Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Doamnă is Advised

The work I was sent here to do has not been very heavy. The work that my written orders cover, that is. As there are several here from the home district, as well as our Assistant Magistrate, there is some paperwork to be filed. Not really enough for me to be here, honestly. My interview with the doamnă of the schloss was laced through with hints and half-suggestions that I was to funnel the news and gossip back to her. She doesn't seem to be the sort for actionable intrigue, so I didn't report it. She is spiteful enough to want to know all the latest news before her neighbors, though.

That spite is one of the reasons I tried to get transferred. It's hard for me to be that sneaky, because it makes me uncomfortable. I was happy to find out the Assistant Magistrate knew some of what Doamnă Florescu-Loewenstein tried to slip into my orders, and let me know they were optional. She may forget that people are not following where her thoughts lead her, and forget to use enough words so we follow the same thought-track she is travelling at times. But it isn't that she is intentionally withholding information. Security rules aside, she has been very open with me, I think. I was glad that my contract was transferred to her from her grandmother.

So while I am officially here to take care of the Magistrate's paperwork, I am usually able to pitch in on the Consulate work, where I am cleared for the information.This week, with Herr Messenger back in the office after the latest courier run, the workload was such that all of us in the clerk's den had some spare time. I was taking a few moments with an old issue of the Primgraph, looking to see what gowns might be in the second-hand shops this spring. A clerk's pay is not much, even with room and board allowances, besides the fact I also got a good office suit every spring and fall as part of my contract. But sometimes you want something more than work clothes, and I hope someday to need a very special occasion gown.

The staff in general had caught up with everything on hand, because we had word the crates from the printers might arrive soon. All hands would be needed to sort them out for Herr Shilling to take them to the vendors. Not quite the sort of thing we would ship home, even if the Baron and the Assistant Magistrate were among the models. Even my beloved had participated. I blushed whenever I thought about the proof shot of him I had hidden in my desk after the finals had come back from the printer. Though he had not taken his goggles off for the picture, his gaze was... arresting.

Early in the week we were waiting for the books, the Assistant Magistrate called me into her office. I had not received anything from the courier pouch, and it was too early in the year for my interim evaluation, so I was curious. It was even more curious that she had a corpsman set a comfortable afternoon tea for us, a treat that she did not often request for herself. She usually asked me to bring a pot from the staff galley, if she was too busy to get it herself. The capper was she was not sitting behind her desk. That meant this wasn't an official meeting, and she had not had me close the door, so it would not be bad.

She dismissed the corpsman with her thanks, and began serving. This time of year, it was not the blueberry tea that was my favorite, but by the scent I guessed it was the local Shanghai Quarter blend. The rich black tea was a preference among the staff, and not too bad when made carefully. She paused, and before I could remind her I took my tea with one and cream, she proceeded to make it the way I preferred. "So," she began, "You seem to have settled into the post, and have been seeing the local sights?"

"Da, doamnă," I said as I accepted the teacup from her." The work is interesting, and the people here are very nice."

She nodded, sipped her tea (no sugar with lemon), and waited until I had set my teacup in the saucer before asking, "One person in particular, da?" I blushed, and nodded, while she continued, "One I have not met." Her eyebrow elevated, and I realized I had made a mistake.

"I apologize for not telling you sooner, doamnă. Our schedules have not been such that I see him at a certain time each week. His work has irregular hours, and sometimes requires him to travel." I stared into my cup, momentarily worrying about where he was, and that I had not heard from him since his rapid departure New Year's Day.

"You care very deeply for him." I looked up at her, her eyes reflecting blue light, and she smiled, though it seemed a little sad. She then murmured, "Yet I still do not know who he is... or if he is a suitable suitor."

I blushed, remembering the picture in my desk drawer, "Da, I think you have seen him or at least a picture of him, he modeled for the fundraiser." I set my cup down, "I can go get his file for you?"

She waved me down, "In a moment. If we have a file started on him, he is not as much a stranger as I thought. Tell me about your ring."

I held out my right hand to show her, and said, "He gave it to me saying he could not ask for my hand yet, but that he wanted me to know he would ask as soon as we could be allowed to be engaged."

She chuckled as she inspected the enameled band, "Ah, your intended intended? Sensible of both of you. We will have the security staff review his file, interview him, and send a report to your parents." I was puzzled, and she smiled at me, "It will most likely be a formality, and help your parents feel better about not being able to grill him themselves. Besides, he will need at least basic clearance to visit you in the office without an escort, ne?"

I nodded, "The next time he is available for tea, or maybe lunch, I will bring him around to introduce him?"

"Since he has an odd schedule, yes. I usually have luncheon free, and I can arrange another time, with some warning. We might also be able to have the Captain interview him then, as well." She sat back in her chair and selected a petit four from the tray, idly asking, "Have you given thought to the chapel for your ceremony?"

I fidgeted a bit, but had to admit I had been thinking of it long before he gave me the ring. "I haven't found a House of the Builder here, and the only one I have heard about is in a town that the uncanny folk might not be comfortable in." She raised an eyebrow, thoughtfully, and nodded for me to continue. I shrugged, "I have looked at some other places, but... though they are all pretty, and they seem to be for some aspect of the Builder of All, but... I almost think I might have to build my own."

"There seems to be a bit of a tradition in Steelhead for the bride to build the venue, if not the couple." She sipped her tea again, and said, "If you need help, either building or running interference, do let me know. If I cannot help, I can find someone who can."

We chatted a bit longer, about the venues I had seen, and the new buildings going up as the Managers kept introducing improvements to the area. She was steering the conversation back to my beloved, when a shout came up from the clerk's den greeting the arrival of the crates from the printer. "We will continue this when we are at ease again," my doamnă said with a grin, and we went to help the others unpack.

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