(123-09-02) Sheets, Scents, and Schemes
Sheets, Scents, and Schemes
Summary: Audra's midwife has her on bed-rest; Esme drops in to help her pass the time, and to talk of all these new seasons in their lives.
Date: 10/10/2016
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)

When a first-time mother is in need of a helping hand, every mother and grandmother within half a mile feels compelled to help out; and so as long as Mistress Audra has been laid up on midwives' orders, awaiting the arrival of the son and heir of the finest bakehouse in the Shambles, the women of the neighbourhood have been sending their children (and, in some fortunate cases, their employees) round to the bakery and up its stairs with a constant stream of cooked meals, clean laundry, and whatever salves and tisanes and other little treats they swear helped them, when they were in her position.

It's been a while since Audra and Esme last spoke, the one being confined to her bed almost every hour of the day, and the other running three businesses and round after her son. But her concern has been felt, not just in the form of fine meat pies sent to the bakehouse for eating as well as baking, and the odd pot of her ravishingly spiced fish stew, but in the presence of her cleaning-girls, who come round singly to give the upstairs a once-over or in pairs for something more akin to a thrice-over. The cobwebs have had no chance to gather merely because the mistress of the flat is abed. Oh, no.

One afternoon she comes in person, wearing the red dress which is her seventh-day best, because that's what one does for visiting. Her grey hair has been neatly combed and put up with those blue cloisonne-tipped hairpins she has often been sporting this year, at first only on the Tuesdays when her particular friend came to dinner, and now every day since his return (much-discussed along the Shambles) from… wherever it was he must have been, whatever it was he must have been doing, when he didn't visit for two months.

She is shown up by one of the bakehouse's apprentices, standing a bit straighter than usual and looking around with scarcely-disguised curiosity for the younger woman's home, which she hasn't seen since it was the domain of Terris's mother. She's carrying one of her ubiquitous baskets; so is the apprentice, and she gestures for him to put his down: "Bless you, dearie," she says to him, and then, to Audra, coming nearer with a cheery smile on her plain and wrinkled face, "I hope I'm not intrudin', dearie…?"

Audra has done fairly right by the warm and cozy apartments above the bakery. Warm being both physical as well as inviting. Neat, tidy, and done in a variation of green and red- colors which could be garish unless done right which they have. Flowers regularly make their appearance in pottery vases in the section set aside as a sitting room- older but well kept couches, pillows, and a table that looks as if Esme's grandfather himself may have laid eyes on. The home of established people who buy to last.

Audra's gone a bit pale in her sequestered time, and her babe rides high and wide against her thin figure. Her golden hair is pinned in the usual messy bun but is still clean at least. Tired, but well enough. "Come In, she says from her lounging couch, blanket over her legs. "I'm dying for company that isn't a bread boy."

Esme beams. "Well, I reckoned that might be how it was," she says modestly, pivoting to deposit basket no. 1 on Audra's kitchen table, then hurrying back to reclaim basket no. 2. "… I brought my sewin' across," she explains, "so's I could sit a while if you like and not just rush off again." She pauses a couple of feet away from the temporary invalid on the couch, not yet choosing a chair. "You look a bit peaky, dearie," she observes. "I wonder if there's a way we could see you get a bit of fresh air and sunshine."

Audra smiles weakly. Her lips aren't their usual bright red but still have their color. "We can open the windows of course. But it's the walking. The maester says I should. The midwife says I should only do a wee bit. Figure it's best to not do much at all. Up and down the stairs is tricky enough."

At those differing medical opinions Esme can only roll her eyes heavenwards and chuckle. "Shame they can't agree on a thing as simple as that, can they?" She sets down basket no. 2 next to a chair conversationally close to Audra. "I was always told it's good for a mother-to-be to take as much exercise as makes her feel good, so p'raps your body ought to have the decidin' vote on that. No more'n feels good," she repeats. "Now, can I fetch anythin' for you before I sit down? Drop o' somethin' to drink? Milk's very good for you," she points out, and surely she's not the first, "when you're expectin'."

"Oh milk is fine. I drink it and watered down wine to help calm my stomach," Audra replies. "I've wanted to go to the sept and give a donation to the Mother but it's far too far and hiring a litter is too pretentious. I'd go dockside to say halloo to the girls there but that's not proper to do with a baby on the way. She sighs and peers at the sewing. "What're you making?"

Esme, with her instinct for kitchens, swiftly finds two cups and the milk to pour into them — helping herself, with a faintly apologetic smile for Audra, but under the circumstances it seems the sensible thing to do! — and brings them across to her hostess, and soon has her sewing out.

What looks at first to be a garment of fine bleached linen just keeps on coming, folds of white cloth edged with basting stitches draped all across Esme's red lap and even trailing on Audra's neatly-swept floor. "New sheets," explains Esme with a rueful sigh; "all my old ones are such a disgrace. Feels like they're goin' to go on forever… If you want somethin' taken down the Sept, though, dearie, you know I'd be happy to. I go pretty often in the mornings," she admits modestly, "and whoever's hand might do the deliverin', She'd know it was from you. She hears your prayers especially, right now."

Audra sets aside her blanket and slowly stands. She uses the couch edge for support and then walks slowly to her dressing table. She brings a simple glass vial and pulls the stopper. The brief scent of lilacs fills the air. "Been mixing new things. Pretty things. Keeps my hands busy and my head from lolling to sleep. Could you set that on Her altar for me?" She sits as soon as it's been handed over. Even the short walk is tiresome.

When Audra looks to be getting up Esme's mouth opens upon a protest, and she lays down her sewing in her lap (but doesn't quite let go of it) as though she might be about to… But no. She just keeps a very sharp eye on the younger woman's progress, how she's carrying and how much that brief exertion affects her. She reacts with pleasure to the scent: "Why, that's lovely," she exclaims, and she lets go of her sheet (it begins to slither away from her, and has to be caught again with one hand) in order to accept delivery of that glass vial. "I'll take it down first thing tomorrow," she promises, "and light an extra candle for you, too." She looks down at the vial in her hand, admiring it with a smile, and then places it carefully next to her milk.

Audra drinks her own milk slowly as she smiles. "New sheets are lovely to get. Clean, fresh, lovely work you've done. I've no talent for the needle else I'd be doing baby things. We've been getting donations of everyone's old swaddlings. There's a pool surrounding the delivery date. Winner gets a whole dragon," she says with pride.

"Bless you, dearie," is Esme's answer to Audra's praise of her needlework; it is accompanied, as usual with her, by a modest ducking of her grey head. She doesn't do well with compliments, except upon how she runs her businesses, and her cooking if she's made a particular effort! She looks up again to chuckle at the betting pool: "Aye, I heard about that. One o' my girls has already had a flutter. I didn't think it was right to bet on, but if you don't mind about it, then that's the main thing. I hope whoever wins that dragon will buy the baby a little somethin' as a thank-you gift, that'd be the decent thing to do," she opines. "… O' course, everythin' I had for Edmyn when he was a babe was gone years ago, but I was goin' to knit you a blanket or some such for this little one… I haven't yet, on account o' the sheets," she explains apologetically, "though there's still time enough, I hope."

She hesitates. "This'll be the third set I've done, now. My friend and I, see, we've decided to get married." She looks down again, in an attempt to hide her shy, pleased little smile till she can get it under control. "Never thought I'd end up needin' a trousseau at my time o' life," she observes wryly, "but we live and we learn, don't we. At least I hope we do."

"My my," Audra replies, cupping her milk in her hands. "Gentleman has a taste for refined ladies with wisdom and warmth to offer. As well as a loving heart and kind smile." Her eyes twinkle as a bit of her old charm returns. "This the gentleman caller who you got my pretty comb from?" The Dolphins sit on her dressing table- too pretty for everyday wear about the apartment. "Tell me of your fiance, dear Esme. That's wonderful happy news."

Again Audra's complimentary talk has Esme looking away, amidst her own self-deprecating laughter. She really doesn't know what to say to that, so she doesn't. She just keeps on putting tiny, careful stitches into this next sheet destined to cover her marriage bed, and lets out a nervous sigh. "Well, it's… it's right good of you to say all that, dearie," she manages, "though the combs, now, they came from somebody else I know, somebody I'm in the way of doin' a bit of business with." Talking of business helps her to look up again, with another of those vaunted kind smiles of hers. "My, ah…" She makes a face. "All those words sound pretty silly to me, so I'm just goin' to say 'my friend', since he's that too. Well. We ain't set a date yet, not definite, but it's goin' to be soon… We don't want to waste any of the time we have," she says, sincerely, as well she might at her 'time of life'. "He won't be round all the time, o' course — he's in service up at the Hightower, see, and there's good reason why he has to live in — but he'll be here with me sometimes, and we both agreed that'd be a sight better'n nothin' at all."

Audra oohs in mock impressed reaction. "Serving man to the Hightowers. Fancy. Means he has a right respectable means of living then. Good. He'll be able to take good care of you, like my Terris does by me." She asks again, "What's the feller's name? And do you want us to make something simple but sweet for the marriage dinner?"

"His name's Flox. He's… servin' man to a Targaryen prince, as it happens," admits Esme with a little cough, bashful about her social climbing. "And he's well-to-do, but…" She makes a face. "It ain't like that. I don't need his coin and I don't want it neither," she says firmly. "I do well enough for myself, and I like workin', and so I'm not marryin' him for his coin, or his help about the place, or…" Or any of the usual reasons why a smallfolk widow might remarry in her later years. "I'm just marryin' him for him," she explains, while that smile tugs again at her colourless lips.

Then she clears her throat again. "I hadn't thought about that," she mentions; "we ain't havin' a party or nothin' like that, I just thought I'd do a couple of my pies, the ones he likes best. But it might be nice to have a cake, too, somethin' we could share with our friends when we see 'em… Nothin' too fancy, mind," she insists, "not when Terris is so busy and you're not able to help him as you might like. But that'd be… very nice, dearie." She smiles.

Audra shakes her head in amusement. "You married him for the right reasons. Man deserves to be happy, seeing how happy he makes you. And of -course- Terris will make you a lovely bit of sweets. His gran would cane him if he didn't do right by you, you know that." She grins before taking another drink.

Esme sniffs. "Never been so happy," she admits, "and never thought I would be, either. Just goes to show, doesn't it, you never know what might be round the next corner…" She sets down her needle and picks up her milk instead, lifting it in a wordless toast to her own circumstances and Audra's. She sips. "We're goin' up to the Hightower day after tomorrow," she mentions offhandedly, "up the Hightower, I s'pose I should say. So's Edmyn can see the view from up top, by the beacon, and all the way out to sea… He'll like that. Flox, see, he looks after Prince Dhraegon," she explains, assuming no further comment is necessary, what with the sheer amount of talk the Clown Prince has caused in Oldtown in the last two years; "so he understands about… lads like my Edmyn, and he's very good with him. Better'n anyone," she says proudly. Because of course she could never marry a man who didn't get on with her son, who couldn't be trusted to take care of him.

The young mother-to-be smiles at that. "So he's a perfect step-da then too. I'm sure that'll be a lovely day. I dread climbing a flight though, let alone the whole Hightower. Gods be good, my feet would protest and this one would kick in riot." She laughs. "You're a tougher woman than I am."

"Aye, he's… he's just right," admits Esme, failing to hide another smile, "for the both of us. And he says we can stop and rest on the way up if need be, though I reckon Edmyn'll just run the whole way — I've not told him yet," she confesses, "but he'll be so excited when I do." She arrives at a corner of her sheet and reorients the cloth cautiously in her lap, finding the best angle from which to attack the next side of it. "I reckon your own stairs must be enough to be goin' on with, right now, as you say. He still kickin' so much?" she asks interestedly. "Edmyn, now, he…" She sucks in a breath between her teeth and shakes her head. "But I reckon I told you that already. All my old wives' tales," she chuckles, "for all the good they could've done you. Every woman's different, and so's every babe… Shame you don't have more to do with your hands, right now, to keep you from goin' stir-crazy. You never learned to knit?" she asks innocently.

She shakes her golden head as she sighs. "Nope, not a task my mum had learned really. Other things to do with the hands," she says with an embarrassed smile. "S'why I took up perfumery. I have all the, ah, materials on hand. Just started playing with flowers more."

Other things. Oh. Esme sniffs, but in reluctant amusement rather than disapproval. She takes Audra's meaning, in a word. "Well, I'm glad you've found somethin' to occupy yourself," she says, "but if you ever decide you fancy knittin' somethin' for the baby, I'd be glad to show you how, and help with the tricky bits if need be. A blanket, now, that might be quite simple, and it'd take up a good bit of your time. They say it'll be autumn soon and you'll want to keep him nice and warm, speshly at night."

Audra says, "I got nothing better to do." She shrugs and sets her now empty cup aside. "Mayhaps I can come over to your place sometime and learn. Get me out of these walls before I go nitty. Especially if Autumn is supposed to be coming soon. Smarty men in the Citadel think it's on the way?""

"Or I could come round here again," offers Esme easily, "but if you'd like the change of scene— I've got a new bed in my room now," ahem, "a nice double one with a good feather mattress, and we could sit you down there for a spell. You can see right out over the square and into the sky, from where it is; and we could do a bit of knittin' and have a nice gossip, too, I shouldn't wonder," she chuckles. "… Now, that's the thing," she goes on, sitting up and leaning a bit nearer, because this is interesting. "The maesters, they don't reckon the season's changin' yet. They haven't seen it in the stars. But men from the north, they rode down here special, it seems, to say how sure they are that winter's comin' soon. They can feel it in the air, like."

"That I'm like to believe. I couldn't imagine living somewhere that's winter all the time. Ours are mild from what I hear. Not that I worry about cold above the bake house," she concluded. "But I could use the busywork and company, so knitting it shall be."

And, pleased with their plan, Esme toasts her again with milk!

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