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|So, actually, no real mature content warning on this one...Anywho, yes, she gets to spend some time with Kiefyn, but it turns out to be OK, and then of course there's dinner and dancing and...well, you'll see ^^ Uploaded: 11/26/05||
She is about to shake her head, but changes her mind, considering both of us are currently working on her hair. “No, ma’am. We did not make it till our wedding night. I met him, and then much like your Vistalt, he was called away from me. However, his departure was only for a week after we’d been together for about three months. He came back and told me that even he thought it was crazy, but that he didn’t want to spend any more of his life without me. He proposed to me on the spot, and considering I felt the same way, I obviously accepted. We waited for about a week after that before I was told that we had to be engaged six months before we could be wed, in order for all the invitations to go out and all the finery to be ordered. I said to hell with waiting, since I was pledged to be his anyways, and promptly took him to bed that night. It’s something I’ve never regretted.”
“But…you were actually engaged when you finally did end up in bed. Granted, you weren’t married, but it was the next step.”
She sighs. “The fact we were engaged is immaterial. To be honest, because we got engaged, I almost convinced myself to wait for our wedding night. However, once I heard it was six months off, I just gave up. Had he proposed to me a month later or a year later, I probably would have still gone to bed with him at about the same time I did. I was in love, Siris, and I wanted for him to know he had my everything.”
“Weren’t you scared?”
I blush I little. “I don’t know. Getting pregnant, that he’d hurt you, that he’d break your heart.”
She affixes me with a questioning eye. “This is really bothering you, isn’t it?” I nod almost guiltily. “Alright then, love. I’ll give you as much information as I can. First off, the pregnancy thing. I was told this by a midwife shortly before I came to Shesnat the first time, because she thought I’d fall in love with some foreign boy who wanted nothing but my body, and I’d be stupid enough to give it to him. There’s only certain times you can get pregnant. If you keep track of your cycle and call the first day of your bleeding day one, there’s really only six days where you should refrain from any kind of sexual contact. Days eleven through sixteen are the days when you have to worry. Days thirteen and fourteen are especially dangerous, but the two days on either side are a good precaution. And, obviously, it would be a little disturbing to hop into bed in the middle of your bleeding cycle.”
Well, that’s certainly information no one’s ever provided me with. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not only good information, it’s absolutely crucial, especially here in Shesnat where every woman’s secret devices on power seemingly must incorporate sleeping with at least one man. I nod meekly to let her know I’ve absorbed all of this.
“Now. As to the rest of your concerns, my answer is not so simple. If you’re worried, Siris, you need to talk to him. He’s really the only one who can make you the promise not to hurt you, and who can devise a way to keep from hurting you. I have absolutely no inclination to stand over you two and tell him when he’s hurting you, nor do I think you’d be very fond of that plan. So, that’s not something I can really help you with.”
She pauses for a moment, as if weighing what she’s about to say against how she thinks I’ll react. I brace myself mentally. Finally, she says, “You won’t think this is a good thing, Siris, but hear me out while I explain. Vistalt, as we’ve all deduced in the past, has seen copious amounts of women in his life, and has most likely made the majority of them very, very happy. As in, don’t leave me, I want to leave my husband for you type happy.” I cringe, and she quickly says, “Hear me out!” I regard her in disbelief for a moment, wondering how she can really expect to turn the statement she just made into anything good. She sighs and shakes her head a little, obviously amused at my seeming naiveté.
“The good thing about this is that he knows what women like as a general plan, and he’s able to adapt that general plan to tailor to the individual needs and likes of every woman he’s with. He’s got that base under him to work with and to mold to your specific fantasies and wishes. This means that, most likely, you aren’t going to be the first virgin he’s ‘deflowered’, so to speak, and he knows how to not hurt you. He knows how to make your experience fun and sensual and as pain-free as is possible, and at the same time really show you what making love is all about. He’s the kind of man who can leave you…satisfied.”
Well, I’m blushing. I believe I’ve heard most of this before from Dunrad, but not in so straight-forward a manner, and never applied quite so directly to myself. “And just how, pray tell, do you know all of this, my dear?”
She scoffs a little. “You don’t have to be much of a mind-reader to realize how at ease he is with women. That’s not something born of talking to them while they stroll through gardens. That kind of complete effortlessness is found only in bed, and with the confidence that a man gets when he knows that he understands how to make every woman in his path come completely undone in his arms were he to take them to his room with him. It’s the same kind of ease Kiefyn has, but Vistalt carries it differently. What Kiefyn uses to exploit the women around him, Vistalt uses to select the one woman he wants to devote himself to, and then to make her inordinately, crazily happy. That would be you, if only you would let him.”
“I’ve only known him two months, Matia.”
She looks me dead in the eye. “And if someone were to tell you that starting now, he could never touch you again, you could never look at him or talk to him again. Starting this very instant, Vistalt would disappear from your life forever, what would you do?”
I turn my eyes from her and stare into space involuntarily. A world without Vistalt? A place where I didn’t have the warm circle of his arms to protect me? Where I didn’t have him to run to and assuage my fears and my hurts? Where he’d never be able to set me on fire the way he did today?
Well, that’s a simple answer. “I’d die.”
She nods once, decisively. “Exactly. You love him, Siris, and he loves you. He wants to show you that he’s all yours, and he wants so much to just be yours.”
“But if he’s had all those other women, then how can he be just mine?”
She sighs yet again. “Love isn’t about the past. It’s only about the present and the future. After all, how long has it been since he’s been with another woman?”
I grudgingly admit, “He says it’s been years.”
She grins triumphantly. “See? He was young then, and young men do stupid things. It’s how they gain the experience that we women love so much later in life, but at the time is so deplorable. He’s realized that he was making unwise decisions, and has corrected his behavior. Since then, he’s been waiting for that special woman to steal his heart. That’s you, Siris.”
I finally sigh, and she shakes out her newly loosened hair. It is tightly crimped from its prior restriction to its braids, but I know that that will fall out into natural, soft waves once she washes it. I regard her almost fearfully, not really sure what to do with the hope forming in my chest. “Do you really think so?”
She smiles at me lovingly. “I practically know so, sweet.” She studies me a moment more. “What I said before still stands. If you’re still worried, talk to him. If you can’t talk to him about making love, then you probably shouldn’t be in bed with him yet. It’s a comfort level thing. Now, unless you have any other questions which I will happily answer, I think we’d best retire.”
“I just have one.” I hesitate over how to ask it. “How do I know when I’m ready? When I’ve hit that comfort level?”
She smiles softly at me, her eyes sort of far away. “This doesn’t help you at all, but you’ll know. Maybe you’ll be standing there with him, and the idea that you could get caught will come into your head, and you just won’t care. Maybe he’ll just say the right thing and you won’t be able to resist him anymore. It’s different for all of us, Siris. All I can tell you is that you’ll know.”
Matia has to leave early in the morning, at a time that I’m not even ready to think about being awake, much less head off to a diplomatic breakfast like she’s about to do. However, I rise with her to assist her with anything she needs help with. After all, she was there to give me some of the answers I so desperately needed last night, so now it’s my turn to repay some of the favor. She laughs as she hugs me goodbye. “Go back to bed, love. You require at least three more hours of sleep to have anything resembling a polite disposition.”
I can’t help but grin at her. “Ah, how well you know me.”
She makes shooing motions at me. “Go! The world will be waiting when you rise, and most of the court doesn’t even bother with each other till at least the tenth bell of the morning. It’s simply not worth you being awake now and being positively unbearable the rest of the day.”
I whole-heartedly concur. Once I’ve seen Matia safely out the door, I collapse back into my bed and sleep until I feel like getting up.
The first thing I notice when I finally do awaken is a note on my desk. It’s from Riaon, telling me that one of her sons has taken ill, and she needs to personally see him into the hands of someone who will care for him before she can come today. There’s more babble about how she hopes I won’t be upset and such, but I dismiss that without even really reading it. She’s so punctual the rest of the time that I can hardly begrudge her a few hours to ensure the safety of her child. Her husband works hard and many hours a day, but they’re trying to save for him to open his own business. Currently, the majority of the family’s needs are being supported by her pay alone, and she also has to be sure that her children are safe before she leaves for the mansion, considering her husband’s already at work at that hour of the morning. She probably sent the note with my parent’s maid, since they are something of friends and live near one another.
There is a foot note at the bottom of the letter suggesting I wear the blue morning gown on the far right side of the wardrobe. She mentions that, considering the time I usually rise, it would be better if I were to wear an afternoon gown, but she knows that those require assistance to get into, and she is lamentably unavailable.
I have to laugh at the fact that she can pick out my clothes for me without even looking at them. However, it is good advice, and I follow it, considering I’m not really sure what else I’d wear.
As I finish dressing, a knock sounds on my door. Puzzled, I go to answer the door. It sounded too polite to be anyone who really knows me, such as Vistalt, Matia or Dunrad, but there’s always the possibility it’s my favorite Mirstatians, Trirt and Ati.
The person revealed by the opening door is none of these people. It is, instead, a messenger. I restrain the sigh I want to let out and incline my head to the side as if I’m interested. “Yes?”
No formality is required between us, thankfully. Being a man, he’s got almost higher rank than me by default, but he’s most likely a commoner and is currently working in a subservient position in the mansion, which puts us on essentially equal turf. Even so, he’s probably about sixteen or so, and there’s only one thing on a boy’s mind at that age. He studies me up and down before he even bothers to open his mouth. I’ve given up on attempting to discourage this type of thing. After all, he’s only looking, and someone’s always doing that. Finally, he clears his throat. “Your presence has been requested in Xaltorin’s Hall at the sounding of the next bell.”
“Might I ask who has requested my presence?”
“Abrianne, wife of Count Caireb.” I have to keep myself from rolling my eyes. Naturally, a simple, “Your mother,” wouldn’t have been sufficient.
I nod. “Thank you, messenger.” He remains at my door, either not realizing he’s been dismissed or deliberately ignoring that fact. After a moment, I add, “You may go now.”
Rather than leaving, he glances up and down the hall before leaning against the doorframe and giving me what he must think is a very suave look. “You know, I’m really a nobleman’s son. Currently in training, but that’s over in about a month. I know I’m younger than you, but it’s better than an older man. If your duke were to leave you, my father would vouch for me in my pursuit of your hand.”
Now I just can’t contain myself. I roll my eyes. Since we’re currently basically equals, I can’t resist the urge for a little revenge. “I’m afraid that wouldn’t work out.”
He raises an eyebrow, thinking I’m buying into this. “Oh? And why not?”
I smile viciously. “Because I’m interested in men, and it seems you are forever destined to be a boy. Have a nice day.” I slam the door in his face before he can retaliate at all, because then I really would get nasty.
I check the time candle and read a little until I have to set out. I’m slightly surprised to be summoned directly by my mother rather than by my father, so I’m hoping this means I won’t have to deal with him at all. It’s quite possibly an empty hope, but it never hurts to have dreams.
I arrive, for once, neither early nor late. My mother beams at me when she sees me, and rushes to hug me. As I return the gesture, I surreptitiously glance around for my father. I see no one that even remotely resembles him currently present, and I relax.
However, I do see something that makes me nervous. There are about five easels set up about the room, with painters busily at work at three of them. The remaining two painters are chatting seemingly idly between the two empty workstations. My mother pulls away from me and gestures elegantly to the room. “The king has brought in a few portrait artists for his subjects’ use. It has been years since we had a decent portrait of you made, my dear. I was hoping you’d indulge me and sit for one of the artists.”
I smile at her. For all my mother does nothing while my father bullies me, I know it’s because she really can’t. She would if it weren’t for the laws, and I can see the hope in her eyes that I will get out of this place and all its strict policies. I genuinely like her, although sometimes I catch myself faulting her for the cruelties my father inflicts upon me. “Of course, mother. I have little else to do this afternoon.”
She beams a little wider and leads me over to the two unoccupied men. They halt their conversation and size me up. After a brief discussion, one of them steps forward and bows. “If you’ll come right this way, lovely ladies, I’ll get you situated.”
My mother laughs. “Oh no, just my daughter today.”
The artist is a quick one, and responds with a twinkle in his eye, “Daughter? Forgive me, ma’am, I had you marked as her sister.”
He’s working hard to earn his tip, and for no real reason, either. My father will foot the bill, which means he’s undoubtedly decided it would be good to have a new portrait of me as well. He’ll most likely stop by at the end of the day to pay the artist and pick up the picture. My mother has no say whatsoever in how much this man gets paid, so he’s wasting his flattery on her.
She certainly doesn’t mind, however, and she blushes slightly. Then, she gives me a gentle push towards the couch set up in front of the artist’s easel. “Go on, dear. I’ll be in and out as my schedule allows.”
I drift to the couch and seat myself. It’s a soft shade of dove grey with a hint of lavender in it, enhanced by the lavender throw draped artistically over the back. The artist glances at me from where he is setting up his materials. “Make yourself comfortable, my lady. You will most likely be seated in that position for an hour before I will have enough preliminary sketches to allow you to take a break. Then, you shall have to return once I begin painting.”
I’m not really certain what proper etiquette is for these things, but they’ve seated me on a couch, and I fully intend to use that to my advantage. I grab all the pillows that are strewn along the couch and create a pile on my end. Then, I half lean against it with my legs curled up onto the couch beside me.
The artist studies me for a moment, then selects a book from a mismatched pile of objects near him on the floor. I suppose this is his pile of available props, as he brings the book to me. I smile as I realize it’s one I’ve read. The book goes into the hand connected to the elbow that’s leaning on the pile of pillows. I just sort of let it hang naturally. I know the whole concept of this is that it’s supposed to appear as though the artist merely interrupted me doing something completely typical, took a second to record my image, and then I resumed my prior activity. It’s somewhat unfortunate that this isn’t the case.
The artist resumes his seat by his easel, but rather than working with a canvas, he picks up a stick of charcoal and a few large sheets of paper held to an equally large board by a metal clip. As he begins to sketch, I have to resist the very strong urges I possess to simply open the book and start reading. The whole point of the portrait is to be able to see my face, and the whole point of these sketches is to provide the artist has something to work off of once he has the basics all set down on the canvas and allows me to leave. If I were to begin to read the book, he wouldn’t be able to paint that posture, considering it mostly removes my face from view. So I just heave a deep sigh and attempt to resign myself to the fact that I won’t be going anywhere for quite some time.
I mull over the fact that I have essentially just lost my entire day. However, as days go, this isn’t so awful. I really am not required to associate with anyone, even though this very much counts as being in court. I also left a note for Riaon to let her know where I am, so if anyone, especially a dashing young man with blonde and black hair, should come calling, she should be able to direct such people to the correct location.
I’ve been sitting for the artist for all of about five minutes when I hear a very unwelcome sound come into the hall.
It’s the sound of slime.
I suppose, to be more accurate, it’s Kiefyn’s voice arguing with his brother. I can’t help myself. Even though I’m supposed to be looking at the artist, I feel compelled to glance around a bit. If he needs me to look back at him, he’ll certainly let me know. I let my gaze meander about the room while I strain with all my might to hear what Kiefyn and Kituni are saying.
“-said that we’re both to get portraits.”
Kituni glares at his brother and refutes this with, “But I’ll just tell father there were no artists available and come back another day. What father doesn’t know can’t hurt him, so long as you don’t tell him, little brother.”
Kituni’s just a few short inches taller than Kiefyn, and Kiefyn draws himself up to his full height to attempt to look imposing to the taller man. “I may still be younger, but may I remind you that I am of higher rank? Treat me with the proper respect.”
I almost want to kiss Kituni as he simply responds, “Oh, shove your respect up your ass, Kiefyn. You only stand on it because you think it’ll make you those few extra inches taller that you currently lack to be my equal in height. You can have the title. As I’ve said before, you’re welcome to it. Just have a little sympathy, man! Father will still get his pretty painting of me, it just can’t be today!”
Kiefyn sniffs, clearly attempting to portray that ‘man of superior substance’ role. “Kituni, I can’t lie for you in order for you to go and directly disobey father’s wish. I actually stand something to loose.”
Kituni sighs, clearly exasperated. “Kiefyn, haven’t you seen her? She’s delic-”
“Enough!” Kiefyn interrupts, and glances around to see if anyone heard his brother’s last slip. Thankfully, I’ve returned my eyes to my artist. However, as I sneak a look at Kiefyn out of the corner of my eye, it’s clear that he’s realized who else has been forced to sit for a portrait today. The superior gleam has left his eye in favor of a slightly lecherous one. He turns back to his brother and sighs. “Fine, Kituni, there really is only one open artist anyways, and I do rank above you, so I should go first. Go to your woman, whoever she happens to be this time.”
Kituni hastily embraces his brother in earnest gratitude. “Thank you, brother, I won’t forget this!” He practically skips from the room in sheer joy. I have to restrain myself to keep from shaking my head. It’s the middle of the afternoon, and even now Kituni’s got women lined up. The man needs more hobbies, and these girls need to wise up.
Kiefyn, however, is my larger worry right now, as it seems he’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon plunked on the couch a scant few feet from me, which is considerably closer than I’d like him to be. Too my dismay, he seems to be enjoying this prospect highly as he gives the artist his name, and then his father’s name in response to the question of who will be paying for the artist’s services. He flops down onto the couch, which I notice is the same as the one I’m currently located on. The artist quickly changes the throw on the back of the couch from a girlish pale pink to a scarlet that nicely compliments the clothes the earl-in-waiting has chosen. Currently, Kiefyn is wearing loose maroon pants, soft black boots that have a new look about them, an ivory shirt that looks stunning with his skin. Even from here, I can see the large garnet teardrop that hangs from a thin chain strung through the hole in his ear.
Clearly, Kiefyn’s artist seems to think he doesn’t need any props. The bratling is sprawled over his couch like he owns it, looking not only comfortable but strangely as if the couch will only have one occupant for a short while longer. I truly do wonder if the artist will be able to capture Kiefyn’s sleazy-yet-tantalizingly-seductive look. In the event he manages it, not only will the artist be highly talented, but he will have managed to produce a completely accurate replica of Kiefyn.
For a while, nothing is said, but I know that this blessing can’t last. My suspicions are confirmed when Kiefyn says, “So, Lady Shaysiris, who does your portrait go to?”
I blink at him innocently. “To my parents, I suspect, sir. They are the ones who commissioned it.”
“Eyes at me, please, my lady.” I focus resolutely on my artist, thanking him with all my mental capabilities. The less I have to look at Kiefyn, the happier I will be.
“I see,” says Kiefyn, clearly disappointed by my answer. I don’t really know who he was hoping I was planning to give it to, but it obviously involved something much grander than my parents.
I am in no way attempting to foster this conversation, and I’m quite glad to see it fade into awkward silence. Conversely, Kiefyn can’t stand to have such an awful smirch on his Lady-Charming Record as to have had a conversation fail. Thus, he promptly searches for something to shoot some life back into our dialogue. He really doesn’t know that much about me that can be discussed in public places, so he has to fall back on the obvious crutch. “How is your courtee, my lady?”
“He was well when I saw him at dinner last night, sir.”
There’s a pause. “And you? How have you been?”
“Also well, thank you, sir.” I allow a very large pause to settle between us before I finally go about returning the courtesy of inquiring after his family’s health. The break in speech is so long and heavy that my artist actually winces. Finally, I ask, “And your family, sir?”
“All of them were very content the last time I saw or heard from them. Deton is really very happy back in his little home on father’s lands, and he writes that his wife thinks she’s expecting.”
“That’s excellent news, sir.” He waits for a moment, but my icy silence makes it quite clear that I’m not going to ask specifically about him. It’s not technically a breech of etiquette, considering he’s technically included in his family, and thus I technically have already asked about him. It would be far more polite to spare a question solely for concern regarding his health, but I’m not really interested, so why should I bother to feign it?
This leaves him with the joyous task of conjuring up yet another discussion topic, which he seems to be failing at. Just as we’re about to hit the point where the conversation really is dead and it would be considered desperate to make another attempt at it, he comes up with something. “You seem to spend a great deal of time with that Mirstatian. The one the king paired you with on their first night here.”
“The king has asked us all to be friendly to them.”
“You seem to be exceeding the king’s expectations.”
“Is that an insinuation, sir? If you are to accuse me of anything inappropriate that would involve Ati, then you would be accusing him of it rather than me. The man and I have never met except in public circumstances, and you know whose fault the court considers seduction when said seduction occurs within view of others. ”
Kiefyn has once again underestimated me. He needs to realize that he can’t speak to me the way he speaks to every other woman here. He laughs, but it sounds a little nervous. He knows if anyone connected to the Mirstatian party heard and understood that little exchange, Ati could find out and potentially decide to be angry with Shesnat. “Of course it’s not an insinuation, my lady. I was merely commending you on your dedication to your country.”
“I do try to remain on the king’s good side, sir.”
“Don’t we all?”
“I suppose so, sir.”
The frigid nature of this conversation is really growing tiresome, and it has rendered my artist’s face into a look that is somewhere between a grimace and a smile. He seems somewhat amused with how I’m manhandling Kiefyn’s forays into civilized conversation, but he’s also reacting to how obviously I’m rejecting all of my fellow noble’s attempts. I believe if I look hard enough, I can even see some traces of pity, which I interpret to be his lament that Kiefyn simply won’t abandon the whole awkward endeavor.
Now that we’re going on the topic of Mirstatians, however, Kiefyn seems to have found new life to inject into his pathetic need for speech. “So what do you plan to wear to the Masque, my lady?”
For the first time, he truly has me engaged, although I continue to hide behind an indifferent tone. “Masque, sir?”
“Oh, yes, haven’t you heard of it?”
I want to respond with a caustically waspish, “Well, obviously not, you ignorant little brat.” However, I opt for a much more civil shake of my head accompanied with, “I’m afraid not, sir.”
“The king has planned a real, honest Masquerade Ball for the last night the Mirstatians are present. It is common that their court holds one in about a week’s time, but the Mirstatians will be en route to home and will miss it. Thus, the king has decided to throw a Masque here so that the Mirstatians won’t really miss it. It’s not like our Masquerade, however. Ours is more of a costume ball. This really is a masquerade, and you aren’t admitted without a mask of some kind.”
“This is quite short notice.”
There is sadness in his voice, although it appears feigned. “Yes, the king did mention how unfortunate that is, but he is certain we can all be resourceful enough to come up with a single mask in three days’ time. After all, it is all about being friendly to the Mirstatians.”
My brain is racing at this. Matia and I will have to round up Dunrad and hopefully Vistalt tomorrow morning very early and hurry into Meridon City before all the masks vanish. Considering we don’t hold a true masquerade anymore and they are typically only held sporadically as a whim of a private home owner or two, there aren’t many masks to go around. “Has this been announced to the general court yet?”
“Oh, no, my father shared it with my brother and me. He had it directly from the king’s clerk. The king intends to make it public this evening at the end of the dancing.”
I heave a sigh of relief inwardly. Then we do still have a chance of finding good masks, provided we rise early. All the stores within Terykson’s Wall don’t open until the tenth bell of the morning, because they have found that courtiers generally aren’t awake enough to be bothered with shopping before that time. If we were to rise tomorrow around the ninth bell, we could most likely be in a store when it opened. Now all I have to do is hope that everyone is free tomorrow in order to go, because I don’t know how else I would go about acquiring a mask. I set this worry aside and begin to ponder where it would be best to look for masks.
I’m so wrapped up in my furious planning that I miss what Kiefyn says next. Upon registering that he indeed did say something that requires a response, I fix my face into the appropriate amount of guilt. “I’m sorry, sir. My mind was busy, and it was difficult for me to concentrate on what you said. Perhaps you would be inclined to repeating it?”
“I asked if you had a specific mask in mind.” His tone tells me he believes this is entirely typical of a woman; you allow them to think, and their poor feeble minds can’t possibly do two things at once. The truth of the matter is, however, that I simply don’t care what he’s saying.
“No, sir. I’ve never owned a mask. I hope to find one in Meridon City tomorrow.”
“You need an escort to venture to the city, my lady.”
“I believe my courtee will most likely require a mask as well, so at the very least he will be able to accompany me. I also hope that my friends Matia and her husband Lord Dunrad will find themselves free.”
“In the event they all find themselves inexorably busy, my lady, I would be glad to escort you.” His tone is mild and courteous, as if this is merely the thing any gentleman would say. It’s just too bad that Kiefyn never has been a gentleman, and never will be one.
I, however, would die before I forced myself to a day spent alone with Kiefyn, and would subject myself willingly to the king’s wrath by not attending the Masque if going to the city with Kiefyn proved to be my only option. “That is very kind, sir, but I do not believe I will require your charity.” Hoping to avoid him while shopping for my own mask, I add, “Do you require a mask as well, sir?”
“Oh, of course not. I would never be caught wearing anything bought in this city. All my clothes are made specifically for me by our family’s tailor.”
“Surely this tailor does not make masks, sir.”
“No, the mask is a family heirloom. My father says that it was worn by his father when our Masquerade Ball was still a true masquerade. He wants me to wear it in order to show our family’s power.”
My heart beats a little faster. I’m in luck. If only I can get Kiefyn to describe this mask to me, I have a hope of escaping the boy completely on that night. My hair will give me away, so he will be able to find me, but with any luck, I will see him coming. “What does this mask look like, sir?”
“It is quite fitting for my purposes. It is difficult to describe, however. I suppose I shall just have to find you so that you may see it yourself.”
Well, that backfired. “I’m certain it looks wonderful on you, sir.”
“If you wish, my lady, my first sketches are done. You may walk about for a while.” I blink at my artist. Although I’ve been staring at him for about the last hour, it seems to have slipped my mind that he exists. I am all to glad to accept his offer, and I hastily speed off my couch to the other side of the room.
I am lucky in that Kiefyn’s artist seems to be having a bit more difficulty with his portrait, and by the time my artist fetches me about fifteen minutes later, Kiefyn is still grumpily seated. I thank whatever deity has been watching over my fate today that we weren’t afforded the chance to speak out of the earshot of the artists. I thank that same deity a little more when Kiefyn makes no attempt at conversation. It seems he has decided to quit while he’s ahead, which I believe to be one of the wisest choices he has ever made. When he is released for his break, he tries to watch my artist paint for a bit. However, my artist politely shoos him away. About two hours later, my artist finally proclaims that he has enough material on the canvas and sketch pad for me to be allowed to leave, and after I thank him, I practically bolt from the room.
My first stop is Matia and Dunrad’s room. They are, by some sheer miracle, currently in. Dunrad welcomes me to their rooms warmly and leads me to their sitting room, where it seems they’ve been having some tea. I sniff it experimentally and quickly shy away from the pot. It is the strange, almost acrid-tasting Palanithian brand of tea that they all like so much. I can’t stand it, and I have even more difficulty fathoming how they can, but then again, I guess I have to consider that the Palanithians also invented their famous ‘cider’. I suppose an affinity for strong drinks of every kind is part of their lifestyle.
I settle down next to Matia. “You’ll never guess what I heard.”
She sets down her cup, obviously intrigued. “Oh?”
“The king is holding a true masquerade on the last day of the Mirstatian’s stay. Everyone who wishes to enter must have a mask.”
She claps her hands gleefully. “Masques are so much fun! I almost consider them better than the costume balls, but that’s my own prerogative. When are we going to Meridon City?”
“I was hoping you’d both be free tomorrow morning, about the ninth bell of the morning. We’d leave here about half-past that in order to be to the city by the time the shops opened. The king hasn’t really made this public yet, so most of the courtiers won’t have their plans made until later in the morning.”
She raises an eyebrow. “So how did you procure this information?” I make a face and tell her about how I spent my afternoon. In response, she shakes her head. “What an awful price to pay for such wonderful information.” Her voice is slightly sarcastic, letting me know that she would not have wanted to spend an afternoon in Kiefyn’s vicinity simply to have obtained this knowledge, but she’s not really serious about how terrible she’s making it sound.
I giggle. “Oh yes. Completely appalling.”
She laughs with me, then thinks for a moment while she tries to recall whether or not she’s free tomorrow morning. “Well, I believe we are in luck. Tomorrow morning is the only extended period of free time Dunrad and I have before the Masque. We could’ve squeezed it in sometime later, but I’m glad we’re able to schedule it now. As long as we’re back in time to catch a quick lunch before the gathering we’ve been asked to attend at the second bell in the afternoon, I believe your plan is perfect.”
“I haven’t been to Meridon City in ages, Matia. Did you see any place carrying masks the last time you were there?”
She beams. “There was this store. I can’t wait until you see it, love. It’s so beautiful. They have masks in every shape, size, and color you can imagine, and they say they know how to make them fit your face like a glove. Of course, in order to turn a profit, they dabble in jewelry and clothing as well, but the masks are the true passion of the owner, that much is clear.”
“It sounds fantastic. I assume since you remember the store so vividly that you also remember how to get there?”
She laughs. “Of course, dear. The growing belly hasn’t affected my brain at all, you know.”
Dunrad, who has been silently observing this frenzied planning, chimes in with, “That’s just what you tell her to keep her from being afraid of you.”
She sticks her tongue out at him. “You should be nicer to me. I know where you sleep.”
He grins as he reaches out and pulls her to his side. “Right next to you, and may it forever be that way.”
She smiles up at him in a soft and loving way that makes my heart ache. He returns this equally, and I sense it’s time for me to leave. I assure them that I know where the door is, and beat a hasty retreat before I witness more than really is healthy for my poor lustful mind to currently see. I have a very strong feeling I might have had the urge to take notes.
With the strange craving to be needed that has suddenly cropped up in my mind, I decide it would be wise to postpone talking to Vistalt until dinner. I instead return to my rooms and spring the news on Riaon. We spend the time until we have to start readying me for dinner choosing a few options for dresses I can wear to the Masque so that I will be able to choose a mask that will match a dress both in color and style.
I’m bustled off to dinner in whatever it is that Riaon picked from my closet. Sometimes I think she positions herself in front of my wardrobe, closes her eyes, and plunges her hand in at complete random. Whichever dress she comes up with is the one I’m wearing that night. After all, they’ve all been chosen to compliment me and my tastes, so it’s not exactly like she’s going to pull one out that’ll look hideous on me.
As soon as I locate Vistalt, I practically gush to him all my information about the upcoming ball. He smiles at my enthusiasm. “Of course I’m free to go with you tomorrow morning. When is this Masque again?”
I ponder for a moment, counting days. “Well, there’s three days between now and then, if you count the day of the masque.”
“So…the day after the day after tomorrow.” I raise an eyebrow at him. I wouldn’t be able to keep that straight in my head, but whatever works for him. He frowns a little. “I’ve already consented to go riding with a small party that day. Since it’s the Mirstatians’ last day, they’re packing off a few of the men to Wiad’sul. It seems a great number of them have expressed a desire to buy ‘souvenirs’ and have simply found the supply here in Meridon City to be inadequate, so they’re sending representatives to buy a huge amount of little Shesnan nick-knacks. However, that leaves fairly early, and basically all of the king’s favorite nobles have been chosen to go along. Baron Saskind, Earl Gatri, and Marquis Kemket and his heir have already told me they are also going. I would be surprised if the king would allow that many of his favored nobles to be missing from so large an event, so I assume the two won’t conflict at all.”
I feel my heart sink a little. Wiad’sul is the largest city in Shesnat, known for the market that is practically its own city. A few times in history, those who live and breathe for the living the market provides have threatened to rise up and split the market away from the city when Wiad’sul has leveled overly severe taxes on the people visiting and renting space in the market. However, the two have always managed to heal their differences before the actual emancipation occurred. The bad news in all of this is that Wiad’sul is a good two hours worth of riding away. This means that Vistalt will be absent the entirety of that day, and most likely the only time I’ll see him is at the Masque. However, the good news is that he will certainly be back in time, considering that Saskind, Gatri, and Kemket are the closest thing to real friends the king has. He would never allow them to be absent from such an important social function for a whim, even a whim of a foreign dignitary.
“So it’s you, Saskind, Gatri, Kemket and his son, and a few Mirstatians. To be conservative, we’ll say ten of you. You should make good time.”
He grins at me. “What, worried I wouldn’t make it?”
I give back the exact same grin. “Never, your grace. I’m just afraid that your big bad horsy might lead you astray and I would be left to fend for myself. I can’t possibly fathom what I would do then, because I’m naught but a helpless woman designed solely to hang off your arm and look pretty.”
“Well, you accomplish that beautifully, but that is far from the end of your capabilities.”
I roll my eyes. “Speaking of how helpless I am, there’s the little matter of who’s to pay for my mask tomorrow. Women aren’t allowed to have money in their possession, much less use it.”
Vistalt shrugs. “I have absolutely no problems paying for it, Siris. My troubles I was having regarding my estate were not at all monetary related.”
I smile at him. “Yes, darling, I know that you would pay for it. The question is whether or not you should. Seeing as this is a court-related expense, I firmly believe this falls well into the realm of the things my father should pay for, especially considering that, since you’re my courtee and not my husband-to-be, you technically aren’t supposed to spend any money on me.”
He rolls his eyes, obviously finding this just as ridiculous as the rest of the restrictions Shesnat places on women. However, there is a gleam in his eye as he says to me, “So, basically, you’ve found a way to get at least a little revenge on your father? I mean, after all, he loves his money, and it would be quite the blow to force him to separate with some of it for his daughter.”
I open my eyes very wide, attempting to appear innocent. “Oh, no, sir, I wouldn’t dream of that! That would be awful.”
He chuckles. “Yes. Terrible. How do you propose we go about securing this money?”
“Well, we have to wait for the king to announce the Masque, and then we find my father and tell him that you’re saving him the trouble of having to escort me to Meridon City. He should thank you profusely and proceed to offer up the money, but in the event he doesn’t, feel free to remind him that you are only my courtee and thus must refrain from spending money on me. At that point, he’ll hand it over for sure, however grudgingly. I won’t feed you the wording on any of this, considering you’re an extremely bright man and should be able to navigate this fairly easily. You can be rather blunt with him, considering money is to be dealt with man-to-man as if women aren’t present, and men never have a whole lot of diplomacy when discussing such matters as who will pay for something.”
He grins at me. “You know, I think I may love you a little more simply because you can plot like that. It’s underhanded but in an elegant and completely justified way.”
I giggle. “That’s nothing, love. Wait until you see the things I have in store for you.”
“Oh? You’ve been plotting your revenge on me for being gone for two weeks or some such?”
“You never know what this little conniving mind of mine might be up to.”
“Well, I can’t wait to find out.”
The bell rings for dinner, and I smile at my courtee. “You may have to, for a little while at least.”
We locate Matia and Dunrad and seat ourselves at our usual table. Although I brace myself for more unexpected attacks from Kiefyn, we are left eat our dinner blissfully in peace with six Mirstatians, none of them bearing the translator’s grey armband. Dinner seems to disappear behind me as my friends and I discuss everything under the sun regarding the Masque. The dancing doesn’t go much slower, considering that after I spend the first dance with Vistalt, I am immediately appropriated by a line of Mirstatian men. I haven’t danced with any of them before, and I simply can’t escape them. When I do try sitting out a dance, they follow me to the table I seat myself at and all stand around silently as I sip a glass of water. I’m completely incapable of telling them I’m planning to refrain from dancing for a while since we don’t speak the same language, and their mute staring gets so unnerving after about half a dance that I feel miraculously revived when the next dance comes around. The only thing that really makes me feel better is that when I do catch glimpses of Vistalt, it appears as though he’s got a similar following of equally soundless Mirstatian women.
Those who haven’t clustered to Vistalt are swarming to the chat’riken men, especially Ati, although they have to fight the Shesnan women for the privilege to these men. Ati graciously dances with each woman that comes to him, and I see Trirt standing at the fringe of the dance floor conversing with a mixture of Mirstatians and Shesnans. However, I do see his eyes often searching the dance floor for his lover, and when he finally does locate Ati, a very small smile seems to always grace his lips.
Finally, I decide I’ve had enough of being polite. It’s very clear that the orchestra is winding down, and I feel the distinct need to find Vistalt. I drop a Mirstatian curtsey to my little following and hurry away. A few of the more persistent men follow me right until they see me appropriate my courtee’s arm. He smiles at me and nods his head at the women that are still following him. “I see that your night has been very similar to mine,” he comments dryly as we drift to the edge of the dance floor.
“Fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, is it?”
He sighs. “I thought when I started courting you I was safe from having to deal with large crowds of women. I suppose that isn’t the case.”
I loft an eyebrow at him. “And you’re complaining about hoards of women flocking to you?”
“Well, first off, there’s only one woman I love, and she’s here with me right now. Secondly, not all of the women in that hoard were particularly attractive, and since I can’t talk to them at all, I’ve really got nothing else to factor into who they are.”
I laugh. “Ah, so you are male after all. You did pay attention to how they look.”
Vistalt looks at me a little mischievously. “My lady, if you ever doubted my sex, all we need to do is find a room with a lock and a light. It wouldn’t take more than a moment or two to assure you I am indeed a man, although if you need more confirmation than your eyes can give you, we might need to plan for a more prolonged stay.”
I blush thoroughly. “Perhaps it’s time we begin seeking my father. If we can manage to be close to him when the king makes the announcement, we may still be able to make it out of here in some reasonable amount of time.”
“What’s the rush? Do you have somewhere to go tonight?”
I smile at him prettily. “Well, if you play your cards right, we may be seeking out a room with a lock and a light for something of a prolonged stay. Not overnight, but certainly until the small hours of the morning.”
A huge grin splits his face, and he doesn’t even try to conceal the triumph that comes into his expression. He knows he hasn’t made it all the way yet, but he’s getting closer every night. “So, where is your darling father, Siris?”
I begin to look around. “I would assume he’d be accompanied by Baron Bodan, who is a fat pompous prig.”
Vistalt laughs. “That doesn’t narrow the field much, love.”
I smile a little, still intent upon securing my father’s location. “I suppose it doesn’t.”
It’s my mother I finally locate, and she is naturally plastered to my father’s side. As we approach them, the king rises and a hush immediately fills the room. “As some of you may be aware, the Masque Ball is a highly revered custom in Mirstat. However, due to their noble mission of peace, our friends here will unfortunately be forced to miss the ball in their own country. As a gesture of friendship and to show our great appreciation for all they have sacrificed to be here, I have decreed that the final night of their stay will be a Masque Ball. Please come suitably attired and with appropriate masks. We all hope that this will be the final blessing to culminate a highly beneficial stay here in Shesnat, and that the ball will be an event to make our Mirstatian friends proud. Thank you.”
The king is hardly even seated when I nudge Vistalt towards my father. Seeing the way the two men connect glances, my mother does the perfectly female thing to do; slinks over to where I’m standing and allows her eyes to glaze over. Vistalt smiles at my father, and even though he’s higher ranking than my father, as the man approaching his counterpart, he must bow first. He completes this flawlessly, and my father responds with all the court decorum necessary, although nothing could keep the curiosity from his face. “Duke Vistalt, what a pleasure.”
“It’s all mine, Count Caireb. In light of the king’s announcement, I was wondering if you require a mask.”
My father laughs. “Oh, heavens no, your grace. I have a few that were worn long enough ago that they can be worn again, and so does my wife. We will not be entering Meridon City.” He pauses, and a grimace comes over his face. “Although, I do suppose that my daughter needs one, so I suppose I must escort her.”
Vistalt calmly interjects, “I have a bit of free time in my schedule tomorrow, sir, and if you would prefer, I would take the task of escorting Lady Shaysiris. I require a mask myself anyways.”
A delighted smile splits my father’s face. “You’re willing to do that? That would be absolutely superb.” He ponders this over a moment before he adds, “However, I suppose you will require funds. It simply wouldn’t be proper for you to pay. My only issue is that it will take until tomorrow afternoon for me to procure the money. Might I ask another favor of you, your grace?”
Vistalt puts a falsely benevolent smile on his face. “Of course, Count Caireb. You must only ask.”
“I know this is horribly improper, however, might I impose upon you and ask you to pay the bill for my daughter’s mask? I’ll be sure to reimburse you for every bit of it. You have my word as a noble of Shesnat.”
Vistalt seems to be pondering that a moment. He finally says, “I suppose that will be fine, sir.”
My father looks relieved. “Very good, very good. While I would love to stay and discuss other matters with you, your grace, I’m afraid I’m no longer a young man, and all these robust foreigners make me even more tired even when I only look at them. I believe my wife and I will be retiring.” He bows to Vistalt. “I thank you once again for your generosity, your grace.”
Vistalt bows in return. “It’s of no consequence, sir.”
I bob a curtsey to me father and send a warm smile my mother’s way as my parents make a dash for the door in the hopes they’ll be among the first people out. I then glide up to appropriate Vistalt’s arm. “See? Now didn’t that go smoothly?”
Vistalt grins at me. “It’s better than we anticipated, because now we don’t have a budget.”
I smile from ear-to-ear at hearing this. I hadn’t considered that at all, but it is undoubtedly true. My father will simply get the bill, and, as a gentleman, be forced to pay it, no matter how extravagant.
“Well, I think that’s more than enough brilliantly executed trickery for one night.”
Vistalt looks at me hopefully. “Time to go find a room with a lock and a light?”
I feel a delicious shudder of anticipation run through me. “I think so.”
He glances towards the king unhappily. “He still hasn’t risen.”
“That’s only a problem if he personally notices we’re gone.” I begin to bodily drag him towards the doors.
“Matia and Dunrad?”
“Are very smart people and will either guess or assume as to where we’ve gone. They have excellent imaginations, and I expect to be highly entertained by the conjectures they make in regards to where we ran off to.”
With his last objection thoroughly cast aside, he not only submits to my dragging, but quickly outflanks me and begins to drag me. I’m sure to anyone watching, this is a highly amusing sight. We’re both struggling to maintain any sort of pretense that we’re just going for a walk or some-such nonsense, but I really believe we’re both failing.
We squeeze out the doors and into the hallway beyond without attracting too much attention from the other people milling about the doors. Most of them are completely focused upon the king, apparently hoping that the more people that stare at him, the faster he will choose to retire. So far, their hopes seem to be in vain, but I wholeheartedly wish that they at least continue to believe this silly notion until Vistalt and I are far out of sight.
As soon as we duck into a side corridor, Vistalt puts my back to the nearest wall and his lips to mine. I return the sudden advance with just as much heat as he’s giving me. It seems I have lost my fear of that passion, and I believe that’s the best phobia I ever could have said goodbye to.
In a brief instance of reprieve, Vistalt gasps, “My room or yours?”
I shake my head. “I don’t care about anything right now.” I kiss him again, wanting the taste of him to be burned upon my memory forever.
He apparently feels much the same way, and it’s several long moments before he finally manages, “Bigger bed.”
I raise my eyebrows and through my ragged breathing manage, “Closer.” The tips of my fingers slip under the waistband of his pants to slide over the bare skin located there. Although I’m not touching anything overly sensitive, it’s allegedly been years since Vistalt’s been even remotely close to this kind of attention, and from what I understand, that’s something of a minor miracle for any man.
Apparently, Vistalt realizes just how much he’s been missing it, too. His eyes basically go hard as his desire solidifies and he decides this needs to go somewhere private now. “Yours wins,” he proclaims and begins to walk so fast in that direction that he’s practically carrying me.
I finally manage to get ahead of him when we come to the door, since him opening the door is basically a sure sign to anyone that might see us that he’s coming in, whereas me opening the door means nothing until Vistalt sets foot into the room. However, I never get the chance to even touch the doorknob, because the door swings open just as I’m about to grab it.
I’m left looking at a very startled Riaon.
Her eyes sweep the situation quickly, and during that appraising look, I feel all my desire rush out of me. The horrible reality fills the void left by the outpouring of the other emotion as I realize that we may be caught. After a moment, she clears her throat. “I’m sorry, my lady. Since I arrived so late, I stayed late to finish some things. You obviously weren’t expecting me to be here. I’ll wait inside a minute or two while you say goodbye in privacy.”
And the door shuts.
I face Vistalt. “We are in such deep-”
He’s obviously confused by what just transpired, and interrupts my panicky ravings with a, “Calm down and explain what is going on.”
“It’s really quite simple. Riaon has a family that needs her. If she knows I’ve committed an act worthy of Defilement, fails to report it, and I get caught, she is by law to be subjected to the same punishment as me. If I were to have brought you into my room, it’s classified as seduction, and that’s punishable by death. It’s not a real hard equation. She likes me, but she loves her family. She’d give me up in a heartbeat when faced with that choice.”
“Alright, but she didn’t see anything.”
“No, but she could think she saw something. Vistalt, we may have just gotten caught, and I might be headed off to the executioner by lunch tomorrow!”
He looks me dead in the eye. “Please just breathe. She’s obviously waiting to talk to you, so we’re going to say goodnight, and you’re going to go in there and calmly discuss this with her like the logical, mature adults you are. I’ll be waiting here to take you to Meridon City at the ninth bell of the morning tomorrow, so please be ready, because I’m certain nothing is really wrong here.”
He leans in and gathers me into a bone-crushing hug that clearly betrays the level tone of his voice. As he holds me, he whispers, “If it’s safe and all’s well, come to me tonight. I won’t sleep without knowing you’re out of harm's way.”
“And if all’s not well?” I whisper back.
“Then I’ll be here during the servant’s change of shift, and we’ll run for all we’re worth.” He gives me a quick but loving kiss, and in it, I can feel how desperately concerned he really is. In a normal voice, he bids me goodnight and strolls away.
I take a deep breath and open the door. Riaon is in the entryway, and waits only until the door is shut and locked before she launches in. “My lady, I am not your mother, and you are my better, so I have no right at all to say any of the things I’m about to say. I like you, my lady. You are the best mistress I have ever worked for, and I have been truly happy in your service. You are a good person with a kind heart. However, you are young, and I can see how that’s running away with you. You can’t let it. You are a noble of Shesnat, and more is expected of you. He may be attractive and charming, but he’s not worth your life. I know that you know the consequences of being discovered with a man in your rooms.” I meekly nod as she pauses to consider her next statements.
“However, that was not what I saw tonight. Tonight, I saw nothing. That nothing may have been about to become a something, but at the point I witnessed it, it was nothing. Therefore, there is nothing to report. You must consider, though, that had I been a mere three seconds later in getting to that door, my lady, I would be marching to the king this instant with the information that you had Defiled yourself. I know the laws of Shesnat, and although I like you, my lady, my family must always come first. They can’t do without me. Please, I beg of you, do not make me make that choice, for it is already made. It will break my heart to have to betray you in such a way, but my heart will mend a little every time I see one of my children smile or my husband kisses me.”
I nod, this time with a bit more conviction. “I know, Riaon. That would be the only choice for you to make. I would never ask you to sacrifice your family for me.”
Her look softens, and she begins to fidget. “I know how much you love him, my lady. I can see it in your eyes and in the way he looks at you. It makes me happy to see such a beautiful and pure thing. I know the desires you feel, but you can be strong. Do whatever it takes to be strong. That kind of love will endure. The laws of this country may not be fair, but they are what they are, and we must all abide by them.” She smiles at me. “I would be honored to call you one of my own children, my lady, for all I would have had to be but a girl when I gave birth to you if you really were mine. I implore you, don’t make me choose.”
I smile back. “I won’t.”
She gathers her things. “I’ll be going then, my lady.”
“Say hello to everyone for me, please.” I hold the door open for her as she assures me she will, and we part like everything in the world is perfectly normal.
Which obviously isn’t true.
I wait about five minutes and then scamper off to Vistalt. He admits me to his room, looking very relieved. “I take it she chose to see nothing?”
“You weren’t yet across my threshold, and neither was I, so we could have technically just been saying goodbye or something.”
“Have I ever mentioned how much I love your maid?”
I send him a withering look. “Not the time for jokes, Vistalt.”
He sighs. “Why not? We’re safe, aren’t we?”
“No! Don’t you see? We almost got caught! That would have led to a very nasty slew of things I don’t even want to ponder.”
“Siris, you need to calm down. We’re safe.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one that is picturing themselves beneath a big huge axe blade with a target painted on the back of their neck!”
He looks slightly hurt at this, and I almost feel sorry I said it. However, he can see that I’m trembling, and it’s clear he realizes that my waspish remarks are born of fear and not anger. He comes to me and envelops me in a soft hug. His tone is only slightly chiding as he responds, “No, but I am picturing you in that situation, and me having to witness it. It’s not exactly a happy image either, Siris.”
I sigh. “We need to be a lot more careful, Vistalt. I…I don’t even know if we should sleep in the same bed anymore. Someone could theoretically be out of bed and see one of us sneaking into or out of the other’s room.”
“No one has seen us yet.”
“Yes, that seems to be the obvious problem of the night. What has and hasn’t happened yet.”
He pulls back and looks me in the eye. “Listen to me. I won’t let them hurt you, Siris. No matter what happens, you remember that. I will protect you, even if it means my own life.”
“You can’t be everywhere, Vistalt. No one can be.”
He smiles. “I will certainly try, though.” When my mood doesn’t lighten at all at this, he sighs deeply. “Alright, we’ll do it your way. We’ll sleep apart for a while, and we’ll spend less time in each other’s rooms.”
I finally smile. “If nothing else goes wrong, when the Mirstatians leave, we can sleep together again, but I think we should just cool our heels a while on anything more serious than kissing.”
Vistalt doesn’t even seem frustrated as he nods in agreement, even though all of the things the last week has been building up to have basically died. “Alright, Siris.” He kisses me softly on the forehead. “You’d best get back to your rooms, love.”
I comply, but the bed is cold without Vistalt in it. I feel miserable, lonely, and I’m still worried that Riaon will change her mind and report me just to be sure she’s not going to get in trouble.
Needless to say, I don’t sleep very much.
|Shaysiris 5||Shaysiris 20|
|Shaysiris 17||Asherohn 3|