Another short one tonight.
A Fateful Meeting
By Nojh Livic
“Really though, the entire thing is quiet absurd,” Joan assured her companion as they walked down the street. It was mid afternoon and the heat was only partially mitigated by their parasols. Unlike Joan, Marla could not sweat to help keep her internal systems cool but she expected to reach their destination before she was required to seek out a source of coolant. Their destination not far.
“Absurd but none the less entertaining. I quiet thank you for relaying the story to me,” Marla said politely. She was grateful for Joan’s companionship however a story regarding two men possessed of enough spirits to participate in dueling during a garden party was not as entertaining for one who did not attend. Although it was just as likely Marla was not one to enjoy gossip. The two came upon their destination, a house of a size that likely shocked Joan’s sensibilities. Although the woman had enough good manners not to say such in public, she had often lamented that her family’s manor in the city lacked enough space to properly host. The house before them certainly also fit into this category to a much greater degree but did take Marla noted that its entry way and facade were well-kept, unlike similar houses which they had passed.
Marla held open the small gate for her friend. ”Are you sure about this?” Joan asked quietly as they approached the door, pretending to lightly scratch an itch on her cheek with one gloved hand to cover her question. Marla forced herself not to roll her eyes.
Instead she began looking herself over. Setting her small briefcase down, she folded her parasol and hung it from one arm before smoothing out some wrinkles in her skirt and adjusting the fit of her jacket. ”Yes I am sure. I am in need of a diversion and I have no family to look down upon me for collecting pay for my skills and knowledge. There is respect to be had in tutoring. Now how do I look?” Marla presented herself after finally adjusting her hat and gloves.
“Perfect dear, as always. I dare say a bit conspicuous given the locale but you’re always drawing attention to yourself as it is.” Joan sighed dramatically. “If only I could have your skin…”
Marla smiled graciously in order not to smirk. ”You could always paint yourself like the women on clank street.” Marla faced the door again and applied pressure to the house’s announcement plate. Above it was a name plate set in copper with the etching of the family name. Warlam. The faint sound of a bell clanging could be heard from beyond the door.
“Don’t think I haven’t thought of it,” Joan admitted quietly, a faith flush to her cheeks. “But really, I wouldn’t have a thing to wear if I were to take on your shade of silver. I’d have to borrow-” She was cut short by the door opening.
“Hello?” An older woman in a simple day dress and apron inquired, opening the door fully to greet the two women. Past her Marla could see a small view of the house. It was clean but sparsely decorated. In the background there were loud noises that could only be made by children. The woman’s greeting was directed to the pair but her attention directly fell to Marla. She had that effect upon most who had never met her before and she believed Joan preferred her company because of it. In their normal circles, most ignored Marla in favor of the young woman. In the greater world, Marla was the popular one.
“Good afternoon, ma’am. My name is Marla and I am here to inquire about the tutoring position,” Marla asked, curtsying fully.
The woman hesitated a moment before nodding, more to herself than to the two visitors. “I am, um, Lilly Warlam. A pleasure to meet you,” Lilly made her greeting sound almost more of a question than a statement of fact. She had managed to look away from Marla to address Joan but her attention remained divided.
“May I introduce my associate Joan Nel Trayark. She will be providing my references. I do hope the position is still open?” Marla inquired. She clasped her hands together in front of her and offered an earnest expression. She found people got over their initial amazement at meeting her quicker if she kept them engaged with questions and made a point of emoting. It helped them to think of her as a person.
“Oh. Welcome, my lady,” Lilly said to Joan, quickly curtsying. “Would you like to come in?” The question was directed at Joan but Marla was happy to see that Lilly made a point of looking at her in order to include her in the query. She would most certainly prefer to work with someone who would not treat her as subhuman.
“Of course. Thank you,” Marla accepted while Joan smiled and nodded her agreement. The two ladies were escorted into the house. The front door opened into a small foyer where they paused to deposit their parasols before being led into a small hallway that exited not into a receiving room but a small dinning area.
Marla now observed that while the house was indeed clean it was also cluttered and in a state of disarray that did not feel out-of-place. They passed a small study on their way through the hallway that Marla let herself peek. It had the usual wall of scrolls and books and a desk one might expect to find in a study. It also had two tables, one covered with papers, the other with obviously mechanical objects. On the floor in the hallway were several wooden and metal toys likely left out by children. There were no pictures for decoration or rugs covering the floor. Furnishings were obviously chosen for function as much as comfort or appearance. Overall it made Marla feel a bit more comfortable.
As they entered the dining area which was dominated by a large circular wooden table with chairs surrounding it. Lilly moved to it and quickly scooped several items that were upon it into the large pocket the front of her apron formed. Inviting the women to sit, Lilly then excused herself to start some tea while the ladies sat. Marla spied as she bustled away that clutter was yet more mechanical trinkets.
“I suppose the men of the house are guildsmen then?” Joan asked quietly as she looked around at the furnishings. As she spoke a loud banging began, as if someone were hammering on a pile of pots, from an a joining room.
“Yes. The Warlam family has been an associated with the airship guilds for generations, I understand,” Marla settled herself into a chair and laid her hands into her lap. She listened to the banging and surmised it was actually a hammer and the material being struck was likely some form of tin.
“Um,” Lilly said as she entered carrying a small tray laden with cups. A contraption that vaguely resembled a teacup sat at the center. A pressure gauge sat atop it, and there were at least three valve openings that were all closed. The most interesting part seemed to be the lower plate, which was glowing slightly suggesting some kind of energy transference. Lilly set the tray down. “Tea will be ready in a moment. Now how can I help you?”
To be continued.
Well that didn’t turn out short at all. Sorry. The final part will post next time, I promise.
To help explain, Marla is a character in my novel, Everlasting. This story takes place considerably earlier than Everlasting. Since I’m writing this before Everlasting is even done, I don’t expect you to guess why this is a fateful meeting but perhaps, if Everlasting ever gets fully finished, this will have more meaning.