Camilla’s mother was an exceedingly tidy person, so when she came into the third parlor to find swatches of material all over the place, she was visibly dismayed.
Camilla decided to pretend to be oblivious to her mother’s irritation and opted for distraction, instead.
“Mother, I’m so glad you’re here!” she exclaimed in relief. “I can’t for the life of me pick out which material to have my gown made of, and of all things, I have to match green.”
She spoke the offending color with a definite twinge of loathing, as it wasn’t one of her favorites at all. Fortunately, the ruse worked, and her mother’s interest was instantly piqued.
“Well,” her mother said, falling immediately into the mode of consultation, “I don’t envy you, matching green. I’ve no idea why Prince Fangline is so set on it all the time. What can any self-respecting belle wear that matches green to any degree of satisfaction?”
“Besides more green, of course,” replied Camilla morosely.
Her mother heaved a sigh of deep thought. From Camilla’s perspective, her mother was an exceedingly beautiful woman with silver hair neither she nor her brother had inherited, except only in the case of Al’bert’s singular silver forelock. She was always dressed to perfection, and seemed to spend her life concerned with making sure everything around her was perfect as well. To Camilla this seemed like a very dull occupation, but she wondered on it and decided her mother had to have some sort of motivation. The Fromages did keep up appearances, and she suspected it was her mother who was the immoveable driving force behind it.
The opposite door opened and Al’bert came in, with the tailor trailing dutifully behind. A contract from the Fromages was always very profitable, and this tailor evidently knew it. Unfortunately, the Fromage estate was rather distantly removed from mainstream Schloeffelonia, and the tailor would only be there for one day. This meant, for Camilla, that she would have to choose her fabric today.
“Can you get your hands on any silver thread, Master Bellafringe?” Al’bert was asking the tailor as they reached Camilla and the Duchesse du Fromage.
“I think I can,” Master Bellafringe replied distractedly, thoroughly embroiling himself in the act of scribbling with a pencil fragment into a small notebook.
“Good. That’ll make a nice embroidery,” said Al’bert. “Mother, Camilla,” he greeted, and then sat near them on a lounge while turning his attention in an expectant way, along with the tailor, to Camilla.
Camilla sighed and threw several swatches away from herself with abandon, noting her mother tensed with the need to tidy up the instant she did so.
“What about this, Camilla?” asked Al’bert, holding out a swatch of deep burgundy brocade to her.
“Does that match green?” asked Camilla sarcastically. “I don’t think so,” she finished, “Nothing does!”
Falling into utter despair, she slumped down and hid her head beneath a comfy pillow trimmed with golden fringe and tassels. The tailor turned a papery page in his notebook. She could hear her mother shift on the chair nearest her.
Master Bellafringe coughed very politely and said, “If I might offer a suggestion-“
“Yes, please do!” cried Camilla, sitting upright and dropping the pillow aside in her anxiety. The tailor was only briefly taken aback by her zealousness, but soon recovered and adjusted the spectacles on his nose, which action suddenly struck Camilla as adorable.
She instantly saw Master Bellafringe in a whole new light, but ignored it for the time being in order to listen for hope in his suggestion.
“Well,” he began. “If you were to make a gown of burgundy, but trim it with, say, green ribbons… in a tasteful way, of course, by adding perhaps some white lace and so on, well… then you would match green, more or less, wouldn’t you say?”
Master Bellafringe waited very breathlessly for approval from the silent Fromages. Camilla stood at last, and approached him.
“Oh, Master Bellafringe,” she exhaled gratefully, her cheeks flushed and her smile benignly cheerful. “What a wonderful idea!”
To this, the tailor himself seemed relieved, and spared for Camilla an appropriately pleasant smile before he dove into the workings of his notebook and pencil again.
Camilla glanced at her mother, who spoke in an instant.
“Al’bert, I was curious if you would look over some letters for me,” she said, rising.
“Of course, Mother,” he replied, and they left together rather suddenly, leaving Camilla and Master Bellafringe entirely alone before he could realize what had happened. As it was, he looked up from his notebook in a somewhat bewildered way at the door where the other two had just exited.
“If that is all, I’ll be on my way,” he said to Camilla, very politely.
She stopped him by lighting her hand on his arm.
“Well, I…” she said, thinking rapidly. “Don’t I get to choose what sort of lace you decorate my gown with?”
She made sure to fix him with her large deep blue eyes, but only in a mostly innocent way. He looked at her, and seemed very cognizant.
“Of course, Comtesse,” he said to her. “Let me call the Duchesse to view the samples as well.” He smiled briefly at her, then began to make for the door.
It was to her chagrin, and so she stopped him with her voice.
All of them had it to some degree or other, except for her mother, for it ran through the blood of the Fromage line. It could be described as the power of suggestion, or charisma, or glamour, as some called it. It only varied in the way it was focused in them. For Al’bert it was carried through eye contact. For her, it carried through the timbre of her voice.
She was used to getting what she wanted, and in this case, she was determined to have the most perfect gown, created with the blood, sweat, and tears of one of Schloeffelonia’s finest tailors. Besides, she really did think he was remarkably cute in a stuffy sort of way.
“Master Bellafringe,” she said, her voice full of a myriad of colors and warmth. He stopped, halfway between her and the door, and turned to look at her with a small measure of fear in his expression. She found this curious.
“What is wrong?” she asked him, normally, but moving towards him again.
“I have been warned about you,” he said to her, not without hesitation over stating something so accusatory and blatant. Camilla, for her part, actually found it very flattering, and smiled in response.
“What were you warned about?” she asked.
The tailor’s expression grew stubborn and he chose the door as the better action, to which she was forced to use it again on him.
“What were you warned about?” she said, with a resonant, soft timbre that sunk all the way to his bones. He drew an uneasy breath as she turned him to face her with almost no force from her delicate hand.
“Please, Comtesse…” he said, full of the anxiety of one about to spill things he’d rather not; which he’d very much rather not. However, she did not relent, because she was very direct with her prey, once she’d decided on it.
“Tell me,” she said to him softly as he realized he’d been backed against the wall by the Comtesse. She was nearly half a foot shorter than him, but horribly powerful for some reason he couldn’t define exactly, and wasn’t even remotely comfortable with.
She insisted again, pressing him; pressing until he felt as if he were holding back an ocean’s tide with only two hands.
“Comtessa,” he said raggedly, “This does not lie within professional boundaries…”
“Boundaries…” she said with a smile, her voice casually tearing through him like the teeth of a lioness.
A wall suddenly fell away in his mind. He saw it fall and might have grasped after it if it wasn’t already too late, but instead he only watched it crash devastatingly to the ground. He was bereft of will.
He looked into her eyes as if seeing them for the first time, and knew they were depthless and beautiful.
It was in this raw and exposed state that he found himself confessing anything and everything the Comtesse would ask of him with willingness and even pleasure.