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Olarali stormed around the room, frustrated that the thick plush rug kept her heels from ringing out her anger as she stomped, and threw the newest gray rag down on the wide bed to join the others.Author's Notes
Usually, she loved the gossip rags, and delighted in getting early editions of all the best publications so that she would be on the cutting edge of the latest talk. These issues were all aglow about the prior night's theatre performances, with a particular emphasis on the glamorous opening of the Kaleidoscope Theatre's company.
But these only served to remind her that she had missed that glamorous opening, despite her interest in attending. She had been looking forward to being a glittering jewel on the License Master's arm, collecting cards from high ranking officials and enjoying the fine seats that Jarl had provided her with. Other women in the House of Scarlet Wings had already expressed their envy for her luck in obtaining tickets to the sold-out show, and she had lapped it up. She had not expected the note that arrived from her contact with Jarl that evening, brief but pointed: "Do not attend the theatre tonight with B. See that he goes alone."
Bai's card had arrived only moments after, and Olarali, inwardly fuming, had written a swift reply to it, citing a winter cold for keeping her housebound, and insisting that Bai enjoy the show for both of them. "I expect a full report!" she had written in careful, tiny print. She left off her trademark lip print; it was something she would skip if she'd truly had a cold, and she applauded herself for such attention to detail.
Her satisfaction had been short-lived; she was genuinely interested in the performance, as well as the social mingling of the opening, and it galled her to take off the fine dress and jewels she had spent so much time selecting, and to recognize that no one would appreciate the fashionable little touches to her makeup and her hair that she'd wasted such effort on. She hadn't even trusting the creation to the House girls; her arms ached from the careful arrangement of her hair atop her head, and from shaping the curls that hung loose below. She couldn't go anywhere else to show it off, not even the common room of her House, or risk her alibi.
Even her precious perfume had been wasted, already applied at her throat and wrists. The commodity was nearly gone, thanks to a demand from Jarl's man, and Olarali was jealously careful with every drop remaining. It physically pained her to wash it away that night, knowing it had made no one dizzy with desire.
And the next day, the rags had begun to arrive.
Some of them had barely a mention, buried in a litany of the hottest gossip and couples conjecture: "License Master Bai was seen in the company of an unidentified carnal guild woman in gold."
Others waxed more poetic, speaking favorably of the woman's great beauty, and even speculating that "... his long-time lady of the night, the inestimable and highly sought-after Olarali, might be out of favor."
One even had a printed sketch of a tall, elegant woman in a long gown with waist-length hair and copious cleavage, hanging all over the shorter, wider figure that was recognizable, with some imagination, as the license manager. The artist had gotten his glasses right, at least.
Only one of the rags had managed to identify the woman, but they were vague about her occupation, saying she was, "...Ressa, a woman working in a minor role at the licensing office as well as holding a junior class license with the Guild." They commented only obliquely on the inappropriateness of being Bai's hired woman, if he was also her employer. Olarali stomped to the other end of her room, dismayed by the muffling plushness of her rugs, and threw aside the curtains to her wardrobe.
Nothing inside could comfort her, not even the glossy brightness of her favorite red leather shoes, and she flung the curtain closed again.
It wasn't that she believed that Bai had strayed; their arrangement was not exclusive, but even so, she was confident that the License Master knew too well the value of her services. She knew that she had his first attention, always, and whatever warm feelings he might have for his Head of Files, he was too disgustingly, perfectly moral to stray outside the societal norms that forbid a relationship with Ressa.
This reeked of some larger plot on the part of Jarl, one that Olarali wasn't even sure she wanted to know all the details of. She couldn't resent Bai's witless role in it.
No, what bothered her so completely were the little things, like her perfume and her hair, and her meticulously chosen accessories, all gone completely to waste.
It was the little things that made her fume.
This was written for the September 2011 Muse Fusion, to a title prompt from Doris Hernandez.