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Author Topic: Beautiful, Dirty, Rich  (Read 310 times)

Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
« on: December 14, 2019, 11:45:28 PM »
Amongst the tinkle of crystal and polite laughter, the noose was tightening. Jarek felt the pressure, a distant dread knotting in his gut every time he glimpsed his father's salt and pepper hair through the glittering crowd. He had eleven days. Eleven days until he would be expected to present his latest connections and business ventures, to justify his continued existence to his father, competing with his brothers and sisters for even the briefest glimmer of approval. Together they would sit in that uncomfortable marble hall once more, at that long, broad ebony table, sweat cooling unpleasantly on the backs of their necks. United and divided all at once.

It was getting hard to breathe.

Servants circulated with plates of food and drink, illustrious guests spilling out of the manor house to congregate in the colourful gardens and on the pristine lawns. Galeran Valdeze was a faultless host, gregarious and generous, on first-name basis with each and every person who sailed gracefully through his doors. In that moment, Jarek almost hated his older brother. Galeran was undoubtedly prepared for the next Valdeze family meeting, any alliances formed tonight little more than the proverbial cherry on top.

Perform. Perform, perform, perform, perform.

Swallowing this rare feeling of uncertainty and inadequacy, Jarek did precisely that. He worked his way through the crowd, smiling brightly at those he knew, laughing at their weak, stale jokes, and getting acquainted with those few who were strangers to him. Most at least recognised the violet-eyed man, if not by virtue of his influential family, then on his own merit through his numerous victories in fencing and sword fighting.

And still the wolf in the crowd watched.

Lifting a glass of sparkling wine from a passing silver platter, Jarek drifted to the edge of the gathering, allowing himself a small moment of respite. He felt a little more in control, a handful of interesting rumours having reached his ears. Intangible though they were, and as yet unproved, they still counted as something. Predatory purple-hued eyes scanned the merrymakers as he sipped his wine, knowing that this was an ideal hunting ground, and that there was no excuse for failure, nor for being lacklustre. It was then that his attention snagged on red hair of a shade that was curiously familiar, and as he drew nearer to the young figure his sense of certainty only grew.

"Lady Stamper?" Jarek's voice was shaped with askance, for it would be rude to make assumptions. Alice had left Wall Sina for the military, he knew, but the title of her birth was inherent, not one earned through rank or promotion. "It has been a while."

Re: Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2019, 04:31:38 AM »
Fingers circled by precious stones and fine silver held loosely to a glass of red wine, its contents swirling with subtle twists of the wrist. The bracelet that clinked ever so slightly against the thin stem of the glass was too extravagant for her. Alice favored things that were so much more subdued, now, because she saw all of this for what it was. She saw that jolly men in ill-fitting suits and women with perfectly laid curls were the product of a sinister structure that took from those who were the least valuable, these days. To stand among them, adorned with jewels and silk, she saw herself to be no better. She took a delicate, lady-like sip of wine, smiling with scantily hidden disinterest as a man thirty years her senior spoke to her of marriage.

The front of Alice’s navy blue gown was drawn gently into her free hand as she excused herself from the conversation under the pretense of having spotted her mother. The ruby-red gloss on her lips was sticky like honey, and she wished nothing more than to wipe it away. This glamour was a costume, feeling cheap in spite of each ring she wore amounting to a common man’s wages for a year.

Alice swept through the crowd like a cool breeze, the faintest presence that carried itself away the moment it was felt. She had been skilled with this from the beginning, learning evasive maneuvers of the social elite like a second language. This room was not unfamiliar, either; she had attended gatherings of this sort here before, though it had been in her childhood. A year or two before she left home, perhaps. Time had grown so difficult to understand after she lost Robin, truth be told, so she scarcely even made the effort most of the time. Thinking of it too long put her through ‘spells’, as her mother called them. Alice called them hysterics. Stupid fucking hysterics.

“Lady Stamper?”

Oh, Christ; wasn’t it ever obvious that she tried to escape to the corners of rooms to avoid being spoken to? Her parents would detest that she did such a thing, but really, it wasn’t as if they ever spoke of anything productive, or even funny. Even so, Alice slipped with ease into the model of nobility she was meant to be. ”Ah, Lord Valdeze!” she exclaimed, as if she were surprised at all. She curtsied, irritated that she had to do so in such uncomfortable shoes, yet again. ”Certainly it has. I dare say there must be a lot to catch up on, though I must confess with utmost sincerity that I cannot recall what we spoke of last so long ago.” Well, at least there was this little dose of familiarity to make Jarek’s presence bearable. It would be fine to reminisce for a moment, she supposed, if it meant the night might move along any quicker. “If I may be so blunt as to say this, I do find myself a bit shocked that you remember me at all.”

and the times we spent together are all irreplaceable in my heart
i'll treasure these memories you gave me / so thank you, and goodbye

Re: Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2020, 11:43:29 PM »
Time in service did nothing to diminish Alice’s good breeding and impeccable manners.  She played the noble game as well as any, curtsying with inherent grace and practiced ease.  In turn Jarek offered a shallow bow, inclining his head politely, momentarily splaying a hand over his chest.  Beneath his palm, his possessive, predatory heart beat slow and steady.  Chances were this young woman had nothing to offer him – she was a dead end, a distraction – but, at the very least, his dark form might slither into her periphery once more.  A connection, tenuous perhaps, but still tangible.  And whether she knew it or not, Alice was also a moment of respite.

Laurel would be watching, no doubt, emotions hidden behind a mask  He who took his name from the tree, whose very moniker meant success, who expected no less than triumph from his prodigies.  The weight of expectation was almost crushing.  Except there was still time, time to carefully turn over pebbles and stones, time to pick through stale and arduous conversation, until some treasure revealed itself.
“Shocked?” Jarek queried, a dark brow quirking in askance.  “Come now, Lady Stamper, a person of your considerable spirit and musical talent is not so easily forgotten.”  Vaguely he tried to recall whether they had been on first-name terms all those years ago.  He supposed so, but time and distance built steep walls of propriety.  Especially as Alice, then a girl, was now grown.  Potential suitors would be stalking her, like hunting dogs drawn to blood.  For a moment, Jarek enjoyed the thrill of knowing that, somewhere in the perfumed, coiffed crowd, someone was likely staring daggers his way for daring to speak to the eligible young woman.
“I hear you enlisted.  It is a testament of courage and strength, to offer yourself to the military.”  The words were shaped with sincerity, and Jarek raised his wine glass a fraction, a discreet toast to her bravery, an acknowledgement of her service.  Standing before him, swathed in a navy blue gown, doe-eyed and glittering, Alice was a picture of delicacy and femininity – but he knew as well as any that looks were deceiving.  “You serve with the Military Police now, is that correct?”  He asked the question politely, as though he didn’t already know.  If what he had heard was true, Alice had actually earned her place amongst the top ten, rather than rely on the power and influence of her family.

Re: Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2020, 04:29:52 AM »
A lifetime of habits could hardly be unwound by a few years in the company of those lacking her pedigree. In a distant thought, she wondered what types of people Jarek had met. Did his wealth afford him the opportunity to meet those outside of the usual, or did he reject the idea? Alice had no business to wonder, nor did she care all that much what the answer may be. It was simply that she did not think herself so strange as others appeared to for such dealings.

Jarek's family was, for the most part, an unknown beast to her. The memories she had of the man before her were faint enough, but to remember her gracious host and other siblings and whomever else may possess the family name was asking too much of her. Alice was not uneasy around Jarek, per say, but her stance was just tight enough that a keen eye could observe her to be prepared. He had never wronged her, neither did she expect him to; it was just a biological imperative to survive that whispered that nothing was guaranteed.

Well, it was nice to be appreciated, anyway. Alice's smile was a little more passionate than a simple grin to be polite. To hear Jarek call her by only a formal title did feel a bit strange, the more it was repeated. No, they had never been friends, but her age would have made it acceptable to call her by her given name alone, she suspected. Curiously, she tried to imagine his name on her tongue and found it familiar enough, though a bit sharp. "Aha, you do flatter me so, Jarek," she replied. In that, she thinned out the barrier between them.

Alice flinched a little at the talk of her military service. She was appreciative, on a surface level, that she was being commended for something that plenty of other people did with little thanks or adoration. A deeper consideration made it feel grey. Not so long ago, Jarek might have found her more at ease in the conversation. "I thank you sincerely," she said. Oh, how little pride there was in serving beneath that organization. Still, she would say no such thing here. "Yes, I do. I admit that I expected the work to be a bit more flavorful than I've found it, but it's hardly anything to complain about."

In her eyes, Jarek fit so well into this space that he could be one of the paintings upon the walls. His presence was seamless, the sort to seep into where it was needed with a smooth, charismatic flow. Alice knew little of what he was doing these days. Work, she supposed, and things to do with his family. The affairs of those at this level of society were lost on her, to a point, seeing as she had left for the military before she began to learn of it from her father. "Have the years been kind to you?" she asked, knowing that if they had not been, it was unlikely he would dare say such a thing. "Do you still compete in fencing? I recall your skill was remarkable."

and the times we spent together are all irreplaceable in my heart
i'll treasure these memories you gave me / so thank you, and goodbye


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