perhaps…" He shrugs. "B-but anyway, it's good you're here."

Again Symon is favoured with Émilie’s first thought, easily spoken in the shadowy colonnade and without meeting one’s interlocutor’s eye. “Is it?” she asks. But she hastens to add, “My lord, it’s kind of you to express yourself so. The truth is that my new duties occupy a great deal of my time… I won’t insist,” and she looks to him again with a wry smile, “that you come and visit us one evening and allow me to introduce you to our beautiful young adepts, amongst whom I feel certain you’d find a flower of just the hue you’d most desire to pluck— et cetera, et cetera. But perhaps you’ll indulge my curiosity by telling me how you like to spend your coin instead…?” she hints, turning the talk back towards Symon and his own interests.

"You m…mustn't insist," Symon returns brightly. "M-my failure to turn up and spend m…money is surely the only thing keeping M…Mother from snatching me b-back to Siovale at his rate." He laughs faintly and drinks from his cup, which has surely cooled a bit by now. "I already spend m…more than I should on food, and clothing, the occasional trip somewhere interesting w-when something is going on…" He probably doesn't mean for his answers to be intensely vague.

Émilie arches her immaculately-plucked eyebrows. “But that sounds perfectly normal,” she protests, “for a man in a position such as yours…” Her own sartorial budget is something like a duchesse’s, and likewise allowed as a business expense. “It does House Perigeux credit for its heir to be turned out well, to be seen in society as you are, and to offer good patronage to merchants and artisans. And to the Night Court as well, if that were your pleasure. Is there really some trouble about it?” she asks him tentatively, in a lowered voice.

Symon lifts his own eyebrows in return. "I w…would've thought you… No, you're right, none of it is p-particularly a p…problem, necessarily," Symon says, "Except that I seem to have a b-bit of trouble getting m…married."

Quick as a flash, the light of understanding illuminates Émilie’s gaze. “Oh,” she exhales, her voice still pitched low, just for him. “Yes, I suppose your parents must want you to… My brother is the next after you,” she remarks, “and they wouldn’t like that at all, would they?”

"Naturally, no. They w…would still, at this p-point, p…prefer me. B-but I test them." Symon smiles and reaches for another of the sweets. "And now even m…most of my friends that I've m…made since I got here have gotten m…married and I'm starting to b-be rather the odd m-man out." He shrugs and eats.

The scent of kahve rising from the cup in her hands leads Émilie to discover its presence anew; and it’s cool enough by now that she can take several mouthfuls straight away and enjoy the pleasant buzzing beneath her neat curls and her dainty hat. “The call of duty,” she observes, and shakes her head. Buzz, buzz. “Perhaps you’d better just find a nice girl and make her a marquise for the family’s sake. I’m sure you’d be met with no lack of interest, even come down as far as we have… Or don’t,” she suggests lightly, “if you love my brother so well. I don’t like him very much, myself,” she offers in all candour, “and I don’t think he likes me.”

Symon smiles again and shakes his head. "I'm afraid I don't remember him," he says. "So I can hardly b-be obstinate for his sake. B-but no, you're quite right. I'll just find someone. It's spring now. The time for it."

Which remark only serves, alas, to remind Émilie that: “The Night Court too grows busier in the spring… I ought to go, my lord, if you’ll forgive me—? My time is stolen,” she admits, offering him that lovely but apologetic smile again over the rim of her cup, “from my adepts.”

Symon nods at this leave-taking. "Oh, it was lovely of you to sit w…with me," he says. "I'm sure w-we'll m…meet again. P-perhaps at my w…wedding." That last bit must be a joke, from the way he grins.

The sweets are all gone by now; after another mouthful of her coffee Émilie collects her books and her gloves and goes too, leaving Symon with her promise to join in the celebrations.

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