Past, Meet Present! (open)
Ysabel was in the Qwerty for no other reason than she'd been walking by and, it being unseasonably chilly, the warm air from within as someone opened the door wafted by and attracted her. She had never been to an internet cafe before. She had nothing pressing to attend to. She could surely stop in, have a warm drink, and see what it was all about.
As she entered she was overwhelmed by the sight of that many computers and appliances all in one space. It was a little bit daunting. It didn't help that a vast number of the clientele appeared to be college aged young... well, geeks. And many of them collectively looked up from their keyboards and then simply... stared.
Ysabel let a soft smile drift across her face, a result of years of habit, and drifted slowly forward toward the counter to order a drink. She lifted her skirt a little bit to keep it from sweeping through any inadvertent spills and peered up at the menu, trying to choose a drink without actually understanding what many of them actually were.
She had decided that she couldn't go back to the asylum right after meeting with him. It might raise questions and while she hadn't seen much of Vaughn since that day ThÃ©rÃ¨se was determined to protect him and that meant keeping him from asking questions. She needed a few minutes for her shoulder to recover and to collect herself. The Qwerty was as good a place as any for that, perhaps she would email her father, she hadn't spoken to him in some time.
Absently she straightened her hair and waited in line behind a young blond woman with quite striking fashion sense.
"That it a remarkable dress, if you don't mind my saying so."
He did quite like it, even if it wasn't exactly fashion forward. If nothing else it took her mind off her previous meeting.
Ysabel lifted her gathered skirts and dipped a perfect curtsy, just right for a member of nobility greeting someone of uncertain and questionable birth. Rising, she smiled.
"I don't mind, and thank you," she said.
Turning back to the counter she ordered a small cup of chai tea. She'd had it once or twice and usually liked it. The blend of spices would be perfect for the chilly night. She stepped politely off to the side and waited while her drink was prepared, so the other woman could place her order.
She wasn't sure. She also wasn't sure why this woman would be wearing such an elaborate piece out on the streets and in an internet cafÃ© of all places. She might be casting a little judgment, but was keeping it to herself, that was the only polite thing to do.
The curtsy took her a back slightly, it seemed so effortless and natural, not a conditioned response at all. Were the woman's manners as out dated as her dress? It was a puzzle.
It was hard not to stare, but ThÃ©rÃ¨se managed. She ordered something hot and strong but decaf, she had enough adrenalin going she didn't need to add caffeine to the mix.
She looked around while the other woman got her drink, smiling at the fact that she seemed to recognize the period of Ysabel's gown. Close, anyhow. She looked down at her attire.
"Late fourteenth, fifteenth," she corrected gently. The sixteenth century, Henry VIII's time, would have seen her in something far more elaborate. Ysabel did wear a variety of outdated periods but she often preferred the simple kirtle and chemise. "It looks unfashionable, I know, but for comfort, it's unbeatable."
Deciding it was only polite, Ysabel extended an invitation to the woman. "Would you like to join me? It doesn't look like there are very many empty tables but I do see one over there."
She indicated the direction by holding her hand out gracefully; while she did point on occasion she did try to remember that it was often considered rude.
"Perhaps it is a bit dated... but it was once the height of fashion and it is quite beautiful. You also carry it off quite well. May I ask the occasion?"
Perhaps a party or maybe the woman was a historical reenactor. Nachton was a big city there must be a number of such groups.
As her drink order was quite simple it came along quite quickly. Although she turned her nose up and the artificial creamer. Well, she was perfectly capable of drinking her coffee black. She turned to find a place to sit and email her family but the place was quite crowded.
She rolled her shoulder trying to ease some of the lingering pain and stiffness from it as she looked for a place to sit down. Fortunately the young lady saved her.
"Merci I should appreciate that. I am not quite feeling up to braving some of these young men."
Most of the patrons were young and male, geeks she thought the word was. Not all others seemed to be responsible business men and others seemed to be students and there was a small sprinkling of females as well. Not one of them were people she felt quite like making polite conversation with.
At least this young woman seemed to be polite and interesting so far.
She looked down at herself. "Granted, this is a bit earlier than what I'm supposed to be in but I love it."
The other woman accepted her offer to share a table and Ysabel smiled, making her way toward it gracefully. "They're just men," she said with a secret little smile at the woman's apparent reluctance. Ysabel had made a centuries-long life out of cohabiting with men. She understood them, wasn't afraid of them, didn't hesitate. But she did understand the sentiment.
As they took their seats at the small table near a window Ysabel said, "I'm Ysabel, by the way."
It was not necessary to give her last name. This was a simple casual meeting that she doubted would last beyond the coffee shop.
It was something she'd have to do very soon. It could only help the Arch. ThÃ©rÃ¨se had noticed there was not an exhibit with local content. That should be rectified. She'd bring that up in the next staff meeting. Work was her one comfort, the one stable thing in her life right now. Perhaps she was hiding behind it too much.
ThÃ©rÃ¨se chuckled at the young blond's observation. Most days she would agree but right now they seemed far too complicated.
"That they are, but there are some times one would rather not seek out their company."
She would like to find one man's company, but just the one. He, however, had quite enough on his mind right now and she didn't wish to distract him or add to it. With a soft smile she sat down with Ysabel, casually glancing out the window not sure who she was looking for.
"A pleasure Ysabel, I am ThÃ©rÃ¨se."
She sipped at her tea, the blend of bold spices not always her favorite, but tonight they suited her mood. At Therese's words she raised eyebrows and said, "Ah," in an understanding tone of voice. "Their company can get tedious, can't it."
She wouldn't pry, which would be rude, and she wouldn't disagree, which would be equally rude. Small talk was an art form and Ysabel had studied it all her life. So she kept her pleasant smile upon her face and agreed with Therese, nodding when the woman gave her her name.
"Enchante," she said, having recognized Therese's obvious accent. "If I may be so bold, where are you from, Therese? And what brings you to Nachton?"
She promised. It was a genuine promise, whether or not Ysabel knew that was up for grabs. But she did mean it.
ThÃ©rÃ¨se only smiled a little sadly at Ysabel. She had a feeling that her new acquaintance had a very different idea of what was going on here. But the situation was complicated to say the least, both Vaughn and her keeper... and certainly not something she wanted to or was up to explaining.
"Oui. Some days it is quite difficult."
It was funny to think she could sum it all up in so few words, but... there it was.
Her smile warmed slightly at the other woman's response. Even just the one word in French was enough to slightly warm ThÃ©rÃ¨se's opinion of Ysabel. The other woman's manners were excellent and put her very much at ease.
"My family is in Brittany." Which was true enough, and was certainly easier to understand than their near constant roaming. "I received a rather irresistible offer with the Arch and came out here."
And she would, because that was the sort of thing she enjoyed too. Ysabel enjoyed meeting people and almost always invited them to see her at work. She had been there for a few years now and enjoyed what she did. The little bit of theatrics she was allowed to engage in was a lot of fun.
She laughed lightly at Therese's agreement with her. Men were generally a safe topic amongst most women; she suspected the same were true the other way around. She had not yet met a woman who could not express some sort of frustration with a man in her life, whether it was a significant other, a friend, or a relative of some nature.
Therese labeled herself as being from Brittany; Ysabel gave a little 'ah,' and said, "I've been there. To Vitre, specifically, on numerous occasions. We have family there."
Clearly Ysabel was from Britian; it was not a huge leap to France from there. "It's a beautiful region. I always loved visiting."
She tilted her head at Therese when she said she received an offer from the art museum. "Truly? What do you do there? Are you an artist, then? What a fascinating place to work."
She should have some time there. Perhaps she would take the team that was doing the fashion exhibit. It would be nice to see if they could work a local angle in. It would be a good chance to establish professional ties as well.
She was quite thankful that Ysabel hadn't wanted to peruse the topic. She really didn't want to dance around the subject. And while she might confide in friends, Ysabel was a stranger.
Instead she smiled when Ysabel mentioned having been to Brittany.
"Ah oui! It is lovely there. We are from farther north, more along the coast, Saint Brieuc. What family do you have there? If I might ask, and where in England are you from?"
She seemed rather young to be here in the states alone. But ThÃ©rÃ¨se also wasn't certain of Ysabel's age, she must be older than she appeared to be working at the historical society. So it was a toss up if her companion was here with her family or on her own.
Her laugh was surprisingly warm.
"I do paint but I would hardly call myself an artist. I accepted the position as curator not long ago. It is quite a challenge, but I must say I am never bored. You shall have to stop by some day."
Undoubtedly Ysabel already had been to the Arch at least once, probably more. But she made the offer and would be happy to escort Ysabel through and exhibit or two if she wished.
This being Nachton, the guided tours through the historical homes went until late at night. Ysabel enjoyed giving them; she was able to include part of the supernatural lore of Nachton. Such ghost stories accompanied every old building in every city she'd ever visited.
"Several cousins," Ysabel said honestly. They were vampires, but she considered all of Anantya her brothers, sisters, and cousins. "Our family name is Yolgrave but the cousins are all St. Martins. We're from Oxford... well, just outside of it, but Oxford will do."
Ysabel smiled; Oxford had many suburbs now. The city today was much larger than it had been six hundred years ago and it now encompassed the area the Yolgraves had once lived. Their manor house still stood but it was one of few that could claim that honor, and they had worked hard to maintain its integrity and property over the centuries.
Sipping delicately at her chai Ysabel nodded at Therese. "I have tried my hand at painting and found it to be far beyond my capabilities. I'm sure your efforts are wonderful, if you've put time into them to make them so."
She raised her eyebrows in surprised interest when Therese told her her profession. "That's wonderful," she said, genuine admiration in her voice. "I would love to visit again. I love the Arch."
ThÃ©rÃ¨se was a bit startled. She had not quite gotten used to the odd hours that this city seemed to keep. It also immediately made her question what Ysabel was. Even though she was quite aware that she was most likely jumping at shadows, in ThÃ©rÃ¨se's mind suddenly the sweet blond looked sinister.
"I cannot imagine those tours are very crowded."
How any non-profit functioned on such hours she didn't know. Although, even the Arch was open quite late. Something she had just accepted when she took the job. Now, however, she couldn't help but wonder how many of her late night patrons had an alternative diet.
"We never spent much time in England, I'm afraid I have not had the pleasure of visiting there."
Well that was surprising. One certainly could not fault Ysabel's manners it would undoubtedly be very easy to like the young woman. Anyone who could be supportive of her artistic endeavors without seeing them was well above average polite conversation.
"Wonderful may be a bit much, but I do enjoy them. Perhaps, should you come by, ... I would be happy to take you through if you would like and you might find a class that would appeal to you."
She hated to see people give up on an artistic interested because they felt they weren't good enough. Art was art, it didn't all have merit or meaning but if it had emotion and meant something at least to the artist that was enough. It might not sell or become famous, but it was enough.
Therese must be very new to Nachton indeed. Everything in this city was open all night long. It was Nachton. The city prided itself on being, literally, the real city that never sleeps.
Ysabel, determined not to make a big deal out of the fact that Therese evidently didn't quite understand how Nachton had become famous, continued onward. "You should visit if you have the chance some day," she said in regard to her home country. "It is lovely. Particularly in the country, early in the morning, with the mist lying low on the grass. I do miss it, but my sister and I have been here for several years and I've grown to love the States just as much."
She favored Therese with a bright smile. Her companion responded to her praise with proper modesty, as Ysabel expected from anyone who had never had the opportunity to display their work to a new associate, and offered to show her around the museum herself.
"I would enjoy that, thank you," Ysabel said. "What sort of classes are available? I have to say, I played with water colors and did not necessarily find them to my liking."
Ysabel had been taught how to paint but she didn't prefer it. She would rather play the piano or her harp, so once she had completed the required course or artwork for any well-bred young Englishwoman, she had not gone back.
"Of course. I should have thought of that. You're quite right. I should imagine that come Halloween things pick up even more. And that in a city this size you must have more than a few such stories."
Especially given the presence of the mulo. That should create for many unexplained deaths and violence.
Ah, that answered something about Ysabel's family situation. Probably an older sister, perhaps they were both students. Ysabel's talk of morning also relived any remaining concerns ThÃ©rÃ¨se had about the woman being a vampire.
"Perhaps I shall be able to visit some day. Might I ask what brought you and your sister to the states then?"
Just to satisfy her own curiosity. The story that ThÃ©rÃ¨se had created was very likely, but there were others that were just and plausible.
Ah now that was a shame, she was quite fond of water colors, but they weren't for every one.
"Well... it all depends on what teachers we can get to volunteer. But we have done water colors, clay, acrylics and oils. Very basic but also classes on specific techniques, composition, preliminary sketches, color theory. Really it is quite divers, I could go on but I do not wish to bore you. Of course, if you'd rather we do a number of talks and lectures as well."
Suddenly aware she had been rambling for a while she smiled apologetically and broke off. It was easy to get lost in her enthusiasm and pride. Ysabel seemed truly interested and not just feigning polite curiosity so it was a little hard to stop.
That was part of what made giving tours so much fun. Ysabel would admit to helping perpetuate the legends too. A well timed creaky floor board, a door swinging open or shut at the right moment, a gently swaying chandelier... all of these things helped and Ysabel was glad to do her part.
Addressing Therese's next question Ysabel lifted her shoulders. "My sister is here studying," she said. "I came with her, for company, and to help my parents. My father breeds horses. So far he has kept his business in England and Europe but he has an interest in expanding to the States, so I offered to come help explore some business contacts. I liked it so much I thought I'd stay for a bit."
If it was apparent that Ysabel was of a family of some means, well, it didn't matter to her. Perhaps it was different in America but in England not everyone chose to pursue college. Ysabel had indeed helped Richard with his breeding stable over the centuries. The lie, if not entirely accurate, was also not entirely false.
As the conversation turned to art she did her best to follow. It occurred to her that Marie might be interested, and in that case Ysabel would be happy to attend. She smiled at Therese. "I have a girlfriend who might like to join me in a class," she said. "She goes to the University here and works part time, but I will ask her. It would be fun to do together. When do you have classes currently?"
"I'm sure that must be entertaining for you though."
Certainly the society must spice up their tours a bit, or at least teach their volunteers to be very good story tellers. She just hoped that none of the spirits chose to take exception with Ysabel or any one else who was doing this innocently.
Well, that was unexpected. ThÃ©rÃ¨se's eyebrows raised slightly. She wasn't really surprised that Ysabel wasn't going to school, after all she'd been half right if her sister was studying, but the horses was different. Obviously Ysabel's family had money.
"That is a bit unusual isn't it. I cannot imagine there is much of a market for horses..."
They were a luxury good were they? It least in her experience they were. You were either rich enough to afford to keep one or you were too poor to afford a tractor to work the fields.
When Ysabel expressed interest ThÃ©rÃ¨se beamed. She wouldn't mention it now, why they barley knew each other, but if Ysabel did have money... well perhaps she'd donate. It never hurt to put your best face forward.
"Wonderful. Most of our classes either run weekends or start at seven or eight to give people time to get home from work. There are three starting soon, I'll bring you the information when I come by the historical society. If I remember right, one is a sculpting class, one is landscapes and one is beginning acrylics."
She smiled at Therese's assessment of their family's business. "There's a market if you have a good reputation as a breeder," she said, inclining her head at her companion modestly to indicate that their family possessed just such a reputation. Her father's stallions were known across Europe. They had done some shipping of product to America and were looking to do more.
Ysabel took note of the class times with a satisfied nod. "Perfect," she said happily. "Marie works in the mornings and has class in the afternoon so that will be a good time for us. I'll ask her if any of those appeal. It will be fun!"
She thought maybe acrylics would be interesting, or landscapes. Sculpting seemed too dirty. For her, at any rate. She didn't like the idea of getting clay or paper mache or what have you underneath her nails or in her hair.
"Can I contact you at the museum, or is there someone else who handles such matters?"
Surely the curator of the Arch had other matters to attend to than signing random strangers up for art classes.
Never having much interest in horses, she couldn't really comment or keep the conversation up terribly well.
"What type of horses do you breed then?"
She was pleased to hear those times worked. Some days ThÃ©rÃ¨se was afraid they started their classes too late. But one of the evening curators was actually pushing for later start times as well, at least on the lectures. She was resisting that though. She didn't want to cater to the mulo. Let them find their own classes, they all had money didn't they?
"You are welcome to contact me, but I think you'll find our educational staff better equipped to assist you. I would ask for Stephanie Ito. She does most of the registrations."
She simply left it at that though; if Therese was interested in horses she would ask more questions; Ysabel was too well mannered to go on and on on a topic ad nauseum. Instead she continued on to the next topic and nodded at Therese.
"Stephanie Ito. Thank you, I will make sure we look her up if we do take one of your classes. They do sound delightful."
While it hadn't been her favorite pass time, Ysabel did think every well-bred lady should at least dabble. All the better to understand and appreciate the arts. It would do Marie good to expand her interests. She was going to live for a very long time, after all.