(123-05-30) Present Club
Present Club
Summary: Camillo has a present for Esme. This is a bit embarrassing.
Date: 30/05/2016
Related: Related Logs (Say None if there aren't any; don't leave blank. You have to use full URLs, like http://gobmush.wikidot.com/logtitle)

"—And I do appreciate your business, always, I'm sure," Esme is promising a customer on the other side of her counter as she marks down several small items to her account, smiling as though cutting the woman's throat in her sleep were the last thought in her mind and not, as invariably the case, no. 2 after calculating the precise angles of those improbable teeth, when the bell over her shop door tinkles to announce an honourable rescue. She looks away from the teeth to the new arrival: her smile doesn't so much as flicker. "Master Camillo! How nice to see you again," she declares.

Camillo dips his head at Esme, though he doesn't approach too closely, quickly reading in the air that this customer is potentially problematic. He hangs back a moment as though perusing the shelves so as not to make the situation any worse.

The perennially-ruffled feathers the woman walks about with, as though they're a fashion accessory she has chosen to affect, are soothed by another couple of remarks from Esme at her smallest and most humble and most grateful; the changes in the standing order (a large one, as Camillo can't help but overhear) are repeated back out of Esme's formidable memory; and she departs, teeth first. Then Esme turns, unerringly, to just where Camillo happens to be browsing in the moment her bell falls silent; "There we are," she remarks, giving him now a crooked smile. "Thank you for waitin'."

Camillo doesn't really seem to be looking for anything in particular. He smiles back. "Do you have to repeat that very often?" he wonders.

"… Not exactly. I shift the words round now and again," explains Esme dryly, "to give us both a change." She quirks her eyebrows at him and picks up her knitting from where it had to be put down for the woman with the teeth. Another sock, this time in dark grey wool and a pattern of textured diamonds and wavy stripes.

Camillo bobs his head with great understanding. He looks to the socks Esme is knitting. "Would you mind if I gave you something?" he asks softly.

Esme was of course already looking at her visitor, rather than the sock in her hands; now she studies him, briefly bemused. "What would y—" Then she tilts her head and protests, "But there's no need, dearie, no need at all."

"If there were a need, it would be something different," Camillo replies softly, rooting around in that bag he often wears around his body. He comes upon something wrapped loosely in a tube of cloth, and puts that lightly on Esme's counter. The package contains a set of straight knitting needles that Camillo has every reason to believe is of fine quality: smooth, durable, lightweight birch wood. He's gotten a similar size to some he has seen her use, though he had no precise measurements to go on. And the knobs on the ends are very prettily carved.

"You really shouldn't have," insists Esme, giving Camillo a reproving look out of rather fond eyes. But she doesn't argue any more; she just finishes knitting across the needle, and puts down her sock leg and its attendant ball of wool somewhere in the secret recesses behind her counter. Then, flicking him an uncertain look, she picks up her present and unwraps it.

Her hands recognise at once the feel of knitting needles. She looks up at Camillo again and can't hide her pleasure, even before she's seen them. And then there they are, and she's turning them over in her hands, admiring the carving and the sharpness and smoothness of the pointed ends. "Oh, these are… very fine," she admits, ducking her head and biting her lower lip to keep her smile under control. A thumb caresses a point. "I'm goin' to be so spoiled soon I shan't even know myself, between you'n Flox… Very fine," she repeats, and at last she meets his eyes directly. "Thank you, Master Camillo."

Camillo shakes his head a little, perhaps as embarrassed to give as she is to receive, but there's a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth to suggest that he's glad she's pleased. "It is something very small in return for a great many kindnesses," he says.

"Everythin' in my work basket's gettin' to be so handsome," observes Esme, in a tut-tutting voice, but still with pleased eyes. "I shall have to start makin' prettier things, though I don't know what." She clears her throat and puts down the knitting needles on the cloth they came in, lined up neatly together, her hand smoothing them just once more before letting go. "Now, I hope you won't be thinkin' of runnin' off again," she says firmly; "it's gettin' to be closin' time and I'm sure Edmyn and I would be very pleased if you'd stay and have a bite of somethin' with us. Might be a bit makeshift," she warns, "but I've a pork pie in the last batch they're bakin' across the way and that'll fill in any odd corners, won't it?" she suggests conspiratorially.

Camillo inclines his head. "If you don't mind," he agrees mildly, a little less uncomfortable since at least now he's done something toward covering his debt to her. "I can always bring something else in to eat from the market if I'm making you stretch the food."

Esme is visibly, theatrically taken aback at the very suggestion. She leans away, jaw lowered, eyebrows furrowed: "Don't you even say such a thing!" she exclaims. "When the day comes I don't know how to stretch dinner for two to dinner for three, they can nail shut my box and have done with me," she informs him. "Don't you worry about that, dearie, not one little bit." A firm nod.

Then she slips down from her high stool and raps on the connecting door with her knuckles; seconds later the shop girl who always wears grey, Talia, glides in from the butchery next door, interrupting Esme. "There's a favour I've a mind to ask you, if it ain't too wrong of me after you— there you are, dearie. Step over the road, will you, and fetch my pie from Mistress Audra? Should be done by now, and then you girls might get on with the closin' up. Don't reckon we'll have anyone else in today," this last being a reluctant admission.

"Yes, Mistress Esme."

"Bless you, dearie." For Esme smiles at this shop girl more than at the other one, and speaks to her in much less long-suffering tones.

She watches her go and then looks to Camillo again. "What was I sayin'?"

Camillo lifts his eyebrows at such a rejection of the idea that he might get a little more food. He accepts Esme's ruling with a nod. He watches the interaction between Esme and Talia. "Only about the food," he says, shaking his head.

"Aye, the food and the eatin' of it." Esme, hands on her hips, rocks forward onto the balls of her feet and then back onto her heels. "… You still ain't goin' to Dorne with the others?" she asks softly, looking up into Camillo's eyes. "Or did you change your mind when you'd had a think about it?"

Camillo frowns a little at that subject, shaking his head again. "They won't be needing me there," he says. "I've not much to do with Dorne. The Hightowers seem to have escaped the need to marry into the Dornish families. They are mostly going to see Princess Visenya, I think. Who is…difficult."

"Mm," agrees Esme, not venturing any particular comment upon Hightowers, or Targaryens, or difficulties. "… I wondered whether, since you were stayin', you'd care to come round for dinner," she suggests, in that same soft and almost diffident voice, "if you've the time free whilst the rest are away. Once or twice maybe. On the Tuesdays." The nights when she customarily entertains a different kind of dinner guest. "… Edmyn's used to havin' someone round on Tuesdays," she explains after another tiny pause, "and I'd as soon not have those evenings empty when he's used to them bein' full, so I'm askin' other people we know. People I know I can depend on to come when they say they'll come, and to be good company for him. Of course if you've not got free evenings enough to spare I'd not like to take up too much of your time, but I thought there was no harm in askin'." She nods to underline this truism.

Camillo tilts his head at this offer and its slightly unusual explanation. Then after another moment maybe he's worked it out, and he nods. "Well, if it will make it easier on Edmyn, it isn't any trouble to me…"

"It would make it easier," says Edmyn's mother simply. "He has a routine… His Mondays are all the same, his Tuesdays are all the same, his Wednesdays are all the same; only now, well, he's used to havin' someone round on Tuesdays. We've explained it all to him, of course, and he understands it well enough, but he'd be a bit out of sorts if he and I were just by ourselves every Tuesday, and why leave him like that if there's a way to fix it…? It would be a kindness to me," and she glances away to the counter, and the knitting needles laid out upon it, "and a bigger kindness to him, though he won't really know it. He's happier when everything's just the way he expects it to be, see? … Well, that's settled, then." She smiles. "You just check and see which Tuesdays you'll be at liberty, and you'll be most welcome, eh?"

Whereupon Talia returns, bearing a fresh and fragrant pork pie swathed in a linen cloth. "It smells delicious, Mistress Esme," she murmurs.

Esme turns to her at once with open hands: "Bless you for fetchin' it," she says, "and I'll save you a slice, if you—?" But by a word here, a change in expression there, it is agreed that Talia must be getting home to her parents as soon as the shop has been properly closed up for the day.

Camillo bobs his head to show his understanding of the situation and willingness to provide this help even if it may be secretly for his own self. He stands out of the way of this exchange between the women, but of course he can't help a glance for the pie that does smell good.

"… And I'll send in Katla, dearie," promises Esme, managing the cooling pork pie expertly with one hand as she opens the connecting door with the other. She gathers up Camillo with a glance and a smile and waits for him to go through first into the butchery, where it's true that not a lot is happening at this hour of the day but the necessary cleaning; she dispatches Katla to see to shutting up the grocery, and bears the pie ahead of her up into her flat.

"The older I get the more I look forward to the end of the day," she chuckles to Camillo on the stairs. "Just you wait a few years, dearie; you'll see."

Camillo is obedient to such looks and gestures, and follows right away. "My duties have unexpectedly gotten somewhat lighter recently," Camillo says, "With my change in position and Flox being so dependable in his duties. But I do not doubt that things will become more difficult over time."

The small shift in the facial expression of this minority shareholder in Flox, Inc. goes unnoticed in the gloom of the stairs. "Mm. Well, depends what you're doin', I suppose," she concedes, stepping into the flat and the light. "I get up at three every mornin', 'cept Sundays when I have a lie-in till five or half past; and I'm on my feet more'n I'd like to be, strictly speakin'; and that don't get any easier. But I work for myself so I've none to blame but myself," she chuckles, establishing the pie on the sideboard.

Then she produces from one of the capacious pockets beneath her striped dress the cloth-wrapped bundle of knitting needles, which she absolutely definitely rolled up and slipped in there before coming upstairs. She unwraps the knitting needles again and, holding them in one hand and the cloth in the other, lifts the latter and asks seriously, "Shall I wash this and give it back to you? Daresay I could find a use for it, but I daresay you could too."

"I still rise early," Camillo admits. After all, a large portion of servants' work is done when the nobles are asleep and entirely unaware. And senior servants must be up in order to be sure that the lower servants keep to the proper standards and at all costs do not oversleep. "But I know I am slowing with age. The Hightower has more steps than some of us might like." He looks to the cloth, which was more protective than decorative. "You needn't wash it," he says. "It's only held those needles." But apparently he will accept its return.

"If you're sure—?" And Esme hesitates, gauging how he really feels about the cloth, before folding it neatly and offering it back to him, one friend to another, united in the fight against waste. Then, with another small smile down at her new knitting needles, she steps through into her bedroom to put them away in her work basket, where they belong. Everything in its place.

"The way I feel about my own stairs these days," she calls through, "I don't know that I'd like to imagine how many you must be goin' up and down every day… still, keeps you trim, don't it?" She reappears, unbuttoning her cuffs, rolling up her sleeves. "Well, let's see what we have here," she declares, surveying her kitchen and her cupboards and her banked fire. "Drop of cider?"

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