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 Post subject: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Fri October 9th, 4:45 pm 
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I've been reading the Avendale archives, the stories in the Crucible and the wonderful Aristasian books a friend of mine left me. They've inspired me to write, so I've started a story and sent it away to be beta-read. Since I just got it back, I thought I would share the first part with everyone here. I hope you enjoy it!

___

Chapter 1

Reynardine Chappelle fumbled with the last of her hairpins and thrust it into place with a sense of great relief. She let her arms down slowly, feeling the weight of all her 170 years pass through her once-sturdy frame. Her dresser, Miss Eva, usually dressed her hair for her, but today Miss Eva had begun a holiday to Jenilow with her aunts. Cleaning the hair out of the bristles in her hairbrush, she upheld her daily ritual of making an estimate of what percentage of the hair within was still saffron red and whether the percentage of iron grey had increased. There seemed to be plenty of grey in there this time. Reynardine wondered if Miss Eva, knowing of her ritual, sometimes helpfully removed a few grey strands here and there to put her mistress’s mind at ease.

The front door banged, and although Reynardine’s rooms were far enough away from the front hall the heavy door shook the house. In a well-staffed house with a butler who took care of the opening of doors, such a forced entry usually heralded the homecoming of Reynardine’s brunette granddaughter, Syrita. Just in case, Reynardine gathered her skirts, lifted her chin and prepared to meet any unpleasant task before her. However, she reckoned that despatching a potential burglar would yield far less strain than the sheer force of being that was Syrita.

Syrita was born large and loud and stayed large and loud her entire life. She had been a sweet, affectionate little brunette, though she drove her mothers and grandmothers to the brink of insanity just by running, shouting and singing everywhere she went. A strapping would bring her to tears of apology, and she would try her best, but she was simply incorrigible in some of her habits. Her accomplishments in music had ushered her into the best schools and Colleges, and she had gleefully shouted each house down as she traipsed through with her oversized horns. Now, at 6 feet tall and built entirely out of lightly padded muscle, she seemed to be embracing the joys of life in Ladyton almost a little too enthusiastically for a girl asked to take leave from Shelmerdine College only three months previous.

Reynadine met her head housekeeper, the imperiously brunette Miss Lawton, on the stairs, and lightly touched a finger to her lips. Miss Lawton, accustomed to the routine, came into step with her mistress and they proceeded down the hall and to the top of the staircase together.

Syrita was indeed standing in front of the door, although standing was hardly the word for it. She was perched on one foot, trying to remove one pert, strappy little stiletto from the other and balancing herself on her tuba case. She did an ungainly flop sideways, (threatening to shift the foundation of the house, Reynardine thought exasperatedly,)as her grandmother and the housekeeper came into view, and waved one strong arm cheerfully.
“Rayati and good morning, Grandmother and Miss Lawton!” She stood up (one shoe off, one shoe on,) and made a deep and solemn reverence in the style of her West Arcadian upbringing. Formalities over, her beautifully rouged, wide mouth spread into a silly grin. “I’m absolutely tuckered out, chaps. We had the most wonderful night – the music didn’t stop until the sun came up. Do you think that splendid Cook of ours would feed me until I fell asleep?” The other shoe came off with fewer pains, and she padded to the coat room, proclaiming loudly, “Ahh, my dogs are barking. Those shoes do my legs favours but they don’t, if you understand.”

Reynardine had reached the bottom of the stairs, having heard just about enough. She’d spent the better part of the night waking and wondering why she hadn’t heard Syrita’s wee-hours abuse of the front door. For a maid of her age, that sort of thing was unthinkable.

“Syrita Marlena Chappelle, I do NOT want to hear that you’ve been at the Gardenia Club all night. I do NOT want to hear that you have been at the Rose Garden all night. I do NOT want to hear that you have been spending the night on the chaise at one bandmate’s College or another. Do you know, young lady, why I don’t want to hear any of these things?” Reynardine’s voice could have created a sonic boom from sheer volume and timbre if she didn’t have any control whatsoever.

Syrita stood, dumbfounded, one hand on the coat room door. She turned in her rolled, slightly dusty stocking feet to face her grandmother and made an effort to pitch her voice low. “No, ma’am.”

Reynardine lowered her voice, as well. “I’ll tell you why. I don’t want you telling me any of these things because I know they’re true. I don’t want you at the Gardenia Club all night. I don’t want you at the Rose Garden all night. I don’t want you spending the night with bandmates on a hard chaise all night at some College or another. If you are to spend your time away from Shelmerdine under my roof, I want you under my roof.”

Syrita seemed to shrink 5 inches and 3 dress sizes in a moment. “Grandmatri, with all due love and respect, I only wonder how I can continue my music career if this is what you’re asking?”

Miss Lawton disappeared at the wave of Reynardine’s hand to ask Cook to serve a breakfast for Syrita. Reynardine turned a steel gaze on her granddaughter and said, “Please take that tub of tin upstairs to your rooms, where you will bathe, change your clothes and groom yourself as though you were spending a day at College. If you are not using your time properly, we will just have to reset your priorities.

“Please join me in the garden. Cook will bring your breakfast there, and we will discuss a routine that will suit the household.”

The pain and confusion on Syrita’s face was tangible. Reynardine hated being this way with her granddaughter, but something had to be done. When she looked like that, it was the same as... well, that reminiscence would keep until after Syrita had been fed and sent to bed. Right now Reynardine was obliged to think this plan through in the time it took to have a cup of tea. She was not prepared to become Constabel Chappelle again, but if that’s what it took, she would take it graciously.


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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Sun October 11th, 7:09 pm 
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Miss Chappelle and her granddaughter are rendered wonderfully! I already like them both and am curious as to how the honored elder Chappelle will handle the young tearaway.

More, please!


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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Mon October 12th, 5:25 am 
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Oh thank you for replying, Miss Niami. I'm so glad you like it! I'll have more soon.

The elder Miss Chappelle was a Ladyton beat constabel in her day. If you are wondering how the younger Miss Chappelle got to be such an exuberant thing with such a grandmother, don't worry, I'll write more on that later.


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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Mon October 12th, 6:18 pm 
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Oh Miss McAndrews, this is lovely already! Your characters have a great deal of, well, character! They are very well-written and well-rounded. I am looking forward to reading more and seeing what the Eldest decides to do with the Youngest.

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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Tue October 20th, 4:03 am 
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My apologies for not responding sooner, Miss Farshore! Thank you for your reply.

It's difficult to say *exactly* what the Elder will do with the Younger. The story is writing itself out of chronological order, so I may have something for you by tomorrow!


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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Tue October 20th, 5:57 am 
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I do so love this story! Actually I thought I had already posted to say so but I find I hadn't! I am so absent minded!

I am so delighted though to hear another epi is imminent!

I can hardly wait!

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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Mon November 2nd, 9:21 am 
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Dear ladies,

Thank you for all of your compliments on my little story. I wondered if I would be able to continue, as my work and school schedule has been punishing these past weeks and inspiration has been thin. A friend encouraged me to read some of the older Avendale archives and the elusive inspiration has returned! She has been very helpful in coaching me from a distance on my writing. This is just a short chapter tying into the longer one I'm preparing. I hope you enjoy.

In Her Grandmother's Footsteps - Chapter 2

Syrita unpacked her tuba and set it on its stand in the corner of her study. She stowed its case on top of the wardrobe, stalling for time. Catching a side-long glance of herself in the mirror, she scrutinised her appearance, turning slowly to see herself properly.

She saw herself with the eyes of the freshly chastised youngster – her rolled stockings, rouged and shapely knees, extravagantly spangled frock and pert headband over slightly bedraggled curls (well, it had been a long night) seemed to belong to someone else at the moment. Her beads, baubles, rings and starburst earrings looked alarmingly out of place in the sedate, book-lined comfort of the study.

Syrita loved living in Vintesse. The thrilling nightlife and exquisite fashion in Ladyton were only the icing on the cake for an exuberant young musician, but she was becoming painfully aware that her life outside her grandmother’s house was intruding not just on the visual aesthetic of the Hestia, but on the spiritual. She had relished the contrast of her exciting musician’s lifestyle and the calm, soothing small luxuries of home, but wondered just how much out of Order she had stepped by bringing the parts of her work home with her that upset the balance that her grandmother had worked so carefully to create after her wife, Marlena, had passed away.

Before Reynardine Chappelle’s retirement from her service to the Queen, Syrita overheard a conversation between her grandmother and her beat partner in the garden. Her partner, a majestic Kadorian blonde by the name of Constabel Bamford, had been listening to a story about a child Constabel Chappelle had been chaperoning that day. She had escorted the young brunette to her aunt’s home after her mothers had been lost in a shipwreck. Reynardine had arranged the meeting for a time when she could be out of her beloved wife’s hearing, but Syrita had come home from school through the kitchen door and overheard a portion of the sad story through the open window. She heard her grandmother say, “Thank you for listening to me, Constabel. You know as well as I do that when one comes home, there are times one just has to leave work at the door, and that’s precisely what I’m going to do.”

Syrita had stolen away before the conversation ended, aware that it was not fit for her ears, but she had never thought about it since. Her grandmother’s words and their poignancy sat beside her like an untidy room on which one would like to shut the door.

Que sera, sera, Syrita thought to herself, banishing the thought of closing doors and all of that depressing bother and instead opened a door – to her wardrobe. She took out her black woollen fishtail frock with the gold belt and cowl neckline, then decided to run her own bath and dress herself. Miss Meg, her dresser, was a dear girl, but when one’s life is grinding to a halt, sometimes a girl just wants to be alone.


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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Mon November 2nd, 1:49 pm 
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Another chapter update in short order - I will post them as quickly as they are written, overseen and edited!

In Her Grandmother's Footsteps - Chapter 3

The elder Miss Chappelle sat in the garden awaiting her granddaughter, a cup of tea in one hand and her walking cane close at the other. She had gone and had her dresser quickly fetch and dress her in her Constabel’s dress uniform, which she kept pressed and pristine for ceremonial purposes. She was aware of every decoration that weighed on her chest. She had respectfully declined promotions every year to remain in her post because of the pleasure she enjoyed in mentoring young Constabels fresh out of the Cadette’s academy. Seeing her protégées rise to prominence was her greatest thrill, and she had mixed feelings of success and regret when she thought of how she sacrificed mentoring her granddaughter for the sake of her career.

Never mind, she thought, smoothing her lapels and taking another sip of tea. The past cannot be redone, but it will be easily corrected where a sweet girl like Syrita is concerned.

That same sweet girl presented herself at the large garden doors and waited for her grandmother to rise before making her customary deep reverence. Once Reynardine made her reverence, she paused before saying tiredly, “Sit down, child.”

Syrita sat gingerly in a chair near her grandmother, looking lovely in her smart frock and small pearls, but much like a cowed child. Reynardine surveyed her with amusement and said, “Don’t be so silly, Syrita. I’ve had my fill of jam - I’m not going to spread you on my toast.”

The two maids chuckled, finally breaking the tension. Reynardine hailed a kitchen maid by ringing her bell and asked for Syrita’s breakfast to be brought to the garden. She wouldn’t dream of interrogating anyone on an empty stomach – it just wasn’t done. Besides, Syrita was the expected gentle giant when properly fed and stimulated, but unfed she was never at her best.

“So tell me, darling,” Reynardine said in an amiable tone, pouring Syrita a cup of tea, “How was your evening?”

Syrita was not going to take her grandmother's uniform and a question like that lightly. She thought of her earlier resolution to leave her work at the door and wondered briefly about the correct choice of action. If she held back, would her grandmother still trust her? More importantly, would her grandmother ask why? It was the sort of information Syrita could not offer without seeming impertinent, so she decided that she would make a clean breast of the entire thing just this one time, and her grandmother’s bench trial would hopefully take it into account.

“Oh, Grandmatri, it was a wonderful evening. The Ravenettes are getting more popular by the day. We started at the stately home of the Ladies Aveline and Margaret Brownleigh, where they had the most scrumptious tea set for everyone, including the band.” Syrita paused, wondering if playing at a stately home where her grandmother knew the occupants would be favourable. “I was able to speak to the gracious Lady Aveline, and I told her that you remember her favourably.”

Reynardine looked up briefly, her cheeks slightly coloured. Lady Aveline had been a school crush of hers, and they had remained good acquaintances after their schooldays. “Well, that sounds like the sort of affair that wouldn’t continue until morning light, unless you stayed overnight or were, as they put it, the last one standing.”

“No, not at all, Grandmatri. We had another engagement, this time at the Gardenia Club. Now,” Syrita began to speak quickly, “I know you don’t approve of the Gardenia Club on principle, but it’s an absolutely topping place for a band like ours to get exposure. We’ve met ever so many gentilmaids there now that they’ve moved premises from Lotus Lane to Viktoria Square. That’s how we met Lady Margaret – she was accompanying her young niece and some of her Collegemates from Quirinelle on her birthday.”

Reynardine raised an eyebrow. “Surely Lady Margaret would not *frequent* a place like the Gardenia Club.” The place had had a rather ghastly reputation in her youth and Lotus Lane was referred to among brunette Constabels as “Opium Den” - not an entirely just reputation, but the clientele of that street had made it a particularly raucous beat.

“I shouldn’t think so, Grandmatri, but she was only there for her young niece.” Syrita’s face lit up as a large breakfast of eggs, pastries, coiled sausage, toast, cheese and fruit was borne to her on two large trays. “Would you like something, Grandmatri?” Syrita could have eaten it all in short order, but it had been at least two hours since her grandmother’s breakfast, and the Chappelle brunettes were perpetually peckish.

Reynardine smiled – such a generous girl. “I shouldn’t say no to a pastry and a bit of cheese, dear. At my age one mustn’t eat too much.” She smiled as Syrita arranged the largest pastry and a huge, crumbly chunk of cheese onto a plate and set it before her. “One mustn’t, but of course, I do.”

Syrita smiled her famous lopsided grin, which looked just as devilish when tinted with a shimmering Novarian gloss as when carefully sculpted with the latest shade of red matte from Holt’s. “You need to keep your strength when living with me, I would imagine.”

Reynardine looked at her sharply, but in her heart she knew that Syrita was genuinely transparent. Nothing that came from her was dishonest or flagrantly impertinent. She only frowned slightly and decided to lower the boom: “Syrita, the only strength I pray for in living with you is that which will help me guide you into full adulthood as painlessly as possible. You are young, beautiful, talented and sweet as cherries, and innocent. Any pain felt in the process until this point has been mine.”

Syrita stopped chewing, not wanting to see her grandmother’s face. Reynardine sighed and said, “Look at my uniform. Rather sharp, isn’t it?” Syrita’s eyes landed on her grandmother’s decorated sash, sleeves and lanyard. Reynardine continued, “Certainly enough decorations for mentoring young Cadettes and Constabels to make a maid of my age bow at the waist, isn’t there? However, one does not earn decorations for rearing granddaughters, and judging by the time it has taken to earn these, I feel that I have failed you somewhere.”

Syrita’s fork dropped with a clatter and she jumped to her feet, shaking the wooden deck. She took her grandmother’s hand and nearly shouted, “Oh, Grandmatri, please don’t! Am I so bad that you feel that you’ve failed me?” A tear ran down her cheek, but she kept as much brunette composure as she could, trying to lower her enormous voice. “Please don’t be so upset with me – I’ll do anything you say, but please don’t think I am trying to rebel against you or make you feel as though you’ve failed. I want to be a musician, but is that a terrible thing? Please say there’s a way I can make you proud.”

Shocked, Reynardine fumbled for her walking cane, but Syrita extended her other hand, as well. Reynardine stood and looked up into her granddaughter’s face and said dryly, “Don’t go to pieces on me, blondie.” Syrita flushed and tried not to shuffle her feet. Reynardine let go of the girl’s hands and, with renewed vigour, abandoned the idea of her cane to pace the deck slowly, in full lecture-giving swing. “You wouldn’t let me tell you that all I want is to give you a fair chance at learning how a maid of your position – and the position you will occupy when you are grown and I am gone – must live in the world and live at home, while understanding that there are others who do not live as we do. The idea of you becoming a musician is slightly eccentric for a family such as ours, as the Chappelle brunettes typically serve Her Imperial Majesty as public guardians. However, you are learning something about the nature of the Estates and their interconnection, and I hope that you will understand yourself more as you live here with me.

Syrita felt uneasy, as though she had proposed wearing a stock pot on her head for a living. “Grandmatri, is there any way I can be a musician and still uphold my place in the Chain?”

“Clever child, you will find a way. You are still young and talented – you have so much potential in your station in life, but in such an up-to-the-minute sort of environment, you are not getting the disciplinary measures recommended at Shelmerdine that will prepare for your return. You can certainly be a musician and not abandon your station, but there is a correct Order of things, and I am going to show you the way to the best of my ability.

“Syrita, there is very little mobility between the Estates because we are all spiritually destined for the station to which we are born. You absolutely must become an accomplished lady, but what you do with your accomplishments will be manifest when you are old enough to understand your path. As a musician in your tender years, you must certainly hone your accomplishments, but in the correct manner.”

Syrita got a sinking feeling that last night at the Gardenia Club may be one of the last she had seen, but her grandmother continued, “I want you to continue playing with The Ravenettes if you can. I know many of their family names and their breeding is exceptional. Some of them must have been senior girls at Shelmerdine last year and living with their families to experience show business before returning to the College, am I correct?” Syrita nodded mutely. “Very good. Are you thinking of doing the same?”

“I’m not sure, Grandmatri. It will all depend on...” She trailed off, not savouring the moment she had to admit something to her grandmother that would almost certainly throw too much of a spanner in the works.

Reynardine sensed that her unease was complex, and decided to treat it as a red herring for now. “Then as these are my wishes for you at present, you will live your life under my roof as though you are on a year away from College. I have engaged a music mistress to tutor you three evenings per week, which may curtail some of your early evening activity with the band, but you will learn to make your priorities.

“I have also arranged that you experience life as a merchant with my friend Constabel Bamford’s niece, Miss Ailia Bamford. A maid must have means, but with all the more of life you see, all the more your destiny will be revealed. Miss Bamford is the owner of many small shops, but one in particular is located just on the road adjacent, and for some strange reason it hasn’t been able to attract any young brunette salesmaids for some time now. I knew you would be the perfect solution to her problem for the next little while.” Syrita’s stomach and its contents turned to ice as she knew precisely which shop her grandmother meant. “You’ve seen the Rosebud Boutique from the outside, I’m certain, but unless you have had reason to shop for a teenaged blonde lately I’m sure you haven’t been inside.”

Reynardine surveyed her squirming granddaughter and continued, amusing herself greatly, “Oh yes, Miss Ailia Bamford hasn’t been able to tear herself away despite having a few good salesmaids and a manageress to oversee operations. The latest fashions out of Novaria and Ladyton for young blondes are her calling. If anyone has the sense to call a cluster of beads and lace with a chinstrap a cap, she does. She is also a shrewd businessmaid – make no mistake, the girl doesn’t have fur and feathers for brains. She will be a great help to you as you will be to her.”

Syrita accepted this, too astonished and feeling – quite frankly – too sick to say anything but, “Yes, Grandmatri.” So much for a good morning’s sleep, she thought, if I’m going to have sugarplums and blondie squeals ricocheting through my head. If any of the Ravenettes get wind of this...

“Aren’t you pleased, Syrita? I should think the music lessons are something you’ll enjoy.” Reynardine began to try and wind her granddaughter down a bit before she broke her spirit altogether. Breaking a spirit is something you do to a little reprobate of a brunette who can’t cough up a decent apology to a swindled shopowner – bending a spirit is something you do to good young brunettes who need a gentle example and perhaps a bit of a thrashing to show them the way forward.

Syrita did brighten a bit and said happily, making reverence, “Yes, Grandmatri, they do sound wonderful. I’ve missed my regular lessons and I thank you sincerely.”

Reynardine smiled, happy to be able to do something that would sweeten the deal and also give her the necessary coaching. “I’m glad we can begin to be of service to each other, Syrita.


Last edited by Germaine McAndrews on Mon November 9th, 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Wed November 4th, 4:17 pm 
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I can't read it just yet, Miss McAndrews, but I just wanted to tell you how happy I am too see not one but TWO new chapters! :-| thank you!


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 Post subject: Re: In Her Grandmother's Footsteps
PostPosted: Wed November 25th, 11:39 am 
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I want to thank everyone for their wonderful comments. It's been a very busy time with exams looming and with my editrix's work, but here is my latest (short) installment. Enjoy!


In Her Grandmother's Footsteps - Chapter 4

Syrita woke later that afternoon to prepare for what she still suspected to be one of her last times with the Ravenettes. Of course the fact that the Ravenettes was comprised of College brunettes and went through more members than a maid gathers odd stockings was a slight comfort. At least she knew they would find someone to replace her soon.

Still, she hoped that she would be able to find her feet soon... finding her feet was one thing, but finding her shoes was quite another. Why oh why couldn’t her maid just leave things where they lay instead of insisting on putting them where they belong?

***

“So I asked her if there was any way I could still be a musician, and the next thing I know she has me by both ears in full war-cry, planning my next few months until I return to College,” Syrita explained to her friends as they gathered around a large table at the Gardenia Club. Cries of, “You poor thing!” and, “Oh, I say!” echoed around the empty club from the girls who didn’t have their mouths full.

“You *know* I thought it was just smashing when you joined because my left hand manicure wouldn’t disintegrate as quickly,” moaned Doris, the lanky Quirrie pianist.

“Of course my dear, and a good smashing is all it’ll take to return it to its former glory!” Syrita chortled, trying to make light. All the girls laughed and tapped their tea strainers on their holders – an old school tradition - in approval.

“You don’t mean she has you in Service, do you? I can’t see that you’ve been as bad as that,” commented Ainslie, the band’s tiny flautist.

“No, oh Heavens no... but I can’t say the regime is all terrible,” Syrita stirred her tea absently, thinking of the two cups of tea taken with her idol, Miss Elspeth Amelhine, who had been performing and composing for the tuba as long as anyone in living memory could say. Constabel Chappelle had asked her to coach Syrita in the upcoming months in preparation for her Conservatory examinations, and Miss Amelhine had been kind enough to agree.

“We’re not interested in what *isn’t* terrible, Soda Pop – we’re interested in the part that’s making you so glum,” offered rosy-cheeked Yvonne. Several of the girls perked up their ears – it was either time for a good yarn-spinning or – even better - the truth. As most high-spirited brunettes could tell you, the truth is often stranger than fiction!

Syrita wanted the sympathy of her bandmates, but loyally did not want to paint her grandmother as an ogre. Instead she looked over the group and asked suddenly, “Where’s Angela today? Is she all right?”

A few of the girls tried not to exchange glances, and Janessa, the bandleader, spoke up lightly as she stirred her tea: “Oh, she’s had something that’s been going around the whole town like the express tram on a holiday weekend. Don’t you fret, pette. You know she gets the best of everything – and by the best I mean the worst when it comes to illness and the best when it comes to care. She’ll be just tickety-boo in the eh-em, and you can see her then.”

Syrita felt horribly forlorn. “Afraid I can’t stay out late tonight. I start my first day of work in the morning.”

Exclaimations went up around the table: “Work? Please tell me you’ll be at the hat counter at Holt’s – I haven’t a thing to wear these days.” “Oh, but you’re a smashing cook – will you be designing new dishes at the Lempicka?” “Won’t you tell us where we can send you flowers for your first day, chum?”

Syrita cringed a bit, but decided to take pride in her new education: “I’m afraid flowers would be a bit de trop at the Rosebud Boutique. No matter how delectable the bouquet, they simply wouldn’t have a fighting chance against such a backdrop.”

The proverbial lead balloon did not go down as Syrita had hoped, and instead of sympathy, all she got was... a roar of laughter.

“Isn’t it absolutely splendid!” Geraldine croaked, her throat still harbouring a bit of ham sandwich. “Syrita will finally meet a blonde or two!”

“I daresay she barely knows what they’re for. She’ll soon find out they make the most smashing mannequins!”

“Surely you’ll be pressed to find proper work attire there, Syrita? Though I’m sure one of those delectable little numbers fresh out of the fashion spreads of Novarayapurhi Junior Miss magazines will go down bee-yew-ti-fully!”

“They’ll frame your dimply little knees perfectly, darling. Rainbow skirt-folds and beglittered down trim are all the rage these days... so my kid sister Melhina tells me!”

“But you know what they say about Syrita, don’t you?” Geraldine said slyly.

“What’s that?”

“You can dress her up at the Rosebud Boutique,” Geraldine continued, and several girls chorused loudly, “but you can’t take her anywhere!”

Syrita laughed appreciatively along with her friends, all of whom were hooting like owls and behaving like perfect rogues. “Good job I love you gels, or I’d have you all over my knee,” she nearly hollered.

“Shame we wouldn’t fit over your acres of blondie petticoat, dahling, though I must say they’re simply devoon!”

The girls laughed and escorted Syrita to the backstage area, grabbing the edges of their slim, spangled skirts and holding them out to emulate some of the more highly-petticoated junior styles from Novaria. There wasn’t a blonde in sight as the all-brunette staff of the Club went about setting tables for dinner, which was just as well, because the way her bandmates were behaving almost had Syrita ashamed. Still, it was a horribly daunting task to set before a young brunette – to work at a boutique for junior blondes which boasted only the frilliest, most extravagant piles of ribbon and lace to grace the fairer form.

Oh, to be a jazz baby for the rest of my life, Syrita thought, but an image of her grandmother intruded – she was often tired, starting to show a bit of grey in her hair and not as phenomenally strong as she used to be. The dear old thing clung to the warmth of her Hestia and still quietly enjoyed the privilege of her station as a retired Servicemaid, and Syrita had only the faintest twinge of longing for something as comfortable.

If not for her sake, but for that of her friend Angela, she would give this regime of her grandmother’s the good old College try. With that, she joined her friends in touching up their impeccable faces before the doors opened for yet another exhausting yet thrilling evening.


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