Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wizards of Winds and Waves, chapter 31


Our main characters begin their mission to infiltrate the Others.

Wizards of Winds and Waves
Chapter 31

The next morning, a courier arrived with mail forwarded from the hotel. “Well, it does look like you made a splash at that party,” Pierre said, flipping through the envelopes. He opened one. “Here’s an invitation to a soirée tomorrow night…” He opened the next. “Afternoon tea, day after tomorrow … Cocktails this evening … A ‘casual’ supper to celebrate our alliance, at the fanciest mansion along the Champs Elysées … Everybody who’s anybody is inviting us to something – even before getting the official wedding announcement.”

For the cocktail party that evening, I selected the little black dress. Pierre brought out another jewelry case, this time with a pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings. “Dora’s again?” I asked.

Pierre nodded. “It’s what she wore when the diamonds were too ostentatious. It’s another family heirloom.”

I picked up the necklace. “Yes, it’s got the same magic. I wonder when her family lost track of their talents?”

“Dora never said much about her family,” Pierre said. “She seemed to be estranged from them – although not from their money, apparently.”

“I wonder how that came to be?”

“We may never know.” Pierre fastened the pearls around my neck, then paused a moment to nibble at my earlobe. “Yep, the pearls are working as expected.” Complete with the physical response, I noticed.

The cocktail party was a much smaller crowd than the Monte Carlo night, but the response from the guests was just the same – all of the men, and two of the women, dropped whatever conversation they were in and riveted their attention on me. More sure of myself now, I was able to mix with the crowd, making casual conversation, while Pierre slipped away to seek out more serious talk. I had to be careful to sip my drinks slowly, because the instant my glass was empty, it was immediately replaced by a full one. Otherwise, it didn’t take much attention on my part to keep up a conversation with dozens of admiring men while I listened in on Pierre’s conversations. I could say some pretty inane things, and I probably did, but nobody really noticed. I supposed it would actually be to my advantage if people did think I was an intellectual lightweight.

Pierre, meanwhile, had struck up a conversation on politics with two men and a woman of the sort that I would classify as wish-they-hadn’t-missed-the-sixties. They appeared to be in their early twenties; all three had long hair, and the men had full beards. The men wore suits but no ties, high quality but badly worn, while the woman wore a cotton gauze dress that was transparent in all of the wrong places, no makeup or stockings, and huarache sandals.

“Governments and businesses have it all wrong,” the taller, sandy-haired man said. “The more they abuse their power, the worse they will have it.”

“Really,” the shorter, black-haired man said. “When the cities are in flames, they will get what they deserve.”

“Why is that?” Pierre asked.

“You can’t just push people down and expect them to stay down,” the black-haired man said. “You can’t take people, treat them like dirt, work them like dogs, pay them like chickens, and make them live like pigs.”

“What a barnyard,” I said, earning confused looks from the people I was talking with, who, apparently, had not been talking about a barnyard or anything like it.

“The masses will revolt,” the sandy-haired one said. “Then everybody will get the profits, not just the big businesses and their corrupt, puppet governments.”

“Yeah,” the woman said. I realized that her mind wasn’t really on the conversation; the faraway look in her eyes was focused on the other side of the room, where I was.

“Didn’t the Soviets try that and fail?” Pierre asked.

“The Soviet Union didn’t work out because they strayed,” the sandy-haired one said. “They let the people in charge get just as bad as the empire they replaced. The workers weren’t truly equal.”

“Next time around, we can learn from their mistakes,” the black-haired one said.

“Come to our salon and learn more,” the sandy-haired one said, handing Pierre a business card. “Tonight at nine, this address. And leave the bimbo at home – she’s rather, uh, distracting.”

“Bimbo?” Pierre asked. Clearly, he had never thought of me as such.

“Well, look at her. She’s not, um, exactly all there upstairs. Take her for what she’s worth, more power to you, but she’d be out of her depth at the salon.”

“Well, thanks for the compliment,” I said ironically. Pierre smiled. The people around me shook their heads. I wondered whether dyeing my hair blonde would add to the effect.

“Well, thanks for the com – uh, invitation,” Pierre said. “Uh, I don’t think I got your names?”

“I’m André,” the sandy-haired one said, “and this is Aldo, and this is Jeanne … Jeanne!” He snapped his fingers in front of her face to get her attention.

It worked – for a moment. “Hello,” Jeanne said to Pierre, then went back to staring into the distance.

“Like I said,” André said, “leave the bimbo at home. She’s distracting.”

“That she is,” Pierre agreed, smiling.

Pierre and I each worked our way through the crowd, meeting in the middle of the room. It was a relief to have him next to me to lean on again; my legs were cramping from standing in those high heels. “You want distracting?” I asked, kissing him. “I can show you distracting.”

“Sure,” Pierre said. “Just not here. Besides, your legs are killing me. Let’s get out of here.”

When we got to the apartment building, I slipped out of my shoes before going up the stairs, and as soon as we were in our flat, I took off the stockings, pearls, and dress. I lay face down on the bed while Pierre worked on my legs. I was surprised at the amount of pain that could be generated just from standing mostly still for two hours. My feet were cramping, my calves ached, and there was even soreness in the shin bones. My knees were stiff, and I realized I also had a sharp pain in my lower back. All this to make a fashion statement.

Pierre started at my feet and worked upward, cracking out the cramps and smoothing out the aches, all with the magic haloes of warmth around his hands, relaxing the muscles all the way to the bone, from the toes to the arch to the heel to the ankle, repeating on the other foot, then the calves one at a time, the knees, thighs, buttocks, and lower back. He continued to the upper back, shoulders, and neck. I was so relaxed that I was nearly asleep when I felt him slipping into the bed beside me and pulling me to him, skin on skin, down the length of my back and the backs of my thighs. [250 words have been redacted here.]

Later, we had a quick supper, and then Pierre set out to go to the salon. I put some Vivaldi on the stereo, and sat down with a book to read – or rather, to go through the motions of reading. I knew my attention would be focused on Pierre for the evening.

The salon was held in a flat in a run-down building on the left bank of the river. It was nothing like the romantic images of the salons of the 18th and 19th centuries, in which wealthy patrons would gather artists, writers, and composers to exchange ideas and enjoy each other’s company. Instead, the salon consisted of about a dozen young adults, probably mostly students, and a couple of older people, seated on shabby furniture in a flat that reeked of cigarette smoke, mildew, and less-than-perfectly functioning plumbing. One of the older people, David, was the leader of the group. But it was the resident of the flat, Stephane, that caught Pierre’s attention. There was a definite tingle of magic in the air, and it wasn’t good magic. For all that he looked like all of the other ill-groomed students at the meeting, Stephane was one of the Others. Pierre’s stomach was churning, and I hoped that Stephane would take that as just simple nervousness at joining a group of strangers with an unknown mission. Pierre had basic defensive shields, which would keep the Others from detecting him as a wizard under ordinary circumstances, but if one of them were to pay close attention to him, they would see him for what he was. “Be careful, honey,” I whispered, even though I knew Pierre would already be following that advice. Pierre nodded his head.

The conversation was in French, which meant that I could catch the gist of it, but not the details. I knew that Pierre didn’t dare draw attention to himself by providing English translations for me, as that would have meant speaking out loud. So I would have to be content with just partial knowledge of what was going on.

The conversation began with introductions, particularly André and Aldo introducing Pierre to the rest of the group and explaining how they had met him. A heated debate ensued over whether to let him in on the group’s activities – as a wealthy American, Pierre was exactly the sort of person that should be overthrown, according to some of the people in the group. Pierre explained that he wasn’t a capitalist of any sort, that he had married into the money, and that before that, he had been one of the masses. Now that he had the money, he wanted to use it for a good cause. That seemed to appease people, although I still had an uncomfortable feeling about Stephane, as he sat beside David and frowned. Pierre was trembling, ever so slightly, and there was a trickle of sweat down the center of his back. While the trembling was so slight as not to be visible to anyone in the room, I still wished I could put out a hand to rest on Pierre’s shoulder to calm it. “Easy, love,” I whispered. He let out a deep breath, and the shaking subsided.

Next, the conversation turned tedious. For the next two hours, discussion went round and round, everybody agreeing with everybody else, cycling through many of the slogans that had been popular in Communist circles everywhere, much like what Pierre had heard from André and Aldo at the cocktail party. Every so often, David would add a call to action, telling the group that the time would come soon that the masses would have to rise up, and that when that time came, the group would have to help. For the time being, that help was to come in the form of acts of petty crime and vandalism that would get the masses riled up, and injustices that could be blamed on the oppressions of government and big business, so the people would be eager to act when the time came. But when the signal came from David – or Stephane – the group would have to take charge and lead the masses in their revolt. Each time David issued one of these directives, the group would cheer, after which they would fall back into their repeated slogans.

It was well past midnight when the meeting finally came to a close, with a final rousing call from David to be ready for the signal to act. I could tell Pierre was nervous as he walked to the Metro station to take the subway back to the flat – he kept turning and looking back as if afraid someone might be following him, and the hair on the back of his neck was bristling. His pulse slowed as he reached the relative safety of the subway train, but he remained twitchy until he arrived safely back at the flat and was within its magically protected confines. I quickly wrapped myself around him; he was icy cold in spite of it being a fairly warm summer night. His legs gave out under him, and we collapsed onto the sofa. I kissed his face, tasting the salty tears on his cheeks. We remained there, together, silent, until morning.


Blogger Tillerman said...

"your legs are killing me" lol

Wed May 03, 10:12:00 AM MDT  

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